Kandel, Alan


Alan Kandel is a concerned California resident advocating for new, improved and expanded freight (and passenger) rail service. He is a retired railroad signalman previously employed by the Union Pacific Railroad in Fremont, California.

Latest CA High Speed Rail ‘Estimated’ Costs Shouldn’t Be Deterrent to Moving Project Forward

By Alan Kandel

It has been a week since the release of the 2012 Business Plan from the California High-Speed Rail Authority and in reaction to its release, as expected feelings were mixed. But that’s only the half of it. Due to the revised upward construction cost estimate of $98.1 billion as opposed to $42.6 billion (and perhaps due to other factors), this may have turned some people off whereas before they may have been plan supporters. What’s more, it is well within the realm of possibility even there may be those who have since warmed to the project. For the record, the updated plan doesn’t alter my position: I, myself, still hold firm to the belief California’s fast-train system should still be built.

For clarification purposes, the $98.1 billion is in inflation-adjusted 2033 dollars, not 2010 dollars. In 2010 dollars, the cost of high-speed rail construction is estimated to be in the range of $65 billion to $75 billion.

With Population Growth Comes Air Pollution Upsurge and Increased Health Risks

By Alan Kandel

Worldwide, population is seven billion. Projections are that population in the United States will reach 400 million by 2050 – a 33 percent increase in roughly 40 years’ time; the U.S. registered its 300 millionth resident in 2006. With an increase in world population has come an increase in air pollution. The burning of fossil fuels and the amount of fossil fuels being burned is the culprit.

In California, “Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I examined trends in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel combustion nationally and by state between 1960 and 2001, the most recent year for which state-by-state data are available,” wrote Bernadette Del Chiaro, Energy Advocate for Environment California in “California’s Global Warming Pollution Up 85% Since 1960,” posted on California Progress Report in 2006. “Major findings include:

‘The Little Railroad That Refuses To Die’ Could, Unless It Gets (a Little) Help From Friends

By Alan Kandel

The Yreka Western Railroad (YWRR) located in Siskiyou County, rail-connecting its namesake town with Montague to the east, may be on its last legs unless, as has been the case time after time after time in the pike’s history, it gets but one more reprieve. Or will it be that this is the line’s final curtain call?

“Because of the current economic crisis, it appears the people of Yreka and Siskiyou County could be about to lose the Blue Goose steam excursion train, and possibly the entire historic Yreka Western RR, as there is a plan currently under negotiation to relocate old number 19 to the Wallowa Union RR in northeast Oregon,” writes a concerned Bill Killion in “Save the railroad” in The Siskiyou Daily News.

State Transit Systems Gain Traction Despite or Perhaps Because Of Economic Downturn

By Alan Kandel

Even in these “I’m a day late and a dollar short” times, there is good news. For Fiscal-Year 2011, Amtrak California – comprised of the “Pacific Surfliner,” “Capitol Corridor” and “San Joaquin” state-supported services – moved a total 5,458,788 riders, up 6.1 percent from the year prior, according to Amtrak California. This represents yet another milestone achieved by Amtrak California in a long line of recent ridership records. Perhaps even more noteworthy is that, for the first time, “San Joaquin” ridership exceeded the 1 million mark.

Many Californians Exposed To Smoggy Air, Some For 100 or More Days Per Year

By Alan Kandel

Over the last several weeks in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere in California, there have been numerous smog episodes. Thursday is no exception. In fact, a Valley Air Alert notification was issued.

When the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (Air District) issues an Air Alert, it is important to take heed. According to the Air District, “An Air Alert is a notification that the Valley is currently experiencing conditions that may lead to exceeding a health-based ozone (smog) standard. Air Alerts are issued Valley-wide.”

“When an Air Alert is called by the Air District, Valley residents and businesses are advised to put into place measures that reduce vehicle use. These can include carpooling, vanpooling, using alternative transportation, avoiding the use of drive-through services and refraining from vehicle idling,” the Air District emphasized.

As of late just how bad has Valley air been?

Supporters, Opponents Address Panel in Fresno Regarding State High-Speed Rail Plan

By Alan Kandel

A hearing on California high-speed rail was held in Fresno Sept. 20th at Fresno’s Convention Center downtown. The hearing, held from 3 to 8 p.m., gave the public a chance to address their concerns regarding both the Merced-to-Fresno and Fresno-to-Bakersfield Draft High-Speed Rail Environmental Impact Reports/Statements (EIR/EIS). However, it was clear from the comments of several people going before the panel, that they had not read the reports beforehand.

Case in point. One interested party who has a business that could possibly be impacted by the high-speed rail line made a plea to the panel that livelihoods would be adversely affected by HSR and urged the panel to reconsider its plan. Because the addressee feared his business would be impacted, his recommendation was that the existing freight railroad, located across the way from his “potentially” affected business, instead be made use of to provide high-speed passenger train services.

Event Focuses on Safety at Railroad Crossings and on Tracks

By Alan Kandel

September in California is Rail Safety Awareness Month. Its purpose is really very simple: prevent casualties and incidents at the state’s 10,285 highway-railroad grade crossings (railroad crossings) and on 5,352 miles of railroad track and associated property.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • Statewide in 2010, motor vehicle-train collisions claimed 29 lives while pedestrian trespass incidents resulted in 66 lives lost. California leads the nation in pedestrian trespass incidents
  • 32% of all motor vehicle-train collisions and 26% of all trespass incidents occur in California’s Central Valley and Fresno. The Valley ranks highest in the Western U.S. for train-vehicle/train-pedestrian incidents and California is ranked number one in the nation in both trespassing and grade crossing fatalities
  • Nationwide in 2010, there were 2,012 incidents at crossings and 711 people died because they disregarded railroad crossing warning signs and signals

Public Comment Essential to Ensure California High-Speed Rail is Built Right

By Alan Kandel

I have never known there to be as much attention – media or otherwise – paid to rail – high-speed rail (HSR) or otherwise – at any time in history as there is right now. What all this coverage (the good and bad) tells me is that it’s crucial that California get HSR right the first time. There is no doing this over.

Those in the know are fully aware that the 60-day public comment period regarding the California HSR Draft Merced-to-Fresno and Draft Fresno-to-Bakersfield Environmental Impact Reports/Statements is in full swing. The comment period provides those who publicly want to weigh in on the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plan the opportunity to do so. (Additional information on the public comment process is included at the end of this op-ed).

‘Houston, San Joaquin Valley Has A Problem": Cars Causing Smog

By Alan Kandel

In California, or more precisely the San Joaquin Valley, our problem isn’t droughts, hurricanes or floods; it’s smog – at least right now it is. Beginning this year assessed will be an annual $29 million penalty, the money presumably going to help clean this smog up. San Joaquin Valley motorists will have to pay an extra $12 added to what would be our usual registration fees. Is this fair? The penalty may be justified, but the fact that Valley motorists are on the hook for this expense may not be. And here is why.

If Valley Air Pollution Spikes Aren’t A Wake-Up Call To Stem Problem, What Is?

By Alan Kandel

It is a known fact in the San Joaquin Valley, 80 percent of all air pollution comes from transportation, which means the remainder comes from stationary sources. All of last week except for Sunday in Fresno and Sunday and Monday this week, a bad-air alert has been issued. The air quality index for Monday this week is 147 placing it in the upper portion of the “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” range and just three points shy of the lower limits of the “Unhealthy (for everyone)” range.

It is one thing to know where toxins in our air come from. It is yet another to know what happens to the airborne toxins once they arrive. And it is another still to take corrective measures to try to stem the problem.