Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 13, 2010

Proposed rail could take homes, shrink Alma

Palo Alto council calls for rail authority to keep tunneling options alive

by Gennady Sheyner

California's planned high-speed-rail system could significantly narrow Alma Street in several sections of Palo Alto and cause some residents near the Caltrain Corridor to give up their homes, according to a report released last week by the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The rail authority is in the midst of narrowing down its design options for the controversial rail system, which will most likely include a four-track-wide path between San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain service would run on the outside two tracks and the new high-speed trains on the inside two.

At the Aug. 5 meeting of the rail authority, the agency's chief engineer on the Peninsula segment said the four-track alignment was selected because it would leave a smaller footprint than the previously considered "stacked" design, which called for two sets of tracks, with one on top of the other.

Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program, a partnership of Caltrain and the rail authority, said the agency has considerably narrowed its right-of-way requirement for the Peninsula segment since its earliest estimates. It now believes the four tracks could be squeezed into an 80-foot corridor through much of the corridor. It previously estimated about 120 feet.

The specific width of the right-of-way needed throughout Palo Alto would fluctuate depending on whether the rail authority chooses to run the new rail system at street level, through an open trench, or along aerial viaducts. (The authority has dropped the tunneling option, for which some Palo Alto officials have advocated for the past three years.)

But even with the system's narrower right-of-way requirement, Palo Alto drivers and homeowners should expect major changes, the alternatives analysis indicates. Alma Street, which runs next to the Caltrain tracks, would lose either one or two lanes in most sections of Palo Alto. In the particularly dense and well-traveled area between Embarcadero Road and Churchill Avenue, Alma would lose two lanes under either of the two design options still on the table, according to the alternatives analysis.

The new alternatives analysis also determines that the rail system would force Alma to lose one lane between the city's border with Menlo Park and Embarcadero. The thoroughfare would also lose one or two traffic lanes between Churchill and East Meadow Drive.

The authority's engineers nevertheless determined that traffic conditions would improve in Palo Alto because the trains would no longer run at street level at Churchill and East Meadow. Caltrain currently runs at ground level along the entire length of Alma, and city officials have long dreamed of a "grade-separated" system that would put the trains underground.

Either of the two design options under consideration would also entail the "displacement of properties" along the right-of-way, according to the new report. Between Embarcadero and Churchill, the entire right-of-way is narrower than 90 feet, less than the 96 feet needed for an open trench. Furthermore, the rail authority would need between 103 feet and 120 feet of space during construction of the new rail system, depending on which design option it ultimately chooses.

Properties could be affected south of Churchill, where 55 percent of the right-of-way is less than 90 feet wide. A right-of-way map shows that the width between the rear of properties in the Southgate neighborhood and Alma is 75 feet.

The supplemental alternatives analysis, which the authority released on Aug. 5, zeroes in on the two most likely options for the rail system: above ground and open trench.

The first of these options relies largely on street level and elevated tracks. Under this alternative, trains would be at-grade level when they arrive from Menlo Park to Palo Alto and then glide along an aerial viaduct between Homer Avenue and Churchill, since the narrowness of the right-of-way makes an at-grade system less feasible. Trains would then return to street level as they approach the California Avenue train station and remain in this configuration until East Meadow, at which time they would switch back to aerial viaducts.

According to the new report, the rail authority hopes to use aerial viaducts instead of at-grade tracks in certain sections of Palo Alto because the elevated structures would require a right-of-way of 79 feet, while the street-level and open-trench alternatives would require about 96 feet. Staff engineers had determined that running the trains at-grade from Embarcadero to Churchill and from East Meadow to the Adobe Creek would require "substantial displacement impacts due to right-of-way acquisition requirements."

The second design option, which relies heavily on open trenches, is more in line with Palo Alto residents' desire for an underground system, but would cost significantly more to construct and require a wider right-of-way, according to engineer estimates. Under this alignment, Caltrain and high-speed trains would both run through an open trench as they pass from Atherton and Menlo Park and enter Palo Alto. The trains could remain below ground level as they pass through Palo Alto and enter Mountain View, or they could rise to street level near the California Avenue train station and rise onto an aerial viaduct just before East Meadow.

The Palo Alto City Council discussed the latest report from the rail authority at a special meeting on Aug. 5 and is scheduled to continue the discussion on Sept. 13. At last week's meeting, several council members voiced frustration about the rail authority's elimination of the covered-trench and tunnel options, for which Midpeninsula communities have long lobbied.

Rail authority engineers had concluded in the new report that both tunneling options are "impractical" because of high costs and complications relating to ventilation, ground conditions and safety features. According to the alternatives analysis, a covered trench in the subsection between Churchill and East Meadow would cost $692 million to construct and a deep tunnel $438 million. An at-grade and an open trench in this section of the Caltrain corridor would cost $46 million and $263 million, respectively. None of the estimates would include the costs of purchasing properties to expand the right of way.

The covered-trench option has been particularly popular in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton because it would have enabled both Caltrain and high-speed rail to run underground, in a shallow trench. The deep tunnel option was considered only for the new high-speed trains.

Sara Armstrong, co-founder of the high-speed-rail watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CARRD), said the new report gives communities along the Peninsula plenty of reasons for concern. Cities such as Redwood City and Belmont, for example, have no underground options on the table, according to the new report.

