In the dustup over the ridiculous Ben Adler article and the even more inane TAPPED post about Adler's article, a couple of very good points have been made about how we talk about transportation and the need to avoid reinforcing false dichotomies that undermine our goals.
One of the primary things this blog was founded to accomplish is to provide the accurate information about high speed rail that is so sorely lacking in this state. I've had the benefit of attracting some brilliant commenters like Rafael who know the technical aspects of this inside and out. The quality of the discussions here helps all of us promote and support HSR. It's the kind of info that The Overhead Wire explains is fundamental to successful transit advocacy. Especially from the news media, we get buried under an avalanche of misinformation and opinions based on incorrect facts.
We scored a major victory over those tactics by getting Prop 1A passed. There really is a huge reservoir of support in California for mass transit and passenger rail in particular. The idiotic 2/3 rule aside, 67% of voters in LA County, Santa Clara County, and the North Bay - three of the most populated parts of the state - voted for local rail service. If we are to sustain that energy and turn it into steel in the ground, into actual passenger trains, we need to continue working on pushing out the right information so that Californians and their leaders will implement the solutions we voted for on November 4.
We also need to make sure we don't fall into traps. Ben Adler did that by setting mass transit up against itself. Bruce McF offered an excellent comment on this subject:
It is not unreasonable to ask the question of spending priority, but it is always unreasonable to ask the questions in terms of setting priorities between different transport modes that happen to use the same technology.
That is, the following system makes no sense at all:
1. $X set aside for rail. Allocate between light rail, mass transit, regional passenger rail, and freight rail.
2. $Y set aside for roads. Allocate between city streets, industrial parks, state highways, federal highways, freeways.
And in perpetuating that process of proposing to establish a priority rankings within pools based on technology instead of based on transport task, that is precisely what Ben Adler is supporting.
When divided up by transport task, the money required for the HSR line is substantially less than the money required for the available alternatives ... road and air.
HSR's rivals aren't BART, Caltrain, Metro Rail, or local buses. Those services are our allies and for HSR to be successful, they must be successful. No, the real problem is a political system that continues to favor sprawl and cars even though long-term oil price increases remain likely.
HSR is a solution to failed priorities and a failed developmental model. HSR is a cost-effective solution to the problem of how to move millions of Californians around the state. Let's make sure that message, and the other reasons for HSR, get a wider airing over the coming months.