As of June 2016, California’s high-speed rail project has been derailed, since funding has failed to meet the necessary financial obligations. According to “Bloomberg View,” California’s high-speed rail system looks more like an expensive social experiment with a goal of determining how long private and public funding sources will endure. The high-speed rail system is considered a Hyperloop. “The Las Vegas Review-Journal” defines a Hyperloop as, a system that utilizes technology to magnetically levitate pods carrying passengers or cargo at speeds up to 600 miles per hour through a tube.
California residents will have the opportunity to vote their decision in November about potential tax hikes to pay for the expensive project. In 2008, the proposed ticket price for travel on the high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles was $50. In 2016, the revised ticket price was closer to $80. The original proposal for a Hyperloop along California’s coast claimed it would take 2.5 hours to transport people and cargo between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The project’s investors promised the Hyperloop would attract the necessary funding because it would revolutionize the transportation and cargo industries. They also claimed the project would flourish without ongoing subsidies. This was a necessity of the project in order to keep the ticket prices competitive with the cheap flights available. Taking these promises to the polls in November 2008, 53.7 percent of Californians voted in favor of the high-speed rail project and the $9.95 billion bond used to initiate the project.
In May 2016, a cap-and-trade auction for greenhouse gasses was expected to generate $150 million for the project. In reality, the event only produced $2.5 million. Since the state funding began to dry up the Californian high-speed rail project has been derailed.
“The New York Times” reported, that California’s public transit agencies are pushing the 2016 ballot measures, not only for the high-speed rail system but money for other areas of transportation maintenance including widening highways and filling potholes. Several counties in California will vote on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to continue to fund all necessary transportation projects. Los Angeles County has implemented half-cent tax increases over the last eight years.
It has been acknowledged that in 2008, Los Angeles County approved the tax increase over a thirty-year period, but failed to extend the plan in 2012. The initial vote in 2008, took place before the recent recession. This reality makes the upcoming vote important because it has been eight years and California residents will be able to decide how they want their tax money spent.
California’s high-speed rail project has been derailed but has not been canceled altogether. This project holds a lot of potential for the state. Claims have been made that there is a chance for the project to be expanded to a neighboring state. It has been announced, Xpress West has been chosen to build an interoperable and compatible high-speed rail system to link Las Vegas, Nevada to the California line.
This new project should revitalize the investors and voters in the state of California not only to invest in the high-speed rail system but to fund all of the transportation projects needed. UCLA Urban planning professor Brian D. Taylor claims the proposed sales tax increases are the only realistic way to pay for the transportation projects.
At the same time, Taylor concluded his statement mentioning government officials and voters never like to hear about a tax hike related to their already ballooned gas budgets. The future of California’s derailed high-speed rail system is now in the hands of the residents of California and their elected officials.
By Kristina Lasher
Edited by Cathy Milne
Las Vegas Review-Journal: XpressWest executives have talked Hyperloop One about high-speed rail project
Bloomberg View: California Hits the Brakes on High-Speed Rail Fiasco
The New York Times: California Today: How Badly Do You Want That New Rail Line?
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