On a local PBS production on Friday, Feb. 19th called the “Great Valley,” the topic of discussion was high-speed rail. Among invited guests were: Fran Florez, Boardmember of the California High-Speed Rail Authority; Stacey Mortensen, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (operator of the Altamont Commuter Express trains operating between San Jose and Stockton); and Assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd. David Hosley was host and moderator.
The show opened with some animated video and some related narrative, followed by a question-answer session with show host Hosley seeking comment first from Florez and then Rudd.
Besides the excellent information exchange, not only Hosley, but the Great Valley Center’s Stacey Shepard representing the Bakersfield office, asked excellent questions, a few of which are presented below. These questions in particular, seem to get at the heart of two very important pieces of the story: Where the planned Fresno high-speed rail station will be located and why, and how the high-speed rail connectivity issue in the north valley will be addressed.
When asked by Hosley where the proposed Fresno high-speed rail station is to be located, Rudd responded: “So one of the things that we are currently doing (in fact, we were already in the process of doing), is sighting exactly where the downtown station will be located at. We have been working with a lot of our stakeholders prior to the bond passage to kind of work through different corridors and, five or seven years ago, the county of Fresno and the city of Fresno came to an agreement that the high-speed rail corridor would be located adjacent through downtown Fresno along the, or adjacent to, the Union Pacific corridor.” After Rudd provided some additional comment, Hosley then begged:
“Now I don’t suppose that you want people to get in their personal vehicles and drive from other places to go to that new station. So, how are you going to be able to coordinate that so that you don’t have a bunch of people using not the best practices for good transportation?” And here is how Rudd responded.
“Well, there will be services being provided as I indicated in our outlying areas through Fresno County Rural Transit where we will link those systems in. From Hanford, for example, they can use Amtrak or some of the other inter-rail services to connect up to the high-speed rail. And then again, at the end of the day, we will be looking at the single occupancy vehicle, which is, as you point out, not the most effective use of the automobile, but we are looking at planning for that and addressing those capacity needs as far as the station.”
Rudd then went on to talk up the benefits of placing the station downtown. The main one, of course, is access or connectivity ease. People who have businesses or who live downtown “won’t necessarily need to drive from the outlying areas,” Rudd said.
Immediately following, the second segment of the show had Stacey Shepard from the Great Valley Center’s Bakersfield office conducting a one-on-one interview with San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission Executive Director Stacey Mortensen, and one of the questions Shepard posed was: “So how will high-speed rail connect with travel north of Merced?”
Responding to this, Mortensen replied:
“… Where the Altamont [Pass Corridor] comes in there’s a lot of cities that we just talked about [Stockton, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Fremont, Santa Clara, San Jose]. Those are population centers that have been growing and will grow and so you need a service there that is able to stop and be more of a regional like you see in other countries parallel or connecting to a high-speed rail line, and that’s really the function that we see the Altamont serving.”
The remainder of the show was filled out with Hosley directing questions to each guest individually, who then provided comment.