On Friday July 6th, the California State Legislature passed a bill authorizing the state to begin selling $4.5 billion in bonds. This includes $2.6 billion approved to build the initial 130-mile stretch of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley. It’s a good thing I’m on RailLA’s mailing list or I’d have missed this historic tidbit. Sure, the ground has yet to be broken, but approving the funding is the first step. This will be the first high speed rail line in the entire United States. Let’s hope that California influences the rest of the nation in this as it does in other clean transportation methods.
The California High Speed Rail website has a nifty trip planner to get us all VERY excited about this. Just imagine! Traveling over 400 miles in 2 1/2 hours with NO speeding tickets! Not even having to cry one’s way out of a speeding ticket. Or plead for mercy. Or whatever. I truly hope that trip planner includes time spent stopped at the stations, because the driving route from LA to SF is more direct. But much longer. And not fun at all. There are fun ways to traverse the state, but they take at 8-12 hours, even at speeds well above what’s posted. Not that I know from personal experience, just that I’ve heard stories. Of course, the central valley is not as scenic as our famous coastline, but nobody wants to speed along the coast at 220mph anyway. They want to drive slowly enough to take pictures. This train is for when the destination is more important than the journey. Which is most trips, really. I am overjoyed that it will connect some of the more impoverished parts of the state to the bigger cities. This should make it easier for people to commute longer distances without having to spend too much time away from their families.
However, this is also a boon for Palmdale/Lancaster residents. Many a time I’ve driven to Willow Springs raceway for a weekday track day and seen them all parked on the 14 and 5 south, gradually making their way toward work as I zip off to the track. Sometimes I’ve even braved the Palmdale 500, aka the Angeles Forest Highway, against rush hour traffic. Not a great idea when you’re on a motorcycle and some commuter thinks the racing line means ignoring the double yellow in that blind curve. There are dozens of deliciously blind curves on AFH, making it a truly wonderful commute for anyone with racing in their blood. However, this 1-3 hour commute will now be slashed to 27 minutes. The real question many of us want to know is- what can we bring along? Bicycles, of course. But what about motorcycles and cars, like the trains on the Eastern Seaboard? Will it be affordable to commuters who currently take the bus? Will the on-board wifi be fast and free?