In the midst of Sacramentos efforts to save the prison system, get the state budget passed, boost the infrastructure bond and avoid Phil Angelides, the legislature and governor took a few moments out to affirm that high-speed rail is the absolute slowest mode of travel between government and the voters.
This leg of a very long journey began four years ago, when the legislature approved a $10 billion bond measure that was to go before the voters on the November, 2004 ballot.
Then came Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggers bond measure to dig the state out of its massive revenue shortfall, which todays windfall will help pay off early. That bond measure prompted the delay of high-speed rail until November 2006.
Now we have a $37 billion bond package, that, among other things, would provide $20 billion for lower-speed transportation such as (and this is by no means decided until after November) BART extensions, freeway improvements like the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel and maybe even miscellaneous stuff like an emergency fleet of hovercraft in case the Bay Bridge falls down and the Transbay Tube floats off to Larkspur.
To complete the high-speed rail project, according to supporter’s projections, you would need as much as the entire public works bond.
So today, the governor signed a measure that would put the high-speed rail issue before the voters in 2008.
Like hovercraft, high-speed rail brings out the kid in many of us transportation buffs. It does things that no other mode could do. It would, in theory, get people from downtown San Francisco to central (there is no downtown) Los Angeles in three hours. All too often, you cant even get from San Jose to Sacramento on Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor in that short a time.
Whats more, its environmentally friendly, especially if youre generating the electricity out-of-state.
But high-speed rail isnt going to win any elections in California. Not this year. People might splurge on bullet trains during the fat times, and then probably for the novelty of it. As it is, the clunky trains we have already cost more than flying Southwest or Jet Blue. If youre going to Santa Monica or Burbank, its even more convenient than arriving in centrally located Union Station.
Yes, jets pollute more than electric trains, but nobodys asking us to borrow $10 billion to build another airport that may or not open a decade from now.