With its continued focus on passenger vehicles, America is falling way behind in terms of viable public transit, said Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute. Diridon was a featured speaker at the California Transit Association’s (CTA) 40th conference and exhibition, held in San Jose, Nov. 1 to 3, 2005.
The session titled “Transit 2010: What Will We Look Like?” featured a panel discussion on the future of transit and forecasted upcoming trends for California. Diridon, who has spoken at numerous transportation events in the U.S. and internationally, said he is embarrassed by the country’s outdated transportation infrastructure compared to the rest of the world.
Building a high-speed rail system reaching from northern to southern California is a good start, Diridon said. “We’ll see a high-speed rail system in California before 2040.” During the course of the session, Diridon reported that the California High Speed Rail Authority voted unanimously to approve its environmental impact report. The voluminous report issued in draft form in 2004 with the Federal Railroad Administration contains 64 technical reports and received more than 2,000 public and governmental agency comments.
The proposed $37 billion system stretches from San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento in the north — with service to the Central Valley — to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. With bullet trains operating at speeds up to 220 mph, the express travel time from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be just under 2.5 hours.
The building of this system will be the largest project ever undertaken in the state, Diridon said. Raw materials for this project will be tough to obtain. “The U.S. will have to compete for the materials necessary as China is buying up high-grade steel to rebuild its rail system.” He expects that the rail system will be accompanied by a bus feeder network. Transit-oriented development is also seen as an obvious complement to the system, and will play a major role in the overall project.
Other growing trends for the state that we should expect to see more of in the future, according to Diridon, will be the use of driverless airport ground transportation circulator systems. Also, more freight corridors modeled after the Alameda Corridor in Los Angeles will play a major role in transportation planning, which will relieve us of some truck traffic.
Diridon also predicts that consumers using “gas guzzling” cars will be charged a fee per number of miles driven. With the California population expected to double in the near future, he also expects highway usage fees to help combat congestion. “Some sort of device must be implemented to persuade us not to contribute to congestion, which will be a revenue generator for the state,” he said. “We will have no choice but to be in a multi-passenger vehicle.”