Bakersfield Californian Asks: What’s the Alternative?
The Bakersfield Californian newspaper has been generally supportive of high speed rail, though not uncritically. Their latest editorial on the project makes the right point – HSR opponents have no alternative plan:
Critics have long enjoyed calling the project “the train to nowhere,” and they’re right to question its expense. But if you ask some of these critics for alternatives, be prepared for silence and stammering. Few have credible solutions to solve the state’s mounting problems with traffic and transportation services….
But project opponents offer no real alternatives to our growing cross-state transportation issues. Are we going to build more freeways? How much wider can the Interstate 405 get? Clearly Interstates 15 and 5 could stand to be widened, too. Are we going to invest in smart cars, with tighter driving laws to monitor them?
A lot of questions and not a lot of answers from those in opposition.
One opposition claim is that building a train is relying on old technology, and that’s valid. However, couldn’t the same be said for building new roads to service thousands of cars? Regardless, California needs a sensible plan for its transportation future. We may have to accept that it includes very fast trains.
Of course, smart cars don’t solve the problem. A car is still a car that takes up lane space and creates traffic, whether it’s automated or not, whether it’s powered by electricity or fossil fuel. If traffic is the concern, and if there’s a recognition that widening freeways has its limits, then surely that would lead one to conclude that self-driving cars might be a neat technology but it has nothing to do with solving the state’s transportation woes.
The Bakersfield Californian is right to realize that very fast trains are an essential part of a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure. And they’re right to note that opponents don’t offer an alternative.
That’s because HSR opponents believe that the status quo will last forever. Gas will always be cheap – the ten year long period of high prices was just an aberration, the present oil price crash is seen as a return to normalcy rather than a temporary respite. They believe nobody will ever ride trains, despite piles of evidence to the contrary. They believe global warming isn’t real or isn’t a concern.
Once you accept that the status quo can’t be sustained, and that the state must build new transportation infrastructure, it is impossible to reach any other conclusion: HSR is necessary to California’s future.