A Reality Check on High-Speed Rail for California

11/13/2009 - In November 2008, California voters passed a $9.95-billion bond issue to build a bullet train that would zip passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles via the Central Valley at speeds up to 220 miles per hour. A few months later, the Obama administration threw its heft behind the high-speed rail concept by offering nearly $10 billion to HSR projects. Clearly, many Americans are smitten with the romance of the rails. But last month, at an overflow symposium at UC Berkeley, a panel of experts in the fields of transportation engineering and city and regional planning urged caution.

One of BART's Biggest Fans

9/4/2009 - Barney Smits (B.S.'92 ME) rides Bay Area Rapid Transit every weekday from his Oakland home to his office, two blocks from Oakland's 19th St. station. "I take it just about everywhere I can," he says. "To the opera in the city, to the airport when I'm traveling. Once you're used to it, it's the absolute best, easiest way of getting around." But then he might be biased. Smits, 53, is the transit system's principal mechanical engineer, a job he's held for several years. He's one of the guys who makes sure that the 20 miles of tunnel and 208 miles of track and all the stations and system facilities are safe for riders like him, and you.

Greening GM

10/2/2008 - In the fall of 1975, a young General Motors engineer named Larry Burns loaded up his customized Chevy and headed to Berkeley. The Michigan native came west for doctoral studies in transportation engineering. “It’s an area that has served me quite well,” he says. Today, Burns is in charge of next-generation cars and other leading-edge technology for the world’s largest automaker. “I wake up every day focused on reinventing the automobile,” he says. A 2007 New York Times article called him “the most visible executive at the American auto companies on green issues.”