News

City of Palo Alto finds high-speed rail allies

New consortium, citizen group form to encourage transparency in design of 300-mile rail line

As they seek a greater say on the state's proposed high-speed rail system, Palo Alto officials are finding allies both within and beyond the city borders.

On Wednesday, the city's effort to form a coalition of Peninsula cities came to fruition when Atherton became the fifth member to sign on to a memorandum of understanding written by Palo Alto City Attorney Gary Baum. Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Belmont and Burlingame previously signed on to the document, which establishes the Peninsula Cities Consortium -- a coalition devoted to dealing with state agencies on high-speed rail issues.

The consortium, which needed at least five member cities to be officially recognized, will be able to speak in negotiations with the High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building the 300-mile line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

At the same time, city officials have been getting a plethora of free assistance from a group of city residents who, over the past few months, immersed themselves in rail-related issues. One of the group's leaders, Sara Armstrong, has been reaching out to neighborhoods both inside and outside Palo Alto to strengthen the citizen coalition. Residents Rita Wespi and Elizabeth Alexis have been tracking the web of rail-related bills passing through the state Capitol, while Nadia Naik has joined Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto in advocating a "context-sensitive solution" to the design of the new system.

"They've really become this informed and effective spokesperson for the community," Kishimoto said at Monday night's council meeting. "Not just for Palo Alto, but they're extending their reach to other communities as well."

The residents recently formed a new group -- Citizens Advocating Reasonable Rail Design -- which lobbies for more transparency for the $40 billion project and for the context-sensitive approach, which requires outreach to stakeholders before development of a transportation project and a focus on local context when designing the project.

Dominic Spaethling, project manager for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the proposed line, said the rail authority and Caltrain are both sensitive to the concerns of the various communities. But he warned that cities could have different ideas for how to collaborate with the rail authority on design ideas.

"It's important to acknowledge the need for collaboration in design, but it's not a 'one size fits all' situation," Spaethling said. "Charrettes may be fine for Palo Alto, while other cities may have other approaches."

The High-Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain are currently working on an outreach plan for the project, said Seamus Murphy, Caltrain's manager for government affairs. The agencies, which are working jointly on an electrified rail system, expect to release the plan in the end of June.

"We've been pretty diligent about meeting with the community," Murphy said. "We felt it was really important for Caltrain and high-speed rail to have a more transparent process than is required by law."

The trains on the proposed system would run through Palo Alto along the Caltrain corridor at about 125 mph before accelerating to 220 mph when they hit Central Valley. California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the new line in November, and the high-speed rail authority plans to have the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles segment in place by 2020.

In October, the Palo Alto City Council approved a resolution supporting the proposed high-speed rail system. But since then, council members and residents have grown concerned about the impacts of the proposed rail line, which could include an elevated barrier stretching through the city along the Caltrain corridor. Many have called for more transparency and dialogue between the rail authority and residents within the communities along the line.

On Monday, the City Council attempted to make this dialogue smoother by adopting a set of guiding principles for its newly established ad hoc committee. The committee, which includes Kishimoto and councilmen Pat Burt and John Barton, is authorized to speak on behalf of the full council on rail-related issues whenever the city's input is needed on short notice.

The principles proclaim the city's support for consideration of alternative alignments (other than the Caltrain right-of-way). They also call for a collaborative approach to urban design, more transparency in the design process and an economic study that would help determine which design alternatives are feasible.

Councilman Greg Schmid, who wanted the principles to explicitly state the city's concern about elevated trains, was the only council member who voted against adopting the principles (Barton and Vice Mayor Jack Morton were absent).

Councilman Sid Espinosa, who voted with the majority, praised the new document for encouraging more openness and information and for giving the city a greater power to communicate with state agencies implementing the project.

"It engages us in a real-time manner in discussions," Espinosa said. "There won't be the delays we often have of things coming back to the council three weeks later. We'll be able to stay on top of things."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Goose
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 22, 2009 at 10:11 am

Palo Alto, how about you stop getting in the way of progress and help get this project moving forward. Just imagine Palo Alto being a hub of high-speed rail — you do realize real estate prices go up, not down, near HSR stations?

Stop listening to the vocal minority and help get this project moving.


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Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 22, 2009 at 10:28 am

I think that most Palo Altans are in favor of high speed rail. They just want this project to be built in a manner that enhances our community. An elevated rail line would be disastrous for Palo Alto. A tunneled system would be ideal, but expensive. I don't think that this is another case of the Palo Alto process again running amok. This city really needs to work for a positive outcome on this huge project that will change its face for the next 100 years...either for good or bad.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2009 at 10:47 am

Show me the research that says prices go up near HSR stations. True, perhaps, when the stations are located in the boonies in towns at the bottom end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Not true in towns like those we have on the mid-peninsula. As has already been noted elsewhere, BART is only above ground in lower income communities; elsewhere, it's underground.