In Palo Alto, there's still some room for optimism, Armstrong said, particularly if the agency continues to pursue the open-trench alternative. This design's inclusion in the latest study suggests that the authority has heard some of the city's concerns, she said.

"The city has again and again indicated that it wants a below-grade solution," Armstrong said.

Despite the high costs, members of the Palo Alto City Council agreed last week that the authority should continue to look at all the underground options. Councilman Greg Scharff called the covered-trench option "the best option for Palo Alto and the one we should be focusing on."

Councilwoman Karen Holman called the rail authority's decision to eliminate the two most popular tunneling options a "bit of an absurdity" and suggested that the council formally ask the agency to further study these designs.

"I think we need to stand up and make that statement loud and clear," Holman said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Peter, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:30 am

Hundreds of trees and bushes will come down to build this.
Is that what we want?
Not to mention lowering property values.
I believe an estimated 6000 trees are estimated to come down for the whole peninsula corridor.

Personally I feel HSR should go down the middle of 101.


Posted by John, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:49 am

If you think HSR can go down the middle of 101, you either think that money is no object or have no sense of engineering.

We already have a rail ROW up the peninsula. Let's use it!

Frankly, I can't wait to grade separate Caltrain. How many people need to die before we do that?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

HSR is the result of global warming hysteria. Klein and Yishimoto are true believers, and the rest of the city council were dupes when they recommended a "yes" vote on this proposition. The irony is that HSR will not significantly reduce CO2, even though the true believers insist that it will (without any scientific support for their beliefs).

Palo Alto derserves the misery it is now going through on the HSR absurdity. We are all paying the price for being reflexively "green". If we continue to elect "green" officials, we will get more of the same.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Three track Alameda Corridor fashion with multi use tracks.


Posted by john, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:26 am

College Terrace John,

I'm sure that the only reason that Germany, Britain, France, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, Russia, Italy, The Netherlands, etc…. are building HSR is because it is "cool to be green". It has nothing to do with running out of room to expand airports, freeway congestion, convenience, cost, etc… (you might have noticed that we have the same issues)

California better improve its infrastructure by building things like HSR or its economy will be left in the dust.


Posted by grant, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

why are we wasting so much time and money on this project we must have the legislaturer kill this waste of money


Posted by grant, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

why are we wasting so much time and money on this project we must have the legislaturer kill this waste of money


Posted by grant, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

why are we wasting so much time and money on this project we must have the legislaturer kill this waste of money


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:36 am

Johnboy- building infrastructure is a good thing, on that accout you are correct, but it seems as if you were just born a few days ago because the issue is how the infrastructure should be constructed.
HSR is a good thing, if constructed in a way that doesn't uproot every city on the peninsula in the process. Simply having this thing shoved down our throats as diridon and kopp intend to do is reckless and a waste of money. HSR would serve the citizens of the state much better by traveling through the central valley, over altamont pass, where the majority of the commuters come from, and when i last checked the majority of commuters don't arrive here from los angeles on their daily commutes- it's a great idea, sure, but an even greater waste of money and lost oppurtunity to spend billions on a transit system the doesn't meet the need of the people.


Posted by Scared Driver, a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

Jeez, isn't Alma narrow enough? Lose 1 or 2 lanes? Might as well just get rid of Alma.

I'm scared as it is to drive Alma now, forget it if it gets narrower or loses lanes.


Posted by john, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:00 am

Big Al,

I guess by skipping portions of my argument that you dont mind Moffet Field becoming an international airport one day..

And you doubt that having multiple HSR stations from Gilroy to SF would help 101 traffic? Really?

Finally, I dont think that by puting HSR on a 100 year old Rail ROW you are "uprooting" any cities.. talk about drama.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:19 am

John states:"Finally, I dont think that by puting HSR on a 100 year old Rail ROW you are "uprooting" any cities.. talk about drama. "

The fact is that the proposed HSR right of way woill NOt go on the existing 100 year old right of way. The HSR right of way will take up the existing ROW PLUS another 50-70 feet horizontally and 40 feet vertically across the entire 125+ new ROW - that is not drama, that is dramatic and it will fundamentally change the nature of every community that it goes through in a very negative way.


Posted by Go, HSR!!!, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:20 am


I'm for it! I just hope the experts at stalling and nay-saying in Palo Alto and surrounding communities don't drag the delays out too long! But I'm sure they'll take every opportunity to waste time and money with debates for the sake of debates.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:24 am

Johnboy, I am sure you are filled with lots of wonderful ideas.
Not sure we need another international airport on the peninsula.
I'm sure you'd like to argue all day, but I don't have the time.
Check the stats- much more traffic comes in over altamont pass.
But it sounds like you are afraid to be reasonable.
Have a nice day.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:30 am

Going back to basics, I think that Simitian and others should insist on this HSR issue going back to the ballot this November. In November 2008 voters were given misleading information and/or a lack of information re Prop. 1A. The vote was falsely based.

All this bait-and-switch on the part of Diridon and Kopp is NOT part of a democracy, but the actions of an old-world oligarchy. In a democracy, citizens vote on the basis of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


Posted by Get-Real, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:45 am

> California better improve its infrastructure by building things like
> HSR or its economy will be left in the dust.

