Debunking NIMBY Math on California HSR

“California High Speed Rail will forever need an operating subsidy.” That is the latest claim from an anti-HSR group called the Community Coalition on High Speed Rail.

The group recently assailed CAHSR’s estimates that the system will cost 10 cents per passenger mile to operate, saying the figure is far too low and questioning the official math that the $81 San Francisco-to-LA fare would cover the costs of the trip.

But their numbers just don’t check out, says Network blog Systemic Failure:

CC-HSR extrapolated a 10-cent operating cost per passenger mile based on the the published $81 LA-SF premium fare, and assuming 50% profit. They compared this 10-cents number to a study done in 2007 that reports a per-mile operating cost of around 30-50 cents per mile for European high-speed rail operators.

So according to the CC-HSR, the LA-SF fares are too low, and would have to be at least triple the $81 fare just to break even. Does this argument make sense? Well, let’s look at SNCF fares for Paris-Avignon, which is exactly same distance as LA-SF. This image is a screenshot taken for a random reservation on the SNCF web site:

You are welcome to try your own trip reservations, and do the Euros to Dollars conversion —  but the SNCF fares don’t seem all the far off from CHSRA fares. And if it really cost SNCF more than 30 cents/passenger mile, then the Sud-Est wouldn’t even be profitable, which even CC-HSR admits is not the case.

Systemic Failure hints that CC-HSR’s supposedly economic objections are actually grounded in NIMBYism. The group is composed of people whose homes border the proposed rail line, whose published concerns include “dirt, dust noise” and “loss of trees.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Discover Lee County marvels at the complete unwalkability of the greater Ft. Myers, Florida area, where walkscores of 0 — yep, zilch — are the default condition. Urban Review STL readers sound off on the Missouri proposal to allow concealed firearms on public transit. And This Big City shares 10 crowd-sourced ideas for improving cycling in cities.


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