High Speed Rail Supporters State Their Case at Union Station and Beyond

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Flanked by City Council Members from Santa Monica and Los Angeles, as well as dozens of people waving signs proclaiming "fast trains are cool," CalPirg Transportation Advocate Erin Steva rallied supporters in front of Union Station for increased funding of the state’s planned High Speed Rail Network.  While some "fast train" advocates were questioning the federal commitment to investing in this infrastructure, the federal government is only spending $2.3 billion on High Speed Rail in the next year instead of $4 billion that it promised, yesterday’s rally was upbeat. 

After all, when you combine that $2.3 billion with $8 billion in Stimulus funds already allocated, those numbers start to add up.

However, federal funding pales in comparison to how far behind America is to the rest of the modern world when it comes to spending money on High Speed Rail.  China is expected to spend over $100 billion in the next year and Europe already has a rail network which is more efficient and popular than the airplane system in parts of the continent.  While it’s never good to be behind when it comes to building infrastructure, it does create one advantage.  America is positioned to learn from the successes and failures of High Speed Rail in other countries so that it can avoid the mistakes of the past.  In their report Next Stop: California, CalPirg outlines what some of these lessons are, including:

1. Build it:

2. Focus development
in city centers:

3. Make stations
accessible:

4. Integrate
high-speed rail with improvements to commuter and freight rail:

5. Keep clear lines
of accountability:

6. Use private
participation responsibly:

7. Improve lines of
communication:

8. Maintain budget
discipline and spending transparency.

9. Make it green:

For more on Next Stop: California, visit CalPirg’s website.

Meanwhile, an unlikely argument from an unlikely source was made in favor of High Speed Rail in Washington, D.C.  Representative Don Young (R-AK), former Chair of the House’s Infrastructure and Transportation Committee and the Congressman who named our national transportation funding legislation after his wife, penned an op-ed for Politico that basically called out the Obama administration for wasting money on "big government spending." Instead wasting money on something silly such as running Amtrak, Congress and the President should invest in something useful, such as High Speed Rail.  Young writes:

As a country that is currently beholden to foreign countries for its
oil supply, this should serve as an incentive. Additionally, though
some may worry about the high costs of implementing such a system,
high-speed rail represents the kind of long-term infrastructure
investment that pays dividends for decades.

Our current infrastructure system has paid for itself many times over, and a high-speed-rail system would do the same.

While President Barack Obama is pushing billions of dollars in stimulus
bills that fund Big Government, he is missing a golden opportunity to
stimulate the economy. Investments in infrastructure create jobs, plain
and simple.

While some of those arguments are going to rankle rail advocates, if his battle-cry gets picked up on by Republicans who have tarred High Speed Rail spending as wasteful in the past, it could open the coffers to more investment in the near future.

  • T Sandusky

    The Oil companies and the “Oiligarchy” government funded by Oil Companies have been fighting High-Speed Rail since day one. It will take citizens to rise up and demand this project move forward. We import nearly 70% of the oil we burn in our cars, airplanes and other internal combustion transportation vehicles. We must change or we will perish.

  • Carter R

    Legislators will decry wasteful spending right up to the point that it starts coming into their districts. Then it’s “hop right on the gravy train!”

  • Johnathan Banks

    I agree that we as people need to stand up and say YES to High speed rail.On another note you should check out Yacht Exports.They are a great company and very reliable

  • political_incorrectness

    As soon as they can see the pork, then it is change position and go for it full speed. We need to make affirmitive action in the rail sector, bring it up to the network it should be like the Interstate Highway system.

  • LAofAnaheim

    I’m a huge public transit enthusiast. My first website for directions is Metro.net and second is Google transit. Having said that, this “high speed rail” is becoming quite the boondoggle. It’ll take at least $40 billion just to get between SF and SD. And, the joke of the plan is that they want build tracks OVER the existing Metrolink/Amtrak/Freight tracks between LA and Anaheim. California should use the existing $10 billion bond we voted for and electrify the Amtrak rails. Create a third set of tracks or fourth, where warranted. Improve the connection between SF and LA using existing tracks (i.e. look at the X Train). Straighten out the Metrolink track on the Antelope Valley to shave off 20 – 30 minutes. What’s wrong with significantly investing in Amtrak (existing infrastructure)? Why build a whole new set of tracks when something already exists, but improvements can be made at a much lower price?

  • Spokker

    “And, the joke of the plan is that they want build tracks OVER the existing Metrolink/Amtrak/Freight tracks between LA and Anaheim.”

    Not anymore. Shared track is back on the drawing board.

  • Joseph E

    LAofAnaheim wrote “Why build a whole new set of tracks when something already exists, but improvements can be made at a much lower price?”

    There are no useable tracks between LA and the Central Valley; that’s why that portion of the trip is only available by bus. There is also no fast route from SF or San Jose to the Central Valley. These two mountain crossings need expensive tunnels; there are no existing tracks suitable for even 70 mph trains.

    Also, Amtrak does not own any right of way in the middle of the state. Union Pacific or BNSF own the land and tracks, and make money off of freight; they really don’t want passenger trains competing for space on their tracks.

    I already take Amtrak from the Bay Area to LA when I have the extra time, but the current routes are in need of more than minor upgrades. We need to spend the money to do it right.

    On the other hand, a few cheaper upgrades to Metrolink and Pacific Surfliner tracks in Southern California, including double-tracking and electrification, could do wonders for average speeds in the region, without requiring a whole new alignment. As Spokker mentioned, the plan to share tracks for a short section to Anaheim is a great start.

  • Spokker
  • Ken Ruben

    Hi Everyone:

    I didn’t know about the rally butI am glad there was support for HSR, etc.

    I have been to various meetings of one kind or another over the months this year promoting HSR and other rail projects including what some within this thread would call “higher-speed rail” and there is still disagreement among many in the rail/railfan community (this thread included).

    Based on the info presented at the various meetings, I am at this time ambivalent about HSR but am supportive of anything that will help Amtrak, Metrolink, Coaster, etc.

    My 2 cents for what it is worth.

    —“Ken” Ruben—

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