Wednesday, May 29, 2013

To:            CHSRA – California High-speed Rail Authority
Chairman Dan Richard California High-Speed Rail Authority Board
770 L Street, Suite 800 Sacramento, CA 95814
FROM:          Tami Etziony, Mills College 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94613
Subject:     High-speed Rail Route as a Path to Promote California Native Species
Date:          5/29/2013
CC:           Mark Henderson, Mills College Public Policy Department
High Speed Rail (HSR) EIR 2010, regarding wildlife protection, I would like to expand the discussion and include concerns for native plants of California.  The proposed HSR project could provide a rare opportunity to support an ecosystem that faces overwhelming challenges.  The long path of the HSR should be landscaped exclusively with native plants.  Caltrans currently implements several programs, which incorporates native species.  These types of programs should be expanded and adopted to the HSR project’s landscaping plan.
A future passenger on the HSR riding through the Central Valley, will mostly sees a blur of greenery and farm fields.  The view from California wild life’s perspective is quite different.  By comparison, to the highway system the HSR is a huge barrier cutting the state in half (Map page 10).  The HSR does address the needs of wildlife crossings in its EIR/EIS but not native plant species.  The HSR EIR/EIS mitigation plan includes fencing along the route with passageways to bridge accessibility for wildlife.  This plan includes consideration for special status species, although, without much detail as to what these mitigations entail.  When embarking on such a massive project that will bisect the state’s coastal regions from the Sierra Nevada, there is an opportunity to address systemic environmental issues.
California’s native plants are at a constant struggle with invasive species over resources.  These native plants are the backbone of a healthy ecosystem and a support structure to wildlife.  The HSR project creates an opportunity to boost the concentration of native plants along this massive route, which will promote the well-being of our wildlife. 
Existing state policies set a precedent for recognizing the importance and value of our wildlife and native species.  The Department of Fish and Game developed the California Wildlife Action Plan Report as a collaborative conservation approach.  The plan states its objectives clearly:
Actively managing public and private lands to mitigate the impacts of human activities on native habitats; maintain wildlife corridors and habitat connectivity; safeguard surface and groundwater quality; impede the establishment of invasive species; and employ beneficial fire management practices requires engagement by every Californian.  (CDFG, 2005)
Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, has also developed several plans to promote native species.  Both drew on the information in the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB, 2003).  Native eco-communities in the Central Valley shrunk by over 90% in the past 150 years, mostly through conversion for agricultural use (California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, 2010).  The HSR route could become a path of connectivity for many different native communities along the Central Valley.

I propose that the HSR authority’s landscaping plan promote native species diversity by using only native California plants.  Numerous native plant nurseries throughout the state would benefit from this opportunity and could develop public/private partnerships with the CHSRA.  The California Native Plant Link Exchange provides information about native plants, their horticulture characteristics and nurseries that supply them.  This landscaping plan will encourage awareness of the diversity and importance of native California plants in horticultural application. 
California’s rich natural heritage
CDFG 2003).5,047 California native plant species represent 32 % of all vascular plants in the United States” (CDFG 2003).  The state is also a global hotspot of plant diversity CDFG 2003).California native species are diverse and unique.  The collection of natives includes the tallest and the oldest known trees, respectively the Giant Sequoia and Methuselah, Pinus longaeva   4,765 years old (National Park Service, 2012).  From a native rose to a honeysuckle, currants to buckwheat species, sage to fuchsia, California’s native plants both resemble their Mediterranean cousins or show their unique features as in the coastal redwood. 

Conserving the unique landscape of California will preserve more than just the view; it would support healthy wildlife, fungi and microbial communities.  This vegetation filters rainwater and is the basis for a healthy ecosystem.  The native plants grant access to food and shelter to local insects, reptiles, birds and mammals This wildlife has struggled with human encroachment and now, with climate change.  A substantial path of native plants would encourage bio-diversity and help countless species with climate change movement.
Many conservation efforts around the state cultivate native species.  The California Native Plants Society (CNPS) has worked since 1965 to protect California's native plant heritage and preserve its splendor for future generations.  CNPS, along with California Native Plant Link Exchange, has compiled lists of nurseries supplying native plants.  A collaborative effort with the CHSRA would boost the conservation of California’s unique and rich biodiversity.
CalEPA comments to HSR
The CalEPA submitted comments to the Final Program HSR EIR/EIS.  One of their comments stated that the assessment did not take into account the cumulative effects of future subsequent development attributable to the HSR project and its stations.  The EPA suggested that CHSRA follow the Caltrans cumulative analysis guidelines for a reasonably foreseeable future development projects.  The EPA also noted that the landscape plan was insufficient to assess this cumulative impact and should include large-scale mitigation, due to elements such as a continuous fence along the HSR, which impedes wildlife movement (CHSRA, 2012). 

