California has weaponized transportation against its own population
Opinion by Washington Examiner
In 2008, California voters approved what was supposed to be a $33 billion high-speed rail project to connect Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco. What they are actually getting is a project that may still never connect those cities but will cost at least $113 billion and won’t be completed until at least 2030.
In the meantime, California’s legislature is as determined as ever to make affordable transportation illegal, going so far as to ban gasoline-powered automobiles.
The high-speed rail project is a predictable rat’s nest of rent-seeking by politically connected contractors. Assuming it is actually ever finished, it will require constant operating subsidies and maintenance costs. This California crazy train was back in the news last week because it received one of many environmental green lights required for its completion, which will come no sooner than 2033. However, be prepared for disappointment — this project has consistently blown through every cost estimate and time projection that has been applied to it so far.
Assuming it doesn’t become even more expensive, this project is already costing each California household more than $8,600. Note that for $113 billion, the state could instead purchase a median-priced, two-bedroom home outright for each of its 134,000 homeless residents, even at today’s inflated prices, and still have more than enough left over to buy each one a Tesla.
This colossal waste of money on a pie-in-the-sky transportation project comes in tandem with California’s determination to ban internal combustion engines. Starting in 2035, it will be illegal to sell new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in the state, with the exception of a small percentage of hybrid models.
But electric vehicles are quite expensive. And so this policy, which would be burdensome even in a relatively car-free place like New York City, will be crushing in a state whose entire geography and culture center on the automobile. This new price might make certain legislators feel good about themselves, but it will price many low-income Californians, already stressed by high housing prices, out of their commutes as well.
California is already seeing a population exodus, mostly middle-income or wealthy people in their peak earning years (age 25 to 64), to states where there are better opportunities and lower living costs, such as Texas, Idaho, and Utah. In absolute terms, the Golden State lost the population of Springfield, Missouri, in 2021 (173,000). But it lost even more — the rough population equivalent of Buffalo (277,000) — to net domestic migration in that same year.
Based on the policies its legislature keeps passing, California seems determined to become a state where the only remaining residents are the unemployed homeless and the filthy rich. When they aren’t trying to push residents out of the state, they seem most interested in discouraging new residents from moving there. Will you want to move there if it means your next car is going to cost you north of $50,000? If it means you’re going to be paying higher taxes to subsidize an unprofitable high-speed rail line to nowhere?
California is said to be Democrats’ model for the nation. But if they succeed in turning America into California, where will everyone flee to — and what kind of cars will they be allowed to drive on their way out?