The California High-Speed Rail Authority has released a new construction plan, proposing a “phased approach” to building HSR. Basically, this means building a high-speed railway in the Central Valley, and connecting it at the ends to existing conventional track in order to finish the trip to LA and SF. Done properly, this can mean a one-seat ride between LA and SF (with the high-speed trains running at reduced speeds along conventional track at each end). The best part of it is that the Authority has committed to building south from Bakersfield to Palmdale and the Valley before building north to San Jose. (See my earlier post for how a phased system might work, and why BFD-Palmdale matters.)
The HSR critics are shaking out of the woodwork, pointing out that this isn’t the all-HSR system that voters approved under Prop 1A. Well, of course it isn’t. This is the first phase of that system. Threading HSR through built-up urban areas is *hard*, and the phased approach is a way to give Californians a real alternative to driving I-5 or flying between our state’s major metro areas BEFORE tackling the difficult task of finishing the true HSR system on both ends. Think of it this way- wouldn’t you rather have a 5-hour train to ride in 2018 while waiting for the 2-hour train in 2030?