Why is it not following I-5 and making zero stops in between the South Bay and LA?
Put all the stations on sidings so that stopped trains do not block the main track. Trains operate point-to-point just like aircraft, with everybody getting on and off at the same time.
This means that there is little downside to adding more stops. The trip time for other stops is unaffected. There is no energy or time wasted on intermediate stops.
gets people from SF to LA in a couple hours or so
Privately-run transportation is smarter about stops. The airlines don't make all those stops when going from SF to LA. They do a non-stop flight.
There is no reason a train has to stop, and non-stop trains are still capable of serving all those cities. You buy a ticket, board the train, and it goes non-stop to the destination city. All this requires is that a stopped train doesn't block the other trains from passing through. Put the station off to the side, maybe even a couple miles from the main track.
It's like with cars: we pull over to the side instead of just turning off the engine in the middle of the road.
At a station that uses island platforms, from west to east you have: southbound through traffic, southbound stopping trains, the platform, northbound stopping trains, northbound through trains.
At a station that uses separate platforms, from west to east you have: southbound platform, southbound stopping trains, southbound through trains, northbound through trains, northbound stopping trains, northbound platform.
Of course, in reality the line may have sections with different numbers of tracks. It could be 1, 2, 3, or 4. There could even be gauntlet tracks.
Frankly, I wish we'd stop using my tax dollars for road subsidies in Flyover, Oklabraska and military assault vehicles for local police, but we live in a society, and we don't always get what we individually want. I'm not naïve and realize that politics have always been selfish, but the subsidy arrow in America points solidly toward the middle, and has done so for decades. They're already getting more than their fair share in Bakersfield, so maybe they can shut up for a little while and take a hit for the common good.
The estimates that justified it relied on displaced freeway traffic in the valley, without that and just traffic between the two initial termini (or maybe adding Sab Diego, but if you are avoiding the Valley you presumably drop the planned Sacramento terminus as well) there wouldn't be an economic case for the project at all.
The inland cities won't get to see that benefit, since the train that's supposed to be providing that economic growth would only be doing so for two coastal areas.
Unless you're claiming here that the prosperity of San Francisco and Los Angeles means that Fresno and Bakersfield magically become richer, in which case that'd just be trickle-down economics (but maybe that'd be fitting for the state where Reagan was Governor).
"Frankly, I wish we'd stop using my tax dollars for road subsidies in Flyover, Oklabraska"
Okay, you're free to vote that way. I don't wish that, and I'll tend to vote accordingly. Or, more precisely: I'll be inclined to vote for politicians who in turn vote/act/etc. accordingly.
(I do agree with you about the proliferation of military assault vehicles in civilian police departments, for what it's worth; that's a waste of money that'd be better spent elsewhere, like on transportation infrastructure).
In the case of this train, the point of the State of California funding it is for the State of California as a whole to benefit. If San Francisco and Los Angeles want to build a train that only connects those two cities and leave the rest of the state high and dry, then they can spend their own money on it. If you expect us inland Californians to pitch in, then the least y'all can do is give us some stops in the bigger of our cities.
"They're already getting more than their fair share in Bakersfield"
It's called redistribution of wealth. Just like how some individuals are disadvantaged relative to others, some cities are disadvantaged relative to others. Just like how we help subsidize the welfare of less-fortunate Americans by asking for a greater contribution from more-fortunate Americans, we help subsidize the welfare of less-fortunate cities by asking for a greater contribution from more-fortunate cities.
The subsidy arrow in America points solidly toward the middle because that's where it's needed most right now. Trying to move the arrow back toward the coasts will only amplify that need.
No, that's revisionism. We've been fire-hosing money at rural areas for decades, if not longer. This isn't a recent thing, and it's mostly because our system of government has one branch that over-represents the voices of rural citizens.
"San Francisco and Los Angeles want to build a train that only connects those two cities and leave the rest of the state high and dry, then they can spend their own money on it."
If you expect people to pave roads and provide drinking water and put out forest fires out in Bakersfield, maybe you can spend your own money on it. We'll gladly take our money away from that, and spend it on things we need...like mass transit. Keep up with this absolutist, ultimatum line of thinking, and you're going to lose.
