Menlo rail NIMBY: HSR not needed; fund urban transit instead
- Published Wednesday, November 19, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac
High-speed rail takes dollars from real transit
By Martin Engel
The Almanac carried an editorial about the high-speed train last week
<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/39916>. It points out the
challenges facing Menlo Park if and when the construction teams take
over the swath of land around the 8,500 feet of rail corridor that
bisects our town.
The editorial also identifies me as an opponent of this project,
and a critic of the consequences that will befall our city when the
development process begins. I acknowledge that position and regret
that my frequent words failed to convince a large enough number of
voters to see the project for what it really is in the cold light
In the past and in this newspaper I have sought to present a
position about urban mass transit, its importance and its current
inadequacy on the Peninsula and in the Bay Area.
The Almanac carried a powerful and compelling lead article about
all this in July <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38997>.
Not only is the development of such a mass transit system critical
to the economic well-being of our region, it is where the
investments, intended for the high-speed train project, should and
could have been directed. If the high-speed rail is what I oppose,
urban mass transit is what I support.
The rail project claims that it will mitigate the environmental
damage and traffic congestion of the state's highways. That is a
false claim since a train running between San Francisco and Los
Angeles won't reduce Bay Area traffic problems, or those in the Los
Angeles Basin, for that matter. Each population center suffers from
severe transit difficulties and the billions of dollars earmarked
for this luxury train would be far better invested in relieving our
overburdened local highways with a comprehensive urban mass transit
The point here is to suggest not only how misconceived this
particular high-speed train project is, but what a genuinely
productive investment could have been made. It's not about what
we are against, but what we are for, and aren't going to have.
It is uninformed thinking to posit one transportation mode against
another; to suggest that a train, such as this high-speed train,
is superior to cars or airplanes. They don't do the same job. It's
apples and oranges. These are different modalities. As any craftsman
knows, there is a right tool for the right job. Each of these
"tools" will undergo dramatic technological development over the
next several decades with the awareness of carbon-based fuel
problems. There is a critical role for all of them.
This high-speed rail project has been a solution looking for
problems. It has discovered so many, including a solution to the
current economic disaster, that at least a little skepticism
ought to appear even among the most enthusiastic supporters.
Although sections of it can be a necessary and useful component of
regional mass transit in both population centers, in its current
configuration it is outrageously expensive and unnecessary between
those population centers.
We are about to start building the wrong solution to our state's
transportation problems, and for the wrong reasons, at that. By the
same token, we are not building what we ought or where we ought; a
networked, multi-modal regional transit system, with highly
distributed connectivity. And, that's a shame.
Martin Engel lives on Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park and has written
frequently in opposition to the California high-speed rail bond
measure, which voters passed on Nov. 4.
[BATN: See also:
Comment: Kill HSR to prevent more trains running by my condo
Letter: Anti-rail Menlo Park NIMBY on why rail is "obsolete"
Letters: Readers (Engel) have much to criticize about proposed CA HSR
Comment: I'll say anything to oppose HSR, trains near my condo
Comment: Trackside Menlo Park NIMBY on "scary" push for HSR
Comment: Competitive Caltrain wrong to keep evil BART back
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
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"