On Friday, July 19, in a field near the old Santa Fe Depot in downtown Redlands, I had a chance to catch the groundbreaking for the 9-mile stretch of commuter train the San Bernardino County Transportation Association is bringing into the city.
It’s controversial because it’s going to be at ground level, not elevated like the Bay Area Rapid Transit system known as BART, because, officials have told us, that would be … too expensive.
Many think it’s going to create terrible traffic tie-ups. Also, because these trains will not be elevated, there’s the continued possibility of collisions between trains and motor vehicles — like the 2005 Glendale incident, when a troubled man with murky motivations parked his sports vehicle on the tracks, killing 11. He fled first and is now serving a life sentence.
Also, like the oxymoronic or simply moronic term “clean coal,” the trains are going to run on “clean diesel,” or the cleanest available because, once again, electric would be … too expensive. I wonder what price tag they’d put on our lungs. However, it’s been said that electric is an option down the tracks.
I’ve always loved traveling by train. One reason: for the most part they’re safe, especially when the roadbeds are separate from other vehicles. Question: How many Americans died in road accidents yesterday? More than 100. How many in trains? Zero.
China and Japan’s high-tech trains (which make ours look like Civil War relics) have moved millions of passengers millions of passenger miles without a single fatality. But, I don’t know, maybe trains are just too sensible for this country.
Speaking of not making sense, Redlands’ last remaining recycling centers closed last month, such as the rePlanet center I used earlier this year next to Albertson’s on Redlands Boulevard.
The rePlanet company says they’ve closed because of falling prices for materials, the need for that annoying health and worker compensation insurance for their employees and the rise in minimum wages so these workers, who do a dirty and difficult job, can make a living doing it. Bottom line: the centers were “just not sustainable.”
Which raises another question: Is our current throwaway society sustainable? Here’s the problem: although the centers may be going away, all those containers aren’t. Sadly, the state is falling far short of its recycling mandates and this closure doesn’t help at all.
And here’s another startling statistic for you: by 2050, oceanographers estimate that the collective weight of plastic in our world’s oceans will surpass that of fish. However, 90 percent of plastic is still not recycled. So, yes, we’re literally and figuratively swimming in plastic.
I wish I could end this column on a lighter note but that pile of aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles and other containers is quickly accumulating in our backyard. We could put them in that blue bin everyone has, but — I’ll admit it — there’s an element of self-interest here. The last time I took a load to the rePlanet center I made around $50.
Right now I’m mulling over whether it’s worth the time and gasoline to take my load over to what I’ve learned is possibly my closest center: Amigos in Highland. I’ve heard they’re quite crowded these days.
Phill Courtney’s Phillosophically Speaking column appeared in the Redlands Daily Facts from 2012 to 2016. He has been a high school English teacher and was twice a Green Party candidate for Congress in Riverside County. He now lives in Redlands with his wife. This column is adapted from “The News in Review” portion of his staged, local variety show, “The Inland Empire Almanac.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org