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Posted by Thetruth
a resident of Stanford
on May 22, 2009 at 10:48 am

What people need to watch is to make sure these "Adovcates" are not just NIMBYS out to ruin this project. The names in this article seem to suggest just that. A proper planned project will work just fine and not ruin anything.Outrageous demands..move it to 101 or 30 miles of tunnels are unworkable .A fully upgraded Caltrain ROW at grade with underpasses will work just fine


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Posted by Caltrain corridor- not a good location
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 10:55 am

Well that is one opinion. Mine is that having a High Speed Rail in our backyard might not be progress. There are many issues about this rail that I question. I think that we should have a good understanding of what will be built before we agree to it. It will be permanent. And it will be costly.
One question is do we really need it? I know that having trains seems like a good idea. But we have the Caltrain on that samne corridor and they just announced about 2 weeks ago that their ridership has decreased. They are increasing the rates and decreasing the number of trains. So- if their ridership is down, how can the High Speed Rail Authority say that they have a high potential of ridership? If they do, it seems that their ridership will be the more elite- and should we be building a whole train system for one segment of our communities?
Will it be elevated or tunneled? There is a group in P.A. that is connecting with other cities and they want it to be tunneled- I think that it is important to realize that this group CARD - is a self appointed group that does not necessarily represent all of these communities. It represents themselves. They have not been elected or appointed to rep. these cities. I think that they are making a good start- but I believe that they are pushing tunneling( design it right- they say) and I want it to be directed to another area. I believe that the Caltrain corridor is too small an area for elevated- and I believe that the HRS will not tunnel. They do not want to because of the expense. I prefer that the rail go from L.A. to San Jose and then connect with Bart and then travel up towards Oakland using the Altamont Pass.
Goose- you are from PALY I assume. Are you aware that if elevated, which is the method of choice of the HSRA it will be whizzing by PALY every day- often?
On the peninsula the value of houses near the rail will not go up, they will go down. And most likely P.A. will not have a station. Which is a good thing.






Like this comment
Posted by Live close to the tracks
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 22, 2009 at 10:56 am

Goose, there is no way property values will go up -- why do you think affordable housing is most often built closest to railways, bus stations, freeways -- fewer people want to live there! Although, in theory, a train station could decrease traffic because people living within walking distance can leave their cars at home: however, in reality it doesn't work that way. Look at BART stations as an example. Those living near a BART station have all the added traffic of BART commuters trying to find a place in a lot or on the street near the station. Hard to believe houses close to a station have greater value than one in a more quiet, less congested area.

Standing in the way of progress? Building a wall through the middle of Palo Alto, increasing noise and pollution caused by trains and increased traffic is certainly not my idea of "progress".


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Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2009 at 11:10 am

Goose - hear hear. The vocal minority appears to be saying that it is a tunnel or else no HSR at all. I totally disagree with that sentiment. Let's do the required analysis to see if tunneling is affordable, but IF IT ISN'T, then let's find another way to do HSR rather than no HSR at all.


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Southgate
on May 22, 2009 at 11:42 am

Most people understand this is a proposed project with major potential environmental and social impact. There is no evidence that ridership will support operating cost (probably not) so more subsidiztion from tax revenue. This project is a long term "dream" of certain HSR authority personnel with large ego's. I have no problem driving to San Jose Airport for a plane, so would have no problem driving to SJ for a high speed train. As far as property value increasing----what planet are you from?


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Posted by ellieg
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm

This project is flawed from the beginning, when it was decided to use the Pacheco Pass route. Anyone who was at the city council meeting, when Rod Diridon presented his case, will remember how arrogant and unsympathetic he was to our justified concerns. The Pacheco Pass route requires extensive tunneling and will be three times as expensive to build. Furthermore it by passes large populations in Modesto and Fresno, that would greatly benefit from the train, as many of them commute to the bay area. Pacheco Pass is also a relatively undisturbed wild life area that would be very damaged by the tunneling and construction. Every conservation and wildlife organization in the entire state opposed the Pacheco pass rout for that reason. Diridon brushed all of this off and just told us it had been decided and was final.

The route through Altamont would serve millions more people and link mush more easily to Sacramento which is also an important destination. Its only disadvantage is that it would not go directly to San Jose. Diridon is a 'leader' in San Jose and has several other disasters in his past. Perhaps this is the reason Pacheco was chosen?

