http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2009/11/27/local-architect-calls-for-design-competition-for-high-speed-rail


Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 27, 2009

Local architect calls for design competition for high-speed rail

Joseph Bellomo asks High-Speed Rail Authority to open design to international competition

by Gennady Sheyner

Joseph Bellomo has a simple proposal for the California High-Speed Rail Authority: Leave the design of the proposed high-speed rail to the world's brightest designers.

Bellomo, a Palo Alto architect whose projects emphasize modular construction, energy efficiency and sustainable design, laments that the design of the controversial 800-mile rail line has so far been dominated by teams of engineers, each working on a separate segment of the line.

So while other local architects, urban planners and concerned residents are busy lobbying the state for underground tunnels, Bellomo advocates a different approach for selecting the design of the proposed line an international design competition.

Last month, Bellomo sent a letter to the rail authority, the state agency charged with building the $45 billion rail line, proposing a two-tiered international competition in which architects and designers from around the world would send in proposed designs for the entire line. The proposals would be narrowed to three finalists whose ideas would be further developed.

"The only way to get good design, holistic design, is through competition," Bellomo said.

Bellomo said the High-Speed Rail Authority is reviewing his proposal. Similar calls for competition have also recently popped up in Los Angeles, he said.

Around Palo Alto, Bellomo is best known for his work near University Circle, including new office buildings at 102 and 116 University Ave. and a "corporate cafe" at the former Facebook building.

But transportation has never been far from his mind.

Bellomo designed the award-winning High Street parking structure and, more recently, he created the "Bike Arc" a sleek curved parking stand for bicycles. He co-invented the "Bike Arc" with Jeff Selzer, general manager of Palo Alto Bicycles, in an attempt to give parked bicycles more dignity.

Bellomo's vision for the high-speed rail line combines some of the same elements that could be found in his local work: smooth curves, sweeping arcs and as many green elements as the system can support. His concept for an elevated rail line would be powered through a "photovoltaic solar corridor," a string of interconnected tubes and panels that Bellomo said would provide up to 25 million kilowatt hours of power per year. In addition to supporting the solar panels, the round corridor would also provide an acoustic screen, mitigating noise impacts of the speeding trains.

Bellomo's rail system would be supported by curved concrete beams about 40 feet apart. A "concrete dish" would rest on top of the beams and support the speeding trains.

Passenger platforms, elegant bike-parking structures and a continuous bike corridor further complement his design for the rail line, which would stretch initially from San Francisco to Los Angeles and ultimately from Sacramento to San Diego.

He estimates the cost of the line to be $36 million per mile (or $28.8 billion for 800 miles).

Bellomo acknowledged that his vision for a modular, energy-generating elevated rail line has a flurry of obstacles to overcome, both at state and local levels. The rail authority is taking a piecemeal approach to designing the line, splitting it into eight separate segments. The agency is expected to release its alternatives analysis a study of various possible alignments for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment next month.

Jeff Barker, deputy director for communication for the High-Speed Rail Authority, called Bellomo's proposal an "interesting idea," but noted that the authority's Board of Directors had not formally reviewed the proposal.

Barker said the authority wants to make sure the communities along the proposed line have a say in the design and not have any one company dictate what the entire line would look like. The authority plans to work closely with the communities before considering the final design, he said.

"If you call around to a number of communities across the state, they'd argue that they want to have a say in what the system will look like in their cities," Barker said. "It's an interesting idea, one worth looking at, but our default is to look to local populations in the neighborhoods through which the line will be running."

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

Comments

Posted by GoHSR, a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2009 at 10:07 am

Sounds like a great idea. I like how the total price tag is down to $28.8 billion from $45 billion. If it can be built for that cost, I'd say go right ahead!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 10:21 am

Looks great in the picture, but why is there still a rail line running underneath? The elevated track should provide us with usable space underneath, a bike/pedestrian route (with designated lanes for each) would be the bonus. Keeping the track underneath also is not what we want.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 27, 2009 at 11:22 am

I think a bike path underneath an elevated train track is a great idea. People can use the bike path to get from home to the train station or from the train station to work.


