By Kevin Knight
La JollaWhen Californians voted for high-speed rail they were shown unrealistic estimates for construction costs, journey times, fares, ridership and revenues. Lynn Schenk’s article on high-speed rail continues the process of misinformation.
She says we need high-speed rail because California prides itself on “innovation.” Sadly, compared to Google, Apple and the many San Diego technology companies that drive California’s economy there is nothing innovative about a 200-year-old inflexible form of transportation that produces basic construction and operating jobs.
She also says high-speed rail will contribute to clean air because it uses electricity. But why are trains, which use electricity whether full or empty, better than electric cars which will be in common use by the end of the decade?
As for her claim that a new rail system takes less land than widening freeways, the reality is she is proposing building brand new travel corridors, which will require massive new feeder infrastructure and result in significant land development.
But the main issue, which she ignores, is will anyone use these trains? Who will travel long distances to a new station, built where nobody objects instead of somewhere useful, to ride to another similar station and find some way to get where they want, instead of driving direct?
In movies set in Europe people hop off a train and walk to their destination, but that isn’t reality even there, where major cities are relatively concentrated, let alone in our sprawling California. And the fact is that railways in Europe are in long-term decline. Every time a new rail line gets built there rail ridership increases briefly, then continues its decline. This is because Europeans are buying more cars and spending more time in them, like us, because cars are more convenient.
We have spent the past two years seeing just how much money government can spend on things for absolutely no end result. High-speed rail in California is likely to be more of the same — an underused white elephant, costing taxpayers in perpetuity. It’s time to stop this madness before it goes any further.