Chronicle Column: High Speed Rail Opponents "Make Stuff Up"
Chronicle Column: High Speed Rail
Opponents “Make Stuff Up”
August 4, 2011 - In a column published in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, transportation expert Roger Christensen explained how high speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco would greatly improve transportation, improve the environment, and vastly reduce Californians’ oil dependence. Opponents, he claims, ignore that reality and “make stuff up.” Christensen’s entire column, and a link to the on-line version, follow.
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Great High-Speed Rail Lie
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond to begin construction of a bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco that would make that trip in less than three hours. So who knew that by 2011 the general consensus would be that the project is an ill-conceived, mismanaged boondoggle?
Former Amtrak spokesman and Reason Foundation writer Joseph Vranich knew. In 2008, before the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, he called the project "science fiction." He said the train won't travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours because that exceeds the speed of all existing high-speed rail.
But on French railway schedules, a TGV (Train À Grande Vitesse) takes two hours, 38 minutes to go from Paris to Avignon. That's 430 miles. The route for the L.A.-to-San Francisco line is 432
So what's going on here?
It's simple. Vranich makes stuff up. Adrianne Moore, vice president of policy at the Reason Foundation, says the Europeans are abandoning rail in favor of driving and flying. Nonsense.
Transportation market share of European high-speed rail lines has grown steadily and many are near 80 percent. Rick Geddes, a professor at Cornell University who is also on Reason's payroll, said on National Public Radio that the California system can't be powered by renewable energy - except that the Hoover Dam generates four times what the train needs.
The Reason Foundation is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, the American Petroleum Institute, Delta Airlines, the National Air Transportation Association and, of course, the Koch Family Foundation. They know what will happen once Americans, furious about gas prices and the way airlines treat them, experience electrically powered 200-mph trains. But big oil and aviation can't attack high-speed rail directly — that would be an obvious attempt to abort competition. So they hire a "think tank."
Reason collaborates on research with James Moore III, a transportation engineering professor at University of Southern California. They parrot Reason's "train to nowhere" nonsense, a phrase they apply to all rail projects. It's especially absurd in this case, because interim services will have high-speed rail trains slow and reach the Bay Area on existing rail lines. Reason's minions claim there's no business plan or ridership figures. Except that anyone can go on the California High-Speed Rail Authority website and download them.
Where does the corporate cash and propaganda end and the legitimate criticism begin? It was impossible to know in Florida, where high-speed rail was killed using the same techniques.
A modern 200-mile-per-hour rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco will change America's transportation paradigm. Just like in Europe and Asia, California will develop a profitable system joining all its cities. Nearby states, such as Nevada and Arizona, will link into the network, just like European countries did after France established its network. Jet airplanes will be used for what they were intended: long-distance travel. Automobile use will be reduced. This will save millions of barrels of oil. And that's the real reason these lobbyists want it stopped.
Roger Christensen is a transit advocate from Los Angeles County (former chairman of the Metro Citizen Advisory Council) who has moved to the Central Valley, where he awaits high-speed rail.