Bullet train dodges more bullets

More good news for Texas Central.

The Dallas-Houston high-speed rail project dodged a bullet this week when lawmakers hashing out the state budget released their decision to strike a provision that could have delayed the project.

A committee of Texas House and Senate members ditched language that would have prevented the Texas Department of Transportation from coordinating with a high-speed rail company so its project could cross state highways until a court definitively affirms the company’s ability to use eminent domain with an unappealable ruling. That provision, called a budget “rider,” could have delayed the project for several years, according to Patrick McShan, an attorney for an opposition group and more than 100 landowners along the train’s planned route.

Project developer Texas Central Partners LLC lauded the legislative move. The company has been battling legislative efforts that it says could cripple the project and impose unfair requirements that other similar projects, like natural gas pipelines, don’t have.

“Today’s action ensures the project continues to be treated like any other major infrastructure project in Texas,” said Holly Reed, Texas Central’s managing director of external affairs.


The Senate added the rider in its proposed 2020-21 budget, but the House’s spending plan didn’t include the language. So that was one of several differences that a conference committee of members from both chambers are hashing out behind closed doors. Once that process is done, both chambers will vote on the revised budget.

Houston Democrat state Rep. Armando Walle, one of the members of the conference committee, said the rider was removed out of fear that a lawmaker could argue the language changes general law, something that House rules don’t allow the budget to do. If such an argument were successful, that could have threatened the entire spending plan.

“In order to not have the whole appropriations bill go down, I think that was the safest way to address the issue,” Walle said.

See here for some background. In the time it’s taken you to read this post, the odds of anything bad happening to Texas Central have decreased. I’ve said this twice before, and so far I’ve been wrong each time, but I’ll take my chances and say again that if Texas Central can make it through this session without anything bad happening to them, they ought to be in good shape going forward. I mean, at some point they’re going to have full-blown construction happening, right? Anyway, one more session mostly over, one less thing for Texas Central to worry about.

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15 Responses to Bullet train dodges more bullets

  1. Jules says:

    Fortunately they still don’t have eminent domain powers. Let’s hope this terrible project never breaks ground.

  2. SocraticGadfly says:

    Jules, I’m not against bullet trains in general. I am against this one, largely because its actual route line seems about as stupid as California’s. Kuff, I’ve argued about this with Brains before, so I’m not picking on you: https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2018/11/texas-high-speed-rail-teriffic-or-turkey.html

    Per that link, I expect delays to happen, and I expect the eventual request for a state handout.

  3. Jules says:

    SG, agree about the route. I’ve heard that a close buddy of Jack Matthews owns the Roans Prairie location but haven’t seen paperwork on that. Matthews is the guy who owned the Dallas station location and one of the Texas backers.

    I first became interested in this project when Texas Central drew a circle around my neighborhood and said this is a good place for a train station. Since then, the proposed station location has moved but I’ve learned a lot about this project and it is not good, including bad ridership projections and the FRAs DEIS is truly terrible.

  4. Pat Douglas says:

    Just an observation from afar. As far as the route is concerned isn’t the shortest distance between 2 points a straight line? Woudn’t building this along the highway corridor towards Austin and then back towards Houston be like reaching over your shoulder to scratch your bum? not to mention the extra cost.

  5. SocraticGadfly says:

    Jules, wouldn’t surprise me. I briefly lived in Navasota about a dozen years ago. That’s a totally out of the way location. You’re right on these moves, ridership projections and other things.

    The old governor’s enterprise program will probably get revitalized for a bailout.

    Pat: Best route would stop at College Station and Waco for more local runs and have a straight express run otherwise, between Houston and Dallas. Say, two “locals” and two “expresses” a day. Not looping Waco is, especially with its population growth, was another of the teh stupidz I saw in this line from the start.

    As long as it is not bailed out, part of me would actually kind of like to see it flop, especially if there’s location payola involved. OTOH, another part of me knows that a flop will be used by many to pour dirt on the whole concept.

  6. Jules says:

    SG, the plan is a train each direction every half hour departing I think starting at 7am and last departure is 10pm. Don’t know if they’ve said how many will stop in Roans Prairie. So a lot more than 4 trains per day each way.

  7. SocraticGadfly says:

    Jules, wasn’t sure on the overall numbers and how many were “locals” vs “expresses.” Obviously, though, with my route idea, roughly following Hwy 6, you could have some stops at Waco. From College Station, instead of Roans Prairie, run a shuttle bus to Huntsville. On Waco, run one out to Killeen/Fort Hood.


    And, Lois Cockwhore’s one good idea in the Senate, restraining eminent domain further, once again got deliberately sidetracked in the House.

  8. Jules says:

    SG, your assessment of the number of trains needed is closer to reality, Texas Central had to come up with the number of trips that would match their grossly inflated ridership numbers.

    A lot of people think HSR and think environmentally friendly, this particular route will never even overcome the energy spent during construction. If built, and they run trains every half hour from 7am to 10pm, there will be a lot of empty seats.