There is absolutely no reason for us to have four sets of tracks from San Jose to San Francisco. We have a good train service with Cal train that was being used more and more. The money from the stimulus package could be much more effectively spent improving Caltrain with better tracks and new equipment and electrification. Improvements can be made with minimal disruption to the service, while digging up for either expansion or tunneling (too expensive anyway) would leave us without any fast public transit on the peninsula for years. Our local traffic is horrendous already and more and more people were using Caltrain with their bicycles, a truly practical and environmental approach. Can you imagine the extra congestion on the roads and freeways if there is no transportation to San Francisco and all the cities on the corridor for the three to four or more years to complete this project?

This is all in addition to the destruction of all the land and houses and the blighting of the neighborhoods that would occur with the tearing out of trees and possibly Alma street as well. It will almost certainly be elevated and blight the neighborhood for blocks in either direction.

The whole idea of the San Jose to San Francisco route is flawed and should be discarded completely.


Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on May 22, 2009 at 2:58 pm

The state of California has just announced that they are canning the entire HSR idea because they feel bad for this small group of Peninsula residents. Congratulations! You have now defeated a statewide initiative due to your own personal selfish concerns.

Sarcasm aside, people keep mentioning low ridership on weekends for CalTrain, but wouldn't the ridership for HSR be from people traveling statewide and not just from SJ to SF? Are people really seeing the bigger picture here because I'm guessing they're not.


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Posted by Caltrain corridor not a good location
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

ellieg,
Thank you for your post! I agree with you. The Altamont Pass would be a better route. I read that the HSRA did not do much research on which pass would be a better location. They just want it at Pacheco.

P.A. Native- do more research. There are many reasons why many residents do not want it on the Cal train corridor- not only because it will be in many backyards. BTW- Caltrain announced that their ridership has generally been lower- not just on the week ends.
And many of us who do not want it elevated or tunneled on the Caltrain corridor are seeing the big picture.


Like this comment
Posted by dave
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I have two concerns:
There is no plan or organization in place to make vital business decisions or to make plans - a recipe for large cost overruns. So far we have a lobbying group that successfully sold the idea to the people.

The second is the estimates for number of riders and trains is overly optimistic. The number of trains alone has varied all over the map - from 1 every 10 minutes to 1 an hour. In the former case a 2 1/2 hour trip would require 15 trains each way at all times. Allowing for preparation at each end, plus down time for maintenance, at least 60 trains would be needed. For 1 per hour, about 20 trains would be needed.

The earliest estimates were that there would be 100,000,000 riders per year (since reduced I believe). That's 3 times the population of California including every man, woman, and child. Will that many people be going to Los Angeles 3 times a year? How many people fly to LA every year? But I'd be surprised if it is even 10,000,000 - 10 airlines flying 10 planes/day times 365 days a year with 200 passengers each equals 7,300,000, and I think this is overestimating the frequency of flights and the occupancy rate.

I hope Palo Alto does not get a station. It would be a disaster trying to fit one into the present too small an area. Sidings, parking, underpasses, 4 tracks, stations, it boggles the mind.


Like this comment
Posted by Got a Clue..
a resident of Southgate
on May 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Has anyone figured out that the HSR from San Jose to San Francisco won't benefit the locals in any way as if it stops at all there will only be one possibly 2 stops in between and the concept of one being Palo Alto is ludicrous. Then everyone wanting to take if from PA (ie.. Fremont, East Bay, other Peninsula cities) will have park their cars somewhere which will mandate a huge parking garage, etc. Then there are the typical problems surrounding large transit stations like vandals, transients, beggars, etc. You can witness this around any existing large transit station including San Francisco today. There goes the city and downtown.

Have we also forgotten the thought of a train passing through approximately every 2 MINUTES according to HSR projections??



Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on May 22, 2009 at 4:12 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Bigger Picture
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm

The BIGGER PICTURE turns out to be a mountain of disappointing details.

Clearly, Silicon Valley has become a magnet for commuters from the central and south valleys, where real estate is more affordable. What does HSR do to alleviate congestion in those highly traveled corridors jammed during commute hours and on weekends?

ZERO, ZIP, NADA.

Big mistake that even Rod Diridon, father of the most expensive trolley car system in the U.S. with the highest subsidy per passenger mile, should have caught. Maybe his did, but just has to 'double down.'

If HSR does end up going from San Jose to San Francisco which is more PR than functional, I'm hopeful Redwood City or Mountain View is selected as one of the HSR stops so they get all the vehicular traffic meeting HSR trains. Our friends coming from LA will know to change to Caltrain in San Jose so we can pick them up at a local Palo Alto station, and keep the car trip to a mile each way. That is a lot better than the airport trip alternative.

Judging from our experiences with the TGV in Europe and the Bullet Trains in Japan, HSR security will be about the same as airport security; arrive an hour before train time, etc. So you just don't 'hop on HSR' and go speeding on your way. For short trips like Mountain View to SF, there will be NO time-saving or cost advantages; Caltrain will be just as fast and a lot cheaper.

