Monday, November 10, 2008

The Boondoggle Chorus

boondoggle (bngl, -dgl):
1. work of little or no value done merely to look busy

I was planning to take a break from posting here for a bit, but I felt I had to address this matter. The opponents of High-Speed Rail have not taken a break from trying to undermine the CA High-Speed rail project just because Prop 1A passed. Like clock work they show up on any internet story relating to the project now as they did before the election, and rehash the same tired and debunked claims. Their hope is to shoot the project down before tracks get laid, as was done to similar attempts to kick start high-speed rail in Texas and Florida.

This in and of it self wouldn't be so damn annoying to me were it not for the fact that they (or maybe it's just one person posting under multiple names in their libertarian bunker somewhere), are completely head over heels in love with the word boondoggle. If I had a dollar for every use of the word boondoggle in the comments section of a high-speed rail related story, I could bank roll the private investor funding portion of Prop 1A my self.

If there were say a project to create a HSR line between Little Rock and Hot Springs Arkansas with claims of high ridership potential (my relatives would use it), then yes that would suit the word boondoggle quite nicely. However this project is connecting the biggest cites in one of the Nations most populace states, so the word holds no water to me in this context. The numerous nations that now run, or are in the planning stages of their own high-speed rail networks don't seem to think the idea is such a "boondoggle."

So it will be important in the months and years ahead that we be a voice of reason (jab, jab, poke, poke, Reason Foundation), and make sure that California understands the benefits of High-Speed Rail. We must see this thing through to completion and prove to Americans what a folly it was to let us get so behind in passenger rail in the first place.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We did it!! Prop 1A & Measure R Have Passed

Thanks to everyone who helped pass these measures, it's a good day for trains. I also expect that with an Obama/Biden white house, rail advocates will have a much stronger voice than under ol' W. This is a good day for America, and it's future transportation needs. I don't expect America to suddenly pull a China and invest $200 billion into rail projects, but I think we have some good days ahead of us.

I'm going to take a little break from blogging here for a bit, to get back to more riding my bike. My real motivation for creating this page was to see Prop 1A and Measure R pass, and that has now become mission accomplished. I want to give a big shout out to Robert Cruickshank and the folks at the CA HSR blog for writing so much detailed information about high-speed rail. And a big thanks and congratulations to the folks like Erin Steva at CALPIRG, who did more on the ground campaigning than it seemed even the official Yes On 1A group was organizing. Another shout to the kids at UCLA, who came out in force to promote Measure R and ensure the subway moves west. We did it!



UPDATE: I'm going to temper my enthusism for the moment with this statement from the CA HSR blog, which could effect either or both of these currently close measures: There are still absentee and provisional ballots out there. We don't yet know where or exactly how many, which is why the news outlets have not yet called it for Prop 1A. We are confident of victory but I felt I should make that note. The Secretary of State expects to have these reported tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

OMG Election Day!!!

I've already cast my vote, but it will be a crazy ride watching all the rest of the votes come in. The fate of our presidency, Prop1A and Measure R will be decided today. I'm going to be all squirmy until reliable election results come in. I'm hopeful it's going to go well, and However, if it all goes wrong and McCain wins, Prop 1A fails, and Measure R fails, I will be sad and likely go into a time of mourning. So don't make me sad, go out there and vote for trains, because they are AWESOME!!!

Vote Yes on R & Prop 1A

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Proposition 1A Coming Soon To A Voter Booth Near You. Why You Should Vote Yes.

Prop 1A Graphic Header

November 4th is right around the corner, and California Prop1A has a slight lead in the latest field poll, but is short of an assured victory. As anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I am huge supporter of this project. Since this is the last chance to make the case for the train, I want to summarize some of the key points that make this such an awesome and necessary improvement to California infrastructure. My introduction to Prop 1A can be read here.

. With top speeds that will break 200 mph in the central valley, this train will be significantly faster than driving, and will be competitive with door to door travel times with airlines. Think of travel times like LA to SF in 2.5 hours. For LA commuters, the first usable stretch of the project will be Orange County to Downtown LA in less than a half hour. That is a two hour drive if you're lucky.

. High-speed trains are sleek, modern, and considerably more comfortable than air travel despite cheaper travel fares. Unlike the stress of driving, you can kick back and relax on trains, or for the eternally busy, you can pull out your laptop or make phone calls. I've seen people drive AND use their laptop, but this is worlds of stupid and liable to end up with someone getting killed.

