TransForm Comes Out In Support of HSR Proposal
The Oakland-based transit advocacy group TransForm didn’t support the previous version of the high speed rail project. But as a result of recent changes to the proposal, including the latest business plan, they now support the HSR project:
Building high-speed rail will give a much-needed shot in the arm to our economy by creating100,000 new jobs including many in the hard-hit Central Valley. In terms of meeting the state’s future transportation demands, building high-speed rail is considerably cheaper than the alternative – widening highways and expanding airports – and without the negative environmental and health consequences. High-speed rail will reinforce cities as the hubs of our economies, relieve congested roads, and help California meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. It will serve as a backbone of an interconnected, thriving California….
The previous plan received widespread, deserved criticism and indeed was not supported by TransForm. But the new revised 2012 business plan scaled back components of the project, reduces community impacts by narrowing the width of the corridor required in most urban areas, and brings the projected cost down to $68.4 billion.
The project is now designed to serve as the backbone of a statewide rail network, rather than an isolated system. It supports early upgrades to Caltrain and Metrolink as well as lines now used by Amtrak and ACE, allowing those systems go faster and attract more riders. Millions of Californians will benefit from these first investments by 2018. These upgrades will also serve to make those corridors more ready for full high-speed rail. It is a strong plan and sound blueprint for moving forward.
This is an important vote of confidence in the HSR project. And it comes from an organization that has shown itself willing to fight against rail projects it doesn’t like. TransForm led the recent effort to try and stop BART from building the Oakland Airport Connector, a rail project they felt was not a wise use of money.
I don’t agree with their approach to rail. I believe California needs to build as much rail as it can to as many places as it can in order to solve environmental, economic, and energy problems. TransForm is more willing to cede ground to people concerned about money, ridership, and community impact. I don’t think that’s a winning strategy for transit advocates, but I’m also not going to convince TransForm of that on my own.
More importantly, because their approach to rail projects is so different from that of many other rail advocates, it does make their endorsement of the HSR project more newsworthy. It shows that the California High Speed Rail Authority is able to address genuinely constructive criticism and win over people who want HSR but who had concerns about earlier versions of the plan. It also draws a sharper line between such critics and those who are actually opposed to high speed rail no matter the details but who say their concerns are with this specific project alone.
As the endgame approaches in the state legislature, it’s good to have organizations like TransForm on board.