The smarter design would be to terminate HSR in San Jose, and let electric Caltrains do the distribution up the peninsula; it solves so many problems and is so much more cost effective. Los Angeles to San Jose is not as sexy as Los Angeles to San Francisco, to be sure, just a lot smarter and a lot less expensive.

Think about what the HSR master-planners are trying to sell everyone with costs in the hundreds of BILLIONS. Then take into consideration the news headline that Caltrain is planning to STOP RUNNING ON WEEKENDS, stranding a million passengers per year, to close a 10 MILLION dollar deficit.

Just because the feds are involved doesn't mean we should stand by while the HSR master-planners blow BILLIONS with ill-conceived plans. These are our federal tax dollars going down the tubes at a time when TRILLIONS are going for bailouts.

That's just part of the BIGGER PICTURE.


Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Bigger Picture:

I've ridden on the TGV, the ICE trains in Germany, the Shinkansen in Japan, the Eurostar Italia, Sweden's X2 and X3 trains and the Eurostar chunnel train. The only one which had security similar to an airplane was the Eurostar train since it travels underneath the english channel. No other high speed rail train that I've been on required any kind of security to get in to it.

As for HSR stopping in Mountain View or Redwood City; the main Palo Alto station has the second most amount of traffic aside from San Francisco. Get your facts straight. Web Link

The only thing I agree with in your post is that it's ludicrous for Caltrain to stop running on weekends. It's particularly galling since CalTrans is planning on spending millions of dollars to widen 101 in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Those opposed to the route for community destruction, incorrect route selection, concern for waste of taxpayer billions or distrust of corrupt HSR leaders will come together in only one way. That is a united campaign to repeal 1A and prevent sale of the bonds. The state atmosphere is right to do this in the next year.

Any and all attempts to so-called work with the Authority simply buys them time to make you believe they are listening and spend more of all our money on not building a train. That is the oldest trick in the political book, only this time billions are waiting to be wasted. The sooner all of you unite to repeal 1A, the less money that will be wasted and the sooner the state can work towards a real high speed rail project.

Step One is stick a dagger through the heart of the current vampire disguised as a high speed rail project. I have no concern for those of you critical of the strategy I present. I have all concern that those of you opposed in any way unite and get started on the repeal and stop wasting your time with feel good red herrings such as the fantasy tunnel or a united voice for peninsula cities.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


Like this comment
Posted by observer
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2009 at 8:20 am

Jay Turlock has the the right ending, but how to achieve that goal is at the very least daunting.

The HSR project now has become that ultimate weapon the legislators are using to get as much money from the stimulus and other funds the Feds seems willing to provide.

This high speed rail project has never been about a true transportation improvement, but rather about money. Money for land developers and land speculators. Money for hardware manufacturers. Big money for contractors like Parsons Brinkerhoff and all the consultants they hire, like HNTB and AECOM. And has was shown last fall, in the last few weeks when Prop 1A was going down to defeat, money for union jobs, when the Alliance for Jobs coughed up about $2,000,000 with its radio campaign and was able to keep Prop 1A from going down in defeat.

Now California is at the brink of total melt down -- asking the Feds to underwrite California further debt. California can't afford this project. The project is deeply flawed and the leadership of the Authority Kopp and Diridon, who control the Authority's board, keep deceiving the public and are trying to deceive the Feds with false information about the current state of development of the project, in order to get the project qualified for Federal funds.

Do yourselves a favor and listen to the the May meeting of the Authority's board meeting. Listen to the Executive director Morshed tell the board that the San Francisco to San Jose does not qualify for Stimulus funds, because it cannot meet certain time deadlines. Then listen to Diridon start into a rant and with Kopp completely over this finding and vote to apply for stimulus funds for this segment anyway.

The audio link is at:

Web Link

listen at about 1 hr and 7 minutes into the audio.




Like this comment
Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on May 23, 2009 at 10:35 am

So Ms Kishimoto will work to ensure a context sensitive solution. What does that mean to. Undergrounded and no stop in Palo Alto or elevated?
It's time to stop the PR baloney and get real.
In this instance the term NIMBY really describes the opponents because that would be the result. Of course if you live on Stanford land you can be a proponent.
It's a bad deal monetarily, environmentally and geographically.
If I ever wanted to go to LA, I'd fly.


Like this comment
Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 23, 2009 at 10:57 am

Well maby some would like to fly ..so you Gods have decide that we dont need HSR so thats it? another arrogant idea is to stop the trains in SanJose and have 300 people change to Caltrain??? Ever heard of Acela stopping in philly and everyone taking NJ Transit to New York? more unworkable NIMBY ideas. NO the train will pass thu PA and nobody is going to have there life ruined.


