California’s mismanaged high-speed rail project

California’s mismanaged high-speed rail project, by Connor Harris. It is often said that California is a vision of the progressive future, ruled by the most enlightened leftists on the planet.

In 2008, California voters approved a bond for a high-speed rail line connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles with the fast-growing cities in the state’s Central Valley. With trains running at 220 miles per hour on dedicated tracks, California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) would be the first true high-speed rail line in the U.S. The project’s backers, including Governor Jerry Brown, promised that CAHSR would cost just $33 billion and be finished by 2022, including extensions to Sacramento and San Diego. It would whisk passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes — fast enough, if European experience is a guide, to convince most air travelers on that route to take the train instead.

Ten years later, supporters have ample cause to reconsider. CAHSR’s costs have severely escalated: the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) now estimates that the train’s core segment alone, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, will cost from $77 billion to $98 billion. Promises that private investors would cover most of the costs have fallen through. Forecasts for the project’s completion date and travel times have also slipped. The fastest trains in the CHSRA’s current business plan have a running time of over three hours, and the first segment of the line — San Jose to Bakersfield, almost 200 miles short of completion — won’t open until 2029. …

The CHSRA’s planning model has been to keep problems secret for as long as possible, then hope that all the money invested so far is enough to convince the public to keep throwing good money after bad.

In a leftist world, predatory economics dominates and the critical element is power. In a rightist word, productive economics dominates and the critical element is competence. Unfortunately, most civilizations in most eras leaned more to predatory than productive economics — slavery being perhaps the worst element.

One of the byproducts of the new left’s dominance is a swinging of the balance back towards predatory economics, so we’ll be seeing more corruption and less competence in our futures. Sigh.