On Tuesday, California voters will have the chance to vote for or against Proposition 1A – the $9.95 billion bond measure that would provide the first wave of funding to run high-speed, all-electric passenger trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The bond measure represents a critical step in transforming our fossil-fuel-intensive commute habits into something more sustainable, both economically and environmentally.
Currently there are no high-speed rail (HSR) systems operating in the United States, but they have been operating throughout Europe and Asia since the early 1980s. At speeds of 120-220 mph, HSR is competitive, in travel time, with air travel for trips under four hours, and costs much less. As a result of its use in other countries, HSR technology is well developed and has proven successful again and again, according to Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and an expert on surface transportation systems and policy. In addition:
â€¢ HSR is profitable. High-speed rail systems worldwide have a net positive cash flow after operating and maintenance costs.
â€¢ HSR is safe. Forty-three thousand people were killed on U.S. highways in 2007, compared to no fatalities in 45 years of Japanese high-speed rail travel and more than 25 years in French the system.
â€¢ HSR is less costly than alternatives. California's population is expected to grow from 38 million today to 59 million in 2040. HSR can meet future travel demands for California's expanding population at a cost two to three times less than that of expanding highways and airports, with fewer environmental impacts.
â€¢ HSR uses less energy. Cars would use 5.4 million barrels of petroleum per year more than HSR. Electric power for HSR would use 1/6 the energy of a car and 1/4 the energy of a plane per seat per mile traveled.
â€¢ HSR pollutes less. HSR would avoid 12.4 billion pounds per year of carbon dioxide from vehicles.
According to the California High Speed Rail Authority, the estimated travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles would be 2 hours and 30 minutes and tickets would cost $55, competitive with air flight or a tank of gas. Trains would hit top speeds of 220 mph and slow down to 125 mph on the Peninsula.
The first phase, scheduled for 2018-2020, would be from Anaheim via Los Angeles and the Central Valley, under Pacheco Pass through Gilroy and San Jose to San Francisco. A station is planned either for Palo Alto or Redwood City. Future lines scheduled for completion by 2030 would connect to Sacramento and San Diego. Environmental impacts are minimized, as most of the railway is within or adjacent to existing rail or highway right-of-ways.
Furthermore, like major infrastructure projects in the past (California's water, university and highway systems), the high-speed train system would be financed over 30 years and be an economic stimulant.
Vote yes on Proposition 1A -High Speel Rail.
In addition to Proposition 1A, Measure B, the BART extension to San Jose along the East Bay, could provide another critical step in the connectivity of transit to get people out of their cars, clean up pollution, improve the economy and stimulate the right kind of growth. Besides lower greenhouse gas emissions, these two transit measures offer a much-needed affordable, clean and safe alternative to the rising price of gas, long commutes and congested freeways. Vote yes on Measure B.
Kacey Fitzpatrick offers residential green building design and consulting through her firm, Avalon Enterprises Inc., and serves as executive director of GreenTown Los Altos. For more information, visit
g or e-mail
m.How do you feel about voting? (Asked in downtown Los Altos) If people have opinions, the voting time is your opportunity to speak and tell your community what matters to you. Gheda Sahyun Los Altos It's not optional, and I think it's our duty to vote. Joe Keever Los Altos I believe everybody should vote, although I don't vote myself because I'm not a citizen. Julia Tobias Sunnyvale It's a civic duty. I feel good about voting. Jonathan Davar Los Altos Hills I think it's necessary because it's necessary. Tomo Yamada San Jose I think people should really use their right and go out and vote. Amanda Walker Los Altos Hills Photos and interviews by Rie Nakanishi