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm

"If I ever wanted to go to LA, I'd fly."

If I ever wanted to go to the Bay Area, I'd take the train.


Like this comment
Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 4:57 pm

This makes sense. By bringing all the cities together they will be able to pool resources in order to finance the improvements they seek. By forming a special assessment district the encompasses all the peninsula communities they can share both the community benefits and the financial burden.


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 6:38 pm

"By forming a special assessment district the encompasses all the peninsula communities they can share both the community benefits and the financial burden."

Benefits? There are no benefits. The train is going to be so unsuccessful that vehicular traffic surrounding HSR stations is going to be unbearable.


Like this comment
Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm

By forming a coalition of communities, the peninsula will be able to more easily finance the solutions needed in order to mitigate the unbearable traffic conditions as well as ever increasing train frequencies caused by an unsuccessful railroad.


Like this comment
Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 7:35 pm

The high speed rail line is going to be so unsuccessful that trains running every six minutes will deafen those in the community and the TSA will have to put all of Palo Alto on full surveillance to protect a rail line nobody is riding!


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2009 at 8:14 pm

HSR is a solution without a problem.

Fuel efficiency in planes has improved by 70% in recent years, super efficient new panes are coming on line which will make even greater changes.
New air traffic control systems will also greatly boost efficiency.

In addition the airlines have developed new fuels, which have been tested and are now in the supply chain

Read todays WSJ about the new technology

And look at Ciscos telepresence technology which is reducing business travel by orders of magnitude.

Ludittes want to build 19c trains, the solutions to travel in California are now here and they are 21c solutions.
You can fly to LA from SF or SJ for $49 any day of the week.

No one will use the fantasy trains.

A better plan is electric trains from Gilroy to SF and a fast freight train down HW 5 from LA to SJ to Sacramento.


Like this comment
Posted by Jared
a resident of Mountain View
on May 23, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Actually, the HSR trains going up the peninsula will be much quieter than the current Caltrain and late-night freight trains. For one thing, no more annoying train horns at intersections. Second, electric engines make far less noise than diesel.


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 9:22 pm

@ sharon - how will a fast freight down the i-5 get to me from SF to Fresno? I have missed several events in both Fresno and Bakersfield due the curent travel times not fitting my available time frame. I need to be able to make a reasonable round trip to various parts of the state. A round trip plane ticket to fresno is over 500 bucks.


Like this comment
Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 9:35 pm

most people are missing the whole point of the project. The SF-LA trips are but a small part of the systems usefulness. The goal is to better connect the fastest growing, and fastest future growth areas of the state - mainly the central valley, high desert, and inalnd empire, with the rest of the states economic centers while at the same time connecting the states 6 largest existing metro areas to each other. The system is designed to serve future growth, more than today's transport needs. Another boom will come to california eventually, as always and we can plan for the future economy and future growth or not. More options will be needed and be they airports, runways, freeways or what have you, they will be expensive, disruptive, will meet with resistance, and will take years of planning and construction. The railroad is the most cost effective way to move large numbers of people between regions and it's also much less disruptive to neighbors and the environment than a freeway or airport expansions. It also provides service between city pairs that airlines will never provide. Airlines will never provide accessible affordable service between Bakersfield and San jose or Riverside and Fresno and these are the places that will accept the vast majority of new growth. This is a system that will serve the next generation, and will be paid for by the next generation. Our job is to get it in place for them. Its not surprising to me that many from the baby boomer generation, who have taken more from the planet and the system than any generation in american history, having now gotten fat and comfy, don't want to cough up a little something for the next generation.


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2009 at 10:22 pm

currently with far advance purchase SFO to Frenso = $421 RT with 45 mins SF to SFO, one hour prior check in one hour flight time total $421 and 2 hours 45 minutes. HSR = downtown to downtown- 50 bucks and 90 minutes. SF to Bakersfield, now= $387 rt, 45 mins sf -sfo one hour check in and one hour fifteen flight time 3 hours total HSR about 50 bucks and 1 hour 50 mins downtown to downtown. SAn Jose to Riverside, no current air service. San jose to bakersfield no air service, Irvine to Burbank, 35 minutes, sac to bakersfield 90 minutes, and so forth - the speed and flexibility of high speed rail is it's biggest advantage over air travel. Aunt Bee in San Bruno can visit Auntie Mame down in Fresno for afternoon tea and recipe exchange and be back in time for dinner. Recently divorced Dad Dave from Redwood City can pop over to Merced where his x wife has custody, to see his son's little league game after work and get home in time to get to bed for the next days work. Rather than having to miss the game. Its about real californians. Everyday workaday Californians who make up the majority of the state, having more options and more flexibility, to be able to do more, in less time. You can't do it by air, you can't do it by car. I recently missed a good friends funeral in Bakersfield at 11 am because I had to be at work by 2 pm in Sf. With HSR I could have made that funeral and been back to work the same day. Its not just about shuttling business people between sfo and lax - we already do that - this is a system designed to serve the ordinary californian to make there lives more convenient. I don't expect the kind of people who live in Palo Alto and Atherton to care much about ordinary californians, but I am still going to point out the truth of the matter here.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 24, 2009 at 7:14 am

I have been skeptical of this HSR project since last year, when I did some reading up on it. I have a blog that I will post in the not too distant future, making some observations that I believe will add to the discussion, not merely repeat what others on both sides of the issue have expressed.

