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During my break, I decided to burn a few Amtrak points and wander around the country by train. Traveling by train across California is relaxing and scenic, but it also gives a great opportunity to see, firsthand, how much this state has invested in the car at the expense of all other forms of transportation.
It was no clearer perhaps than when I took Amtrak from Auckland to Davis. First, the train winds slowly along the coast, on tracks that embrace the coast because they were built before the machines existed to create a more direct route inward, as was done with the interstate roads of the Bay Area. But it is when trains cross the Strait of Carcasses that the inequality between cars and other forms of transportation becomes most noticeable. Trains are regularly and significantly delayed here at a 90-year-old, two-lane arterial bridge.
As absurd as it sounds, every time a big ship passes through a strait, all trains have to stop. Drivers, on the other hand, were provided with not one but two super-wide and super-high bridges, one on either side of the railway bridge. The leading photo shows one of them, high and above my train. There are also two more car bridges a few miles west of this point, a total of 20 lanes for cars over the strait on bridges that are all high enough for ships to pass below.
Trains, on the other hand, receive two “lanes,” and are bound to ships. And these two tracks share with long, slow freight trains.
And free-thinking think tanks have the insane audacity to do so It is said that Amtrak is subsidized?
In the meantime, at Davis, you can get a taste of what can be achieved when city planners take safety and the freedom to choose the road seriously. There are roads, obviously, and if you want to drive, this is not a bad place to use a car. But Davis also has a famous system of off-street green roads, where cyclists can ride without fear of being massacred by some inattentive driver.
Almost every intersection in downtown Davis has large lights to facilitate passage and to prevent customs from whipping dangerously around corners. It is no coincidence that drivers seem to be giving in at almost universal crossings. And when Davis decided to build more parks and pedestrian areas in response to the Corona emergency, they did not Install small signs and plastic columns. They installed things that can actually stop a stray or oncoming driver, as you can see in the image below:
Basically, Davis can be seen as an experiment in California: and it proves that if you build it, they will come on two wheels, not just four. Yes, it’s a college town, and yes, it’s small, but Infrastructure is the main reason Davis has such a high percentage of people riding bikes.
After returning to Auckland from Davis, I decided to take Amtrak Beach to Los Angeles to visit some old friends. The train is pretty ridiculous – takes all day to get to Los Angeles but it is convenient and the food service has improved and is actually quite tasty. (I still wish Amtrak would run Night train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, So it may be useful for people who do not have much time to kill).
I also got a fresh look at some of the electrification work that takes place along the Caltraine Corridor (the starlight runs alongside Caltrain for a few miles). Notice in the picture below the two-story passenger train that passes under this wire, on the right (it’s something LA Times Regularly reports can not happen due to evacuation issues, which ostensibly means the high-speed train can not share tracks … or something like that).
Exciting to see a serious investment finally coming to train transportation.
But my travels around the state have also been a refresher course on how most California cities, even when building public transportation, still manage to prioritize driving and give cyclists and pedestrians a short time.
Take Regional author project, A two-mile light rail connection that crosses my old downtown Los Angeles neighborhood. Most of the $ 1.5 billion in spending is on car lanes, not transportation.. The city Remove the little Tokyo light rail station – which was built on the surface just a few years ago– and is in the process of rebuilding underground as part of the project. All of this was to avoid a few more classroom passes and take out some street parking in Little Tokyo had the project continued on the surface, as originally planned. The expansion of a simple track has turned into a huge project, all due to the loss of some parking spaces and a certain traffic delay caused by step transitions being considered unacceptable.
During construction Los Angeles closed Sidewalks almost everywhere (Never close traffic lanes, only sidewalks). The sidewalk on the right side of the road, down, has closed and people are supposed to walk on this narrow sidewalk on the left to get to Union Station – arguably the most important destination in the area. Imagine you are trying to navigate it in a wheelchair.
It’s not surprising that you do not see anyone walking down this important corridor, the most direct route across Highway 101.
From Los Angeles, I took Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to San Diego to visit my mother for Thanksgiving. That train has improved greatly over the years, with the addition of double tracking, which has eliminated most of the choking points and bottlenecks. The ride was smooth and punctual. There were even some places where we were (mostly) cars on I-5, which is very similar.
San Diego, like Los Angeles, seems to see the transition as just a way to ease traffic jams – a last resort for people too poor to buy a car or, perhaps, for commuters who want an alternative at peak times. hour. Stations on the San Diego wagon lines are really hostile to pedestrians, as can be seen in this photo of the area around the Hazard Center wagon station near my mother’s home. Everything is designed solely to make sure that public transport users do not slow down the movement of cars.
Riders on the cart even have to press the pleading button just to cross the hotel’s driveway to get to the shopping center and the Sinflex, the only things that are within easy walking distance.
After Thanksgiving, I took Amtrak back to Los Angeles, and then after spending the night, Amtrak’s San Joaquin returned to Auckland via Central Valley.
Too bad the connection from Los Angeles to Bakersfield requires a bus – I was stuck in the traffic of Los Angeles in the first part of the trip. The train she connects to is, after all, the fastest way back home (Despite the false claims of many reporters, he does indeed arrive in Auckland). It is comfortable and relatively smooth and it also provides good observations of the tremendous progress made in the country’s railway modernization project, also known as the high-speed train:
Seeing miles upon miles of high-speed train structures is encouraging. The country, at last, is digging itself out of the pit of its deadly transportation system, its auto-overs. Why would it surprise anyone that the project is expensive and complex, given the fact that the state has invested remnants of tables on the train since the late 19th century, while pouring trillions into highways and highways?
It’s going to be a long journey, but we’re getting there, and the evidence for this progress is becoming more visible. Soon there will be no need to fly to Europe or Asia to see what the future of the country’s transportation system will look like. Perhaps as trains begin to ride across the state at 220 mph, even planners in Los Angeles and San Diego will begin to see that moving trains, cycling and walking are just as important as vehicle output. Hopefully, they will finally change the way they see streets And the importance of giving people options, and they will try to make their streets a little safer, more diverse and inviting – and only a little more like Davis.