I love trains. As a youth, the sight of steam engines crossing the San Francisquito Creek bridge stirred my heart. I made special trips on my bike to the south Palo Alto station to see the Sunshine Daily go by in its orange, red and black splendor, up from Los Angeles. in the summer evening.
I can't envision the same romance for the high-speed bullet train, at least not as presently planned. And, unless the California High-Speed Rail Authority is thinking outside the box, I don't expect to get much joy from the forthcoming alternatives analysis, to be released on March 4.
"Well, you can't have it underground, guess it'll have to be elevated."
So I started daydreaming. First I ruled out a run up the existing right-of-way. East of 101? No, leave the bay alone. Then I got it! Run the two tracks for the high-speed rail up the middle of 280! How about running up Highway 85, transition to 280 at Cupertino then come down 380 and rejoin the Caltrain line at San Bruno?
Imagine riding that route, what a great introduction to the area. Arguments against a freeway center bullet train? Sure, but the trick is to visualize the utilitarian beauty of any plan, choose, then solve those problems.
From the get-go, I see no grace, no enhancement for the public good in the central Peninsula plan.
I voted for high speed rail, but it feels like "bait and switch." We need a more elegant solution.
Don't slow the trains
I think we all feel compassion for the people (and their families as well) who commit suicide on our railroad tracks. And I don't pretend to have magic answer for overcoming this problem, but if you think we should slow down the trains, then by extending that logic, eliminating trains passing through our city is the answer you would have to conclude.
Were we to eliminate this method of suicide, another way would be found. Furthermore, if you make one crossing such a focal point of prevention, another one will become the chosen site.
Look to the individuals and the issues that surround them for answers and prevention, not no trains, slow trains, lights or guardians.
Valley Transit has said they need more riders to avoid financial ruin.
They've raised fares to balance their budget, ridership dropped (fares too high?).
Maybe service changes trimmed usage, with people unable to get where/when they need to be.
Perhaps it's VTA's own website steering riders to the train.
I visited VTA's site for new schedule times, so to get from Palo Alto (near Alma and Loma Verde) to Race and Parkmoor in San Jose. On a whim, I plugged my address and destination into their trip planner.
It pops to Google Maps (good site) and the public-transit options — yes, all three transit options— recommended using CalTrain.
From home, it instructs me to walk to the California Avenue station (usually 20 minutes) and ride to Diridon Station, a short bus hop and a block walk to my goal.
VTA's site suggests a one-way trip cost of $6.25 — of which VTA bags only $2. Roundtrip, VTA snatches up 4 bucks while steering $8.50 to CalTrain.
My preference: shave 10 minutes from the walk, hit Middlefield Road, take the 35 bus to Mountain View, and grab the light-rail train, which stops across the street from my destination.
VTA gets all $6 of the day pass, a two-buck gain for them in spite of themselves.
Oh, and I only spend $6, all theirs, instead of their fiscal counsel to blow $12.50.
They advised I spend twice what's necessary for a less convenient trip, and pay most of the fare to another agency?
Norman A. Carroll