To Build Or Not To Build: Bullet Trains
California is a highly developed state, possessing modern cities and the famed “Silicon Valley” at the forefront of technological trends. Besides these things, it is also known for having the best weather conditions and many popular destinations. The question remains, what don’t we have? Bullet trains— high speed trains capable of cutting through rugged mountains and countryside at 200 miles per hour. Some people have broached the question, why haven’t we already caught onto this technology, when other similarly developed countries like China have? Here’s why.
Reasons as to why the U.S. has not yet constructed a bullet train include economic constraints, a lack of political support, population density, and land layout 1. Most families in this country live in neighborhood homes, while China is dominated by high-rise apartment buildings. China’s cities are much more condensed than those of the U.S. – geographically, it is the perfect place to develop high-tech transportation technology. In comparison, the U.S. is full of residential neighborhoods and suburbs, in addition to being separated in the center by the expansive Midwest. In short, the U.S. is relatively spread out, with large cities concentrated on the coastlines and the majority of land area still rural— even in more population-dense areas, most U.S. residents are still living a suburban lifestyle. In fact, if you consider a map of the U.S. train system and compare it to one of Europe or China, you’ll find drastic differences. The train lines that crisscross the land area in these nations signal prevalent use of the railroad system, while there are only sparse lines spanning the western and eastern coasts.
Now, why is California considering construction of a bullet train at all? The short answer is, we aren’t— kind of. Money is a major obstacle. The cost of the current train that the government is looking to place between Silicon Valley and the Central Valley is $64 billion. The voters have only approved $9 billion, the government will contribute $6 billion, and the power plants will give only a couple hundred million, which brings net total funding to roughly $15 billion. If we do the math right, that leaves $49 billion left to scrounge up.
If put in place, the bullet train will be a considerable step forward in technological advancement. Without an adequate budget, however, the U.S. will fall behind the trend blazed by other leading countries – it remains to be seen if we will catch up. If we want to, though, we’ll have to compensate for our geographical and monetary disadvantages.