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Take the Last Train to Carsville

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 8, 1999


When I first heard that the proposed high speed train was being touted for the Interstate 15 corridor, I thought it was a very bad idea. My objection was based on the belief that the inland route would promote sprawl in Central California. Currently population densities are located along the coast, so it only makes sense to place the train where the people are. Consolidation of transportation technology is what is need at this time, not continued separation.

I realize this goes against the North County Transit District plans for a coastal freight corridor, but moving people in a more environmental friendly way should always take precedent over hauling consumer goods north. NCTD has made no secret about their plans to increase freight traffic through the county, or their desire to double track the entire rail corridor. It is just a matter of time and vision.

It is also clear to me that NCTD will spend a great deal of time and money trying to convince us all that there is no way a high speed rail can be done, as it will severely impact our quality of life. Granted there are issues such as noise and coastal bluffs to contend with. But this can all be dealt with by following the lead of Solana Beach, with a systematic lowering of all coastal tracks below grade. I envision an open air subway.

The logical thing to do is place high speed rails within interstate corridors. Imagine replacing the oleanders in the center of interstate 5 with an elevated Maglev system. That would go a long way to protect the coastal bluffs, while utilizing an established transportation conduit. A state wide monorail system would be a perfect tie-in to Disney's Californialand. As it is now Amtrak does not drop you at the greatest place on earth. Which is a major oversight in my book.

I will be the first to admit that a million reasons can be found not to do anything. Some are quite altruistic, but most are self-serving and far from future focused. The same can be said for the reasons in favor of any said course of action. The question then becomes one of which is the least damaging to environment. Finding smarter ways of using space designated for transportation needs is a step in the right direction.

Once again County Supervisor Pam Slater is asking all the right questions in regards to environmental impacts. She also told the Deputy Director of the High Speed Rail Authority, she would expect the rail project to remove the earthen berms currently cutting across our regional lagoons. She also told him in no uncertain terms anything that would limit pedestrian access to the coast, would be unacceptable. Finally a elected official looking out for the rights of pedestrians. Now if she could only talk some sense into the the folks at NCTD.

Another good reason keeping mass transit close to the coast, is the fact that it makes it that much easier to access Airports in San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles. Hopefully all of these airports will eventually have there own rail terminals. I can imagine the time when I will be able to fill a back pack, hop a train to Los Angeles, and then a plane to anywhere in the world. No driving, no rental cars, no need to worry about parking or rides to and from you point of departure.

As you know, I have been including key Deep Ecology concepts in this column as a way of presenting a new dialogue to my readers. Voluntary simplicity is one of those concepts. Henry David Thoreau  asked his contemporaries to "Simplify, simplify, simplify." And this was at a time before the automobile. I wonder what he would have thought about a Sports Utility Vehicle, complete with cell phones, and televisions in the back seat to keep the kids occupied.

Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that the automobile has given them all sorts of freedom, when in fact it has done just the opposite. Considering the amount of money it takes to keep just one car on the road, drivers must work longer hours just so that they can drive to work. Automobiles shape how we see America and plan for it. Even national parks are buckling under the strain of an auto-dependent culture, unable to leave their vehicles behind.

By simplifying our transportation system, and creating one that is cost efficient, environmentally sensitive and life affirming, we would be doing future generations an immeasurable favor. By finding in ourselves the courage to step away from the car, we will in fact be permitting ourselves the freedom to just walk. Trains may not be perfect, but they are a far sight better than bumper to bumper traffic on the road to no where.

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