“High Speed Rail is Dead,” Aaron Renn announced earlier this week on New Geography.
FRA regulations are a mess. The money’s been spread too thin. A couple governors torpedoed projects. And conventional speed lines of 110 mph are being sold as high speed. Those are all nails in the coffin of high speed rail, he argues.
Aaron is a dynamic and authoritative blogger at the Urbanophile. But we think his latest pronouncement is awfully hasty.
In response to the naysayers at New Geography, Alon Levy at Pedestrian Observations makes a convincing argument that high speed rail is still very much alive:
High-speed rail has challenges, many correctly identified by Aaron. All of those factors are true – though some cancel out, e.g. the 110 mph pretend-HSR lines in Wisconsin and Ohio were the first on the chopping block – but California HSR marches on.
Reading California HSR Blog gives an impression that the project is controversial, but in no real risk of disappearing. While some of the money from the canceled lines went to chaff, a lot went to California, which already has enough money to build a demonstration line in the Central Valley and is already looking at leveraging other money it will get to reach either Los Angeles or the Bay Area.
Whether the project will ultimately have a useful starter line or remain a Bakersfield-Fresno-Merced shuttle depends on how much private funding it can attract, but Japan promised to fund 50% of the line, and the authority has had meetings with Spain and China. It’d be enough to do at least LA-Fresno, which is quite useful, if not as good as LA-Fresno-San Francisco.