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Why they are starting in the Central Valley is for a couple reasons: First, it’s where the trains will actually go over 200 mph. Building this first segment will ‘lock-in’ high-speed service down the road, which is the entire reason why they are building this system, its to connect Northern and Southern regions of the state together, not just fund local service that doesn’t connect. Second, building in the flat Central Valley will get the construction teams use to building high-speed rail infrastructure so that they are more prepare for the more complicated portions that will be built later (specifically the mountain passes into LA and the Bay Area). It makes more sense to build in the Central Valley first than it does to build HSR track in the regions that already have good rail service. High-speed rail is to connect the regions, not to be duplicative service where there are already tracks. The current plan is the right plan, and this is coming from someone who has been on the ground here in California for 3 years working with those who are making decisions about this project. It’s the right step forward.
An ok analysis of the project itself, but I disagree with many of your points on the need for the project. First, you didn’t mention in 12+ paragraphs anything about the problems we face in oil depletion and our car-dependent society. If these current systems run into the slightest problem (and I’ll say the problems they will face are at a scale we’ve never seen before) we are going to have a lot of people demanding train service that is quick, efficient, and gets them from Northern California to Southern California in a reasonable time. The airline industry will likely not exist in 20 years, so any point you made about airlines being fine and that we don’t need a viable alternative is simply wrong. High-speed rail is run on electrical power, so the potential to be carbon-neutral is a technical reality (not saying it will be for sure, but it can happen). This also leads to the general environmental/climate change issues we have with our current transportation systems that are almost entirely based on carbon-emitting finite resources. We won’t have enough resources to replace all of the internal combustion engine cars with electric cars. It won’t happen. A lot of your post is trying to maintain our current thinking of transportation and how we can keep it going. What I’m saying is we need to radically shift our priorities away from automobile and air travel and onto electrified rail. If it’s high-speed that’s the best (and most efficient) way of moving people we’ve ever invented over long distances (nothing compares with a bicycle for a short trip). Yes I do agree, knowing what I know about the exponetional money system, that this system will cost more than the $68 billion they say it will costs. I’d say we’d be lucky to get this system under $100 billion, and I think that will be reasonable, given how bad gasoline prices will be and the fact that the airline industry may actually not be around by the time HSR is finished in CA (or only for the most elite in our society, but the middle class won’t be flying very much. Too expensive).
PS: Many people besides you think building a high-speed train to Vegas is a good idea. And it may be, but I think Vegas will simply not exist once the exponetional money system ends. Its in the middle of a desert and you can’t grow anything out there. I wouldn’t invest in building a train to a possible ghost town 30 years from now. But I could be wrong about that, we’ll see.
If you understand peak oil and the energy predicament we are about to enter into, we should be funding electricfied rail significantly more than we do now. It’ll mean we need to raise the gas tax and put a price on carbon (oh noes! new taxes!). But there is no political will to do that, even though CO2 emissions are CLEARLY accelerating the pace of climate change. Sorry, but I’m acctually not against raising taxes on certain things that need to be raised. I think it’s intellectually weak to think that taxes only need to be cut and never raised. If that’s what we do then we will see the collapse of the entire system in our lifetimes. The math on that is clear. Peak Oil and resource depletion also has huge implications about our future military spending because most Americans will likely demand the politicians of the future to fight far-flung wars to get ahold of as much natural resources as we can, instead of building more resilient systems back home that don’t use as much resources. Another predicament. It’s all how you look at the world I suppose. I think high-speed rail gives my generation hope that we can built and NOT destroy to thrive this century. Others don’t see it that way.
So you think electrfied rail is a bad idea? Just more roads and runways? Or should we just not do anything? Let our transportation system crumble while we fund enormous entitlement programs for baby boomers. I’m not for that at all. If we are to cut, we cut the big four: Military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. We don’t stop investing in infrastructure.
If we don’t start building electrified rail in this country it won’t really matter how much debt we have because we won’t be moving anywhere. I think Peak Prosperity is great, but it isn’t all just people that want to see the governement just sit by and do nothing. We need the governement to invest in rail right now. It’s vital for our transportation system. We should have started in the 70’s after the first oil shocks, be glad we are starting now. Yeah, we could settle for a system that doesn’t go high-speed, isn’t electrified, and will be subsidies forever. HSR is proven around the world and will be particularly useful in a liquid fuels crisis. Sorry to say this, but those who think the governement shouldn’t be using the remaining fossil fuel we have left to built that post-fossil fuel economy aren’t seeing the real challenges we have. Money is a human construct; oil, coal, gas, are not. So we better prepare for those things not being around and build something that can run without them. Today we have no such system, but high-speed rail is infrastucture that will last.