Sunday, November 06, 2005

California High Speed Rail Project Moves Forward


Green Car Congress reports this week that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) voted unanimously to approve the environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed 700 high speed rail network that would link Sacramento and the San Fransisco Bay Area with Los Angales and San Diego in the south. This moves one of the nations most ambitious transportation projects one step closer to being built.

The Authority’s studies show that the full system, which will cost more than $33 billion to construct, will serve 30 stations, attracting 42 to 68 million passengers per year in 2020, and will operate at a surplus.

The rail system will use high-speed trains capable of speeds of up to 220 mph (320 km/h) that will be similar to those in service today in Europe and Asia. The system will be built mostly within or alongside existing transportation corridors [see accompanying graphic] and will be entirely grade-separated from parallel and crossing roads, providing the same extremely safe environment enjoyed in other countries.

The high speed trains will run on electric power drawn from overhead wires connected to the commercial power grid. They will also utilize regenerative breaking to send electricity back to the grid, thereby conserving power and reducing costs.

It is estimated that express trains will take one hour and fifteen minutes between San Diego and Los Angeles, and a little more than two and one-half hours from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a distance of 389 miles with a normal estimated driving time of 7-8 hours.

According to the EIR, the proposed high speed rail system offers to following potetnial air quality and energy benefits:

  • Decrease CO by 799,200 to 803,100 tons/year;

  • Decrease NOx by 185,200 to 186,400 tons/year;

  • Decrease CO2 by 368 to 372.4 million tons/year;

  • Decrease oil consumption by between 2.0 to 5.2 million barrels per year, depending upon ridership.


  • This is a very ambitious project. However, it is has great potential. The ability to hop on a train in San Fransisco and get to LA in two and a half hours is a significant gain over driving and will likely draw plenty of passangers, thus cutting down on the number of car trips up and down the Interstate 5 corridor. The same goes for other routes. An express trip on this train would be only slightly slower than taking a plane and considering airport delays etc., might even be faster. I know I would opt for a trip on this train over flying or driving, and anyone who has driven the heinously boring I5 stretch from Sacramento to LA will likely be with me on this one.

    The fact that these trains will be electric and run on grid-power, plus to addition of regenerative breaking to 'recharge' the grid means they will likely be significantly more energy efficient per passanger than either driving or planes.

    I would love to see high speed rail networks like this linking major cities across the United States but this is a start. Again, California is bold enough to stride ahead of the pack again.


    Resources:
  • Implementation Plan

  • Final EIR/EIS

  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Last I heard this project is stalled. The Governator has proposed a massive spending bill on regional transportation in metro areas of California which would tap into money previously set aside for this project. Rumor has it that this regional transporation plan will stop the high speed rail project in it's "tracks." - Sorry had to go there. It would be too bad if this is the case becasue a high speed train linking San Francisco and LA would be huge - everyone would ride it. But by the same token California cities have horribly outdated transporation systems - at least the money would go towards public transporation.