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Can high speed rail compete with self-driven cars and all the technology of the future? | Singularity Hub

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Brad Templeton writes up an impressive and comprehensive guide to how the technology landscape will radically change around HSR by the time it finally gets online.

When Brad says "compete with", he's referring to the cost of high speed rail (between $68 billion and $99 billion) compared with what we're getting for it (connecting SF and LA by 2028).

He suggests that in the next 15 years self-driving cars "are likely to be common".

He also suggests that improved trains, planes, and telepresence may remove the need for high-speed rail completely.

What his article overlooks is what infrastructure improvements the high-speed rail might be adding as a consequence of being built.

Upgrading the railways from San Francisco to San Jose is one of the first steps, and that will benefit the Bay Area substantially.

I don't really have a horse in this race. I'd like to say yes to everything: high speed rail, self driving cars, and anything else that improves our transportation options. (Self-driving flying cars anyone?)

If the 'consequence' infrastructure improvements are the good/necessary parts, can we just skip forward and do them? Instead of starting with a segment in B-F-Fresno-&-Bakersfield?

If cost were no object, 'yes to everything' would be fine. But 'Yes' to $100B for high speed rail means everything else that money could be spent on -- lower college tuitions, better roads, 30 years of state parks funding -- gets soaked up... and Brad makes a good case the line will be long-obsolete-on-arrival.

Gordon, the Central Valley work comes from federal funding that would have expired if it wasn't used for that; the infrastructure being built or it will be usable by Amtrak:

The funding approved includes $4.5 billion in bonds previously approved by voters, which, in turn, freed up $3.2 billion in federal funding that would otherwise have expired after July 6. $2.6 billion will be used for build an initial 130-mile segment of high-speed line from Madera to Bakersfield in the Central Valley. This initial operating segment will be used when completed for Amtrak's San Joaquin service. Another $1.9 billion will be used to improve existing commuter rail systems, Caltrain (Gilroy-San Francisco (Gilroy-Tamien new trackage due to existing right-of-way being freight-owned)) in the San Francisco area, and Metrolink in LA (Los Angeles-Downtown Burbank), which will later be used to carry the high speed trains into the respective city centers.

Improvements of the Caltrain and Metrolink will be welcome, even if we don't continue with the rest of the high speed rail work after that.

Source: HuffPo

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