QuestionQuestion

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?

Assignment
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 first high-speed train, the Shinkansen bullet train was unveiled in Tokyo 50 years ago. The train was not just any other means of public transportation, it also represented the future ambitions of the country. The high-speed train cut the time it takes to cover the distance between Tokaido and Osaka to three hours and set the standards of efficient transport to this day. In just 10 years, the high-speed train had generated adequate revenue to cover its cost of construction and maintenance. The Tokaido-Osaka network has moved more than 5.6 billion people at speeds of 320 km/hour and saved them more than 400 million hours of travel every year. The performance outcomes of this rail network have inspired countries all over the world that saw the need to improve their railway infrastructure in order to catch up with this promising future mode of transportation. Soon, countries in Europe such as Spain, Germany, and France were quickly caught up in this enthusiasm to put up high-speed railroad tracks and launch commercial high-speed rail passenger transportation. China launched its own bullet trains in 2007 and has laid more than 15,000 km of high-speed rail network to date. However, replicating the success of Japan and China has been difficult in Western countries. These projects begin with enthusiasm but experience significant challenges down the line. In the US, the country is considering laying down a high-speed rail network, amidst the highly emotive political debate on the project related to its environmental impact and economic sense. This paper argues that population density, cultural-shaped consumer preferences, competition from established transportation modes, and outdated existing rail network do not justify the development of the high-speed rail network.

The economics that govern the successful management of the high-speed rail will depend on several factors. To begin with, it is essential that there is enough population density near rail stations. Population density is a significant factor that has contributed to the success of the European high-speed railroad network....

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