TRANSDEF Files Caltrain Electrification Lawsuit
TRANSDEF today joined in two litigation coalitions to file suit. In the first lawsuit, it joined the Town of Atherton and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail to challenge the Caltrain electrification EIR. TRANSDEF’s concern here is that spending $1.5 billion on electrification will not do much to help ridership. That same money would have a much bigger effect on ridership if it were spent to build the Caltrain Downtown Extension to the Transbay Transit Center. Worse, by trading its current surplus capacity to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for electrification funding, it places a cap on its future ridership. In an era of climate change, in which we need transit operators to greatly expand their ridership, this is a profound strategic error.
For thirty years, Caltrain has wanted to electrify, but never had the money. TRANSDEF believes that this longstanding desire blinded it to the agency’s best interests. We see this as tragically similar to the Biblical tale of Esau selling his birthright to his brother Jacob because he was hungry one night.
TRANSDEF has long been opposed to HSR via the Pacheco Pass. Not only does this route decision starve the far-more regionally important Altamont Corridor of the rail infrastructure it badly needs, it also badly impacts Caltrain’s long-term capacity. HSR via the Altamont Pass would share tracks with Caltrain for a much shorter distance, thereby impacting capacity much less. See the TRANSDEF Altamont page.
Here’s our press release:
Oakland, CA, February 9, 2015 –A Peninsula city, an environmental and transportation advocacy organization, and a Peninsula community group today jointly filed suit challenging the Environmental Impact Report for Caltrain’s proposed electrification. The Town of Atherton was joined by the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund (TRANSDEF) and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail (CC-HSR).
The lawsuit filed today seeks to force the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the agency that runs Caltrain, to acknowledge the impacts that its project, and the closely-associated high-speed rail project, will have on the San Francisco Peninsula. Among other things, the lawsuit asserts that by 2040, Caltrain will not be able to accommodate more passengers. Surplus capacity that would otherwise be available to run more Caltrain trains would instead be committed to HSR, The suit also alleges that the project’s $600 million in Proposition 1A bond funds is vulnerable to legal challenge, requiring serious consideration of less-costly alternatives.
CC-HSR President Jim Janz, a former mayor of Atherton, said “The petitioners in this lawsuit want Caltrain to study the impacts, and to study the alternatives, before plunging ahead. That is not only prudent policy-making, it’s what the law requires.”
David Schonbrunn, President of Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund added, “As transit advocates, we know that combating climate change will require a major increases in Caltrain ridership. The electrification project would prevent that,”
George Rodericks, Atherton City Manager advised, “The Town met with Caltrain in an attempt to reach commitment on a number of remaining issues. Caltrain’s response did not contain sufficient commitment to deter the Town from a legal challenge to the FEIR.”
The Town of Atherton has been a leader in making the California High-Speed Rail Authority accountable to the people of the Peninsula. www.ci.atherton.ca.us
Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, TRANSDEF, headquartered in the Bay Area, advocates for effective regional planning, smart growth, improved transit service, and cleaner air. It seeks a high-speed rail system well-integrated with the rest of California’s public transit. www.transdef.org
COMMUNITY COALITION ON HIGH-SPEED RAIL is a nonprofit group formed by Peninsula residents worried about how high-speed rail will impact their communities. It seeks to educate the community about the pluses and minuses of the high-speed rail plans. www.cc-hsr.org