High speed rail: Getting Texas on track

If enthusiasm were dollars, high speed rail would be zooming across in Texas.
There has been no shortage of advocates ready to envision and mock-up plans for fast passenger trains in the Lone Star state, starting back in the energy-crisis years of the 1970s and building steam throughout the 1980s when a group called the Texas Railroad Transportation Company (TRTC) devised a plan for the “Texas Triangle,” a 750-mile train route connecting Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio and Houston.

Illinois creates Midwest High Speed Rail Commission

From Green Right Now Reports

The Illinois Senate today voted unanimously to create the Illinois and Midwest High Speed Rail Commission to help guide the development of high speed trains in Illinois and neighboring states. The vote by this one body is sufficient to create the commission, which will recommend the best government-private structure for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining a high speed rail system.

The new passenger rail, which is being seeded by stimulus money, is expected to first connect Chicago with St. Louis, with trains that could go up to 220 miles per hour. At that speed, the travel time between the two cities would be just under two hours, making train travel a much more competitive option.

High Speed Rail to get stimulus money, putting America on track with other nations

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

When the giant stimulus bill expected to be approved by Congress, finally lumbers forth it will pour billions into projects that have been neglected, like highway renovations, and items that have recently bleeped onto the public radar screen, like clean energy incentives.

In some cases, money has been included (so far) for programs that have been debated and tabled for years. High speed rail, which is slated to get $8 billion, falls into that category.

You might be ask yourself, what is high speed rail? And you’d be right to ask that question, because right now, in America, there is no high-speed rail. There’s a grand plan for a high-speed train that would run the length of California, where voters last fall approved the first bond money for the Sacramento to San Diego line. Once, years ago, people proposed high-speed rail as a way to better connect Dallas, Austin and Houston, a plan that met an early death in a state well-served by airlines and enamored of highways.

Greener city buses clear the air, but choices aren’t always clear

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

You’ve heard the saying, “it’s easy being green.” Maybe sometimes. But not always, and not if you’re the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agency, which finds itself tangling with a green dilemma.

DART, which serves Dallas and 11 other cities in the region, has been planning to replace its aging bus fleet with 537 shiny new buses. It’s a great opportunity to go green with the entire fleet.

But after taking bids this fall and updating the research, the agency members are locked in debate over what type of buses are “cleaner” and which ones make the most sense environmentally and economically. The answer is not readily apparent. Like potential car buyers on the threshold of a dealership showroom, the bus-buying members of DART find themselves puzzling over the new technologies and old perceptions.

Cleaning up school bus emissions

By Catherine Colbert

When David Kilbourne picked up his 8-year-old son from Lake Travis Elementary in spring 2007, he noticed smoke billowing from idling buses parked in queue behind the school. The exhaust fumes his son was breathing each day as he waited to be picked up, he says, were contributing to his son’s migraine headaches. “My son is the quarterback for his youth football team,” said Kilbourne. “Because there’s only one quarterback, when he gets these headaches, it affects the team.”

Kilbourne remembers noticing the bus exhaust during the school’s bus safety week. “They were talking about how buses are safe when it comes to traffic accidents,” he said, “but there’s more to a bus’s safety than traffic accidents, like having air that’s safe to breathe.”

The coincidence spurred Kilbourne to take action. Not only did he write several letters to his local newspaper, but Kilbourne approached the head of his district’s transportation department to discuss air quality in and around its buses. After he spoke to Rick Walterscheid, the transportation director at the Lake Travis Independent School District, the school system put a no-idling policy into effect.

Walterscheid didn’t stop there, either. Later that year the 79th Texas Legislature adopted House Bill 3469, which established and authorized the formation of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to administer a statewide clean school bus program.