One of the worst calumnies flung at the California high speed rail project is that by starting in the Central Valley, the state is building a “train to nowhere.” Incoming State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León echoed this sentiment when he told the LA Times that the only thing along the route were tumbleweeds, a remark that rankled the nearly two million not-tumbleweed human beings who live near HSR in the Central Valley.
To his immense credit, Sen. De León went to Fresno to apologize and I’m sure the matter is now closed. But there are plenty of other Californians who persist in dismissing the needs of millions of their fellow Golden Staters just because they don’t live near the coast.
The California high speed rail project will benefit the entire state, but perhaps nowhere as much as the Valley. Its impact there will be transformational, a historic opportunity to help reduce chronic poverty, joblessness, and pollution by connecting Valley cities to the thriving coastal metropolises. This blog has been a consistent cheerleader for the Central Valley and for HSR to serve it, and I’m bullish on the Valley’s future with HSR.
So too are some of James Fallows’s readers at The Atlantic, Central Valley residents who have weighed in on his ongoing California HSR series to explain why HSR belongs in their backyard:
The cost-benefit of this project is much greater for the SJV cities. They will be connected like never before to the state’s major metropolitan areas. Tedious drives with a roundtrip travel time of 6-8 hours will be reduced to 3 hours. Neglected city cores will be redeveloped, new businesses will move in, residents will have the opportunity to seek new job opportunities in S.F/L.A, and most importantly all of this will be the game changer the SJV needs to diversify it’s agriculture based economy.
The SJV, even during good times and in wet years, suffers from chronic high unemployment, usually double-digits. In order for California to succeed, this region of 4 million people also needs to succeed. HSR provides that opportunity through the new long-term jobs that will be sparked by HSR and the stations located in the city cores. The SJV usually gets neglected in Sacramento and here’s a perfect opportunity to get noticed.
Another reader points out that HSR will benefit the masses, not just the coastal elites who are perceived to be backing it:
People envision High Speed Rail as a pet project for liberal elites…but between Bakersfield and Modesto, it seems like the greatest demand would be from people who don’t take car ownership for granted, and definitely not one car for every adult member of a family. Is that what’s already driving Amtrak’s California routes to be some of the most heavily used in the country?
Of course, the most elite of the coastal liberals, like those living in Menlo Park, tend to oppose HSR out of pure selfishness. But there’s no doubt that HSR will be a huge boost to a region of the state that could use one.
That last reader comment alludes to something that should prove HSR will thrive in the Central Valley: ridership continues to rise on the San Joaquins, leading to calls for additional trains to expand service and relieve crowding.
Glad to see Fallows paying attention to the impact of HSR on the Central Valley, a place that deserves a better economy and a sustainable infrastructure, despite coastal NIMBY efforts to hold them down in poverty.