The last several weeks I’ve had to follow the California workers’ comp scene from afar.
That’s because I was traveling in Asia. It’s always interesting to engage another culture and see one’s own through that other lens.
One can see wacky trends. For example, the nerdy girl look seems to be quite in vogue. Even girls who don’t need glasses were wearing glass frames without……glass.
But what about more substantive stuff?
California’s high speed rail venture is looking quite wobbly now. The Central Valley route under consideration and the economic assumptions of the project are questionable. But a ride on the Hong Kong airport train or Taiwan’s high speed rail makes it crystal clear that high speed rail is a concept worth fighting for.
Like China, Taiwan has been in an infrastructure building boom. Freeways, subways and other transportation projects appeared to be in process al over Taipei and Hong Kong.
Here in the Bay Area, traffic often is snarled between San Francisco or Oakland and Silicon Valley. Taiwan’s Silicon Valley is Hsinchu, about the same distance from Taipei as San Jose is from San Francisco. Yet, Taiwan’s High Speed Rail zips passengers to Hsinchu in about 20 minutes, all in air-conditioned comfort with wi-fi.
There’s plenty of shave ice with red beans awaiting as you disembark.
In Hong Kong an efficient train will whisk you off to Hong Kong Disneyland.
The huge Computex trade show was on in Taipei while I was there, and the HSR as it is called was filled with tech folks making their way to and from Hsinchu.
Hong Kong and Taipei are among earth’s most densely populated cities, however.
So building Asian high speed rail clearly was a logistical feat, but one destined for success, with a huge potential ridership base.
One can’t say the same thing about a California high speed rail plan that would begin by linking some smaller towns south of Fresno.
The urge to build more miles and at cheaper cost in the Central Valley may make sense to some planner or bureaucrat, but the risk is that even if the plan proceeds, it will be a train to nowhere with no riders.
And ultimately a system which never gets built.
I’ll be sad if California’s high speed rail never gets built. Should that be the case, it would appear to be a collective failure of imagination.
We can do a lot better than we are doing.