High Speed Trains Finally Coming to California (and not a Moment Too Soon)

by Benjamin Jones on November 10, 2008

If you haven’t heard yet, in the recent elections California passed an initiative to fund a high-speed railway stretching all the way from San Francisco to San Diego. The construction will cost $10 billion and take several years, but when it’s completed it will reduce commute times dramatically and create a feasible alternative to the pollution-intensive aviation industry. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but nearly everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

Here’s why

Currently in California it takes 6 hours to drive between major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you want to take the train, the commute time jumps up to 12 hours. The plane trip is only an hour long, but you have to show up to the airport early, deal with security, and wonder if your luggage is going to get lost. You might also end up sitting on the runway for several hours due to weather or air traffic.

Though I’ve never been to California, I know these things because I’ve recently planned a trip that will take me into LA, up to SF, and then back to New Hampshire. I spent a short period living in Japan and using exclusively public transportation, so my first thought was “oh, I’ll take the train up to San Fran, get some work done, take in some nice views, and nap.”

Boy, was I wrong about that. When I logged on to the Amtrak site and searched for a trip between LA and SF I was in disbelief: Did it seriously take 11 hours? I asked my friend and got an affirmative response. To make the story less profane, I was livid. There’s absolutely no reason for a long distance train trip to take any longer than a similar drive. In fact, considering the time that you have to show up at the airport by, it should be comparable to flying for that distance.

The solution

Now, that’s more like it, California. With this rail system in place the LA to SF trip should only take 2 hours and 40 minutes. I would change in my plane ticket for a ride on that in a heartbeat. Perhaps in the future we’ll see something like this on the East Coast connecting major cities like Boston, NYC, and Philadelphia.

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1 anth November 12, 2008 at 7:43 pm

if they had an express at 200 mph that went la to sf that would do it

2 Benjamin Jones November 12, 2008 at 7:47 pm

I do believe they are supposed to travel at 220 mph. Might be a little noisy. 🙂

3 Jeffrey November 13, 2008 at 11:12 am

So you get the facts, not just hyperbole, try reading through the info at the official website:
And you just missed by a factor of 4 on the most important point – the system is supposed cost $45 billion to build, not $10B – the bond that just passed (on which I voted NO, BTW, as we have enough debt in CA already) only had $9 billion to begin purchasing right of way and try to get federal and private matching money to cover the other $36 billion needed… Current estimates place the main SF to LA line at $25 to $30 billion, with the rest of the cost to cover the extensions to San Diego and Sacramento.

Be sure to check out the site’s FAQ pages – lots of good info there, including maps and renderings…

4 Jonathan March 18, 2009 at 8:15 am

They also need one in the mid west. That one would connect Chicago, St.Louis, Kansas City, Minniapolis, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Omaha, and Indianapolis. The highway between Kansas city and St.Louis has one of the highest accident rates in the country.

It would also be good to have one in the south, that would connect New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, etc.

5 FBL October 10, 2009 at 11:09 am

Oh thank God. I have done the LA-SF a couple of times but boy it takes the biscuit out of your body. I would never consider the drive if there was a high speed train.

6 Evelyn January 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm

This is the best way to cut down on traffic in California. It’s nice to
to read about the Speed rail being planned.

7 Gonad Ickleyoo November 25, 2010 at 1:01 am

I’m pretty sure the trains btn NY and Phila don’t take any longer than driving.

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