Few things excite California liberals more than organic granola and eco-friendly bicycle rides through UC Berkeley, but high-speed rail might be one of them. A longtime dream of state progressives, high-speed rail mixes many of the best values and ideals of the Sixties with technology from the 19th Century. Big government, stimulus spending, and good old-fashioned state control come together through the magic of trains to further the ultimate goal of utopia on Earth.
Though the idea of a three hour commute between San Francisco and Los Angeles is appealing, Californians might still want to consider a few reasons why high-speed rail might not be the best project ever.
- The Expense
The last few years have been tumultuous for the United States, to say the least. The federal government is running red and the fiscal irresponsibility of local governments across the nation has led to several cities and municipalities filing for bankruptcy just since 2010. There have been four filings in California alone. But if you are afraid that things as trivial as “economic reality” will slow down the government, don’t be, because Governor Jerry Brown and President Obama are here to spend an extra cool $100 Billion on a high-speed train to improve infrastructure and alleviate the troubled economy. That is, if they even start building it before the troubled economy gets less troubled.
- The Environment
It is strangely cathartic to see how the vast array of government environmental regulations designed to stifle economic activity are now stifling government activity. As the Los Angeles Times’ Ralph Vartabedian reports “Without [the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s] approval, the California High-Speed Rail Authority cannot sink a shovel into the ground, said Samir Sheikh, the district's director of strategies and incentives.”- The small-government inclined among us must be smirking in self-satisfaction. I imagine.
- The Unsustainability
“But wait”, says Nancy Sunshine, “once the trains are up and running, the government will make up for the cost AND make a little bit on the side!”. Sorry Ms. Sunshine, but they won’t. According to Investors.com, government projections for ridership are grossly exaggerated. Another study shows that tickets will be a whole lot more expensive as a result. With projections like these, it is increasingly likely that the taxpayers of California will end up footing the bill for a railroad to nowhere.
- The Judge More Powerful than The President
Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney took both Governor Brown and the Obama administration to task for not having any sort of real financial plan for the high-speed rail. Judge Kenny’s ruling prevents the State of California from using the collected bond money to fund the project, making the future of high-speed rail in California uncertain. It’s like watching a more bureaucratic version of David and Goliath, but the only real way to visualize this man is like this:
The California high-speed rail project is appearing more and more quixotic as time goes on. Hopefully, the inevitable failure of this idea will inspire Nancy Sunshine and her ilk to dial back government spending, however unlikely that may be…