California judge cuts off state funding
for high-speed train venture
(Fox News) A California judge has slammed the brakes on funding a pricey high-speed train project, in a move that could put the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line in jeopardy.
The ruling, by California Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, was greeted as good news by critics of the ambitious but costly rail proposal.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority whip, called the high-speed train an “unworkable boondoggle” and said Tuesday he’ll work with his colleagues in Congress to deny federal funding for it as well.
“The ruling marks yet another self-inflicted setback for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and a small victory for California taxpayers,” McCarthy told FoxNews.com. “The CHSRA has failed at every turn to detail a realistic plan that will fund this program. With no private funds, unreliable ridership numbers and the reliance on taxpayers to eventually bail the project out – it should not move forward.”
The ruling is the latest setback for champions of high-speed rail in California. It follows a recent decision by the federal government to suspend their review of a massive loan for a separate California-to-Vegas train.
Kenny, in his ruling Monday, rejected a request from the CHSRA to sell $9 billion of the $10 billion in bonds approved by voters in 2008.
Over the summer, Kenny ruled that the state had failed to comply with requirements of the voter-approved money that would pay for the project’s initial phase.
However, the measure also included provisions that basically said the state couldn’t start building if it had not secured all of the capital needed to create a fully operational and self-supporting first section of the line. California is about $25 billion short of what it needs to complete the first phase.
|Amtrak Pacific Surfliner at Del Mar, CA|
Simply connect San Jose and San Luis Obispo and you have a statewide rail system. But easy and cheap are words the liar politicians have never heard.
Sacramento train mystery:
What happened to the passengers?
- Not all is well on the train front. While I like rapid transit we have taxpayer funded county run bus systems trying to undercut the taxpayer funded train systems and steal passengers.
(Sacramento Bee) The Sacramento and Davis Amtrak stations have long been stalwart stops on California’s Capitol Corridor, major reasons the 170-mile rail line connecting the Valley and Bay Area is the third-busiest passenger service in America.
But in the past year, the number of passengers getting on and off in Sacramento and Davis has dropped notably. Concerned Capitol Corridor officials say they are launching an investigation to figure out what’s happening.
“I am not trying to sound alarm bells, but those are our two busiest stations, so we need to find out why,” Capitol Corridor chief David Kutrosky said.
Passenger levels dropped 6 percent this year at Sacramento Valley Station in downtown Sacramento and 5 percent in Davis, Kutrosky said. Combined, the two stations accounted for 88 percent of ridership losses on the system, which has 17 stations, and runs from Auburn to San Jose. A total of 1.7 million passengers rode the Capitol Corridor train in fiscal 2013, a 2.6 percent drop from the prior year.
Chuck Robuck, a rail activist and former Capitol Corridor rider from Auburn, now retired, says he believes the financial struggles of state workers in recent years may be taking a toll. “Here in the foothills, a lot of people have switched to the (county-run) Placer Commuter Express bus because of the cost difference,” Robuck said. “It’s $70 less expensive a month. That’s a biggie.”
Capitol Corridor data confirm a drop in ridership from Placer County. One dropout is Patty Atherton of Auburn, a longtime Capitol Corridor commuter who saves more than a $100 a month after switching to a private van pool in January. Atherton is disabled and said the wait at the Sacramento station for a transport cart caused her frequently to miss her light-rail connection.
“I miss the camaraderie of the train, but I love the van,” she said. “It drops me off right at my building.”
Overall, though, commute-period train ridership in Sacramento remains stable, data show. It’s the midday trains and some weekend service, which tend to have more leisure riders, that are seeing most of the falling ridership numbers, Kutrosky said.
|Passengers prepare to board an Amtrak train bound for |
San Francisco at the Sacramento Valley station.
(Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee)