California College Student Rally for Rail

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While the Metro Board debated service cuts and legislation in Sacramento, a group of college students rallied with Councilman Tom LaBonge and staff for Congresswoman Diane Watson in support of a high-speed rail route that would connect San Francisco to San Diego yesterday morning. Roughly 50 students from CALPIRG’s student chapters are traveling the proposed rail route to discuss why high-speed rail would be good for the state’s transportation network and the environment.

Representatives from our local colleges, UCLA and USC, are both part of the tour. You can read CALPIRG’s press release after the jump.

Students Gone Wild…For High-Speed Rail

Fifty College Students Spend Spring Break Traveling Proposed High-Speed Train Route to Demonstrate Support

Los Angeles, CA – Most students go to Cancun or Palm Beach or somewhere else exotic for their spring break. Instead, roughly fifty students from CALPIRG Students Chapters are spending their spring break traveling the high-speed rail route by car and bike to build public support for the impending project. From San Francisco on down to San Diego, the students are stopping in major towns and cities along the way, meeting with public officials and talking to the media about why they believe high-speed rail is essential for California’s future transportation needs.

"Our goal is simple," said Adriana Lovera, one of the students who helped organize the five-day trip. "We’re here to demonstrate the widespread student enthusiasm for high-speed rail."

Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Charles Stewart, the Chief District Representative for Congresswoman Diane Watson, joined the students for their tour stop in Los Angeles, where the students rode bikes around town, handed out bumper stickers that said "I’d rather be riding high-speed rail" and even donned a homemade chain of train cars, decorated for each major city along the route, to raise awareness and support for high-speed rail.

"California needs to invest in and improve its transportation system, including development of high speed rail," said Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. "I am excited about the possibility of high speed rail to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and provide convenient access to regional airports throughout Southern California. High speed rail can help regionalize air traffic and grow aviation activity at airports such as the Los Angeles-owned LA/Ontario International Airport and LA/Palmdale Regional Airport. I’m excited that CALPIRG students are taking their Spring Break to work on the important issue of improved ground transportation systems in the state."

For more than a decade the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been planning for a high-speed rail line to connect California’s cities. California suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation already, and our population is expected to grow from 37.5 million people to more than 50 million people by 2030. Additionally, 41 percent of California’s global warming pollution currently comes from cars and other transportation. California’s commitment to reducing global warming pollution will be difficult to meet unless we build more and better alternatives to driving.

High-speed rail would remove up to 92 million car trips off the road annually and reduce the need to expand expensive roads and airports. A measure already on the ballot in November 2008, if passed, would authorize up to $9 billion in bond revenues to start laying the tracks.

"Students believe high-speed rail is essential to the future of California," said Sarah Dobjensky, a UCLA CALPIRG student who has been traveling with the High Speed Rail Tour.

Jonathan Bjorndahl, the student coordinator for the Public Transit Campaign at USC agreed. "With the prospect of California’s population growing to 50 million by the year 2030, our generation has reason to support projects that will reduce pollution, congestion, and driving time. We need to make high-speed rail a reality before it’s too late."

Photo:Damien Newton

Model Train: CALPIRG

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