Posted by PA, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Brilliant!
The concept ought to draw a lot of good ideas and great talent.


Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm

How can you dislike an idea from a man who knows how to give more dignity to parked bicycles?


Posted by reply, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm

The reason there is a rail line underneath is probably that the local commuter trains would still have to have their own separate tracks. A local commuter train is not compatible with a high speed train. In Europe, high speed trains have their own separate tracks as far as I know.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Also need ground level tracks for freight.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm

What the CHSRA and most designers fail to include in their sketches are backyard and neighborhood views. And, in answer to the questions, the sketch wouldn't apply to any of the SF-SJ corridor where 4 tracks are needed in order to accommodate Caltrain, freight and HSR. The drawing only show 2 tracks - one above the other. Even in other parts of the state where they can make do with only 2 tracks, how would a double-deck track cross intersections? Don't be fooled by a pretty picture, folks.


Posted by Warynimby, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

And were you fooled by a realtor that there were no train tracks nearby?? wary??


Posted by victor d. kiernan, P.E., a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I'm writing from Lafayette, CA. I like very much the idea of using international competition to come up with the best design. Where do I sign up?

At the November CHSRA meeting in Sacromento I submitted a proposal which I had made to Quentin Kopp for a whole new concept of what routes should be build first. First, you run the line from Sacramento Ca. to Bakersfield. From Bakersfield you cross the Tejon pass (why hasn't anyone mentioned this route?), then continue directly to the L.A. Metro station through the San Fernando Valley. Second, from about Merced run two lines North and South of Merced joining in a Y at Tracy. From Tracy over the Altamont Pass to the Livermore Valley where you interface with the new Bart Station at Livermore. This would be an interm solution until the Livermore line could travel to the East Bay, Fremont where once again it will cross over the new Bart extension from Fremont to San Jose. From there the line will cross the lower portion of the Bay to near San Mateo, then turn North and head to San Francisco. If necessary, use the present Sam Tran depot as the terminal point until the new Transit Center is built in downtown San Francisco. I would appreciate comments on this proposal. My e-mail is: kiernanx@hotmail.com/ Thanks, Victor Kiernan


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm

HSR is a turkey that was sold to gullible voters, similar to global warming (now known as climate change or climategate). It is just an excsue to garner huge amounts of taxpayer monies, in order to exert political control.

There are no viable reasons to support HSR. It is understandable that many people like the concept, because it would a fun thing, but we are no longer in a postion to do fun things.


Posted by B Allyn, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 27, 2009 at 8:22 pm

When the public voted for the HSR they were imagining a better surface transporter.
Not some monster going through cities & counties and destroying their quality of life!
14 ft. walls indeed! The only environmentally sound solution to this misquided mess is to end it at San Jose, and let travelers change trains to SF or Sacramento. Maybe be 20 minutes longer. but, oh, the peace of mind and the safety considerations.


Posted by Bay Area Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Here is an article about high-speed trains, their cost, environmental impact, and more.
Web Link


Posted by Former Palo Altoan, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 27, 2009 at 9:48 pm

You people do know that there has been a train there for 100+ years, right? And that someday the train would inevitably improved or expanded?

The peninsula should count its blessings that HSR will improve the gash across its cities, and finally get trains separated from cars, bikes and pedestrians.


Posted by For HSR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I agree. HSR will be a huge improvement in our transportation system statewide. It will be great to have it go up the peninsula and, I hope, stop at Palo Alto as proposed.

Those who don't like it because they live near the tracks either don't realize that it will improve some things (less noise than diesel, less fumes, no horn, no rail road crossings, etc.) or don't want to accept the fact that they KNOWINGLY bought houses near existing train tracks, or both. I have little sympathy for them.


Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2009 at 12:42 am

Are you that lame Bay Area Resident??..No 5 star resturants will be ruined by this upgrade to A 140 year old railroad..NO pannsy cakes LOOK AT THIS PLAN..IT MIGHT improve yoiur tacky stacco flat floor house values..but then again WHO cares..the rest of the BayArea HATES you people.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2009 at 8:19 am

The terroist bomb that just derailed the Russian HSR, and killed and wounded dozens of passengers, is proof that HSR MUST be protected along its entire length of track, as well as passenger screening (to protect against sucide bomb attacks). HSR is an ideal target for terroists attacks. However, I have not seen any discussion about this issue by the HSR authorities.

Will the HSR authorities just ignore the issue until an attack happens, then respond by slapping on security as a panic response? What are the costs of proper security for an 800 mile HSR line? How would proper passenger screening affect transit times, door to door?


Posted by registered user, Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2009 at 8:54 am

To the extent HSR is in addition to existing railroads rather than an upgrade of existing service I vigorously object. If a train could match the portal to portal time of air travel, doable with current rail technology, I believe it would prosper as long as the freight pays the way as they currently do. 200 MPH passenger and express and 150 MPH freight are possible with today's technology.


Posted by curious, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 28, 2009 at 10:49 am

Why in the drawing above there is a women walking inside the safety yellow line? What is the message there?


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2009 at 2:57 pm

"If a train could match the portal to portal time of air travel"

That is an impossibility, if proper security is involved. Planes fly faster than trains travel on tracks, and they do not need to worry about security, once in the sky (assuming proper security at the gate). A 150 mph freight train, carrying chemicals and flammables, is a scary security scenario...al qaeda would love that one!


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm

From the beginning plans have called for High Speed Rail to be fully secured.

From the authority's implementation plan: Web Link

"California's high-speed trains will mirror the outstanding safety record of overseas systems. Tracks will be fully grade-separated from road traffic with bridges or underpasses. The high speed line will be fenced and equipped with intrusion alarms linked to train controls that can detect persons, animals or debris on the tracks. And high-speed train control systems will provide in-cab signaling and automatically stop trains if necessary."


Jack, no one is talking about high speed freight, or freight running at 150 m.p.h. That's a straw man argument.

Planes may fly faster than trains travel on tracks, but not when SFO is fogged in, or when the plane you're supposed to board isn't at the gate because it got stuck in a winter storm in Chicago or Denver.


Posted by Grisha, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Jack --On any given day there are hundreds or thousands of places in the US where there are hundreds of people present with little or no security.

Why the tight security on planes? Obviously the difference is because a plane is a potential missile loaded of tons of fuel that, if hijacked, can be targeted anywhere and be there very quickly. Trains are limited to their tracks and the dangers (humans included) of transporting chemicals, explosives and other hazardous materials hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. If anything, HSR will be much safer for neighboring communities than existing rail transportation.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm

"California's high-speed trains will mirror the outstanding safety record of overseas systems"

The Moscow to St. Petersberg system is an overseas HRS system. It just got bombed by terorists, despite Russian awareness and precautions vs. Islamist attacks. The growing Islamist threat within our country should give us all pause, before we embark on a highly vulnerable system. England and Spain have suffered from Islamist terrorist attacks on their trains. HSR systems are very much at risk, because of their relatively light weight and high speed.

There is no way to prevent a suicide (martyr) attack against a HSR system, unless it is fully monitored, from beginning to end, like the airlines.

Note: I mentioned 150 mph freight trains, becasue "Walter" mentioned them. It is a crazy idea!

The bottom line is that high speed rail, passenger or freight, is an al qaeda dream. This is the world we live in.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2009 at 10:42 pm

> The Moscow to St. Petersberg system is an overseas HRS system.

The train that derailed was a conventional 125 mph train, not anything that qualifies as high-speed rail by reasonable (non-U.S.) standards. Web Link

> England and Spain have suffered from Islamist terrorist attacks on their trains.

What does this have to do with high-speed rail? Both attacks struck crowded commuter trains. If that is such a threat, why is the Baby Bullet not secured? Why is BART and its Transbay Tube not secured? We need more metal detectors!

> The bottom line is that high speed rail, passenger or freight, is an al qaeda dream.

