This high-speed rail project is a threat for the US

California’s “train to nowhere” shows the challenges ahead.

In 2008, voters in California passed Proposition 1A, giving the state the go-ahead to construct a high-speed rail line. In principle, it was a terrific concept. The train would whisk passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than 3 hours. Eventually it would in addition link San Diego and Sacramento. It was guesstimated that it would take until 2020 to finish up.

But now it is 2022, and til now California’s high-speed rail line is just several concrete bridges and viaducts strewn across the rural Central Valley. Much of the plan had to be altered, reworked, or perhaps even deserted all together. Now the project is decades late and way over budget. And that is not just California’s problem. Because amidst the many factors that plagued the project, a few are baked into the power structure of the US itself.

Watch the video clip above to know just how tough the US makes it to construct infrastructure like California’s high-speed rail line.

California’s plan: 00:00
Local control: 1:48
Federal financing: 3:45
Lawsuits: 5:09
The experience gap: 6:37

Further perusing and sources:

You can find more of Ethan Elkind’s high-speed rail research and evaluation here:

And we very suggest perusing Ralph Vartabedian and Tim Sheehan’s reporting to study more about how this task has affected communities on the ground:

Older business plans, like this one from 2005, helped us comprehend which alternate routes were being considered before the 2008 vote:

This is the 2015 CEQA civil suit report we refer to in the video clip:

Overall infrastructure spending in the US is a vital part of this story, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation had quite a bit of useful assets. The video clip makes use of data from this report in charts on state and federal spending:

Precisely how much the federal government ended up spending on this task and when can be difficult to pin down, but financing agreement written materials like the ones below are publicly available and really helpful:

We in addition discovered this financing timeline from the Eno Center for Transportation exceedingly useful in comprehending the financing and cost projections associated to CAHSR:

A key part of this story is comprehending how far behind its peers the US is in building high-speed rail. This fact sheet on international HSR from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute offers precious revelations on that:

And this 2013 report from the California Rail Foundation helped us comprehend some of the governmental compromises made in the planning of this task:

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  1. Thanks for watching. This week on the channel has been all about power in the US — who has power, how they wield it, and what it explains about how this country works. Check out the other videos in the series here:

    • @The Urbanism Architect I agree. I’ve lived in both Palmdale and San Jose.
      This video suggests the rail should hit population centers then recommends alternative routes that avoid said population centers. They also fail to mention the Palmdale station will connect to Las Vegas.

    • Collin Carmichael

      Look at Alan Fisher’s video response on this topic. He debunks your section on the Palmdale stop.

    • Give a blue state with more regulations then the DMV a huge amount of money and expect anything less then a cluster fluck?

    • Please stop fear mongering. Allan Fisher already did a great video on this. Also California State Agencies even Local ones alway under budgets instead asking for the full amount when it comes infrastructure.

  2. ApolloAerospace

    So none of these problems is high speed rail itself, just outside entities blocking progress. And no, connecting smaller cities along the central valley is not a problem, its necessary. There is also a rather inconvenient mountain range between L.A. and Bakersfield, but circumnavigating that conveniently adds service to 320k people in Palmdale and Lancaster. All of this seems like a repeat of Real Life Lores video about the subject, that was taken down and remade for a good reason.

  3. Untitled Kingdom

    Hahaha Alan Fisher and Reallifelore would like to have a word with y’all

  4. 2:30 fails to mention that the I-5 route wasn’t selected because it would have to go through mountains in an earthquake prone area, which would have brought the cost up exponentially.

  5. 4:21 “…by 2010 the democrat controlled congress had allocated..” Should instead be “..the democratic controlled congress had..” The Party is “Democratic and it’s individual members are “Democrats”. So when speaking of the Democratic Party as a WHOLE then “Democratic” is the correct term. It would have also been correct to say “ 2010 the democrat(s) controlled congress AND had allocated…”

  6. Wiratama Adi Nugraha

    In 3:32, If every city have the station where train needs to stop, actually just copy paste operation system in Tokaido Shinkansen, there’s Nozomi which only stop in big city, Hikari with additional stop in selected middle and small city, and Kodama who stop in all station. It’s win-win solution.

  7. Literally, we cannot have nice things

  8. California the whole state has been wrecked for years!

  9. Might be worth looking at how the US handled building highways…people would fuss about eminent domain, but I think you would be hard pressed to find evidence that the country’s economy has not benefited hugely from that investment.

  10. As a Californian I don’t understand why the Federal government should pay for the high-speed rail in california. The high-speed rail does not go into any other state it stays 100% within the state of California… There’s legal precedence that federal tax dollars should not be spent on projects that are solely within a state. The Erie canal is a great example of this. The federal government didn’t fund it because the Erie canal stayed 100% within the borders of New York..

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