By Adrienne J. Tissier
The passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's infrastructure initiative for California high-speed rail is an important milestone in bringing modern electric train service to the Bay Area.
The initiative ensures funding for the modernization of Caltrain -- a project that is critical to the Bay Area and the state.
We are grateful to the governor, the elected officials, the communities served by Caltrain and the people who have supported the effort to preserve and improve this vital service.
Many of the state legislators who represent the Caltrain service area had the wisdom to support this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the region. In particular, state Sens. Leland Yee and Mark Leno and Assembly members Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon worked tirelessly to ensure that the state's effort to deliver high-speed rail will prioritize and upgrade the Bay Area's transit systems, including Caltrain.
At the federal level, it was Rep. Anna Eshoo who first called for the high-speed rail program to "hit the reset button" and established support for a "blended system" to protect Peninsula communities from unnecessary impacts. Working together with Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Eshoo has helped rally federal support critical to the success of the project.
Thanks to all of them, Peninsula residents will soon be able to travel on faster, cleaner, quieter trains that operate more frequently between San Francisco and San Jose, transforming the Caltrain system into one that is more financially stable and can accommodate growing ridership demands.
The Caltrain Modernization Program is a comprehensive program that includes the infrastructure and equipment to operate electric train service and an advanced signal system with Positive Train Control, a federally mandated safety feature that helps prevent train collisions. Such a system will serve Caltrain now and in the future, when the demand for reliable, convenient public transportation is expected to increase. Caltrain could be electrified as soon as 2019.
A modern, electricity-powered railroad will provide more service, carry more riders, take more cars off the road, cost less to operate and reduce pollution.
Because electric trains can stop and start more quickly than Caltrain's current diesel locomotives, trains can be scheduled more closely together. This means more service. More service will attract more riders, which will generate more revenue. Revenue is projected to increase 49 percent by 2019, while operating costs are set to remain flat. This additional revenue will provide much-needed funding for Caltrain, which continues to grapple with financial issues.
In addition, electric trains produce almost no pollution, a significant environmental benefit for the region.
An electrified train system also is less expensive to operate and reduces Caltrain's dependence on a fluctuating fuel supply.
As the project moves forward, Caltrain will continue to engage the community and work with our stakeholders to address their concerns.
The environmentalist David Brower said, "We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."
This is a moment in time we will be able to look back on with satisfaction, knowing that we preserved an important resource for future generations.