Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LaLaLand -- Absolutely Nothing About the Bakken -- From The Land of Fruits and Nuts -- The Bullet Train


February 23, 2021: update; now up to $100 billion and environmental / geographic challenges are only getting worse.

July 18, 2020: push back. On the precipice $79 billion plus a 30-year maintenance deal.

May 14, 2020: head fake. Instead of electrification, some are now proposing diesel locos for the "bullet train."

May 2, 2019: bullet train now estimated to cost $79 billion. Will service three cities in "the valley" with an estimated population of one million.

February 12, 2019: California governor is not clear whether he plans to pull the plug on California's bullet train. Needs more time to study the project, and needs to spend more money to meet deadlines for federal stimulus funds. 

September 13, 2018: eleven years behind schedule; at $77 billion, cost projections have doubled, but now the new cost projections ... drum roll ... $100 billion. My hunch was that the next governor of California would kill this project, but at $100 billion, every politician and contractor is making money off this project. Too big to fail. Politically.

July 24, 2018: bridges falling down

March 10, 2018: from The LA Times; talk about smoke and mirrors. From the very beginning, experts expected this project would cost $100 billion but the governor et al sold the project to the public saying they could bring it in well under that. But now, it's official: $77 billion for sure; probably $!00 billion is more realistic; partial operation delayed for four years (2029); full operation not until 2033. Hunch: next California governor will kill it.

January 16, 2018: estimate of first phase now increased by 35%; total project to cost $67 billion. 

July 29, 2017: in a setback for Jerry Brown, et al, the California Supreme Court ruled that state railroads must comply with the state's strict environmental laws; this ruling will most assuredly apply to the "bullet train." Jerry Brown had insisted that the "bullet train" should only be subject to the federal government's less stringent environmental rules.

May 18, 2016: funding for California bullet train pushed back four years.

April 9, 2016: a four-generation project.

March 26, 2016: tea leaves suggest the "bullet train" project is dead

March 6, 2016: compare what you get in Paris for $25 billion vs $65 billion in California when it comes to public transportation. 

March 4, 2016: bullet train switcheroo -- cancel those plans to start from the south; now they plan to start the project from the north; too costly from the south; too much resistance in the south; the thought is if the north leg is built, the south will "come along."

December 9, 2015: at least one California Democrat, maybe more, are now against the bullet train.

November 26, 2015: the auctioneer's song

May 10, 2015: update on projected ticket prices for the bullet train

December 7, 2014: the $120-billion bullet train explains California's highway transportation funding shortfall.

December 14, 2013: bullet train in jeopardy; Congress wants to investigate.

November 26, 2013: judge says bullet-train-to-nowhere cannot tap state funding as passed; puts entire project into jeopardy.

November 17, 2012: judge says bullet-train-to-nowhere can proceed; environmental impact statement was accomplished "in good faith"; northern California farmers railroaded; by the way, do folks remember when this project is scheduled for completion? The completion date for this $120 billion project was moved from 2020 to 2033 earlier this year (see below); this is lifetime job security for some union bosses;

November 16, 2012: delayed a year, but "still on schedule."

July 11, 2012: As long as the GOP loses in California, the pundits feel the legislative process works. We will see in November.  Meanwhile, due to escalating costs for routine services, some California cities may simply "cease to exist."

July 10, 2012: From the San Diego Union-Tribune.  Letters to the editor, LA Times, suggest that spending tax money on the bullet train could result in defeat of the ballot measure that would increase taxes. Californians are, in general, against the bullet train, and seeing that their increased taxes will go to fund this we'll see.

July 7, 2012: California provides funding for the train to nowhere

June 24, 2012: update on the "bullet train"; the train to nowhere; Assembly will pass the bil easily; Senate in question but it looks like with majority of Democratic votes, this will pass easily despite all the talk; California with huge budget problems, but continue to spend; Californians will get opportunity to vote to raise their taxes this autumn

April 9, 2012: House panel suspects conflict of interest.

