David King on HSR and the Spanish Inquisition

David King is a fellow UCLA grad and now an assistant professor at Columbia university. It might be nice to divert some of my hate mail to him for awhile. King quotes one response to the UCB study on HSR:

“We need more media that actually talks about the huge advantages of high-speed rail. I’m sick and tired reading newspaper articles from people who haven’t even seen a high speed train in real life.”

link: Getting from here to there

The media should report on reports that validate what I already think! Because I don’t read to learn things or be challenged in any way! I read to make sure people see the truthy veracity of what I conclude by merely casting my eyes upon things.

Is this like seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus?

Dr. King has a nice commentary:

I have no idea what HSR systems around the world have to do with the proposed California system. The California system is projected to have more than nine million people go through the Anaheim station annually. That’s more travelers every year than currently go through Penn Station in New York City–which is the busiest station in the western hemisphere.

link: Getting from here to there

So by 2035, Anaheim will be more heavily trafficked than Penn Station is today. We could go to Disneyland.

Read the UCB study before you conclude that they’re bad, bad, bad people and should be put to the rack or other heinous tortures. The UCB authors are careful to note that CalHSR might be a worthy public investment even with operating deficits. See the UCLA study I highlighted yesterday: to get the environmental benefits, you need good ridership.

That’s not a rampaging criticism of HSR as a concept, people. The UCB study opens the door for the authority to start laying the groundwork for the operating subsidies HSR might very well need for serving some parts of the system or times of day the way small market airports do.

Instead, now, I think it’s going to be hard to go back on the loud statements that the investment is going to be revenue generating. The more the authority does that, the more I suspect they weaken their bargaining position with potential franchise agreements on service specifications: you’ve said no operating subsidies, and without them, I can’t do X, Y, and Z profitably. So it’s Q or nothing.

No matter how many temper tantrums we have or how many trains we look at in all our sheer brilliance, there’s no way to get nice accurate numbers here.

First, we do not yet know what the private sector participation is going to look like. If it looks like airline operations, then the fares will go up and down according to time of year and time of day pricing.

What if, for example, Southwest owned the concession between Los Angeles and San Francisco? If I were them, I’d totally try for that. What type of pricing would you use were you them? It would be different than if I were pricing as Cupcake, Inc, a competitor. I’d try to do so if I were Delta and I could leverage rail tickets out of Atlanta or United out of Chicago.

The HSR Authority itself has shifted the proposed fare number around quite a bit. So if the waters are muddier analytically than we’d like them to be, it’s not the fault of people trying to do research here.

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