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Update Bullet trains? Monorails? An end to speed limits? Californias transportation future is going

November 14, 2019


Update Bullet trains? Monorails? An end to speed limits? Californias transportation future is going On Monday, my wife and daughter and I traveled home from Oakland by plane, and on landing in Burbank, my wife immediately did the math. Door to door, our trip would have taken only 90 minutes longer if we had driven, and it would have been much cheaper. Should we have traveled by sedan instead of by Southwest Airlines? If the high speed rail line were up and running, and both the time and price were somewhere between flying and driving, that might have been a preferable option. But the train is stuck in limbo, and its not clear from his conflicting statements whetherGavinjust blew the whistle or leaped off the caboose. I want to slap myself for saying this, but you can hardly blame President Trump for that hes trying to stiff us on a dollar 929 million federal grant for the project. Ill revisit the bullet train in a moment, but given the likelihood that were never going to get it together on rail, state Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County has pitched a bill to Freeways through the Central Valley on which you could drive like hell, with no speed limits. Buckle up, hit the gas and go. Burbank is a blur, Fresno a flash. Youre moving so fast, you cant even smell the cow manure at Harris Ranch. If Moorlachs idea sounds crazy to you, theres a reason for that. By my calculations, half the people behind the wheel dont know what theyre doing at any speed. Do we want lawmakers telling them to pretend theyre NASCAR drivers? Back when Montana law allowed you to drive as fast as you considered reasonable and prudent, I rented a car in Great Falls and drove at the speed of sound approximately to Helena, where the Legislature was already considering a return to numerical speed limits. When I hit 112 miles an hour in a Toyota Camry, my teeth rattled, the doors felt like they might blow off and the ghosts of my ancestors danced before me. Even free spirited, get off our backs Montanans realized this was insane, and imposed a 75 mph speed limit in 1999. But Californians are a delusional denomination, and we cant let go of the dream that getting from here to there is going to be easier one day, even though all our choices guarantee the exact opposite. We keep growing, we move ever greater distances from our jobs, and 3 in 4 of us drive alone in our cars. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is studying congestion pricing, and my vote is yes, right now, lets go. You take the most congested places in the region and charge people to drive in those areas when traffic is worst, which means that some drivers wont bother. So theres less traffic and less pollution. Yeah, there are downsides. You dont want a system that punishes the poor and gives rich people yet another break. But its worked elsewhere and it can work here, if planners could design a system that gives a break to low income people who have to drive for their jobs. Then you take the congestion fees to build more and better transit. The same MTA is considering transit options for the Sepulveda Pass, including tunneling through the mountain or stringing a monorail up and over the hill. Thats how desperate we are to relieve congestion we cant stop looking to Disneyland for answers. OK, fine, but why are we always focused on the wrong ride? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the model we should be looking to. Make transit easy, fun and economical and people might ditch their cars. If the open air Big Thunder train barreled over and through the pass, with passengers screaming and their hair flying as they blew by the Getty, Id move to Sherman Oaks just to ride it every day. But seriously, were never going to get anywhere, so to speak, without some smart local decisions and more clarity from Sacramento. I appreciated Jerry Browns push for the bullet train as a centerpiece of his green agenda, but Uncle Jerry did a lousy job of selling the train, and his vision ended up being more of a hallucination. Way too many delays, massive cost overuns, millions in lawsuits and no funding in sight going forward. On Tuesday, the chairman of the high speed rail board resigned. As a candidate, Gavin Newsom was so wishy washy you couldnt tell where he stood. And when he finally spoke last week, he only created more confusion. One day it sounded like the train was dead; the next day Newsom said the media blew the story. What did we do wrong? But lets be real, Newsom had said in a speech. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. Theres been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isnt a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. Does that look unclear to you? It doesnt to me. I figured it meant the train was off the rails. Others saw it the same way, and the backlash was immediate. Newsoms people then scrambled to straighten things out, and the governor himself attempted to clarify, saying he hasnt given up on the bigger project. If thats true, Id like to make one recommendation to the governor. Go to Disneyland, take a ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and imagine traveling from San Diego to San Francisco on that.

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