California Bullet Train's Promise of Jobs is Overstated, Says UCLA

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Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 4:24 PM
  • California High Speed Rail Authority

That $100 billion publicly financed bullet train that would connect Angelenos to the Bay Area for the low, low one-way price of $120 (more, in some cases, than airfare) has more problems than Jay-Z.

We reported recently that Golden State voters no longer support the thing: You seem to think building it is becoming too expensive for what it does, and few plan to use it regularly.

Now comes word that the job boon promised as part its construction is just a pipe dream going off the rails:

Today the respected UCLA Anderson Forecast, one of the premier barometers of the California and American economy, said the California High-Speed Rail's construction through the Central Valley wouldn't really put much of a dent in our sorry unemployment figures (10.6 percent in the Golden State).

Gov. Jerry Brown and President Obama are both pushing for its construction as a way to fill out our transportation infrastructure but, mainly, as a job creator.

UCLA looked at "similar rail development in Japan" and came up with this conclusion:

click to enlarge THE PROPOSED ROUTE.
  • The proposed route.

... There may be good reasons to invest in CHSRL, including the possibility that CHSRL is the optimal infrastructure investment for a growing population; but the economic argument -- the jobs argument -- does not seem to stand on solid ground.

In Japan, the school says, high-speed rail "high-speed rail does not seem to have any significant aggregate economic development component."

It does, however, encourage suburban and exurban sprawl by allowing folks to live in the boondocks and work in the big city. Is that a good thing, economically?

"This may be a benefit or detriment, depending on one's viewpoint ...," says UCLA.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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