The truth about High Speed Rail
They have no money.
At the much touted unveiling of the DTX Extension and 280 Tear Down plans last night on Potrero Hill, San Francisco officials admitted that there is no money to finish the electrification of CalTrain. They are $440 million short on what they need to electrify 70% of the trains. This was repeated a few times last night.
We were told that the Fast Train is not going to be paid for with public funds and will only happen if “they” can convince a private investor to invest in it. It appears the real reaosn they are trying to force us out of our cars and onto Muni buses, is to prove that there is a market for a “potential” private investor to invest in a “public” transit system to attract private capital. All the mad street painting and street diets are really part of the plan to create a shortage of services so they can sell us more at a premium so they can prove to the investors that there is room for profit if they only will invest.
A few interesting moments at the meeting came from audience questions. Someone asked what the traffic count on 280 is and the answer was, “I can’t give you the exact figures but the 20130 count is…” To which several of us said, How do you know what the count will be in 2030 when you don’t know what it is today?
That is sort of how it went. A question about building parking garages near freeway exits and transit sites in and outside of the city met with a similar non-response that ended up with unrelated comments such as, we need to get people out of their cars by turning freeway lanes into BRTs to prove that there is a demand for public transit.
Now we have the true connection between development and transportation. It isn’t all about the need for more housing. It is also about creating a greater need for more mass public transit so they can sell us a train, or I should say, rail, because they don’t want us on buses. They want us on rail. And in today’s market, rail is too expensive unless they get millions of people here to pay for it.
They need millions of customers to pay more than the actual costs of the “public” transit to provide a profit for the private investors if they want to build the super transport systems of the future that they envision. And they must somehow show, in their 2030 plans where they claim the millions of people and traffic will be, how the investors can make a profit. Could they be having trouble selling bonds for the train?
Around 25 to 30% of the costs of public transportation is covered by car drivers now. As people get out of their cars they lose revenue. The private investors will want a profit. Even if they dispense with drivers and save on labor costs, they will have to recover all the capital costs. What kind of fools do they take us for?
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series in which we will explore real options for how to repair a broken transit system. Let’s start with the truth. Ask the candidates running for office to tell you where they stand now on SFMTA policies and priorities.
This is the takeaway of the author. If you attended the meeting last night and came away with a different story, please let us know. If you taped the proceedings and would like to send us a link, please do not hesitate to do so in the comments. We usually suggest posting comments on the source, but in this case, we are the source, so comments are welcome here.
If you have better ideas for transit solutions that are less costly and coercive, let us know. Guests writers are encouraged to submit articles. Thanks.