Plutocracy’s Evil Bend Is Why California High Speed Train Not Built


California politics has been captured by plutocrats, and the high speed train disaster is a consequence. Plutocrats are devious: they support the cause of their enemies, with friendly, concerned faces, and new language, while giving them cancer. They kill with a pat in the back, smiling.

Initially it was simple and obvious: as direct as possible between San Francisco and LA: downtown SF to SF airport, then 92 bridge (an enormous existing bridge), then straight to Altamont Pass next to the enormous freeway, then all the way down the straight I5 freeway through cheap wasteland. This is the way the original high speed network, in France, was built: straight in the wilderness. 

And it was the original, voter approved plan, decades ago. 

However California NIMBYs transformed the plan into a (slow) commuter rail… arguably, they said to serve cities, but truly their motivation was to torpedo the project, by making it impossibly expensive, complicated, and taking away its main reason for being: to be faster than plane, city center to city center. 

That the motivation of Democratic donors and pseudo-environmentalists was evil is demonstrated by their resistance to train electrification, where they delayed matters by decades… Plutocracy is strong in California and plutocracy loves private jets, not successful high speed trains for common folks: that would introduce the nice life to the masses, who deserve to suffer. 

Let them fly private, say the plutocrats, and they chuckle. The private jet industry in the US employs one million workers, makes 1% of the CO2 emissions of the US, and is entirely taxpayer subsidized. Whereas no electric train is in sight in San Francisco (they were a century ago)… Private jets can be readily observed, flying all over…

Patrice Ayme

Altamont Pass (it really looks like this; sequoia forests are 30 kilometers to the west, in the direction of the windmills). Plutocrats didn’t want the train to go that way, because it would have passed through the East Bay, population 2.5 million… Instead of being used as a commuter train to bring servants to the hyper wealthy Silicon Valley

P/S: For further edification one can consult a long article in the NYT:

How California’s Bullet Train Went Off the Rails
America’s first experiment with high-speed rail has become a multi-billion-dollar nightmare. Political compromises created a project so expensive that almost no one knows how it can be built as originally envisioned. (By Ralph Vartabedian; Oct. 9, 2022.)


LOS ANGELES — Building the nation’s first bullet train, which would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, was always going to be a formidable technical challenge, pushing through the steep mountains and treacherous seismic faults of Southern California with a series of long tunnels and towering viaducts.

But the design for the nation’s most ambitious infrastructure project was never based on the easiest or most direct route. Instead, the train’s path out of Los Angeles was diverted across a second mountain range to the rapidly growing suburbs of the Mojave Desert — a route whose most salient advantage appeared to be that it ran through the district of a powerful Los Angeles county supervisor. [Who made a deal with a plutocrat who gave him a lease… adds the NYT… “If I get my lease, you get my vote was the deal,” Mr. Bauer, the most influential member of the train board said.]

The dogleg through the desert was only one of several times over the years when the project fell victim to political forces that have added billions of dollars in costs and called into question whether the project can ever be finished.

Now, as the nation embarks on a historic, $1 trillion infrastructure building spree, the tortured effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail system is a case study in how ambitious public works projects can become perilously encumbered by political compromise, unrealistic cost estimates, flawed engineering and a determination to persist on projects that have become, like the crippled financial institutions of 2008, too big to fail.

The state was warned repeatedly that its plans were too complex. SNCF, the French national railroad, was among bullet train operators from Europe and Japan that came to California in the early 2000s with hopes of getting a contract to help develop the system.

The company’s recommendations for a direct route out of Los Angeles and a focus on moving people between Los Angeles and San Francisco were cast aside, said Dan McNamara, a career project manager for SNCF.‌

The French company‌ ‌pulled out in 2011.

“There were so many things that went wrong,” Mr. McNamara said. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a high speed rail system.

Morocco’s bullet train started service in 2018.

But as with so many decisions on the project, other considerations won the day. There was heavy lobbying by Silicon Valley business interests and the city of San Jose, which saw the line as an economic boon and a link to lower cost housing in the Central Valley for tech employees. They argued for routing the train over the much higher Pacheco Pass — which would require 15 miles of expensive tunnels. [Instead of just half a mile with Altamont.]

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