CHSRA responded that it is unreasonable to include cumulative impacts from future development since the route is not established yet and the plan accounts for ten to fifteen year timeline.  Additionally, due to the extent of the project and its scope, CHSRA noted that various counties are on the path of the HSR project and each has its own impacts and requirements for mitigation (CHSRA, 2012).  Therefore, CHSRA creates a report for each section of the project. 
CHSRA states that Caltrans has no guidance on cumulative impact analysis.  Caltrans however, has released such a report; Guidance for Preparers of Cumulative Impact Analysis (2012), which compiles the mitigation approaches for both NEPA and CEQA for a long-term analysis. 
Caltrans practices and commitment to mitigation
Caltrans, in fact, has comprehensive assessments for natural plant and animal communities in California.  Previous experiences with CEQA and NEPA resulted in Caltrans guidelines for planting native species.  For example, “California native wildflowers must be included with all projects with Federal participation” (Caltrans, Highway Planting General Policy).  They also created detailed plans for wildlife access in their Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual (Caltrans, 2009).  Caltrans however, will reject native species in favor of exotics when “wildflowers would not be compatible with the adjacent urban landscape environs.”  Moreover, their plans do not involve trees and shrubs, which provide a comprehensive habitat to many more species.

The commitment of their landscape design team to “preserve and enhance the environment through sustainable solutions” does show a strong support for landscaping with a broad perspective and environmental goals (Caltrans, Landscape Architecture). 
“In the 1990’s, federal transportation policy shifted emphasis, giving State and local governments more flexibility in determining transportation solutions.  This allows funding for projects that protect the environment, provide for bicycle and pedestrian mobility, and promote highway beautification.”  (Caltrans, Landscape Architecture).

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Game had previously addressed the issues of environmental conservation:
Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) sponsored this study to conserve and ensure the continued existence of California wildlife and biodiversity …considering environmental needs of trans­portation projects early in the planning process, …(which) allow Caltrans and CDFG to meet requirements set forth in the safe, accountable, flexible, efficient transportation equity act…  (CNDDB, 2003)
Caltrans and the California Dept. of Fish and Game both have comprehensive plans to include California natives and support wildlife.  Both the California Natural Diversity Database and the California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project address the need for conservation efforts to increase native species populations (CNDDB, 2003; DOT, 2010).  CHSRA, as a state transportation project should integrate these plans’ inputs in its landscaping designs and promote native species for the benefit of future generations of the people and wildlife of California.
CHSRA commitment to mitigation – California HSR Project EIR/EIS
Merced to Fresno Section 2011
The CHSRA has an extensive mitigation program for HSR construction disturbance of environmental resources (CHSRA, 2012).  The program details mitigation response for each endangered and special status species (CHSRA, 2012).  Consideration for migratory birds and wetlands conditions are included (CHSRA, 2012).  The program also pledges to prevent and control the spread of invasive species (CHSRA, 2012).
Through aerial and field survey methods, endangered and special status species will be identified and cataloged.  Mitigation efforts include propagation of certain plants and redistribution.
The EIR/EIS plan acknowledged that the Central Valley includes several natural environments; California prairie, marshlands, valley oak savanna and riparian woodlands, that historically characterize the region (CHSRA, 2012).  Currently agriculture claims most of the Central Valley lands.  The native plant population suffers overcrowding due to agriculture and horticulture introduction of invasive exotic species to California.
Native plants evolved to coexist and flourish within their specific habitat region, each region has its own unique landscape.  The native species also provided services to their regional environment.  Native plants are a source of food and shelter for local animals; in addition, they are instrumental in reduction of fire danger, water purification and erosion control (DOT, 2010).  Their value to the California landscape is great and the HSR route presents a rare opportunity to reverse this detrimental trend of habitat loss.  For this aim, the HSR landscaping plan would require an expansion beyond its current intent of mitigation to pre-project conditions.
While NEPA’s standards are “based on the criteria of context and intensity,” CEQA looks at “substantial adverse effects” (CHSRA, 2012).  CEQA is more general and takes into account habitat and natural community (CHSRA, 2012).  However, neither one entertains restoration to a higher standard than pre-project conditions.  Since both NEPA and CEQA require mitigation that relate to each specific project’s prior conditions, they limit environmental improvements.
Climate change consequences
Climate change will affect the ecology of California and result in migration of many species.  Climate change is predicted to reduce snow packs and therefore decrease water flow in the early summer (DOT, 2010).  This will increase fire danger and reduce aquifer levels.  Increase winter rainfall and stronger, more frequented storms create conditions ripe for landslides and erosions (DOT, 2010).  Both plants and animals move north and to higher elevations to find comparable conditions to their current habitat (DOT, 2010).  The California Essential Connectivity project encourages the use of corridors to support species movement.  If the HSR adopts the native plants plan, it would become a passage, habitat and refuge for native species.  Although the HSR path cannot be considered an adequate corridor for many species since, it is not sufficiently wide or up to their species requirements, it would nonetheless act as a support system for climate migration.  By providing food and shelter, the route could assist migrating animals on their way to a new habitat.  The native plant path would become a seed bank for local species, which encourages bio-diversity by increasing the gene pool of a wider variety of natives.
California has one of the highest concentrations of invasive exotic species that compete with dwindling native species populations.  The HSR project traverses the states’ vast Central Valley.  This massive project could promote the resurgence of native California’s plant populations by landscaping with native plants exclusively.  The scope of this landscaping will benefit many local subsections of California’s environment by supporting their individual terrain and wildlife’s needs.  All along the High Speed Rail route native animals, birds and insects populations affected over the past century by invasive species and human encroachment would rebound.  This is a precious opportunity to provide native fauna an extended habitat.  The EIR mentions landscaping without much detail.  Encouragingly, as noted previously, Caltrans already has a policy that states, “California native wildflowers must be included with all projects with Federal participation.”  Caltrans’ practices are not perfect but expanding on the incorporation of native species in landscaping will elevate the HSR project to a model of sustainability.  The massive High Speed Rail project is a perfect opportunity to increase the density of native plant populations in California.


