- Written by Paul Hatfield
24 Feb 2012
PERSPECTIVE - North is north, and south is south, but never the (bullet) train shall connect.
That would be good news for California.
An article in the LA Times reported some encouraging developments; sort of. [link]
Transportation agencies in both ends of the state are finally facing up to reality: a bullet train project in the Central Valley will not provide the impetus the system needs to win the public’s acceptance. They now appear to realize that a major makeover is required for commuter rail in the San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles metro areas. That’s half a loaf for me.
I’ve always been a proponent for fast and reliable regional rail serving major population centers, [link] such as the Southern California market. At least the so-called experts recognize the importance of that much, but they are still clinging to a multi-billion dollar train wreck of a plan connecting north and south.
I will lean towards optimism and assume they just might realize the light at the end of the high-speed tunnel is an oncoming train, then convince the federal and state governments to redirect the funding to improving commuter rail.
We won’t need $100 billion to achieve major improvements. Dedicated track for passenger service, elimination of at-grade crossings and anti-collision technology will allow current diesel locomotives to fly along at over 100 miles per hour. According to the article, officials realize that high-speed trains would not be able to travel much faster than that in urban areas.
Nevertheless, there is a major flaw with their vision for regional improvements – sharing track with freight.
No way; never; forget about it.
I invite the officials to try riding Amtrak or Metrolink, as I did, between Union Station and Irvine for over a year. The segment between LA and Fullerton is shared, to a large extent, by commuter and freight trains. If you want a bumpy ride subject to delays, that is what you will get if you combine the two. Passenger trains will not attract the patronage they need to recover operating costs under those conditions.
Freight traffic will only increase as the economy grows – even at a modest pace. That will translate to slower speeds and outright delays for commuter trains sharing the same tracks.
Will Governor Brown come to his senses and convince the federal government to drop its support for high-speed rail and allow bonds to be used for regional improvements?
Fast and reliable regional service will do far more to eliminate cars from the 405, 10, 14 and 101 then a 400-mile route through the vast agricultural interior would to get cars off the 5.