I’m guessing — now — that it was never meant to be. That’s the lament when you begin to recognize the obvious in dashed hopes. Well, maybe not dashed, but at least a realization of a very apparent lack of fruition. In Monday’s Los Angeles Times there was a front page story on yet another snag in the wearying push to introduce high speed rail to California. This time — after all of this time — it’s the environmental card — once again — and in particular, it’s the San Joaquin kit fox, who you’ve probably never heard of. And the problem, environmentalists now say, would be the construction of the system, not the trains themselves. Too many diesel fumes from the earth-moving equipment, more toxic, I’m guessing, than the thousands of semis that roar up and down Interstate 5 near the proposed rail route.
Now the hard approach is to note that more than 200 species are rendered extinct each and every day — that’s somebody’s guess — so what’s one more? I don’t take the callous view, but I do think that we sometimes get a bit overwrought with these things and blind ourselves to easy solutions. Any problem with moving the little guys to a new neighborhood?
Anyhow, yet another lame excuse in the favor of the very powerful agriculture lobby, which seemingly was all too eager to see freeways built — with the diesel fumes — in order to move product to market.
You could say that nobody really wants high speed rail. Yet there were the good people of the state who approved fresh tax dollars to set the project on its way. Then too, there were the unexpected funds from two other states that wouldn’t be caught dead with largesse from a black and Democratic president, and who had the bad taste to dream bigger than they did. So it turns out that there are people who do want the option to zip north or south at close to 200 mph without stepping on an airplane: i.e., it’s not just me.
But I’m figuring that it’s just not going to happen, yet another sad trophy for influential political groups who simply want it that way. And here, for the record, is what we’ll be missing out on, European style…
Last year in May, I had an option to meet Kris in Paris. Plan A was to follow a flight she was on to Charles De Galle International Airport. If that didn’t pan out — no seat — I would go instead to Brussels — Plan B — and take a train to Gare du Nord station in Paris, with the option of getting on the Metro to move farther across the city.
Complicated? Not at all. Expensive? An extra 120 bucks.
Plan B it was.
At the Brussels airport I breezed through customs, walked down two flights of stairs, and got on a commuter train into the city. From the same station I boarded the Thalys high speed (180 mph) train direct to Gare du Nord. I was there in an hour and 20 minutes flat. Some years ago, my brother and his wife drove a parallel route and it took them four hours. Once in Paris I had the choice of a local train (the Metro) or a cab to complete my journey. Further, I had no problem with language, although that’s not what we’re talking about here.
The very big deal was the speed and the convenience. In contrast, think about what’s involved if you need to get a flight from LAX and you just happen to live anywhere north of the city — say Lancaster. Then think about going from the same place to the Bay Area on high speed rail — a journey that might take two hours.
But it’s all pointless now. High speed rail is effectively gone. Not in your lifetime. Not in this country (too much like Europe?). And doubly sad for me, because as the man said, I’ve been to the mountain, and it really is dazzling. And that’s what I think about when I’m on the north-bound 5 at…well, almost any time of day, take your pick.