Imagine that someone wants to sell you a new car you're not real sure you want or need. Price tag: $34,000. Now imagine that you signed the contract, but the seller comes back later and says he must adjust the price. Your $34,000 purchase now will cost $98,000. But the seller says don't fret, he will see if the federal government will help make up the difference.
Wouldn't you try to get out of the contract, which at the least, misrepresented the deal upfront?
Now, instead of thousands of dollars, make that billions of dollars. Instead of a car, make it a high-speed train. This is no longer theoretical.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has reworked its business plan, which since Day 1 has come under fire for overestimating ridership for a train linking Northern and Southern California, and underestimating its construction costs and ticket prices.
The new plan sought to overcome criticisms, which also include environmental and other objections to buying up private property and disrupting communities. Oddly enough, the new plan exacerbates the train's shortcomings.
In addition to the price nearly tripling from 2008's original estimate, when voters approved bonds to pay for less than a third of the then-$34 billion cost, the new plan now says construction will last until 2034, 14 years longer than promised. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the new plan also says, rather than the original planned 55 million annual riders, only 36.8 million will get aboard, generating only $5.5 billion a year in revenue, compared with the $6.2 billion previously estimated. Nevertheless, a ticket price now is estimated at $81 for Los Angeles to San Francisco — $26 more than voters were promised only three years ago.
In short, the train will transport fewer people, make less money, cost more money and take longer to build. That's improvement?
Train backers insist it will turn a profit, although, unsurprisingly, about $900 million a year less than previously projected. Are Californians to believe any of this in light of the boondoggle's history?
The new plan depends on considerably more taxpayer money from Washington than it did before, even though Congress has made it clear there won't be another dime coming anytime soon to add to the paltry $3 billion previously allotted California. Are we to believe Washington will bail out California's boondoggle? This doesn't pass the laugh test.
We like the idea of Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who plans to introduce a bill to send the project back to voters for repeal.