that spans from the Post Office on Stevens Creek Boulevard to Wolfe Road. Editor Anne Ernst brought the article to my attention because she and Mr. Jones thought it would be a great idea to draw a cartoon on. After reading the article and thinking about what Mr. Jones and a group of locals () are brainstorming as well as reading other comments of ideas I think I have something they can really sink their teeth into.
As many of you know that my comic character comes from the municipality of Schöngeising, Germany. Schöngeising is 1/32 the size of Cupertino in terms of population. But what does Schöngeising have that Cupertino doesn’t? Schöngeising is part of a greater infrastructural network of public transportation in the Munich Metropolitan Area—the Stadtschnellbahn (city-fast-train) or S-Bahn for short. The group of locals talking about the little trolley line in Cupertino is on the right track (pun intended) but doesn’t go far enough.
Don’t get me wrong it’s a great start but if we’re going to talk about an infrastructure idea like this then let’s go all the way. Instead of a little line that goes from the post office on Stevens Creek Boulevard to Wolfe Road how about we create a rail line infrastructure that spans the entire South Bay Area where you can get around without having to use a car.
Now I know what a lot of people will say- ‘this is America; we don’t need a European style system here’. You know what folks GET OVER IT! In my travels to the European continent I was able to get from Southampton, England to London to Paris, France to Nice to Monaco to Genoa, Italy to Milano to Verona to Innsbruck, Austria to Munich, Germany to Augsburg to Nürnberg to Regensburg to Stuttgart to Strasbourg and back to Southampton England without ever setting foot on the road/freeway!
If a European system is so bad then explain how I was able to travel to all of those places so easily while back here in the US I can barely get to San Francisco without getting lost taking the VTA bus to get to the Caltrain Station and wasting a ton of time? If you hear crickets then that was the answer I was expecting.
Next there’ll be some that say ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘it can’t be done’. My answer to both of those is yes it can be done and as far as it being expensive damn the costs! If this country was able to build the Lincoln Tunnel, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Tribourgh Bridge, LaGuardia Airport, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Overseas Highway, Grand Coulee dam, Bonneville Dam, Tennessee Valley Authority and etc. during the Great Depression then why is it impossible to build an S-Bahn system here in the South Bay right now?
This country put a man on the moon while it was duking it out in the jungles of Vietnam. Personally I would rather have my tax dollars go to infrastructure projects that help out our country rather than war.
I’m sure some people will then say ‘we have more people here than in Germany. That system wouldn’t work with so many people’. Comparing the two nation’s populations the US beats Germany…but we’re not talking about the overall population now are we. If we compare the South Bay Area to that of the Munich Metropolitan Area I think you will be surprised who has more. The South Bay Area population is 1,717,112. The population in the Munich Metropolitan Area is 2.6 million and their system runs trains every 20 minutes…ON TIME.
Having said that lets get down to how the S-Bahn system works. In Germany there are around 16 S/U-Bahn rail lines and those all link up to one central station called the Hauptbahnhof in downtown Munich. Unfortunately there aren’t many places in highly prized areas in the South Bay Area where 12 tracks can be laid out to accommodate such a central station. How things could work here is to have mini stations throughout and possibly bigger ones where a few lines can run through on the same track.
As you see on the map above (which happens to match up perfectly with the Munich S-Bahn map) there is at least one line that goes to every city in the South Bay Area. The next question will be ‘how do we get around other places in the city if there is only one line?’ Very easily. How it works in Germany there is one line that goes to each city and if one wanted to go to a certain place there are bus lines that can take you to or close to your destination.
How that could work here would be to take a huge burden off the VTA bus line from making long trips and concentrate on designated areas within the city. Obviously the bigger the city the more bus lines you would need. In Germany as well as many other parts of Europe it is common to see people taking their bicycles on the S-Bahn and the regular bus line to their desired destination.
The train itself should not be like your standard run of the mill light rail or standard diesel train. Those are a thing of the past. Trains these days need to be a hybrid of both electric and solar. Yes I said solar powered. Trains are running all day back and forth and what’s one thing that’s constantly getting baked by the sun? The roof. Since the roof of the train is not being used for anything why not line the top with solar paneling to generate power to the train itself and possibly batteries to use for backup power.
A third rail could be installed to use electricity during night time and cloudy/rainy days. The third rail would not be electrified throughout. To save electricity and costs the rail could be powered in segments and activated by the conductor as he/she approaches much like that of the rail switches.
Going along with trains of the future would be to have Wi-Fi connection on each train. Since there was an article here on the Patch that highlighted the fact that the city of Cupertino gives Apple rebates for sales done in Cupertino. Instead of giving Apple the money for those rebates how about that money go to acquiring Wi-Fi equipment. After all we as consumers invest in these companies so why can’t they start investing in us and this country?
