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Weekend Roundup: Bullet Train Twitter Ratios, Goats…

A Nozomi bullet train in Japan. Under wire. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Here are a few Streetsblog news nuggets to start your weekend.

Anti bullet train politicos get high-speed ratioed 

Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon and a group of anti-high-speed rail lawmakers sent a letter about not electrifying California's project to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation a few weeks ago. On social media, some 80 people, many of them rail professionals and physicists, ripped these scientifically illiterate lawmakers over the idea that you can power a 200+mph high-speed train with on-board batteries and/or hydrogen, instead of running overhead wire.

From Twitter:

The many replies explain the physical realities that make it so batteries and/or fuel cells will never power high-speed rail at the required speeds with any technology on the horizon. And they pointed out that's exactly why all of the world's high-speed rail systems use true-and-tried overhead wire for juice. Against even a theoretical battery that's more advanced than anything we have today, overhead wire would still be be more efficient as RAIL Magazine points out in the tweet above.

That didn't stop Assemblymember Laura Friedman (who signed the letter and is chair of the transportation committee) from digging an even deeper hole, defending the letter by citing some battery-power light rail system:

As one rail advocate put it, Friedman, along with Rendon and the other signatories of his absurd letter, are "...completely clueless about the technology. I note that I-5 is being widened in Friedman's district but Metrolink service has atrophied and double track projects are on the back burner. Rail is talked about, highways are built."

BART clears grass the old fashioned way--they eat it!

A 700-goat herd grazes on BART property in Fremont under the watch of herder Zenobio Ordonez. Photo: BART
A 700-goat herd grazes on BART property in Fremont under the watch of herder Zenobio Ordonez. Photo: BART
A 700-goat herd grazes on BART property in Fremont under the watch of herder Zenobio Ordonez. Photo: BART

Keeping a right-of-way free of vegetation is an important part of preventing fires and interference with equipment. But how's an electrified, environmentally friendly transportation agency supposed to clear so much brush? Surely herbicides, gas-powered law mowers, and weed wackers aren't great options.

So "maaaaaaa."

From a BART release, written by Melissa Jordan:

As the Bay Area endures another hot, dry summer, BART is using goats to graze and cut firebreaks on its right-of-way property, which reduces reliance on fossil-fuel-powered equipment, decreases the chance of sparking fires, and increases safety for workers.

"This is the smartest way for us to deal with the vegetation in these areas," said Josh Soltero, an irrigation/grounds worker in BART's grounds maintenance department who was keeping an eye on some 700 goats grazing near Fremont Station on a recent hot June day.

The Spanish-Boer cross goats, contracted from a herding business, chomped away at the dry brush on a steep hillside, the type of terrain that can be hazardous to human groundskeepers using mowers, weed whackers and other power tools.

Another bonus is appreciation from many neighbors in nearby residential areas, who prefer the occasional bleat of a goat to the roar of a power mower. "They come up and tell us they're so happy we are using goats," said Josh Soltero in the BART article. He's an irrigation/grounds worker in BART's grounds maintenance department who was keeping an eye on some 700 goats grazing near Fremont Station on a recent hot day.

The San Francisco Transit Riders needs a new exec

Photo: SFTR
Photo: SFTR
Photo: SFTR

Lastly, Mark Cordes is stepping down as Executive Director of the SFTR. From the announcement:

Mark has been called back to active ministry at the request of his denomination, with an opportunity to work for equity, justice, and sustainability in a community outside the Bay Area. “I have been honored to lead San Francisco Transit Riders as we worked hard to save public transit through advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels,” says Mark. “It was the work of our team and our national partners, including lifting up riders’ stories, that ensured the passage of not one but two federal relief bills with support for public transit.

"SFTR is establishing a search committee which will involve members, staff, and organizers," continued the release. If you're interested in applying, email are get more information at

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