Letters to the Editor

Sunday, Jan 06 2013 11:00 PM

We can pay off bullet train -- in a few hundred years

By The Bakersfield Californian

"Amtrak's San Joaquin line sets ridership record" was the boastful headline on a Fresno Bee story in the Jan. 3 Californian. The chart with the story showed an average of 1,390 riders departed/alighted at Bakersfield in 2012. At Sacramento, which serves that plus the Capitol Corridor line, the number was 3,251 average riders per day.

The online round-trip fare for Bakersfield to Sacramento on Jan. 3 was $45-$61.

Let's apply some math to the high-speed rail proposal. Assume 5,000 riders per day would use this new phenomenon, and the average ticket price is $100.

That's $500,000 a day in fare revenue or $182,500,000 per year. (Recall the story also said the current San Joaquin trains generated all of $38.7 million in 2012, less than one-fifth that number.)

With that kind of hypothesized ridership, and an estimated cost to build of $100 billion, how long does it take to pay for the principal cost alone ?

Five hundred forty-eight years!

But that's not all! Now add the costs of operation: payroll, insurance, electricity (recall a recent story that said it would take one-quarter of Hoover Dam's daily electrical production to feed these trains?) upkeep and replacement of track, rolling stock, stations and all other overhead costs -- and all this assuming the construction cost can actually be held to what it is projected! We are talking hundreds more years of time to pay for this boondoggle! (America is, after all, only 236 years old!)

I don't know what it is our legislators are smoking, but they ought to let the rest of us in on it.

Gregg K. Knowles

Bakersfield

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