In the Fast Lane

This program is brought to you through the generous support of viewers like you.

Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Corporation -- taking a leadership role in bringing citizens, business and government together, to examine the impact of growth in the Central Valley.

And by U.S. Home, committed to developing a positive future where we live and work by promoting responsible growth, and preservation of our quality of life.

And by the air districts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.


Looking at it from an airborne vantage, our great Central Valley doesn't change much topographically. But this great central plain of California has serious limitations when faced with unprecedented population growth. It's projected that 11 million citizens will be vying for space here by the year 2040, all of them wanting to get from "here to there."

With the Valley at a crossroads in growth planning, transportation investments made now will have a sweeping impact on how the region will develop.

Carol Whiteside, President, Great Valley Center: "I think we should look at all the options. I mean, from my point of view, this is an opportunity when at least in the Central Valley the future is an open book -- a blank tablet -- and we ought to consider everything. It's fairly clear if you do the numbers that you can't build enough roads to support the kind of population that is going to be in the region and expect that any of us are going to be able to breathe."

Accommodating the needs at all community and regional levels places speed bumps at every turn.

There are some serious deadlines on the horizon that must be met and the Central Valley is in the fast lane looking for answers.

Kelley Braddock lives and breathes by numbers.

Kimberly Cox, Kelly's mother: "…so that's going to be a good day."

She's looking at the air quality index. If it's over 100, she knows it's considered unhealthy -- and a bad day for her asthma.

Kelley Braddock: "It's basically like your chest is closing up and you can't breathe. Or like if somebody just put a pillow over your face."

Air pollution is how we describe undesirable amounts of particulate or gaseous matter that is a public health concern. Kelley's mom says pollutants and the overall air quality determine the day's activities.

Kimberly Cox: "Making sure she is not doing any physical activities on those days makes a huge difference for her."

According to the California Air Quality Board, 7 out of 10 of the nation's worst air quality violation regions are in the state -- and several are in the Valley.

Kerry Shearer, SMAQMD: "You know, we've done some surveys right after a 'Spare the Air' day, and we know that in about 21% of households, somebody has someone in that household who's affected and is having breathing problems."

The Sacramento Air Quality District tracks air levels and posts them for families like Kelley's to access.

Mike Poole, SMAQMD: "Once I have those readings from the used filter, then we change and put the new filter in."

So what is largely to blame for the dirty filters and troubling levels? Seventy percent of the air pollution is attributed to cars.

Beth Duncan, Metro Traffic: "We're not L.A. yet, but we're getting there, and all of our freeways…the volume of traffic has increased so dramatically over the last five years."

Duncan says traffic congestion after new housing developments open is immediately evident in morning commute patterns. What that congestion does is evident from this view at Yosemite, where visibility is obscured by a cloudy haze. Federal mandates state the Valley must clean up its act by 2005 to meet air standards. If a 2002 milestone for progress is not met, $15 billion in transportation funding is at stake. But balancing transportation issues and need with federal air quality mandates is no easy task, when accompanied with an increasing population and growth.

Jeff Morales, CalTrans: "The Central Valley, of course, is not just the agricultural center that it's always been, but it's increasingly becoming a bedroom community for Silicon Valley, for the Sacramento area… So we're seeing commuting patterns that we haven't seen before. We, and local agencies, are flavored very much by air quality issues, coming down from the Clean Air Act. Our emphasis on H.O.V. lanes is not only an issue of trying to manage traffic better, but it's a requirement."

CalTrans director Jeff Morales oversees one of the largest transportation budgets in the nation; $2 billion of it is dedicated to the Central Valley.

Jeff Morales: "We're doing a number of things in the regions to support cleaner air. Buying new clean vehicles here in the Sacramento area. Buying new clean buses. Putting in a new light rail system. We've got trains going from Auburn through Sacramento down to San Jose, and then onto Bakersfield, and throughout the corridor. Those are the fastest growing rail lines in the entire country."

