Business Leaders Make the Economic Case for High Speed Rail
In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, business leaders from San Francisco and Los Angeles make the economic case for the legislature to release the voter-approved bond money to begin building high speed rail:
California’s $1.9 trillion economy ranks among the 10 largest in the world. However, the state’s infrastructure is straining to keep up with increased demands. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of transportation. According to recent studies, inefficiencies in our roadways cause Californians to waste nearly $19 billion annually in time and fuel.
A population’s mobility is a key to promoting thriving businesses and job creation. California’s transportation system was once the envy of the world, and we reaped the economic rewards of that system for decades. Today, that same system is hopelessly gridlocked. By 2035, California’s population will hit 50 million, straining our current system even further. Development of high-speed rail is desperately needed to meet these demands.
The complete op-ed, by Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council and Gary Toebben of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, is worth reading. They list support from business groups across the state for the project, and make a strong argument as to why the project is critical to the state’s economic future. As the state remains mired in recession and stuck with high unemployment, creating jobs and creating conditions for more job growth in coming years has to be a top priority. And the authors lay out why high speed rail is a part of that strategy.
Now is also a good time to point out that many of the HSR’s critics and opponents are already in a position of relative economic privilege. They’re the ones who already have it good and who simply don’t care about the economic fortunes of the rest of the state. They are worried that change will erode their current position, and believe that maintaining the status quo for as long as possible is the only sensible economic strategy for them.
That’s an absurd position to take. And it’s telling that people like Wunderman and Toebben, who represent some of the state’s largest businesses, don’t share that perspective. They’ve got every reason to also want to just cruise by maintaining the status quo. Yet they realize that the status quo doesn’t actually work for most people and certainly will not work for them or their member companies. They understand that the current failed transportation system in California is a huge drag on the economy and that fixing those problems can produce a more prosperous state.
California’s future prosperity includes electrified passenger trains, with high speed rail as the backbone of the system. It’s time for the state legislature to stop fighting the future and start helping us build it.