Recommended: "Bullet train is California's latest dream"
m82a1_dawson@... has recommended this article from
The Christian Science Monitor's electronic edition.
Thought this would be of interest. ASD
Sign up for the Monitor Treeless Edition!
Click here to email this story to a friend:
Click here to read this story online:
Headline: Bullet train is California's latest dream
Byline: Daniel B. Wood Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
(LOS ANGELES)Someday a 700-mile bullet train may shoot north-south through
California, and already the idea means that fresh debate is shooting
through this state on quality-of-life issues ranging from smog to
congestion, from sprawl to the Golden State virtue of mobility.
Of course, the estimated price tag of $37 billion for a high-speed rail
from San Diego, to L.A., to San Francisco - with possible connections
through the Central Valley to Sacramento - is raising eyebrows during
the current budget crunch.
But that isn't stopping anyone here from at least pondering the bliss
of a rapid ride through oak-adorned hills while enveloped in a cushy
In fact, the first $10 billion of the cost, for a first leg of the
project, is currently planned for a November vote.
Costly, but perhaps not costliest
Some say that vote could be derailed. But a new draft report by the
state commission that has been studying the project for years, says the
cost may be half of other alternatives for transporting a projected 68
million riders by 2020.
To move the same people by car and/or plane would require $82 billion
of upgrades, including 2,970 additional miles of freeway lanes, 60 new
airport gates and five new runways, the report says..
"Up to 98 million more intercity [region to region] trips and 11
million more [residents] will mean a greater demand on the state's
infrastructure," says the study by the California High Speed Rail
Authority. That growth will result in "more traffic congestion, reduced
safety, more air pollution, longer travel times, less reliability, and
less predictability in intercity travel."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed putting off the vote,
looking over his shoulder at his own proposed $15 billion bond measure
to solve the state's financial crunch. But other transportation experts
and agencies are welcoming formal dialogue because it could inform
substantive debate about other projects planned up and down the state.
Long-term land use questions
"The notion of a high-speed rail in California, if taken seriously, has
to be connected with land use and development patterns which could be a
long-term determinant in how and where California grows," says Martin
Wachs, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the
University of California, Berkeley, and a professor of regional
planning. Divorced from ideas on how to connect the rail to current and
future development, the rail could be little used and ill-advised he
said. But with proper planning and coordination, which is politically
and legally very difficult, the train could be highly useful.
Wachs and others have questioned the report's estimated cost of the
rail, which would connect L.A., San Jose, and San Francisco, with
extensions to San Diego and Sacramento. A 1999 estimate for the rail
was only $25 billion. And they say environmental impacts are subject to
great change as the project proceeds, both as elevated rail, in
trenches and through tunnels.
The railroad's cars would travel up to 200 miles per hour or more,
making them competitive with jets, which now shuttle customers from San
Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland to several Los Angeles-area airports.
The 2 hour, 25 minute train ride from San Francisco to L.A. compares
with a 1 hour, 20 minute flight time between the city's two
"So much depends on what ensues over the years, from the price of gas
for automobiles and planes, to airline ticket prices, to development
patterns," says Wachs. "So much of land use issues are politically
volatile because they are largely locally controlled."
Highways not enough
Others say that no matter what the fate of high-speed rail, some new
vision of transportation across California is warranted.
"It's going to take a lot more than more or wider highways to solve
California's growing transportation needs in 20 years," says Steve
Finnegan, analyst for the Southern California Auto Club.
He says an entirely new freeway may need to parallel Highway 5, which
dissects the Central Valley, just to accommodate population growth
there, regardless of any new rail. And he says more studies are
currently focused on congestion within metro regions, regarding quality
of life, economic growth, health, safety and other issues.
"The state needs to look at what are the highest priorities for
spending whatever transportation dollars it can get," says Finnegan.
"The debate needs to answer what is the most effective."
(c) Copyright 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.
Click here to email this story to a friend:
The Christian Science Monitor-- an independent daily newspaper providing context and clarity on national and international news, peoples and cultures, and social trends. Online at http://www.csmonitor.com
Click here to order a free sample copy of the print edition of the Monitor:
-- ADVERTISEMENT --
Sign up for the Monitor News Alert to be notified of special war coverage.