Huzzah! California’s High Speed Train To Nowhere Cancelled – But Not Enough


California’s new Governor, Gavin Newsom, has at least started office with a sensible decision – he’s cancelling the entirely ludicrous idea of a high speed train link between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s ludicrous because trains just don’t work over that sort of distance. It’s also ludicrous because the fully autonomous car is going to make trains irrelevant anyway.

Sadly though Newsom has not managed to deal with this entirely properly, for he’s still thinking about completing the first part of it on very bad and spurious grounds.

Still, this is good news:

California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, sharply scaled back plans to build a high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Tuesday, saying the program had been botched and cost too much. Speaking in Sacramento in his first State of the State address since he succeeded Jerry Brown — who, like Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, had strongly promoted the bullet train as governor — Newsom said he would proceed with work on a 160-mile stretch in the state’s Central Valley where construction is already underway.

Not building any more than 160 miles is a great idea. Building the 160 miles is a bad one:

That was fancy. But reality wasn’t on the Democrats’ side either. On Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would be truncating the nation’s flagship public high-speed rail project, the train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, to run between…. Bakersfield and Merced. Driving that great strawberry patch takes just two-and-a-half hours.

That is, there’s no point in having that 160 mile stretch at all.

Some supporters over the years argued the project should continue because millions of dollars had already been spent.

That’s the sunk cost fallacy. How much we’ve already spent is irrelevant to how much more we should. What we want to know is that is the value we’ll gain from spending how much more? If the value is greater than he cost then let’s do it, less then let’s not. Given there is no value in a high speed train across those 160 miles then and therefore there’s no point in spending more.

Even the extended line wasn’t worth it:

A high-speed rail between the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay area makes no economic sense. Flights between these two metro areas take about one hour, to and from multiple major airports — five in metro L.A., three in the Bay area — while the supposedly high-speed train would probably cost more than a plane ticket and take four hours. Travelers with less money and more time can drive door-to-door between the two in about six hours.

So, shouldn’t have been started, now it’s stopped, good. And all this before we even get to the point that future technology’s going to kill the idea entirely anyway. When self-driving cars truly arrive – OK, maybe not this decade but in a couple certainly – then we step out the front door, get in, punch the buttons and then go back to sleep until we get there. Who the hell wants to go to a train station or airport when that works?

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