. HSR trains are powered by 100% electricity, and are more efficient in energy usage per passenger than any other mode of long distance travel. Due to all electric power, it gives us great flexibility with how we want to generate that power, unlike the fossil fuel dependent air an automobile systems. In a state with so much abundant sunshine and heavy winds, the possibility of powering the entire train system on or partially on renewable energy sources is being explored. This is good for our CO2 emissions, and not to mention our reduced dependency on foreign oil for statewide travel.

. The project is a necessary component in increasing future traveling capacity and reducing travel time to handle the project growth of California's population in the coming decades. The biggest reason to vote no, that opponents make against the train, is they believe in a time of economic trouble we cannot afford to do this.

The truth is however, that this project could become one component of getting our state our economic burden. How? Well by creating much needed jobs that cannot be outsourced in a time of high unemployment, effecting the construction sector especially, it can get people back to work. The funding is not all on tax payers back either, with a private public partnership of investors that will split the costs.

Once the train is operational, it will foster greater state mobility, which will create economic benefits for generations to come. Unlike our airlines which have been through a series of recent bankruptcies, subsidized life support, and desperate mergers, high-speed rail lines like the TGV in France are posting record profits. As mentioned in the point of efficiency, this project reduces our dependence on foreign oil. As everyone and their grandmother is well aware now, oil dependence is bad for the economy. Our untapped oil sources in the US are a drop in the bucket when looking at our projected energy demands.

This train would add another transportation option into our mix. Having competition between different modes of travel benefits the whole system. Planes are most efficient and profitable at longer distances, like cross continental and international. The train could take pressure off airlines to provide service to areas unprofitable fly to, which they only cover due to government incentives. For distances too short to fly for the expense, but are annoying to drive due to traffic congestion, the HSR train would provide a fast alternative. In the event of an emergency that effects one mode of travel, such as the airline service shut down after 9/11, or a major highway closure, the HSR train could handle the displaced travel demands.

. Yes, trains are awesome.

Don't believe me? Check out what the LA Times, and the San Fransisco Chronicle had to say on the project. Don't think this could get federal matching funds, take a look at this endorsement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Senator Dianne Feinstein.

If you're still skeptical and really want to dig deep on this, I recommend looking through some of these highlights from Robert Cruickshank's exhaustively researched CA High-Speed Rail blog. Also you can check out the official website of which includes the complete route map and other details is here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CALPIRG, High Speed Trains & Kevin Bacon

Prop 1A Graphic Header

CALPIRG, the biggest grass roots organization promoting Prop1A & the CA High-Speed Rail project, has asked me to forward to my readers their latest plan to spread the word. So if you are a supporter of Prop1A, invoke the power of Kevin Bacon to help make this train a reality. Their message after the innocuous horizontal line of separation.

We need your help to get the word out about why it's important to vote YES on Prop 1A, which would bring a high-speed train to California.

Our target: Kevin Bacon. (And millions of Californians.)

If you've ever played the game, then you know that everyone is connected within Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. We're asking you to forward this email far and wide. If we can get enough people to forward it along, eventually it will get to Kevin Bacon - and it should reach millions of Californians along the way, educating the public about why we need high-speed rail.

We've created this video to explain why we're supporting Prop 1A. Watch it now:

Some specifics: Prop 1A would start the process of building the California High-Speed Rail line. This train would run from Sacramento to San Diego, taking passengers between northern and southern California way faster than driving. For example, travelers could get from LA to San Francisco in less than three hours.

The train would create 450,000 jobs once finished. It would reduce our dependence on oil by 12.7 million barrels a year, eliminate 12 billion pounds of harmful greenhouse gasses, and reduce traffic congestion. Get more information

Right now, most people don't know that High-Speed Rail is on the ballot and we don't have the money to buy TV commercials to educate people about Prop 1A. That's why we're counting on you to help us get the word out, by sending this message to all the Californians you know.

So keep this message going - if it reaches Kevin Bacon, then we can be pretty sure we've gotten the word out across the state! Please forward this email to friends, co-workers, moms, dads, aunts, uncles - everyone!

When you're done, go to our website and let us know how many people you forwarded the email to so we can see how many people we're reaching. You can also pledge to vote "yes for Prop 1A" there:

Thanks for all you do,

CALPIRG students from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, San Diego State, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State LA, Sac State, San Jose State, and SF State.

