California State Assemblywoman and Majority Whip Fiona Ma, a leading advocate for high-speed rail in California, was on hand last month at the Ecocity World Summit to talk about the $10 billion bond initiative for high-speed rail in California this November. The vote on the bond has twice been postponed, in 2004 and 2006, and could be postponed for a third time this year.
Ma, however, believes that, after 10 years of work on the initiative, this year may finally be the "perfect storm" that gets the plan approved, due to rising gas prices, road congestion, endless lines at the airports and the latest airline crisis. Japan, Ma noted, has had high-speed rail for 40 years, and France for 25. Countries all over the world are now developing high-speed rail, and California and the US are "light years behind" the rest of the world.
High-speed rail is the most environmentally-sound option for meeting California's future transport needs, and must be part of the discussion about global warming.
California is the world's 12th largest single source of carbon emissions, and emissions from transportation make up around 38% of total emissions. While Governator Schwarzenegger has committed the state to drastic reductions in greenhouse emissions over the next several decades, car-based planning has led to serious increases in automobile miles traveled in the state.
According to Ma, the proposed high-speed rail line, running from San Diego to Sacramento, with travel times of two and a half hours between LA and San Francisco, would be the most effective single investment that the state could make to lower greenhouse emissions, improve quality of life and stimulate the economy.
For more on high-speed rail in the US and elsewhere:
The TH Interview: Andy Kunz, New Urbanist
High-Speed Passenger Rail Comes to the Americas
Spain's New High-Speed Rail Service Challenges the Airlines
Europe's High-Speed Train Networks Continue to Expand