California’s Bullet Train Is Now Officially Insane

Artist's rendering of the Fresno HSR station. The boomtown of a revitalized Fresno is in the background.California High Speed Rail Authority

I read something alarming today on the front page of the LA Times:

If Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is elected governor as expected, he’ll keep building the state’s two contentious public works projects: the bullet train and twin water tunnels. But he’ll scale back both….Newsom will concentrate on completing a high-speed rail line from the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area. The southern half of the ambitious project, from the valley into Los Angeles, will be delayed until the initial line proves to be financially feasible and can attract more money from taxpayers or private investors.

Wait. He’s going to build a 150-mile HSR from Fresno to San Francisco? That’s insane. It’s about a 2-3 hour drive and it’s not exactly a congested route: Fresno has a population of only 500,000 and it’s hardly a hotbed of commuter service to the Bay Area. There are a grand total of four daily flights to San Francisco and none to San Jose. Modesto and Stockton add another 500,000 potential riders to HSR-North, but they’re literally only an hour from the Bay Area. This is going to be a ghost train.

I’m not a fan of California’s bullet train, but even I agree that it’s all or nothing: the train doesn’t make even a tiny bit of sense unless it connects the state’s two big population centers. It either goes from LA to San Francisco or it goes nowhere. In this case, building half a bullet train is like building half a skyscraper: it’s worse than building nothing at all.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.