HSR Tradeoffs

The latest rail news from California:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quietly spiked an effort last month to win $1.1 billion in federal high-speed rail stimulus funds for 29 projects to improve the safety, speed and capacity of heavily traveled commuter corridors through Southern California. Instead, he ordered state officials to seek money for only one project — the proposed bullet train between San Francisco and San Diego.

….The action has sparked debate among rail advocates about whether too high a priority is being placed on the high-speed train project at the expense of the second-busiest rail corridor in the nation, where budget-strapped commuter services have been trying to improve safety, add track and cut travel times from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is the kind of thing I was afraid of when we approved the LA-SF high-speed line last year.  There’s a limited amount of money available for transit projects statewide, so as we spend more on HSR, there’s less available for other projects.  It’s not a firm 1:1 tradeoff, and certainly politicians have the option to try and increase the total size of the transit pie, but in general there’s a pretty strong tendency for budget decisions to work like this.

My doubts aside, hopefully the LA-SF line will be great when it’s finally up and running.  But there’s definitely a cost involved to other transit projects in the meantime.

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