High Speed Rail is a boondoggle of epic proportions

I am a past President of Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Association, a member of the Transportation Lawyers Association, and past Chair of TLA’s Legislation Committee. I have practiced transportation law in the South County for 38 years, and have done post-doctoral study of transportation law and policy at the Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies, and at Transportation Research Board, Georgetown University; and at the Library of Congress. I am a graduate of SJSU, and the University of Santa Clara Law School, and I have 52 years of transportation industry experience dating back to my junior year at Cupertino High School, when I worked for the SPRR, and later at UPRR in San Jose (1970-1980).

My comments are personal, and not made on behalf of a client or any professional organization to which I belong.

For a state that cannot afford adequate fire suppression, or water storage, it is bad public policy to add to the public transit boondoggles that the taxpayers (mostly motorists) already shoulder, under the worst tax/fee burdens among all the states.

What the California High Speed Rail Authority is doing, which is not what voters voted for in Prop. 1A in 2008, is contrary to the conclusions of both the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transport Funding, and the California Transportation Commission. Both of them concluded that we ought to fund transport with “user fees.”

Giving away transit rides, by any mode, with fares near zero, diverting the costs to motorists’ gas and diesel taxes, is unfair, unsound, and unsustainable transport policy. Taxing people out of their cars is a public policy plunging us down the Road to Serfdom, intended to cripple our state’s economy.

We already pay our taxes for many wasteful boondoggles like Amtrak, Caltrain, ACE Train, BART, Light Rail and county transit, when it would be much cheaper for taxpayers if we just purchased each transit rider his own BMW, or paid his taxi fare, or his Uber fare.

California’s voters voted for self-sufficient high speed rail, not a Supermassive Black Hole added to the already intolerable public sector transit Black Holes that our lost leadership forces us to subsidize.

This bad public policy is making California into Northern Venezuela. I urge local leaders to support the repeal of Prop. 1A.

Caveat viator.

Joseph Thompson is an attorney whose law offices are in Gilroy. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. I agree entirely with Mr. Thompson. The High Speed Rail project (HSR) is suffering delays, cost increases, and unmitigated damage to farmland, suburban and urban land values. The route from Gilroy to Merced passes through Pacheco Pass, requiring the construction of multiple tunnels at the cost estimated at up to $14,400,000,000 (that’s $14.4 billion). With wildfires burning, years of drought, crumbling infrastructure and increasing taxes to pay for it all, do we really need a HSR between the Bay Area and LA (that also passes through Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield …). Let’s get real and halt this boondoggle project.