A California state ballot item planned for November would secure $10 billion in bonds to begin building a high-speed rail system by 2009, with a 20-year estimated building schedule and a total price tag of $40 billion, all of it in publicly traded bonds more stable than, say, subprime mortgages. Millions have already been spent on planning — and influencing lawmakers with trips to visit Japan's shinkansen. But Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has helped derail two previous efforts to let California voters make the decision, even though 58 percent of voters statewide support the idea. A new public-private partnership amenable to the Governator's self-interest might finally break the ice. Why should the Valley care? Here are four reasons.
- Japan and France both have one: If there's anything Californians love more than stuff from France and Japan, I'd like to know what it is. Hell, even China has a bullet train, and they're supposedly Communists.
- Breakfast and dinner at home, meetings in LA: Woo Hollywood talent away from the studios with promises of stock options without having to abandon the family for the night. Hell, invite them down to meet you in San Diego after work.
- It keeps transportation spending in California: We don't manufacture our planes or our cars, why not build trains? Like Tesla's effort to make California an electric-car hub, a bullet train here would breed engineers and contractors with experience in high-speed rail projects for an untapped North American market.
- It's actual cleantech, no greenwashing necessary: No traffic idling, no planes circling, no highway-induced sprawl. Atherton residents would probably even approve a new nuclear reactor to power it. In Nevada.
The train makes all sorts of sense for the Valley, and the fact that it'll probably end in a boondoggle doesn't concern me — I just want it to end, soon, with a wicked fast train. (Photo by Clayton Parker)