A state Legislative Analyst's Office report critical of California's planned high-speed rail network, which includes a leg that extends into Orange County, is being used as ammunition by critics who want to junk the $42.6-billion project.
On Monday, the LAO released its report
that cited concerns with income, risk assessment, ridership projections and the lack of a backup plan
if enough ridership fails to materialize.
Among those licking their chops over the report is the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, which is calling for a recall of Prop 1a, the state ballot initiative voters passed last year approving a nearly $10 billion bond for the system.
The ink-stained U-T wretches were the opposite of swayed by an e-mail from California High-Speed Rail
Authority spokesman Jeffrey Barker, who said the authority was responding to the LAO
criticism by putting together a business plan that “does not require
government operating subsidies” and could comply with the wording of
Proposition 1A by offering private investors a “ridership guarantee”
instead of a “revenue guarantee”:
But a “ridership guarantee” and a “revenue guarantee” are the same
thing because ridership times ticket price equals revenue. The
Legislative Analyst's Office told us yesterday that it agrees.
It appears the rail authority sees semantic acrobatics as the way to
answer the LAO's concerns about the bullet-train project's inability to
attract $10 billion to $12 billion in private investments without
guaranteeing investors their money is safe. It's time to dredge up this
warning from the original business plan: Potential private investors
“made it clear that they would need both financial and political
commitments from state officials that government would share the risks
to their participation.”
“Shared risks” means “subsidies if things go bad.” There's no
reconciling that with Proposition 1A's intent. This poorly crafted,
nonsensical boondoggle of a ballot initiative should be repealed as
soon as possible.
Robert Cruickshank, who was born and raised in Orange County and now lives in Monterey, counters on his independent California High Speed Rail Blog that everything in fine and the LAO's findings are to be expected for a project “that is still very much in development.”
In a very long, point-by-point analysis, Cruickshank, who is chairman of Californians for High Speed Rail, writes, “The 2009 Business Plan is a snapshot of a project in evolution. Any
expectation that all the financial details would have been ironed out
in a year is absurd and unrealistic, but then, HSR often gets burdened
with absurd and unrealistic expectations, particularly from skeptics
and critics. Certainly the things the LAO points to deserve resolution,
and we fully expect they will be resolved. But to use this report, as
some want to, as evidence of a flawed project is itself a flawed