Monday, September 13, 2010

letter to the editor of Palo Alto Post

Every once in awhile I get fiesty and feel the impulse to fire off a letter to the editor of a local paper.

Back in the day, this required actually printing (or before that, typing or writing) an email, finding an envelope and stamp, and deliberately mailing it. These days, however, it's click-click-click,CLICK, and you've fired off your reactionary diatribe to take its place in the ever-increasing annuls of journalism.

Anyway, returning from the Fremont Peak Hillclimb yesterday, my ride made an unfortunate choice of taking 101 north, and I forgot to check 511 for traffic conditions. Due to a horrific accident on the road 7 hours prior, traffic was appalling, and we sat in walking-pace congestion for at least 45 minutes. This partially inspired my response to the Palo Alto Daily Post's latest editorial blasting high speed rail.

Here's my letter:

Palo Alto Daily PostThe 13 September Post editorial, Take a Stand, warned against how high speed rail could "devastate the city and others along the Peninsula". Indeed there has been a focused local opposition bordering on hysteria against the high speed rail project due to its impact on local residents.

Given this, I'd fully expect the paper to additionally support the closure of 101 and 280. Rail can't come close to the destruction and horror of a highway: just the day before two people were brutally killed on southbound 101 (CHP car drives over body after accident on 101, also 13 Sep). These freeways cut two massive swaths, denuded zones of death, down the entire peninsula.

Virtually any attempt at transportation infrastructure expansion faces opposition. Even something as innocuous as a bike path can result in an empassioned debate which goes on for years. However, as long as we as a society value the freedom of travel, hard decisions need to be made. For some reason we accept it as given that auto infrastructure is worth the terrible cost it imposes in finances, noise, pollution, congestion, and death. Yet rail is held up to such a standard that any serious commitment is called "devastating". It's time to reconsider our priorities and expose the car to the same scrutiny we expose other transportation modes.

In retrospect I realize this is a rehash of my previous letter on the same subject, that time to the Daily News. It shows how little the debate has progressed, I suppose.

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