·         Bloom, Jonathan (2012, February 20) “Woman's concern prompts study about I-280 deer”
   Bunn, David, Andrea Mummert, Marc Hoshovsky, Kirsten Gilardi, Sandra Shanks
California’s Natural Diversity; California Wildlife Action Plan Report
California Wildlife: Conservation Challenges
Prepared by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center
California Department of Fish and Game, 1416 Ninth Street (12th floor), Sacramento, CA 95814 © 2005, 2007 by the California Department of Fish and Game
All rights reserved. Published 2007.
·         California Dept. of Fish and Game (CDFG)
California Natural Diversity Database Special Animals. January 2003
Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch.  The resource Agency of California.

State of California The Natural Resources Agency Biogeographic Data Branch
California Natural Diversity Database SPECIAL ANIMALS (898 taxa) January 2011

·         Department of Fish and Game Biogeographic Data Branch
Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program
List of California Vegetation Alliances October 22, 2007
Native Plants for Wildlife

  California Gardens Nursery

  California  Native Plant  Link Exchange

  California Native Plant Society

 ·      California Natural Diversity Database
(CNDDB, 2003) – Most recently updated in 2010

  California’s Own Landscape Design (viewed on line o
·         Caltrans
1.      Examples of current practices:
2.      Guidance for Preparers of Cumulative Impact Analysis (2012)
3.      Highway Planting General Policy

4.      Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual
Wildlife Crossings Guidance Manual, Version 1.0 as of March 2009.
5.      Caltrans Landscape Architecture


Draft Environmental Impact Report / Statement: Merced to Fresno

Bay Area to Central Valley HST Partially Revised FINAL Program EIR (April 2012)

Responses to comments ;  CHSRA Staff Summary of and Brief Response to Comments on the Final Program EIR/EIS

 Angie Schmitt Friday, July 15, 2011

·         DOT – Dept. of Transportation 2010
California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project: A Strategy for Conserving a Connected California February 2010 Prepared for: California Department of Transportation California Department of Fish and Game With Funding From: Federal Highways Administration

Tami Etziony
Public Sector Economics
Mills College Spring, 2012
California High Speed Rail – Economic Growth Analysis



High-seed rail studies assess business, employment, tourism and residential patterns along the route and compared hubs with peripheral stations.  These economic calculations of intersecting variables complicate the analysis and could reach inaccurate conclusions.  The California HSR project is a monumental undertaking; by current estimates the project’s first phase will cost $68 billion.  This size project could not be launched by private enterprise due to the risks for profitability and the required large investment costs.  When ridership predictions do not materialize HSR could become an expensive luxury.  Therefore HSR falls into the category of natural monopoly.  The state has economic interests in developing this massive project for a competitive advantage over other economic centers and the benefits for its growing population.  California’s population growth is projected to more than double its current size; HSR will provide a structure of smart growth with long-term benefits.


