California Proposition 1A, High-Speed Rail Act (2008)
- 1 Election results
- 2 Aftermath
- 3 Ballot title lawsuit
- 4 From Prop 1 to Prop 1A
- 5 Background
- 6 Support
- 7 Opposition
- 8 Polls
- 9 Editorial opinion
- 10 External links
- 11 References
- 12 Additional reading
Prop. 1A approved the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. This will partially fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The train will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Anaheim, California, designated as the southern terminus of the initial segment of the high-speed train system. Estimates are that the train system would be completed in 2030, and that it would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The system, when built, is expected to carry more than 120,000 riders per day at speeds of up to 200 mph.,,,
$950 million of the bond proceeds will be available for capital projects on other passenger rail lines to provide connectivity to the high-speed train system and for capacity enhancements and safety improvements to those lines.,
The new debt from 1A, including interest, must be paid from the general fund.
The 7-member governing board of the California High Speed Rail Authority voted in November 2010 to build the first 65 miles of the projected 800-mile track from Madera to Corcoran. The 65-mile stretch will cost $4.15 billion. Construction will start in 2012.
|California Proposition 1A|
Fare estimate doubles
During the campaign for Proposition 1A in 2008, supporters estimated that the fare to ride the high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be about $55 for a one-way ticket.
However, the California High Speed Rail Authority's 2009 business plan set the estimated ticket price to 83% of airfares, raising the one-way high speed rail ticket price between Los Angeles and San Francisco to $105, as this price point appears to be near the "level that will generate the highest revenue, and reduces the operating costs and the number of trainsets needed."
Menlo Park and Atherton are fighting a part of the high-speed rail plan that would divide their cities along the route between San Jose and San Francisco. Some critics claimed that when voters approved the bond in 2008, "the notion of a 15-foot divider splitting many cities on the Peninsula" was not known to be part of the plan." Then High-Speed Rail chair Rod Diridon, however, noted in an Jan. 18, 2002, speech before the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau that the plan called for elevated, grade-separated tracks along the Peninsula "topped with barbed wire."
Attempt to repeal
- Thomas Elias says that from the time of the vote in 2008 to January 2010, changes have been made to the plan that are significant enough that California's voters should get a chance to vote on the plan as it currently stands.
- Officials in five cities (Menlo Park, Burlingame, Belmont, Palo Alto and Atherton) planned to meet in April 2010 to consider whether to launch an effort to repeal Proposition 1A.
Ridership forecasts for the planned rail system were based on statistical assumptions that differ from those published for peer and public review, according to documents not made available until after the November 2008 election. The Daily News reported in February 2010 that "the discrepancy raises questions about the validity of the forecasts, which the state has relied on for everything from its selection of the rail line's route to its applications for billions in federal stimulus dollars. The numbers were also used to sell the project to voters ahead of the November 2008 election in which they approved $9.95 billion in bonds for the 220-mph Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line.
"Picture isn't pretty"
According to a December 2010 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"California voters signed off on a generational big idea: build a fast and futuristic high-speed rail system linking the state's population centers. Now comes the hard part of working out the route, lining up the money, and managing a sprawling project never tried before. The challenges - pretty much left unsaid when $10 billion in bonds were approved on the ballot in 2008 - are now on full display. The picture isn't pretty."
Specific problems cited are:
- Some cities intend to block portions of the track from being built that would go through residential areas.
- "Congress, now in Republican hands, may yank promised money."
- "A string of reports suggests the project's management is overwhelmed by the task."
Ballot title lawsuit
Prior to the 2008 election, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen, asking for a writ of mandate to authorize the Attorney General of California to write the ballot language for Proposition 1A rather than use the ballot language written for 1A by the California State Legislature. The trial court declined this request of the HJTA but on January 27, 2011, the California Third District Court of Appeal sided with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Although the ruling was too late to impact Proposition 1A, the court's ruling says that when the California State Legislature took it upon itself to dictate what the ballot language for Proposition 1A should be, it violated the provisions of 1974's Proposition 9:
- "...to the extent it specified the ballot label, title and summary to be used, the bill negated the Political Reform Act's requirement that the official summary of the bill be prepared by the Attorney General in addition to the ballot label and title that are prepared by the Attorney General. As we will explain, this ad hoc amendment of the Political Reform Act did not further the purposes of the Act and was not approved by the voters. Thus, it was invalid. Simply stated, the Legislature cannot dictate the ballot label, title and official summary for a statewide measure unless the Legislature obtains approval of the electorate to do so prior to placement of the measure on the ballot."