    We’ll see if the FRA corrects their errors in calculating train emissions vs car emissions removed in the Final EIS. These errors include taking TCs word for their ridership numbers with zero backup or review of TCs secret ridership reports, pulling a number for riders per car from their behind, pulling a number for percent from cars vs from air from the same place, and then doubling the miles traveled removed from cars by counting one way trips as round trips.

    It’s an environmental disaster.

  9. mollusk says:

    I used to routinely fly to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio on business. Ever since airport security became such a lengthy, theatrical hoop jumping show that made door to door a wash at best, I’ve driven… cramming planes completely full all the time hasn’t helped matters.

    If I could once again go to a station / airport / transporter pad and get on a conveyance that leaves every half hour and gets me to a place that’s closer to the business centers than the airport is in less than 2 hours, you bet I’ll take it. I strongly suspect that I’m not alone.

  10. Jules says:

    Mollusk, you are not alone. You and 1 to 2 million people would take it a year. Many (most) of the fliers and probably about 5% of the car travelers.

    Texas Central is now claiming they will get 10 million riders a year, up from 7.2 million in the DEIS. No. No way on either number. They are claiming they will get between 60 and 99% of the car travelers. That’s nonsense. The highest percentage of diversion from autos is I think 18% in Spain. This ain’t Spain, this is Texas.

    That is just part of their total package of bs. And they will have TSA security – from their cartoon videos, they will be relying on facial recognition software. Hopefully we won’t see how that turns out.

  11. C.L. says:

    Still trying to wrap my head around the opposition to this venture… is it because of the eminent domain issue ?, ’cause the State et al seizes land for public use all the time. Is it the environmental impact ?, ’cause I’m more worried about the Ship Channel complex blowing up than trains running across the countryside. Is it the funding mechanism ?, ’cause it’s touted as being private. Is it ’cause folks are scared they’ll be on the hook should the venture fail ?, ’cause I see the Feds paying folks not to grow crops, a gillion dollars in the (never accessed) TX State rainy day fund, Harris County still paying rent on a vacant Astrodome, etc. Is it because potential ridership numbers are inflated ?, ’cause if I were going to build it, why would I underestimate (for marketing purposes) how many folks there’d be on it…

    Guess we’re all happier being a third world country when it comes to public transportation.

  12. Jules says:

    I became interested in this project when my home was threatened. Went to hear Robert Eckles speak on it and he said they’d make money from day one of operations. I think that is true, and maybe before that, if he’s talking about the small group of “Texas investors”. Would love to see when the “Texas investors” are going to make their money, and how much, having put in less than 1%.

    Eminent domain is a big issue. It will not be as Texas Central depicts, with cows grazing in the shade of the HSR. There will be over 100 miles of new access road alongside, cows + road = fence. Texas Central will generously gift this road to the counties to maintain.

    They are seeking federal loans, and with a high chance of bankruptcy, that’s our money.

    Why do you think this private enterprise at an average of $199 one way is public transportation?

  13. Bill_Daniels says:

    The main issue brought up here is the TSA. If I have to get sexually assaulted just like in an airport, then screw it, I’ll drive to Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, etc. The time and humiliation involved in getting through the security theater just killed me riding that train, if it happens to get built. Mollusk has it exactly right…..add in a bunch of time to make it through the station just to get on the train and you’ve negated the time savings.

  14. SocraticGadfly says:

    Jules, right. They won’t hit that ridership, even with the TSA frustrations.

    One-third of that? Possibly, but NOT with the current route. Once they halfway bypassed College Station and totally bypassed Waco? Game up.

    I mean, Corsicana is the only place north of Roans Station with more than 20K people before you get to Dallas.

  15. Jules says:

    CL, on your comment on ridership and marketing, unfortunately Texas Central isn’t using their inflated numbers just for marketing. The FRA is using the 7.2 million riders per year to calculate the number of cars removed from I45 per day and the gallons of gas saved per year. Wrongly.

    The authors of the DEIS haven’t even seen the “ridership study” TC had done, so they made bad guesses at important numbers that should have been in a real ridership/revenue study.

    So the FRA took the 7.2 million riders and used 89% as the percentage of riders from cars because currently 89% drive between Hou-Dal and the rest bus or fly. It’s a related number sure, but it’s not the number and does not account for a single induced trip (I wasn’t going to go to Dallas but now the bullet train is here so I’m gonna).

    Then they used 1.2 passengers per car because that’s how many TC used to determine parking – they say 1.2 people will ride to the station and park and take the train. Nothing to do with how many people per car going between Hou-Dal.

    They used these 3 bad numbers to get 14,630 cars per day taken off I45. Other numbers, with backup, show less than 1,000 cars per day taken off I45. That wouldn’t be noticeable.

    The FRA further compounds this error by doubling the miles from cars removed and coming up with 81.5 million gals of gas saved per year.

    Both the 14,630 cars per day and the 81.5 million gals have shown up in letters to the STB etc. or op eds from elected officials.

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