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By Tim Hunt

High-speed rail reality check

Uploaded: Feb 4, 2014

Writing in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, Tom Zoellner states that trips of one to three hours are ideal for true high-speed rail.
Zoellner adapted his book, "Train: Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World, from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief."
His piece prompted more thoughts about the high-speed rail proposal in California from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles. If the rail could move at 180 mph (current plans are for substantially less than that), it would be close to his three-hour upper window.
A more telling point Zoellner makes is how easily you can get around once you arrive in the destination city. If you are arriving in San Francisco and headed to the financial district, it's easy. It mimics the densely population Europe cities or big hub cities on the East Coast of America.
If your destination is on the peninsula, good luck getting around. A business person riding high speed rail is not going to be interested in renting a car to reach his/her destination.
Curiously, Zoellner identifies the San Francisco-Los Angeles corridor as a promising one based upon the amount of daily business the airlines do during the work week. You had to think he's never tried to get around Los Angeles with mass transit.
Fortunately, the courts are still demanding that the California rail authority follow the law that contained specific performance expectations for the train as well as financing requirements. The authority has attracted no private investment and has downgraded the performance substantially.
Its job is made more challenging because polling shows the public wants a "do-over" and would soundly reject a $68 billion system (a number full of dreams that was developed after early estimates put the cost at nearly $100 billion.
The governor, presumably mindful of a likely re-election campaign this fall, spent no time on the high-speed rail during his State of the State address last month.
Now if the courts will just continue to demand the authority follow the law, the state and its taxpayers may be saved from a huge boondoggle that will be a cash-sink on the state's general fund for decades.