Not all Californians are eager to jump on the bullet train bandwagon

The high speed rail line may be a bumpy ride with new problems arising.


Photo by Laura Rico-Zarate

Illustration by Laura Rico-Zarate

Story by Hannah Larson, Grizzly Den Editor

The never-ending issue of politics and dollar signs is popping up again, and the problem is centered on a high-speed rail designed to run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. While some Californians are singing the praises of the high speed rail line, others focus on the drawbacks of this expensive and landscape-altering project.   

   “The bullet train is an interesting piece of technology, but, at present, I don’t think California’s funds should be spent on high speed rail,” Richard Tanaka (11) said.

  Supporters of the bullet train point to the jobs its construction is bringing to the populous San Joaquin Valley. Over 2,300 workers are employed at 20 different job sites related to the high-speed rail project, which has enhanced economic opportunity in a traditionally low-income region of California. In Fresno County alone, where a substantial portion of the high-speed rail construction is taking place, employment opportunities have increased by 30 percent.

  All that glitters is not gold, however, and the idea that the bullet train will speed into the future, leaving jobs in its wake, is not the whole story behind the high-speed rail. Opponents view the bullet train’s construction as a carbon-emitting monster that will add harmful greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Farmers and environmental groups have been especially vocal in their opposition to the bullet train, whose proposed track will dramatically alter present pumps, irrigation systems and wells.

  “I think the concept of a bullet train is exciting, but the drawbacks don’t make it worth it,” Akash Mahajan (10) said.

  The ultimate drawback to the project is the Achilles’ heel of many public works endeavors: money. The first phase alone of the bullet train construction has jumped to an astonishing $10.6 billion. The early proposals suggested the total cost of the bullet train, from start to finish, would be $37 billion dollars. As costs skyrocket, it is frightening to consider what the price tag will be when the train and rail is finally complete.

  “I work for Carl DeMaio making phone calls, and this is a subject that comes up frequently. From what I’ve learned from my experience there, I think government money could be used in a better way,” Tanaka said.

  Although there are many potential problems to consider when examining the idea of a bullet train, this new technology is ultimately another step in the search for new modes of transportation. While the proposals aren’t flawless, they are rudimentary attempts to engineer a better tomorrow; even if the bullet train is on a collision course with a staggering amount of debt, at least the riders will be seated comfortably as they hurtle towards financial ruin.