CalTrans says specifics planned for the San Joaquin Valley -- designated as one of the worst or most severe air quality regions -- include continuing passenger train service that has 170,000 riders annually: $100 million spent since 1998 on improving that service…a new station in Stockton…and remodeling of the historic Fresno station…and the possibility of extending the ACE commuter train to Modesto and Turlock. Valley leaders say these are good steps, but we must continue to embrace regional solutions as we all breathe Valley air.

Carol Whiteside: "I mean, too many cars in the region, too many lanes, too much air pollution is not a good vision for the region. I've heard CalTrans people say, to accommodate the population of the Central Valley would require 18 lanes."

Morales knows 18 lanes isn't possible or practical. But changing behaviors and attitudes about using transit, and when we travel, may be.

Jeff Morales: "We're not going to turn into a transit state. You know, people will continue to drive, and that's great -- and that's part of what makes the state great. I think the highway system is going to be the backbone of our transportation system. But we can provide a lot more variety, a lot more choice, and a lot more good options for people."

CalTrans is choosing to "green" its fleet of 14,000 vehicles. Morales drives an electric car himself, but says it's the small everyday decisions we all make that can make or break air quality goals: decisions to carpool…wait until after rush hour to run errands, thus easing congestion…walk to lunch… But the clock is ticking, and the growth -- and cars that come with it -- keep coming.

Beth Duncan: "A lot of what's happening is an explosion in suburbs. I mean, Granite Bay was kind of non-existent ten years ago, and the whole Folsom area has just exploded. So Highway 50 is not set up to take all that extra traffic."

Duncan says a high-speed rail in that direction would help; so would having Valley residents embrace transit. Family's like Kelley's are counting on it -- for the health of their daughter, and all the others that call the Valley home.

From light rail…to Amtrak…to high-speed trains of the future… Central Valley leaders are furiously working to move more and more people along the highways and, now more than ever, the railways of our congested Valley.

Mehdi Morshed, Executive Director, High Speed Rail Authority: "Whether we like it or not, the Central Valley is the largest growth area in California. We're going to have over seven million people in 20 years, and we can't afford to provide air service."

Mike Willey, Spokesman, Regional Transit: "We are on the verge of entering into a nightmarish situation, in terms of the level of congestion."

The first attempt at easing local congestion came in 1987. The Sacramento Regional Transit District rolled out its first commuter train. Today, in addition to 74 bus routes, RT operates nearly 21 miles of light rail service over a four hundred square mile area. With the population up 18% in 10 years, major expansion is underway in two directions: south to Elk Grove and East, linking Folsom to the Amtrak station in downtown Sacramento. Plans include developing land near the light rail stations so the system attracts riders.

Mike Willey: "They incorporate often times a mix of residential, retail, and commercial as well as some office type of development -- but a mixture of those types of developments at and on top of the stations."

While ridership is up, RT wants to attract more of what it calls "choice riders" or working people. That means expanding both the hours and frequency as well as making the trains safer and more comfortable.

5:20 A.M. -- yes, A.M. The great migration. And Dawn Strait is one of hundreds of Valley residents who, while most of us are still asleep, hop aboard Amtrak for a commute to the Bay Area. Strait, who is in the mortgage business, began the ritual two years ago.

Dawn Strait, Amtrak Commuter: "I do it because I can make more money working in the Bay Area -- about $10,000 to $12,000 more a year."

And that's why most of these early birds are making Amtrak's Capitol Corridor so popular.

Conductor: "Thank you."

The Sacramento-to-San Jose line is the fourth busiest and fastest growing Amtrak inter-city service in the nation.

Vernae Graham, Amtrak Spokesperson: "We think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of people that work here in the Bay Area are moving further and further out to live. They're not able to afford, you know, actually living in the Bay Area."

Marty DeVault is a money manager who's been riding the train from Davis to San Francisco for five years. He says if you have to commute, the train is four times less costly than driving -- and not as stressful.