If that were true, we would already have seen attacks. Why is Amtrak's Acela Express not secured? We need more metal detectors!

> This is the world we live in.

It may be the scary world you live in, but please don't assume we all live in it.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2009 at 2:58 pm

"As a rule of thumb, rail journeys need to be four hours or thereabouts to be competitive with air travel on journey time. One factor which may have a further bearing on HSR's competitiveness is the general lack of inconvenience when using HSR, for example the lack of a requirement to check baggage, or repeated queuing for checkin, security and boarding "

Web Link

In other words, the LACK of security checks is crucial to the viability of HSR, relative to airplane travel. It will only take one attack to eliminate this so-called advantage. Think: Unchecked baggage...with plastic explosives. Proper security costs MUST be factored into the equation.

The Russian train was HSR, becasue it travelled 125 mph (see the same wikipedia link). If the cars had been light weight, like the propsoed California HSR), the devastaton would have been even worse to the passengers.

Security, while very important, is only one of several important considerations. There is little, if any, environmental benefit. It is hugely expensive (and California is broke). It lacks alternative routes, if a bridge is washed out. Ridership is questionable. The Berlin wall through our cities have obvious political resistance. HSR is pretty cool, otherwise.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Jack, between San Francisco and San Jose, HSR will share the right of way with Caltrain. So if you are really worried about a lack of security theater on HSR, you surely must be equally worried about the lack of security screenings on Caltrain.

So are you suggesting that Caltrain ought to have security screenings at all stations? Because I don't understand the point of putting HSR passengers through it, if passengers in the train right next to it aren't screened at all.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Bianca,

Caltrain is relatively slow and heavy. HSR is light and fast. An explosion on or underneath Caltrain is not the same thing as an explosion on or under HSR at 125 mph+. However, I take your point that an explosion on Caltrain could cause serious damage to HSR. That might be a risk worth taking, given the odds, but there is no way that HSR should not require passenger screening, similar to airplanes.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2009 at 6:34 pm



The main threat to HSR would be the security of the 100s of miles of track.

The recent Nevsky Express terrorist attack in Russia shows just how vulnerable HSR would be.Web Link

The cost of trying to prevent such an attack in CA would be astronomical and ultimately futile.

The attack in Russia involved just a few Kg of TNT equivalent, that train only goes 125 mph yet 30 people were killed and 100s injured.

Fortunately HSR in CA is just a pipe dream, we have wasted enough money on this boondoggle, it does not make economic, environmental or any sense.

Businesses are rapidly adopting Cisco and HP teleconferencing tech and the need for business travel between SF and LA is predicted to contract dramatically.
Families will continue to use planes and cars.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2009 at 7:10 pm

> An explosion on or underneath Caltrain is not the same thing as an explosion on or under HSR at 125 mph+.

FYI Caltrain is about to convert their fleet entirely to lightweight Euro-style electric trains. For all intents and purposes there will be no difference.

> there is no way that HSR should not require passenger screening, similar to airplanes.

HSR, unlike an airplane, is not laden with several tanker fulls of highly flammable jet fuel.

HSR, unlike an airplane, is not an ultralight pressurized vessel that rips to shreds like a punctured balloon if only a small portion of the structure is compromised.

HSR, unlike and airplane, travels at zero altitude. If something goes wrong, it won't fall out of the sky and smash itself to bits.

Seriously, Jack. HSR is just another train. If you're going to call for securing HSR, then you should equally call for securing all commuter rail and subway installations. Anything else is just a double-standard that fits your preconceived notions.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 29, 2009 at 8:50 pm

"HSR is just another train".

Wrong...it is a high speed missle on tracks. A derailment on HSR is much more serious than a derailment of low speed heavy trains. The kinetic energy is a square function (0.5mv^2), not linear, and the light weight coaches are more fragile than the current heavy coaches.

It is remarkable that the security issue is being ignored or downplayed. This is an example of false representation in order to sell an issue.


