Like Eric @ PPB, I was underwhelmed by the NYT Magazine’s infrastructure issue, but that’s probably because I’m far, far deeper into the weeds on the subject than the average NYT reader. But I did think the article on California’s HSR project was a good primer, worth your time. I found this passage on the risks involved particularly interesting:
There arent really any recent examples of high-speed rail as a technical failure. Yet it is entirely plausible that the financial and political difficulties in California could keep other regions from trying to replicate its rail project. Disappointing ridership numbers, without question, could do the same.
California lacks many of the “feeder lines” that support high speed rail. Sure, there’s rapid transit in San Francisco and LA, but it’s nothing like what’s in DC, Boston, or New York. You get off the plane at midnight at LAX and at least you can rent a car. Get off the train in downtown LA and… crickets.
It stands to reason that, with LA getting religion on transit, the collapse of the housing bubble, and the price of gas sure to rise, that by the time the HSR line opens there will be more transit connections available. Certainly that’s the hope. But California will also have to create a train-centric culture that it doesn’t currently have. It would be a shame if we wrote off the whole country just because HSR didn’t work in one of the most car-centric states in the union.