California youth face bleak future without high-speed rail – Capitol Weekly | weekly capitol

Opinion

Artist’s rendering of California’s proposed high-speed rail. (Image: California High Speed ​​Rail Authority)

by
JENN ENGSTROM
job 27.05.2022

I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley in 2008 when voters were asked to decide whether to pass Proposition 1A, the ballot measure to fund the launch of California’s high-speed rail effort. . I was more than enthusiastic about a high-speed train in California – going from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours and helping our planet by reducing air travel and removing about 400,000 cars of the road every year.

My generation is the one focused on ways to get people out of their cars – and this project does just that.

We must act urgently to transform our transport system with electrified high-speed rail as its centerpiece.

So I spent my spring break that year with a group of students traveling, mostly by bicycle, along the route of the proposed railway. We set off from San Francisco on a sunny Monday in March and over the next five days and 500 miles we stood alongside mayors and state officials proudly explaining how good high-speed rail is for our environment, a great way to reduce air travel and car traffic, and it’s so cool.

My peers and I were thrilled when California voters agreed with us and passed Proposition 1A. We planned to come together in 2020, when the project was originally slated for completion, to take our place in history as the first passengers to cross the state on a high-speed train.

We can no longer afford to wait. Climate change is already impacting our health and safety. We must act urgently to transform our transport system with electrified high-speed rail as its centerpiece.

California leaders need to show we mean business. It begins with the state Legislature approving the $4.2 billion bond allocation in Governor Newsom’s proposed budget to help complete the first leg of the Central Valley rail line. and dedicate additional resources to accelerate progress and show positive results in urban Southern California and the Bay Area. .

The state’s projected $97 billion budget surplus provides another huge opportunity to energize work on the project. With these investments, the California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority can better compete for billions of dollars in federal funding.

Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles takes the lives of approximately 58,000 people in this country and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Transportation is also now the number one source of carbon pollution in the United States. Cars, trucks, diesel trains and other vehicles emit more carbon dioxide than the entire economy of a single country except China and India.

It’s not just me who still wants to see high-speed rail in California.

Long after cycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the majority of California voters continue to support the high-speed rail. According to a recent UC Berkeley-Los Angeles Times poll, 56% of registered voters in California want to continue building the project, including 73% of registered Democrats and 54% of independents. Young people continue to be among its staunchest supporters, with 65% of voters between the ages of 18 and 39 backing the bill. Overall support in Los Angeles County is also strong, at 59%.

To achieve our zero-carbon goals and secure our children’s future, California must follow through on its commitment to build the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

The nation is watching, let’s show them what we can achieve.

Editor’s Note: Jenn Engstrom is State Director of CALPIRG, which is a member of the US High Speed ​​Rail Coalition.

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