Rail and the California Economy

The state of California depends on rail transport to move people and goods. The economic benefits of freight and passenger rail service for the citizens and businesses of the state take a variety for forms. Rail passenger service is the preferred mode of travel for many daily commutes and occasional trips for leisure and business. Access to rail is an essential ingredient in the business models for many firms, and a valuable amenity to many others. The states seaports, including its three “megaports” (Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland) and smaller niche ports (Hueneme, Humboldt Bay, Redwood City, Richmond, West Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Stockton) depend on rail connectivity to varying degrees. An emerging, if controversial, example of the importance of rail access is oil-by-rail, which may allow several existing refineries in California to increase the production levels by providing access to non-local sources of crude oil. Economic benefits from rail extend to the larger state transportation system. A large portion of rail passenger traffic, and some rail freight traffic, is diverted from the state highway system. This reduces congestion, emissions of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gasses, and road crashes.