A Glance at the Others

With the world savoring a taste of history with Barack Obama the President-elect, I want to note the other issues people voted on during Tuesday's election. A couple of key projects at stake were rail systems, aimed at supporting existing transportation systems and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

In my home state of Hawaii, where local boy Obama won 72% of the vote, Honolulu residents also got a chance to decide whether to build a rail transit system. With 53% of the vote, the city will establish an elevated steel rail transit system. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, the $4.3 billion project will span 20 miles and connect the west side of the island with downtown. Following Tuesday's decision, the City Council announced that it might switch the route to include a stop at Honolulu International Airport, which would cost $4.5 billion.

California also supported Proposition 1A High-Speed Trains, with 52% of the vote. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the $40 billion project envisions a zero-emissions, high-speed train that would make it possible to travel from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles in only 2.5 hours. A one-way fare would cost about $55, making it a reasonable alternative to flying or driving.

Constructing these rail systems would support existing transportation systems that are increasingly strained by population growth. The benefits of these rail systems are their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic. They would also help connect people with urban centers and provide access to suburban sprawl. Additionally, in tough economic times, these massive construction projects are projected to provide badly-needed employment. The passage of Prop. 1A, for example, is estimated to generate 160,000 construction-related jobs.