A congressional committee has launched a wide-ranging examination of the California high-speed rail project, including possible conflicts of interest and how the agency overseeing it plans to spend billions of dollars in federal assistance.

Committee members say they want to ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately and check for possible conflicts of interest involving rail officials and contractors. They also plan to determine whether a large government commitment to the bullet train would siphon federal tax dollars away from other important transportation projects.
February 1, 2012: projected completion date has moved from 2020 to 2033. Total costs estimates have blossomed to $117 billion; just a few days ago, cost estimates were $98 billion. Elsewhere it's being reported that California needs to find $3.3 billion by March or it will be "bankrupt." Legislators thought they had enough to get through the current fiscal year which ends in June, so this is a surprise.

January 14, 2012: wow, this is bad news for California -- the governor is under huge pressure to spend $100 billion on a train that will go nowhere, and will be used by no one, and will require subsidies forever to keep it going -- taking transportation money from other "green" projects and from other economic development initiatives. This is a huge, huge mistake. If the former governor was seen as caving into the teachers union, this governor will be seen as caving into the construction unions.
A surprise shake-up of senior leaders at California's bullet-train agency this week was partly Gov. Jerry Brown's response to a growing crisis of confidence and credibility in recent months that has threatened the political viability of the project.

As criticism of the project has intensified, Brown has moved to exert more direct control, installing two representatives on the board of the California High Speed Rail Authority and, on Thursday, playing at least a peripheral role in replacing the authority's chief executive, Roelof van Ark. Several state government sources said Van Ark, an engineering manager and high-speed rail expert, had become personally frustrated and lost the confidence of some key legislators.

Brown is under pressure from unions, engineering firms, big-city mayors and the Obama administration to stabilize and press ahead on a nearly $100-billion project that would be the biggest in California's lofty history of extraordinary public works gambles. With so much at stake, Brown is putting his own people in charge, although their ability to quickly reverse the damage of a wave of negative outside reviews of the project remains unclear.
January 13, 2012: and now a bit of insanity. Not only does the governor want to throw $100 billion of taxpayer's money into the bullet train that will go nowhere, he now wants to set up a new state agency to oversee highway and rail transportation projects.
Others said Brown was unhappy with the project's trajectory. He recently proposed creation of a new state transportation agency to oversee both highway and state rail projects, including the bullet train.
You have to be kidding. Doesn't California already have a Department of Transportation. Maybe not. It's the land of fruit and nuts.

January 3, 2012: a little bit of sanity.
The Legislature should not authorize the issuance of $2.7 billion in bonds to start building California's $98.5-billion bullet train project, a state-appointed review panel says in a key report to be released later Tuesday.

The conclusion by the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group is a serious blow to the project as it is currently designed because state law specifically empowered the group to make recommendation before any serious money on the train could be spent.
December 18, 2011: Somehow I can no longer take these op-ed pieces seriously. Californians may be grumpy but they have only themselves to blame -- especially in light of these crazy projects that will go nowhere. Literally, nowhere. But they will spend $100 billion proving it.
It may be the holiday season, but the public mood is grumpy.

Californians are dispirited, especially about the state's direction and their own pocketbooks as the inequality gap between haves and have-nots steadily widens.
December 16, 2011: US says it still supports California's plan for a bullet train.
  • "The worst thing we could do is make obligations to folks and start to renege on our word," Szabo told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
No, the worse thing you could do is spend $3.3 billion of tax payer money for a project that has no chance of being completed. This is a "ditch digging" jobs bill.

This project will eventually cost in excess of $100 billion; the US will jumpstart it with $3 billion.  If you have trouble with big numbers like I do, think of it this way. You see something in the store you want for $100; you offer the retailer $3 as a down payment. Ain't gonna fly.

