Robert Chianese, June 9, 2020; rev 2021 02 16 

Good liberals and environmentalists need to acknowledge that the Bullet Train fiasco is a boondoggle of massive proportions. It is sucking money out of California budgets and the feds, many billions here, many billions there. It is still unable to acquire the land it needs in the Central Valley; it will not be able to go right into LA or SF. It now needs taxpayer subsidies it once denied it needed, which will cut funds from schools and services to the elderly, poor, and homeless. 

We are also getting clearer about where it will run–through some of the poorest neighborhoods, uprooting them. A report by Ralph Vartabedian in Sunday’s LA Times May 29 exposes its impacts:  “Bullet train would nick jobs, homes and parks on 14-mile route from L.A. to Burbank.” 

What it leaves out is who would benefit from this train—mainly well-healed whites needing speedy business and leisure connections between SF and LA. Such dreamed of service will never happen. 

If we can’t connect the dots between protests by minorities and the poor, their storming of tony Melrose, and the Bullet Train, we’re missing the big picture. We go to any length to get our “stuff,” funding a transportation clunker, while thousands sleep on our streets, loot to get a small piece of the action, and suffer at the hands of poorly trained police. 

(Update: 6/05/2020) The California Legislature just blocked the High Speed Rail Authority from awarding any contracts this year for building the train. Lawmakers want to pause the current plan with its focus on laying 171 miles of track in the Great Central Valley between Merced and Bakersfield and shift it to Southern California and the Bay Area, where there’s more transportation bang for the buck–more ridership and more communities to serve, getting more people out of cars resulting in greater environmental benefits. Legislators also want to consider a high-speed low-emission diesel train that could travel right into Oakland or San Jose. (LA Times report by Ralph Vartabedian)

This hold on the Bullet’s budget for a year should give more attention to population centers and urban people’s transportation needs. That’s a welcomed shift to serving a wider array of potential riders with a variety of economic means. We all need to get off this train to nowhere and ride a local to where we need it most.

(Update: 02 10 2021) We now learn that the highspeed bullet train has become so expensive that the segment between Bakersfield and Merced that might still be built will have only one track instead of two. (LA Times report by Ralph Vartabedian) 

We note that land still needs to be purchased along the route and that tunneling under the San Gabriel Mountains will be a risky venture with earthquake faults near-by.

This transportation folly steals money from important rail and other infrastructure work that could be done in and around both LA and San Francisco. Also, physically commuting is becoming almost unnecessary with virtual work at home and Zoom meetings. 

The train is not only way over budget, but also way over-due. This 70’s technology got lost in the Central Valley.