P.S. If you ARE Kevin Bacon and you are receiving this message, please let us know!

Back From NYC

NYC Metro M Line, Myrtle Av & Wyckoff Av Station

I just got back from a very multi-modal adventure. I flew to New York, van pooled into the city, took the PATH train to Jersey to pick up some used bikes from friends, and then through various combinations of cycling, walking and hopping on MTA commuter trains, bounced around in Brooklyn and Manhattan. L.A. has got a long way to go to reach the car-free mobility of New York City. After I sort through the photos and readjust to being on the Left Coast, I'll write up a post on my experiences using the trains in New York.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Increased Urgency For Measure R


The funding that Measure R would bring to the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), was proposed as a way to expand LA's transit system by funding new projects. It seems now that with government shortfalls and more sinking investors, this time one the MTA and many other transit agencies had deals with, Measure R will be necessary just to maintain existing service as well. So at the peak of Metro's record setting ridership on it's trains and buses (even as recent gas prices have dropped), it is faced with the possibility of having to cut service should Measure R fail. Some of the existing projects like the Gold Extension, which is currently ahead of schedule and under budget, may have to be delayed.

Metro's train and bus lines move hundreds of thousands of passengers everyday, benefiting everyone in LA County, even the lone car commuters, by taking competing traffic off the road. Some might argue that we can't be spending more money during this economic downturn. However I would counter that to remain idle and let things get worse, will have it's own economic and quality of life consequences as the average citizen in Los Angeles spends more of their life stuck in traffic congestion.

The American Automobile Association estimates that in Los Angeles, traffic congestion time wasted as a dollar value comes out to $744 a year per person. This is a number that will get worse as population growth continues to outpace infrastructure improvements. Measure R will cost the average citizen $25 a year in increased taxes, but it will fund projects that will lower that congestion value per person, so in essence Measure R is an investment that will pay for it self in time savings over it's lifespan.

If you haven't seen it yet, here is the first television commercial for the Yes on Measure R campaign.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prop1A Public Forum

Prop 1A Graphic Header
(Supporters of the train, feel free to use this new graphic I whipped up)

I've been collaborating with the CALPIRG group supporting Prop1A in Los Angeles, and I was forwarded the following information from them concerning a forum to discuss the High-Speed Rail project at UCLA. So if you are around Westwood next Tuesday afternoon, and are curious to hear more about the train, go check it out.


When: Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
12 pm - 1pm

Where: UCLA
Kerckhoff Grand Salon
308 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095

What: CALPIRG is sponsoring a forum on the environmental, economic, and quality of life benefits of high-speed rail for the Los Angeles community.

This election day, Prop 1A on the statewide ballot would authorize $9.95 billion in bond funds to start laying the tracks for a high-speed train connecting northern and southern California.

Speakers Include: Maria Elena Durazo, Los Angeles AFL-CIO
Emily Rusch, Transportation Advocate for CALPIRG
Alex Pugh, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Please RSVP to:
Sean Carroll, CALPIRG Students at

Please forward to local friends and family

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prop 1A CA High-Speed Rail, New Postcard Design

I've seen a postcard design going around for the CA High-Speed Train, but there were a few things about it I felt could be done differently to deliver a stronger message. I think seeing is believing, and the previous design did not actually depict what the train would look like, so I wanted to feature one of the 3D visualizations front and center. It still incorporates the simplified transit map of the route from the previous design. On the back I put some of the key points of the project based on what seems to be some of the strongest selling points when discussing the train in online forums.



I'm printing a run of 1000 post cards through Overnight Prints, and myself and friends of mine in the cycling community will help distribute these in venues around Los Angeles by bicycle delivery. I didn't quite get them out in time for CALPIRG's voter awareness drive at the Franklin Village Festival, but I did stop by to help talk to voters for a little while. All of the people I talked to there were highly receptive of the project except for one hipster dude with over sized sunglasses who was opposed to Prop1A for "personal reasons".

If you are in the L.A. area and would like to help distribute post cards, let me know. Also via links provided below, are .eps files of the front and back of the design for anyone who would like to do their own run. If you upload these files to Overnight Prints, you can get pretty slick looking postcards made and delivered for fairly cheap with a fast turn around time.

