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Topics Homepage> The California High Speed Rail does more good than harm

The California High Speed Rail does more good than harm

PRO (3 assertions)


1) California High Speed Rail- High-speed rail system that will have stops in major cities, such asSacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego.



1) According to the Huffington Post, construction of the California High Speed Rail is expected to generate up to 100,000 construction-related jobs for every year the system is being built.

2) Governor Jerry Brown stated, "The high speed rail will not only create millions of temporary jobs in the construction period, but thousands of permanent jobs for many people."

1. Assertion: The California High Speed Rail is environmentally-friendly.

Reasoning: The California High Speed Rail is very efficient compared to airplanes, cars, and other vehicles. Since it is so much more efficient, the California High Speed Rail is much more environmentally-friendly as compared to other vehicles. Also, the California High Speed Rail will run on renewable energy sources, so as a result, there will be no emissions whatsoever. Also, the high speed rail will lower the congestion in streets. This train will allow people to use the trains instead of cars. That means that one train can save over a hundred cars that would have been drove without the train.

Evidence: As a result of the California High Speed Rail, 320 billion fewer vehicle miles will be traveled over 40 years. 146 million hours in traffic will be saved annually. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 3 million tons annually. 237 million gallons of auto fuel will be saved annually, and 35 million gallons of aviation fuel will be saved annually. High-speed trains need only one-third of the energy than that of an airplane and one-fifth of an automobile trip. The system is projected to save 12.7 million barrels of oil per year by 2030, even with future improvements in auto fuel efficiency.

Electrically-powered high-speed trains reduce pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. The total predicted emissions savings of the California high-speed train system is up to 12 billion pounds of CO2 per year by 2030 and would grow with higher ridership. Furthermore, a study undertaken for the High-Speed Rail Authority entitled The Use of Renewable Energy Sources to Provide Power to California's High Speed Rail" presents the data and reasons supporting the technical and commercial feasibility for the system to use 100% renewable energy with no carbon dioxide emissions whatsoever.

Source: High-Speed Rail Authority

2. Assertion: The California High Speed Rail saves money.

Evidence: Over the next two decades, California's high-speed train will alleviate the need to spend more than $100 billion to build 3,000 miles of new freeway, five airport runways, and 90 departure gates. It would attract unprecedented federal funding to jump-start our local economy, creating $3 billion in immediate economic activity and $7-$9 billion in the next 20 years.

Source: USA Today

3. Assertion: Building and running the California High Speed Rail will create many jobs.

Reasoning: Currently, the California unemployment rate is 9.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Implementing the California High Speed Rail results in many jobs created. Every train station would need workers to help maintain the place. It would need janitors, builders, engineers, designers, train workers, ticket counters, and people to work at shops that are in the station. This is just a small list of the jobs that could be created from the California High Speed Rail. It will need a large task force to create and maintain the California High Speed Rail. This will create thousands of jobs.

Evidence: Job-creation advocates in Fresno said they moved a step closer to ensuring that local workers who need a job can compete for one building California's high-speed rail system. Representatives from Fresno Works, a coalition of local government and business leaders, pitched a proposal to establish a "national targeted hiring initiative." The program would put a premium on contractors to hire workers who live in communities with high rates of long-term unemployment or other economic hardship, or workers who are considered economically disadvantaged -- homeless, single parents who have custody of their children, chronically unemployed or other qualifying factors.

The job creation benefits are documented in, among many sources, a 2007 Federal Highway Administration study that identified that for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure development, 20,000 long- and short-term jobs are created. Design and construction of the San Francisco-to-San Jose section would directly create 11,400 jobs and be responsible for a total of 34,200 jobs. Construction of the first segment is expected to generate 100,000 job-years of employment over five years. Building the Phase 1 blended system the Bay Area to Southern California is estimated to create 990,000 job-years over 15 years, an average of 66,000 annually.

In tough financial times, a project of this magnitude will have a significant impact, even in the short term. Construction start-up of ARRA-funding-related sections by 2012 is expected to generate 130,000 early jobs and kick-start economic activity in design, construction and supply services. Over the longer term, California's high speed train will mean nearly 600,000 construction-related jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs. The California high-speed train project's job creation, broken down by region of the project, would be:

San Francisco - San Jose:  105,000

San Jose - Merced:  112,000

Merced - Bakersfield: 135,000

Bakersfield - Palmdale: 81,000

Palmdale - Los Angeles: 125,000

Los Angeles - Anaheim: 92,000

Source: Huffington Post

CON (4 assertions)


1. AT: HSR creates jobs

Judge, the HSR will only create around 600,000 jobs. California's adult population is at almost 28 million people! That means that the HSR is only creating jobs for only 2% of California, which clearly does not outweigh the harms.


2. AT: Environmental benefits

Claims about HSR's environmental benefits have been greatly overstated. Based on California Air Resources Board projections, HSR would ultimately remove CO2 emissions equal to only 1.5% of the current state objective. This is a small fraction of the CHSRA's exaggerated claims of almost 50% of the state objective.


3. AT: BART does not has sufficient security

BART is re-launching its Law Enforcement Security Enhancement Program (LESEP). The peer review group raised a number of concerns, but the most significant were about how the project ultimately would be paid for and the lack of a final business plan that includes things like ridership and timing of construction for phases of the project.


