The Train to Nowhere
August 11, 2012 15 Comments
You all know that I’m fond of trains, they’re the indispensable transportation link in the United States. You can’t build airplanes, airports or truck and highways without them. That’s just the way they are. For all practical purposes we killed passenger traffic (outside of the Northeast corridor) a half century ago, when we took the mail away from them, we also mortally wounded the postal service.
From about 1850 to (stretching a bit) you could go nearly anywhere in this country by train, Most of my life I’ve lived in towns of less than 1000 population, all of them either have, or mostly had, train depots. An American Passenger train in say 1935 was the wonder of the world, fast, safe, comfortable, and usually air conditioned, and for the most part, on time.
But we killed it with subsidized air travel and highways, it’s not going to come back, It disrupts freight traffic too much.
But in an insane case of California Dreamin’, California wants to build a light rail line from Los Angeles to San Fransisco. Never mind that they can’t fill Amtrak’s Daylight which runs right down that beautiful coastline, and you can even take your bike. Oh, and California’s broke, and it’s citizens love their cars. I guess they figure if they build they will come but, they won’t and it will never get built. It as bad a boondoggle as as any American government has ever gotten it’s crony-capitalist hands on. From Troy Senik of the Center for Individual Freedom.
A USC/Los Angeles Times poll conducted in May showed a whopping 59 percent of Californians saying they would oppose the plan if presented with it again.
“This is a courageous step forward for California’s future.”
Those were the words recently uttered by Jim Wunderman, a man who must be accounted an optimist given the general consensus that “California’s future” is something of a bear market. The occasion for Mr. Wunderman’s remarks, however, reveal him to have crossed the line from optimism into delusion.
Wunderman, you see, is the president and CEO of Northern California’s Bay Area Council, a business group made up of denizens of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area that has long championed California’s plans to build a high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco. And his effusiveness was occasioned by the state legislature’s decision to allow California to issue $4.6 billion in new debt for initial construction on the project, supposedly revolutionizing the state’s often-sclerotic transportation system in the process.
Wunderman may be the last man in the State of California who feels this way. In truth, government-initiated high-speed rail has never commanded the imaginations of a broad swath of Californians.
When the project came to the ballot in 2008 as Proposition 1A, it passed with the support of less than 53 percent of voters. Granted, a simple majority was all that was needed for victory, but a look down ballot provides some much-needed context. Proposition 8, the state’s controversial prohibition on gay marriage, passed with only 4/10 of a percentage point less support than high-speed rail. The same liberals who have denounced that decision ever since as the unjust verdict of a “slim majority” have proceeded as if the plan for Golden State bullet trains has the mandate of heaven.
The public shortcomings of the project, however – foremost among which is the fact that, nearly four years after being authorized by voters, not a single inch of track has been laid – have led to undeniable cracks in that façade. A USC/Los Angeles Times poll conducted in May showed a whopping 59 percent of Californians saying they would oppose the plan if presented with it again….
For the sake of the nation, let’s hope that the high-speed rail project finally terminates California’s role as a national bellwether. If not, the consequences could be grim. Take it from those of us on the West Coast: we’ve seen your future … and it doesn’t work.
- Calif. OKs funding for first high-speed rail line (news.yahoo.com)
- George F. Will: Despite its high-ranking supporters, high-speed rail is no boon for California (sacbee.com)
- Amtrak Shifts Strategy From Begging for Money to Thinking Big – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)