Letter: Some rail critics hope to save CaltrainThe critics of high-speed rail I know, including myself, want to save Caltrain because it provides a vital service. Our children and a grandchild rode it to school. We would use Caltrain for evenings in San Francisco if the service were more frequent and the connections in SF better.
High-speed rail presents a huge and unbearable risk to the financially strapped state of California. We have a chronic, apparently unbridgeable fiscal deficit of over $20 billion a year and debt service on bonds for high-speed rail will make that worse, and we have the worst credit rating of any state.
The state has some $80 billion in bonds outstanding and also over $400 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Like practically all high-speed rail in the world, California's will be a big money loser and, contrary to Prop 1A, will have to be subsidized with money the state does not have.
California does not satisfy the necessary conditions (population density, local public transportation at each end) for financially viable high-speed rail. This project was sold to voters on the basis of false claims: no taxpayer subsidies, which cannot happen; a $50 fare which has now increased to $105 and probably higher (compared to $60 on Southwest Airline); a $30 billion price tag for Sacramento-SF-LA-San Diego service, now estimated by the high-speed rail commission at $43 billion for SF-LA only and most likely to increase $10 billion-$20 billion if past high-speed rail history repeats. California taxpayers would bear that risk. Would anybody want to buy our bonds without a very large interest premium?
California high-speed rail will not get any more money from the federal government. American voters have just sent to Washington a Republican majority in the House of Representatives pledged to cut the deficit. Without more federal funds, the project will die. California should now stop spending the $200 million a year the project is costing, and redirect the money to support of local commuter public transportation and also education.
Alain Enthoven, McCormick Lane, Atherton CA