The decision to build a High Speed Rail (HSR) system has financial, economic, environmental and social components.  These aspects of the project affect all of California’s residents, through financial burdens or shifting economic priorities, benefiting one region or another.  The state has the obligation and incentives to provide a viable economic future to its citizens.  This future growth expands the tax revenue and provides a competitive market base for global interactions.  However due to the scale of this project, the original investment must be provided by the state.  At a later stage of the process private investors can take on operation of the project or create investment opportunities.  Since the HSR is on a scale of a natural monopoly in order to capture the economic benefits from this process the state has to provide the initial costs. 
An accurate cost benefits assessment would include projection of population growth, social economic benefits at the HSR hubs and businesses, as well as residential configuration related to travel opportunities.  HSR can bring business opportunities, employment mobility, residential growth and tourism to the Central Valley.
Vast expanses of the California highway network connect the far reaches of the state, making car travel long, costly and polluting.  The car culture cultivated by the automobile industry destroyed the social relevancy of rail transportation in the interest of highway expansion.  Environmental benefits of HSR through emission reductions incorporate economic benefits to Central Valley communities’ health and agriculture interests. 
Calculating these trends in terms of economic value is a complex process since these aspects intertwine and influence each other.  The California HSR project is a costly undertaking.  If ridership predictions do not materialize, the HSR could become an expensive luxury.  However, with projected population growth in California at 60-70% of its current size, the foresight of directed growth will provide long-term benefits.  By increasing connectivity, the HSR opens up employment opportunities and services to a wider population.  California HSR will connect the San Francisco and Los Angeles’ tourists with access to the Central Valley, which opens up related business opportunities.
In this report, I will compare California’s unique characteristics with HSR studies of other countries.  The comparison will include population growth, spatial plan of HSR and integration of periphery locations within the network.  This analysis will provide an understanding of the economic growth anticipated from this project and its prospects.
[“Definition of 'Natural Monopoly'
A type of monopoly that exists as a result of the high fixed or start-up costs of operating a business in a particular industry. Because it is economically sensible to have certain natural monopolies, governments often regulate those in operation, ensuring that consumers get a fair deal.” (Investopedia, 2012)]

Economic growth increases around public transportation stations

HSR as a mode of public transportation directs economic growth to station locations.  HSR will increase economic activity along its route in the Central Valley, since every station becomes a desirable hub.  In the California scenario, the Central Valley could see economic growth in several respects.  Real-estate prices could rise due to easier access to economic centers’ jobs such as in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.  Property prices around transportation stations tend to rise due to increase walk-ability options.  Economic activity geared towards tourists will get a boost from the increased access that connects the coast with the Central Valley. The valley residents will benefit from greater access to numerous education and health centers, and services availability.  The mode-shift benefits and market’s accessibility redirects population’s movement and land availability.
Today’s dense population centers such as the Los Angeles area would benefit from flexibility and population mobility through commuting opportunities.  In addition to other social benefits of reducing congestion and pollution, economic growth and diversification of markets increases regional economic stability and improves local services (CHSEA, RES, 2008).  Elements of social benefits inherently derived from public transportation are education, health and housing access, with retail services associated with all three.
[“Social benefits - The total benefits of an economic activity to both the individual and the spillover effects to third parties. Social benefits are the total of private benefits and any external benefits.”] (Biz/ed)

Most studies of HSR (Albalate, 2010; Ahlfeldt, 2010) note the economic growth associated with this transportation mode in the hub centers and only a slight increased economic growth in periphery locations.  In the California plan, there is no hub-spoke structure but a north-south system connecting two main economic centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco, with shorter connections to the further urban centers of Sacramento in the north and San Diego in the south.  In this configuration, the Central Valley stations act as periphery and Los Angeles and San Francisco as hub locations.  The periphery communities support the employment needs of the economic hubs, and the hubs in turn provide higher paying jobs to the periphery locations.

Business travel sets the standards

Business trips are the main consumers of HSR systems (Martin, 1996).  Business travel benefits by easy access to city centers, comfort and efficiency that surpass air travel and vehicles.  
The California HSR is looking at the Spanish system since the geographic and population conditions are similar.  In Spain “a young woman from Madrid taps away at her laptop keyboard, occasionally pausing to answer her cellphone…”  For business travelers the HSR system is a convenient way to travel due to the time benefits on board and easy access to town centers (Sheehan, 2012).

Demographic Data
Surface area (sq. km)
Population (millions)
Density (people per sq. Km)
GDP per capita ($)
Railway network (Km)
HSR network (Km)
Roads (Km)
High-ways (Km)
Data from CA HSR Blog

