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By Steve Levy

Two New Thoughts About High Speed Rail

Uploaded: Nov 30, 2014

At the end of this blog I invite comments on two thoughts related to high sped rail (HSR) in California:

--Will the spread of options like Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and others help solve the challenge of getting to and from the HSR stations?

--Will HSR allow households to live further away from job centers in less expensive locations and commute in without adding to car traffic?


I was part of the original (1998) HSR consulting team and expressed reservations about the ridership projections. I voted against HSR and have told the Governor, who I voted for and generally support, that I thought the HSR money would be better spent improving intra-regional mobility and commute options.

The main problem I saw and still see is that there are substantial challenges in getting to and from the HSR stations. These challenges cast doubt on the total travel time and cost projections and, hence, the ridership projections. One clear problem is that most if not all stations do not have the capacity to house the parking, shuttle and taxi service that is available at airports in the Bay Area and Southern California.

The Origin and Destination Trip End Challenge

Could services like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar reduce the time and cost of getting to and from the HSR stations? While some trips begin and end near HSR stations, most do not forcing many riders to take taxis or drive and park—both expensive options and often time consuming as well.

Do any readers regularly use these services and also take north-south trips? Do these options make it more likely that HSR would work for you?

Helping the Housing Affordability Challenge

Housing is generally cheaper farther away from job centers. The current HSR alignment would open up Kern County as a residential commuting center into the San Fernando Valley and open up Monterey and San Benito and southern Santa Clara counties as residential commuting options in the Bay Area that would not require much car usage.

This service is at least a decade away but over the long term could be part of addressing housing affordability and access in parts of the state's two largest regions.

The usual guidelines apply—stay on the topic, which is these two thoughts, no personal comments or put downs. There are plenty of other threads on high speed rail for those who want to comment outside these guidelines.