Transportation has evolved to become more efficient and safer, and Americans have advanced from the horse and buggy to electric and even self-driving cars. Although, when it comes to advancements in trains and locomotion in America, it wouldn’t impress our grandparents in the slightest.
With California’s constantly expanding population, it’s clear that its citizens can no longer keep up with the traffic nightmares of automobile travel, producing gridlock and extended commute times for millions. It is time for rail transportation to evolve and for Californians to embrace the high-speed train as a truly viable option.
Originally passed as a ballot proposition in 2008, California’s high-speed train had its share of opponents, political roadblocks and financial problems. In March this year, the budget was revised to $77.3 billion, a dramatic increase from the original estimate of $40 billion, according to the 2018 California High-Speed Rail Authority business plan.
Make no mistake, there are many issues with California’s high-speed rail project. At first glance, it appears to be a giant sinkhole for taxpayers’ money, but upon closer inspection, the high-speed train is a necessary remedy to Californians’ current travel woes and it far outweighs rising costs and supposed chaos.
The high cost has encouraged opponents of the bill to suggest the entire idea — one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation to be scrapped and the $9.9 billion in taxes from the California taxpayers be used for some other undetermined transportation project.
California’s high-speed bullet train, which originally planned to link Los Angeles to San Francisco in three hours, offers many attractive and beneficial aspects to California transportation. Projected to carry 120,000 passengers a day at $55 for a one-way ticket, the bullet train would significantly cut costs for travelers.
In addition to the cheaper cost, valuable time would be saved if California commuters didn’t have to fight through traffic while driving to the Los Angeles International Airport, on top of struggling to find a parking spot, getting through security and waiting to board a plane. Instead, train riders can board a train relax or work electronically, making them more productive.
Completion of the train would also bridge the gap between affluent areas like San Francisco, the coast, and the much less expensive Central Valley. It would connect cheaper housing in Bakersfield with jobs in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley, enabling residents to make an easier commute.
With California’s current population at 39 million people and projected to be 50 million by 2050, its transportation issue would greatly benefit from utilizing an additional form of mass transit.
California’s high-speed rail would take cars off highways, reduce pollution from excess cars and reduce traffic fatalities as well. The train is a clean, quiet, ecologically-friendly alternative and helps California reach its carbon emission goals, according to California High-Speech Rail Authority.
The railway would also result in job creation. Currently, there are over 1,700 people working on this plan, and that number is expected to increase in future years as more branches of the rail are built. New jobs will be created in each town or city where a station is built, fostering an economy of new and existing businesses in each town where the train stops.
And for those who are still crying about the rising cost and the projected increases of the final bill — hush.
Opponents who still insist that a project of this magnitude is a lost cause and a financial sinkhole need to take a look at California’s history with other mammoth projects that either barely passed the public vote or went way over budget — the California Aqueduct, the University of California and California State University systems.
The aqueduct was pitched to voters in 1960 as a $1.75 billion dollar project, which experts say was a misleading and low-balled figure; it was estimated to be four times that sum at $4.3 billion.
A part of California’s State Water Project, the aqueduct has been a vital resource in supplying Southern California cities and farmland with water, playing a key role in California’s agricultural industry and economy.
But with the good comes the bad; like the high-speed rail project, California’s water project had its own setbacks. Ecological concerns, lack of financial support and environmental challenges are only a few of the hurdles the water project overcame. Yet, the project’s benefit has far outweighed the cost involved, supplying water to 25 million Californians and irrigating 750,000 acres of farmland, according to the Water Education Foundation.
Berkeley was one of the first public universities, but the public university systems have grown to include 33 schools (10 UC, 23 CSU) that are constantly expanding, building and growing. The UC and CSU systems were able to educate over 642,000 students in 2016, according to Legislative Analyst’s Office.
The early stages of the railway will be the most difficult due to lack of funding and generated profit. Granted, there are big milestones that must be overcome such as obtaining private investors, increased taxation and keeping rising costs from extending further.
In the long run though, the bullet train’s benefits will by far surpass the costs. It will be a resource used by millions to save time and money, help protect the environment, create jobs for many areas and reduce traffic.