California’s high-speed rail project seems to be dead. At least, that’s the conclusion of a Washington DC writer commenting on a report that Governor Brown has given up on the idea of exempting high-speed rail from environmental reviews.
Without that exemption, the writer thinks, the state will never be able to build the line. However, In the spirit of former Egyptian President Mubarak, who was clinically dead though maybe still alive, perhaps California high-speed rail is only clinically dead. The latest word is that Brown is only delaying, not ending, his proposal exempt the project from environmental reviews.
The Antiplanner has said this before, but major transportation projects make sense mainly if they can generate new travel. Merely coaxing people from one form of transportation to another is not worth it, especially if the new form costs more than the old.
The 2008 business plan for the California rail project projects that only 6 percent of the riders of high-speed rail will be “induced,” that is, new travel. The rest will be diverted from flying, driving, or Amtrak. The fact that all of those modes cost less than high-speed rail indicates that there is no economic benefit to building it. So all taxpayers should hope that this project is well-and-truly dead and not just clinically dead.