Why California Needs High Speed Trains
Assemblymember Fiona Ma
Ma, special to Fog City Journal
April 17, 2007
Earlier this month, I took the ride of my life on a high-speed
train that broke the world speed record. A French TGV
(train à grande vitesse) reached
a top speed of 357 mph, shattering the previous speed record
of 320 mph set by another French TGV in 1990. This amazing experience
has reaffirmed my belief that the time has come for California
to make high-speed trains a reality.
Californias workforce and businesses have transformed the
way we live our lives by pioneering the technological revolution
through innovation. From computers to medicine, our state has
engineered the world into the twenty-first century. California
even built a number of Mars Rovers that have made discoveries
which could signify life on the red planet.
Unfortunately, the high-speed train is the one advancement where
California has fallen behind the rest of the world. Dozens of
countries around the globe use the technology, including Japan
which has had a system in place for more than 40 years. In order
for our state to catch up, we need something that is currently
missing: political will and vision.
In early January, the Governor unveiled his agenda for the year.
His plan includes a number of forward thinking ideas such as universal
healthcare, increasing career technical education programs in
our public schools, and moving towards cleaner energy. Despite
the environmental advantages, the Governors agenda still
lacks high-speed trains. In fact, the Governors proposed
budget this year cuts the funding of the California High-Speed
Rail Authority to a mere $1.2 million, a sharp drop from the $14
million provided in the current years budget. The Governors
plan also falls short of the $104 million the Authority needs
to continue environmental and engineering work and buying rights
of way. In addition, the Governor wants to indefinitely put off
the already twice delayed $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond set
for the 2008 ballot.
In order for our state to continue innovating to protect our
environment and to stay economically competitive, California needs
the vision to prioritize spending for the modern day transportation
system that it is desperately lacking. The proposed bond is a
small price to pay for the enormous environmental and economic
benefits of high-speed trains. In California, the high-speed train
system will combat global warming by saving the state more than
5 million barrels of oil annually and by reducing CO2 emissions
by 12.4 billion pounds per year. High speed trains will also create
jobs. Over 450,000 permanent jobs are estimated to be created
once the system is up and running and these jobs cannot be sent
The system, which will carry 86 million passengers annually across
the state, will be reliable and affordable. No longer will you
have to wait in traffic or wait in long lines at the airport.
A trip on a train, which will travel over 220 mph, from San Francisco
to Los Angeles will only take 2 ½ hours and will cost about
half the price of a plane ticket.
High-speed trains are also safe. There has never been a fatal
accident in the Japan and the seismic engineering that the earthquake-prone
country has developed will ensure that a California system will
be more than capable of withstanding a major quake.
High-speed trains will achieve all this and more while generating
up to $4 billion in operating revenue every year, and the system
can be built in stages with opportunities for a public-private
partnership to enhance and speed up the final schedule. The time
to act is nowCalifornia must continue to move forward in
innovation and become the first state in the country to embrace
high-speed trains. There is no other single project that can combat
global warming, move people fast, create good-paying jobs and
unclog our freeways.