High Speed Rail Plan is Sound

The media loves big numbers. Headlines reading “California High Speed Rail to Cost $98.5 Billion” are intended to startle the uniformed and easily misled. A look into the numbers and the plan reveals a well-thought out strategy to provide 21st-century transportation to our state.

The first $6 billion has already been allocated. The Central Valley section will begin next year and be completed by 2017. This block of the system will allow it to be tested and serve as the backbone for the entire system. It will create 100,000 jobs now and will allow future decisions to be made in a logical way. Most importantly, if the project never got another dime, it has utility for existing rail and would be beneficial to the residents of the state.

The next decision is whether to bring the rail to San Jose or the Los Angeles basin. But that won’t happen for some time. Nobody expects any new federal money until 2014.  Eventually it will come, but not while Republicans are in the majority in Congress. That will not last forever—god and the people willing.

Moreover, private investment will be forthcoming at this point, as the system will be able to carry real high speed rail passengers for the first time.

That will cost $21.1 billion and could be completed by 2021. It will cost another $27.2 billion to get it to the LA basin. Once the segment from Los Angeles to San Jose is completed, then and only then do you have a “system”. The beauty of the new business plan is that every building block of the route can be utilized and no section will be built until new funding is secure.

So for $54 billion—in inflated dollars—we will have a system linking two population centers. For San Jose, such a system would provide a single-seat ride to Los Angeles in about two hours. Right now it takes me five hours to drive to Los Angeles and a minimum of 2.5 hours to fly, assuming the plane is on time. (This time includes airport security and ground transportation in and out of airport). This will be completed in 2026.

For an additional $23 billion, the system will go from San Francisco to Los Angeles, utilizing a blended system of existing Caltrain tracks in the north. This will be completed in 2030. Applause for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Senator Joe Simitian and Assembylman Rich Gordon should be accorded here.

It will take another $20.5 billion to link the Fourth and King St. station in San Francisco with the new Transbay Transit Terminal and extend the Los Angeles portion to Union Station and Anaheim. This will be done in year 2034. In the final analysis, the cost is $98.5 billion over 23 years. This is not an obscene number, nor is it too much for this program. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will high speed rail.

But if we begin now, I might be able to take my great grandchildren, should they exist, on high speed rail to see Disneyland. It’s a uniquely California dream and it is why I’m proud to live in this state.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant and author of “The Shadow Candidate”.  He is currently under contract with the High Speed Rail Authority.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Remember those evil home loan salesmen who were paid by those evil mortgage bankers to convince people to take out loans they would be unable to repay? How is Rich Robinson any different?
    Here we have a high pressure salesman, working for an organization that stands to make a killing if he’s successful in convincing people to buy their product.
    Despite the doubt expressed by many Californians that they’ll ever be able to pay off the debt, he’s using classic sleazy salesman tactics to persuade them to ignore their doubts, disregard their intuition and their calculations, and just go ahead and sign that loan document.
    In some ways though, the sub-prime lenders were more highly principled than these Gravy Train hucksters. While the former only bilked people out of their own money, these guys take it a step further by giving the foolish and math illiterate among us the Authority to allow their reluctant neighbors to be swindled as well. Even Countrywide never had the Godlike Government granted power to tell their customers, “Go ahead and sign here and you can make your neighbor borrow more money than he’ll ever be able to pay back too.”

    In case you hadn’t noticed RR, this State is broke. We’re in a hole, dude. Do you know the First Rule Of Holes?
    #1- When you’re in one, STOP DIGGING!!

  2. Are you crazy?  No one even knows what the final tab will be IF this thing ever gets built.  There is nothing wrong with the idea of a HSR its just the numbers.  And don’t wonk on Republicans be the “majority” in congress and thus holding this dream up.
    China can build HSR for a fraction of the cost but they don’t have to contend with endless EIRs, sleazy union deals and kick backs and political muck ups to send the costs soaring.
    We couldn’t even build a faux City Hall building w/o endless screwups driving up the costs.

    Here’s a question Mr. Somebody Else’s Moneypants.  What is the cost benefit ration of simply fixing AMTRAK vs HSR in terms of time building, tranist/time ratios and dollars spent?

    Here’s another question.  San Jose is on the hook for a brand new airport with primary function of the North/South Calif shuttle and it is underutilized for some time and yet will compete for passangers with a HSR?  Who loses there?  Oh yea – the taxpayer since they are paying for both.

    Don’t mead to offend – just putting out real world questions.

  3. The real question is how many billions the taxpayers will have to spend building more highway lanes and airport runways to support increased transportation needs between now and 2030 if we continue to rely on those forms of transportation.  (Not to mention how many billions will be spend mitigating the effect of continuing to rely on greenhouse gas emitting transportation technologies.)  $100 billion for HSR sounds terrible, but it should be looked at in the context of overall transportation funding.  Why should HSR be treated as a separate expenditure that has to pay for itself?  Do the roads pay for themselves?  Do bridges pay for themselves?  The question is what kind of society we want to live in by 2030 and how do we allocate our resources accordingly?

  4. Highway 5 isn’t going to get less crowded.  The state will grow to 40 million.  Doing nothing is not a solution.  If John wants to live in China go there, be happy.  I still believe America despite our imperfections will succeed.  But it takes vision.  Carping from the sidelines is easy, accomplish something, then let’s chat.