As John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Many companies get government subsidies, how about we start putting these subsidies to some good use. If Apple invests in this infrastructure plan with Wi-Fi tech on the train that would almost certainly guarantee the younger generation into taking the train to their destinations and boosting their image publicly.
If places like Starbucks and Barnes & Noble who have free Wi-Fi tell us anything it would indicate that free Wi-Fi on a train would be extremely popular. Getting the younger generation out of the house for any reason is difficult enough and if this is what it takes then why not right.
Taking this system would not only benefit the younger generation but it would greatly benefit the older generation as well. As we all know that when the elderly relinquish their driver’s license they quickly begin to spiral downwards because of the lack of mobility and social interaction. If there were to be an S-Bahn system in the Bay Area with a VTA bus system concentrating on specific areas at one’s finger tips it would greatly improve the health and welfare of the elder generation.
When I took the S-Bahn in the Munich area my wife and I would buy a day pass that allowed us to take not only the S-bahn but the U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn – underground train) and the regional bus line as well. WE even purchased what's called a Bayern-Ticket for €31,00 that allowed us to take any public transportation in the state of Bavaria (S/U Bahn, Deutsche Bahn, Regional buses) to anywhere in Bavaria for 24 hours and for up to five people!
That greatly helps out with the financial burden of the passengers. Now I’m not saying that it would be cheap to take this all the time but if you take into consideration car payments, the price of gas, car registration, insurance, car repairs/maintenance, smog checks and etc. on a yearly basis which of the two would come out cheaper?
In terms of time how much time does one spend stuck in traffic per year? According the US Census Bureau over 100 hours a year! Now wouldn’t you like those hours back? How many times does one circle around the parking trying to find a spot? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply take the train and walk right into an establishment of your choice while laughing at the poor suckers circling the parking lot like sharks?
That’s where the romanticism of train travel is still alive and I should know. My wife and I for our honeymoon went to Europe…all by ground transportation! As I mentioned earlier about how we were able to travel throughout Europe without the use of a car but that’s not where the journey began.
Our odyssey began in Emeryville where we hopped on Amtrak’s California Zephyr and traveled across the US via California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa before reaching our destination in Chicago, Illinois. For two and half days we were able to RELAX and take in the spectacular views and dramatic change in terrain. We had a short stopover in Chicago before our connecting train headed to Penn Station in Manhattan.
The half a day ride took us through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and across New York State. Now when most people hear about traveling across the US they think ‘oh it must be boring.’ WRONG! When on the train you encounter people of various backgrounds with stories you thought you would never hear. Most conversations took place during breakfast, lunch and dinner where people were sat at tables with complete strangers and you made the most of the time together.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about a person in the span of a 30 minute meal. Sometimes if the conversation was going swimmingly the venue would change from the meal car to the observation car.
That’s the point of taking transportation so one doesn’t have to stress about getting to where they are going. In the Munich S-Bahn I saw people reading books, searching things through their iPhones, looking outside and even getting 20 winks between stops. Something you certainly couldn’t do in a car.
This is an infrastructure project that is so desperately needed. Look at the highways here in our own city not to mention across the US. Look at the news out of Wisconsin where floods washed out roads and caused over $80 million in damages. Look at the gas lines here. San Bruno ring any bells? Look at the water pipes in the US that are bursting due to age. Our system is crumbling beneath our feet and we need to start getting serious about it.
Looking at this tiny infrastructure plan would create thousands of jobs. Construction workers would be needed. Engineers would be needed to draw up the plans. The city/county/state would generate revenue from permits and taxes from paychecks. Money would also go to disposal sites for dumping debris.
Looking at it on a national level what implications this tiny project may have. To lay tracks we would need steel and iron, looks like Allentown is going to be back in business. We need to develop the trains themselves right? Why not outsource this task to Detroit, Flint and Pontiac, Michigan? If Detroit can make tanks in WWII why not trains. Besides they could certainly use the business. How about auto parts for the trains? Looks like we’ll have to tap Ohio and other rust belt states for that task.
When the tracks are manufactured it’s not like they’re going to teleport over here so it looks like trucking and Union Pacific will make some serious coin. Plus a lot of oil and gas will be needed so that’s a win for oil companies. Since we need solar paneling perhaps we can give some start up companies a shot at making a name for themselves or even giving some companies a second chance. And the list goes on.
The notion of a local trolley car is a good idea but it's a small piece of the puzzle. This country was built on railroads so why is it crazy to think that an S-Bahn rail system in not only the South Bay but in communities throughout the country could lead us to our second Renaissance?