Prop 1A & Regional Rail Funding
In 2008 I authored Assembly Bill 3034, Proposition 1A which provided $950 million dollars of funding for capital improvements to intercity and commuter rail lines and urban rail systems that provide direct connectivity to the high-speed train system and its facilities.
This funding source has since been fully allocated, even though a number of projects remain that meet the initial funding criteria.
We furthered this goal in the 2012 Budget Act by providing $1.2 billion dollars in connectivity funding for the bookends, ie CalTrain electrification and the Southern California MOU.
Maximizing Existing Funds from Prop 1A , PRIIA and ARRA
That’s because I, along with many of you, have long envisioned an incremental approach of building new high-speed alignments in some areas, and using existing passenger rail tracks at the same time, as opposed to building brand new track and infrastructure that only the High Speed Rail system can use.
There are 3 main advantages to this incremental approach:
One – it could allow us to optimize the best use of our current intercity and commuter rail service, and shave tens of billions of dollars in “start-up” costs.
Two – it will allow us to provide “high-speed connectivity” to job centers in the Silicon Valley, Bay Area, and Los Angeles, long before the full system from San Francisco to Anaheim is built.
And Three – it will allow us to begin generating revenue sooner, and phase in new infrastructure improvements as additional funding becomes available.
This plan is a “Smarter-Faster” plan.
Guidance from the Legislature
Looking at High Speed Rail through this Lens, these are the questions before the Legislature, now that we’ve funded California’s high speed test track:
1) What early investments can we make to achieve the best use, and highest potential, of our existing passenger and commuter rail network, that are part of, or connect with the HSR project?
2) What early investments can we make to mitigate the jobs housing imbalance, by providing high-speed connectivity for commuters, to job centers in the Silicon Valley, Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego?
3) What early investments can we make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the idling of trains at stations? Where should we build underpasses and overpasses along our shared alignments, to eliminate the idling of cars and trucks that wait for trains to pass at grade crossings?
Bakersfield to San Francisco
In the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, the jobs-housing imbalance is among the worst in the country.
In 2008 alone, 900,000 Bay Area workers were found to live outside the county in which they worked.
That number has grown exponentially, which means that over a million workers in the Bay Area alone, are using our highways to commute to work.
So here is the political question we should be asking ourselves.
How can we take best advantage of our initial investment in the Central Valley Test Track?
A test track I consider to be from Bakersfield to San Francisco.
And here’s why.
Once we finish the test track in the Central Valley, we can connect it with the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) system to Santa Clara.
In Santa Clara, passengers can walk across a platform and board a newly electrified Caltrain system from Santa Clara to San Francisco. Because of high-speed rail funding, Caltrain will be electrified and ready for service by 2019.
High-speed connectivity from Bakersfield to San Francisco, can be established using existing funds we already have today.
Once again, today’s plan is a “Smarter-Faster Plan.”
Next Stop – Palmdale to Burbank & Anaheim to Los Angeles
In Southern California, residents in the Antelope Valley have the longest commute time in the country.
Commuters using Metrolink spend one hour and fifty minutes each way, traveling back and forth from Palmdale to Los Angeles. Cooperation between Metrolink and the High Speed Rail Authority will reduce daily commute times closer to twenty minutes from LA Union Station to Burbank, and twenty minutes from Burbank to Palmdale.
LA Metro owns much of the property within an existing rail “right-of-way” from LA Union Station to Burbank, and Palmdale. Transportation leaders in the LOSSAN corridor (San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles to San Diego) have agreed to move forward with a “shared corridor” concept, and plans are underway to “double-track” much of this corridor so that high speed rail can run within the existing Metrolink corridor.
If we were to prioritize funding on the sub-segment from Palmdale to Burbank alone, and make capacity improvements at LA Union Station, we could reduce these daily commute times of one 1 hour and 50 minutes each way, to 30 or 40 minutes each way from Palmdale to Los Angeles.
And if we prioritize Los Angeles to Anaheim, we reduce emissions in a 30 mile corridor that nearly equal the emissions in Los Angeles to Fresno.
Once again, today’s plan is a “Smarter-Faster Plan.”
LA Union Station - Reducing Greenhouse Gasses
What early investments can we make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
I offer one suggestion as a starting point for consideration.
The HSR alignment in Southern California includes an elevated platform and passenger facility above the existing Los Angeles Union Station.
Idling passenger trains account for 40 – 50 hours of continuous diesel emissions on a daily basis.
Extending at least four LA Union Station platform tracks to exit at the south end of the yard will increase station capacity and reduce the number of idle trains.
These improvements can set the stage for the arrival of high-speed rail and achieve immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in time to help the state meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The manner in which Proposition 1A was structured, allows for a broad menu of choices over where to invest, and the timing of those investments, in order to capture the greatest benefit.
These are shared decisions for the Legislature, the Administration, the Authority, transit leaders, and the public.
But in any case, we have a wide range of possibilities, because Proposition 1A was structured to be nimble enough, to allow us to move forward incrementally.
Today’s plan builds upon our initial investment, and optimizes the best potential for our existing intercity and commuter network.
Today’s plan is a “Smarter-Faster Plan.”
I urge your Aye vote.