Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Environmentalists still not “getting” CA high-speed rail

If you’re in an environmentalist, what’s not to love about high-speed rail? It takes cars off of the roads, consumes less fossil fuel (and is zero-emissions ready when our power grid is), encourages urban living, and will eliminate the need for many short-haul plane flights, which are huge emitters of carbon. So why are the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League, two environmental groups, not jumping behind the California High-Speed Rail project?

Because they believe that the rail authority’s choice of the more rural Pacheco Pass for the final route will induce more sprawl than the Altamont Pass alternative. Forget the fact that area residents have always had a highway to sprawl out along if they wanted to, and that trains stop right downtown and can encourage walkable development. Robert Cruickshank has, as usual, done a very good job outlining the flimsy nature of these groups’ arguments, so I won’t bother going into any more detail here.

The main point here is one I’ve made before. This is the time to effect change in our nation’s transportation policy. Change for the sake of citizens, the environment, and the economy. However, if environmentalists and rail advocates don’t find the will to work together at this critical juncture, nothing will happen and both groups will continue to find themselves impotently struggling against the status quo, secure in their positions on the fringes of the political realm.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, United States High Speed Rail, , ,

3 Responses

  1. fpteditors says:

    With few exceptions, “environmental” organizations are under the spell of the carbon-auto industry. Bus and rail travel is the single greatest threat to that industry’s dominance of our public policy. See our blog for links to the “good” environmentalists. Intercity rail, combined with free urban buses and light rail would solve a lot of problems. Bangkok can afford free buses… why can’t U.S. cities?

  2. Nikolas says:

    If you don’t build a station there and specifically put into law that you may not, sprawl will not happen.

  3. Ryan says:

    Electrically-powered high speed trains are, essentially, the only form of long-distance transportation that will get CLEANER as they age– unlike a bus, car, diesel train, or plane (which all get DIRTIER with age).

    Every time I mention this, I get funny looks, but it’s actually an incredibly simple concept (and one I lifted from the talking points for electric and plug-in hybrid cars): The dirty aspect of electric trains is back at the generating station. Based on the simple fact that the power grid gets cleaner every year, as new power plants come on-line and stricter regulations come into effect, fewer emissions will move electric trains farther and cleaner with each passing year.

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August 2008


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