Can we change our ways?

With 22 San Francisco ballot measures to decide on, local voters may be tempted to pay little attention to the state measures. But some of them are very important. Prop 1a, for example, a would authorize the state to issue bonds to finance a high-speed rail system in the state, which according to a story in the S.F. Chronicle would change the way many Californians live. The first section of the rail system to be built would cover the route from S.F. to L.A. making it possible to travel by rail between the two cities in only two and a half hours. Although high-speed rail systems have been successful in Japan and Europe, they have not often been tried in the U.S. Commuters are used to driving back and forth to work and how many of them would switch to rail is an open question. Some experts argue that we would need to build high-rise housing near rail stations in order to make train commuting feasible for most people. How many Californians would give up back yards and low-slung housing to move to high-rises? It’s worth thinking about and perhaps talking to young people about how they see their futures. Certainly rail travel cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. Many city planners predict that sooner or later we will be forced to switch. Is 2008 the year to start?

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