The sluggish pace of California’s high-speed rail project means San Diegans will be waiting a long time to board any super-fast trains.

The project will first connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, but that route is not expected to open until 2029. It’ll be decades until the project’s second phase connects to San Diego.

There are, however, steps local officials could take to speed up train travel in Southern California.

On this week’s San Diego Explained, NBC 7’s Monica Dean and Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts update folks on California’s high-speed rail project and discuss other options for faster train travel in the region.

    This article relates to: News, Public Transportation, San Diego Explained

    Written by Kinsee Morlan

    Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at kinsee.morlan@voiceofsandiego.org. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.

    13 comments
    John H Borja
    John H Borja subscriber

    Here's the bottom line. We are 60 years behind the European times. Are things perfect there? No. And, we are 70 years behind the times from Mexico. How? Connectivity. While the real downside of connectivity in Mexico is the pollution standard which, really, non-existent. However, Mexico, as in Europe people can chose so many different ways to get from point A to point B cheaply. And, with the low wait times and a plethora of routes. The trolley was built to accommodate our bi-national traffic. But, it has not served communities north of I-8. Our buses do not have low wait times and it does take many hours to arrive, for example, from San Ysidro to, say, Kearny-Mesa. 

      And, in my view, Chula Vista really exhibits extremely poor planning. They had a chance to plan for mass transit when they knew in the 1980's that development would occur east of I-805.

    There, four east-west major traffic arteries were built with no connectivity to the trolley. There is very bad connectivity with north-south streets and avenues with very high wait times. 

       And, now, Chula Vista wants a major university. How? It can't handle the parking and traffic of Southwestern College.

        No. It would take a major, major investment in mass transit which most taxpayers would not tolerate. And, the new "promises" from D.C. would, really, amount to a pittance as compared to the need. 

         Pollution is one major problem. But, moving people is the number one issue here.And, people here just can't get their head around real success stories in San Francisco(City) and New York. Are there traffic problems there? Duh. But, do we want to see a bunch of I-405s in San Diego County? Don't we like how beautiful S.D. is...today?

    Jay Berman
    Jay Berman

    Trains are 19th century.  Hyperloop is 21st century and it works.  Private sector will build and operate profitably.  Speeds of up to 700Mph ...  cargo and people ..  

    Dan Quirk
    Dan Quirk

    Most rail will become obsolete within the next decade or so due to self driving electric cars. Technology will also allow the cars to effectively link up with each other on highways into something like a train/caravan. This creates a green and flexible mass transit system that can deliver people door to door. synced/linked cars will also be far more efficient in terms of space utilized on the highways, dramatically easing current congestion, caused by sloppy, erratic, and accident-prone humans that require larger following distances.

    Trains can't solve the last mile problem. They are very expensive and evidence is pretty obvious that most people don't like using it. The % of commuters who use rail is less than 1%. It works in very few places, NYC being the big exception.

    The train tracks can be turned into parks, green space, and bike lanes, which will be a much better use of the space, particularly near the coast.

    The state should stop wasting money on rail, particularly the idiotic and corrupt high speed rail. A plane can fly from San diego to San francisco in an hour. With TSA precheck you can get to airport about 30 minutes prior to flight. It exists today and tickets can be bought for less than $200. We already have a great system in place.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Derek Hofmann @Dan Quirk Mr. Hoffman, what's your source for these astounding figures, the California High Speed Rail Authority?  


    Whatever you think of the myriad transportation "solutions" provided almost weekly, one thing is obvious.  The bullet train, as proposed, is the greatest boondoggle in California's history, and we've had more than our share.  KIll it!  

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Dan Quirk The cost of not building California's $68.4 billion high speed rail line is $119.0 billion for 4,295 new lane-miles of highway, plus $38.6 billion for 115 new airport gates and 4 new runways, for a total cost of $158 billion. If you think saving $89.6 billion is "idiotic" then I hope you have a really good financial planner watching over your retirement! Ha ha!

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Bill Bradshaw My source has been peer-reviewed and the numbers found to be reliable, unlike anything the opponents of HSR have so far come up with. So my numbers come from the best information available to date.

    If you think you can write a better report that contradicts my numbers, feel free to do so and have it peer reviewed. Good luck!

    Dan Quirk
    Dan Quirk

    I lived in NYC and San Francisco. In dense areas, it works. San Diego isn't dense. San Diego is much more spread out than NYC and SF. The ridership levels of current mass transit indicate that people don't use it. I am in favor of mass transit in theory, but it clearly hasn't been embraced in San Diego. It seems foolish to push something on the residents when they don't want it. VOD has a great article breaking down the numbers: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/how-san-diegos-transit-system-stacks-up-nationally-in-four-charts/

    The chance that the high speed rail is effective and costs anywhere close to $68 billion is close to 0. You just have to look at SANDAG's lies with Measure A as one example of how government lies on stuff like this. Was Measure A peer reviewed? What a joke. Merced and Fresno are awesome cities to connect!!! Voters voted for high speed rail, but I think they were misled. I.e. If they were reminded that you can fly from SFO to San diego in an hour for $200, they probably would not have voted for the HSR. There was a lot of bs and lies and misinformation that got this project approved. It will go down as one of the biggest wastes in state and national history. Elon Musk knows it is bs as well. The hyperlooop seems a bit better but I'd have my doubts about that too.

    The streetsblog article on uber is interesting, but I think it is misleading. I am also in favor of buses and rapid bus lanes. Why? Even though there isn't a lot of ridership on buses, they use the highway and street infrastructure. And you can sync/lync self driving electric cars at highway exits/entrances with self driving electric buses. They can be complementary. It comes down to an algorithm. It can work because both are on the same "network", I.e. the roads. And it will be easy to add or remove buses as demand dictates.

    It is rail (and spending more money on expanding it) very specifically that I am against. It is a closed system. It is expensive. It requires perpetual subsidies. And at some point they are going to have to spend $1.6billion to move the train from the crumbling sandstone cliffs in Del Mar. I will note taking the coaster up to San juan Capistrano is quite pleasant and beautiful, but it doesn't really cut the mustard in terms of cost and efficiency for daily commuting.

    The future is synced and self-driving electric vehicles. I also hope we have jet-packs soon!

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Derek Hofmann @Dan Quirk  --I would wager that the total cost of a complete build-out of the so-called high speed rail will probably easily exceed the $68.4 billion figure you mentioned.  Unfortunately, by the time the so-called high-speed rail system is completed as originally proposed, neither of us will be around to see who would win the bet.

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @David Crossley It's possible that the cost will exceed $68.4 billion, but as you can see there's a LOT of room for cost overruns before it approaches the estimated cost of airports and highways, even before they experience cost overruns of their own...

    Derek Hofmann
    Derek Hofmann subscribermember

    @Dan Quirk No bullet train anywhere in the world requires perpetual subsidies.