CA poll: High-speed rail should be ... derailed

Governor Jerry Brown has insisted that he will go forward on the plan to sell billions of dollars of bonds to start the high-speed rail project that would eventually join San Francisco and Los Angeles, despite the fact that the estimated costs have tripled to $100 billion since voters first approved the project in 2008 — and that’s before ground even gets broken.  Californians will try to put a referendum on the ballot blocking the sale of bonds in the already debt-strapped Golden State.  How would such a measure fare?  According to a new Survey USA poll, it would derail Brown’s folly.

In a survey of 500 adults taken on Thursday, 53% say they want the sale of bonds stopped, and 51% believe the project will never be built at all.  Only 33% want it to move ahead, a very low figure especially for California, and especially for the sampling type of this survey.  General-population surveys, as opposed to registered or likely voter polls, tend to produce outcomes more favorable to liberal policies.

Of course, it’s hard to determine by the internal demos just what would be the liberal position if one goes just by the party affiliation demos.  It comes as no surprise that Republicans want the bond sales stopped by a margin of 71/19, but a plurality of Democrats also want a halt to the project, 46/41, as well as a plurality of independents at 48/39.  In fact, the only demographic that still wants the bond sales to take place is self-described liberals, 33/62.  Moderates are opposed 2-1 to the bond sales, 54/27.

Regionally, it’s a clean sweep.  Two of the three areas most impacted by the project, Central California and Greater LA, have solid majorities in opposition to bond sales (52/37 and 58/31, respectively).  The Bay Area’s respondents are in a statistical dead head, with opposition having a one-point edge, 43/42.  Every age demo has a majority opposed to the bond sales, and every ethnic demo has a majority or plurality opposed to it.

It probably doesn’t help that the route changed yet again this week to make the proposed route even longer and more circuitous (via Andrew Malcolm):

Planners of California’s high-speed rail project want to discard a more direct route from Los Angeles to Bakersfield over the Grapevine and continue development of a sweeping dogleg through Palmdale and Lancaster.

Though the option was ruled out in 2005, the Interstate 5-Grapevine corridor was revived for further study last May after state officials and some transportation experts thought it would save billions in construction costs and up to 12 minutes of travel time between Los Angeles and the train’s ultimate destination: the Bay Area.

But a new study by the California High Speed Rail Authority now indicates that the longer, more tunnel-heavy route that turns east from the Central Valley through the Tehachapi Mountains to the Antelope Valley is the better option.

Though the Grapevine route would be slightly less expensive, researchers said the $15-billion-plus Palmdale alignment would serve one of the fastest-growing areas in Los Angeles County, have fewer environmental effects and allow planners more flexibility in route selection through the mountains.

Yes, I’m just certain that the best way to fix a public works high-speed rail project that has ballooned in costs is to make decisions that add to the cost and make it less direct.  Here’s a better, less expensive way to serve one of the “fastest-growing areas in Los Angeles County”: build an airport.  Let’s say it would cost a billion dollars for a decent regional airport.  That would be 1/100th the cost of the high-speed rail system proposed (at least in the current estimate) and it would allow more than one operator to compete for the demand to take passengers from the Antelope Valley to San Francisco … and San Diego, and Sacramento, and Phoenix, and Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas, and any number of other destinations.  Since airplanes don’t have to rely on fixed rail, especially a fixed rail that runs along the same course as one of the most potentially powerful faults in the continent, one facility can serve many destinations, just as LAX, Burbank, Ontario, Long Beach, San Francisco, San Jose, and San Luis Obispo do now.

Heck, even Bakersfield and Fresno — the two areas that the high-speed rail will connect first, more or less — have airports that serviced 111,000 and 570,000 commercial service boardings in 2008, respectively.  I guarantee that the number of people who want to move just between those two destinations on a train will be a fraction of a fraction of those amounts.

Californians have finally figured out that the $100 billion high-speed rail project is nothing but a public-works sinkhole that will financially cripple the state for no good reason other than to allow a few politicians a great photo op in front of the choo-choo.  If Brown persists in pushing the bond sales, perhaps Californians will finally start considering different options for their elected representatives than the fools who have pushed them well past the brink of fiscal disaster, and who now want to bury them in debt forever.