Linking California's Economic Engines with High-Speed Rail

In the most recent edition of the San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association's publication, The Urbanist, two articles strengthen the already solid case for high-speed rail in California. The articles were written initially for an America 2050 research seminar sponsored by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Regional Plan Association this spring. Not only can the state afford to fund the project, argues SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan in "Getting High-Speed Rail On Track," but two of the state's most influential industries - the Hollywood media and entertainment industry and Silicon Valley technology sector - would be knit more tightly than ever before by a high-speed rail system that would realize "the economic potential of enhanced access and exchange across the state," a benefit discussed detailed in Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf's "Hollywood Vs. Silicon Valley."

In "Getting High-Speed Rail On Track," SPUR argues that California has a large enough economy and sufficient wealth to foot the bill for high-speed rail through a mix of road tolls, vehicle license fees, gas taxes, regional general obligation bonds, value capture mechanisms, and state carbon cap-and-trade auction revenue, which currently generate around $2.7 billion annually across the state. According to SPUR, these state revenues could over time yield $43 billion or more for high-speed rail, more than enough to cover the $38 billion currently pegged in the budget to come from federal sources of the project's $68 billion total estimated cost. 

SPUR's analysis estimates revenues based on relatively conservative increases in taxes, tolls, and land value capture models, but concedes that fiscally small increases can have disproportionately high political price tags. The central point of the analysis, however, is to demonstrate that California can fund its high-speed rail program, regardless of whether or not the current political mood will allow it. 

"Hollywood vs.Silicon Valley" assesses the ways the ascent of the Internet and digital culture have necessitated a sometimes-uneasy alliance between the technology sector and entertainment industry -- the latter's century-old profit model and cultural dominance having been shaken by the revolutionary technologies developed by the former in recent years. These industries, Metcalf argues, are experiencing a dynamic of increasing convergence, as Hollywood adapts to the new landscape of users in the place of consumers and Silicon Valley continuously works among new regulatory and legal frameworks protecting the intellectual property of media and entertainment titans. 

Metcalf concludes his article by implying that new synergies between California's homegrown culture and technology giants could potentially be forged by shortening the physical distance between their bases with a new high-speed rail link from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. The Urbanist article offers just one example of the integrative possibilities of high-speed rail for California's Northern and Southern megaregions, both from a cultural and economic vantage point -- one more benefit on the already extensive list of opportunities presented by high-speed rail.