The folly of high speed rail 

In 2008 California voters in their wisdom approved by a 53%-47% margin $9.5 billion of bonds to build a high speed rail system connecting San Diego and Sacramento, running of course through metro Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. But now they’ve hit snags. As this post from Joel Kotkin’s newgeography.com website indicates, locals in the Peninsula towns south of San Francisco are raising objections. You can understand why, if you’ve seen how the current Southern Pacific line runs at street level parallel to El Camino Real through Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto. Converting it to high speed rail would clearly disrupt these somewhat picturesque and definitely pricey little downtowns. Plus, ridership on the current Caltrain commuter line is down 5% from 2009—not a great sign.   

Interestingly, the two counties on the Peninsula approved the ballot measure, Proposition 1A—San Mateo County by 61%-39% and Santa Clara County by 60%-40%, providing 1A with 28% of its statewide popular vote margin. Maybe some of these folks would like to reconsider, as cost estimates balloon, ridership estimates increasingly appear to be bogus and the disruption of existing communities becomes clearer.

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Michael Barone

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