California's High-Speed Train to Nowhere?

Don't tell that to the 18,000 residents of Shafter. However, the Legislative Analyst's Office made clear in its March 17 report that it questioned having the southern end of the first operating segment located "in an unpopulated agricultural area."

3 minute read

March 21, 2016, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


FLV California train

California High Speed Rail Authority / Wikimedia Commons

"The nonpartisan office that provides fiscal and policy analysis to the state legislature says it’s concerned about uncertain funding in the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s latest draft business plan and also the proposal to end the initial operating segment (IOS) miles from the nearest urban area in the San Joaquin Valley," writes

[Correspondent's note: A good description of Initial Operating Segments (IOS) can be found in the second paragraph of this Wikipedia description].

The new IOS, referred to as IOS North, resulting from a (literal) change of direction in the draft plan, may be "cheaper and quicker to build," but the southern end in Shafter, 18 miles northwest of Bakersfield in Kern County, creates problems for potential passengers. The Legislative Analyst's report states:

[T]he Legislature will want to consider whether the southern terminus of the proposed IOS makes sense. [U]nder the plan, the IOS North would have its southern terminus at an agricultural area north of the small city of Shafter, which is about 50 miles south of the last planned station on the IOS. In order to make the southernmost portion of the IOS usable, HSRA plans to build a temporary station or platform at this location.

....Even with a temporary station or platform, ending the IOS in an unpopulated agricultural area does not appear to be an effective approach. This is because this location would not have the types of facilities and nearby businesses, such as transit connections, rental car facilities, and shops necessary to meet the needs of train passengers. 

As for the northern end, the high-speed rail train will provide another answer to the question, "Do you know the way to San Jose?" At Diridon Station, passengers can transfer to what will hopefully be an electrified Caltrain for the 47-mile trip to San Francisco. [Currently the diesel-powered trip takes 59 minutes for a 'baby-bullet' or about 90 minutes for a local.]

The other major concern the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) expressed was funding—nothing new there as opponents have been pointing this out since the 2008 bond measure authorizing the project was approved by voters. The authority itself recognizes that the train will need to operate before attracting private funds.

However, the Legislative Analyst indicated concerns with the main funding source until the nearly $10 billion in bonds can be tapped.

"[T]he review notes that the possible end of cap-and-trade funding in 2020 'means that without legislative action, the cap-and-trade funds [high-speed rail] plans to use to build the IOS would likely not be available' for the remainder of segment construction, which is expected to be completed in 2025," writes Meacham.

A review of past LAO reports [see two posts in 'related' below 'tags'] on the mega-project show this one could have been a lot worse for the authority.

Expect one more review of the draft business plan to come from a separate Peer Review Group before the draft business plan is sent to the legislature for approval.

For a brief audio account on the LAO's report, click on Capitol Public Radio's report. See Juliet Williams article in The Associated Press (via The Fresno Bee) for a thorough write-up on the report.

Friday, March 18, 2016 in Silicon Valley Business Journal

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Moving truck with open back door with furniture and a blue suitcase visible inside.

The 15 Fastest-Growing Cities in the US

The U.S. Census Bureau released new 2023 population estimates on May 16 showing a slew of data for cities of all sizes and regions. Do you know the population change last year for the 15 largest cities in your state?

June 3, 2024 - Irvin Dawid

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Large wood structure with bridge and people standing on it in green park in Toledo, Ohio.

Innovative Park Agencies Receive National Recognition

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recently announced the recipients of this year’s awards for innovation in health and wellness, equity, conservation, and park design.

13 minutes ago - National Recreation and Park Association

Line of cars at a McDonald's drive-thru at night.

St. Paul Considers Drive-Thru Restrictions

Limiting drive-thrus can make streets more dangerous for pedestrians and snarl traffic.

1 hour ago - Axios

Pythian Building in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Permanent Affordability That Wasn't: Lessons from the Pythian Building

A high-stakes, high-profile community land trust project once hailed as a triumph in New Orleans ended in disaster for its residents, but it’s important to draw the right lessons about why.

2 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.