December 3, 2010 (originally posted here):
California to build railroad track to nowhere; not only will it go nowhere, it won't start anywhere, and it will have neither trains nor maintenance facilities; but California needs the jobs and the Federal government has money to throw away.
Original Post

This is the kind of story I would generally not post, but without question, it has to be one of the best articles published today.

Remember that California bullet train? The bullet train ballot? Yup. That one. Californians voted to mandate a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Somehow the sponsors were unaware that someone slipped in a time requirement: the bullet train had to cover the distance in not less than 2 hours and 40 minutes. That's the law. Yup, in California they mandate engineering projects to specification by proposition. And voting is open to anyone, even those with not a whit of common sense, it appears.

Only problem: it can't be done. Well, it can but note the caveats with that need for speed:
  • it will double the cost of the project, to $100 billion (before the overruns)
  • the train would run up to 220 mph, faster than most high-speed trains travel in Europe and Asia
  • such velocity would increase electricity use sharply
  • excess electricity violates another mandate: revenues must cover operating expenses
  • the project will need up to 168 miles of elevated viaducts, more than double projected back in 2009
  • tunneling will increase more than 60 percent to 52 miles
  • the combined cost of viaducts and tunnels, 43% of the system, has risen threefold to $34 billion
  • due to sharing track at the beginning and the end, the bullet train needs to average more than 190 mph
  • an average of 190 mph does not account for seven minutes of acceleration and deceleration at each end
  • the train would have to bullet through Lancaster, Bakersfield, Fresno, Gilroy, etc. without slowing down
  • "we do have some concerns from a noise and safety standpoint, of course."  
  • aerodynamic drag is geometric; a train going 195 uses about 50% more electricity than a train going 160 mph; that's why bullet trains around the world operate at 180 mph or less
  • the path of the train will be decided on non-engineering grounds
Don't even get me started.

Note: some folks have taken exception to my using cliches in describing California. I do that for a specific reason. There are two groups of folks who end up at this site: a) those who have the site bookmarked; and, b) those who get here by googling something. I track what folks google in getting to this site and then use those words/phrases to help them find the site again.


  1. I study the reintroduction of the airship. (they would use non-flammable helium so let's get the Hindenburg thing out of the way). For size and speed you have the "square-cube law". Basically if you double all dimensions you have eight times the volume but only four times the frontal drag. In practice it doesn't work exactly but but basically doubling the size the ton-miles per gallon is doubled.

    On the speed side, if you double speed the frontal drag increased by a factor of eight (cube) but you go twice as car so energy needed
    per miles increases by a factor of four. Thus airships will remain relatively slow speed with the potential of bursts of speed for thing like flying aircraft carrier operations. (airplane has a hook on top that links with a solid or arrestor or "trapeze". Airspeed comes in handy for this.

    Mandating a very high speed for rail is very costly. It reminds me of the Obama 60 mile per gallon automobile fuel economy mandate. I don't think there will be a national consemsus on bailing California out of it's financial mess with this type of lunacy.

  2. If anyone has been on Amtrak as often as I have, he/she will realize the lawyers will never allow high speed transit (200 mph) through any urban area. Freight trains are now mandated to creep through urban areas at 5 mph.

    On the cost side, to put the $100 billion in perspective, California faces a $13 billion shortfall next year as it is.

  3. embraceyourinnerhillbillyDecember 16, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    How we ever passed this is beyond my comprehension...I voted No...figured people would recognize a boondoggle. Wrong again.
    Who's going to use it?
    People here are still going to drive, and L.A. is a 70-75 minute flight, without L.A. traffic until you leave the airport.
    This is not a case of 'if you build it, they will come', but if you build it, it will be ignored.

    Hey Bruce, did you know the reason why SoCal has such a high percentage of crazies?
    It's because every time we have an earthquake, the nuts roll down South.

  4. Even without knowing the specifics, I felt a bullet train in California was a non-started, but when I saw the data points ($100 billion just to start), I knew this was another debacle.