Spain spent approximately $60 billion on its HSR system in construction and expansion costs.  By comparison, CHSRA’s latest estimates stand at $68billion.  A year after Spain built the first line between Seville and Madrid; The HSR had more than half of all passenger travel on this route and car travel fell from 60% to 34% (Graph and numbers, Sheehan, 2012).
High-speed rail ridership peaked in Spain at approximately 17 million in 2009 and the government is planning to expand the system to the tune of $77 billion over the next decade (Sheehan, 2012).  With the economic downturn ridership declines and the financial crisis in Europe makes that sizable expense less palatable.
Higher connectivity between economic centers leads to growth regardless of an existing travel bottleneck (Martin, 1996).  This means that even though the travel options in California are not beyond capacity the lack of connectivity between the economic centers of northern and southern California limit economic activity in both.  Although the airports in California are not yet beyond capacity they do “face long-term capacity restraints.” (CHSRA, Econ Impact Bay Area)  Therefore, HSR travel is set to reduce this long-term strain and open up opportunities for cross-country and international flight that are more profitable. 
Improved transportation infrastructure and connectivity increase economic regional accessibility (Ahlfeldt, 2010).  Current conditions limit travel due to inefficiencies and costs, whether in time or money.  These are lost opportunities for Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The business community in both coastal centers are directly involved in the negotiations with the HSR authority (CHSRA) to assure the system provides their needs.  The success of the HSR is dependent on these negotiations.  At the last revision of the system’s business plan the issue of a cost-effective one-seat ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles was raised, and the CHSRA asserted that they intend to provide such service (CHSRA, 2012). 
The business destinations determine the efficiency and accessibility of the system, while leisure travel raises profitability by adding seasonal travel patterns.  The HSR route is set up to support the business community and connect economic centers.  These economic centers already developed their infrastructure to provide connectivity within them.  The periphery on the other hand does not have the infrastructure to provide this access.  For the California HSR to be successful in the periphery destinations of the Central Valley state and local governments are obligated to provide adequate bus services and infrastructure to incentivize the HSR travel (Murakani & Cervaro, 2010).  The periphery locations support and promote the economic activity of the hubs.  All referenced studies confirm that HSR raises economic viability and global competitiveness of the current economic centers.  Community investment in the Central Valley takes proactive measures to support such a process.

Pollution reduction, time and health benefits increase aggregate economic benefits

HSR is an investment in a transportation mode that reduces pollution, saves traveling time and increases accessibility to services as well as elevates the standard of living in California.  The relatively high standards of living that we have come to expect entice quality professional jobs and skilled employees to the state.  Higher wages increase aggregate social benefits and demand for services. 
The social benefits of HSR reach many other facets of our lives.  The health benefits due to reduced pollution and reduced accident are difficult to assess however, the reduction in these negative externalities are a definite benefit of HSR.
HSR will help California meet its CO2 emission target to correspond with AB32 the state’s commitment to global warming solutions.  This report states that “a HSR trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles will save 324 pounds of CO2 over the same trip by car.” (CHSRA, Econ Impact Bay Area)  
HSR reduces pollution by diverting travel from more polluting modes.  Although HSR has high contraction emissions, the ongoing operation of HSR is low in emissions, making this mode preferable to vehicle and air travel.  Some studies of HSR do not take into account the construction pollution from other modes of transportation such as highway and airport expansion.  Instead, they compare the HSR project to existing infrastructure of other modes.  This is appropriate when examining Japan’s HSR since the Japanese population increased by only 2%.  California’s population is forecasted to increase dramatically, especially in the Central Valley where population growth is expected to reach 48.5% (Author’s calculation from Counties data; see table 1).  Road and airport construction in California would require expansion; otherwise, they would reach over capacity.  The predicted diverted in-state trips from San Jose Airport to southern California, for example would alleviate the need for runway expansion (Bay Area Council Economic Institute).  
Efficient use of energy is a long run investment in pollution reduction associated with health and agricultural benefits.  HSR energy demands tap into the state’s commitment for cleaner electricity sources.  Another overestimation in several studies (Chester, 2009 and Chang, 2011) calculating California’s electric production pollution, as it currently stands, however with the state’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions, these pollution levels are expected to decrease significantly.  Current CO2 emissions per kWh are at 0.681 lbs in the San Francisco Bay Area (EPA estimation tool) while state average is 0.9 lbs per kWh (Fowlie, 2010).  Under AB32 standards, these emissions would be reduced by approximately 35% (Fowlie, 2010).  
Sweden’s CO2 emissions per kWh in 2009 were 28 gram (0.062 lbs), with target of “41 TWh of end-use energy savings by 2016.”  A conservative study of mode transfer in Sweden indicates “an annual emission reduction of 17,500 ton CO2 – (per million passenger/ km) by a new high-speed rail,” (Akerman, 2011).  This illustrate the importance of HSR in CO2 emissions reduction in California, overall the United States emission standards lag European standards considerably.  The intra-air travel in Sweden is not as close to capacity (Akerman, 2011) as it is in California.  All studies in listed references agree that HSR operates with lower emissions to both vehicles and air traffic.  The comparisons of current infrastructure for car and air travel to high-speed rail construction (Akerman, 2011; Chang, 2011; Westin, 2012) do not include the California population growth and overused highway infrastructure. 
While limiting pollution is one health benefit, access to medical centers is another.  HSR will provide access to populations with limited access to services by connecting to coastal economic centers, where the options for non-emergency medical procedures and specialist visits are readily available.  HSR will increase access within the Central Valley as well.  This greater accessibility improves services whether medical of educational in nature.  The Central Valley institutions will be available for coastal populations and vise versa.  This process of easier access promotes diversification and specialization that benefits the state as a whole.
Saving traveling time is a social benefit as well.  Although, as reported (Martin, 1996), most HSR trips are for business purposes, saving travel time is a social benefit whether for business or leisure.  Time saved improves productivity.  This timesaving could translate into an easy commute mode of transportation.  Bedroom communities already provide the labor force for the coastal economic centers of San Francisco and Los Angeles.  The HSR could become a commute mode of choice and ease the housing demand in the high cost centers.

