California Statewide Ballot Propositions and Recommendatons: Prop 1A

If the measure passes,California will sell $9,950,000,000 in bonds to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The total cost of the proposition would be $647 million per year for the next thirty years. The total cost of high speed rail was estimated at 33 to 37 billion, but the true cost will likely be closer to $60 billion. Nearly every large public transit project goes over its projected budget by 10 to 50 percent.Proponents claim speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, a 2.5 hour commute from SF to LA and ease highway and airport congestion, without new taxes. Opponents attack the project's partial funding and its high cost.

My vote: NO. High speed rail sounds amazing the same way the school presidential candidate promised more field trips and Coke in all the water fountains as a kid. Given a choice between cake and nothing, most people would pick cake; given a choice between cake and $15, people would choose $15. The costs of the train network are obfuscated and indirect but ultimately will be picked up by citizens.

1. California faces a large budget deficit, estimated to be $11.2 billion this year. This project would add extraordinary new budget obligations for a nonessential service where the benefits won't be realized for another five years, at least. Furthermore, if we fund this $10 billion, the state will have to fund the project all the way through. There's no way they'll stop funding the project once they start.

2. High speed rail won't relieve much congestion. The pro-high speed rail group's impact analysis says that high speed rail will relieve 3.8% of highway traffic, or less than three years' worth of traffic growth. Furthermore, airports fly to many locations and high speed rail will only reduce airport congestion for Bay Area to LA flights, a small fraction of an airport's total flights.

3. The environmental impact is uncertain. There is a massive amount of new construction and the environmental analysis assumes cars won't get any greener.

4. The time savings are not great. Door-to-door, flying from SF to LA takes around 3 hours 32 minutes.Rail will take the same amount of time door-to-door, 3 hours and 30 minutes, and cost $50 per trip.

5. The train network will have to be rebuilt entirely every 30 years, and face annual costs of $1 billion for maintenance and repair. These are massive costs that will be offset only in part by revenue. We know this because if the costs would be offset entirely by train revenue, some entrepreneur would have raised the cash and built the rail network himself.

I'm 19, which means I will be paying taxes for quite some time. This project is an expensive pie-in-the-sky boondoggle. On all of HSR's goals - reduce congestion, reduce dependence on foreign oil, help the environment, etc. - the state of California can make better progress more cheaply than paying $60 billion for a train.

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