The California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to “achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in construction” and is committed to operate the system on “100% renewable energy” by contracting for “400 to 600 megawatts of renewable power”. These promises may please environmentalists, but they cannot be kept.
Defenders of California High-Speed Rail often respond to critics by touting how the project provides high-paying jobs in the construction industry for disadvantaged residents of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s one thing to proclaim intentions, but another to achieve them. . . .But these programs and jobs have restrictions. The California High-Speed Rail Authority and other regional and local governments have policies (such as a Project Labor Agreement, aka “Community Benefits Agreement”) to ensure construction unions get a monopoly on recruitment, training, and dispatch of workers to high-speed rail jobs. Allegedly this would provide job opportunities for disadvantaged residents who would otherwise remain in poverty. Public records just obtained from the Fresno-based State Center Community College District reveal that unions did not offer apprenticeship opportunities to most of the 69 people who completed a union-affiliated pre-apprenticeship program funded by a state grant. Performance results for this program suggest that unions are reserving high-speed rail jobs for more favored individuals. Ironically, a few workers ended up getting jobs from local non-union contractors.
In this document, we have outlined an action plan to revitalize America’s aging infrastructure. We start by articulating a set of principles that reflect our long-held view that government has a valuable role to play in supporting infrastructure development.
We follow with specific recommendations on how the private and public sectors can translate those principles into action. These recommendations are organized into five sections: Surface Transportation, Ports and Inland Waterways, Aviation, Drinking and Wastewater, and Energy. We also provide recommendations for innovative approaches to funding and financing.
In a just released poll by the Bay Area Council a majority of respondents indicated an expectation that traffic congestion in the Bay Area (the San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area) is likely to get worse.
It is already bad enough. The Bay Area includes two major urban areas (over 1,000,000 population), with San Francisco ranked second worst in traffic congestion in the United States, closely following Los Angeles.
With little fanfare, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its fourth quarter 2016 ridership report last week. When ridership goes up, the lobby group usually issues a big press release ballyhooing the importance of transit (and transit subsidies). But 2016 ridership fell, so there was no press release.
The report showed that light-rail ridership grew by 3.4 percent, probably because of the opening of new light-rail lines such as Seattle, where the opening of the University line increased ridership by 60 percent. In the past, light-rail ridership has grown with the addition of new lines, but the number of passengers per mile of light rail has fallen, indicating diminishing returns to new rail construction.
Commuter-rail ridership grew by 1.6 percent, mostly due to growth in New York City. Trolley bus ridership grew by 1.8 percent, almost all of which was in San Francisco. Demand-response (paratransit) grew by 0.7 percent.
The two most important modes, however, both declined: heavy rail fell by 1.6% and buses by 4.1 percent. Since these two modes together carry 86 percent of transit riders, their decline swamped the growth in other modes. “Other,” which includes ferries, monorails, and people movers, also fell by 0.2 percent.
. . . Los Angeles light-rail ridership grew by 8.7 percent, but for every light-rail rider gained, Los Angeles lost nearly six bus riders.