Another (crazy) view of bullet train: ‘all substantive criticisms have been refuted’

The scathing, welcome, overdue report from the LAO on the bullet train fiasco should bring the debate over this debacle to an end. But it won’t, thanks to rail true believers. This group, amazingly, includes the Los Angeles Times editorial page, which recently made an insane comparison between state high-speed rail and the California water project of the 1960s, which transformed the Golden State.

But the purest, most batguano insanity can be found on the California High-Speed Rail Blog. It’s like a visit to another world, one where the LAO, peer reviewers, the UC-Berkeley Institute for Transportation and all the other documenters of the bullet-train madness simply don’t exist. It’s my go-to source for a good laugh.

The Nov. 27 post by Robert Cruickshank is a classic example:

Here in California, high speed rail has become caught up in this debate. Those who oppose it don’t do so on the merits, since all of their substantive criticisms have been refuted (especially on ridership). They do so because they refuse to believe that high speed rail will be successful in California. When we point out it has been globally successful, they just claim that California is different. What they’re really saying is that California is supposed to be the best example of mid-20th century American values, and high speed rail somehow challenges those values, so it has to be opposed. Many Californians, especially those who live near the proposed route, have no place for rail in their conception of life in California. So they wage a culture war because they have no other way to stop an inexorable push toward a future they abhor.


All of their substantive criticisms have been refuted (especially on ridership)!!!!!!

As I have whined to people for decades, “refute” means prove wrong. It is not a synonym for rebut.

It has hardly been “refuted” that it is insane to predict the state bullet train system will have more riders a year than the 26 million who use Amtrak in 46 states, especially given that the California High-Speed Rail Authority itself says it’s not a “mass transit” system.

It has hardly been “refuted” that CHSRA can’t attract investors unless it guarantees ridership or revenue, and Prop. 1A bans such guarantees, which amount to explicit promises of subsidies if things go awry.

It has hardly been “refuted” that no one has come close to figuring out how California can come up with the previous $43 billion estimated cost of the project, much less the latest estimate of $98 billion. Remember, further taxpayer subsidies are legally banned.

That last part — suggesting that opposition to the biggest public works boondoggle in world history is an element of a larger “culture war” — well, it doesn’t get any loopier than that.

The problem for Cruickshank is that there are so many people like historian Richard White who hate the project. They are not fighting a culture war. They are looking at hard facts and reaching logical decisions.

What’s funny is how his “culture war” claim resonates with Cruickshank’s more familiar work as a main guy at Calitics.

It’s all Bush’s fault! Culture war! Cheney! Halliburton! Katrina! Tea baggers! Birthers! Nyah nyah nyah!

Now, as Cruickshank mulls his response, you can be sure it’ll be the usual, “Well, what do you expect from a right-wing Republican zealot?”

Big problem, Bob. I’m not one. You can also check the Nov. 28 entry here for confirmation. If Bush was somehow responsible for derailing the bullet train, that would be the first time I felt inclined to compliment him in 10 years.

Anyways, I won’t go back to his train blog for a while. I’ll save my next trip for when I need cheering up. Like right after the next Chargers game.

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