NEW PALMDALE DEVELOPMENT COULD BE A ROLE MODEL FOR HIGH SPEED RAIL
BY STAS MARGARONIS
The Southern California city of Palmdale’s transportation manager, Mike Behen, says that a new higher density development will encourage more bicycle and pedestrian travel because it is close to an existing train station that could also be a high speed rail station.
Behen believesCalifornia’s high speed rail authority is working more positively with local authorities and is improving the project’s chances of success.
In an interview, Behen discussed the potential for Palmdale and long-term forCalifornia:
“I am heartened that theBakersfieldto Palmdale high speed rail connection is getting the priority it deserves in the revised business plan by the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). This link is critical to bringing high speed rail to Southern California.
We are hopeful that CHSRA will support the link going through the Palmdale Transportation Center (PTC) that passes through Palmdale. This will connect existing Metrolink trains that take commuters from PTC to Union Station inLos Angeles. This decision is still going through an environmental review, but recommendations are due out on Thursday April 19th.
We are building a new Transit Village development with 156 apartments and 121 town homes that will be within walking distance of the PTC. The idea is to create higher density development that allows you to get to the train station by foot, bicycle or bus instead of by car. With the expansion of rail transit, this will drive these new developments.
Palmdale is at the nexus of highway, Metrolink and airport connections that can make it a critical transportation hub. We see this in the development around the PTC.
I don’t think we have fully understood how close we are getting to grid lock on Southern California freeways. I can tell you that we already know this in the Antelope Valley because the one way commute for many people toLos Angelesis two hours and sometimes more. That’s a huge waste in time and gas.
Palmdale has a population of 150,000 but the surrounding Antelope Valley area has a population of 500,000 and by 2035 we project a regional population of 1 million. Nearly 71,000 workers commute into the Greater Los Angeles area from theAntelopeValley. By road, it is a two hour commute in each direction. The link up with Metrolink and high speed rail will create faster commutes with less fuel consumption and lower emissions.
In Southern California, we need a more positive approach toward high speed rail. We need to understand the potential of the investment instead of focusing on the cost. And we are already paying a lot to maintain our existing highways and other infrastructure versus having the high speed rail system where fuel consumption and maintenance will be less.
Business organizations like the Los Angeles Chamber and Orange County Chambers of commerce need to get more behind high speed rail and start providing more publicity about the job creation and other economic benefits. We represent the major population center for the state, but we need to market this system to take advantage of the opportunity.
There is a new more positive energy coming out of CHSRA thanks in part to the leadership of Dan Richard, the chairman. He has been going out and meeting with people sometimes even in their homes. This is encouraging a more cooperative approach with transit systems in the Bay Area and inSouthern California. The revised CHSRA business plan reflects this: it means more money will be going into existing transit systems now to improve connectivity to high speed rail when the system is completed.
As we look at future development in theAntelopeValley, we now have the possibility of less grid-lock, cheaper commuter transport and a smaller carbon footprint.”