In 2008 (yes, nine years ago) California passed an initiative, Proposition 1A, in the amount of $9.9 billion (yes, that’s “billion,” with a “b”) to build a high speed rail system which would transport people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in forty minutes. I beg your pardon, that should be two hours and forty minutes, which is almost as ridiculous.
The whole thing was pretty silly, in that even then the whole system was proposed to cost $43 billion (it is now up to $64 billion), and the initiative was dependent on the rail system being operated without any public subsidy, which no one ever claimed it could do. No public transportation system in California operates without public subsidy, and this system will be more expensive than any existing one by several orders of magnitude.
The initiative also specified that the $9.9 billion could not be spent unless sources for the rest of the funding were secured, which they have not been; that the average speed of the train be 200 mph which, since part of the currently planned route uses existing trackage, is plainly impossible; and that the time from LA to SF not exceed the two hours and forty minutes which, since the train will be sharing track with freight trains for part of its trip, is clearly not going to happen.
In short, none of the conditions spelled out in the initiative have been met, but the authority in charge of the “bullet train” has proceeded with a segment going 164 miles between Merced (pop. 81,743) and Bakersfield (pop. 363,630). Actual construction, however, consists of spending $2.9 billion for a 29 mile segment which will be completed in August of 2019.
Given that the segment, when it is completed almost three years from now, will cover only 17% of the distance between two cites with a combined population comprising 1.1% of California’s population, it’s difficult to see what spending 29% of the initiative’s funds will actually accomplish.
Not to mention that current spending does not include any actual trains, just 29 miles of track for $2.9 billion. Is that awesome, or what? Only California could do that.