Fernando Santillan: Young voters speak out for high-speed rail

June 30, 2012 

California is at a crossroads. We can continue business as usual, creating more of the same problems and ignoring the fact that the state is losing its competitive edge. Or, California can take a bold, new direction, leading the nation toward a future that positively impacts its people, economy and environment for generations to come. We, the young voters of California, ask our political leaders to stand up for the young generations impacted most by these decisions and recognize, once and for all, that it's time for high-speed rail in California.

Besides saving money in the long run, high-speed rail will create thousands of jobs over the life of the project. It will provide us with an alternative to high fuel prices while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving our air quality. By connecting and integrating Californians like never before, high-speed rail will also spur innovation and make us competitive in the global economy. Having world-class infrastructure to efficiently move people is of utmost importance to a future that our generation should be able to look forward to.

The alternative to high-speed rail is to perpetuate our traffic problems and continue the unsustainable and costly practice of adding more lanes to our freeways. Eventually, even this solution will prove incapable of handling the growth in our population. Knowing that doing nothing is not an option, and that continuing along the same path will end up costing more (both financially and environmentally), it would be a mistake to not invest in high-speed rail to create jobs at a time when unemployment is high, and while we still have access to federal funds to do so.

As a coalition of nonpartisan young voters and professionals across California who support high-speed rail, we acknowledge the points that high-speed rail detractors make. It is a fallacy that high-speed rail will have no ridership -- our generation will take ownership of it, will pay for it, and will definitely ride it.

There is also the notion that the money to build high-speed rail will take funding away from education and other critical programs. This is simply not the case, because money allocated for transportation can only be used for that purpose, and will end up being spent on transportation whether it is used on trains or freeways. We choose high-speed rail.

Finally, while the concern about saddling us with additional debt is certainly legitimate and appreciated, when it comes to investing in infrastructure such as high-speed rail, it appears misguided. We must take a proactive approach in dealing with inadequate infrastructure and soaring fuel prices before it becomes a crisis.

Now is the time for our leaders to step up and move forward to support our interests. High-speed rail isn't just a dream. It's our generation, our train, our future.

Santillan is co-founder of OurTrain, Young Voters for California High Speed Rail

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