The election is sneaking up fast, so if we want to someday zip around California on electric power at 220 mph with ample leg room, I encourage supporters of this project to help spread the word by what ever means you can.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Daily News Writes On The Economic Stimulus That The High-Speed Train Would Bring To California


According to an economic study by Philip J. Romero, dean and professor of economics at Cal State Los Angeles, the high-speed rail project would increase the annual household income of a family of four in Los Angeles County by $800 and reduce unemployment by 1 to 2 percent.

"The California high-speed train project will put L.A.'s construction industry -- the core of our current recession -- back to work," Romero said. "What's more, by taking thousands of cars off L.A. highways, it will eliminate a major handicap to our competitiveness and attract green employers with jobs for decades to come."

-Daily News Los Angeles

One of the common things I hear as a point of concern by skeptics and detractors of Prop1A is that we cannot afford to build this project in a time of recession. The truth is we can barely afford not too with record unemployment creating a strong need for more jobs. Yes it's going to cost some tax payer money to build this project at a time when there isn't a lot of money to go around. However, even before a single train is run on the tracks, the construction jobs this project will create will generate new tax revenues.

There are actually several major public works projects which are integral to the modern California economy, that were built and paid for long ago during economic recession. This includes the Golden Gate and Oakland bridges and the Shasta Dam. Even though bonds had to be taken out to pay for these projects, the job creation and tax revenue these projects generated were integral in getting us out of recession.

Being in a recession is not a good excuse to shelve golden opportunities that have a potential for strong economic gains in the future. Short sighted thinking is where most of economic woes stem from in the first place. We need to start thinking long term and looking at the big picture. The California High-Speed Rail project could become the next great project that defines our state, and set us apart as leaders in American innovation.

For more information on how this project could function as economic stimulus check out this more detailed post on the CAHSR Blog.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Derailing The Straight Talk Express


Though I'd prefer to not spend too much time discussing the presidential race, there is a clear enemy of rail development vying for the White House, and so I feel it is important to address that in a blog about trains. In McCain we have a very outspoken detractor of trains [Boston Globe]. He has consistently voted down funding to revive Amtrak to meet new demands, while showing no such concern for large sums of government spending on automobile and air travel. This is a common view among political enemies of rail. The notion that government spending on trains is socialist and wasteful, but government subsidies on automobile infrastructure, car manufacturer loans, airports and keeping unprofitable airline flights afloat, are somehow necessary for a supposedly "free market".

What I find particularly odd about McCain however, is for a man who seems to hate spending so much as a dime on trains, he sure does love train imagery and metaphors. His infamous catch phrase is that he is the "Straight Talk Express", an allusion to the direct nature of train lines. He has ironically campaigned in a tour bus called the McCain Train. I even noticed the song that came on after his speech at the GOP convention contained lyrics with American train imagery.

On a campaign stop in Erie Pennsylvania, McCain visited a factory that produces train locomotives. He seemed rather surprised to find America still makes so many trains. Of interest however, is that the factory exports most of it's train engines to foreign markets [Streetsblog]. Since America has let it's rail support decline for decades while many other countries have been investing significantly in expanding their freight and passenger rail systems, this is no surprise.

China alone has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars expanding and modernizing it's rail system under a highly ambitious plan. Sadly, significant investment in rail projects has not been the case in the United States for quite sometime. Although Congress did give Amtrak a much needed boost recently with a veto proof majority in both houses, in response to growing train ridership, safety concerns after the unfortunate Metrolink tragedy, and declining vehicle miles traveled by cars.

So what gives? McCain seems to enjoy imagining himself as a metaphorical train, but consistently votes down any attempt to modernize our U.S. train system. This has led me to wonder if perhaps he is closeted railfan. Maybe he has a model train city in one of his basements, but publicly manifests siderodromophobia (fear of trains and rail travel) in his voting record. What ever the case is, McCain is no friend of the train even if he does put McCain Train sticker on his bus.

So what about his opposition from the Democratic ticket, Barak Obama? He and his running mate Joe Biden wouldn't necessarily make advancement of trains a sure thing, however there are several reasons to believe they would be very supportive of rail projects. Obama has been quoted promoting promoting high-speed rail, and seems to get that we need to look at all transportation alternatives. Although mass transit seems to be low on his priorities for talking points, he does include it in his energy policy. Joe Biden has a long history of supporting funding to revive the Amtrak system, and is himself a frequent train commuter on Amtrak's semi high-speed train Acela. For more information, the CA High-Speed Rail blog did a great post discussing what an Obama and Biden White House could mean for support of rail projects in the US.

