Not enough change

The planned high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco has so far failed to win people over. It’s even hard to tell whether the new plan for the project announced on Monday is actually based on voter-approved Proposition 1A.

The cost of the project approved in 2008 was estimated at $40 billion, which increased over time to more than $98.5 billion. This estimate, which doubled the original number, coupled with the idea to begin the project with a segment of little interest, caused political upheaval, leading to this new plan.

The good news is that the estimated cost has decreased-to between $68 and $80 billion-although it’s still well above the original price. The savings resulted from a change in concept: instead of building a new rail network between the cities, there will be a blended system that uses Caltrain’s tracks. As a result, the concept of a direct trip between L.A. and San Francisco was transformed into a journey with possible transfers.

From the beginning, we disagreed with Proposition 1A. Subsequent developments confirmed initial misgivings that the project would cost more than what was included on the ballot.

We believe in public transportation and the importance of connecting the two cities with a quick, efficient transportation method. We aren’t against progress. However, it would be ill-advised to embark in this project at a time California is undergoing a wave of budget cuts. Especially when up until now, it’s still unclear where the funding for such a huge project will come from.

A few months ago, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the high-speed train project had governance problems in addition to being too optimistic about the numbers. The recent changes are a response to this criticism. But they still don’t provide peace of mind about the cost of the project.