Comment: I'll say anything to oppose HSR, trains near my condo
- Published Wednesday, September 5, 2007, by the Menlo Park Almanac
High-speed rail a big, costly mistake
By Martin Engel
As everyone in California knows by now, the new state budget contains
$20 million for the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) this
Watch for an aggressive lobbying campaign in anticipation of the
$10 billion bond issue to be on the ballot in '08. Meanwhile, it
is almost impossible to find articulate objections to this foolish
enterprise either in the press or in the urban transit community.
Just to remind you, the final costs for the LA to San Francisco high-
speed rail line are now projected to be anywhere from $37 billion
to "under $50 billion," depending on which article you read. What
nobody tells us is that these numbers are likely to triple or more
by the time this monstrosity is completed, as they did in
Boston's "Big Dig," and the Bay Bridge renovation.
To keep this discussion as simple as possible, this pork-barrel
boondoggle is the last thing California needs for the next 50
years, all the rhetoric about gridlock and ecology to the contrary.
Well, then what is the most needed thing? California does need
massive injections of development funds to create intra-city and
intra-regional, not inter-city, urban mass transit, particularly
in the LA Basin, including San Diego and points east, as well as
in the Bay Area, extending east into the most rapidly populating
areas toward the Central Valley.
In short, east and west need to be better-connected by transit,
not north and south. Even on the Peninsula, we need more east-west
connectivity linking commuters to the north-south rail artery, just
like an arterial system, all the way out to the capillaries.
If any high-speed line is to be built, how about starting with a San
Francisco-Sacramento line in our area and a San Diego-Los Angeles
line down south. Costs less, is an opportunity to debug a highly
complex technology, and can build support from all of us in
California based upon their success or failure.
If north-south rail needs to meet any real need, it is freight, not
middle- and leisure-class tourists and professionals inconvenienced
by crowded planes. Containerized freight rail will get the diesel
trucks off Interstate 5 and is the most cost-effective mode of land
Intra-city transit systems cannot, must not, consist exclusively of
rail just because the rail-o-crats are pushing harder than anybody
else. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is a good
example. The MTC is myopic for promoting rail to the exclusion of
other modalities when they should be pushing for multi-modal
interconnected networks that include, yes, heavy and light rail, but
also buses, rapid and otherwise, hybrid-van shuttles and whatever
other mode is most appropriate with such highly distributed
populations and places of employment.
Wait, there's more. It has become apparent that there is a social
divide in transit. That divide is a barrier to the effective transit
system that would, most likely, start getting people to choose
transit rather than their own cars.
That divide -- to oversimplify it -- puts most "blue collars" with
incomes under $25,000 per year mostly on buses, while middle class
and professional types ride trains and avoid buses. Furthermore,
65 percent of the bus riders have no other means of transportation,
unlike the train riders. Meanwhile, the VTA is cutting service on
many of its routes, and buses don't begin to connect with rail
stations or each other, anywhere near enough, while Caltrain has
cut station service in San Mateo County.
Hey, MTC, that's your real job, weaving transit connectivity and
building a functional system. Get to work.
Martin Engel lives on Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park.
[BATN: See also:
Comment: Trackside Menlo Park NIMBY on "scary" push for HSR
Engel endorses rabid anti-Dumbarton Rail NIMBY's blitherings
Engel on HSR: "pornographic ... male-enhancement fantasy"
Engel blasts CA High-Speed Rail Authority's "smoke-and-mirrors"
Engel shares "High Speed Rail humor"
Engel debunks Caltrain electrification "fact sheet"
Engel on "Caltrain's misconceptions"
Engel no fan of faster trains -- and/or grade separations
Engel on HSR: "biggest pork-barrel project in the history of humans"
Comment: Competitive Caltrain wrong to keep evil BART back
Comment: I know what's best in the Caltrain schedule debate
Fantasy: Fast, easy, door-to-door transit everywhere for everyone
Menlo Park TOD near Caltrain subject of referendum campaign
Menlo Park train NIMBY calls for inexpensive Caltrain fencing
Letter: NIMBY train foe hints Caltrain plot behind fencing gaps
Letter: NIMBY wise-ass proposes "best ideas" for Caltrain
Letters: Menlo Park Caltrain grade separations