High speed rail is here

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Photo above: train and trolley yards on San Diego Bay, as seen from PetCo Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
The Coronado Bay Bridge is in the background. (Tim Forkes)

It’s no mystery to me why people go off the deep end. I mean it’s understandable. It really is. When someone finally gets to a point when they can’t take it anymore, whatever “it” is, and they react in a violent explosion of some sort, I understand that. In fact the question for me is this: who really are the insane ones? The ones who explode and vent all their frustration, anger and fear on the nearest undeserving targets, or those of us who keep it all in, accepting everything as being just the way it’s supposed to be, for good or ill?

At some point it just seems logical to explode … but then you think it through and what does an emotional meltdown and explosion gain? Certainly not satisfaction for all of our ills and worries, the source of all our frustration, anger and fear.

The people who do explode and commit some horrific crime, what happens to them? If they don’t put the last bullet in their own brains, they generally end up imprisoned for the rest of their lives and that sad, graphically tragic end is their final solution. And no one is left happy by it, least of all the one who took the leap of faith that lashing out would somehow change things for the better. It just made things worse, which is why 99 percent of suicides are lonely acts. Either way, the tragic explosion or the lonely suicide, both are quite understandable.

So, the first thought is: “Tim is contemplating suicide.” No. I don’t own a firearm and I’m not really disposed to jumping off a bridge. Tried that once in 1982. Got up on the bottom rail, looked down at the parking lot below, worried about falling on the car of an unsuspecting motorist, thereby ruining their day and had a change of heart. Looking around me I saw the Vet Center (in Milwaukee, WI) a block away and decided to give them a try. If that didn’t work then by god, I’d screw the unsuspecting motorist and take the leap. Apparently the Vet Center worked.

Solana Beach Station (Google)
Solana Beach Station

The bullshit saying is: “Money can’t buy happiness.” Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always been happier having money than not having enough. At the very least money can buy peace of mind. If there are no worries about having a roof over my head, having transportation, the basic necessities of food and a place to bathe — and a phone — what else is there?

A lot, if you’re a normal human being. Independence is a big deal. It’s not a nice feeling being dependent on others for rides when public transit just won’t do. Mass transit in America sucks. Outside of places like New York City and Milwaukee — and maybe the BART in the Bay Area and the light rail system in Los Angeles — it seems like the mass transit systems were designed to punish those of us who don’t own automobiles.

Most bus lines run intermittently throughout the week and some don’t run at all on the weekends. For instance: in San Diego the #20 runs either from Downtown to Mira Mesa and back, or from Downtown to Escondido and back, alternating the route every half hour. That means if you have to go north of Mira Mesa, that bus only runs once an hour. Very inconvenient. So inconvenient as a matter of fact, people think twice about taking jobs that depend on that irregular bus route.

More directly, a trip that would take 20 minutes by car will take no less than an hour and, depending on the number of connections needed, can take more than two hours. There is no convenience to public transportation, at least not in San Diego. It’s relatively cheap and all that’s available to the population that can’t afford private transportation.

The San Diego Trolley Green Line,  (Tim Forkes)
The San Diego Trolley Green Line,
(Tim Forkes)

This is really funny, truly funny! People will tell me how they admire me using public transportation, how I don’t have to worry about the cost of a motor vehicle and how they wish they could do without a car. But, for whatever reason, they just can’t do without that automobile. Bullshit. Anyone can get by without a car, at least part of the time, so don’t say taking the bus is admirable — do it. To be honest though, it’s been a while since anyone has said it.

And a personal slight: the closest bus stop to my place is just over a mile, if I’m heading south on that #20 line and I catch the bus coming from north of Mira Mesa. But, if I’m catching the one from Mira Mesa, that stop is nearly a mile and a half.

Back in Milwaukee I was never more than two blocks from a bus stop and often just a few steps. Having a car was convenient, but being able to use the bus was more convenient, especially going downtown. Bus trips to the Westside ’burbs would be long, but not prohibitively so.

Map of the proposed California High-Speed Rail system. They don't show the system going to San Diego. (California High-Speed Rail Authority)
Map of the proposed California High-Speed Rail system. They don’t show the system going to San Diego.
(California High-Speed Rail Authority)

San Diego needs a better mass transit system. The entire country needs a mass transit system, something better than the slow and outdated Amtrak. Such a federal undertaking would cost trillions of dollars, but, unlike the Keystone Pipeline, it would actually employ hundreds of thousands of workers across the U.S. for an extended period of time, just building it. Not to mention the thousands of people employed just for its operation. Plus, high-speed rail, HSR, would spur economic and real estate growth around stations, creating more jobs and tax revenue. It would be a boon to travel if we had HSR connecting this country, from city to city. It could be a real alternative to air travel.

Local public transit would need to be improved of course. It’s nice to get off the Surfliner train in Solana Beach for instance, after the ride south from Los Angeles or north from San Diego, but for the people who live east of the I-5, they either need to call a cab or a friend to get a ride from the station. There is the #101 bus that runs from San Diego to Oceanside and there are many connecting lines along its route, but now that 45-minute train ride has just morphed into a three hour trip (at least), if the rider is going to rely on public transportation to get to the final destination.

A light rail system going north and south and east and west from each of the stops along that main rail line would speed the trip along for everyone, not just people traveling between L.A. and San Diego. The trolley system we now have is a real treat to ride but it only covers about a quarter of the city at best.

Governor Jerry Brown (Dem.) just broke ground on a new HSR system going from Fresno to Madera, California. Eventually the California HSR will be 520 miles of track connecting most major points of the state, with Fresno as the hub. It was voted on in the 2008 elections, Prop 1A and studies to build it were started under our previous governor, Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger. You know I still have to look up his name to spell it correctly.

That’s a beginning. If we do it here in California it will eventually be adopted across the nation. Slowly of course because there are the naysayers, some of who are in government and will do whatever they can to stop it, even when construction of HSR begins to show the positive effects of increased employment and economic development. Like the GOP continually voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — even after it has proven to be not only a benefit for millions of previously uninsured, but good for the economy as well.


The one downside to it is the plan doesn’t appear to have the rail going as far south as San Diego — it stops in Anaheim. But, on the California High Speed Rail Authority website they have links to YouTube videos that show various lines in the proposed HSR system, one of which shows a train speeding through Mission Bay on its way to Downtown San Diego. Maybe San Diego will get HSR service.

There’s hope for the future. Convenient and efficient public transportation wouldn’t end suicides and senseless acts of violence, but it would relieve a lot of stress and frustration for the millions that rely on it in their daily lives. Now, if they could just get a bus line close to my house that would really be nice. There isn’t even a bridge within walking distance to jump from — besides, I’m getting too damn old to scale the fences to jump. The nearest bridge is a freeway overpass and what the hell, if I’m going that far I might as walk to the bus stop and go to the beach. Of course I could get taken by a shark …