Could High-Speed Rail Take Us to Mars?


News item: the estimated cost of building California's high-speed rail system has increased, again, to at least $60 billion, perhaps as much as $80 billion, and maybe more, according to the Mercury News.

This comes on top of news that ridership of the system likely will be lower than previously estimated.

How much is that? Put it this way, space travel is much, much cheaper than a fast train to San Francisco.

The annual budget of NASA is $18 billion. Estimates of a manned mission to Mars are between $30 and $40 billion -- half as much as California high-speed rail.

Right now, I can't get to Mars. But I have a host of ways -- flying, driving, taking the bus, or taking a slow train -- of getting from my home in LA to the Bay Area.

So why not take that high-speed rail money and use it instead for a state space program? Yes, space travel is notoriously expensive. But a space program would be cheaper and more likely to produce innovation and economic breakthroughs than high-speed rail.

And if it seems outlandish for a state with California's fiscal problems to start its own space program, just thnk about what that says about the practicality of high-speed rail.

Or to put it another way: If we're going to spend that kind of money on a transportation program, shouldn't it take Californians out of low earth orbit?

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