Many of us simply marvel at the idiocy underlying California’s high speed rail (HSR) project. It was sold to the public with what are now obvious lies, falsehoods and — well — more lies. The backers are in it for the billions of profit, yet the left loves these “green” corporatist conmen. Knowing what we now know, how can any sane person still support HSR?
The answer is a mystery, but to me, “mindset” seems to best describe the underlying mentality. And we can see this mindset with the current insane, useless, wasteful subway project proceeding in San Francisco. San Francisco is determined to build an unneeded 1.7 mile subway for $1.6 billion (likely more). If you read this story, you’ll simply shake your head in dismay.
If it were ONLY the left wing loonies in the Bay Area who were paying for this boondoggle, perhaps this modern pyramid to lunkheads could be ruefully enjoyed. Sadly, we all will be paying for 60% of this deal via the federal government, which apparently has money to burn — or, in this case, to bury forever 100 feet underground.
There’s more. Apparently there is a reasonable chance that, once built, the subway will have to be closed — it will cost FAR too much to operate per passenger (a different number than the “per PROJECTED passenger” figure). Indeed, this project is a primo example (admittedly on steroids) of my facetious favorite stimulus program — dig huge holes (in this case, VERY expensive holes), and then simply fill ’em back up again.
Obama’s Transportation Secretary LaHood (a WONDERFUL name with SO many wry references available) has decided that any transportation project that to any degree reduces the number of cars on the road (hang the cost) is “what people want.” Thus no stinkin’ cost-benefit analysis is allowed, and the environmental requirements for such projects are reduced, or dropped.
WALL ST JOURNAL
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
AUGUST 23, 2011
Off the San Francisco Rails
$1.6 billion for 1.7 miles of subway.
Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the politicians who contrived the city’s Chinatown subway project must have left their brains somewhere else. The subway is a case study in government incompetence and wasted taxpayer money.
P.S. The Obama Administration is all for it.
Former Mayor Willie Brown sold a half-cent sales tax hike to voters in 2003 to pay for the 1.7-mile line on the pretext that the subway would ease congestion on Chinatown’s crowded buses, but he was more interested in obtaining the political support of Chinatown’s power brokers. In 2003, the city estimated the line would cost $647 million, but the latest prediction is $1.6 billion, or nearly $100 million for each tenth of a mile.
Transportation experts say the subway’s design is seriously flawed and that improving the existing bus and light-rail service would make more sense. The subway misses connections with 25 of the 30 light-rail and bus lines that it crosses, and there’s no direct connection to the 104-mile Bay Area Rapid Transit line or to the ferry.
Commuters will have to travel eight stories underground to catch the train and walk nearly a quarter of a mile to connect to the Market Street light-rail lines—after riding the subway for only a half mile. Tom Rubin, the former treasurer-controller of Southern California Rapid Transit District, calculates that taking the bus would be five to 10 minutes faster along every segment.
The city’s metro system, which is already running $150 million operating deficits, isn’t likely to have the money to keep the subway running in any case. Last month the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, a watchdog group, warned that the subway’s costs “could stretch the existing maintenance environment [of the metro system] to the breaking point” and will defer the purchase of a new communications system.
Alas, San Francisco will likely drag national taxpayer money into the bay too. The city has applied for a multiyear $942 million “full funding grant agreement” from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to cover 60% of its capital costs. In 1964 Congress created a back-door earmark program called “New Starts” to subsidize local transportation projects. The FTA rates and recommends projects for grants, and Congress usually rubber-stamps its recommendations.
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