And what will the HSR contribute to goods that can be sold overseas? Unless this project will create "wealth" (and not debt), then it will have nothing positive to add to the economy over time.


Posted by hsrsoundsgoodbut, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

My concerns about HSR are that it will need to be subsidized by the taxpayers. I love the idea of high speed rail but doubt it is cost effective. European countries are very population dense and that makes it more feasible. Still I think even so HSR is subsidized in Europe. Looks like we have a very drunken Congress willing to spend money it doesn't have and don't worry about tomorrow.


Posted by john, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Big Al,
Being reasonable is recognizing the fact that even if HSR used Altamont it would still go up the peninsula from Dumbarton to SF. So are you being reasonable or do you just think the world revolves around PA?

Get-Real,

Using that logic, I guess we should stop building freeways. because they only create debt. More unfunded stimulus, federal, and state debt has been spent there than any other infrustructure program.


Get-Real,

I guess we should stop buiding freeways. because they only create debt. More stimulus, federal, and state debt has been spent there than just about anywhere else.


Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

HSR is going to kill economically the CalTrains system. It will take half the ridership away. CalTrain will not be able to survive that hit. Recognize that now and you only need 2 tracks for HSR. It is absolutely stupid to cling to a goal of LA to SF in some arbitrator time and not realize more people live on the Peninsula than live in SF. Add 2 or 3 stops to HSR and eliminate CalTrains.


Posted by none, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Fine to narrow Alma. You can't change and stay the same- time to evolve and shift transportation options to mass transit and get people out of their cars as there are so many single occupancy cars on the road- just look around you.

Mass transit is soooo less stressful, if properly designed, and makes getting places more pleasant. One can catch up on reading and have down time while traveling.


Posted by jardins fan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm

To jardins,
Great comment. There is no way Prop 1A would pass today. We have been duped. It's a complete disaster. Now we're supposed to believe that traffic will improve with a narrower Alma? I would love to resubmit HSR to the voters.


Posted by alex, a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Are you kidding??
Fine to narrow Alma??? driven there lately?

I love PA but some just want to send this town to the crapper.
Mass transit is less stressful for some, not all.
Although I can apreciate the concept, it is not the right idea for PA or the sorrounding towns.
And forgotten are the people that will lose home value or their home itself.
This is has got to be the biggest waste of money since we went to war: another long term mess that we will never get out off.
I see that some citizens are all for it
FAIL


Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Adding several stops to HSR will make it LSR


Posted by Buzz, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Watch for increased traffic on Middlefield and El Camino. Middlefield is home to many schools and churches with daily pedestrian and bicycle traffic that is already in jeopardy due to a loss of control over speeders. Does anyone remember that the speed limit on surface streets, including Middlefield, in Palo Alto is 25 MPH, with 15 MPH in school zones when children are present?

The PAPD's recent efforts at controlling speeders and red light runners is likely too little too late, though I applaud the vaiant officers for their efforts.

HSR is not only a costly boondoggle, its construction won't make any discernible impact on unemployment, since the work, if it comes to that, will be done by large machines owned by big construction companies who will be more than happy to use their equpment in remunerative state contracts that we, the taxpayers, will fund out of a shrinking tax base at the cost of other, more essential services. It doesn't effectively reduce pollution, just moves it to the area around power plants that generate electricity, who eventually share the pollution with everyone who breathes.

If it's such a great deal and likely to pay out more than it costs to build, why are folks rushing to invest? I haven't seen anything to indicate that a single private investor or venture capita firm has expressed interest in this misadventure.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:32 pm

The CHRSA leadership continues its devious tactics.

Off they go to Washington DC with bogus market research findings, now a "plan" that affects Alma. Their behavior suggests that they view this whole thing as a done deal, and they continue to pay lip service to the concerns that have been expressed as more discovery of this proposal comes to light and creates more doubt about whether this whole thing makes sense.

The voters were deceived when this was put on the State ballot in 2008.

Certainly here in Silicon Valley, we can appreciate that a concept that may have potential turns out to not make sense after some initial effort. Been there? Done that? I have, more times than I care to admit.

As much as I dislike the local implications and consequences of this albatross, it is much more far-reaching in negative terms than that for the entire State.

I am apalled that resources are being spent on such detailed aspects of this project such as Alma Street when there are serious policy and financing issues that must be given greater review.

I like riding High Speed Rail. Took it to the Shanghai Airport once, amazing exerpience. Liking the concept or the experience is not the same as determining what are good venues for it to be placed going forward.

This CHRSA concept is a turkey. On so many levels. I find it insulting that the HSR worker bees are spending time and money on merketing research reports, trips to DC, and potential implications for Alma Street when there are much more fundamental questions that the CHRSA leadership have failed to address, let alone answer.


Posted by tb, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

HSR is a terrible idea - environmentally and for our overall quality of life. it is only being supported by special interests (those benefitting financially by the project) and by a very small minority who does not care about quality of life or the environment.


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:02 pm

HSR a terrible waste of money. Alma Street must be the most trafficked road in Palo Alto - narrowing Alma? Somebody's idea of a joke!