That said, I am intrigued by the assertions by Jim from Another Community around the benefits to be had primarily in the Central Valley in terms of access for people based in the Bay Area or the Southland. It may well be that the "payoff"--I still am unsure there is one--is derived from people starting or ending their travel in the central valley cities that are currently less accessible, except by a slow AMTRAK train or a car or a costly plane ride.

Accepting Jim's contentions does not offset the truly troubling issues around whether HSR should terminate in San Jose or go all the way to San Francisco. The "benefits" of extending HSR all the way to San Francisco are questionable relative to the costs and disruption of community life in these long built out cities along the Peninsula.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2009 at 7:33 am

The above posts by Jim, illustrate how far a personal need will go towards trying to implement a project that will cost 80 billion plus interest.

Precisely the reason airfares to Merced and Fresno and Bakersfield are so dear, is that that is very little demand. Someone wanting to go to Santa Barbara faces the same kind of high air costs, yet he won't be able to get there even if HSR is implemented, since HSR isn't going to Santa Barbara.

You can conveniently drive to Fresno in about 3 hours from the Bay area.There is a Robert down in Monterey who runs a blog and he without a doubt is probably HSR's most fierce advocate. If this project were to take the Altamont routing, which by any measure is superior in all regards to Pacheco, his enthusiasm would diminish markedly. Personal self interest is what drives these guys. Personal self interest is what drives the politicians in SF and SJ and Merced and Fresno --- they see HSR as the big pot of gold into which all of California is going to pour its tax dollars and the rest of the nation as well. You should read the writings on that blog. All of Palo Alto has now become nothing more than NIMBYs who are obstructionists and selfish and residents of Palo Alto should be willing to put up with the destruction of their City for the good of the rest of the state.

This project makes no sense in terms of reducing congestion or solving transportation problems which exist today and will get worse in the coming years. As presented this project is one big huge boondoggle.


Like this comment
Posted by meloparkarrogance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 24, 2009 at 8:12 am

Some of the above posts show why PA is getting a NIMBY reputation and I have heard it from others besides HSR. AND speaking of making up numbers where O where does anyone get 80Billion from? ??THEY just made it up..SO much for balanced open ideas and thinking.


Like this comment
Posted by jin
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 8:17 am

ITs not about my personal convenience, but the convenience of current, and more importantly, future Californians. It's called planning. And if you hadn't read my post selectively, you would see that the again, its the flexibility of offering a combination of local, regional, and express service to the states 6 largest cities and each of the fastest growing and future growth areas of the state. Fresno is not a "convenient" 3 hour drive, its a four hour drive and for those of who don't drive it's only accessible by a 4.5 hour train ride. There is a demand because even with the slow travel times, the San Joaquin Route is one of the top most successful lines in the amtrak system and if you could cut the trip to 90 minutes, there would be even more demand... and thats just one city pair. HSR creates a huge number of available city pairs that add value to the lives of large numbers of californians and future californians. There are no bout many more people who would travel if there were an alternative. Your assertion that its an easy drive just shows that it would indeed then take cars of the road. Even if I had a car I wouldn't wan to drive to Fresno any more than I'd want to drive to LA. You also show here that your interest isn't any doing HSR right but killing it altogether since it doesn't serve you personally.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

OK, Jim, how we know --- you don't own a car. Therefore everyone who reads your writings should understand your perspective. Since you don't own a car, your time estimates have no credence. I again say your perspective is one of personal self interest for the State to provide you with a transportation project, that regardless of cost you can use to get to Fresno and Bakersfield.


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Again, you are either being disingenuous are you're not very bright. My post is an example of the benefits. Do you think I'm the only one in the state who sees this? If that had been the case, the initiative wouldn't have passed. Quit reading only selective lines from my post. What part of being able to get between city pairs in the both the state's largest cities and the state's fastest and future growth areas don't you get? Are you dense? The only people here being selfish are a handful of nimby's on the peninsula. You want to ignore the fact that this will be convenient for other people just because you don't need it and you want to ignore not only the jobs it will create in construction and operation, but the economic stimulus it will provide to every city it serves. Many of those cities along the route sorely need such stimulus, access and recognition. I don't like all the aspects of growth and change here in my city either, nor am I at al thrilled by the development this will bring to my neighborhood, but thats part of life in California.


