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By Paul Bendix

California High-Speed Rail...a Bit More

Uploaded: Jan 9, 2014

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the topic of high-speed rail in California...a blog that was also a comment on California past and present.

Why is it that half a century ago state taxpayers voted to shell out massive amounts of money on infrastructure projects? It is an intriguing question. No one seemed to comment on this.

Historically, does part of the answer have to do with a more equitable tax structure? In 1959, for example, an income of $100,000 placed you in the 90% tax bracket. Presumably this meant less strain on the middle class. But that's only my guess.

Again the question: around 1960, why did such big public expenditures garner so much popular support?

Responding to a few specific comments – all of them interesting....

We're falling behind in public investment in general, including education and infrastructure. I hate to pit one against the other. We need both.

What is the business case for high-speed rail in California? Again, I welcome ideas here.

Personally, I recall the origins of Crossrail, now Europe's biggest infrastructure project. This system will bring heavy trains east-west under London. To fund it, the UK's major financial sector corporations agreed to a special tax. Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Lloyds, Citibank, etc. voluntarily paid billions of pounds to better connect the City of London with other financial centers.

Buying into Crossrail has nothing to do with population density, by the way. It has to do with getting financial service executives where they want to go.

In general, transportation projects respond to market and environmental need, right? The 150 mile-per-hour Stockholm-Göteborg-Malmö rail line serves a nation larger than California – while Sweden's population slightly exceeds the greater Bay Area's. Why do the Swedes plan to speed the line. Ask them.

As for BART, whatever its imperfections, almost half a million people a day now ride it.

Level boarding for Caltrain is a great idea. It's part of Caltrain's Modernization Project -- and suggestions for speeding the plan and solidifying its funding are most welcome.