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Is Gavin Newsom Right to Slow Down California’s High-Speed Train? | The New Yorker
"There is currently a direct train between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, called the Coast Starlight—the ride takes about twelve hours and costs around a hundred dollars. It is also possible to fly between the two cities, hourly throughout the day; the trip is around fifty minutes in the air, and a ticket can be less than a hundred dollars. In reasonable traffic, a car can expect to make the journey, which is roughly the distance from New York City to Brunswick, Maine, in six hours. There are direct buses, too. An S.F.-to-L.A. trip on the high-speed rail would fit amid these options. It is also supposed to cost around a hundred dollars one way and to take two hours and forty minutes, a comfortable length for people wanting to go from downtown to downtown on a schedule, without detouring through the airport—in other words, for business people travelling between the state’s two growing centers of money and power. The High-Speed Rail Authority has produced varying ridership estimates; the highest, a hundred million a year, matches the usage of the Bay Area’s most sprawling regional rail system, bart, which is busy with people making daily metropolitan commutes to work or to school. It’s easy to imagine a San Franciscan family of four with two small kids preferring, over other possibilities, a three-hour train ride on Friday to visit Grandma in L.A. (Cost: something like seven hundred bucks round-trip, assuming there’s a reduced child fare.) But it’s hard to imagine middle-class families making a commuter habit of such trips, especially given the not horribly longer journey possible for just the cost of a full gas tank. In practice, the S.F.-to-L.A. route would operate chiefly as a business train, for inter-city meeting-makers, executives bouncing between offices, multiple-home owners, and unmoored media types. (Disclosure: I would personally love this train.) It’s an alternative connection for already well-connected people.

Smart advocates of the plan, of which there are many, point to the success of high-speed rail elsewhere: in China, in Europe. It’s worth noting, however, where such admirable trains actually go: on suburban and exurban routes, mostly, not metropolitan ones, the trains doing what air travel cannot. By trimming the high-speed rail of its upscale ends (for now), Newsom focussed the rail plan on the communities most underserved by current transit infrastructure—a narrower-use case, but probably one that is more generous to the inland region. Largely agricultural and truly middle-class, the cities between Merced and Bakersfield make up a part of California that risks losing, rather than gaining, steam, especially as some conditions that support the agricultural economy fall away. A major infrastructure project would bring a fresh wave of middle-class workers to these affordable cities. Being the custodians of the state’s most advanced transit, too, would keep those cities on the map and weave an often-atomized agricultural community together. A high-speed train connected to the prospering coast, in contrast, would bind Valley workers to a thriving ecosystem of jobs and bring coastal industry inland—to what end? In a 2000 survey of the topic, Ted Bradshaw, a now-deceased professor at the University of California, Davis, who studied these inland communities, projected social bifurcation. “Underskilled workers fail to find a place in the new economy and are increasingly bypassed, while workers from the high-technology urban centers are encouraged to relocate to the Valley,” he wrote. “While the potential for development is real and the possible benefits are great, these industries face stiff competition from the coastal regions in California.”

To the extent that California has challenges around inequality (and it does), they have tended to come from élite workers compounding their advantage, attracting similarly élite labor from elsewhere, and building a local economy that crowds out anyone who is not affluent or who has obstacles to opportunity access. Few people would really want Bakersfield or Fresno to be the new frontiers of cost refugees—metropolitan workers who can’t afford the cities or just want more bang for their buck. Even fewer would want these inland destinations themselves to become a true extension of the coast—ever more a zone of wealth and the enduring worm-jar competition of an élite class. Purely upscale cities, we are starting to realize, are tedious and sad.

A high-speed rail tying the Valley to the coast will create a new channel for these business-class powers, and it won’t be cheap. According to an analysis by the World Bank, the per-mile cost of building such a system in California is twice the comparable expense in Europe and three times the cost in China: we are paying top dollar for the privilege of emulation. Neither will it come soon. The rail connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles is expected be finished in 2033. By that point, autonomous vehicles, green in both power source and roadway efficiency, are expected to be in commercial use—not everywhere, one assumes, but almost certainly on the stretch of highway separating the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco, and Space X, in L.A. Because autonomous cars are more predictable and more controlled—in short, more train-like—there will be another costly push to streamline existing roadways to their habits. (They can use narrower lanes, for instance.) They also have the virtue, especially in spread-out California, of carrying passengers door to door. The United States is overdue for high-speed rail: it represents the standard we are trailing. But in zooming toward the future it’s important to remember whom we’re taking with us and who is being left behind."
highspeedrail  trains  gavinnewsom  nathanheller  2019  transportation  california  bakersfield  merced  centralvalley  losangeles  sanfrancisco  inequality  cities  urban  urbanism 
yesterday by robertogreco
Why Class Matters
Just to reiterate my main point: real utopias become viable when they span these two strategies, taming and eroding capitalism. That’s why it’s different from old-fashioned Bernsteinian evolutionary socialism. The role of the state in such a transformational project is to defend and expand the spaces in which alternatives are built from below, rather than for the state to provide, to be the central actor in the provision of needs.
class  Marxism  inequality  domination  power  exploitation  Marx  Weber  socialism  anti-capitalism  analyticalMarxism  Althusser  Poulantzas  AlbertMichael  markets  cooperative  utopias  interview  dctagged  dc:contributor=WrightErikOlins 
2 days ago by petej
How to Be an Anticapitalist Today
Give up the fantasy of smashing capitalism. Capitalism is not smashable, at least if you really want to construct an emancipatory future. You may personally be able to escape capitalism by moving off the grid and minimizing your involvement with the money economy and the market, but this is hardly an attractive option for most people, especially those with children, and certainly has little potential to foster a broader process of social emancipation.

If you are concerned about the lives of others, in one way or another you have to deal with capitalist structures and institutions. Taming and eroding capitalism are the only viable options. You need to participate both in political movements for taming capitalism through public policies and in socioeconomic projects of eroding capitalism through the expansion of emancipatory forms of economic activity.

We must renew an energetic progressive social democracy that not only neutralizes the harms of capitalism but also facilitates initiatives to build real utopias with the potential to erode the dominance of capitalism.
anti-capitalism  capitalism  politics  livingStandards  inequality  poverty  growth  productivity  environment  crisis  revolution  socialDemocracy  reform  regulation  redistribution  globalisation  neoliberalism  anarchism  utopias  cooperatives  libraries  P2P  wikipedia  UniversalBasicIncome  dctagged  dc:creator=WrightErikOlin 
2 days ago by petej
Britain needs a day of reckoning. Brexit will provide it | Nesrine Malik | Opinion | The Guardian
It has laid bare our political class, squirming pathetically and uselessly under the micro-scrutiny of Brexit. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos, Brexit rolled over the log and we saw what crawled out. The cavalier incompetence of David Davis, the dissimulating of Boris Johnson, the utter pointlessness of Michael Gove, the existence of Jacob Rees-Mogg and the dishonest and regressive elitism he represents. We have seen ministers entrusted with the future of the country learn on the job, and then flee the scene – revealing Westminster in general, and the Tories in particular, as a Ponzi scheme, a confidence trick. We now realise that the business of serious politics in this country rewards those whose only skill is keeping up the appearance of having a skill.
UK  Brexit  politics  delusion  decline  polarisation  division  exceptionalism  inequality  immigration  climateChange 
2 days ago by petej

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