Monday, February 14, 2011

Bullet Trains, Engineering, Economics, and Politics as Usual

"It's the Bullet Train ... to Nowhere"
William La Jeunesse, State & Local, Politics, (February 14, 2011)

"Hailed as a high-speed road to the future, a jobs program and a symbol of America's dedication to innovation, President Obama proposed Monday spending $8 billion on a bullet train -- a down payment on a nationwide network that will cost $58 billion over the next six years.

"But in the one state where the federal high-speed rail project is underway, critics say money is being misspent, ridership studies are inflated, the route is politically corrupted and the system will never be self supporting.

" 'They don't know where they're going to build it, they don't have a mile of right of way under possession, it is not shovel ready, it is not even engineer ready,' said Richard Tolmach, with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. 'It is still a work in progress where the line might go. Right now it is not somewhere the feds should be putting their money.'..."

In the Lemming's opinion, there's going to be a - lively - debate about this bullet train project. Like where it should go. Back to the article (op-ed?):

"...And that is where the controversy comes in. The first leg of the project is slated for the middle of Central Valley -- not between major cities, or congested freeway corridors like San Francisco and San Jose or Orange County and Los Angeles. The Central Valley site is between Borden -- a point on the map where no one lives -- and Corcoran, a town where half the residents will never board a train because they're in prison...."

'Obvious' is in the Eye of the Chauvinist

The Lemming suspects that whether it's sensible, starting work on a new transportation system in a relatively remote location, depends in no small part on what sort of person is asked.

Some folks, in the Lemming's opinion, will feel that anybody who likes this project is a doo-doo-head. They, again in the Lemming's opinion, are likely to think it's 'obvious' that starting construction in California's Central Valley is 'stupid.' Likely enough, again in the Lemming's opinion, the same folks would be incensed if starting the project involved demolishing part of San Francisco's financial district.

Other folks, still in the Lemming's opinion, will feel that anybody who doesn't like this project is a doo-doo-head. They, still this blogger's opinion, are likely to feel that the project's detractors are the spawn of Satan - or the equivalent. And, of course, would probably feel that only an idiot would consider starting the project anywhere else.

A Train Should Go Somewhere

What does the Lemming think?

The Lemming thinks that for a transportation system to be of any use, it had better connect at least two points that need to exchange material and/or people.

Also that it's a good idea, if bullet trains are going to be built, to start work somewhere.

It may even make sense to start somewhere other than in the heart of a major city.

Apathy and a Blogging Lemming

This isn't a political blog - and the Lemming isn't 'political.' Not in the sense that the Lemming claims that one person or party is always right, and that others are always wrong. The Lemming's 'apathetic,' too - but only in a sort of sideways sense:

Bullet Trains: Catching Up With the 20th Century

It's the Lemming's of the opinion that 'bullet trains' are some of the 20th century's more impressive transportation technologies. And effective at moving people from city to city.

The last time the Lemming checked, we were a little over a decade into the 21st century. The Lemming could be wrong about this, but maybe the United States should start moving some of its transportation network into the 20th century.

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