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


Damien Newton said...

Oh, heck I know you! Or we've at least we've done rides together...

This is a great synopsis...are you going to do one on Measure R?

Gary said...

Yeah I plan to do a similar post on Measure R as well, and alternate between promoting the two proposals as we near the November election.

Rafael said...

Perhaps I'm being Cptn. Obvious here, but if voters approve both prop 1A (HSR) and measure R (LA county transit & roads) the benefits of the sum will be greater than those of the parts.

To use HSR, passengers need to get top stations, e.g. LA Union Station. Extending the Gold line east and the Red line west will make HSR more accessible, boosting ridership on this fast intercity service.

Conversely, those who prefer to drive around LA county by car may well want to use Metro whenever their final destination is in the Central Valley or Northern California. That will boost ridership on Metro lines.

Note: CAHSR plans to run trains at a top speed of 220mph, not 240. This speed will only be achieved by express trains and even then, only in the Central Valley. See here for top speed ranges elsewhere along the route. Note that this is an old map, the sections from San Jose to Oakland and from Redwood City to Stockton/Modesto are no longer part of the core plan.

Gary said...


The interrelationship of Measure R and Prop1A to compliment each is a good point, and one I plan to talk more about. If we have a strong commuter rail system connecting into the HSR, then it becomes possible for many people to travel completely without use of a car. And as you mention long distance travelers will add ridership to the short distance commuter lines.

In a future post I'm going to write about how I could get to my mom's house in West Covina from Santa Monica by taking the Subway to the Sea to the HSR at Union station and getting off in City of Industry, at a significant reduction in travel time to driving. I'd probably bring my bike along to complete the last mile, which bikes are great for.

Thanks for the correction on top speed, I adjusted it in the post.