Caltrain and San Mateo County Transit District CEO Mike Scanlon on Tuesday discussed the importance of making transit sustainable in his keynote speech at the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon.
Scanlon, who began his speech at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos by reflecting on the U.S. post World War II after the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed, said the country has reached a time when sustainability needs to be the focus.
"We've been living sort of a wild ride," Scanlon said. "We are at a critical crossroads on a national level."
Scanlon recalled that when highways became prevalent in the U.S., people moved to the suburbs and started commuting to work with cars.
"We had a torrid love affair with the vehicle," he said. "The Federal Aid Highway Act provided the nation with more than highways and roadways; it gave America a new way of life."
But now the country needs to focus on ways to make transportation more sustainable, Scanlon said.
"We are entering into a more enlightened age," he said. "We need to take action now to preserve the quality of life."
The change, he said, could start with Caltrain, which Scanlon pointed out again Tuesday is "in deep financial trouble."
Caltrain is bleeding money for a number of reasons, including the loss of $10 million in state funding for each of the past three years and a decline in ridership.
One way to combat Caltrain's deficit is by implementing a modern, electric-powered railroad, Scanlon said, adding that making the railroad electric could cut the multi-million dollar deficit in half.
Trains would be able to make 14 stops in the time they normally make four, he said, and though it would be expensive, if combined with high-speed rail, Caltrain would save even more money as the two would share the electric railroad.