Love Donald Trump, or hate him, he knows a boondoggle when he sees one.
This week the State of California filed suit against the U S Department of Transportation for withholding $1 billion in funds previously promised for California’s High Speed Rail. The project, originally proposed to provide high-speed transportation between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and open up inland housing markets to the Silicon Valley work force, is now a decade behind schedule and countless billions over budget. In fact, the last remaining remnant of the project, a 57-mile stretch between Bakersfield and Merced, will not be operational until 2025, will cost $77 billion (that’s $1.3 billion per mile folks), and will be obsolete by the time, if ever, the first train leaves the station.
Now imagine (or pretend) that it’s 2025 and the track is finished, the locomotive and passenger cars have been loaded onto the track, the system has been tested, and it’s ready to go. After all the dignitaries have had their pictures taken and gone for a ride on Day 1, who is going to ride this train? Do we expect people to take a train 165 miles from Bakersfield to Merced for a couple hundred dollars when they can drive their car on their own schedule for twenty bucks worth of gas? Of course not.
But let’s put a happy face on this. Let’s say that every day 1,000 people make the round trip. And let’s say the round trip is $200 (that’s a guess). That’s $200,000 gross. Let’s say operating costs are $100,000 (that’s a dream). Net revenue is $100,000/day or $36,500,000 annually.
Using my made up figures, and assuming the locomotives, cars, and track never have to be replaced, the train pays for itself in about the year 4000.
Food for thought: The State of California could purchase and give away over 750,000 Tesla’s for the same $77 billion it is spending on the tracks that go from Bakersfield to Merced.
As I said, you may hate Donald Trump – but he’s doing a better job of looking out for us than we are.