Thomas the Tank Engine was sad.
“Why so sad?” asked Percy, Thomas the Tank Engine’s best friend.
Thomas looked at him and let off a sigh of steam.
“I found out that Slick the Runaway High-Speed Train isn’t up and running. It’s 2022, the year he promised the riders that voted to spend $9 billion to lay tracks back in 2008 that he’d be taking them from San Francisco to Los Angeles lickety split in under three hours.”
Percy was stunned.
“But that can’t be, Thomas. We all have to keep our word. Even Sir Topham Matt who runs the railroad can’t lie to people.”
“That’s not the worst of it. After using eminent domain to cut through Farmer John’s prime farmland, the children’s school in Bakersfield, a hospital or two, and countless farms and homes because he was in a hurry to get things done and didn’t want to waste any time dallying around the valley, he enlisted Buster the Steam Roller to do his environmental studies.”
“Now Slick the High-Speed Rail Train says it’s going to cost at least $105 billion to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco instead of $45 billion that he once promised it would. To top it off instead of using the slick and shiny Spencer Express Engine to take people up and down California at normal speeds, Slick the Runaway High Speed Rail Train is spending more than $7 billion to build the first segment from Madera to Fresno,” Thomas said.
Percy started laughing.
“Who rides a train from Madera to Fresno?” Percy asked incredulously. “It makes more sense to ride the monorail at Disneyland. At least you can get someplace you want to go. How much are they going to charge to ride from Madera to Fresno?”
“I’m not sure,” Thomas said, “but they plan on charging around $100 for a one-way ticket between San Francisco and Los Angeles. And even charging that, the Reason Foundation says high speed rail will need upwards of $373 million a year to cover operating losses because they overestimated ridership by 65 to 77 percent.”
Percy whipped out his Smartphone and Goggled air fares from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
“Thomas, you can fly for $178 roundtrip between those two cities in less than 90 minutes. You’re saying Sleek the Runaway High-Speed Train is spending $105 billion to get the travel time by rail down to two hours and 38 minutes. It’s taking more than an hour longer and only costing $22 a round trip more. That doesn’t make sense. Why, it’s a waste of money,” Percy said as his steam started boiling over.
“You’re telling me,” Thomas said. “When you mention that to Slick the Runway High Speed Train, he tells you that you’re an idiot as there is less hassle getting to the train station and therefore less time. But when I mention high speed rail will probably have the same security delays as airports and you still have to park your vehicle and lug your baggage and deal with huge crowds if their ridership estimates are even half way right he just brushes me aside and calls me a stupid little engine whose no smarter than California taxpayers.”
Percy kept getting more steamed.
“Why don’t they just clone Spencer Express Engine and double track conventional routes and have train service that allows people to move within regions to work, visit or do business as well as go from Los Angeles to San Francisco?” Percy asked. “The people who travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco are already served by seven airports.”
Just then the lights dimmed as the roundhouse was on a brownout as Slick the Runaway High-Speed Train was on the move sucking up electricity.
Then, faster than Sacramento politicians can dream up ways to spend $105 billion, Slick the Runaway High-Speed Train pulled up.
“So, what are you stupid little engines doing?” Slick the Runaway High Speed Rail Train demanded.
“We’re moving goods to market and giving passengers’ rides to places that most of them want to go,” Thomas said proudly.
“You worthless idiots,” Slick the Runaway High Speed Rail Train sneered. “I ferry the beautiful people and don’t soil my couplers pulling dirty freight.”
Thomas became even sadder.
“California has almost 40 million people,” Thomas pointed out. “They need to get to work and go places besides between San Francisco and Los Angeles. With all that money you’re blowing on one line that only ultimately will have a dozen stops you could extend heavy rail passenger service to hundreds of more places and even help our little light rail cousins get off the ground in other urban areas to really reduce travel times, congestion and air pollution.”
Slick the Runaway High Speed Rail Train sneered at Thomas.
“This isn’t about the little people of California. This is about being cutting edge. Who cares how farm workers in Fresno get around, commuters from the Inland Empire reach downtown LA, or whether people who aren’t making big bucks have to drive three hours a day from their jobs in the Bay Area because they can’t afford housing there?” said Slick the Runaway High-Speed Train.
“The only thing they are good for is to pay for the bonds so I can swoosh up and down the state and not have to worry about them scuffing up my passenger cars.”
Slick the Runaway High-Speed Train just laughed and then zipped off from the Fresno station to Madera carrying just a handful of passengers.
“You’ve got him wrong, Thomas,” Percy said sadly, “Slick the Runaway High Speedway Train can take Californians one place we can never go.”
“Where’s that? Thomas asked.
Percy replied, “The poor house in record time.”