Bite the Bullet Train
From the viewpoint of history, I agree with Hon. Norm Mineta, former Secretary of Commerce for President Clinton, former Secretary of Transportation for President Bush II, former Congressman and chairman of the House Public Works & Transportation Committee, former Mayor of San Jose, we Californian’s must ask ourselves “the crucial question.” In 1995, shortly before leaving the House to join Lockheed-Martin, he said, “The crucial question in transportation today is: What should government do, and what should it leave to others?” I think that is still the crucial question.
Learning from our mistakes with Amtrak, Caltrain, and other government transport boondoggles, California voters voted for self-sufficient high speed rail by approving Prop. 1A in 2008.
Both the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on transport funding, and the California Transportation Commission, concluded that “user fees funding” is how we should fund transport. Simple: the users pay for the costs of their transport.
But we don’t follow our own advice; we have a double standard in transport funding. Motorists, truckers and motorcyclists pay 102% of the costs of our transport, including road construction and maintenance. But transit systems’ riders pay only about 1% of the fully amortized costs of their rides.
Why do we allow this double standard? It’s contrary to the policy adopted by both the Federal and California State governments.
Our professed transport funding policy is sound, sustainable self-sufficient transport. Our conduct in making motorists, truckers and motorcyclists pay 99% of the cost of public transit by all modes is not.
So, since the California High Speed Rail Authority is acting in direct violation of the California voters’ decision in 2008, and contrary to the funding policy recommendations of the Federal and State transport Commissions, we ought to do what Florida voters did: repeal our vote, and
terminate the taxpayer-subsidized Frankenstein.
The correct answer to Secretary Mineta’s “crucial question” is private sector, not public sector. If we put enough UPS, Fedex and Postal Service tonnage on the Bullet Train, then we would not need to ask taxpayers for a dime. The profits the taxpayers had from the original land grant railroads can be exceeded if we follow Lincoln’s decision to reject public ownership of the transcontinental railroads in 1864. We saw the wisdom in his decision when we nationalized the Nation’s railroads during WWI, and saw the government run the railroads to a halt, unable to move. We forgot his decision when Congress created the North American Passenger Rail Corporation (Amtrak), when Congressmen stood in the House and promised that Amtrak would be “self-sufficient” in three years. 46 years later Amtrak remains a Black Hole consuming billions of taxpayers’ dollars that we must borrow from foreign investors, e.g., China.
Unless we stop the CAHSRA’s Bullet Train, its losses will make Amtrak, Caltrain, VTA Light Rail and bus transit look profitable. We must stop putting our credit card transit debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
The first priority “shovel ready” infrastructure job facing us is to bury the Bullet Train. Caveat viator.
JOSEPH P. THOMPSON, ESQ.
Bite the Bullet Train