Draft EIR due for high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles
by Patrick Moore
In many parts of the world, Europe, Japan, China, Korea and others, High Speed
Rail trains are proving to be the best transportation option to travelers going
100-400 miles. With speeds between 186 to 217 mph, an unmatched safety record,
and an on-time record that the airlines can only dream about, high-speed trains
are very popular. The high speed train which connects Paris to Marseilles (462
miles) has a 61% market share, beating air travel.
As we go to press, the Draft Environmental Impact Report for California’s own
high speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles is due to be released.
After release, there will be a 90-day comment period.
This electrically-powered High Speed Train would travel over 200 mph. With
a travel time of approximately two hours between downtown stations in the Bay
Area and the Los Angeles basin, high-speed rail will offer better door-to-door
travel times than an airplane.
The Loma Prieta and San Francisco Chapters have successfully fought the planned
expansion of San Francisco Airport. This $10 billion project would have dumped
over 800 acres of fill into San Francisco Bay in an effort to improve the on-time
performance of a small fraction of the flights delayed by local fog. Building
high-speed rail is a positive, job-producing, economy-boosting way to improve
travel between northern and southern California without harming San Francisco
Bay or expanding other airports including LAX.
According to the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, 35% of flights
from the San Francisco Bay Area head to the Los Angeles Area. The California High
Speed Rail Authority believes a majority of those travelers would use a high-speed
rail system if it were available. High-speed rail offers the opportunity to reshape
the transportation backbone of California for the next 100 years and will help
address the congestion bottlenecks at all of the state’s busiest airports without
The trick is to do it right. Station placement, rail alignment and land use
around stations are critical environmental issues. Sierra Club California has
adopted a resolution that stresses downtown stations with good access to mass
transit. A station surrounded by parking lots and isolated from a city center
is an unattractive destination. Furthermore, the ridership served by such a station
would be limited by the parking lot capacity. The opposite is true of a station
located in an attractive downtown area with limited parking served by mass transit.
The route the train takes is also important. In order to compete successfully
with air travel times, the route must be as direct as possible. Each minute added
to the route lessens its competitiveness with air travel. Out-of-the-way cities
such as Palmdale are lobbying to be included in the route.
Sierra Club Chapters up and down California are joining together to lobby for
a route along travel and utility corridors that will keep the rail route out of
parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. We need to be sure that both the
route and the construction of this much-needed transportation project are sensitive
to the environment.
How to help
Dec 03-Jan 04
Draft EIR due
Comment period ends
$10 billion bond measure on ballot to fund initial construction.