Wed, Jun

Want to Save The Bullet Train, Governor … Get Better Bullet Points!


GETTING THERE FROM HERE-George W. Bush had Iraq.  Barack Obama has ObamaCare.  And Jerry Brown has HIS bullet train. 

Not OUR bullet train, mind you, but HIS bullet train.  And like Iraq, and like ObamaCare, the bullet train that was meant to help all of us, and which was promoted with great fanfare and wonderful intentions, has to survive the test of time (in other words, beyond the term of office of its greatest but termed-out promoter).  

Bad idea or not, President Obama pulled us out of an unpopular conflict started under President G.W. Bush.  Bad idea or not, the next President and/or Congress will have to either greatly alter or greatly reduce the Affordable Care Act, because it's NOT affordable for most Americans and NOT reducing health care costs as much as the ACA acolytes want us to believe (despite the overall understanding of what it's trying to do), and ... 

... And bad idea or not, the next Governor of the State of CA will either have to put the brakes on the California High Speed Rail (CAHSR), or greatly reduce its scope, unless the Governor gets more savvy (as Presidents Bush and Obama should have been about their own namesake projects) about how to better present the CAHSR project and how to better establish ownership of the CAHSR by all Californians. 

In other words, make the CAHSR OUR train and not Jerry Brown's train (and the train of a few folks who live in their own little insulated, money-is-no-option, we're-smarter-than-everyone-else world). 

And that means better bullet points: 

1) Acknowledge, and if need be, apologize for the legal discrepancies (or at the very least for the fury of those opposing the the slower speed, higher costs and appearance of a bait-and-switch to the voters).  We were promised a faster train at a lower price--emphasizing that those cretins who lied to the voters were all fired from the CAHSR Authority would go a long way. 

Letting the voters know that we know more now than we did before, and letting the voters know what efforts are being done to ensure reduced costs would go a long way.  At least mention that the voters have the right to be mad. 

2) Shut the heck up about the beauty of this train being a LA to SF commuting option.  We already have air travel between those two destinations--but the beauty of this CAHSR has never been the LA to SF commuting option.  Those P.R. buffoons babbling about and drooling over the LA to S.F. connection need to be fired, or at least gagged and told to shut their pie holes and stop insulting the voters. 

The actual beauty of the CAHSR is the ability to create: 

--A statewide rail/airport network, including the very cost-ineffective airports in central California airports of Fresno and Bakersfield, to which a very few commuters cost the federal government (a.k.a., the taxpayers) a lot of money to subsidize their airfare. 

Clearly, Governor Brown has a lot of work to ensure that the airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities can use a rapid rail link to encourage more rail/airport access in a cost-effective manner.  In other words, TRAINS BETWEEN L.A. AND S.F. MAY NOT BE TOO COST-EFFECTIVE, BUT PLANES BETWEEN THOSE TWO CITIES AND CENTRAL CALIFORNIA CITIES ARE NOT COST-EFFECTIVE, EITHER. 

--A rail network that encourages upgrades and consolidation of operations to Amtrak, Metrolink and Caltrain, as well as safety improvements that will protect the communities through which these networks now run.  For example, local Metrolink service and safety will be greatly enhanced by the CAHSR project in the Southland region. 

3) Start adding on to the first portion/spine of the CAHSR rail (at least with respect to planning) in ways that make sense to the voters.  For example, ensuring that Sacramento money go towards a LAX/rail connection, and pushing for the DIRECT LAX TO UNION STATION PROJECT THAT WAS ORIGINALLY PART OF THE CAHSR would go a very long way to getting more Southern California voters to say something like: 

"Well, this was way too expensive for my taste, but as with other transportation projects this does appear to be a good project for the long run with respect to both statewide and local projects". 

This line of thinking also means talking more money for transportation, but at least the optics of the CAHSR project costs superseding and delaying other vital transportation projects would go away. 

4) There are limits of where environmental benefits can dominate the merits and talking points of this project.  Californians might be environmentally-conscious, but they're not stupid--and treating them like they're stupid isn't smart when you're asking them to pony up more money on a controversial project. 

The greenhouse emissions that this project would purportedly reduce would also be helped by building more lanes of the I-5 and U.S. 101 freeways  to enhance capacity and affect tens of millions of car trips more than the CAHSR would do by itself.  The automobile is NOT going to go the way of the dinosaur, and this "car vs. train" paradigm falls entirely flat on adult voters living in the real world, who know that both trains and cars are both necessary. 

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In other words, cut the other budgetary priorities, cut the exploding pension costs, and expand the Sacramento transportation budget to throw in a few projects to fix and/or widen a few freeway bottlenecks, and much of the appearance of tone-deafness of the Brown Administration (and the CASHR Authority) goes away. 

And throw in a few ways to build reservoirs and desalinate the Pacific Ocean to boot.  Water is pretty tough to live without--in fact, water is a lot tougher to live without compared to the CAHSR project. 

At this time, the CAHSR project remains on track to proceed for the next 2-3 years, but it is anyone's guess as to whether the next Governor--particularly with a Washington Congress increasingly hostile to CAHSR spending--will continue or ratchet back the CAHSR project from where it currently exists.  This is true whether the next Governor is a Republican or even a Democrat.

Governor Brown is clearly an advocate for the CAHSR project--but presuming he is aware of California term limits for the office where he now resides, he will need by far better bullet points if he wants HIS bullet train to avoid the screeching halt to which it inexorably appears doomed. 

In short, better bullet points, and better budget priorities, and better communications, with the California taxpayers will have to occur in order to make Jerry Brown's bullet train our bullet train.


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the  nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)  





Vol 13 Issue 54

Pub: Jul 3, 2015

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