Saturday, January 07, 2012

California High Speed Rail

The California High Speed Rail project is, even by government standards, a disaster. After the rail had been approved, costs quadrupled. It appears that their ridership estimates had the entire population of some of the town riding it ever day. The first stretch of it is in the middle of nowhere instead of somewhere that might start paying dividends from the start such as a line between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Although finding wasteful government agencies is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, there’s something particularly odious about the California High Speed Rail project. One libertarian blogger compared it to buying a car, and as soon as the contract is signed the car dealer says "Oh, by the way, we’re changing the contract to quadruple the price."

In California people apparently like to approve of any and all public transit initiatives. This isn't because they imagine themselves using the public transit, but because they imagine everyone else using public transit. The reason they have to involve the government is because they don't imagine themselves using it so there actually is no true market for the service.

The original plan would involve some money from government and also some from private investors. No private investors were interested, even with government guarantees. So far there has been more money spent on advertising than anything else, although that has been scaled back because the public has been criticizing the amount spent on advertising.

It has even been noted by some that since the plans changed after the project was initially approved, the bond that the public voted for could technically be considered null and void. Meanwhile part of the alleged profit from this rail line was supposed to come from other train services, most notably Amtrak, sharking the line and paying for the rails they use. The other rail lines then replied they had no interest in using the lines.

Although this is normal for a government boondoggle project, it is a bit of an extreme example of a government boondoggle. So what is to be done by the State of California? And how can this be remedied without costing the taxpayer a fortune?

Well, there is one way, and that is to enforce the contract that the state made with the High Speed Rail Agency. That goes against the spirit of corporatist corruption that established this boondoggle in the first place, but it fits pretty well within the letter of the law. The State of California should say to the High Speed Rail Agency "You will deliver to us the rail you promised, at the price you promised, or we will jail your leadership for fraud."

It might be just the thing to scare the many other corrupt corporatist endeavors that have been bleeding California dry with their promises of many bountiful returns but instead only receive government grants. Putting a few of their directors in jail for never giving any returns might force them to actually create business plans that go farther than the next government grant.

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