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.
Speed. 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.
Luxury. 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.
Efficiency. 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.
Economy. 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.
Options. 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.
Awesome. 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.