With all the other things that get the television coverage this election, train development may seem like a niche issue. However I would argue that trains, both commuter and freight, are an absolutely essential component to getting this country off of foreign oil dependence, something both candidates profess they want and that our Nation needs. Not to mention train projects would create non-outsourceable infrastructure jobs at a time with record unemployment rates. People look at projects like this California high-speed train and think, well it's going to cost money and it will be a decade before all phases will be completed. The McCain/Palin love affair with drilling for more oil (something McCain has opposed in the past) seems to be in denial about the fact that it will cost a lot of initial investment and be a decade before that oil enters the market. Once this new and relatively limited supply does get flowing, it's significance on the effects of oil's market price is debatable [U.S. News].

So I urge that any one who wants to see the advancement of trains, and a real break from oil dependence in this Country, to consider not voting for McCain come election day (or earlier for you mail in ballot folks). That and if I hear the contrived phrase "my friends" one more time I may become the next victim of spontaneous human combustion.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Metro Gold Line Extension Moving Right Along

The Metro Gold Line Extension is 87% complete and Metro has bragged that "the $899 million project is ahead of schedule, under budget, and has logged 3.4 million hours of construction without a lost time injury, an unprecedented safety record for a major public works project."

This is great news. I also find this interesting in light of one of the most pervasive arguments made by opponents to the California High-Speed Rail project. Opponents to public rail projects, such as the oil money backed libertarian think tank the Reason Foundation, are fond of saying that any government works project will always be behind schedule and over budget. Opponents like to make up numbers based on their ideas of government waste, rather than offering any real supporting evidence. This has led to claims as ridicules as the project would go $60 billion over budget and likely never be finished.

Over at the California High Speed Rail Blog they took a piece from the Colbert playbook to discuss truth versus truthiness in these arguments against the HSR project. So the next time you hear someone say in a Dr. Evil tone that this train is going to cost 100 billion dollars, you can call them out on their bull shit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Measure R - Traffic Relief for L.A.


Transportation demands in Los Angeles continue to grow, but the funding to support that growing capacity is very limited. The freeways are a mess with traffic, roads are in disrepair, and buses on popular boulevards are packed like sardines. Our trains don't have enough coverage considering LA's scale, but in spite of this, have been seeing larges growths in ridership.

This is why we need Measure R to generate funding to be used exclusively for transportation projects. These projects would confront transportation issues on several fronts. With highway and street improvements, local improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, but most significantly as far is this blog is concerned, by devoting a significant portion of funding to expand our commuter train network.

Trains are essential in reliving traffic tension for our growing population and economy. A single train can be carrying passengers in the hundreds depending on the number of cars. At lower traffic times additional cars can be removed for less carrying weight. Their energy efficiency compared to cars especially and even buses is simply unrivaled. They contribute to an environmentally sustainable economy by replacing pollution heavy car trips as well as reducing land use demands like parking spaces. And very importantly to many Angelenos, they can bring down commute times for everyone, not just for the people riding them, but motorists who would be sharing the road with less cars.

Los Angeles completely killed it's formerly extensive rail system in the conversion to an automobile based society, but sprawling development and traffic woes on over stressed freeways necessitated bringing trains back into the mix. With our currently limited rail network growing ridership to rival much larger systems like BART, the time is ripe for further train development in Los Angeles County.

A number of different train projects would receive funding from Measure R. With the spending oversights in place, these projects and the budgets for them would be locked unless a requested change goes through a year of review.

1A Exposition Boulevard Light Rail Transit: Culver City to Santa Monica
Extends the Exposition Rail Line, currently under construction to Culver City, to Santa Monica.

1B Crenshaw Transit Corridor (project acceleration)
Accelerates construction of a line along the Crenshaw Bl Corridor and connects Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo, plus unincorporated LA County.

1C Regional Connector: Links Local Rail Lines
Links four light rail lines that terminate at the edges of Central LA. Expected to provide seamless connections between Long Beach/Pasadena, and Culver City/East LA, minimizing the need for rail transfers.

1DWestside Subway Extension (to be opened in segments)
Extends Metro Rail to the Westside. The project is expected to serve Century City and Westwood/UCLA.
This project is my personal favorite, and although Measure R would only carry it to UCLA, further funding sources such as the federal government would be sought after to extend it all the way to Santa Monica. Click for more info on the West Side Extension at Metro's site, and the official facebook group is another great source of information.
1E Gold Line Eastside Extension
Extends Metro Gold Line farther east from the Pomona/Atlantic Station.

