Albert H. Sawano: Think big about transportation

Full story: LA Daily News
TO the Forty-niners, dustbowl migrants, and waves and waves of transplanted Americans and immigrants, California has arguably been the place where the American dream has been most achievable. Full Story
NickV

San Diego, CA

#1 Aug 9, 2010
Great Editorial!!!! We must stop expanding our freeways - this method doesn't give us choices it just destroys neighborhoods, farm land, etc...Let's build the best rail, bus and bike network in the country and world. We need to think big again - high speed rail will spur redevelopment in our cities and towns. What freeway or airport does that. Keep up the good work and let's make transit work - but that means spending money.
Sandeeze

Los Angeles, CA

#2 Aug 9, 2010
Wow what an ignorant (most likely intentionally...) point of view in this article. First of all I have to point out the irony of highlighting California's dysfunctional budget system that tends to result in not enough revenue to cover expenses, only to follow with a strong promotion of the state's High Speed Rail plan which calls for borrowing $10 billion (with no identified source of revenue for repayment) to build a system that most transportation planners agree is an extremely poor use of transit funding. This plan is one of the prime examples of the state's overuse of the ballot initiative and the massive budget problems that result from it.

As for the actual arguments themselves, the rebuttal to the fraction of criticisms of HSR highlighted in this article are based on false assumptions, widely questioned data from the High Speed Rail Authority (whose entire function is to promote HSR), and a glaring lack of comprehensive thinking.

A couple of examples:

1. Sawano points to these massive savings in fossil fuel consumption which are based entirely on operations consumption only while assuming the optimistic projections in ridership, and comparing to the single occupancy vehicle. Studies have come out showing that when the capital emissions of such a project are factored in, the HSR would have to meet it's ridership projections (which are widely questioned) simply to surpass the efficiency of autos, let alone a 5-fold increase.

2. Appeal to riders: again based on HSRA stats and fails to consider the fact that most people who drive to San Fran from LA will continue to drive for the same reason they do now instead of flying - carpooling rates between such distant cities are very high and it is much cheaper to drive and split the cost of gas than for each person traveling to purchase a ticket, which is likely to be more than $100 per round trip, bringing it close to airline travel. In addition, HSR will not offer any advantage over airline travel. Yes, wait times will be shorter than at airports, but the flight time will more than negate that.

All HSR between LA and San Fran (the shorter, and actually more worthy segments will never get built once this first leg sours everyone) will provide is a fancy duplication of airline service that sucks money away from other more important transit ventures.
Sandeeze

Los Angeles, CA

#3 Aug 9, 2010
NickV wrote:
Great Editorial!!!! We must stop expanding our freeways - this method doesn't give us choices it just destroys neighborhoods, farm land, etc...Let's build the best rail, bus and bike network in the country and world. We need to think big again - high speed rail will spur redevelopment in our cities and towns. What freeway or airport does that. Keep up the good work and let's make transit work - but that means spending money.
First of all, San Diego will never see it's leg because the HSR initiative requires that the leg between LA and San Francisco be built first. Assuming the latter gets built which is an increasingly big "if," the massive and unexpected financial capital that will be required as well as the operational subsidies will turn off voters and politicians alike, meaning that there will never be any more funding secured to build the portion to San Diego, which ironically is a much more worthy segment.

Second, you mentioned the environmental costs in terms of loss of farmland that results from conventional transportation infrastructure, not realizing that high speed rail will have the same effect. Remote communities that will have high speed rail stops will become viable bedroom communities for commuters, thereby opening up previously unmarketable tracts of land for urban sprawl, as the highway system did in less remote but still exurban areas.

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