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

"The voters were deceived when this was put on the State ballot in 2008."

Paul Losch, actually I don't think they were. I was aware of the basic implications, and I argued against it. PA city council just could not resist a green toy.

Nevertheless, you and I both agree that this thing is a turkey. The question I have, going forward, is how to kill it. CA voters only approved about $10B, but the buildout will cost many times that amount. Who will pay for it? If the private investors don't want to do it, then is another bond issues required? If so, that is a killing point. Another possibility is to elect Meg Whitman, who says that she will oppose it...don't know if she can be trusted, but it may be the quickest best shot.

Your thoughts?




Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:44 pm

anybody who thinks meg will be their savior is delusional,
unless ofcourse they love injustice and coorporate greed above
all else. cheers!


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm

This city becomes unlivable with a huge noisy train barreling right through the heart of the residential district. In terms of insanity it is already the height of it to be building all kinds of new homes right on Alma or really close to it also with no idea how the main arteries will evolve to handle all the traffic from the increased density.

Not to even think about terrorism and what a high-speed train would do to a city if it was derailed.

Underground made sense, it actually made everything better, more Alma, more city land, less noise, more people friendly.

This is so typical of the mine is bigger than yours mentality that is used to nudge Americans to action. They have HSR is Europe, we have to be as advanced as Europe or will fall behind ... we have to have HSR or global warming will be pushed over the tipping point ... and this is all done to make some people rich, and every time ANYTHING is done it comes with a FIXUP price tag at some point in the future that it is clear we cannot afford even now.

We have a society of selfish idiots who are sucking up all kinds of money under the pretext that they are doing everything to help the country with their so-called Enlightened Self-Interest, when all they are doing is stealing money and leaving everyone with more things to pay for and fix.

Jared Diamond is his lectures talks about how the collapse of many societies has been brought about by the leadership elite being under insulated and difference economic circumstances than the average people and so not doing the needful to fix problems that then grow to be catastrophic.


Posted by Paula, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Some persons (john from Mountain View for one) seem to think that the HSR will be used by commuters, and this will decrease the traffic in the Bay Area. It won't, and it won't. The ridership projections are based on the trip between LA and San Francisco, and HSR riders are not the drivers who clog the Bay Area freeways every day. In addition, I think the HSR ridership numbers have been greatly inflated and used to bamboozle the public. If the HSR is built, and I hope it won't be, it will not have enough riders to support it. We, The taxpayers, will have to subsidize it FOREVER.


Posted by Lucky, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Why is so much money and time being wasted on analyzing the peninsula section? We have a Baby Bullet train SJ to SF already - just upgrade it! Instead of building this expensive monster project, HSR riders could simply walk across the track and use the Baby Bullet. Please write to our elected officials and tell them to say NO to HSR on the peninsula.


Posted by Thetruth, a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:09 pm

"trees will be cut down" They are on Railroad property..plant trees in your yard if you dont want to see the tracks.


Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Why do we need 4 tracks? HSR should clear the entire peninsula in plenty of time to allow a reverse direction train.
This ain't a local commute service.
Double track at transfer station points .


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

SteveU asks:"HSR should clear the entire peninsula in plenty of time to allow a reverse direction train. "

If HSR is going to run with 6 minute intervals then the train would have to be averaging 600 mph to travel the peninsula in 6 minutes - now that would be a HIGH Speed Train !! And everything along its path would be blown away.....


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Can Alma Street be any more narrow than it already is?!?

It seems that the street currently attracts so much traffic that it actually needs to be WIDENED!

Wow!

:o


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

By the way, I believe that we don't NEED a HSR at this time.

Our state is already in UNBELIEVABLE debt due to spendthrifts in Sacramento! Now, they want to build an extremely expensive rail project that will be more expensive, less safe and slower than airline tickets.

Those who keep arguing that "forward thinking societies" all use HSR are comparing apples with oranges. Most of those nations who push HSR just don't have the transportation infrastructure that we have in the United States. Our country is blessed with airports and great air traffic control. Our nation has great roads (well, everywhere except California). Gasoline is also much more expensive...which can help justify the high cost of HSR elsewhere.

We want our fellow taxpayers to spend BILLIONS of $$$ on a non-essential pet project while our state is already in very deep in the red? WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY RIGHT NOW! Why not sit on this for a few years...until we actually are back in the black...and then ask voters to decide whether it is worth the cost?

:-\


Posted by TJ, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

If the lanes on Alma are reduced, it will mean more traffic on El Camino Real and Middlefield - just what Palo Alto needs!!!


Posted by Out of date, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

By building HSR are we keeping up with China? - No.

China has recently got together with Germany to build the first long distance high speed monorail system that floats on a cushion of air. That will be the future of fast land based systems.

HSR is old old technology even the British Secretary of Transportation has said they will not build anymore.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I would gladly trade not having to wait for trains at Alma/El Camino, Churchill and East Meadow in exchange for one lane on Alma.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Maglev HSR will soon be the old technology. Here is the really new HSR technology - and it has to be built underground:

"China developing 600 mph airless maglev high-speed train

High-speed rail just got a whole lot faster.

