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 sean@calpirgstudents.org

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.