I have big doubts about high-speed rail, but I was glad to see Gov. Jerry Brown take on the subject in a big way. This is a governor who has ducked big questions and big fights. At least he’s thinking bigger—and touching off a big debate.

But pushing for high-speed rail won’t be enough. Brown needs to rethink the shape and design of the system itself. Judging by the state of the state, he’s currently continuing on the course of starting with a stretch of high-speed rail in the Central Valley.

There are reasons for doing that – the biggest one being the federal funding on the table. But for all the money and business plan problems the high-speed rail project, its biggest problem is public support. Such support is slipping in recent polls. And if the public won’t support high-speed rail, it has no hope of being built. Building the first link in a less-populated area of California won’t help that. (Even high-speed rail folks in Spain, quoted in a joint project by various California media organizations this week, seemed aghast at the decision to start in the Central Valley, instead of where people are).

So what would be better? Brown and his allies on the high-speed rail project should move heaven and earth to start the project in a heavily populated area of the state.

Where? Well, the two biggest cities in the state are Los Angeles and San Diego. Why not start by connecting them?

There’s a long tradition of riding the rails between the two cities. It’s a stretch in which high-speed rail would have a huge advantage over the roads (you’re lucky if you can complete that trip in three hours). And there isn’t much competition with flights – since few people take the plane between the two cities. Plus, maybe an LA to San Diego link would shut up this particularly outspoken San Diego-based critic of high-speed rail.

Yes, a San Diego-to-LA link would cost more to build than the Central Valley section. But it would be more cost effective and more likely to win public support (and converts for the idea of high-speed rail), since more people would use it. And yes, San Diego isn’t even included in phase 1 of the current plan.

Which is yet another reason why a new plan is necessary.