Over the ages, Californians have, through an infinite number of decisions and conditions, decided that they like driving in cars and flying on airplanes. For whatever reasons — and the reasons do not really matter — Californians prefer to be in a car or flying on an airplane than on public transportation. Every major attempt to alter California’s transportation culture, externally or internally, has been an utter failure.
HOV Lanes? Any use of them is coincidental. No one gets up in the morning and says, “Gee, I’d better go out of my way to find someone to carpool with so I can avoid traffic.”
Public buses? They are seldom populated with enough travelers to make them environmentally or economically sound. They’re slow, inefficient and poorly maintained. All of this occurs despite massive government subsidies.
Trains? No one uses them and it isn’t just because they aren’t fast enough, even though they are deathly slow. A train trip from Irvine to Santa Barbara costs twice as much as the required gas would in most cars.
Public bicycles? I really wonder if a politician somewhere out there actually thought that people would use them or if he was just trying to help his cronies make a buck selling bikes to the city. My better judgment tells me to assume the latter.
Unfazed by an abundance of total failure, liberal “progressive” politicians and their expectant campaign donors have rallied around another popular fantasy: high-speed rail. What’s terrifying about the latest incarnation of unrealistic “progressive” excess is its price tag. The original cost of the “bullet train” for California’s taxpayers, just two years ago when they approved a “temporary tax increase” in Proposition 1A, was $10 billion.
Perhaps, if Californians would actually use the high-speed rail system en masse — and we won’t — this absurd cost might be worth it. I don’t doubt that there would be an occasional convenience from having an extra transportation option. It would be nice to take a two or three hour train ride from Los Angeles to the Bay Area every so often. I would be willing to pay more in taxes if I knew that the tax money would be well spent. Ten billion dollars actually isn’t that high for such a massive public infrastructure project.
The problem, however, is that the original estimate, like the entire concept of high speed rail, was a lie. The project will actually cost at least $100 billion. Officials intimately involved with the project almost certainly knew of the real cost, but lied and delayed releasing the real figure to ensure the Proposition 1A’s passage.
Eleven zeroes for a social experiment.
For some reason a government that produces a multi-billion dollar deficit each year has taken it upon itself to spend nearly $100 billion on a high speed rail project that connects Chowchilla to Bakersfield. Still, radical “progressive” hubris demands we trudge on, no matter the cost — even if we don’t know how successful the project will be.
Driving locally and flying greater distances is the quickest, most efficient method for travel in the Western U.S. Smaller airports like John Wayne and Burbank make air travel quick, cheap and efficient. The freeways are bad — no one doubts that — but spending billions on a train isn’t going to get anyone off the freeway. A commuter would rather sit in traffic and enjoy the freedom and mobility that his car provides than take the Metrolink. It is part of being Californian, the sense of individualism in as many aspects of life as possible. Or at least it used to be.
If politicians are truly beholden to their campaign donors and absolutely have to spend money on overpriced public works projects, perhaps they should consider building a second story on every freeway in California. Sure, it won’t be easy, but it would actually solve a problem by accommodating — gasp — and not trying to change our culture.
A civilization that is on the brink of budgetary collapse has no business wasting $100 billion trying to change a culture that defines its own preferences.
Adam O’Neal is a second-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Filed Under: Opinion