1F Gold Line Foothill Light Rail Transit Extension
Extends the Metro Gold Line from its current terminus in Pasadena toward Claremont.

1G Green Line Extension: Redondo Beach Station to South Bay Corridor
Continues the Metro Green Line from its current terminus in Redondo Beach to the South Bay Galleria.

1H Green Line Extension to Los Angeles International Airport
Links the Metro Green Line to LAX at the Aviation Station.
Yes! At long last, the train that almost goes to LAX would be go that last couple miles.
1M Metrolink Capital Improvement Projects (Los Angeles County)
Purchases trains, expands the Eastern Maintenance Facility and upgrades sidings and crossovers to increase speed and safety. Local jurisdictions could use funds to improve parking and station facilities within their cities and offer connecting shuttle services.
In light of the recent Metrolink tragedy, and their shoestring budget, funding improvements for Metrolink are very important.
1N Metro Rail Capital Projects
Maintains rail facilities by improving operational systems, upgrading rail yards and purchasing new rail cars.

1O East Light Rail Access (Gold Line)
Increases access, including pedestrian and bicycle, to the Gold Line Eastside Light Rail project.

Your probably wondering how is this all going to be paid for. Measure R would raise the sales tax in L.A. County by half a cent, and would be estimated to generate around 40 billion dollars over 30 years. People hate traffic in Los Angeles, but people also hate paying for things. However, it's estimated the average citizen would be paying only about $25 a year on this tax according to the LAEDC. I feel that is pretty reasonable considering the long term benefits these projects will bring to the future economy and quality of life here in Los Angeles. At a time with high unemployment, the non-outsourceable jobs these projects would create are nothing to scoff at either.

Measure R is more than just adding trains. Road project improvements, large and small are proposed as well, and Lord knows we need them. For the sake of this blog I wanted to just highlight the rail projects. If you want to find out more about this measure, I encourage you to read up on it at the Measure R informational page. A new facebook group has also been started to promote the proposal, and will likely feature continued updates as we near the election.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking The Train to Mom's House

I want to reveal for the sake of transparency part of my motivation for promoting rail transit in Los Angeles. I am in no way related to, or have any monetary stake in transportation projects of any kind. However I would like a fast and efficient way to get to my mom's house without needing to use a car, since I am in the process of going car free by choice.

She lives in West Covina, and I live in Santa Monica. This is a very far trip to get by bicycle, my usual mode of transit. Although I have biked there before, it's a long and sweaty adventure that carves through parts of L.A. that are not always so cycling friendly. Public transit options are limited, and there is no choice but to get on the bus for much of the journey, which is subject to the same traffic issues as cars in addition to the frequent stops and less direct routing.

(Route Alternative 11 For West Side Extension)

If the West Side Extension of the subway were built, and the CA High-Speed Rail were built, that would fundamentally change the East/West transportation options in Los Angeles. I could ride my bike to Bergamot Station and pick up the Purple Line Subway to Union station, completely by passing traffic congestion on the 10 freeway and popular boulevards. Once at Union Station I could transfer to a high speed train and blaze the next 26 miles in 17 minutes to get off in City of Industry. From there I could bike the last few miles without breaking a sweat. In total I would be able to travel to my mom's house with a very low carbon footprint and in less time than it would take in a car, especially during times of heavy traffic (which is most of the time).

(HSR Route, Downtown L.A. To City Of Industry)

So in addition to all of the social, economic, and environmental benefits these projects could bring, I support Prop1A and Measure R, so that one day I can take the train to my mom's house quickly and efficiently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Introduction To California High Speed Rail


You may or may not be aware that California has been planning for many years now the potential for connecting the state's major cities with a European style high speed train system. Several attempts to pass a bond measure that would jump start the project have been tried, and it was always shot down in the legislature before making it to voters. Well this time it's different. There is a growing realization within State Government that we need to explore alternatives to airline and automobile dependence, and now California voters will get a chance to make true high speed rail a reality for the first in the United States. Since the last numbers I looked at showed only 20% of California voters have even heard of this project, and it's related ballot initiative Prop1A, I aim to raise this awareness.