4. AT: HSR is cheap

State voters approved nearly $10 billion in bond funding in 2008 for the project and estimates for the total cost have continued to increase, more than doubling to a current estimate of nearly $100 billion. The report recommends the Legislature not approve about $2.7 billion in bond funds, which would be matched by about $3.5 billion in federal dollars to begin building the first phase of the project in the Central Valley. Those federal dollars are contingent on that phase being finished late 2017. "We cannot overemphasize the fact that moving ahead on the (high-speed rail) without credible sources of adequate funding, without a definitive business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and value to the state, and without the appropriate management resources, represents an immense financial risk on the part of the state of California," wrote Will Kempton, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group. But last month, at an overflow symposium in UC Berkeley's Alumni House, a panel of experts in the fields of transportation engineering and city and regional planning urged caution. If it is built, it will be the largest infrastructure transportation project in the U.S. since the Interstate was constructed beginning more than a half century ago, Madanat said. Others estimate that Japan's equally illustrious HSR system has added more than 10 percent to the national debt, while cost overruns in Korea have surged into the 300 percent range. But worse even than cost overruns has been the political manipulation afflicting the speedy choo-choos. A recent eye-opening New York Times article revealed the cold, calculating politics behind HSR in sunny Florida, where the federal government pledged $2.4 billion of the total $2.6 billion cost of building an 85-mile-long high-speed track between Tampa and Orlando. The Sunshine State's Republican governor refused the funds, however, worried that his state would have to foot the bill later for the cost overruns and excess debts that have vexed similar systems throughout the world.

The money spent to buy the track means a higher increase in taxes since the taxes fund the foundation. The bottom line is that taxpayers will have higher tax rates.

The proposed California High Speed Rail line would be more expensive than every other active HSR proposal in the country put together. While subsidized by everyone who pays the regressive sales tax, its users would have a higher than average income, so it is a subsidy from the poor to the rich. It would cost about $600-$1000 person or $2000-$3000 per California household before a single trip is made. This money could support about 20,000 teachers or police perpetually. For every $1 spent by the passenger, it would entail $4 in public subsidy, twice the annual expenditure of the State Transportation Improvement Program


5. AT: HSR is fast

HSR is slower than air travel in the main Bay Area to Los Angeles market. While it is too soon to know for this system, cost estimates have already doubled. Forecasts of demand for transit are typically 25-50% too high. Estimates of costs for major infrastructure are significantly off, for instance the cost of the Denver Airport tripled from beginning to end.


6. AT: HSR saves energy

A study of BART (Lave 1976) estimated that more energy was used to build the system than will ever be saved by it.


1. Assertion: The HSR costs too much money at a time when California is already in debt.

Evidence: In September 2008, Reason Foundation, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Citizens Against Government Waste groups published "The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report". The report projected that the final cost for the complete system would be $98 billion. Judge, California's total debt, according to US Debt Clock, is $428 billion, so clearly we do NOT need to add anymore to the burden we already have.

Source: The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report"

2. Assertion: The HSR does not have enough security.

Evidence: Terrorism against rail targets is a concern considering the extent of attacks that continue to occur on rail systems around the world. CHSRA appears to be have given insufficient attention to this issue in spite of the RAND Corporation's recommendation to industry and government regarding improvements to domestic rail security. The CHSRA documentation provides virtually no evidence that a proper security assessment of the proposed HSR system has been undertaken, nor does it appear that security applications and methodologies elsewhere have been reviewed. The Authority assumes minimal security at HSR train stations and concludes passengers will be spared airport-like security screening and delays.

Source:The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report.

3. Assertion: Fewer riders will ride the HSR than projected.

Evidence: It appears that the CHSRA 2030 ridership projections are absurdly high, so much so that they could well rank among the most unrealistic projections produced for a major transport project anywhere in the world. Under a passenger-mile per route-mile standard, the CHSRA is projecting higher passenger use of the California system than is found on the Japanese and French HSR networks despite the fact that these countries have conditions that are far more favorable to the use of HSR.

The CHSRA has been increasing forecasted ridership over time and has issued a Base Projection of 65.5 million intercity riders and a High Projection of 96.5 million intercity riders for 2030. The CHSRA ridership projections are considerably higher than independent figures developed for comparable California systems in Federal Railroad Administration and University of California Transportation Center at Berkeley studies.

Using generous assumptions a new study by researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, projects a 2030 base of 23.4 million intercity riders, 64% below the CHSRA's base of 65.5 million intercity riders, and a 2030 high of 31.1 million intercity riders, nearly 60% below the CHSRA's high of 96.5 million. It is likely that the HSR will fall far short of its revenue projections, leading to a need for substantial additional infusions of taxpayer subsidies.

Source: Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

4. Assertion: The HSR's travel time, speed, and train design is not attractive.

Evidence: HSR will be less attractive as an alternative to airline travel and is likely to attract fewer passengers than projected. Notably, the CHSRA's anticipated average speeds are not being achieved anywhere in the world, including on the most advanced systems. Additionally, incomplete consideration has been given to California's rougher terrain where HSR trains must operate more slowly. A study done by American Public Transportation Association, by assuming realistic speeds, estimates that a non-stop San Francisco-Los Angeles trip would take 3 hours and 41 minutes, 59 minutes longer than the projected time. In the future, the CHSRA's travel times may be further lengthened by train weight and safety issues and also by political demands to add stops to the system. The proposed HSR system appears unlikely to provide travel time advantages for long-distance airline passengers.

Moreover, HSR would be unattractive to drivers in middle-distance automobile markets because little or no door-to-door time savings would be achieved and rental cars or taxicabs would also be required. The HSR system will experience disadvantages and commercial challenges in competing with air and auto travel that have been understated in CHSRA documentation. This is sourced from the American Public Transportation Association.

Source: American Public Transportation Association