A central justification of building HSR is to not pave roads in the Valley; that is, it displaces freeway construction, expansion, and maintenance that would otherwise be required.
"We've been fire-hosing money at rural areas for decades, if not longer."
Yes, because for decades - if not longer - they haven't had the tax base to support large infrastructure projects, by the very definition of them being rural areas.
"our system of government has one branch that over-represents the voices of rural citizens"
Clarification: it balances them against the overwhelmingly loud collective voice of urban citizens to protect against there being a tyranny of the majority. By enforcing strictly proportional representation, the rural citizens will get steamrolled time and time again. The United States went with a bicameral legislature - and the states followed with their own bicameral legislatures - because its founders recognized that giving minority voices sufficient representation to adequately defend themselves against majority interests is the key to long-term prosperity.
"If you expect people to pave roads and provide drinking water and put out forest fires out in Bakersfield, maybe you can spend your own money on it."
They do pay for those things through taxes. They can't pay as much as giant metropolitan areas, and thus do need financial assistance from said giant metropolitan areas, but it ain't like their residents are magically exempt from state income/property/sales/gas/alcohol/tobacco/etc. taxes, or state DMV fees, or the wide variety of other means by which the State of California collects its revenue.
"Keep up with this absolutist, ultimatum line of thinking, and you're going to lose."
Right back at you: keep up with this absolutist "you dirty farmers don't deserve to ride our fancy new train because we're richer than you" mentality, and you're going to lose. Your position is really the most selfish one possible: burn billions upon billions of dollars on a project that only benefits two already-overwhelmingly-prosperous metropolitan areas in the short term, thus doing nothing to account for the long-term growth of those two areas and their resulting need for their workforce to live further and further away from the city center to be able to afford rent.
Because really, in the long term, connecting SF and LA and Fresno and Bakersfield and (eventually) Sacramento and Stockton and Modesto and San Diego is a surefire recipe for eventual statewide prosperity. San Francisco in particular will have a lot of trouble continuing to grow economically (what with its rising housing costs pushing workers further and further away from the city center) unless there's a fast connection to cheaper places to live; with a high-speed connection to the Central Valley, you now have a more affordable home for a constantly-growing workforce. I'm less familiar with Los Angeles' dynamics in this regard, but I wouldn't be surprised if they saw similar gains. Meanwhile, those rural areas grow and mature and become less reliant on subsidies to operate. Win-win for everyone.
Sure, maybe that costs more upfront, and maybe it'll take a whole 3 hours to get from SF to LA instead of 2.5 (or whatever the actual numbers are, but IIRC even with the stops it's still less than 3 hours between SF and LA), but any sane and rational person would see that those costs are worth it if it means paving the way for California as a whole to continue to grow for another century the same way it has for a century already. Opposing the idea of the Central Valley actually having stops on the CHSR is the definition of irrationality: it'd still cost billions upon billions of dollars, and it ain't like a whole lot of people are clamoring to commute between SF and LA every day (both have thriving economies, and both have high costs of living, so there's no SF/Sac dynamic where people are willing to commute for 2+ hours if it means cheaper rent), so... what would be the point?
The only thing you'd accomplish by making the HSR SF/LA-only would be to extend a nice big metaphorical middle finger toward the Central Valley. If that's your goal, then you do you, but don't be surprised when the Central Valley votes against you while extending it's own middle finger in return.
It is the biggest population center between San Jose and Southern California, though.
We Sacramentans would object to that. We wouldn't adopt some silly slogan about being the world's "Farm-to-Fork Capital" otherwise.
Granted, Sacramento's already the actual capital, so I'm fine with letting them have this one.
Fifth, behind LA, San Diego, San José, and San Francisco.
A major purpose of the train is to reduce future expected freeway traffic that is largely driven by demand between the San Joaquin Valley and the two (well, four in the longest view) termini.
Avoiding the populated parts of the San Joaquin Valley would have missed much of the point of the project.