    • Who said anything about going to China?  China is coming here.  Bay Bridge built using Chinese steel and Chinese equipment.  Why not just let the Chinese finance, build and operate a HSR here?  They wouldn’t put up with the Demo run public employee union politics that have sunk the state into a bottomless financial pit and turned it over to illegal immigrants that now have more rights than Californians and also their jobs.
      How would you finance and build a HSR Mr. R? Our government is so corrupt and inept that whatever the projected cost it would be too low at time of completion.

      And a little side note on labor Mr. R.  I have Mexican American friends who are in construction trades. When they bid on a job ie. house painting, they almost always get underbid by guess who?  Yup outfits using lower cost illegal labor. Next time someone says “they are just doing jobs Americans won’t do” is just another way of saying, “oh we found someone who doesn’t pay taxes, doesn’t have cost of living overhead and expenses”

      See another unfair advantage to the illegal workforce.  Its not their fault but the political party that induces them here, keeps them out of mainstream with bilingualing everthing for them and then of course gets liberal vote.  All to the detriment to the state.

      So with a huge, financially irresponsible project like HSR it is easy to see the potential for unlimited badness.

      People used to complain about the Big Four who build the Transcontinental RR – Huntington, Stanford, et al.  But those guys got the job done, on time and under budget with minimal harm to the public – at least compared to what the Dems and their unions have and are doing to the state

  5. In 2008 the projected cost was 40 billion.
    In 2011 the projected cost is 98 billion.
    In 2034 the projected cost will be 300 billion? 500 billion?

    And in a state that’s flat broke – where will all this money come from? 

    No need to worry about where the money for HSR will come from – we’ll just put it on the backs of the next generation.

    As long as all the usual union pigs and democrat whores that are lining up at the trough get theirs – that’s all that counts.  Right Rich?

  6. Rich Robinson says, “The state will grow to 40 million. Doing nothing is not a solution.”

    Boy ain’t that the truth.
    But doing nothing has been exactly our politicians’ response to California’s swelling population fueled mostly by illegal immigration. True ‘vision’ would entail taking steps to actually curtail this problem instead of merely reacting to it.
    It’s worth considering that this bullet train, if ever completed to it’s designers’ ‘vision’, might have the effect not of accommodating massive population growth, but of actually CAUSING massive population growth.
    Do we really want to encourage and enable the development of massive suburbs in the San Joaquin Valley? Do we want Madera and Coalinga to become bedroom communities for Silicon Valley? Then go ahead and build a train that will make it convenient for thousands of people to commute from their brand new affordable McMansions on recently converted farmland in Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Madera, Fresno, San Joaquin, or Stanislaus County to their job in L.A. or the Bay Area.
    I would encourage the ‘progressives’ among us to drop for a moment their built in notions about the inherent ‘greenness’ of commuter trains. Consider logically the effect that it would have not just on our economic situation but on the natural environment as well.
    I’d be in favor of HSR if it was accompanied by a committment to effectively control immigration. Then the bullet train would truly be a positive contribution to a prosperous, clean, environmentally responsible and sustainable state. Otherwise, HSR will merely be an expensive expediter of our decline into third worlddom.

    • > I would encourage the ‘progressives’ among us to drop for a moment their built in notions about the inherent ‘greenness’ of commuter trains.

      A noble and rational sentiment, Mr. Galt.

      However, it denies the essential nature of ‘progressives’.

      Progressives never change their minds.


      NEVER, EVER!


      In my whole life, I have never changed a progressive’s mind about anything.

      I have never seen a progressive change his, her, or its mind about anything.

      Progressives simply believe that they have been injected with correct understanding about all important social, political, and cultural issues, and nothing more can be said.  Nothing more, that is, other than for them to repeat what they have already said.

  7. This Mayor has cut the basic needs of this city (Public Safety, Jobs) and you want to bring some super train in ? Partially paid for by grants THAT DONT EVEN EXIST YET! If you cant afford Safety then you shouldn’t be buying toy trains

  8. > Headlines reading “California High Speed Rail to Cost $98.5 Billion” are intended to startle the uniformed and easily misled.

    Maybe the reason the uninformed and easily misled are startled is because someone in the mammoth High Speed Rail public hog wallow actually told the truth in a moment of unguarded candor.

    > The first $6 billion has already been allocated.

    Does “allocated” mean the same thing as “spent”?

    If we sent in SWAT teams with assault rifles, could we get the money back the same way that Janet Reno got Elian Gonzales back from his family?

    > This will be done in year 2034. In the final analysis, the cost is $98.5 billion over 23 years. This is not an obscene number, nor is it too much for this program.

    Were you possibly dropped on your head as an infant, Mr. Robinson?

    For $98.5 billion dollars, the government could give every man, woman, child, illegal alien, and primate in California their own, personal anti-gravity belt, and they could go back and forth between SF and LA whenever they wanted.

  9. As a new visitor to this site, I was surprised to read Rich Robinson’s glowing comments regarding the state of the High Speed Rail project while working for said project.

  10. Hey Rich:

    I think the High Speed Rail drones need another pep talk.

    It looks to me like the whole pathetic special interest hog wallow is about to be pole-axed by the environmental Stalinists.

    It’s tough to decide who to root against.

    By the way, do you think it is intellectually honest to continue to refer to the choo-choo as a “High Speed Rail” or a “Bullet Train”? 

    With the “revised” new plan that puts the “High Speed Rail” on the same tracks as Cal-Train milk runs, and with stops at every little little farmer’s market in the central valley, isn’t a Greyhound bus from SF to LA going to be just as fast?

    And, if it isn’t honest for intellectuals to call it a “Bullet Train”, is it still honest for dimwits to call it a “Bullet Train”?

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