In a recent column for Zocalo, I wrote about the importance of designing stations that connect lots of people and institutions if California is going to make high-speed rail successful enough to be worth the massive investment.

I wrote about Fresno and Bakersfield in the column, but there was one station I wanted to talk about but couldn’t space for. The proposed Hanford station serving that town and Visalia.

Hanford and Visalia are two of my favorite places to visit in California, with two lovely and vibrant centers. But an excellent German Marshall Fund report that I cited in my column raises questions about the challenges of a Hanford-Visalia station.

The station would be serving smaller towns, not cities, and wouldn’t be in a downtown. And those counties are lightly populated by California standards. And high-speed rail works best in center cities, for a host of reasons. And it slows down the train, for fewer passengers, when you have stops in less populated places.

It seems unlikely that a station there would serve enough people, and connect enough people and jobs, to be viable. Of course, there could be big investments and planning around a station to create connections – but would they be enough? And would such investment be possible given political opposition locally?

Since connection is so important, I’d suggest it’s not a station worth building.