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California’s high-speed rail would lack quality in performance

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Posted: Saturday, July 28, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:32 am, Sat Jul 28, 2012.

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.

Brian Campbell


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  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 4:34 pm on Mon, Jul 30, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    For me the best test between the value of Amtrak vs. airlines is can we do without one or the other? The answer is obvious, but it is valid.

    We've come to depend on air travel even when costs are high and service is lousy. Speed reigns supreme when it comes to traveling more than a couple hundred miles. Even between north and south California, I would think folks would opt for air over rail. Of course the only time that might not be the case is when it doesn't matter how long the trip would take. Even a bullet train will be making several stops between S.F. and L.A., making the trip demonstrably longer than flying nonstop between the Bay Area and Disneyland via Southwest.

    I think a better idea for all that high speed rail money would be to split it between a few larger cities to build up or even rebuild their public transportation infrastructures. BART sure could use a new set of trains; the old ones are getting ratty.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 11:32 am on Mon, Jul 30, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Jerry makes a good point, but their is a significant difference between the two industries.
    I fly often and rarely are their empty seats. I also love trains and use it when possible. Most times, Amtrack has many empty seats and at times has very few passengers. Same with BART.

    If Amtrack had the public using its facilities as the airlines do, cost would be diminished to the tax payer.

  • Jerry Bransom posted at 10:48 am on Mon, Jul 30, 2012.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 364

    If you are going to pick on AMTRAK, then you also need to pick on the Airlines. Both are heavily subsidized. And then you need to pick on the billions of waste in the Pentagon, Government-by-bribery and a whole host of other issues that are all a result of a totally corrupt government.
    I have an idea!!! VOTE THEM ALL OUT! You can Write-In a good candidate!! It does not have to be a Demo or Repub you know - well maybe none of you knew that till now.

  • Robert Chapman posted at 7:42 pm on Sat, Jul 28, 2012.

    Bob Chapman Posts: 997

    Post below should read, "each and every AMTRAK passenger fare....."

  • Robert Chapman posted at 7:33 pm on Sat, Jul 28, 2012.

    Bob Chapman Posts: 997

    High Speed Rail sounds wonderful, in theory. Seems as though everytime I get stuck at a RR crossing and watch a government run AMTRAK go by there are very few passengers. Seeing how taxpayers ponied up $1.4 Billion to keep AMTRAK running last year I am concerned that will be the same result in California's High Speed Rail program. Taxpayers subsized every and every AMTRAK passenger fare last year by $32. Most Californians are having a difficult enough time juggling their expenses in these lean ecomonic times and certainly, at this time, don't need additional expenditures especially when the money will come in the form of higher taxes or reduced crucial services.Jerry Brown's father left a legacy of the peripheral canal and now Jerry wants the CHSR to be his legacy. Smart for California or an ego trip for Governor Brown?

  • Ron Werner posted at 3:31 pm on Sat, Jul 28, 2012.

    Ron Werner Posts: 101

    Brian said "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."
    California lacked that culture in 2010 but evidently that didn't keep you and a bunch of other clueless people from voting for it. Glad to see you achieved "enlightenment", too bad our Governor hasn't.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 11:19 am on Sat, Jul 28, 2012.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    High speed rail will eventually be a reality in Calif. I'm somewhat skeptical Calif. will get it right. But we must start somewhere. Calif. always seems to be the hub for innovation.
    And, with innovation comes improvement.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 10:00 am on Sat, Jul 28, 2012.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    I have had the same experience and observation of the Asian public transportation system. I think Mr. Campbell hit the nail on the head in his assessment.

    I have not been to Japan,but my visits to China and observing the high speed rail in Shanghai gave me the same thought. My Observations in Bangkok,Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia mirror the observatons he made in Japan.

    Thank you for such an informative and accurate perspective Mr Campbell


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