The decision is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the state legislature's ability to write the ballot titles for its legislatively-referred measures, which it has been doing since at least 1990.
From Prop 1 to Prop 1A
The California State Assembly approved AB 3034 on May 30, 2008 by a vote of 60-3. The goal of AB 3034 is to "make the rules for spending the bond money more flexible if voters sign off on the bonds in November." The Senate Appropriations Committee is considering the bill.
In 2004 the Californian Legislative Analysts Office published a budget bill saying, "The budget proposes to repeal Chapter 697, thereby removing the high-speed rail bond measure from the November 2004 ballot. Our review shows that postponing the bond measure to a later date would likely not cause delay in the development of a high-speed rail system. However, total costs of the system have been revised upward and will be significantly higher than previously reported to the Legislature.
The High Speed Train Bond Act has been delayed 4 times. It was originally scheduled to appear on the November 2, 2004, General Election ballot. Then Senate Bill 1169, Chapter 71, Statutes of 2004, pushed it off the '04 ballot provided that it appear on the November 7, 2006, General Election ballot. The initiative was removed from the 2006 ballot as part of whatever compromise lawmakers struck with the Republican governor over his proposed 10-year, $222 billion public works spending plan the Governor implemented.
"We feel like the guns are drawn, they're circling the project and are ready to pull the triggers,
-Alan C. Miller, executive director of the 1,200-member Train Riders Association of California.
However, most recently, Assembly Bill 713, Chapter 44, Statutes of 2006, provides for the submission of this Act on the November 4, 2008, General Election ballot instead. 
Supporters of Proposition 1A included:
- The California High-Speed Rail Authority
- The Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC), hired by California High-Speed Rail Authority
- Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger,
- Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco
- Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton
- Jim Costa, D-Fresno
- Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose
- Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Mayor Los Angeles
- Jerry Sanders, Mayor San Diego
- California Democratic Party
- Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
- Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
- Orange County Business Council
- Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce
- California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Kern County Taxpayers Association
- California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG)
- California League of Conservation Voters
- Endangered Habitats League
- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- California Alliance for Jobs
- California Labor Federation
- San Joaquin Council of Governments
- The Transit Coalition
- TRAC - Train Riders Association of California
- California State Association of Counties (CSAC)
- League of Women Voters of California
- Monterey County Herald
- City of Sacramento
- City of San Jose
- City of San Mateo
Arguments in favor
Notable arguments made in favor of Proposition 1A included:
- It will reduce California's reliance on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gases.
- It is a "balanced transportation improvement package offering statewide benefits."
- It will lead to economic growth in the state that will create 450 thousand permanent jobs.
- Economic activity added due to the high-speed train will more than pay for the cost of servicing the bonds.
- The high speed train network proposed in the initiative will reduce highway traffic congestion without raising taxes.
- It will save commuters time and money.
- It will expand transportation options.
- It will remove 12 billion pounds of CO(2) emissions.
- The ridership and revenue forecasts in the project's plan were subjected to "tough peer review".
- Federal funds and private grants that amount to as much as 9 billion dollars will match the debt incurred if this proposal passes.
Donors supporting Prop. 1A
Two campaign committees to support the proposition were established. They were Californians for High-Speed Trains; Yes on Prop. 1A and California Public Interest Research Group Supporters for Prop 1A.,
The two committees through September 23 raised a little more than $580,000, most of it from construction and engineering companies. An Associated Press article characterized this as "far below what they hope to take in."
Donors and donations through September 27 include:
- Members Voice of the State Building Trades, $50,000.
- HNTB Corporation, $40,000.
- California Alliance for Jobs, $200,000.
- Association for California High Speed Trains, $24,000.
- Californians for a Safe & Reliable High Speed Rail, $53,400.
Groups opposing Proposition 1A included:
- California Rail Foundation
- Council for Citizen's Against Government Waste
- California Taxpayer Protection Committee
- Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
- California High Speed Rail Land Impacts
- Reason Foundation
- Advocates for Coe Park
- Wendell Cox, a former member of the Los Angeles County Transportation commission
- The cities of Menlo Park and Atherton are opposed to Prop. 1A.
- The Libertarian Party of California
- California Chamber of Commerce
- California Farm Bureau Federation
- El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce
- Fullerton Chamber of Commerce
- Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce
- Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce
- San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Rancho Cucamonga Chamber of Commerce
- Regional Chamber of Commerce- San Gabriel Valley
- San Diego Union Tribune
- North County Times
- San Gabriel Valley Tribune
- Long Beach Press-Telegram
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association released a report that "documents the actual costs of the project, which are greatly at odds with the estimates put out by promoters of Proposition 1A."
