Rail project needs more examination

To the editor:

Thank you, Geoff Schumacher (“Show me the riders,” Friday column), for being a voice of reason in the debate over high-speed rail to Southern California. Any hard evidence of a solid business model with thorough number crunching has been surprisingly scant.

The backers claim they can get the train to Victorville at a rate of $55. This comes out to 30 cents a mile. Let’s be really optimistic and say at some point they extend the route all the way to the west side of Los Angeles. Let’s assume the train from day one never incurs a dime of debt and never in its lifetime needs public assistance in any form. The new 275-mile route at the same 30 cent per mile rate would come out to a new one-way fare of $82.50.

Initially, this looks attractive to what Southwest Airlines offers at its full fare rate. Their $150 one-way fare to either Burbank or LAX comes out to 55 cents a mile. However, as we all know, only last minute travelers usually pay this rate. Southwest very often has sale rates of $49 one-way and sometimes super sale rates of $29. These two prices come to a rate of 18 cents and 10.5 cents, respectively.

This is a no-brainer. If a plane will get me to the west side beaches of Los Angeles for less money than the train will even get me to Victorville, why would I use the train? I know that the discussion is always around the idea that the train is for Southern Californians to get here and not the other way around, but the same economics apply.

I don’t think the backers of this project really care. The consultants, analysts, designers, engineering firms and the politicians receiving their campaign contributions will all make a killing in advance of people finding out this is a turkey on arrival. The same thing happened with the Las Vegas Monorail with its per mile fare rate of $1.25.

I’m trying to figure out how the backers of this project, Sen. Reid and Sig Rogich, have been able to enrich themselves over the years without ever having likely taken an economics class.

Andy Spurlock


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