High Speed Rail video © 2019 Grant Johnson, PRISM Engineering, Music © 2019 Adam Lehi Johnson
As an engineer, a California registered TRAFFIC ENGINEER, who has also worked directly for the Chinese government on High Speed Rail Construction Supervision and Inspection in Mainland China as a Chief Site Engineer, I have to say that this High Speed Rail Project in California is somewhat of a MISFIT project for the United States Transportation System. Also it has become politically not viable.
We primarily use CARS in the US, and soon, autonomous cars... which will make the train choice look klutzy at best.
Rail options for transport are an out-dated idea. It will be replaced by something much much better. Mobile vehicles generally with four wheels, computer driven, dynamic "train assembly" for convoy travel, robotic deliveries, mobile offices large and small, etc. Much better than current options, and much SAFER too, by taking the human element of "tragic mistake" out of the driving equation. I am all for it, because it will be the safest, most efficient, and most convenient and helpful option. I want a private autonomous "CAR" in my near future. I don't want to have to wait for a train, especially a train to where I don't want to go.
IN CHINA, 85% OF THE POPULATION DOES NOT HAVE / USE A CAR.
OF COURSE, Rail makes more sense for China, for there are no other viable transportation options to go from CITY to CITY, excepting a bus, but in that option, travel times are extremely limited, take longer than a car, and last 5 mile connection to end-of-journey choices are limited and slow. Long waits. Lots of standing.
IN THE USA, HIGH SPEED RAIL will NOT be helping our TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES and NEEDS.
HSR ignores CA transportation needs by siphoning off, no, draining off needed funds and diverting them to an HSR project that does not actually solve any significant problem. Even the HSR Rail Authority predicted a best case of 1% reduction in auto travel once completed... and that's nothing to be excited about after spending $100B to do that.
HSR won't help in any significant way, and the CAHSRA have as much admitted it.
HSR is kind of a showcase type infrastructure, like Transportation Trophy for California. Rather than allow real solutions to be engineered by Traffic and Transportation Engineers, in recent years it seems that many politicians are FOCUSED on passing laws and policies that actually frustrate the existing transportation systems, BY IGNORING IT, and instead make policy seemingly designed to GET PEOPLE OUT OF CARS, but this has not been working, traffic jams seem to be as bad as ever, and it is a 25 year old experiment now in social engineering, and some failed political policies. Policies that lately purposefully ignore vehicle congestion (even having the CA legislature wipe traffic impacts OUT of the CEQA California EIR process). These kind of policies ignore the commute times of millions and millions of people, who are delayed and wasting time now, with the hope that a few of these same people will start walking or riding bikes and ditch the traffic congestion. Well, its not that easy ...and actually, it's not working. The needle isn't even moving. It's just not feasible. It's not working in any meaningful way, because every time I look at traffic count data, the BIKES and PED tallies are MISSING, not because the engineer missed it, but because so few people do actually walk or ride bikes. Planners and politicians are not going to change this CULTURE, they have had 25 years trying. In fact, because of being misguided at focusing primarily on getting people "out of their cars" these well meaning people, leaders, planners, in some places where so-called "Complete Streets" has caught on somewhat, these shifts in mode of travel have actually caused pedestrian fatalities to increase as a result: Like China, many many more pedestrians are getting into harms way, and the US pedestrian fatalities, and bike fatalities statistics are on the rise. Of course they are! Is it safety first? or is it planet earth first?
We need to make a choice, because both are failing, being in competition with the other.
hint: pedestrian fatalities are rising because of policy.
hint: one thing we could learn from China is that
China has 10 times more fatalities with pedestrians and vehicles than the USA.
We should not assume that getting people "out of their cars" is the simple solution for safety. It actually is not the solution, and other countries are already proving that.
The CA HIGH SPEED RAIL will cost well OVER $100 BILLION if completed, and it is taking too long, says Gov. Newsom. Because this is the USA, our CULTURE requires excessive environmental reviews. Property costs are high. Political challenges are formidable. The technology costs WAY too much for what you get, takes too long to build, and there are significant environmental hurdles, a problem china does not face much when it builds HSR. China has it's own CULTURE which favors HSR construction, but even China's system is somewhat overrated for what you get in return.
The HSR will soon be an OUTDATED FORMAT OF TRAVEL anyway. BY THE TIME IT IS FINISHED, HSR will have been rejected for a more favorable autonomous vehicle environment, which is going to be safer overall and more green than can be imagined with a complete overhaul into electric and solar transportation systems.
IT IS POINTLESS TO CONTINUE the HSR because:
SO WHY is CA STILL DOING THIS??
HIGH SPEED RAIL CORRUPTION
Way back in 2008---
Voters were bamboozled by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talking up the HSR, and when it got on a 2008 ballot , nearly $10 billion in bonds were authorized!
They said it was going to ultimately cost $33 billion and if that wasn't bad enough, it soon morphed into $60 billion. Then $100 billion.
They said it would operate with no subsidies. LOL
Then there was the CORRUPTION, where billed millions went unaccounted for, and multiple conflicts of interest by executives in the engineering firm WSP doing expensive change orders (dozens of millions) for contractor firms that they had stock in. Now WSP's executive, Roy Hill, is under investigation by the State and SUSPENDED from further work pending outcome. (June 2019 LA Times article, which states:
Roy Hill, deputy chief operating officer for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and a senior executive at the lead consulting firm WSP, signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. It happened in the same year he may have owned more than $100,000 of stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team, records show.).
See LA TIMES article here
A photo I took of part of my 70 km section supervision of HSR construction in China
FAST FACTS on High Speed Rail Labor Costs, USA vs China:
My work on the High Speed Rail construction in northern China connecting Beijing to Shenyang was done at breakneck speed. Construction going on all the time! Literally, 12-16 hour days for workers, and very low pay scale made it possible for numerous HSR lines to be constructed simultaneously throughout many places in China at the same time.
In California, there is not the "luxury" of low paid workers (workers on HSR in china make around $1000/mo, but for overworked 16 hour days, 7 days a week).
Doing the math, this is only $2.50/hr best case, and some are paid as low as $1.00/hr, since many are undocumented migrant Chinese workers from the rural areas, and are taken advantage of by construction companies.
In california, construction workers are being paid at least $18/hr, 10 to 20 times more,
and only work weekdays, 8 hrs/day.
The engineers in ca get paid three times more than construction workers at about $55/hr average. contrast this with the engineers in china who make 1/5th or less of this, at $10/hr. it is no wonder that china can build so much hsr. the labor costs are wildly lower than what it costs in the USA.
*NOWHERE defined: Bakersfield to Madera now. A "solution" to an fabricated problem. With nearly ZERO demand for daily person trips from Bakersfield to Madera, the State of California presses forward on its plan to build HSR to connect these two places, at tremendous costs!! The question is, WHO will be using this in the future? Who knows...? Even though I live 10 miles away from it, I can't imagine even one reason I would have to use it, even one time. It's completely detached from reality. I do transportation planning for a living, create models of future traffic, and I can not conceive of the assumptions that would need to be fabricated to say there will be 10's of thousands of people in Bakersfield that will need to travel daily to Madera. This is just not reality. LA to SF, maybe (to compete with airline travel), but not some Central Valley corridor of limited length, ending in non-destination cities. It would be the EPITOME of "GROWTH INDUCING", and I'm not sure it even would induce the growth? What is the draw between Bakersfield and Madera?? ONWARD and UPWARD!! Keep Building!! HSR for CA!! Rah Rah Rah. We can do what China does too.