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Will People Ride the Rail?

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California's state Legislative Analysts' Office is wondering what will happen to the fiscal projections for our forthcoming San Diego to San Francisco high-speed rail project if optimistic ridership projections don't come through.

More details from the L.A. Times:

Eric Thronson, a fiscal and policy analyst for the office, called a risk assessment in the business plan "incomplete and inappropriate for a project of this magnitude.'' Thronson warned that there is no backup plan to keep the rail system solvent if it fails to draw 41 million people yearly. A bond measure approved by voters to help pay for the train network prohibits public funds from being spent on operating costs.Jeff Barker, a spokesman for the state authority proposing the system, said all risk would be addressed in the future,...

The future: where all of California's fiscal messes wait to be addressed! By the way, that ridership figure of 41 million averages to over 112,000 train riders every single day of the year. The average daily usage of I-5--the entire road--is around 71,000, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Voters approved this $40 billion plus train project in a bond issue proposition that won in November 2008. Back then, Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason, the magazine where I work as a senior editor) was predicting the project would cost more and do less than proponents promised.

In other California train news, some L.A.-based rail improvements are seeking federal money to proceed. Details from CurbedLA:

Metro has already requested federal funds for engineering of the Wilshire subway and Regional Connector, but now the City Council is asking the Feds to front them big bucks so the transit agency can get started on building numerous rail projects, reports The Daily News. With Measure R, Metro is guaranteed billions in tax money, but it'll take awhile for it to all roll in. So now city officials have "filed a request with the federal government Tuesday to borrow money to speed up plans for the 'Subway to the Sea' and other transit projects planned under Measure R. The City Council asked that the proposed National Infrastructure Development Bank, to be created under legislation now pending in Congress, advance money" to Metro to speed up projects like the Crenshaw light-rail line, Expo to Santa Monica, and various other projects that were part of Measure R.

MetroRiderLA sums up a year's worth of local transit news in one blog post.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Harry-Taiwan. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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