Posted by NONIMBYS, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Well Nimbys since there have been only 3 HSR derailments out of probally 3 million or more trips it wont happen ..BUT if it does lets hope it does in arrogant PA..so it will "clean" up some ugly property and nasty mouths


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 29, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Jack, security is not being ignored or downplayed. The plans already call for the entire line to be fenced and equipped with intrusion alarms linked to train controls that can detect persons, animals or debris on the tracks.

Fenced. With alarms. That's not downplaying security.

Caltrain is switching to lighter, electric trains. And Caltrain will run faster express trains in addition to local service. So how is a Baby Bullet, which will be a lightweight electric train, going at higher speeds than they do now, meaningfully different than HSR? For your concerns about bombs on trains, the only difference between a Caltrain baby bullet and HSR will be the paint on the outside of the train.

So why subject HSR passengers to security screening and not do the same to Caltrain? By the time HSR is up and running, Caltrain won't be running those heavy, low-speed trains anymore. And the electric trains accelerate a lot faster than diesel trains, so even the locals will be moving faster than they do today.

If you really think that HSR requires security screening, then you ought to be arguing that Caltrain will as well.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2009 at 11:28 pm

"Families will continue to use planes and cars."

Good luck with the futile effort to secure airports. The TSA is really known for its quality work.

As for cars, well, drivers end up killing themselves and others to the tune of over 40,000 per year anyway. No terrorists needed.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Since 1980 over 380,000 people have been killed in motor vehicle accidents. Web Link

Methinks we fear the wrong things sometimes. We will go ape over terrorists, including falsely detaining people who even try to take pictures of trains from subway platforms, but we won't slow down on the freeway.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm

For those who are pooh-poohing the security issue, and claim that it cannot compare to the deaths on the highways from cars, the same logic can be used for airplanes. Just make sure the cockpits are secure, then we don't need to screen airline pasengers. After all, a suicide bomber would only be able to take down the plane, but not be able to drive it into a building. Sure, a few planes would be blown up in mid air, but probably no more than HSR coaches on the tracks, on a per passenger basis.

Feel lucky?

BTW, for those who think track intrusions can be avoided by detector systems, I suggest you follow how the hackers are always beating the 'secure' systems that protect our identities.

The only fair way to compare this proposed HSR system with other modes of transportation is to include the full costs (time and money) of security, including passenger screening.


Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm

NONIMBYS,
Where do you live? Let's run HSR in your backyard and see if your opinion changes.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Bianca, I'm wondering how the homes and schools that were within feet of the trail line in Russia fared?


Posted by "Annonymous", a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 30, 2009 at 3:53 pm

See, the HSR foamers all jump on the Palo Alto online screaming bloody murder cuz Robert moved his blog and so there's nothing interesting to talk about over there anymore. And Robert did that to keep the rifraf out by requiring registration - why? Because Robert and his Train Foamer buddies are disturbed and confuddled by the opposition by any name.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm

I thought I'd give some more perspective on the HSR derailment issue on my blog.
Web Link


Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Hey Clem, how about all the blue trains? How about all the trains going south? If you narrow your search sufficiently, I'm sure you can make a case for perfect safety record of trains. Instead, lets search on TRAIN ACCIDENTs and see what kind of devastation we can find.

By the way, how well do homes and schools fare that are within feet of train accidents?

Sorry but high speed trains do not belong in backyards, schoolyards, parks and neighborhoods. Period.


Posted by joseph, a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

i support an international design competition, the competition should also address the transport connections, new urban models, population density(centralization,community transition and operational finance as a whole from the car based community to a public transit one..i am an architect with over over 15 years experience in rail, metro station and urban design in Asia...perhaps i can help?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2009 at 6:50 pm

HSR from SF to LA will never happen, it is a 19century technology looking for a profit.
Look a traditional trains, the train from Oregon to CA was delayed for 8 hours by a tree 3 days ago.
The attack in Detroit makes rail the next target

HSR does not have a viable economic plan, does not have a market, does not have need. Apart from that the vested interests will now face the tax payers, guess who will prevail.

Again the main problem-- no passengers-- sad but reality