This train would start by connecting Los Angeles to San Fransisco in it's first phase, with Sacramento and San Diego added in a second phase. Major cities along the way would be stops for the train. [Map] Unlike the Amtrak train which to connect L.A. & S.F. takes a beautiful winding 13 hour journey along the coast at tops speeds of 75 MPH, this train would zip between major cities at tops speeds of 220 MPH and connect L.A. San Francisco in 2.5 hours. Unlike planes and automobiles which keep us in the grip of foreign oil dependence, this HSR (high speed rail) train could move thousands of passengers every day with out a drop of oil, because it is all electric.

(3D visualization of the proposed train system and the route it would follow. Higher quality videos available here.)

There are numerous reasons why this is a great idea worth our investment, and contrary to the belief of some detractors, this is not some kind of science fiction fantasy project. This system would be modeled after trains that have long existed successfully in Asia and Europe, and quite profitably as well.

We are going to have a choice in November between shoveling more money into a failing system of airport expansions and highway widening projects, or investing in a real transportation future for a growing California population. As we near the election I will continue to argue point by point the case for Proposition 1A to build the high speed train. If you have any questions, concerns, or criticisms I welcome them in the comments, and I will try to address them in future posts.

California High-Speed Rail Authority (Official Website)
California High Speed Rail Blog
Yes on Prop 1A, CA for High-Speed Trains

South Shore Train, Michigan City to Chicago

During my recent vacation to Michigan City, I had the opportunity to take the South Shore train into Chicago. Due to a Cubs game, high ridership was expected, and numerous baseball caps adorned the heads of the gathered crowd. At the station several additional cars were added to the train to increase the occupancy. The $6.50 fare, which was collected after boarding, was quite a deal considering the distance and parking rates in Chicago that look like this.

Meghan And I On The South Shore Train
(My girlfriend Meghan and I enjoying our comfy seats and lack of driving)

The route was quite beautiful, and it was a great way to catch a glimpse of Northern Indiana and Illinois. I was pretty much glued to the window while Meghan took the opportunity to relax into a sleep like daze. Train travel is so chill, I love it. Especially after the nightmare of getting to Michigan City by plane. Our flight had been delayed from 11pm Friday to 6:00AM Saturday with incompetence from customer service at every turn.

On The South Shore Train To Chicago
On The South Shore Train To Chicago On The South Shore Train To Chicago

At last we got off at the Vanburen Station and got off to explore Chicago on foot, something a bit more difficult back home in Los Angeles. Being the cyclist that I am, even though we weren't riding bikes, I took note of what appeared to be a healthy system of bicycle infrastructure and frequently spotted cycling commuters. Our first destination was the famous Art Institute of Chicago, which as everyone seems to point out to me, is indeed the one featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In our short time in Chicago I didn't get a chance to ride the famous L train, but I did get a shot of it going by.

Vanburen Station
(South Shore, Vanburen Station)

One last bit of trivia from someone who works in the video game industry. A Playstation 3 train simulator from Japan, filled predominantly with Japanese train lines, features the Brown Line in Chicago. Complete with crystal HD quality video footage of the entire line. If you've got an itch for controlling some amazing commuter trains, there is apparently no region coding so you can play it on U.S. consoles, but expect the mark up of import fees.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sad Days

I'm sure many of you have seen the plastered images of last Friday's tragic head on crash between a Metrolink commuter train and a freight train along a stretch of single track in Chatsworth. First and foremost condolences to those effected by this accident resulting in 25 deaths and numerous injuries, and a huge thanks should be given to all the emergency personal who's hard and quick response prevented this from being being even worse.

Some have already started jumping to conclusions about what happened, and coming up with their own political spin, but at this time nothing concrete has come out of the investigation. Until a full investigation is completed I'm going to keep out of the circle of speculation.

I'd also like to remind everyone, although this accident does highlight the horror of a train accident, and the need for better safeguards, this is an extremely uncommon occurrence. So much tragedy happens all at once in a train accident, and so a great deal of media attention is devoted when it happens. Fatal automobile accidents happen nearly every day and the extent of their reporting is generally "Expect delays on the 405". In a future post I will discuss further the issue of train safety, and also the relative risks compared to other modes of transit.

