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What if High Speed Rail to San Francisco Cost 83% of Airfare?

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Would you still buy a train ticket or just fly?

That's the top number projected in a California High Speed Rail Authority business plan released earlier this week. And it caused quite a stir within the HSR debate with Daily News owner Media News Group unleashing an attack against the rail line--a call to end the project that some say was dishonest and chock full of incorrect facts.

That prompted the state authority to release a statement clarifying that they are "years away" from determining the price and before that, public input will be taken:

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The Business Plan Report submitted by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to the Legislature this week shows that, under a wide range of ticket prices and ridership scenarios, a high-speed train system in California is a viable project that will make money and will not require taxpayer subsidies for its operation. The report shows a realistic price tag, a viable financing plan, and a solid timeline of planning and construction so that we will see passenger service from Los Angeles to San Francisco by 2020.

The California High Sped Rail Blog points outthat within the business plan, the authority finds other popular train routes can be more expensive than airlines, including Acela weekend service between New York City and Washington D.C.:

The 83 percent level is in the middle of a wide range of experience in similar-length markets outside of California, based on prices examined in 2007. At the top end, weekend Acela fares in the New York to Washington market were higher than air fares, and on the Japanese Shinkansen fares were 108 percent of air fares for Tokyo- Osaka (322 miles) and 114 percent Tokyo-Hakata (722 miles). London - Paris Eurostar HST fares were 80 percent of air fares, both peak and off- peak. Madrid - Sevilla (333 miles) AVE fares were 71 percent of air, and Paris Lyon (244 miles) 71 percent of air. In the Paris Brussels market (191 miles) where HST has 95 percent of the air/rail market, and airlines are primarily connecting to long-distance flights, (similar to Central Valley service to San Francisco or San Diego-Los Angeles flights) air fares are very high, and HST fares were only 39 percent of air fares.

According to charts, ridership will be huge with ticket prices at 50% that of airfare, but still make less money--about $300 to $400 million--than if set at 83%.

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