Memorial Day Weekend Open Thread
This weekend I’ll be in Orange County, soaking up the sun and (maybe) doing some surfing at San Clemente.
My wife and I will be driving there, and this gives me a perfect opportunity to, once again, explain how incredibly useful HSR would be to me right about now. This is especially relevant given recent discussions in comments about the HSR ridership model and whether people will choose a bullet train over driving from NorCal to SoCal and vice versa.
The numbers matter. But from a conceptual perspective, I am stunned there’s even any doubt about this. My experience, which is similar to that of many other Californians considering a cross-state trip for this holiday weekend, shows how HSR would be an enormous improvement over driving.
Because of work schedules and upcoming vacation plans, my wife and I can’t take any time off for this weekend. So we have to get to and from Orange County in the free/off time we have.
We could leave as soon as she gets home from work, which would be about 6:15 PM. We’ve done that before – head out from Monterey immediately after her work ends. It’s inconvenient and undesirable, since the last thing we want to do after a long week of working is sit in a car for the 6 to 7 hours it takes to get to central Orange County from Monterey. By the time we arrive it’d be past midnight.
But the alternative isn’t much better. We’re going to leave early tomorrow morning, around 8AM, with hopes of making it to my sister’s new place in Anaheim around 2PM. That’s more relaxing for us, but it won’t leave us a lot of time in Orange County. We’ll have lost most of Saturday, have a full day on Sunday, and then only part of Monday – if we want to get back to Monterey at a decent hour on Monday and not so late that we are exhausted on Tuesday, we’d have to leave OC around noon or 1PM.
Flying isn’t much better. Let’s add it up:
• Travel time to the airport: 1:30 (if we’re going out of San Jose, and a Friday afternoon/evening from any Bay Area home to any Bay Area airport will probably be less, but perhaps not by very much)
• Security/Preboard: 0:45
• The flight itself: 1:00 (to SNA, a bit less if to BUR or LAX)
• Deboarding: 0:15
• Getting from the airport to our final destination (0:30 if there’s no traffic)
Total via airplane: 4:00
If we left here at 6:30, we might get in to my sister’s in Anaheim around 10:30. Not bad, but flights on a holiday weekend aren’t cheap, and flying isn’t the most convenient thing in the world.
What about HSR?
• Travel time to Gilroy station: 1:00 (0:45 if not on a Friday afternoon; there’s usually about 15 minutes extra of traffic getting from Monterey to Marina)
• Preboard: 0:15 (could probably cut it closer, but I like to be cautious)
• HSR from Gilroy to Anaheim: 2:16
• Deboarding: 0:05
• Travel to final destination: 0:20
Total via HSR: 3:55. Let’s make it an even 4:00.
So the train would be about the same in terms of travel time as a plane. Even if you think I padded the security/preboard (and I don’t think I did, you have to be there 30 minutes before departure and 15 minutes for security sounds about right to me), it’s a hell of a lot better than getting in after midnight. As any working person knows, those last two hours make a huge difference.
Moreover, the travel experience on a train is much better than on a plane or an automobile. We can relax, stretch out, get some dinner on the train, watch a movie, etc. Most importantly, we’d get an extra day on our vacation (all of Saturday) and a lot more time on Monday.
And it’s likely that the fare on the bullet train would be cheaper than the flight – especially in 2020, when high fuel costs will make it difficult to buy a plane ticket for an affordable price; the era of “$50 flights on Southwest” will be long gone by then. Even if it were somehow the case that the HSR ticket cost more than driving, the time savings is so totally worth it that I wouldn’t mind paying more – and yet it would be a more pleasurable experience than flying.
HSR is a huge improvement over driving, especially for a 3-day weekend. It would spur significant growth in tourism and service industries, and allow people an easier and more affordable way to get around California to see family and friends than flying or driving.
I’ll be enjoying our Memorial Day trip, but I’d enjoy it a lot more if I could use a bullet train to extend the vacation.