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San Diego Assemblyman Calls High-Speed Rail A Fantasy Train

Aired 1/11/12 on KPBS News.

Assemblyman Martin Garrick is co-sponsoring a bill to give California voters a chance to change their minds on high-speed rail.

One of the big questions before the California Legislature this year is what to do about high-speed rail. California voters approved some bond funding for a high-speed rail line in 2008. But since then the estimated cost of the system has ballooned to $100 billion. Republican Martin Garrick represents the 74th assembly district in north San Diego County. He is co-sponsoring a bill to put high-speed rail back on the ballot, so voters can change their minds. He spoke with KPBS Morning Edition host Tom Fudge.

Fudge: How did you vote in 2008, on Prop 1A (the bond measure for high-speed rail)?

Garrick: I voted no. And 48 percent of the voters of California also joined me in voting no.

Fudge: Why did you vote no?

Garrick: Because I didn’t believe that $9.9 billion in bonding, and the projected $34 billion cost was the true cost. I also didn’t believe the project was needed. But what I’m doing is taking the action an assemblyman can, to bring to the attention of all the voters the need to stop the funding of what I believe is a fantasy train we can’t afford.

A proposition could be placed on the ballot. We are proposing it – to put on the November 2012 ballot – for the removal of the 1A proposition that was passed in November of 2008. That would stop the bond issuing, and it would stop the train project completely.

Fudge: Do you think you have the political support in Sacramento to put this to the voters again?

Garrick: The budget situation in California is pretty desperate. Our economic times, with double-digit unemployment, are also pretty desperate. And we need to sit down and discuss with the Governor why he continues to push for a train, that has already increased in cost from $34 billion, just four years ago, to $99 billion today.

Fudge: Proponents of high-speed rail say this is a “green” technology that it would reduce greenhouse emissions and would be good for the environment. Do you accept that?

Garrick: I believe that greenhouse gases and the high-speed rail concept is a nice and wonderful thought. But it doesn’t move the number of people it needs to move in the state of California. It was originally projected to have 55 million passengers a year. The projections have dropped down to 35 million passengers a year, and that means a $1 billion loss in revenue to service those bonds. Now the price has gone up, but the number of passengers has gone down.

Fudge: High-speed rail, on the other hand, does seem to work in other parts of the world. It seems to work in Spain. It seems to work in Germany. In China, they’re building high-speed rail like crazy. What’s different about us?

Garrick: I believe both the number of people and the density in which those people live. Take France, for example. I believe France has 60 million people, and we have 38 million in the state of California. And, if I’m not mistaken, California is a larger geographic area than France. They have higher-density cities, and their high-speed rail travels between those cities that are much more densely packed.

Fudge: For California, if not high-speed rail, then what? We’re hearing from experts that the travel capacity for California will max out at some point, and we need some other way, some better way, to move people. Do we increase the size of freeways? What do we do?

Garrick: Well you’ve got 17,400 miles of both interstate and state highways. You have 30 airports. People want to get around and we have 38 million people. We want to continue to grow this state, both economically and otherwise. And we need to incorporate all the forms of transportation. The local rail systems, light rail, the local bus systems can be expanded. But high-speed rail is something we can’t afford today, and our children can afford to continue to pay for.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | January 11, 2012 at 3:24 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

The High Speed Rail project is idiotic. We do not have the population density to justify something like this.

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Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | January 11, 2012 at 4:35 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Satariel, Spain (231/sq mi) has a population density similar to California (242/sq mi), yet Spain's HSR is very popular. This proves that California has the population density to justify high speed rail.

In the interview, Garrick deceptively claims that the high speed rail project "has already increased in cost from $34 billion, just four years ago, to $99 billion today." The truth is that it has increased from $35.7 billion (2008$) or $42.6 billion (YOE$), to $65.4 billion (2010$) or $98.5 billion (YOE$).

If California's HSR gets voted down, it won't be because of the truth, but because of misinformation like the kind Garrick is giving out.

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Avatar for user 'ceanothus'

ceanothus | January 11, 2012 at 8:32 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

What's eating Martin? Has he been imbibing a bit too much again?

REGION: Details of Assemblyman Martin Garrick's DUI arrest released

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Avatar for user 'brixsy'

brixsy | January 11, 2012 at 9:28 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Looks like Satariel got shut down, because he failed to provide facts, instead attacking a vital program with insults.

The only reason that this nonsense is bandied about is because there is a large constituency that will benefit from the HS train program being shutdown (i.e. the Big Four motor companies, oil companies, entrenched interests). There is no reason why these trains couldn't work here just as anywhere else. Unfortunately, some officials in government don't care about our interests and will freely work against them for money.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 11, 2012 at 10:18 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

This Garrick hack sounds like a cranky old fool. Any project of this scale seems daunting and difficult at the outset, but it takes leaders with vision to get them implemented and benefit our future.

The United States used to be the world's leader in infrastructure and transportation.

No longer, and it's because of creeps like Garrick.

What city in the U.S. has a brand new metro/subway system?

Those in the U.S. are old and cities like Delhi have convenient new metros.

Has anyone flown internationally lately?

It's striking how major U.S. airports like LAX look like 3rd world disasters while cities like Bangkok have beautiful new airports. Many cities throughout Europe and Asia are preparing for Airbus A380 flights while the U.S. seems to not even care.

Bridges in major U.S. cities like Minneapolis have literally crumbled, while China has built the world's longest bridge in the last few years.

And now we finally have an opportunity to bring California into the forefront of transportation technology, and some two-bit cranky politician wants to nix it despite the fact voters approved it.

People need to realize this is not a "quick return" project.

It's an investment in our long-term future.

Shame on you Mr Garrick, you should be voted out of office!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 11, 2012 at 10:23 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

@ceanothus, thanks for sharing the DUI story, I had no idea.

Maybe this drunkard idiot could benefit from public transportation - you can ride it after boozing instead of driving your car and risking others lives, Mr. Garrick, you drunken dope.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | January 13, 2012 at 11:36 a.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

brixy I think your tin foil hat is on a little too tight.

You really think there is some conspiracy by the automakers and oil companies to prevent high speed rail? Come on.

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Avatar for user 'Noise Trolley'

Noise Trolley | January 15, 2012 at 7:26 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

We are an example of a community in San Diego County who is suffering from poor planning of rail to our area. Here is our site:

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