Can we take a leap of faith....
Today I briefly attended the public hearing in Mountain View for the California High Speed Rail initiative. It was really heartening in that it was an overflow crowd. People really were interested both pro and con. It's rare that people get excited about transit. I personally am not sure where I stand on the issue. An interesting point made was that HSR is meant to connect cities, while mass transit is meant to service within cities. A big distinction. A lot of the motivation for HSR comes from projections of population in California and needing to service that growth. Freeways or rails. I honestly don't know how much inter city transit there is, but based on ridership it seem plausible (assuming the numbers are trustworthy and/or accurate).
The big challenge for HSR is despite the bond initiative passing, it only covers a part of the total expense of the system. So the debate at hand is how to spend the money effectively to show the efficacy of HSR. Build at the start poorly and all trust is loss. Hard decisions.
What is clear is that automobiles cannot dominate. Over the weekend Tom Friedman had a nice column It starts on the theme of traffic and continues on with the issue of energy sufficiency on an increasingly crowded planet. We definitely cannot use the same model going forward.