In 2010, I was very supportive of the action to build a high-speed rail system in California. Japan is an international economic powerhouse that has done a great job riding out the recent recession, and the their transportation infrastructure unquestionably is indispensable to this. It would become a strength to California, even if it took 10 years to build.
I have spent the two years since that election living and working in Japan. After experiencing the Japanese transportation system firsthand my opinion has changed completely, and I feel that a high-speed rail would not be to our advantage. It's not because it doesn't work in Japan — because it works almost perfectly — it's because the California transportation infrastructure would be incapable of maintaining such a project at the level of quality necessary to reap the wanted benefits.
The Japanese system, both the local trains and especially the high-speed trains, are clean, reliable, quick and relatively affordable. It's those attributes that make public transportation an economic boon, both now and during the golden era before World War II. Sadly, those same words are not usually used to describe California's public transportation systems. And this isn't something that can change overnight.
The Japanese have developed a culture over the years that demands excellence from the product and politeness from the consumer. California lacks that culture, and it will take years of concerted effort. Until then, a high-speed rail system in California will become a financial burden, and not an economic strength.