Smart growth vs. uncontrollable freeway expansion is an obvious economic choice

Sustainable and smart growth is an aggregate economic benefit.  Population growth can become an economic weight when planning does not address a community’s needs.  Connectivity to employment and services increase aggregate income and therefore tax revenues.  Higher salaried positions depend on inter county access.  Transportation is a vital part of smart growth plans.  This structured concentrated growth around service and retail hubs helps absorb population growth in an integral way to current population centers and jobs availability.  Smart growth limits sprawl by creating denser population centers around jobs and transportation.  Uncontrolled sprawl increases externalities from CO2 emissions and extensive paving that restricts vegetation, which is a carbon sink.  Smart growth via large-scale public transit projects creates concentrations of housing and services that support the communities around them.  With the expected rise in the Central Valley population, using smart growth models through HSR stations as community hubs will ease environmental stress from sprawl.  Future population growth in California spreads to the relatively less populated region of the Central Valley counties, following accessible lower property prices.  The coastal economic centers do not show population growth percentages as high as the Central Valley.  California is actively reducing sprawl through the implementation of SB 375, California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act.  This legislation connects global warming to the impact of urban sprawl.  HSR stations can be used to concentrate economic activity and housing near transportation connection to employment.
Population growth in the Central Valley could become an economic gain or a strain on California’s economy.  If this population growth depends on low-level industrial or large-scale agriculture jobs alone, the over-all social benefit will be minimal.  HSR would provide skilled maintenance positions as well as office and retail opportunities.  These jobs provide a higher pay scale, which increases the multiplier effect on the aggregate economy.  It is in the interest of the state to support viable business and community services for the growing population in the Central Valley raising the social benefits to the state as a whole.
HSR helps redirect employment opportunities housing construction and services without expending the current footprint of Central Valley cities.  At the height of the real-estate boom, San Francisco employees extended their commuting neighborhoods to include Pleasanton and Livermore, and as far away as Tracy, up to 50 miles commute.  HSR with BART connection will provide a commute corridor for San Francisco Bay Area jobs.  This access will support the high-tech and financial sectors.  HSR in California is a powerful tool for economic diversification.  Albalate shows that industrial zones move away from HSR hubs due to higher real-estate costs (2010).  Services and retail surround hubs as well as financial and other professional businesses.  In order to capitalize on the hub’s growth opportunities local and state governments providing financing and support will extend the benefit through a local transit system that feeds the HSR travel options.
HSR benefits flow to the Central Valley with real estate and tourism activity.  HSR could expand tourism in the Central Valley.  Besides direct travel, the Central Valley is a gateway to the Sierra Nevada.  The Modesto station could provide easier access to Yosemite Park, which will decrease the car trips into the park meantime increasing visitors.  The Fresno station will provide easier access to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  The Sacramento station will provide easier access to Lake Tahoe area.  The HSR could invigorate the tourist industry to include more organized tours and bus services along the HSR line.


The CHSRA revised the original business plan to create a more financially viable option.  This Revised 2012 Business Plan begins with three powerful words; Better, Faster, Cheaper, which sum up the evolution of the process and resulting plan.  Three funding streams back the HSR, proposition 1A, Federal financing and private investment.  Prior to this revised plan the HSR project’s budget was off track and did not reflect funding sources. 
This revised plan has an initial operating section between the Central Valley and Los Angeles, projected to be finished in 10 years.  Another element of the plan is blending HSR with existing services.  This option will cut costs and increase efficiency.  This early investment in bookends sections of the route, will electrify Cal-train by 2020 and another will update existing service in the Los Angeles basin.  Prop. 1A money will finance some of the smaller projects.  The first phase of HSR plan includes these projects and is projected to cost $68 billion and completed by 2028.  The improvements will build up ridership and supply extra financing through ticket sales.  By 2025 ridership will provide the system with operating funds since ticket sales exceed projected maintenance costs at all levels of ridership.
The CHSRA is collaborating with private investors on funding sources for the project.  They estimates that once the first segment is operational and the financial risk decreases, the private sector will provide adequate funding.
California Alliance for Jobs reported that UC Merced students chanted “If you build it, we will ride it!” and carried a cardboard train at a rally on February 2, 2012 at Sacramento’s City Hall (2012).
The HSR represents California’s economic future, with direct benefits to the business community.  The current business plan is a profitable option and private investment will gain directly and indirectly from utilizing the system.

