Opinion: Bullet train: Readers fire away


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On Thursday we asked readers to make their best arguments for and against California’s bullet train, which made news this week when the state’s rail authority released a business plan showing the project will cost three times more and take 13 years longer to complete than voters were told when they approved bonds to build the system in 2008. We weren’t taking a poll or subjecting decisions of The Times’ editorial board to a vote, but we thought it would be helpful to solicit opinions before crafting our own editorial position on the issue. To see what we concluded, read Friday’s editorial.

Here are some of the most thoughtful comments* we received, on this blog and via our Facebook pages and Twitter.


Against the train:

‘The HSR by itself is pretty pointless without exponentially expanding the ‘last leg’ transportation infrastructure in the hubs the HSR will serve. So I can get from San Francisco to L.A. via train now vs. plane or car. So what? How will I get to my actual destination? I’ll still need a car to get there or have someone with a car pick me up or take a taxi. The bus system in L.A. is deplorable. So what will it cost to provide point-to-point public transit across the 500-plus square miles of area that is L.A. County? The HSR will alleviate some air travel, but it will do nothing to lessen local traffic congestion. It will just shift some of it from the airports to wherever the HSR stations are built.’

--Jeff Magill

‘Public money should not be used to build this. It’s going to be a money loser -- it’s nearly always a money loser, and if it’s taxpayer funded and built by the government or at government’s behest, It’s already behind and sucking up more dollars than planned; the project will continue to do so -- it’s certain to be a money loser. If Sacramento thinks this rail is viable, it should remove barriers to entry for any private company that’s willing to build it, and let the private sector build it, without any subsidy whatsoever. That’s how to tell whether it’s worthwhile or not.’

--Paul Gregory Azpeitia

‘Boondoggle of the century (for Californians). Where will the $100 billion come from? Answer: it won’t! We’ll end up with a bullet train connecting two Central Valley towns and that’s all. I personally love the idea of a bullet train to San Francisco, but magical thinking is not going to make the money just fall from the sky.’


--Jeff Ellwood

‘I think it made a lot more sense 20 years ago. Now I feel like we’re on the cusp of a green revolution. Technology is changing. I don’t think cars as we know them will be running on oil in 10 years. It’s easier to decide these things when it’s only one thing that is changing. When the entire transportation paradigm is changing though, it’s a tougher call.’

--Joe Canon

‘I’m hesitant to support the new high-speed initiative even though I love using public transport. When it’s done right, public transport can literally replace a car for 90% of all your traveling needs. The problem here, I think, is that there’s going to be slightly too little that will be done under the so-called ‘first phase’ of the rail project -- I mean, come on. Fresno to Bakersfield? It’s literally going from nowhere to nowhere. Now, if we were absolutely 100% positive that the upcoming plan would extend the train from its intended arrival and departure points -- L.A. and San Francisco (one of the most highly traveled air routes in the world, BTW) -- then I would back this, absolutely. But for now, I’m going to hesitantly keep my support away from this one. It’s just too much to bet on a future that may never materialize.’

--Seung Park

For the train:

‘Yes, you should support it! Our major airports are reaching capacity and are completely encroached upon by development on all sides. This makes it harder and harder for them to provide service between cities like San Francisco and L.A. -- the busiest air corridor on the West Coast. Building new airports is not a politically viable option -- just ask the voters of San Diego. Traffic congestion on highways also continues to get worse, making travel more difficult and resulting in increased emissions of pollutants that degrade our environment. Adding new lanes doesn’t relieve congestion, it just encourages more people to join the fray. The solution is obvious -- expand your transportation modes. High speed rail is the most viable option. Is it expensive? Yes! It’s a major piece of infrastructure! Is it worth it? Damn straight! It’ll pay for itself just bey alleviating congestion to highway and air. People who argue against this project are short-sighted fools who’ve never seen high speed rail in action in places like France or Spain -- you know, countries about the same size as California. Support high speed rail. If we can’t get this project built, then we’ve got bigger problems than anyone’s willing to own up to.

--Chris Jones

‘Should America come back to the moon? No, no it’s too expensive... should California build a bullet train? No, no it’s too expensive... c’mon people, something is going incredibly wrong when you hear Americans saying things like: ‘it is very expensive,’ ‘isn’t worth the efforts,’ ‘it’s impossible at this moment.’ Shame on you people, that’s not the spirit that makes big this country.’

--Edgar Corral Fernandez

‘The time has come, and passed, for the U.S. and California to invest in HSR. We cannot keep depending on foreign oil that will continue to increase in cost, due to increasing demand in other foreign economies. We can no longer keep building more roads and expressways that will only become parking lots at all hours of the day. If California keeps building roads, more traffic and gridlock will come right along with them. I live in Palm Springs, and would love to be able to take HSR to L.A., San Diego or to San Francisco. It is a miserable commute currently. Breaking our addiction on foreign oil and investing in the US infrastructure is not a matter of should we, but a matter of we must.’

--Mike Daws

‘Clearly, this should be done and financed by a gasoline tax. Never going to happen, as California politicos interested in having jobs know they might as well introduce a bill requiring all registered voters to consume their own excrement and die, or perhaps sacrifice their first-born child. Yes, we need this here, but nobody will vote for anything that makes driving more expensive.’

--Vincent Lauter

‘I am a fiscal conservative and yet I support this project. It is clear to me that our roads and our highways do not adequately serve this state. We must improve them, but also invest in other transit methods. HSR will serve not only the cities and people on the ends of the route (as a plane flight does), but everyone in between. I do not believe there is much our government should be spending money on but I believe transportation infrustracture and this HSR should be near the top of the list. Make it as easy as possible for people, goods, and information to move about, and then get out of the way. This project will be a huge step forward for the people who need to move about our state.’

--Steve White

*Spelling has been corrected in some comments.

--Dan Turner


Still on board the bullet train

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