As I write this on April 18, 2020, there are over 156,000 global deaths due to COVID-19, which is actually a tiny percent, however, this disease is incredibly communicable and is still not well understood.
I’ve written a couple of articles already that opine on changes we might see in society as the world transitions back to normalcy that you can read here and here. When I saw an article yesterday that California was moving forward with a $600,000,000 bond to build a supposed high-speed train from Apple Valley to Las Vegas, and it will supposedly be clean. I say “supposed” and “supposedly” because these were supposed to happen for the other high-speed train in California, but with all the payola going on, it will never happen. The aforementioned article says Apple Valley is only an hour from Los Angeles, but that’s only true for the eastern edge of the city and no traffic, which is never the case, so the driving leg of the trip is between 2 and 3 hours and under normal conditions, it is about a 2 ½ hour drive from Apple Valley to Las Vegas. They are saying this train will take 90 minutes to get to Vegas at 200 MPH, which is weird because it is 190 miles, so it should be less than 1 hour. So they are saying they can save you an hour, but that doesn’t count your time to park, get to the train, go through security, wait for the train and then go, and then you have no transportation once you get to Vegas. On the surface, the whole thing is a dumb idea and just another way to waste taxpayer money to line consultant’s pockets.
Let’s look at how a post-COVID-19 world impacts this. Who the heck wants to get into a crowded bus, train or plane while a virus is floating around? Are they going to do an on spot viral check as part of security screening to get on the train? You’re going to drive 2 hours to a train and maybe get denied because you fail that test? Did you see the man that was recently pulled from a bus for not wearing a face mask? Maybe it won’t matter in the 15 years this project will probably take, but I predict that the current pandemic has shown many companies how to effectively work remotely, which often leads to better productivity, happier employees and lower infrastructure costs for the companies, many companies are going to keep it up. More remote work means less traffic and more exodus from urban centers where it has become far too expensive to live for most people. Some areas like New York City and San Francisco have public transportation that is basically required because of how expensive it is, and it is no surprise we see so many COVID cases in those cities. Los Angeles has been trying to do the same thing by implementing projects and policies to make driving a car as painful and expensive as possible.
What should California do instead of a magical choo-choo that runs on rainbows and gumdrops? Build high-speed lanes for cars, similar to the Autobahn but set a minimum speed at 100mph or something like that. These lanes could also be utilized for self-driving cars, which are going to radically change everything when it comes to transportation. Between a societal shift with social distancing, remote worker technology, and self-driving cars, the idea of conventional transportation or massive fixed point transportation systems like a train, become incredibly silly. I know it is too much to ask our politicians to show some common sense and foresight, but I really wish they would.