Marty DeVault, Amtrak Commuter: "In the winter, when it's raining and the rain is sheeting across the road, and everybody's out there with their hands gripped on the wheel going 75-80 miles and hour…we're in here relaxed. We're having coffee. We're working on laptops."

Gary Burke, Amtrak Conductor: "There's multiple plugs in the coaches so they can plug in their laptops. A lot of people network on the train."

There's even a special car for those who need more shuteye -- complete with a wake-up call.

Gary Burke: "Good morning!"

Still, getting up at 3:30 in the morning, commuting two hours each way, working a full day, and not getting home until 9:00 at night is not easy. What helps is the camaraderie that develops among passengers.

Marty DeVault: "You'll find as you go throughout the train, there are many little pockets of train families, and we have parties. We have potluck parties."

Amtrak's Capitol Corridor carried a record one million passengers last year. That rapid growth means service will expand to ten round trip trains a day. Could this be in our future? Imagine traveling more than 200 miles an hour -- moving from Sacramento to Los Angeles in just two hours and ten minutes!

Light Rail and Amtrak are the people movers of today. High-speed rail could add to those systems tomorrow -- taking people farther and faster by 2020. In 1996, the State Legislature created the High Speed Rail Authority to develop a plan for a statewide system much like the successful Japanese Bullet Train.

Mehdi Morshed: "It increases our freedom of movement. It increases our productivity. It allows us to be connected to each other much more efficiently."

High-speed planners are facing a barebones budget. Unless the state appropriates additional funds, work on the project could stop…for now.

Mehdi Morshed: "And it's a system that is inevitable, that we have to build, and we have to have. The question is going to be, 'How soon?'"

Even though the present may be grim, many believe the Valley's future offers a breath of fresh air. These futuristic cars may be the answer to many of our problems. From hybrid-electric…to electric…and fuel cell-powered cars, alternative energy vehicles are on the horizon, and bring a promise of cleaner air.

Joe Irvin, California Fuel Cell Partnership: "This whole family of vehicles, getting ever cleaner, will bring down air pollution."

The immediate future will bring more hybrid electric cars. Several automakers already offer a hybrid model. Travelers can even rent a hybrid at the Sacramento International Airport.

Tom Cackette, Air Resources Board: "The hybrid electric vehicles use a combination of electric motor and a smaller gasoline engine to give you the same performance or better performance than you get in a car today."

Hybrids get about 50 miles per gallon on the highway and produce fewer emissions than your typical gas burning car. In the coming years, more car companies are expected to unveil a bigger variety of hybrid models. The more distant future may bring the emergence of a futuristic car: the electric vehicle.

Flora Huestis, Electric Vehicle Owner: "It has so much power. You know, when you step on the accelerator it just goes! You always leave everybody behind you! It's like a jet!"

Owners of electric vehicles say they're as fun to drive as they are environmentally friendly. They can go from zero to 60 in less than 8 seconds and ride like a futuristic jet. Depending on the type of battery you have, these cars can drive for almost 120 miles before needing a charge.

Ed Huestis, Electric Vehicle Owner: "I've actually taken this one down to L.A. and back six times."

The drawback is that it takes at least 3 hours to charge these cars, and because they're not mainstream, there aren't many charging stations available. This doesn't bother Ed and Flora Huestis -- who, by the way, are the nation's only two electric vehicle couple. They normally charge their cars at home overnight. Ed believes in these cars so much, he has launched a program in Vacaville to encourage more EV1 leasings.

Ed Huestis: Anybody who lives in or works in Vacaville -- so it's not even just for our employees; it's for our residents as well -- we offer them up to a $6,000 buy-down of the capital lease cost of these vehicles."

Because the cost of making these vehicles is not yet profitable for car companies, they aren't making many, so consumers can't buy them. Only a few select dealerships lease electric vehicles. Huestis hopes, as demand for these vehicles grows, so will the supply. The vehicle that many believe is the true wave of the distant future is the fuel cell car, which runs on hydrogen and oxygen. Many car and energy companies are putting a great deal of funding and research into this new technology.

