Fares inflate for high-speed rail 

Ticket prices for the California high-speed rail project have already increased, even though the first train isn’t expected to depart until 2020.

The project — which plans to ferry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just more than 2½ hours — also has an increased overall price tag, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The decision to hike the price of the ride on the trains in the future to 83 percent of an airline ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles is not connected with the overall cost of the project, officials said.

“We basically arbitrarily set that 50 percent ticket price when we first started,” said Rod Diridon, a board member with the High-Speed Rail Authority. “Our research tells us that price is artificially low, and that a 75 to 80 percent rate of airplane flights is more widely used. So, we felt an increase in fares was appropriate.”

The new price would set the train fare from Los Angeles to San Francisco at $105 in 2009 dollars, according to the rail authority. It compares that price to $125 for air travel and $118 to drive.

The new cost for the total project — originally projected at $33.6 billion in 2008 — has been revised to $42.6 billion to adjust for inflation, according to the authority.

CHSRA officials have devised a funding plan that is expected to manage the larger budget.

“We’ve got the funding to cover the costs of this project right now, but the biggest danger is scheduling setbacks,” Diridon said. “With a project like this, a year delay could cost an extra $2 billion to $3 billion.”

With the environmental review process slated to start in 2011, Diridon said the project remains on schedule. Portions of the service are expected to open by 2017, and the full route from Los Angeles to San Francisco is expected to open by 2020.

On track for completion

The California High-Speed Rail Authority — the agency in charge of the state’s rail project — says it has identified the funding it needs to build the $42.6 billion system.

CHSRA Funding Breakdown:

Source/Amount
Proposition 1A (voter-approved bond measure)  $9 billion
Federal funding  $17 billion-$19 billion
Local funding  $4 billion-$5 billion
Private investment  $10 billion-$12 billion

Source: CHSRA

 

Train timeline

2011 Completion of environmental reviews

2012 Construction starts

2017 Portions of service open

2020 Los Angeles to San Francisco section opens

Source: CHSRA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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