Monday, September 7, 2009

Protecting the Light Rail Line

Sorry I've been out for a bit; I'd forgotten what real school was like. To bring you up to speed with my thoughts, I'm worrying about the realities surrounding the CA light rail line - as usual. It's not a secret that President Obama has his sights set high for American light rail. He's portioned out $8 billion worth of funding to go to various projects around the country. I took this, at first, to be an excellent sign in regards to the president's indication in favor of public transportation (in contrast to President Bush's desire to cut nearly all of Amtrak's funding, I personally would say this is a step in the right direction.) Lately, however, I've come to wonder whether this gesture is really just a nod of approval rather than a true dedication to the growth of American light rail projects.

Though a great deal of that apportioned $8 billion seems intended to go to California's rail-related ambitions, there are now a great deal of worthy rail projects popping up across the country, including one between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and a network connecting the Southwestern United States. According to Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, "There is a suspicion among those who chart the erratic course taken by the bullet train project that when push comes to shove, its only tangible fruit will be those local projects." I have to say I count myself among one of the skeptics. It worries me that not enough attention will be paid to the larger scheme of things, causing the grand concept of a state-wide light rail system to fail.

Part of my skepticism comes from a wariness I had previously nurtured, but my faith in the rail line has slipped even more after reading the article "Bus Factory, Symbol of the Stimulus, Now Laying People Off," an op-ed by Michael Cooper in the NY Times. The story basically revolves around the economic hope placed in a factory that made hydrid electric buses, commodities that were intended to bolster the economy as well as supplement climate change-related policy. What was originally expected to become a stimulus success story, however, has been sinking; funding has been delayed, and despite the big talk for mass transit, the expected financial support does not appear to be available. As a result, employees who were led to believe that their jobs were safely rooted in consumer demand for public transportation projects are now being laid off.

Does this situation sound oddly familiar to anyone else? A mass transit project that was promised to the people as an economic life preserver but can't seem to come up with the promised funding? Sounds like what I've been worried about for a while now.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to once again bring up my doubts in our devotion to rail-related projects. Here's a thought, though; what can we do to ensure our elected officials will continue to protect our brainchild that is the CA light rail line? Any thoughts? Otherwise, stay tuned. The wheels are still turning on my end.

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