Joe Irvin: "So really, all you need is hydrogen. Now, you can get that from gasoline, ethanol, or you can get that from renewable energy through what's called electrolysis. We haven't figured out exactly how to do that on a major scale to lift up sales to consumers, but if you can make the hydrogen somehow -- whether it's on-board the car or at a service station -- you can make that fuel cell run in a very environmentally friendly way."

Fuel cell cars hold the promise of nearly zero emissions, and they're able to travel as far if not farther than gas burning cars before needing to refuel. By the end of this year, there will be twenty demonstration fuel cell cars showcased and tested. A great deal of the research and testing is happening here, at the California Fuel Cell Partnership headquarters in Sacramento.

Joe Irvin: "This is ground zero for doing that testing. So people in this area are seeing the future on the roads and in various locations around town, whereas the implications of what's determined here will resonate worldwide."

All these developments are causing many to breathe a sigh of relief -- that the future may bring the Valley cleaner air in the days ahead.

Tom Cackette: "I think there's no doubt the technology has provided us the progress that we've seen today and technology will provide us the road map to clean air for everyone to breathe."

Sam Delson, Policy Analyst: "Well, it's supposed to rain today and one thing about riding a bike or taking the bus is I can't carry as much stuff."

Sam Delson is a policy analyst who advises the legislature on transportation issues. Today he's discovering a new way to get to work.

Sam Delson: "Usually they're pretty close to on-schedule as far as I can tell but sometimes they're a little late. And that can make a difference if you have an appointment in the morning. You can't schedule things as tightly."

But why go through all this trouble? The reason is Sam has to: it's his class assignment.

Sam Delson: "We made pretty good time, but I still have a few more blocks to go to park my bike in a garage."

Sam is taking a brand new course in Transportation Management offered through the UC Davis Extension Program.

Anthony Palmere, Asst. General Manager, UniTrans: "What we tend to do sometimes when we don't use other modes of transportation, when we drive all the time, is that we don't recognize really what we put people through. We want people to approach it with some sense of reality: what's really going to work. And we're looking at multi-modal transportation systems and in some cases other modes work very well, rather than driving."

Anthony Palmere, Assistant General Manager of UniTrans, is teaching this class that's designed to give professionals the tools needed to bridge the gap between various transportation systems.

Anthony Palmere: "The University recognized that there are a lot of professionals in the field of transportation that have a specific background -- possibly in engineering, or in planning or something else that brought them into the field -- and they recognize that it's a pretty multidisciplinary field."

Palmere is teaching the students the history of transit in the valley, and the changing trends in planning, and how all these modes of transportation need to work together.

Anthony Palmere: "Not only the physical sciences -- engineering, and some physical planning -- but it includes a lot of the social sciences: economics, statistics, and managerial skills, as well as recognizing the political realities of the world. And we're trying to bring that all together in this short course."

All of these students work in some facet of transportation, public works, and land use.

Anthony Palmere: "What we find in the people that are there: they're very skilled and very good in their fields but they recognize something that they're lacking. And being able to kind of look at transportation as sort of a separate field of study, being able to look at things that are common to different fields of transportation."

Elizabeth Williams, Hoyt Company: "It was about 35 minutes to take transit and when I drive, normally it's about 10."

Elizabeth Williams says this course is giving her new insight on transportation strategies.

Elizabeth Williams: "This is more planning related, which is something that I felt would augment some of my existing skill sets. And then also, so much of my work is on the job training, dealing with alternative commute modes, that I thought the planning aspect would give me a better understanding of what I'm promoting already."

Anthony Palmere: "The biggest challenge is recognizing the interdependencies of transportation as part of a bigger picture and we want to try and help people to see where those linkages are between the different fields that it affects."

Students like Elizabeth and Sam say this class is showing them the realities of our current transportation system, and giving them technical skills to better evaluate future transportation projects.

Elizabeth Williams: "It gives a very good basic understanding of something we already deal with day to day, but don't necessarily take the time to think about the others that we don't really deal with."

