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Travel Referendums: Funding California's High-Speed Rail System

October 21, 2008 at 3:35 PM | by | ()

This November 4 is about more than just deciding between McCain and Obama. Other issues that directly affect travelers are up for decision, and this week we're taking a closer look at some of them.

Prop 8 isn't the only controversial ballot measure up for a vote this year in California. A yes vote on Proposition 1A will authorize the sale of nearly $10 billion in 30-year bonds to finance the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which will create a network of fast trains across the south and central parts of the state.

So is it a good idea? Depends on who you ask.

Many groups and politicians, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, support the development of high speed rail in the state, citing the future economic and environmental benefits of the service. (The fact that the federal government would chip in a matching $10 billion is a plus for California, too.) In addition to the jobs created short term by the actual construction of the high-speed train, proponents say it will drive economic growth state-wide; supporters include those jobs when discussing the benefits of the super-project.

Many newspapers in California have endorsed the proposal, with the LA Times saying:

[Despite opposition] we still think voters should give in to the measure's gleaming promise, because it's in their long-term interest. Weaning travelers from gas-powered, road-choking cars is critical to the state's health and competitiveness. A high-speed rail line would not only provide a cleaner and faster alternative to automobiles, it would encourage transit-friendly development.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle believes the bond measure is a worthy investment:

In the coming decades, California is facing the daunting prospect of population growth that is likely to overwhelm its existing transportation systems and complicate its ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposition 1A would help address those issues by investing $9.95 billion toward a zero-emissions, high-speed train network that would make it possible to get from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours for a one-way fare of about $55.

The main opposition to the plan comes from the Reason Foundation, which says it's incredibly likely that the total cost of the project will more than $65 billion--and that it's not a good idea to borrow money while the state is already $15 billion in the hole. Reason also says that ridership will be much lower than projected, making the chance that we'll be training it between SF and LA for just $110 round-trip unlikely.

But the kids seem to like the idea: There's a Facebook group in favor of the project.

Related Stories:
· California High-Speed Rail Authority [Official Site]
· The California High-Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report [Reason Foundation]
· California High-Speed Rail Blog [Official Site]
· New Way of Life Needed for High-Speed Rail [SFC]
· Travel Referendums coverage [Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

California wants $7 billion help

California just said it would fail without $7 billion aid, yet they want to issue $30 billion more for this???????!!!!