Rail and transportation history in the United States

The United States auto industry curtailed the rail systems in countless cities.  While Europe and Japan heavily invested in comprehensive rail systems, the United States expanded its highways.  There are many reasons for the lack of rail lines in the United States, the country’s size, the car culture and the fragmentation of the states’ budgets and regional political influence.  The American car companies deliberately cultivated the car culture to undermine the acceptance of public transportation. 
One of the ugliest chapters that promoted the car culture at the expense of light rail is narrated by the documentary “Taken for a Ride” by Jim Klein and Martha Olson.  According to the documentary, General Motors viewed the light rail systems as direct completion to car sales.  They set out to destroy the municipal light rail across the country.  In the 1920’s all major American towns had light rail with dedicated lanes, which was efficient clean and comfortable transportation.  By the 1940’s most rail systems were gone and the tracks removed, replaced by noisy dirty and bumpy diesel buses.  The documentary reveals how General Motors through its subsidiaries took over and promptly demolished the light rail in cities across the United States.  The monopoly involved General Motors, its subsidiaries Yellow Coach and Greyhound as well as Standard Oil, Mack Truck, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone Tire. They were found guilty, but since there were no anti-trust laws at the time (1936) each company was fined only $5000.00 for conspiracy charges. 
By the late 1940’s the damage had already been done and very few rail systems survived, the ones that still operated were struggling.  Locally, Oakland had the light rail Key line prior to the establishment of AC transit busses that serviced Alameda County.  The Bay Bridge light rail lines including the Key Lines, were dismantled in the 60’s for car travel (Swenerton, 2008).


The California HSR will provide a framework of a smart growth development model for the state’s growing population.  By most conservative estimates, as long as costs are kept low, this project will bring prosperity to the entire state through connecting dispersed urban centers.  The Central valley would greatly benefit from improved connectivity to the coastal regions and economic hubs.  In many studies of HSR the interlocking aspects of economic criteria complicate simple analysis.  Fluctuation in economic conditions and influences of travel habits whether for business or leisure confound straight forward analysis.  Conditions in California are different from other HSR locations and comparison models do not include all variables such as population increase, infrastructure limits or energy production and pollution levels.  These limitations in comparison analysis undermine accurate assessments.  Including highway expansion and air traffic is crucial in evaluating the efficiency and benefits of High-Speed Rail.
HSR will provide the skeletal structure that can support wide range of public transportation offshoots.  This north-south connection creates numerous options of economic growth along its route and has the potential of advancing California’s prosperity by leaps and bounds.

Counties and pop projections (California Counties Association) - Table 1
                              2012                    2050
Madera               150,000                 413,500
Mariposa              18,000                    28,000
Fresno                940,000                1,900,000
Orange            3,000,000                 4,000,000
Kerns                 850,000                  2,100,000
Los Angeles 10,000,000               13,000,000
San Joaquin        691,000                1,800,000
Totals             15,649,000                23,241,500        
Selected counties along the HSR route show 48.5% growth in total populations in these counties.
(Calculated by Tami Etziony for this report)
Table - 2
Carbon Footprint Calculator Assumptions
General Information
  1. Typical PG&E Residential Customer — Monthly Household Energy Use1
    • Electricity Usage: 540 kilowatt-hours (kWh)
    • Natural Gas Usage: 45 therms (winter 60 / summer 24)
  2. ClimateSmart Rates1
    • Electricity: $0.00254 per kWh
    • Natural Gas: $0.06528 per therm
  3. PG&E Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions Rates2
    • Electric: 0.524 lbs CO2 per kWh
    • Natural Gas: 13.446 lbs CO2 per therm

Average Per Capita CO2 Emissions (Energy and Vehicle Use)
Average Californian
22,941 lbs CO2 per person
  • 2005 California Per Capita Electricity Usage: 7,032 kWh7
  • 2005 California Per Capita Natural Gas Usage: 422 therms7
  • California Emissions Rate for Delivered Electricity: 0.879 lbs CO2 per kWh8
  • Emissions Rate for Natural Gas: 13.446 lbs CO2 per therm9
  • 12,000 miles per year and 21 miles per gallon for average passenger vehicle10
  • Burning 1 gallon of gasoline produces 19.4 lbs CO26
PG&E website


Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. and Arne Feddersen
From Periphery to Core: Economic Adjustments to High Speed Rail
Documents de Treball de l’IEB 2010/38

Akerman, Jonas
The Role of high-speed rail in mitigating climate change – The Swedish case Europabanan from a life cycle perspective
Transportation Research, part D 16 (2011)

Alberta high-speed rail
Copyright Alberta High-Speed Rail (2005) Inc. 133 5th Ave. SE. Calgary AB. Canada T2G 0E3 Telephone 403-208-1606

Albalate, Daniel and Germa BelGiM-IREA University of Barcelona
“High-Speed Rail: Lessons for Policy Makers from Experiances Abroad”
Research Institute of Applied Economics
California High-Speed Rail; Economic Benefits and Impacts in the San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco * Oakland Bay Bridge Seismic Safety Projects

Brown, Dennis M. Regional Economist; Economic Research Services, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Public Transportation on the Move in Rural America
California Counties – California State Association of Counties


CHSRA – California High-speed Rail Authority
Authority Approves Revised 2012 Business Plan CA High-Speed Rail: Bay Area SF-SJ []
Cahsr_map.svg‎ - map
California High-Speed Rail Program
Revised 2012 Business Plan Building California’s Future
APRIL 2012
CHSRA  - Regional Economic Studies

California Alliance for Jobs 2012
High-Speed Rail Belongs to Our Generation

Calperg - Report Shows Corporations Paying Few State Taxes; Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Creutzig, Felix Planet Under Pressure
Recently in Sustain to gain Category
Environmental research web letters
de Rus, Ginés and Gustavo Nombela
Is Investment in High Speed Rail Socially Profitable? Published March 23, 2006
Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, Volume 41 January 2007 pp. 3-23

Deller, Steven C. Tsung-Hsiu (Sue) Tsai, David W. Marcouiller, and Donald B.K. English
The Role of Amenities and Quality of Life In Rural Economic Growth
American Agricultural Economics Association; May 2001: 352–365


Fowlie Meredith
Impacts of AB 32 on California’s electricity sector - UC Berkeley and NBER

"California's Climate Change Policy: The Economic and Environmental Impacts of AB 32"
Monday, October 4, 2010 The California Museum 1020 O Street, Sacramento, CA

Fox, Jesse
California to Vote on High-Speed Rail Nov. 4
Transportation / Cars
October 25, 2008

Gruber, Jonathan
Public Finance and Public Policy 2nd edition; Worth Publishers, New York, NY 2007
Chapter 7 Public Goods, Chapter 8.2 Measuring the Benefits of Public Projects

Hagler, Yoav
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Columbia University May 2008
Highlights found at: Filling the Transportation Efficiency Gap: High-Speed Rail Petra

Höjer, Mattias and Lars-Göran Mattsson Determinism and backcasting in future studies
 Environmental Strategies Research Group, Box 2142, SE-103 14 Stockholm, Sweden
 Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Available online 3 July 2000.
Japan 1870-2100; Page 2: Population of (Japan)

Kantor, Shawn Ph.D. University of California, Merced
The Economic Impact of the California High Speed Rail in the Sacramento/Central Valley Area
Published in: UB IREA Research Institute of Applied Economics University of Barcelona; 2008
LAO – Legislative Analyst’s Office
California’s Non-partisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor May 10, 2011
Executive Summary

Liu, Zhi Senior Transport Economist, The World Bank, Bankok 2005
Transport Investment, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction

Martin, Fernand
Justifying a high-speed rail project: social value vs. regional growth
The Annals of Regional Science 1997
Department of Economics, Universite´ de Montre´al, C.P. 6128 Succursale Centre-ville,
Montre´al, Que´bec, Canada, H3C3J7
(Tel: (514)343-7216, Fax: (514)343-7221, e-mail:

Murakami, Jin and Robert Cervero
California High-Speed Rail and Economic Development: Station-Area Market Profiles and Public Policy Responses
Symposium, December 2010, Faculty Club UC Berkeley

Spatial Economic Impacts of Transport Infrastructure Investments

Pearman, P. Mackie & J. Nellthorp (eds) Transport Projects, Programmes and Policies: Evaluation Needs and Capabilities, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2003, pp. 87-1

PG&E  Pacific Gas and Electric

Population Count based on the 2010 Census Released
Statistics bureau of Japan (SBJ)
2010 Japan Census; October 26th 2011

Sheehan, Tim
Spain’s high-speed rail system offers lessons for California
January 15, 2012; California Watch

Swenerton, Jeff
When Trains Ruled the East Bay; Here's What Happened to the Half-Hour Commute
Oakland Magazine January 2008
Photography by: John Harder Collection

Sweden Energy efficiency report
Latest update: February 2011

Taken for a Ride/ documenrty

US High-speed Rail Association - USHSR