CA high-speed trains to charge more, serve fewer customers

Victor Joecks

Nevada’s had a taste of train controversy, but California’s already approved bonds for high-speed bullet trains in the southern part of the state. According to a new report, though, riding the train is going to cost customers a lot more.

Those hoping to ride the state’s high-speed train next decade will have to dig much deeper into their wallets than officials originally thought, a harsh reality that will chase away millions of passengers, according to an updated business plan released Monday.

The average ticket on the bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles is now estimated to cost about $105, or 83 percent of comparable airfare. Last year, the state said prices would be set at 50 percent of comparable airfare and predicted a ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost $55.

As a result of the higher fares, state officials now think the service will attract 41 million annual riders by 2035, down from last year’s prediction of 55 million passengers by 2030.

Finally, the cost of the project – recently pegged at $33.6 billion in 2008 dollars – is now estimated at $42.6 billion in time-of-construction dollars.

The gloomy forecasts are included in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s updated business plan, which the state Legislature required the authority to submit by today.

The authority last produced a business plan in 2008. State officials had used what turned out to be optimistic ridership and ticket price forecasts in presenting a $9.9 billion bond measure called Proposition 1A, which voters approved in November 2008.

As Nevada considers a couple of train options, we should heed the warning of California’s boondoggle in the making, and remember that the government has no business subsidizing any business.