A High Speed Rail Debate

Governor Bruin is having a debate with sustainable cities activist Tommy Trojan.

Governor Bruin is highly popular with a long record of accomplishment in progressive politics, including most recently a very strong stance on combatting global climate change. He is also a major advocate of high-speed rail in California. He argues that investment in high-speed rail will make the state more sustainable because it will replace carbon-intensive inter-regional air and automobile travel with less carbon intensive rail travel. Also, it will bring about greater equity because it may stimulate economic development in poverty-stricken areas in the Central Valley. Finally, he argues that the rail stations, which unlike airports will be located in urban cores, will have the effect of centralizing development at higher densities, reducing reliance on the automobile overall.

Sustainable cities activist Tommy Trojan differs with Governor Bruin on this issue. He argues that the exorbitant and ever-increasing cost of high-speed rail would more effectively combat global warming and increase social equity if spent to expand mass transit opportunities within existing urban regions. He also argues that high-speed rail may promote significant urban development in the Central Valley, worsening problems of air pollution and sprawl there. Finally, he questions whether promoting frequent and rapid transportation between the major urban centers in California is an unnecessary form of increased consumption overall.

Governor Bruin retorts that at least a some of the money budgeted to construct high speed rail cannot be spent on just any transit project and must remain dedicated to high-speed rail – in the fancy language of budgeting, the money is “non-fungible.” He further argues that since some of the infrastructure is already under construction, it would be a terrible waste of resources to shut the project down now.

The characters in this debate are fictitious, but the California high-speed rail project and the issues highlighted above are real. With some research on the California
high-speed rail (HSR) and careful thinking of your own, can you help to shed light on this issue and settle this debate? Will a high-speed rail line between the Los Angeles region and the San Francisco Bay Area promote or hinder sustainable development? What is the best course of action for sustainability now that the project is underway, but faces steeply-escalating cost estimates?


Please respond to the prompt and questions above drawing on our course reading, lectures, and basic research on the high-speed rail project. Research can come from newspaper articles, magazine articles, and/or scholarly sources, but the best papers will rely mostly on scholarly sources. The expectation is about 8-10 sources outside of course reading and lectures. You may use the sources either for facts to support your argument or as a resource for ideas in your argument.

One thing to note here is that the anticipated public and private funding sources for the high-speed rail project are very much under threat today. This is due in part to the federal funding cuts initiated by the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress, and in part to emerging cost overruns in the project. The best papers will not dwell on the recent developments in the saga of funding the rail project to simply conclude that it is no longer viable. Instead, they will draw on scholarly research about the planning and design of the project to consider design features and overall costs and benefits. It may well be that the costs outweigh the benefits and it’s fine to make that case. But this is different than arguing that, although it might be a fine investment, the politics are just not aligned to deliver the funding.
Focus on the long-term relationship of the investment to sustainability, rather than the “realpolitick” of the moment.

It is suggested that you begin by carefully defining your idea of sustainable development. What are your priorities and what sort of definition are you working from for your argument? Then, clearly state your thesis and provide supporting arguments.

Formatting and Writing Requirements

Title Block/Format: At the top of your paper, centered in single space, please provide a one-line title, your name, and your student number. Please double-space the rest of the paper with left justification. You may use a limited number of sub- headings in your paper if appropriate.

Length: Not more than 6-8 double spaced pages at 12-point font or about 2,000 words. Please write concisely to convey your argument. Please do not use figures or tables.

Source Formatting Requirements: Please take care to cite your sources where you draw on them. Please use the Chicago Manual of Style, Author-Date format.

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These solutions may offer step-by-step problem-solving explanations or good writing examples that include modern styles of formatting and construction of bibliographies out of text citations and references. Students may use these solutions for personal skill-building and practice. Unethical use is strictly forbidden.

The High-speed railway between San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles is expected to contribute to the economic development of the two regions while offering a feasible transport solution to the regions. It is estimated that the journey between the two regions will be done in less than three hours at speeds of more than 200 miles per hour by 2029. This paper will explore the sustainability of the rail line and associated infrastructure in meeting the expectations of both the public and the state. Sustainable development for the High Speed Railway would represent a system that sustains the needs of the present generation without compromising future goals. Such would involve ensuring that it is not an environmental pollutant and that it does not drain the state resources for the long term. If it is deemed that it can finance its operations in the future while reducing the human carbon foot print, it would be a sustainable development. The California High Speed Rail project shows all the hallmarks of sustainability and capacity to transform life and transport if the short term funding challenges are met.
Expected Approach and Benefits
California has thirty-two million registered vehicles that have been estimated to travel more miles than any other state in the United States. With the expected additional population of twelve million coming into the state, the demands for viable transport solutions cannot be understated. Transporting those people every day would demand substantial investment in road infrastructure (Thompson, 2017). Experts have estimated that keeping up with the demand for the highways would need an investment of more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars. The investment would, however, cover large swaths of the land with asphalt and concrete diminishing the already stretched reserved land (Cole et al. 2016, 32). A viable solution has been proposed as the high-speed railway between the two metropolitan zones. Arriving at the conclusion that the highways were redundant and that the high-speed railway offered the best alternative was based on several considerations as the paper will elaborate.
The lost time in California’s auto congestion has been computed to be causing the state about eighteen billion dollars every year....

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