It's not surprising that most California voters want a do-over on high-speed rail. They certainly should, since what they are getting isn't what they were sold.
Fifty-two percent of respondents in a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll said the bullet train project should be stopped. The polls was taken in September and released last weekend. Of the 1,500 registered voters sampled, just 43 percent wanted the project to continue.
If anything, it's a bit surprising that 43 percent of voters still want the train to move ahead. After all, the projected cost of the project is now nearly twice what it was when voters approved it and that new price does not include all of the routes that were promised. And that current estimate is almost certainly quite low given that it appears construction, which was supposed to begin in 2012, will not start until sometime next year -- unless a lawsuit delays it further, piling on more costs.
Voters approved a 2008 ballot measure to sell bonds to get the rail project rolling. But, according to the poll, 70 percent want the project to appear on the ballot again to give voters another chance to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. That figure is rising fast, up from 55 percent in a similar poll a year ago, as voters get a closer look at the obstacles the bullet train faces.
A Sacramento judge ruled in August that the rail construction authority had violated two aspects of the 2008 ballot measure. In November there will be hearings on possible punishment for those violations.
The construction authority is still trying to buy about 325 rural properties for the first segment of track through the in the Central Valley -- where ridership demand is highly questionable.
The full, L.A.-to-Bay Area route is projected to open in 2029.
Fifty-one percent of respondents termed the project a waste of money, and 63 percent said they would never or seldom take the train. Fifty-eight percent of the voters would rather fly (32 percent) or drive (26 percent) between Southern California and the Bay Area even if a bullet train were available, while 39 percent would rather take the train.
Amusingly, if the Hyperloop -- high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's proposed, somewhat fanciful tube transport concept -- were available, 55 percent would take it compared to 14 percent who would drive, 13 percent who would take the train and 13 percent who would fly. But 65 percent thought the Hyperloop was unrealistic.
But then, so is the bullet train at its projected cost, the way things are going.