China is reportedly developing a high-speed train that will travel at 1,000 kilometers per hour, or approx. 621 miles per hour, through Maglev lines in airless tubes underground.

Researchers at the National Power Traction Laboratory of Southwest Jiaotong University reportedly told Beijing-based Legal Evening News that they were working on a prototype "vactrain" with an average speed of 500 to 600 kilometers per hour (approx. 311 to 373 miles per hour.)

The researchers say the technology could be in use within a decade. In the meantime, a smaller model train may be introduced in two or three years, they said.

The technology at the heart of the train is Maglev, short for magnetic levitation, technology. A concept that's been around for more than 100 years, Maglev tech entails the suspension of a train via powerful magnets to remove the friction present at the rails of conventional trains.

The catch with maglev technology is that there's still friction from the air rushing past the train as it hurtles down the tracks. To date, the fastest Maglev train managed about 361 miles per hour — not much faster than a conventional high-speed train.

But an airless tube — a vacuum — would remove that air drag, allowing for impressive speeds. (The trains themselves will contain pressurized air, just like an airplane.) A cheaper alternative to removing the air completely is to depressurize it, the researchers say.

Inventor and ET3 CEO Daryl Oster holds the U.S. patent for Evacuated Tube Transport, or ETT, technology. As you might expect, Oster has reportedly been working with Chinese researchers Shen Zhiyun, Zhang Yaoping and Wang Jiasu at the university on the concept.

The researchers say the train is cost-competitive with a traditional high-speed train because it has a smaller tunnel and requires less boring.

Here's a rather rosy video about an existing maglev system in China, via the eagle-eyed folks at AltTransport:

The best use of such train technology? Transoceanic travel. One proposal by Channel Tunnel pioneer Frank Davidson and engineer Yoshihiro Kyonati entailed floating a tube above the ocean floor, anchored with cables.

Call it the Concorde 2.0: live in New York, work in London. Or travel from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes, according to Oster's calculations.

A 2007 Worcester Polytechnic Institute report (.pdf) elaborates:

The Vactrain outweighs the current modes of transport in several ways, making it a ground-breaking idea. It has a clear edge over present airplanes, trains and automobiles as it causes no pollution and does not operate with gas or petroleum. Thus, while the present transportation would soon be in a sticky situation with the energy crises which the world is facing with dwindling resources of petroleum and gas, the Vactrain would emerge victorious. Moreover, the Vactrain is unaffected by any extremes in weather conditions. It has low maintenance costs as it employs the high-lifetime maglev technology, which also minimized wear due to friction. Additionally, it has low operation costs and 25% energy consumption when compared to aircrafts. Due to all these factors, the Vactrain triumphs over the current means not just in the future but even in present situations making it highly superior.

The Chinese aren't the only ones working on a vactrain, by the way: according to the report, both the U.S. and Switzerland are developing similar technology."


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Thanks for the update Mr. Carpenter.

What are the implications of this new technology?

Are you suggesting that we build such a train here?

Or, shall we continue with the outdated variety because
tunneling is too costly?


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:23 pm

What happens when these high speed and high-tech systems encounter an earthquake or a flood or a terrorist attack?


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Can the vote on a proposition be annulled when it becomes clear that information wasn't fully and honestly supplied at the time of voting?

If so, what are the precedents?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Big Al - we will never build the currently proposed HSR. IMHO it is better to plan 10 years ahead and use the then best available technology which also will not destroy our communities.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:54 pm

peter- like your confidence, but
what makes you so certain?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:17 pm

"what makes you so certain?"

Because we now know that it will cost much more than originally planned, will run huge deficits and will literally tear our communities apart.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Okay Peter. Thanks for your reply.
I hope you are right.
Mr. Diridon seems quite confident that
this project will commence.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Read the editorial in today's issue of the (printed) Palo Alto Weekly, and note especially the last two paragraphs: we need to get the California Legislature involved SOON, not as of early 2011, in establishing an unbiased, non-zealot "new governing entity for high-speed rail." AND we should re-examine the option of San Jose as being the terminus of the HSR, "even if it requires taking the measure back to voters on that alternative."

I cheer this common-sense statement, even though I'd prefer that Prop 1A be put on the state ballot again--this time with full information and full disclosure of the pros and cons of the two alternative routes, along with honest and realistic estimates of costs and ridership.

What is Joe Simitian waiting for? In light of our recent discoveries about tunnels and trenches being ruled out, and Alma needing to be narrowed, he needs to be reassessing his position about HSR SOON, not early next year. I urge all to contact him!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:29 pm

MY HOUSE IS BACKED TO THE TRACKS.
I HAVE WORKED 3 JOBS FOR 20 YEARS TO HAVE A HOUSE IN PALO ALTO!
I SACRIFICED EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE TO LIVE IN THIS TOWN.
THE 7 SECOND CALTRAINS AND 4 SECOND 'FAST' TRAIN ARE NOT A BOTHER.
THE DESTRUCTION OF MY LIFE AND HOME BY EMMINATE DOMAIN OR ELEVATED TRACKS OR ANY OTHER OF THESE CHOICES------ IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND IS A BOTHER!!
SHAME ON ANY PERSONS SUPPORTING THIS!
THIS HSR IS SHOCKING TO SAY THE LEAST.
HOW CAN ANY ONE WITH A HEART AND COMMON SENSE DO THIS TO ME AND OTHERS IN THIS SITUATION. IT IS COMPLETLEY UNBELIEVABLE THAT THIS COULD HAPPEN!


