Proposition 1A will allow California to build a bullet train between San Diego and San Francisco/Sacramento. This project is the best option to fulfill California's growing transportation needs for the next 50 years.
You see, in California, we have a problem: Over the next 22 years, the population is expected to grow 50%; by 2050, our population will nearly double to 60 million. Yet even today, our transportation infrastructure is quickly reaching its limits. Both our intracity highways and airports operate near capacity. Nowhere is this more striking than in San Diego, where our airport will within a year will be operating at 92% of clear-weather capacity, with replacements predicted to cost over $10 billion.
In the year 2000, 600 million trips longer than 100 miles were made along the high speed rail corridor. By 2030, that number is expected to grow by 2/3rds to 900 million. While some of that can be absorbed into the existing infrastructure's capacity, we clearly must also work to increase it, or risk constraining our economy.
High speed rail can play a huge part in this for many reasons:
Developed Technology: The technology behind high speed rail was developed 40 years ago, when Japan opened its first bullet train. It has been refined and implemented in country after country: France, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Italy. There are no theoretical challenges to overcome -- we know how to build it; we just have to do it.
Low construction costs: Since we're using developed technology, relatively little engineering need be taken on. So, the train can be constructed for half the cost of equivalent highway capacity.
Low operation costs: Ridership would only have to be 1/3rd of the predicted numbers for the project to be self-sufficient, meaning the state will have broad leeway to lower fares, pay the project's principle, or buy out our public partners. Every high speed project in the world is profitable, and recent projects in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Italy all became profitable within a decade of opening.
Oil Independence: Despite the current respite from expensive oil, the long term costs of driving long distances look grim. As we speak, OPEC nations are gathering to cut production to ensure that prices don't stay below $100 per barrel long term -- and this means our "low gas prices" are as fragile as a house of cards.
As a result, train ridership projections estimate that 90% of passengers will come from automobiles. The bullet is electric, and can be powered by locally-harvested solar power -- or whatever form of electricity is least expensive at the time. Even if that option turns out to be oil, the train requires 1/4th of the oil per passenger as driving, and 1/3rd as much as flying. So as we enter an age when $100 oil will be but a pleasant memory, rail transportation will ensure that we aren't held over a barrel by high energy prices. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)
Speaking of oil:
Environment: Air quality is a major problem in California. The high speed train will save tens of millions of cross-state car and plane trips a year, potentially replacing oil consumption with solar, nuclear, wind -- really, any kind of power that proves to be feasible.
Geography: California is perfectly suited to a high speed train. With two large population clusters separated by 400 miles, our population is spread out just enough that it is grossly inconvenient to drive from one end to the other, yet close enough that the hassles and delays of airport travel make flying inconvenient relative to the time spent in the air. A train from LA to SF should only take 15 minutes longer than flying when you include door-to-door times.
Convenience: Ever driven from San Diego to San Francisco, Sacramento, or Monterey? I have, probably 7 or 8 times (enough that I've lost count). The biggest problem: Los Angeles is in the way. My options are to either add an hour and a half of travel time and try to drive through after rush hour arriving at my destination when the day's already over, or leave at 3:30 AM to get past LA before traffic hits. The high speed train will be entirely grade-separated, so a trip to San Francisco will take the same time no matter what time I leave. Plus, you don't need a gallon of caffeinated beverage to stay awake through the trip.
Comfort! Because space is not an issue, trains can offer passengers comfortable spaces -- Leg room, elbow room, reclining chairs, room to stand up and walk around, or sleep comfortably. Travel becomes a pleasure rather than a chore.
So, pay no attention to the "Reason Foundation" (a think-tank funded by oil lobbyists), or the "California Rail Foundation" (three guys who formed an 'organization' to sound official).
Pay attention to the numbers, which show how quickly this project will pay for itself.
Pay attention to the economy, which would otherwise grind to a halt costing Californians billions of dollars a year.
Pay attention to your wallet, and how much you stand to save compared to flying or driving.
Pay attention to your city's wallet, as they won't have to pay for highway and airport projects.