California's 'Bullet Train' Bureaucracy Wins Golden Fleece Award; Voters and Taxpayers Lose: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
April 14, 2016

California’s “Bullet Train” Bureaucracy Wins Golden Fleece Award; Voters and Taxpayers Lose

OAKLAND, CA—California’s “bullet train” is nowhere near completion, but already the high-speed rail system is taking the state’s voters and taxpayers for a ride, according to the Oakland-based Independent Institute.

The nonprofit group has just named the California High-Speed Rail Authority—the government agency that manages the voter-approved transit project—as the winner of its California Golden Fleece Award, a prize given each quarter to a state or local agency, official, or program guilty of egregiously fleecing taxpayers, consumers, and/or businesses.

“The California High-Speed Rail Authority is much deserving of the California Golden Fleece Award because of its long history of ‘bait-and-switch’ tactics to deceive the public into supporting this train to nowhere,” said Dr. Lawrence J. McQuillan, the economist who heads the Award program.

Passed by voters in 2008, Proposition 1A authorized the sale of $9.95 billion in bonds to help fund a high-speed bullet train costing $45 billion and connecting the San Francisco Bay Area with the greater Los Angeles area. It promised to take passengers from S.F. to L.A. nonstop in 2 hours and 40 minutes or less, all without taxpayer subsidies.

Since then, however, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has broken the promises made to voters: It calls for removing nonstop service, changing to non-dedicated tracks, and raising the travel time to almost four hours—changes that would cut ridership and revenue, all while raising total costs, now estimated at $64 billion. Agency representatives have said additional funding could come from fees collected by the state’s cap-and-trade emissions program—a revenue source set to expire in 2020—as well as federal (meaning taxpayer) funding.

McQuillan hopes the Award will bring greater public scrutiny of the “bullet train”—as well as other cases of waste, fraud, and abuse in state government—and create momentum for change.

“By increasing transparency, our goal is to inform the public so they can demand meaningful change and hold government accountable,” he said.

Winners of the California Golden Fleece Award are announced four times per year. Members of the public, as well as government employees, are encouraged to nominate candidates for the award at

The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit

Contact: Robert Ade
510-632-1366 x114

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