A Train to Nowhere: Not A Train Through Nowhere

Wendell Cox
Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission

Cross-posted at NewGeography.

In expressing its opposition to the California High Speed Rail line, Washington Post editorialists noted that critics of the now approved Borden to Corcoran segment have called the line a “train to nowhere” (“Hitting the breaks on California’s high speed rail experiment“). The Post call this:

…a bit unfair, since some of the towns along the way have expensively redeveloped downtowns that may now suffer from the frequent noise and vibration of trains roaring through them.

What the Post missed, however, is that a “train to nowhere” is not a “train through nowhere.” There is no doubt that the high viaducts and the noisy trains have potential to do great harm to the livability of the communities through which it passes. This is one of the reasons that the French have largely avoided operating their high speed rail trains through urban areas, except at relatively low speeds. Stations, except for in the largest urban areas, are generally beyond the urban fringe and towns are bypassed. Yet, one of the decisions not yet made in California, for example, is whether the town of Corcoran will be cut in half by the intrusive, noisy line.

There would be nothing but grief for the towns through which the California high speed rail lines would pass, but not stop (this is not to discount the disruption the line will cause even where it would stop, such as in Fresno). It may be a train to nowhere, but it is a train through places that people care about.

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