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Now, the rail authority has agreed to work with communities to mitigate impacts and the ball is the communities courts to work with cahsra to find solutions. So, find some solutions. If you stop being disingenuous about your goal 9 to just kill the project) and instead work with cahsra to bring good and innovative design there are way to make this a win for every community and the state. People with common sense can see this. People whose only concern is killing the project for ideological reasons will refuse to admit this.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Jim,

You’re making an argument I haven’t heard before about HSR.

I think you’re arguing that communities outside the Bay Area and LA Basin have the most to gain from HSR.

Just in round numbers LA has 18M people, Bay Area has 7.5M. Another 4M in the Inland Empire, 3M in San Diego, 2M in Sacramento, 1M in Fresno and .8M in Bakersfield. After that it tails off fast.

Is your argument that we need HSR to connect Fresno, Bakersfield, Visalia and Lancaster better? If so it’s completely fair to ask what’s in it for the other 90% of the state. I've mostly heard ridership numbers justified by LA/SF demand.

My 2 cents are HSR is a great thing we should bring through San Jose then up the Bay on a viaduct to Moffet, SFO and SF transit center. Plenty of parking and travel services while we develop a 50 year strategy to build effective public transit around the Bay.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 1:06 pm

> The "benefits" of extending HSR all the way to San Francisco are questionable relative to the costs and disruption of community life in these long built out cities along the Peninsula.

@Paul Losch: if HSR terminates in SJ, there will be a significant uptick in Caltrain traffic, over and above the already considerable ridership growth projections (short-term business cycle notwithstanding). Such dense traffic, probably approaching ten trains per hour in each direction, would shut grade crossings to the point that the California Public Utilities Commission (the agency that regulates grade crossing safety) may well require the crossings in Palo Alto to be grade separated.

Most of the disruption that PA is looking at is grade separation construction. I claim it will happen whether or not HSR runs on the peninsula, and folks who oppose HSR out of a fear of "Berlin Wall" grade separations are sadly missing the point that the peninsula corridor is an enormously under-utilized facility that will one day, one way or the other, see far higher traffic. HSR or not.

By the way, here's some new data for that charrette: Web Link


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm

You left San Francisco out of that equation. San Franciscans supported hsr in very numbers You can't just leave San Francisco out of the system. I have a huge number of people every day traveling form san fran on amtrak to the central valley, high desert, and southern california. We voted on the the system as designed. You want to leave out a city of 825,000 so that palo alto isn't disturbed? That isn't going to happen. The train will go from San Francisco to San Jose, down the valley, in into southern california. Your job is to find a way to mitigate any effects you wish to mitigate. The ca hsr is waiting for your suggestions.


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Posted by jin
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Honestly, who ever bought property in the bay area with the expectation that growth and development wouldn't happen? Like I said I am going to hte the effects of HSR on my neighborhood, but, it's a trade of for the benefits. Do you think I like looking at that god awful One Rincon everytime i look up at the sky? No, and that thing didn't bring any benefit to my neighborhood whatsoever but c'est la vie right? That's the way the cookie crumbles as we used to say. The bay area, as much as I would like to see it- isn't going to be frozen in time. Even if we all join hands in a giant human ring around the bay and sing kumbaya, we aren't going to stop growth and development. You have to weigh the perks of living here and measure them against the drawbacks. You're god damn lucky you get to live in the bay area at all and you ought to be counting your blessing.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on May 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Clem,

Thanks for the link.

I do believe that the rail corridor between SJ and SF needs to be significantly upgraded. That does not necessarily imply being part of the HSR system per se, but most certainly corridor upgrades would need to take into account what an HSR terminus at San Jose implies.

As I will say in my soon to come blog on this matter, I would much prefer to see more light rail for local transit be the use of the funds that would be allocated for HSR to connect all the way to SF. I am of the belief that deploying the same funds for local transit will provide greater benefits to more people and has a better chance of "pencilling out."


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

"Observer"

I hope you are still "out there" in computer newspaper discussion land.

I appreciated the meeting audio link. How did you find that? My partner in crime has been looking for that link for weeks. I have the link address itself but I am unable to find how to navigate to it on their web site. I am not very computer literate with that kind of thing but I am told that the authority does not make it easy to find things on their web site.

Thank you for answering assuming you do. And for God's sake the name of yours truly is Tulock, the man Tulock, not the city, Turlock! Thank you. (I have been getting this all my life even when I lived overseas)

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by meloparkarrogance
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

To Jay Tulock:

My apologies for the miss-spelling of your name.

