California Still Needs HSR
In the wake of the recent USC/Dornsife poll, HSR opponents have been using it to justify their existing arguments against the project. No surprise, I know, but it is still important to push back against it when we see it. For example, take this editorial in the Chico Enterprise-Record:
Given the fact that the project has changed from what was promised to voters in 2008, the voters deserve another say. Since then, the economic calamity has helped all Californians realize there’s a significant difference between things they want and things they need.
High-speed rail isn’t a necessity, especially now that we’re told a ticket from San Francisco to L.A. would cost about the same as a plane ticket. Voters want a do-over — and they should get one.
This is typical austerity thinking that assumes spending money on infrastructure is somehow bad for the economy, when the opposite is true. Even if HSR wasn’t necessary, now is absolutely the right time for government to spend on both wants and needs.
But let’s be clear: California needs high speed rail. Only if you ignore climate change and the soaring price of oil, as this editorial does, can you even begin to argue that HSR is somehow not necessary. And the 20,000 jobs that will be created in the Central Valley by project construction are not some frivolous extravagance.
If the poll is accurate, there’s only been a 4 point swing against HSR in spite of five years of relentless media attacks. The time between the authorization of a megaproject and the beginning of construction is usually when polling numbers ebb, so it’s no surprise that’s happening here. But Californians still have support for this project, in part because they have a better understanding of the state’s needs than does this editorial.