The day after the accident, my girlfriend and I continued our plans to take the Red Line subway to Union Station and use Metrolink to get to the L.A. County Fair, along with hundreds of other people. It was a quick, cost effective, and relaxing way to get to the fair grounds and as a bonus included a discount on admission and a free ride on the ferris wheel. More people have been catching on to the benefits of travel by rail, and Metrolink, which serves the outer reaches of L.A County and Orange County has seen ridership grow by 60% in the past 5 years.

It's still very disheartening to think about how many lives were effected by Friday's collision, and I hope that the investigation results in a better understanding of how to prevent such a collision from happening in the future.

The count of the fallen is now 26 after another passenger died yesterday in the hospital. [LAist]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Only In Japan

Check out that swanky interior, what could that be from? It's from one of the cars on a new train in Japan specifically designed with open and fun places for kids and families. When is the last time you saw an interior like that in a plane or an automobile?

Although I doubt we will see anything quite like this on an American train any time soon unfortunately. What I love about this is it shows the potential trains have to play with space. The only other forms of transportation with such potential are boats & ships, and obviously sea fairing vessels have limited potential for moving people in and between our cities.

I stumbled across this quirky but delightful train doing a Google search of the words train and awesome. The web post does not provide any details or sources, and my initial attempts to find other information on it came up empty. I'm really curious about this project, so if you find out something before I do, drop me a line in the comments.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Passing Through Anything Helps

Passsing Thru Anytthing Helps

I discovered this oddity laying on the ground on my recent trip to Chicago. I'm going to interpret the crossed lines to be rail road tracks, and presume that the maker of this sign is in fact a rail advocate promoting the message that passing a train through anything is helpful.

In local news, Measure R, which would include significant investments toward expanding the L.A. rail network, has racked up some notable endorsements. The latest of which is the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed).
"The Los Angeles County Business Federation acts as a grass roots alliance of existing business organizations whose goal is to effectively mobilize the collective voice of the Los Angeles business community."
The group is made up of small and large business leaders alike and boasts a membership of 93,000 people that are now being encouraged to vote in support of Measure R.
“Residents and businesses are losing billions of dollars a year because our transportation infrastructure is failing to keep pace with our growing population. Measure R is crucial to retaining and attracting new companies and jobs to the region, and ensuring traffic congestion does not sap our economic vitality and quality of life,” said BizFed Chairman, David Fleming.
Measure R is a lot more then just rail expansion. It will fund direly needed road and highway repair projects, improve the bus network, and put money into local cities to spend on regional improvements like filling epic pot holes, and pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. A really big piece of this pie is for more trains, and trains are awesome, so vote yes on Measure R to make the future of Los Angeles an awesome one.

Yes it means there would be a half cent increase to our sales tax, and people hate taxes. However, over the course of a year it comes out to about 20-30 bucks for most people. Traffic is one of the defining problems of Los Angeles, one that will only continue to get worse if we rely on our existing infrastructure. It seems to me that transportation improvements city wide is something worth pitching in a 20 toward each year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Trains, The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread


I blog pretty extensively about bicycles as a means of local transportation, as well as just being fun to ride. However bikes are not fast and efficient over great distances. Cars (even the beloved Prius) and planes are terrible for the environment, promote foreign oil dependence and are massive hogs of city land use. Think parking lots and air fields. Which is why I strongly believe that trains are an essential and currently under utilized asset in the transportation mix within the United States. I've decided to start this blog to promote rail in the U.S. with an emphasis on my home state of California, and the city of Los Angeles.

The coming November election has two ballot measures of significance to the future of California rail, which I intend to highlight and promote with this blog. The first is Prop 1A, which would use a government bond to kick start construction of a high speed rail line across the state of California. This project would ultimately be finished with private investments, and due to the efficiency of HSR, will be able to maintain a profit and be self sufficient after the initial investments. Unlike the ongoing tax payer subsides to automobile and plane travel. The second, which is local to Los Angeles, is Measure R. This ballot measure created by the MTA proposes a half cent sales tax to be utilized exclusively for a long term plan to improve transportation in gridlocked Los Angeles. A significant portion of this funding would be invested in several proposed rail expansions to the small but growing L.A. commuter train system. A system that has been setting ridership records in light of raising gas prices.

In the coming weeks leading up to the election I will make my case for why trains are in fact awesome. I'm hoping I'll live to see the day when fast and efficient electric trains criss cross California, and America, in a future without foreign oil dependence.

California High Speed Rail Authority
Yes on 1A, Californians for High Speed Trains
Metro Measure R