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2010 at 1:08 am

jardin says: "we need to get the California Legislature involved SOON," Don't expect the PA City Council to help you; all they can do is form a new 15 member Caltrsin's Corridor Task Force. After it is formed they are supposed to meet regularly and report back to City Council in 15 months. It's Council's way of dealing with something they don't want to deal with!!

Also, you have to take into account that several members of our present City Council still support HSR. In any event as one members of the City Council said: "I need to hear back from the community", hence the Task Force. So, jardin, I recommend you apply to be one of the 5 task force members from the neighborhoods.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

Do Peninsula democrats support the project? This poll is from April 2010.

Web Link

"First, respondents were asked generally whether they supported or opposed the plan to build a high-speed rail line linking the major cities in California. Fifty-four percent said they strongly supported the plan, 23 percent somewhat supported the plan, 9 percent somewhat opposed it, 9 percent strongly opposed it and 5 percent didn't have an opinion.

Then respondents were asked, "Does knowing that a portion of the high-speed train system will be built through the Peninsula make you more or less inclined to support building the high-speed rail system?"

Twenty-six percent said it made them much more inclined, 25 percent said somewhat more inclined, 24 percent said it made no difference, 11 percent were somewhat less inclined, 10 percent were much less inclined and 5 percent had no opinion.

...

For those who are curious, 13 percent of the respondents lived in Redwood City, 8 percent lived in San Carlos, 7 percent lived in Menlo Park, 23 percent lived in Palo Alto and 12 percent lived in San Jose.

...

The respondents were generally up in years; 79 percent of the people who gave their opinion were 45 or older."

High speed rail rammed down the throat of the Peninsula? The democrats among you seem to be opening nice and wide for it.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:15 am

"Who will pay for it? If the private investors don't want to do it, then is another bond issues required? If so, that is a killing point."

If the money can't be found to build it then it won't be built, and this requires no action on your part. If opponents are so sure that nobody will invest, from the private sector to the federal government, why is everyone blowing a gasket?

The project relies on private investment. No one will *ever* invest in this. Therefore, it will never be built. No effort required at all.


Posted by THEBABIES, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

YOU BOUGHT THAT HOUSE NEXT TO RAILROAD TRACKS..SHAME ON YOU IF THINKING IT WAS NOT SOMETHING A HOME NEED NOT BE NEAR.


Posted by THEBABIES, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

love these little small town rags like PAonline and the weekley ..IF any of you people think you are stopping HSR in San Jose or any other nimby ranting ideas ..think again there are a million people north or you and the city that will be screaming just as lound and have far more say than a bunch of lound rude and more than well off whinners...


Posted by soundedgoodbut, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 14, 2010 at 10:14 am

To THEBABIES, hello, my house is not near the tracks but my first concern is that this is being built with taxpayer money and will add to our debt. It will require huge subsidies. California is not population dense as China, Europe, Japan. It will not be cost effective. This is not nimby, this is considering the pros/cons.

And to read that HSR is going to be old technology soon is another reason to put the brakes on this project.

And narrowing Alma will cause Palo Alto many problems. Maybe that is nimby but we are talking about an entire city.


Posted by Don, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Spokker says: "If the money can't be found to build it then it won't be built" Who says!!!

The State will just float bonds and borrow the money from wherever. Yes, it will be built with more borrowed money, and instead of the State being in debt to the tune of $20 Billion, it will be $50 Billion or more. My children and grandchildren will be paying off this debt for the next 100 or so years!!

Don't hold your breath HSR is going ahead with or without Palo Alto's endorsement.


Posted by PA citizen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Read my lips: No New Rails! (between San Jose and LA)

Just because voters approved a high speed rail doesn't mean that any means of achieving it is acceptable (nor what voters had in mind).

It is completely unacceptable that:
1) New tracks have to be built between San Jose and LA. On this issue alone, I bet the vast majority of those who supported HSR would not support the issue, if they knew it entailed new rails between SJ and LA.

2) It is completely unfair (socialist?) to play the eminent domain card and eat into homeowners yard. Seriously, are we in China?

3) Folks, our state is broke. Why are we investing in new rails between SJ and LA when we have functioning ones today. HSR can't work on Caltrain? Then retrofit, or better yet drive to San Jose to get on the HSR to LA. Or take Caltrain on SJ and then get off your rear end and switch trains.

4) For PA residents- we lose much of Alma Street? Are you kidding??? This is a major road, just the construction alone will really be a huge issue, let alone permanently losing up to two lanes.

5) Elevated tracks- oh boy that will look just super beautiful. And I can't wait to hear all the additional noise once the years of construction are done, and then we have super loud trains on ugly elevated tracks. If you live within a few blocks of the existing tracks, your home values are going down.

Voters like the idea of HSR, but the specific plans to get there are simply unacceptable.

In short, let's walk before we run. Build the SJ to LA piece, and let's see how it goes. We will lean a ton just from that alone and then decide on if/ how/ when/ where to build new from SJ to SF.