Arguments against Prop. 1A
Notable arguments made against Proposition 1A included:
- There is no guarantee the project will ever be completed.
- There is no current business plan. One was required for submittal, by law, on September 1st, 2008.
- Building the rail system on the proposed route will have an adverse impact on 140-180 parks, wildlife refuges and protected open spaces.
- It is a political boondoggle and a waste of taxpayers money.
- California High Speed Rail Authority cost claims are underestimated with the actual cost likely to reach $81 billion.
- Existing transit systems should be expanded instead of starting from scratch.
- The estimates that Prop 1A supporters have made as to how many riders the system would have are grossly overstated, so the system, if built, will have less revenue, and huge unpredicted cost overruns.
- It's not fair to ask all Californians to subsidize rail travel for those who will use the system.
- Debt from 1A, including interest, must be paid from the general fund. This means that there will be less for other important state programs.
- See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
Field Poll released statewide poll numbers on Prop 1A in July and for late October. The October poll showed majority support with a narrowing margin.
|Month of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided|
|July 2008||Field||56 percent||30 percent||14 percent ,|
|October 2008||Field||47 percent||42 percent||11 percent|
"Yes on 1A"
- The Los Angeles Times asked its readers to consider a "yes" vote, saying, "That's not too much to wager on a visionary leap that would cement California's place as the nation's most forward-thinking state."
- The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Prop 1A, saying that it "presents an ambitious vision that is well tailored to the state's transportation and environmental needs. We recommend its passage."
- The San Francisco Bay Guardian gave its strongest recommendation for Prop 1A, describing the benefits as "overwhelming" and "the costs of not approving this measure [as] huge."
- The San Jose Mercury News urged readers to vote yes on Proposition 1A because "[t]hese are the right things to do for the future, and putting them off will only increase the costs." "The proposal, years in the making, has been thoroughly vetted in public debate, particularly over the route. The High Speed Rail Authority made the right choices, coming up with a practical and visionary plan that will place San Jose and Silicon Valley at the heart of the Bay Area's economy. We recommend it." 
- The Fresno Bee wrote that voting yes on Proposition 1-A was a declaration that Californians can rise to the challenge of the current economic situation with vision and determination as they did when approving the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, and the Shasta Dam. "Voting "yes" on Proposition 1A is a declaration that we still possess those qualities, and have not surrendered them to a timid faith in a status quo that is no longer sustainable."
- The Del Mar Times recommended a yes vote on Proposition 1-A to answer concerns about freeway congestion and air pollution. "Sometimes we need to look beyond the economic present with eyes squarely focused on the future and as a result, bring back a little shine to California's tarnished forward-thinking and environmentally friendly reputation." 
- The San Diego City Beat supported Prop 1A, "We think it’s worth it. We want what many Europeans and Asians already enjoy. Vote yes on Prop. 1A." 
"No on 1A"
- The Orange County Register was opposed to Prop 1A, saying, "A high-speed rail system connecting Northern and Southern California is a nice dream, but the proposed project ventures into fantasyland territory." In another editorial called "Prop. 1A a fast track to bankruptcy" they wrote, "to call this project a boondaoggle would be an understatement. At a time when California state government is operating at a substantial deficit...it would be irresponsible to take on a debt of this magnitude, especially given that the total cost of the train would be many tens of billions of dollars more."
- The San Diego Union-Tribune was opposed to Proposition 1A. In their editorial "Prop. 1A: No, no, no" they questioned the bond measure against the backdrop of massive fiscal chaos and uncertainty, saying, "it is hard to fathom how state voters could consider a Yes vote on Proposition 1A, which would issue $9.95 Billion in bonds as part of a $40 Billion-plus project to build high-speed trains linking Northern and Southern California."
- The Oakland Tribune also opposed Proposition 1A, saying that "instead of addressing our real transportation needs, Prop. 1A is asking taxpayers to spend the first tens of billions of dollars on what amounts to a Boondoggle Express rail system that won't be built for many years, if not decades."
- The Sacramento Bee recommended a "no" vote on Proposition 1A. Under a subheader declaring "Why we Oppose it," they wrote the following: "Until California fixes its chronic budget deficits, it can't afford to increase its debt for projects that, while desirable, are not of vital necessity. In addition, the rail system that supporters are touting may not be as high-speed as advertised. Potential conflicts with freight service lines could make trains slower than those found in Europe or Japan." They go on, saying that "if it passed, this proposition would take $647 million annually from the general fund that, without a tax increase, would have to come from other services. That's money the state can't promise."
