The high speed rail movement has just welcomed a powerful new ally to its ranks - the California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG. A recent CALPIRG study, A Better Way to Go: Meeting America's 21st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit emphasizes high speed rail as a solution to our environmental and transportation challenges.
Steve Blackledge, a former policy director for CALPIRG, provides some useful stats fleshing out their case:
The report found that thanks to public transit, each year California saves more than 486 million gallons of oil, the rough equivalent of taking more than 800,000 cars off the road. As a result, California is far less dependent on oil than we otherwise would be and consumers are less susceptible to gas price spikes. Additionally, the state of California is committed to reducing our global warming pollution by 25% by 2020, a commitment that will be difficult to reach unless we reduce our dependence on cars. Public transit already prevents almost 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually....
In fact, this November, California voters will have the opportunity to support a bond measure to cement the state’s commitment to building high-speed rail. The rail line would take up to 92 million car trips off the road each year and take 18 million travelers who would otherwise fly. That means a lot less traffic, a lot less pollution, and billions in avoided costs in road and airport expansions.
We can add some more stats to those Blackledge provides. HSR alone would:
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 1.4 million cars from the road
- Reduce CO2 emissions by up to 17.6 billion pounds/year
- Reduce California’s oil consumption by up to 22 million barrels/year
(From Ryan Loney at the Support HSR Facebook group)
And the $9.95 billion high speed rail bond on the November ballot would direct $950 million toward investment in other intercity rail systems that would link other communities to the HSR line, generating further savings.
Of course, there's one last stat that should be noted. Oil prices neared $110 a barrel in trading today. The price of oil has soared for 5 years now - in 2003 the price was a mere $25/bbl. As peak oil begins to make its presence felt, the price of oil will either continue to soar, or supplies will fall - or both.
High speed rail isn't just an environmentally friendly method of transportation. It is a necessary project if we are to manage the climate and energy crises of this century.