Sunday, June 27, 2010

If You Build it They Will Come

This weekend I took a variety of transportation methods to travel from San Luis Obispo, CA to Boston, MA. I 100_0272 drove my car from my house to the Grover Beach Train Station. From there I took the Pacific Surfliner to Union Station in Los Angeles where I took the FlyAway bus shuttle to the Los Angeles International Airport. After a long layover I departed on a commercial jet plane to Boston, MA. Once in Boston I walked to the light rail system and walked to the hotel.

California, along with some other states, are planning on building High Speed Rail (HSR) lines. While I can see the HSR rail working in more populous states I’m failing to see it succeeding here in California financially and ridership wise.

Financially it appears to be a looming disaster. At an estimated cost of $42 Billion it’s hard to imagine ridership fares even coming close to covering that cost let alone the costs of operations. Currently the project does not have nearly enough funds to cover the costs of right-of-way acquisition, environmental blackmail fees, design, and construction. I can’t see the project can’t viably being built in phases. The proposed path winds it’s way up the Central Valley of California. If you have ever driven it you’ll find a lot of farm land sprinkled with small cities and medium sized cities of Bakersfield and Fresno. Not sure about you, but I’ve never found Bakersfield or Fresno hot destinations from people in Northern or Southern California.

The future ridership appears based on if you build it they will come. Except California already has a rail system that travels from there to there and is currently subsidized by the California Department of Transportation. People in large numbers aren’t traveling by train. After traveling a portion of it I can say lack of alignment improvements and lack of double tracks cause most of the delays. Portions of the trip are downright slow and any short mechanical delay can turn into a longer period because of the single track in places. It seems to me if California wants faster rail it should spend the money improving the system they already have rather than building an expensive HSR route through the Central Valley that appears to be a looming financial disaster. But then again the legislature appears to love them so I guess we'll get to pay higher taxes to pay for it. And this includes you in the other 47 states.

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