Despite four years and upwards of $86 million spent on the F Street proposal, somehow our Bakersfield City Council failed to consider, or chose to ignore nearly all best practices, in designing our proposed high-speed rail station. Had they learned from the many HSR successes and failures throughout the world, they would not have neglected their primary stakeholders in this project: the riders themselves.
In offensive disregard for future Bakersfield HSR riders, our City Council has designed us the most uncomfortable, least convenient HSR station in all of California.
That’s probably news to you, in part because the City Council has done a shameful job of educating the public on our options. Here’s what they don’t want you to know:
1) F Street is harder to get to and from:
Whether you’re driving, taking GET, Greyhound, Amtrak, a cab, cycling, or walking to the station, the F Street design will take more time and cause more frustration. This frustration will start long before the HSR is operational, as numerous intersections must undergo months (even years) of construction in preparation for extra traffic the station will bring, and transportation experts are still calling the planned improvements inadequate for future HSR traffic demands.
Nowhere in the plans is there a desirable way to walk or bike to the station. The station has no room for an intermodal terminal, so if you want to connect with Amtrak or take public transit anywhere in the city, it’s likely you will have to transfer yet again before getting to your destination. If you’re driving in on the Westside Parkway, you will have no choice but to take busy surface streets to the station because the new Centennial Corridor won’t connect to Highway 99 north of Stockdale Highway/Brundage Lane.
2) F Street has fewer and smaller amenities inside the station:
Allotted spaces for shopping and dining in the F Street station are much smaller than any other planned HSR station in California, leaving little room to accommodate passengers with a pleasurable station experience. To use one comparison, our retail spaces will be about the same size as the bathrooms in the Kings/Tulare station. This space crunch will become even more pronounced once HSR security screening becomes mandatory, and you can bet it will. Small spaces and lots of people means a stressful HSR experience. Small shops and cafes means few places to escape and get comfortable while waiting for the train or your pick-up.
3) F Street has no amenities nearby, and even if it did, very few people would walk to them:
The F Street design is an island amidst parking garages and busy streets. While there will be footpaths to and from the station, few will venture to walk over the frontage road and under the six lanes of Golden State Avenue. For those who would brave the walk, there are currently no hotels, very few shopping/dining options, and no entertainment options close to the station (in stark contrast to the Truxtun station).
Counterintuitively, this lack of amenities is the very reason the Council argues F Street is better. Somehow, they think that redevelopment is guaranteed around their park-and-ride station, even though they have ignored the comfort and convenience of the consumer.
Transportation experts and urban economists have made it clear that the City Council’s playbook has been tried before and failed. Why do we think we can spur economic growth while simultaneously getting away with an unadvisable location strategy and a glaringly inadequate station design? If it’s such a good idea to spur revitalization like the City Council hopes, you’d think Fresno, Sacramento, Burbank, etc., would be moving their stations out of downtown into depressed neighborhoods.
Instead of looking out for the people of Bakersfield and their access to one of the most transformative infrastructure projects of our lifetime, the Council is taking a low-odds bet on revitalization and destroying the consumer’s HSR experience in the meantime.
You deserve to have a HSR station commiserate with other California HSR stations. Bakersfield’s station should be as comfortable and convenient as any other. Speak up for your future experience on the HSR by emailing Fresno_Bakersfield@hsr.ca.gov.
Jonathan Yates recently finished his Masters in International Agricultural Development at UC Davis and now works as a management consultant.