So, I don't quite know what to make of this poll, but I'll pass it along anyway. The San Francisco Examiner is reporting on a poll done by BW Research Partners. The poll is about HSR, but takes what I would consider something of an odd tack - asking if Californians would support HSR even if it meant limiting air travel to do so:
Would you support limiting flights to cities in California and having passengers use a high-speed-rail system to get to destinations in Central and Southern California?
Not Sure: 26%
No answer: 1%
Would you still support limiting flights if you knew that the high-speed rail would cost about the same as air travel, but would take 2½ hours to get to Southern California?
Not sure: 12%
No answer: 1%
The survey by BW Research Partnership, a public-opinion research firm, asked as many as 2,000 registered voters questions about how they would envision the future of the major airports in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
Umm...OK. I'm not quite sure that the issue is "limiting flights", since the experience of HSR on major corridors (Madrid-Barcelona, or London-Paris) is that the travel market shifts and flights decline as a response to changing ridership patterns and not to legislative mandates. I'm not aware of any efforts to officially limit flights in order to help build HSR, so I really don't know what generated this poll. Nor do I know who paid for it.
It is worth noting that HSR will be integrated with air travel in California - at SFO, SJC, potentially PMD (Palmdale) ONT and SAN. SFO's administrators welcome high speed trains, and we're seeing similar support emerge among San Diego airport planners.
Still, the poll does show that at least in the SF Bay Area, Californians strongly support HSR even if it were to be framed as undermining air travel.
Public support as shown in this poll (for whatever it's worth) is bolstered by support from leading American politicians, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as expressed on Meet the Press yesterday morning:
Schwarzenegger was joined on the Sunday morning show by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who are part of a bipartisan coalition of elected officials pushing for increased infrastructure investment.
"Look, everyone gets stuck in traffic. There is no reason why we should get stuck in traffic," Schwarzenegger said on the show.
More than once during the interview, the three elected officials spoke of high-speed rail.
"This country desperately needs to build a high-speed rail passenger system," Rendell said, adding that other infrastructure projects also were of vital importance.
You can see some of Arnold's remarks on this, including his desire to use public-private partnerships to fund this (but also willing to consider a higher gas tax), here:
Of course, Arnold tends to play a governor on TV but not off screen. He is notorious for playing up his leadership when the cameras roll, but for not being willing to assert leadership within government for important projects or bills. If Arnold wants HSR to be built, he could for example ensure that the CHSRA gets the $29.1 million it needs to continue operations, or help produce a solution to the Transbay Terminal mess, or help resolve the dispute on the Peninsula. That's more valuable at this point for the HSR project than going on Meet the Press yet again to show how awesome he us.