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Speak not from inexperience

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 28, 2003


There has been considerable dialogue about restoring passenger rail service between Oceanside and Escondido. Fortunately, those opposed to the project have been ineffectual in derailing mass transit. This is mainly due to their lack of understanding and historical perspective.

Recently, one argument caught my attention, so much so it deserved a good airing. This is not to say it was in any way valid. It wasn't. The argument in question opposed the rail project because "there was no proof that rail service would reduce traffic congestion." No line of reasoning was in employed, just the usual NIMBY nay-saying.

The last time regular train service ran between Escondido and the coast was 1945. Its termination coincided with America beginning its obsession with the automobile. Having just won the Second World War, Americans were sold on the idea that cars represented unlimited freedom. For fifty years we actually believed that, building our lives and communities around fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine.

Without the gift of clairvoyance its hard to imagine that passenger rail in North County won't make a huge difference. Students unwilling to pay exorbitant parking fees at the community colleges and Cal State San Marcos will take to the train, as will seniors going about their daily business. Giving beachgoers transportation options will also help reduce traffic.

As we all know traffic congestion is worst when tourists descend on the coastal communities. During the summer things go from bad to worse. By providing alternative means to get around the county, the North County Transit District and regionnal planners are not only improving the quality of life for those of us who live and work in North County, they are helping move us towards sustainability.

Granted some people will never use trains, that's O.K. Important is the fact that young people will be given a choice. Cars no longer represent regional freedom. Drivers now have to schedule their drive time into windows of time, when they think traffic will be lightest. On Fridays no one can just hop in their car for a quick trip anywhere. And if Highway 78 is considered a bad dream, Interstate 5 is a nightmare. And it's time we woke up and smelled the petrol.

By taking a small step towards more earth friendly technologies, we can begin to plan for the long term. This will not be easy. Designing and developing our now inadequate transportation infrastructure wasn't easy either. We can begin to move away from failed paradigms, while restoring earlier modes of transportation that were hardly given the chance to prove their worth before the were dismantled in favor of the auto industry.

It's the time for residents of North San Diego County, to support continued spending for high occupancy mass transit. As population continues to grow, not planning for overcrowded conditions, now being experienced, could be seen as criminal neglect. The constant widening of roads and freeways is a losing proposition. We know this now.

Unfortunately, there will be those in the "all or nothing" crowd, who will always see train service as a threat to their right to drive. Nobody is proposing that roadways be reduced or erased. What proponents of mass transit are requesting are options other than an unlimited number of private vehicles crowded onto limited public roads.

Change happens, some of it even for the better. Commuter rail service between Escondido and Oceanside is not only beneficial but unarguably necessary. And like the trains, regional governance should proceed in a linear manner towards that goal.

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