TRAFFIC MESS ... California officials routinely praise the voter-approved high-speed rail project as a panacea to both the state's unemployment rate and its transportation woes. Members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority say the system is necessary to get people out of their cars and reduce future highway congestion. But in Palo Alto, where the rail proposal is about as popular as rush-hour traffic, officials fear high-speed rail would have the exact opposite effect, particularly if the authority chooses to build a rail station in the city. The City Council's High-Speed Rail Committee voted unanimously Thursday morning to oppose a local rail station, largely because of traffic impacts. Mayor Pat Burt noted that the city's traffic is already slated to increase because of Stanford Hospital's massive expansion project. Bringing in a high-speed-rail station, which authority estimates would attract about 15,600 daily riders, would add more cars to local streets, he said. This would directly conflict with the city's long-term goal of reducing automobile intensity, he said. Councilwoman Gail Price also said she doesn't think Palo Alto has the "infrastructure capacity" on its road system to accommodate a high-speed-rail station. "I don't think a station location here makes sense," she said. The full council is scheduled to discuss the topic Monday night.
TOP OF THE CLASS ... Palo Alto's library system is in the midst of a dramatic metamorphosis, with three local libraries (Main, Mitchell Park and Downtown) preparing for major reconstruction, and a fourth (College Terrace) getting ready to open its doors after renovations. But while city officials often point to the libraries' bright future, the present system appears to be working just fine. This week, Library Director Diane Jennings announced that the city's library system won the "Star Library" designation from the Library Journal for the second year in a row. The award is based on library visits, items that are checked out, attendance at library programs and computer use. "This Star rating reflects many factors that make this library one that people want to and do use — good collections that meet people's needs, quality programs, accessible hours and services, and great customer service," Jennings said in a statement. "Congratulations to the hardworking library staff who play an important part in earning us this rating."