The editorial also identifies me as an opponent of this project, and a critic of the consequences that will befall our city when the development process begins. I acknowledge that position and regret that my frequent words failed to convince a large enough number of voters to see the project for what it really is in the cold light of day.
In the past and in this newspaper I have sought to present a position about urban mass transit, its importance and its current inadequacy on the Peninsula and in the Bay Area.
The Almanac carried a powerful and compelling lead article about all this in July. Not only is the development of such a mass transit system critical to the economic well-being of our region, it is where the investments, intended for the high-speed train project, should and could have been directed. If the high-speed rail is what I oppose, urban mass transit is what I support.
The rail project claims that it will mitigate the environmental damage and traffic congestion of the state's highways. That is a false claim since a train running between San Francisco and Los Angeles won't reduce Bay Area traffic problems, or those in the Los Angeles Basin, for that matter. Each population center suffers from severe transit difficulties and the billions of dollars earmarked for this luxury train would be far better invested in relieving our overburdened local highways with a comprehensive urban mass transit system.
The point here is to suggest not only how misconceived this particular high-speed train project is, but what a genuinely productive investment could have been made. It's not about what we are against, but what we are for, and aren't going to have.
It is uninformed thinking to posit one transportation mode against another; to suggest that a train, such as this high-speed train, is superior to cars or airplanes. They don't do the same job. It's apples and oranges. These are different modalities. As any craftsman knows, there is a right tool for the right job. Each of these "tools" will undergo dramatic technological development over the next several decades with the awareness of carbon-based fuel problems. There is a critical role for all of them.
This high-speed rail project has been a solution looking for problems. It has discovered so many, including a solution to the current economic disaster, that at least a little skepticism ought to appear even among the most enthusiastic supporters. Although sections of it can be a necessary and useful component of regional mass transit in both population centers, in its current configuration it is outrageously expensive and unnecessary between those population centers.
We are about to start building the wrong solution to our state's transportation problems, and for the wrong reasons, at that. By the same token, we are not building what we ought or where we ought; a networked, multi-modal regional transit system, with highly distributed connectivity. And, that's a shame.
Martin Engel lives on Stone Pine Lane in Menlo Park and has written frequently in opposition to the California high-speed rail bond measure, which voters passed on Nov. 4.