skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Study Says High-Speed Rail Will Be Good For Environment

— High-speed rail in California will be an environmental plus, even in a future world of much cleaner cars. That's the conclusion of two university researchers who examined California's bullet-train proposal.

Aired 8/3/12 on KPBS News.

The proposed high-speed rail system in California may be expensive, but two researchers say it will almost certainly reduce California's greenhouse emissions.

High-speed trains around the world are pulling into stations like this one in...
Enlarge this image

Above: High-speed trains around the world are pulling into stations like this one in South Korea. And two researchers say building a system for California will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California's high-speed rail line has gotten a lot of bad press for its escalating cost. So its supporters will welcome the study by professors Mikhail Chester of Arizona State University and Arpad Horvath of UC Berkeley.

Their study was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, and it says high-speed rail will reduce California's carbon footprint. This will be true even when considering the fuel needed to build the system, and more fuel-efficient cars and planes in the future.

The study tried to control for many variables, including the likelihood that California's future electrical grid will run on on more renewable energy.

"It's an infrastructure system that could be added to help reduce the long-distance transportation footprint," said Chester. "I think that's the bottom line."

Researchers found that even in scenarios where ridership does not reach the levels the rail authority expects, the system will still bring a net reduction in greenhouse emissions.

But does this mean high speed rail in California is really worth its estimated cost of $100 billion?

"I don't have any comment on the cost," said Chester.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | August 3, 2012 at 1:49 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

The alternative is spending $158 to 186 billion expanding airports and freeways just to move the same number of people: between 4,295 and 4,652 new lane-miles of highway for $119.0 to 145.5 billion, and 115 airport gates and 4 runways for $38.6 to 41.0 billion.

So yes, high speed rail is definitely worth $100 billion.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | August 3, 2012 at 3:11 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

First it ain't "high speed rail." This boondoggle was sold as costing $30 billion, 70% private money and 30% public, with an understanding that the time between LA & San Francisco would be 2 hours 40 minutes. Now it's $65 billion (yeah right), minimum of 3 and 1/2 hours to SF and all private money. It's no longer high-speed, but mixed with regular trains. This was clearly a bill of goods sold to an unknowing public that violates the public's vote and will be stopped in the court--and good riddance.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Derek'

Derek | August 3, 2012 at 3:57 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

astrofan wrote: "This boondoggle was sold as costing $30 billion...Now it's $65 billion..."

Yes, inflation's a pain, isn't it?

FYI, the old $35.7 billion figure was in 2009 dollars. The new $68.4 billion figure is YOE dollars, which is $53.4 billion in 2011 dollars.

To compare apples with apples, in 2012 dollars, the old estimate was $38.2 billion, and the new estimate is $54.5 billion. So yes, the price has risen, not by 117% as your numbers implied, but by 42%.

astrofan wrote: "...minimum of 3 and 1/2 hours to SF..."

Where did you hear that? Please provide your source.

astrofan wrote: "It's no longer high-speed, but mixed with regular trains."

It's both: it will run at high speed in the central valley, and it will run on Metrolink and Caltrain tracks at the two ends.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Dothscribble'

Dothscribble | August 3, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

This underestimated high-speed Troff will put CA at economic disadvantage to every other economy in the world not chasing equally expensive US wet dreams. Afterwards, CA would be in economic ruin. Photos of the ruin would be profitable indeed, but not worth the adventure. By definition, the have-not economies not chasing US green fantasies would have more relatively speaking, wouldn't they?
In the end then, this venture then would be California's stab at global wealth re-distribution, plain and simple.
The overhead for this would kill all further 'liberating' high-speed branch-line wet dreaming.

( | suggest removal )