Background, basic information
- Official Voter's Guide to Proposition 1A
- CA High Speed Rail Due Diligence Report
- Background study on high-speed rail in California
- Financial filings of pro and con committees
- Berkeley Study on High-Speed Rail
- California Voter Online guide to Proposition 1A
- Smart Voter Guide to Proposition 1A
- Institute of Governmental Studies Library Hot Topic: Proposition 1A
- California High Speed Trains, official support website.
- California High Speed Rail Authority, supporters.
- California High Speed Rail Blog, analysis and open discussion.
- No on Proposition 1A, opponents.
- Derail High Speed Rail, No on 1A, opponents.
- California High Speed Rail Land Impacts, opponents.
- Advocates for Coe Park.
- James R. Mills, Secretary of the California Rail Foundation, is also opposed, saying, "In today's tough economic times, the last thing we need is more debt for yet another badly conceived project."
- Mercury News: "High-speed rail bond at a glance"
- Mercury News, "Another high-speed rail vote may be needed", January 19, 2010
- Association of California High-Speed Trains
- BizJournals.com: "Pacheco Route picked for high-speed train," July 10, 2008
- laist.com: "California High-Speed Train Route Completed," July 10, 2008
- Ballot Language
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Obstacles on the tracks with high-speed rail", December 8, 2010
- Business Plan: December 2009 Business Plan Report to the Legislature
- San Mateo County Times, "Effort under way to repeal high-speed rail bond measure", April 14, 2010
- The Daily News, "Bullet train ridership numbers don't add up, watchdog says", February 6, 2010
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Court slaps lawmakers for one-sided measure titles", January 28, 2011
- Daily Breeze, "Ruling targets bias on ballots", February 5, 2011
- Analysis of the 2004-05 Budget Bill
- San Francisco Chronicle: "Bullet train likely chugging to derailment," January 26, 2007
- California SOS page
- TALC website
- Fresno Bee: "Governor wants high-speed rail option," May 7, 2007
- San Francisco Chronicle: "Schwarzenegger wants guarantees of support for high-speed rail," Jan. 16, 2008
- California High Speed Trains Authority
- "California's Economic Stimulus"
- "The Local Economic Benefits of High-Speed Rail"
- Planning and Conservation League
- Official voter guide arguments in favor of Prop 1
- Californians for High-Speed Trains; Yes on Prop. 1A
- Californians for High-Speed Trains; Yes on Prop. 1A
- Associated Press: "Calif. bond would launch bullet train project," September 26, 2008
- San Mateo Daily News: "Not Aboard!," September 25, 2008
- Sacramento Bee: "Dan Walters: Bullet Train's Vital Details Still Missing." October 24, 2008
- California High Speed Rail Land Impacts
- OC Register: "Taking taxpayers for a ride California focus," July 14, 2006
- Official voter guide rebuttal arguments
- Los Angeles Times, "How much will Prop 1A cost taxpayers?", October 21, 2008
- Los Angeles Times, "Why should all Californians pay for high-speed rail?", October 20, 2008
- July 22 Field Poll results on Proposition 1
- Field Poll, "Release #2293 Release Date and Time: 6:00 a.m., Saturday, November 1, 2008"
- Los Angeles Times: "Yes on California bonds; Bullet trains, children's healthcare and veterans' housing all deserve support," October 2, 2008
- "Endorsements 2008: State ballot measures", San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 8, 2008
- "Editorial: Yes on 1A: It puts Silicon Valley and California on the fast track", San Jose Mercury News, October 18, 2008
- "Yes on Prop. 1A, Now more than ever state needs jobs, cleaner air, easier travel", Fresno Bee, October 17, 2008
- "High-speed rail proposition worth support""Del Mar Times", October 16, 2008
- "Our Endorsements", "San Diego City Beat", October 14, 2008
- Desert Dispatch: "No bonds for high-speed rail," September 25, 2008
- OC Register: "Editorial: Prop. 1A a fast track to bankruptcy." September 23, 2008
- San Deigo Union-Tribune: "Prop. 1A: No, no, no." September 21, 2008
- Oakland Tribune: "Reject Boondoggle Express by Voting No on prop. 1A." September 12, 2008
- Sacramento Bee: "Endorsements '08: Say 'No' to all propositions except 11." October 9, 2008
- San Francisco Chronicle, "High-speed rail bond financing is off track - Vote no on Prop. 1A", October 8, 2008
- California voters to decide fate of ambitious bullet train project on election day
- Travel referendums: Funding California's high speed rail system
- Full speed ahead: Voters to decide fate of high speed rail