How long does flying from LA to SF really take?

I’m a fervent supporter of California’s fantastic high-speed rail project. The massive infrastructure project would shuttle between California’s southern and northern urban centers in as little as 2.5 hours.

It has some issues, but I firmly believe that it’s a great project for California, and something we desperately need. This was underscored recently, when my girlfriend decided to move to the Los Angeles Area. As a San Francisco, I’ll be taking frequent trips down there.

When discussing high-speed rail, people have often asked, why not just fly. It takes an hour! Well, I flew back up to San Francisco this past weekend and I did a little time-tracking to see how long it actually took. And when looking at these times, know that I’m the kind of person that arrives at the airport at the last possible minute — which was true for this trip.

6:55 – Left my girlfriend’s Orange County home
7:25 – Arrived at airport
7:39 – Finished going through security
7:40 – Boarding began
8:10 – Flight was delayed due to fog
8:43 – Flight takes off
10:00 – Flight lands
10:15 – Got on BART, luckily only waiting 1 min for train
10:58 – Arrive at my office in SOMA

As you can see, it’s not exactly an hour-long trip. Now, high-speed rail probably wouldn’t have been faster, considering I was coming from Orange County and not downtown Los Angeles (where express trains will likely depart).

But the rail-based trip would be almost imperceptible to weather and delays, and instead of a ton of mode changes to my final destination, I could have sat down on a train in Anaheim and, a few hours later, arrived in downtown San Francisco. I could have worked the entire time (no turning off my laptop until 10k feet), and my trip would have been cheaper — I paid $99 months ago for the flight — and more environmentally friendly.

And of course, I would get to see the scenery up close, and not 30,000 feet up 🙂

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