The bullet train’s “reasonableness of financial estimates” is questionable, beginning with the project’s revenue forecasts. The LAO noted a projection of 44 million riders a year when the L.A.-Bay Area line is complete. That’s down from the hallucinatory claim of 117 million passengers that proponents of Prop. 1A offered in 2008, but it’s still ridiculous. In reality, 44 million passengers would be 50 percent higher than the number of people Amtrak carries to and from more than 500 stations in 46 states and three Canadian provinces each year.
How was the estimate derived? Elizabeth Alexis, a Palo Alto finance expert and co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, delved into the methodology and discovered, among other things, that the rail authority assumed that the future cost of gasoline would top $40 a gallon. Alexis also noted that the public-opinion polls that bullet-train backers crafted to gauge potential passenger interest were heavily biased. For example, 96 percent of commuters surveyed were already train riders. But unlike commuters in other states, only a tiny percentage of Californians rides the train.
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