California High Speed Rail Is Too Little, Too Late

I’m writing this on a bus from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, on the way to visit family in northern California. 40 minutes after I arrive in Bakersfield, a train bound for Oakland will show up to bring me the rest of the way. A train that provides service between two large metro areas should have high ridership, but the bus transfer forces passengers to travel over Los Angeles’ notoriously congested highways, so many probably just drive the whole way. That would explain why there are about six other people on this bus with me.

You’d think California, which wants to expand and promote its passenger rail service, would make a one-seat ride between the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and Los Angeles a priority. Indeed, the state’s beleaguered high-speed rail project endeavors to connect the northern and central cities of the state with Los Angeles. So where is construction starting? About 200 miles north of LA. That’s right – the line will first run between San Jose and the Central Valley, not reaching Los Angeles until 2029.

The thing is, passenger service already exists between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. Why aren’t scarce transportation dollars being spent to close the gap between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, rather than speeding up the tracks that already exist?

Must have California taxpayers scratching their heads.

Ethan Finlan
Ethan Finlan is a writer and sketch comedian based in the Boston area.