Let's go PA, get involved and speak up or else we face some serious problems. Anna Eshoo- where are you on this? Is this really good for PA?





Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

"If the money can't be found to build it then it won't be built, and this requires no action on your part. If opponents are so sure that nobody will invest, from the private sector to the federal government, why is everyone blowing a gasket?"

This is the classic bait and switch. HSR was sold as a project that would attract major private financing to build it (after the initial downpayment of $10B). No sane private investor will touch it, but as "Spokker" says, the government will take up the slack, once a small portion of it is built. Diridon and Kopp know this...they are seasoned pros. The state of California cannot afford to touch this thing any more than it already has...that leaves the federal government, which is where this was heading from the beginning.

This is why we need a quick kill on this deal. Probably Whitman for guv is the best short-term solution.


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

"Can the vote on a proposition be annulled when it becomes clear that information wasn't fully and honestly supplied at the time of voting?

If so, what are the precedents?"

Well, if a Federal Court can overturn Prop 8, why *isn't* 1A vulnerable?


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm

"1) New tracks have to be built between San Jose and LA. On this issue alone, I bet the vast majority of those who supported HSR would not support the issue, if they knew it entailed new rails between SJ and LA."

Most of the right of way has room for four tracks. Anybody who had any interest in the project could have easily figured out that the project was all about building two new tracks on the Peninsula, even before the Prop 1A vote. Hell, search for "California high speed rail," click on Cruickshank's blog and ask a question. We would have told them that the project is all about building two new tracks on the Peninsula. That is just one way to find out. We would have even told them that a tunnel or cut and cover trench is probably going to be eliminated. We would have told them there would be a little bit of eminent domain. Some people were already screaming about the Caltrain ROW being used before the Prop 1A vote. It was not a secret.

"2) It is completely unfair (socialist?) to play the eminent domain card and eat into homeowners yard."

American capitalism includes elements of socialism, yes. Socialism is not inherently evil, just as capitalism is not inherently evil. Eminent domain is a valid tool to achieve public needs. Freeway planners have made good use of it.

"3) Folks, our state is broke."

If the project cannot secure private and federal investment then the thing won't be built.

"4) For PA residents- we lose much of Alma Street? Are you kidding???"

I always find it funny that with all the roads out there, the thought of taking lanes away for rails or busways is tantamount to insanity. Perhaps the Peninsula should consider going on a road diet.

Here in Orange County that attitude is especially prevalent. We have eight lane arterials that do not pay for themselves, do not have a business plan, do not have private investors, but putting in a bus lane is socialism.

"5) Elevated tracks- oh boy that will look just super beautiful."

Your advocacy might be more productive if it were focused on beautifying the elevated sections.

"In short, let's walk before we run. Build the SJ to LA piece, and let's see how it goes."

I thought the state was broke?


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm

"Well, if a Federal Court can overturn Prop 8, why *isn't* 1A vulnerable?"

Because the Bible doesn't say anything about high speed rail.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:47 pm

"No sane private investor will touch it,"

I wouldn't invest in it either.

"the government will take up the slack"

I wish they would, but I don't think that is going to happen.

High speed rail supporters continue to say it. The capital costs will not be paid off. However, the trains will probably cover their operating costs.

On another article a commentator used Subsidyscope to illustrate that the San Joaquins lose money. Subsidyscope also has something to say about highways.

Web Link

Of course, we all benefit from good roads. No argument there. However, the benefit is better goods movement, not necessarily to make it artificially inexpensive to drive your personal car around.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Spokker wrote, "Anybody who had any interest in the project could have easily figured out that the project was all about building two new tracks on the Peninsula, even before the Prop 1A vote. Hell, search for "California high speed rail," click on Cruickshank's blog and ask a question. We would have told them that the project is all about building two new tracks on the Peninsula."

Which is why there is NO EXCUSE for Rod Diridon to come before the Palo Alto City Council and bumble around about where the alignment is possible, uh, probable. This is a 1 minute youtube clip that every Palo Altan should see. Web Link. It is insulting at best.

Diridon walks a fine line between mincing words and being flat out deceptive. "Strategic misrepresentation" comes to mind.


Posted by ODB, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

"Build the SJ to LA piece, and let's see how it goes."

That doesn't make a particle of sense. You're saying to build 95% of the project and then figure out what to do about the peninsula. By the time 95% of it is built, the state will be hopelessly mired in debt from this project.


Posted by Pay?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 15, 2010 at 2:37 am

How the hell is this going to be paid for? More debt from China and Saudi?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 5:22 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

$5B Frisco to SJ. $6.3B E Bay Bridge, $1B justified, $5.6 B for a monument to two Browns, Willie & Jerry. A suspension bridge where a causeway would have served. [Engineering News Record]


Posted by soundedgoodbut, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

If HSR really were the cheaper way to travel (then by air or car) to LA, why not HSR only between San Jose and LA. Sure I would like Cal trains to improve service and it'd be great to have a train go the airport from Palo Alto without having to make a Bart connection.

But the really big problem here is the cost of the HSR and most likely it will need to be subsidized forever. Will tickets really pay for the train and maintenance someday? Will it be cheaper than air or car?