Sam Delson: "I think riding the bus and or bicycling are great alternatives and if I was better about scheduling and allowing more time and getting up early in the morning, they would be great alternatives. Unfortunately, a lot of us are not morning people. We're always running late in the morning and every minute you can save makes a difference. So it's unfortunate, but there's a little extra convenience when you're driving."

Meet Martin Christian, a cameraman at KVIE. Martin's day probably starts a lot like yours: after a shower and a quick breakfast, he's off to work. As with most Californians, that means hopping in his car…and hitting the freeway.

Martin Christian, KVIE Cameraman: "A 30 minute drive, which should take only 15, really."

Martin's commute is relatively easy: for the most part, a straight shot on Route 50. Most mornings, traffic isn't too bad, even during rush hour.

Martin Christian: "Traffic jams in Sacramento go 40 miles an hour, and in L.A. or San Francisco traffic jams go 5 miles an hour."

But the drive is not without its hazards…

Martin Christian: "This is always the worst part, are the merges where 50 and business 80 and 5 and 99 all come together. Seems to be the most common area for accidents."

Despite the traffic snarls, commuting by car is the fastest and easiest way for Martin to get to work. But it's also the most costly -- for Martin and for the environment. But Martin does have other options…

Martin's day starts earlier -- much earlier -- if he chooses to commute by bike. Not only is the ride significantly longer; so is the preparation…

Martin Christian: "I can't take my briefcase with me on my bike, so I have to think about what I absolutely need. You do work up a sweat, so I need to bring along a change of clothes."

Martin's ride takes him along one of the oldest bike paths in the country. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail stretches for more than 20 miles, from Folsom Lake all the way to downtown Sacramento.

Martin Christian: "It's a long ride. Especially on a hot day -- and we get plenty of those in the Valley."

Commuting by bike does save Martin money, but it's easily the longest of his commuting options: nearly an hour and a half -- each way.

Martin's third option lets him sleep in a bit. Though he welcomes the extra shuteye, it's not entirely by choice…

Martin Christian: "Bikes aren't allowed on the light rail during peak hours, which means I have to go in an hour late. So it's not an option on days when I have an early shoot."

A light rail ticket costs a dollar-fifty -- less than the price of a gallon of gas. The ride from Martin's stop takes about 25 minutes -- provided he doesn't miss the train. Some commuters use the time to read. But with his bike in tow, Martin doesn't have that luxury.

Martin Christian: "I spend a lot of time just getting out of people's way. It's even worse when there's another biker on board. In fact, they only allow two bikes per car, so if you're the third…you're out of luck."

If Martin worked downtown, his commute would be over now. But to get from the train station to the TV station, Martin has to get back on his bike. It's a very different ride than the bike trail, taking him through some challenging urban terrain.

Martin Christian: "Capitol Mall is kind of scary because there isn't any bike lane. And Old Town Sacramento is all cobblestones, which can get pretty uncomfortable on a bike."

A bridge takes him over the American River. From there it's stone's throw to KVIE.

Martin Christian: "I'd probably take light rail more often if there weren't so many restrictions on bikes. It's definitely a nicer way to start the day than being stuck in traffic."

Total commute time: fifty minutes from door-to-door.

Our focus on transportation begs the next question for New Valley planners: "What kind of jobs will valley residents be traveling to?" Signs of change are already evident in many communities. Agriculture, still a leader in the Valley economy, is not the only game in town anymore. High technology, telecommunications, and manufacturing have discovered the Valley. Is there a "Silicon Future" ahead? Join us for our next New Valley when we'll look at the changing face of industry and what it means for our growing population.


To order a copy of this program for $14.95 plus shipping and handling, call (888) 814-3923, or visit us online at

Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Corporation -- taking a leadership role in bringing citizens, business and government together, to examine the impact of growth in the Central Valley.

And by U.S. Home, committed to developing a positive future where we live and work by promoting responsible growth, and preservation of our quality of life.

And by the air districts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.