East Bay Express Notices HSR’s Environmental Benefits
The East Bay Express has picked up on the recent UC Berkeley/ASU study showing that California high speed rail can have a very positive environmental impact. Their article provides a good overview of the report:
The researchers conducted what they called a “life-cycle assessment” of travel by automobile, airplane, and high-speed rail. The report factored in the production and use of steel, concrete, and asphalt in the construction of roadways, vehicles, and high-speed rail stations, as well as the nearly eight hundred miles of high-speed rail track. The report determined that after all the dust settles, in about twenty years, high-speed rail will have a lighter environmental footprint than its rivals — although how much lighter it will be depends on numerous factors….
The UC Berkeley report’s findings indicate that efficiently planned high-speed rail gets people to their destinations with fewer emissions than driving. If the proposed high-speed train is occupied by 80 to 180 passengers on average over its lifetime, the report stated, it would result in the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger-kilometer-traveled produced by a 35-mpg sedan carrying 2.2 people. The US Department of Energy estimates that the average vehicle in America carries 1.59 passengers per vehicle on average at any given time.
The new study’s findings track closely with research commissioned in 2009 by seven of Europe’s leading high-speed rail systems. “Generally, what you tend to see around the rest of the world is a similar pattern where high-speed rail does have a lower environmental footprint than the automobile or aircraft,” Chester said.
Of course, as the report notes, this also requires HSR to be part of a broader rail transportation network. That is already well under way. The stations at either end of the system, Transbay Terminal and Union Station, will be connected to significant regional transit options by 2030 when the system is fully operational. Especially if Measure J, the proposal in Los Angeles County that would extend the Measure R tax and allow more transit to be built sooner, making Union Station one of North America’s great transit nodes.
High speed rail’s environmental benefits are undeniable. As the effects of climate change become ever clearer, the need to act to reduce carbon emissions – 39% of which comes from transportation in California – becomes all the more urgent. High speed rail is not only good for the state’s economy, it’s an essential piece of securing the state’s environmental future.