Posted by John, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Not to worry. There will be no HSR. All it is a a con job by connected politicians to soak up bond money for their retirements. If it was real the "authority" would have a sensible plan and real fundementals in place. What a waste of time and money--our governments now exist for the benifit of their employees and managers, nothing more. Keep getting sheared sheeple.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

As with most railroads freight and express will pay the bills. Passenger only service will always require subsidy. That is why HSR must never mess up freight service.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Nice article in the Mercury News on HSR:

Web Link


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

No No No to HSR. Anything we can do to object it, just like people objected prop. 8?


Posted by Claire, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

To John of Meadow PArk:
Let's all hope that you are correct!!!


Posted by Gina, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:41 am

Only possible solution, though still horrid, would be San Jose to LA.
But, this would still hurt the state financially and probably businesses and private landowners down there. Gilroy for one town had a very sound complaint for dropping the whole thing in the trash where it belongs!


Posted by Amused, a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:47 am

The time to have objected (or even asked questions!!) was when you were padding your city council with "Green" lovers and other spectators that had no idea what's really going on in your city.

They were the ones that pushed for this, recommending it to Palo Alto residents. So now you have what you all wanted. There ought not be a problem.

Palo Alto city council members repeatedly ask, "What happened?" after obvious outcomes face them. They do that about nearly everything major.

That, while they scrutinize details for other petty projects that come to them, no doubt wanting to see themselves quoted in the newspapers at every opportunity.

So how did this happen? Blame yourselves. Those of us in other communities will have ourselves a nice High Speed Rail! We can't wait!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

@ Thebabies

Read someone else's comments correctly BEFORE making snide comments.
How easy to say such things when you are not in the community.


Posted by Whythiswhynow, a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Do we really need HSR? I have never had a problem getting a flight to L.A. Isn't the future suppose to be about less travel, more digital communications and virtual meetings anyway? I think the state needs to do some low speed thinking before they jump on the global HSR bandwagon. Right now they seem too enchanted with the idea of having a new, flashy toy to flaunt. Or are they doing this just to create jobs? Building something unnecessary and cumbersome that will alter the landscape of an entire region seems like a very drastic step to create jobs. Maybe they are just as delusional as Mrs. Winchester who kept building her house to stay alive.


Posted by galen, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm

The more i learn about this HSR project the more i'm opposed to it! We must stop this utter insanity... NOW!


Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Politicians are not above using public funds to erect monuments to themselves. Could it be that Mr Dirdon is peeved that he did not get his name on the San Jose Airport? Or Mr. Copp? Just a thought.


Posted by Whythiswhynow, a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Why build HSR when you can do HSB instead?

Web Link

Imagine that straddling Alma or 101?


Posted by Jay Tulock, a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Mid Peninsulans,

Has is set in yet that the meetings with the High Speed Authority have all been a sham to make you feel as if you are participating? Do you now also understand the expensive alternatives are so expensive no one is going to fund them, not the Authority, not your cities, not bonds.

You may now realize from the love fest at the Transbay Terminal last week that the largest and most corrupt local, state and federal politicians are pushing this. You can play within the system trying to fight for your local interests, and you will lose.

Despite "experts" saying a ballot initiative to reverse Proposition 1A is unlikely, this is your only chance against the onslaught of federal dollars plowing a swath through the mid peninsula. Read newspapers throughout the state. You are not unique. Locals in Orange, Hanford, Madera, Bakersfield, Alhambra, Gilroy, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Chowchilla, etc., etc. are all saying not only no but hell no! You are all after your own local interests and in that you will lose.

Diridon is lying, it is not a small group, and the opposition is growing by the day. You must unite with your fellow locals up and down the state with one purpose: destroy the High Speed Authority by starving it, starve it by reversing Proposition 1A, reverse proposition 1A by raising a couple of million dollars to gather signatures for a ballot initiative. This will be easy if you unite all your fellow locals up and down the state. United you can defeat Goliath.

One of you has to be awake now. One of you must be ready to start a non profit to organize this. One of you must now see you can not work within a public information system designed to placate you until you are run over.

No do not ask me to do it. Those of you near the tracks have the motivation, if now you can see the truth. I am retired, I am done with rail politics except for my high kangaroo on these forums. The rail line across the fields from my home is not slated for high speed rail any time soon. I plant the seed for you to do my bidding so that I will live to see Diridon's dream crushed by the very opposition his uncharted arrogance created.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


Posted by Unreal, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Yoriko does it again!


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

> "HOW CAN ANY ONE WITH A HEART AND COMMON SENSE DO THIS TO ME?"

Politicians have neither heart nor common sense.

> "Nice article in the Mercury News on HSR.."

There are two good articles in the Merc:

Who will pay for California's high-speed rail system? Web Link

Outgunned and outnumbered, high-speed rail opponents have numerous options to fight back Web Link

> "Yoriko does it again!"

Yes, and where is she now? Nothing but silence since she lost her run for county supervisor. Maybe that's a good thing.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The relocation of the trans-bay terminal one lousy block will eat up enough to have given us an Alameda Corridor ROW all the way through the peninsula. That and the $6B overspent on the Bay Bridge. It is time to go back to the principle on not putting a politician's name on anything until she or he had been dead 10 years.


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