Photo courtesy California High-Speed Rail Authority
The portion of the bullet train that will run from Silicon Valley to Central Calif. is already under construction.
“When we went around the state and talked to people about what they really need, just regular middle class people, what they really would like is better local transit systems,” Altman tells CNBC Make It of the state-wide focus groups Y Combinator conducted in March through June of this year. “So they’d like the ability to live an hour outside of San Francisco in a much cheaper area but be able to get into the city to work. So there’s a lot of enthusiasm for a much better Bay Area transit system.”
Altman also argues the bullet train will be outdated before it is even built. “By the time it’s completed, we will have new and much better technology, like high-speed self-driving cars, electric airplanes, and maybe even Hyperloops,” he writes. The Hyperloop is a transport system that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working to develop, where pods would whisk people through tubes at speeds over 700 miles per hour.
Altman knows there is not a pot of $64 billion sitting ready to be redirected from the bullet train. Although the first phase, running from Silicon Valley to Central California, is expected to begin passenger service in 2025, according to the 2016 business plan, much of the future construction is still unfunded. The California High-Speed Rail Authority, the state agency in charge, says it will seek additional money when the first phase is finished.
According to the Authority, some of the money will be used to improve smaller, local train systems so that they can connect to the high-speed rail system, but it will not be used for more widespread local transit system improvements.
Altman says the system is not yet fully funded because many investors aren’t on board with the project. “There are people that would be willing to invest in a transit system they felt more confident about,” like his local idea, he tells CNBC Make It.
Altman is asking for digital signatures on his petition to redirect bullet train funding of those who support the idea as a way to measure its popularity.