Perhaps $1 Million a Rider

How many individuals want to ride high-speed rail through California’s Central Valley? That’s not an academic question, as that will be the first leg of the line built by the California High-Speed Authority. The line will run from Shafter (population 17,000) to Madera (population 61,000): just north of Bakersfield to just south of Merced.

The first major city north of Bakersfield is Visalia, with a population just above 124,000. The line will then pass through Fresno (510,000) before reaching Madera. Just how many of those people need to get from one end of the Central Valley to the other?

Let’s be real: This is a colossal waste of money. And it’s now over budget by somewhere between $2.6 billion to $6.8 billion.

Yes, I realize the goal of the line is to connect the Bay Area with the Los Angeles Basin. While the news article I linked to notes a cost of $43 billion, the true cost will undoubtedly be higher. I’m guessing that the eventual cost per rider will be about $1 million. It currently costs around $100 each way to fly that route. Given where our government is today, wouldn’t a better use of the $43 billion (or $143 billion) be paying down all of our government’s debt and not building a white elephant?

I also realize that California voters approved this measure. This is one time the legislature should step up, and let the voters know that a mistake was made. Return the federal funds to Washington, and stop the project. White elephants like this is why the government is in the mess it’s in.


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