The map to the audio link for you and others is as follows:

1. The Authority's website

Web Link

click on Library tab at the top to get to:

Web Link

click on Board meeting on left side to get to:

Web Link

At this page you will find archives of board meetings. Year 2009 is what you click on, and then the May meeting where this audio is located.

There is a lot more very useful information from that May meeting, including the study being done by AECOM (60 million for Altamont) and other materials.

Glad to help.

This is an active week for those keeping track of the project. The lawsuit will be heard by the judge on Thursday and also on Thursday is a meeting with the Federal Railway Administration regarding stimulus funding. Both taking place in Sacramento, but I don't have further details.

There is a very on point letter from the Planning and Conservation League, (PCL) that has been posted at:

Web Link

You and others might be interested in reading








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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2009 at 10:43 am

observer, thanks for that letter and the link. I listened to the meeting, and it was clear that one reason Diridon wants to fast-track the SJ-SF component is that he realizes the peninsula is becoming aware of the ramifications of HSR and that most people don't like it. So he wants to ram it through before he's stopped. Sneaky, unscrupulous, not an appropriate way to manage a public process.


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Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2009 at 12:32 pm

The ironic thing is - if PA gets a station, it's likely to be one of the heavier use stations, likely busier than an sfo stop. I'd rather see a station in Mtn view that serves more of a working class population, but the PA folks, once they get a taste, are going to all about first class travel on hsr. Between the black cocktail dressed syrah sipping intellectuals and the coiffed pearl clutching grand-dames, you won't be able to get a first class seat a week in advance. Especially once they find out the meal service is designed some local froo froo chef.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm

A Palo Alto station would clean up well, especially if they can sip coffee AND use free wifi. It'll be jerk paradise and they'll come to OUR community and bring their smugness with them!

Man, now I oppose HSR in Palo Alto!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2009 at 10:33 am

The problem with high speed rail goes well beyond the design and the track location.

Web Link


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2009 at 10:41 am

The problem with high speed rail goes well beyond the design and the track location.

Web Link

Jims assertions about the benefits of the project coming from connecting central valley to bay area fly directly in the fact of the CHSRA's own statements in their own EIR documentation - which claim expressly to have the purpose of REDUCING SPRAWL. When you make it easier to live in godforsakenmiddleofnowhere and commute to work 150 miles away. THATS SPRAWL


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2009 at 12:48 pm

"Observer"--

No worries on the misspelling. Our family name is a misspelling anyhow, best we can tell having been bastardized from the Scottish surname "Tulloch" at the US Gateway, and for some reason great grandpappy Tulock kept his Uncle Sam given name.

Thanks for the links. This should provide entertaining hours as we gather dirt on the bastards to help bring them down. They bury it deep, but we will bury them deeper.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by AT RESIDENT
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm

AND what you going to propose that will help in this "Advocate" thinking that is nothing but a NIMBY proposal???


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Posted by AT RESIDENT
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm

LOVE the link....a NECON web site that hate anything that does not involve oil use...AND that type hates this project..GEE real news


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Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2009 at 11:17 am

"Sidings, parking, underpasses, 4 tracks, stations, it boggles the mind."

Now that's funny right there, I don't care who ya are!


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Posted by CC
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

PA residence will only delay the project. For those of you who live close to the rail, it's about time to sell your property and move away from it. Give them up to high rise buildings.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

CC, there won't be space for high rise buildings. The CHSRA released a draft of alternatives for LA-Anaheim, a segment similar to SJ-SF with metrolink & freight sharing a track. They're showing a ROW width of 110' through that corridor. Where do you suppose the extra 10+ feet will come from? See pages 45, 46, 53, 54 and 55 which is most similar to Palo Alto's configuration. Web Link

Once they take the land needed, people living on the other side of Mariposa will be facing a HSR wall where the front of homes used to be. Park Blvd residents will lose 10' of their backyards, with HSR crowding them out of their own property. Which is worse?


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Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Stop HSR in San Jose, build a great station there, and use the money to improve CalTrain and BART. Assembly Bill 3034 states LA to San Francisco, but this can very well be interpreted as LA to the "San Francisco bay area". Not everyone will travel to the city ... Many will be traveling to Silicon Valley or the East Bay, which is where BART and CalTrain come in. Stop HSR in San Jose, and look at the bay area rapid transit system as a whole.


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Posted by If it is being rushed through, what are they hiding?
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

As usual..lies travel around the world in the time it takes truth to put on its pants.

when something is being rushed through before the public has time to look at it, there is probably a good reason why.

this HSR project looks to be another proof of that wisdom.

The more time goes by, the more the HSR is studied, costs:benefits..the more it is apparent it is a crock, or at the very least an extremely expensive pipe dream that will be used by just a few but paid for, as usual, but just a few others.

thanks for the updates.


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