It is rare that students get to be part of a visionary transportation project that will fundamentally change the future of their state. That is the opportunity that we have, today, as high-speed rail — a train that will shuttle Californians between downtown San Francisco and Union Station in Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes for only $81 in today’s dollars — gets set to begin construction at the end of the year.
There is, however, one snag. Some legislators have united to oppose the project passed by voters in 2008.
These legislators do not have the best interests of our generation in mind.
True, the rail is an expensive project, but the cost of not building it is even greater. Estimates suggest that without high-speed rail, in order to meet California’s growing population, highways and airports would have to be built at a cost of over $171 billion — nearly double that of high-speed rail itself.
The increased reliance on highways would also impact the environment negatively, causing pollution and the release of even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The high-speed rail is powered by 100 percent sustainable resources — such as wind and solar power — and will provide huge benefits to the environment as well as decrease pollution in California.
Furthermore, the high-speed rail project will help create jobs both now during construction and in the long term — a new high-speed rail industry that will provide jobs for students and workers long into the future.
Starting in the Central Valley, specifically, will help alleviate the economic recession in our state’s hardesthit region and jump-start our state’s economic recovery.
Critics argue that high-speed rail costs too much, especially during a recession. But Gov. Brown forcefully rebutted their arguments in his State of the State address this year, strongly reiterating his support for the project.
Brown also said that high-speed rail critics forget that some of California’s (and the country’s) greatest public works projects — the Interstate Highway System, BART and the Central Valley Water Project — all faced similar criticism and have since transformed the future of the state and country for the better.
“They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now,” stated Brown.
Twenty-four other countries have built or are building high-speed rail, with countries such as France and Japan generating income based on the high ridership of the trains.
California needs to take this next step and continue to be the innovator and leader in transportation, environmental and economic issues in our country.
Legislators need to remember that it’s our generation of students and our children who will be riding the train, and it’s time for us to get on board.
To get involved in supporting highspeed rail, contact the Office of the External Affairs Vice President at [email protected] or visit 220 Eshleman Hall.
Joey Freeman is the ASUC External Affairs Vice President. Aviv Gilboa is an ASUC senator.