2022 High Speed ​​Rail Sustainability Report Released – Streetsblog California

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California High Speed ​​Rail Authority (CAHSRA) Releases 2022 Sustainability Report [PDF]A 120-page compendium of all the ways the program has already contributed to the state’s climate goals.

This is a solid catalog of the achievements of the high-speed rail program: 119 miles of infrastructure, thousands of jobs created now and in the future; 700+ Small Profitable Businesses; billions in benefits for disadvantaged communities; reducing contractors’ dependence on fossil fuels; and the use of offsets, which the report said produced a “net positive” environmental impact.

High-speed rail is the “backbone” of California’s climate goals, the report says. Not only will it offer carbon-neutral travel options once it’s up and running, it’s focused on reducing current emissions.

San Joaquin River Viaduct.  Image: CAHSRA
San Joaquin River Viaduct. Image: CAHSRA

CAHSRA helped restore natural habitat, protect farmland, and plant trees. It claims to have helped “avoid or sequester” more than 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This appears to have been made possible in part by the purchase of offsets and “progressive fleet procurement requirements”. That is, the Office requires contractors to use zero-emissions equipment on the project, although these requirements are being phased in over time.

The report says its activities have already reduced “on-road and off-road diesel fuel consumption … by more than two percent, while gasoline fuel consumption has decreased by more than fifty percent compared to 2020.” This is not because construction has slowed, but because construction work has shifted from heavy demolition work and the need for large excavators and dump trucks has decreased. If they are needed again in future construction phases, authorities will require more zero-emission vehicles to be available.

Of course, this report is written to highlight the achievements and also to protect the project from its many detractors. So naturally, it takes a relentlessly positive tone, as you’d expect. Controversies surrounding the use of credits, for example, are not discussed.

Construction of the Cedar Viaduct.  Image: CAHSRA
Construction of the Cedar Viaduct. Image: CAHSRA

In addition to environmental and climate achievements, which highlight achievements in the sustainability report, it also details how the program has generated billions of dollars in economic activity, mostly in disadvantaged communities, and supported small businesses.

The data covers the year 2021, and since the trains aren’t running yet, the climate reduction won’t do any good. But once the project opens its first segment, it will run on 100 percent renewable energy, using solar power and road batteries on CAHSRA-owned property. In the Central Valley, commuting times for riders can be cut in half compared to driving. Of course, similar travel time savings will be available to other regions when segments come online in the future.

According to the report, CAHSRA is also engaging in compact development near its stations where “daily needs are within walking or biking distance” to further reduce the need to drive. It includes renderings of some of the layouts around the existing train stations – in San Jose and Los Angeles Union Station.

“Our stations are the future hubs of electrified transport that runs on renewable energy sources,” the report says. “They should be comfortable, shaded, energy- and water-efficient places for customers and help regenerate the surrounding community.”

But the “articles” of the planned Central Valley stations show a completely different story. The cover, for example, is an illustration of the future Kings/Tulare station (see main image). According to the report, the rendering “highlights how the design of the station accommodates passengers arriving by low-carbon modes of transport such as bus, ride-sharing and shuttle, as well as by individual modes such as cycling or walking”.

Although there appear to be a few narrow strips of green along the very wide roads that approach the station, the illustration is dominated by a half-empty car park that takes up a solid third of the image. And on the other side of the station is what looks like a solar farm, where “crops are covered with photovoltaic cells that generate solar energy.”

Probably some crops can be grown in the shade. But it all seems a little backwards. Why is there so much parking space near the train station? And why don’t these cars shade the solar panels?

Maybe this particular station isn’t supposed to be urban, but all renderings of Central Valley Station illustrate the opposite of what this report describes as “fifteen-minute cities” and “walking and biking destinations.” They are surrounded by parking, not “communities”.

Unfortunately, it seems that even when thinking about the transportation of the future, planners simply cannot imagine something that is not dominated by private cars.

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