A Word About This Site

Important Note: This site is designed to be a one stop shopping place for information relevant to the HSR project, the potential impacts to our communities and how to participate in the process. Since this is an all volunteer effort, a lack of funding relegates us to using the freeby sites. With no perfect fit available, this site is being treated like a hybrid blog/website. Like a blog, it is not stagnant, but like a website, information is categorized. Therefore one should not treat it as a blog by always looking for only the latest entry, yet periodically refer back to older posts for updated information. To make it easier, HSR-PREP has a newsletter designed to be used in conjunction with this site. If you wish to be notified of new information appearing on the site, it is recommended that you sign up for the HSR-PREP Newsletter. Another way is to create an RSS link on your homepage.

Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved.

Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved. If you have any issues at all with the high speed rail project as it exists, if you say and do nothing, it means you agree 100%. We are all busy in our lives. This cannot be used as an excuse later. If you have issues, you must participate in the process or forever hold your peace. Call, email or write your legislators. It takes 15 minutes using their websites. Participate in the public input opportunities with the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA). But don't wait.
Spread the word. Be informed. Get involved.

HSR and the Environment

June 5, 2012.  Sierra Club comes out against Governor Brown's proposal to circumvent CEQA in order to get the shovels in the ground before the federal deadline for the ARRA funding runs out.  See the letter by Sierra Club Director Kathryn Phillips here.

The "Green" Argument.

Pro. What you read at the ballot; "...while reducing air pollution, global warming greenhouse gases, and our dependence on foreign oil..."

High Speed Rail Authority board member Quentin Kopp; "The proposed route of the system intersects with many of the state's best location for wind, solar and geothermal facilities. High-speed trains will help California meet the goals set out by the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; using new clean energy technologies to power the system will be an added bonus and establish California as a leader in reducing global warming while developing renewable energy sources."

The 2008 Navigant study funded by the HSRA.

Con. Is high speed rail as "green" as it is made out to be? U.C. Berkeley tried to answer this question by looking at and comparing the full life cycle of trains, planes and automobiles and found that unless the trains are running at nearly full capacity, they will not be cleaner than planes or autos, and this assumes little improvements in autos and planes. Quotes from the study:

  • “We find that total life-cycle energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions contribute an additional 63% for onroad, 155% for rail, and 31% for air systems over vehicle tailpipe operation.”

  • For the scenario with the average inter-city auto trip having 2.25 occupants, airlines having today's 85% load factor, and HSR achieving 50% load factor, it would take 71 years for HSR to achieve GHG "break-even"-i.e., for its GHG savings to offset the GHGs released by its construction.

  • Update January 2011. Thanks to a discovery by blogger Clem Tillier, it turns out the HSRA provided UC Berkeley with some bad numbers that actually work in the Authority's favor. The outcome, all things being equal, puts HSR on par with air. Unfortunately, as Elizabeth Alexis of CARRD points out, this latest finding is more than offset by the fact that they will be pouring much more concrete than the original design called for. The end result is the environmental argument remains weak for HSR.

For a look at the full study, take a look here. For a summary see this article. For Clem's findings see here.

Consider this. Both trains and automobiles powered by electricity directly or requiring electricity to recharge their fuel cells have an advantage over planes in that electricity can be generated by multiple sources, whereas planes rely solely on fossil fuels. The only problem remains that a majority of California's electricity is generated by natural gas. Less than 3% is generated by truly clean renewables - wind and solar combined - with total renewables at 11%. See the CA Energy Commission for more information. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nationwide, coal is the biggest source for electric energy, with renewables at only 3%. For this reason, high speed rail is not a short term solution for weaning us off of foreign oil.

You have to ask yourself what if, as a state (as a nation), instead of encouraging people to continue to travel for business, we were to discourage urban sprawl in combination with encouraging telecommuting, and use the money for high speed rail instead to install solar panels on businesses and homes? $80B would pay for solar systems on roughly 4 million homes, and that is a direct weaning from oil without the risk, while creating immediate jobs.