The long-awaited bullet train that will carry Californians between Los Angeles and San Francisco at an estimated speed of 220 miles an hour isn’t slated to begin running until 2028, but pricing for the coveted ride is already something to speculate about.
According to a study by the Los Angeles Times, the most current projected fare for the train, $86 a ride, would still be one of the most inexpensive high-speed rail trips on a per-mile basis. When funding for the project was first approved, however, tickets were projected to be closer to the $50 range. Fares won’t be fully certain, of course, until the train becomes operational 13 years from now (hopefully), though the regular fare of the bullet train could have a huge hand in its success or lack thereof.
Though the train is projected to be profitable initially, the Times reported that long-range financial and ridership outlooks aren’t bulletproof for a transit system that will operate without taxpayer subsidies.
Compared to Amtrak’s East Coast regional rail and high-speed trains in other parts of the world, the California train is a bargain, even with tickets projected at $86. Rough ridership estimates project revenues will comfortably cover operating costs, but other transit advocates have expressed concern that the train is doing itself a disservice with its current cost estimates.
Joseph Vranich, former president of the National High-Speed Rail Association told the Times, “The train will lose money and require a subsidy. I have not seen a single number that has come out of the California high-speed rail organization that is credible.”
Amtrak’s East Coast rail averages at 50 cents a mile, and often loses customers to cheaper airfare, which could also be a problem for the California train. Fares between Los Angeles and San Francisco have been as low as $68 recently, the Times reported, but the average can range up to $200.
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.