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Bullet-Train Between LA and SF Needed?

Governor Brown - Photo by Terry Miller
Governor Brown – Photo by Terry Miller

By Nick Kipley

When construction started on the 605 Freeway in 1963, the population of the entire State of California was roughly what the population of the Los Angeles mega-region is today; therefore, California’s freeway system now far exceeds the number of commuters it was originally planned for, even though it effectively connects our many different regions.
Following the recent election, voters have demanded a greener future, allowing space for new arguments in California’s old transportation debate to take root. The old model of, “just build more highways,” doesn’t seem a viable and sustainable solution for the future.
Part of Governor Jerry Brown’s vision of transportation reform for the state involves linking the Bay with the Basin via high-speed rail in order to not just take pressure off of the interstate system, but to unburden the short haul flight between L.A. and San Francisco -the busiest such flight nationwide.
Part of the appeal of the high speed rail program seems to be a cut back of the amount of new roads and runways that would have to be added in order to accommodate future growth. Rather than make, “everything all grey,” as Brown said in a recent speech, the Governor hopes that the rail line will provide a more efficient, greener, alternative to ones the state has depended upon in the past.
Brown’s critics can’t see where the money for such a huge public work’s project will come from. Brown himself doesn’t seem to know; he admitted at the groundbreaking ceremony for the project in Fresno: “I wasn’t quite sure where the hell we were going to get the rest of the money.” He added, “But, don’t worry about it. We’re going to get it.”
The bullet train will definitely be a relief for freeway traffic, but is it really needed to relieve surrounding airports from the LA – San Francisco flight? According to officials at John Wayne Airport, Bob Hope Airport, and San Bernardino International Airport, it is not.
According to local airports, their ability to handle passengers and air traffic effectively is secure: they certainly have the collective space to compensate travelers into the region until Brown can secure funding for the bullet-train.
Victor Gill of Bob Hope Airport in Burbank claims that if airlines are able to keep their planes as busy as possible between LA and San Francisco, they would even cut flights elsewhere.
Jenny Wedge, spokesperson from John Wayne Airport, said that the Orange County airport was experiencing steady growth. Due to an old legislature however, flights are banned at certain times of night and there is a cap on the number of passengers and heavy airline flights a day. The cap currently stands at 9.95 million passengers and 85 “Class A,” heavy airline departures per day. Every five years the cap rises by approximately a million passengers until it hits its limit 2030, when the maximum of 95 heavy flights 12.5 million passengers is reached. The legislature is then set to expire in 2030, about the estimated time the bullet train would be completed.
San Bernardino International Airport (SBDIA) has just undergone extensive remodeling adding domestic, international, and executive terminals and a fuel depot system called, “Luxivair,” which Mark Gibbs of SBDIA calls, “a high tech gas station.”
As part of the FAA’s National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, SBDIA is the already-existing, “future growth,” that Jerry Brown claims, “will make everything grey.” The facilities were built debt free, which means the airport can pass that savings on to prospective airlines. SBDIA is big enough to handle the jumbo jet class, or “Group 5,” aircraft, which means that flights can depart to anywhere in the immediate hemisphere-or anywhere in the state.

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