Why Electric Rail?

Electric trains:

  • Run faster
  • Allow for more service
  • Cost less to operate 
  • Produce no local GHG emissions and fewer particulate emissions than diesel trains
  • Allow for more infill train stations & local freight service

Electrification of regional and intercity rail is key to increasing urban/suburban mobility, while freight rail electrification is key to easing the burden of the logistics industry on environmental justice communities.

Unfortunately, there are significant barriers to electrifying trains via overhead catenary wire:

  • Caltrain electrification project was delayed for years by a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit brought by Atherton homeowners upset about the “aesthetic impact” of wires along railroad tracks.
  • Lack of public sector capacity to plan, design and construct electrification projects means our costs are higher than other countries.
  • Large private freight railroads object to electrification because they prefer the diesel status quo and Wall Street does not want them to invest in their assets.
  • Fossil fuel corporations, armed with subsidies, are pushing speculative and risky hydrogen trains in order to create another market.

With streamlining for electrification, proper regulation from the Air Resources Board, and investment in electrification and the capacity to implement it from the State of California, we could electrify hundreds of miles of track in California and improve service for riders while reducing truck traffic and air pollution in frontline communities.

Bombardier IORE electric locomotive set hauling an iron ore train between Sweden and Norway (Photo: David Gubler, 22.3.2011, http://bahnbilder.ch/picture/7743?title=iore )

Electrified rail: the freight gold standard

Iron ore line between Norway and Sweden, the heaviest trains in Europe at ~ 9,500 tons (Photo: David Gubler)

Electrified rail: the freight gold standard

25V Electric double stack container train, Indian Railways, India

Heaviest freight trains are electric

Electric iron-ore trains in South Africa routinely exceed 40,000 tons w/ 375 cars (U.S. long-haul train max ~20,000 tons)

Electric passenger rail coming to California

Caltrain's new electric service, set to open late 2024, will cut travel times by 25%

Electric passenger rail is tried and true

Electrified rail, including the fastest trains in North America, has operated in the Northeast Corridor for decades

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