Energy for travel alternative …. a must read

California’s high-speed rail as an energy lifeline

By Chris Nelder | July 11, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT

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California has affirmed its commitment to building the nation’s first high-speed rail system, but among the justifications for it, the most important one was scarcely mentioned: energy.

Yes, it will be wonderful to be able to travel from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles in a little over two and a half hours. That’s faster than driving or even flying, once you take into account the travel time to SFO or LAX, arriving there at least an hour before your flight time in order to get through security, sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate or a runway slot, and all the rest of the actual time commitments not included in the nominal hour-and-a-half flight time.

Under the system’s targeted fare structure, the SF-LA trip would also be about half the price of airfare, or about the same price as buying $4 gasoline for a car that gets 20 mpg and driving those 500 miles. But it would be a whole lot safer, more comfortable, and more productive.

The alternatives of building more airport capacity or more freeway lanes would be even more expensive than the system’s $68 billion price tag on a full lifecycle basis, including operational, maintenance, and fuel costs. New readers may want to revisit my calculations from last October, in which I found that merely remaining committed to our existing road-and-car transportation infrastructure costs the U.S. around $1.6 trillion annually, and that US High Speed Rail Association’s $600 billion price estimate for a high-speed rail system connecting all our major metropolitan cities is decidedly cheap

And yes, my beleaguered state, with its $15.7 billion budget deficit and declining tax revenues, could certainly use the 450,000 permanent jobs that the HSR system will bring.

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