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Caltrain improvements may come soon because of High Speed Rail

Original post made by Greg K on Nov 18, 2008

I think these are both important upgrades to the existing Caltrain system.

According to the Mercury-News:

"What particularly appeals to Caltrain about the high-speed project is the proposed widening of its tracks and construction of grade separations up and down the Peninsula because bullet trains must run above or below street level."

"Caltrain wants to replace its aging diesel locomotives with lightweight electrified cars, which will require a $785 million overhaul of its infrastructure by 2015. The agency hopes that the planned path for the bullet train — up its right of way between San Francisco and San Jose — means the two rail systems will be able to share the cost of upgrading the tracks. Officials hope all of Caltrain's advance planning work will make the Peninsula a strong candidate to become the first part of the line to be built, said spokeswoman Christine Dunn."

Web Link

Comments (134)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 10:43 am

Oh great. So they're going to build a BART overpass type rail right through the middle of Palo Alto??!

Ok, so I guess Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Mt. View - all throw away for the sake of progress. What a real disaster this would be for our small towns along this route.

Palo Altans better wake up and smell the coffee.
Why hasn't Palo Alto joined the environmental challenge lawsuits by Menlo Park and Atherton?


Posted by Greg K, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2008 at 10:52 am

Grade separated crossings does not mean elevating the whole train line. Think of the existing bridges at University Ave. and Embarcadero Rd. and San Antonio Rd.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:00 am

Greg: they said: "because bullet trains must run above or below street level"

So they'll either need to tunnel under Paly and all the houses along the tracks, or they'll need to build over passes?

I also read this from the high speed rail website:

"Figures from the Final Program EIR/EIS documents depict typical cross sections for high-speed train facilities at grade, on an elevated structure, and where twin tunnels might be necessary. These figures show maximum proposed rights-of-way of 100 feet, 50 feet, or 120 feet for these facilities, respectively." So if they leave it at grade (I assume street level?) they need 100ft clearance?

Is there anywhere in the high speed rail studies so far that says that homes and schools and business along the existing tracks will not be impacted? Will home owners be bought out by force (via eminent domain?) or just wrecked forever with overpasses towering over their property?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:16 am

Web Link

Try taking a look at some of the 'visualizations' of this high speed rail project to try to get an idea of what it does to our small towns along the peninsula.

Hint: They don't show you any of those pictures. They skip right to the inner city metropolitan areas (San Jose, etc., and they show a few countryside renderings.

The closest ones show small town rail lines converted into very large concrete troughs where the rail lines run below street level. Imagine BART running down the Caltrain corridor.

It looks like we'd basically have to either replace Alma with a big railway trough, railway overpasses, or we'd have to knock down everything between Park and Alma.

And I'm trying to see anything on that website about community impact. I see nothing at all about the amount of displacement that would occur.

Greg K - do you live in Palo Alto? Any nearby community?


Posted by Greg K, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:22 am

100 feet is not that much. I wouldn't be surprised if the existing Caltrain right-of-way was already 100 feet. And there is a big area between the current tracks and Alma Street that can be used if necessary.

Electrifying Caltrain will make it much quieter as well as reduce air pollution, so I expect most neighbors to welcome these changes.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:53 am

Well, we need to start printing these pictures off their website, posting them in the neighborhood parks, bringing them to the schools, PTA meetings, school board meetings, and we'll see how many neighbors welcome these kind of improvements.

I don't think our mid-peninsula residents are paying too much attention because they think it will only take up the space already in use by caltrain, and look no worse than cal train. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case at all when I look over this website.

They are also being very ellusive about exactly what the route would be (so until it directly effects us, nothing we can do???) I hope that's not the case, but I fear it is the mind set here.

Greg, do you live in Palo Alto?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Additionally, as you read through the materials on the website, its clear that this is basically an economic stimulus for Southern California and a few other large metropolitan areas of California (San Jose and San Francisco.) These Southern Californian big business interests and politicians care not a hoot about quality of life in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Mt. View, or our small town neighbors here. Palo Altans' need to really wake up to this before its too late, this is real, the funding measure was just passed!

This is NOT just about electrifying cal train - this is about paving the way for installing the high speed rail through our town, which is NOT just going to be a benign new train running down the tracks that are already there in our neighborhood. They're talking about major overhaul of the railway infrastructure for high speed, and that very likely means a major encroachment on our town and our quality of life.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Go to the California High Speed rail website (link above), click on Routes, and look at the 'visualizations' of the route between San Francisco and San Jose. Notice carefully - no pictures of what this train's impact will be on the mid-peninsula leg.

But you can see clearly what the train looks like along the route elsewhere along the way - and its a MASSIVE presence. This would be desctruction of property value and quality of life along this corridor, on a monumental level. It would basically be the end of these small towns as we know them.

Are our political representatives taking care of us on this important issue or are they throwing us to the dogs? who's fighting to protect our interests here?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Rail travel between Portland and Seattle costs MUCH MORE than air travel or driving. Once you arrive at either location, you need to
rent a car. This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of - you can not get around Los Angeles without a car. I bet that people will continue flying or driving. Our state is in financial trouble.
It is amazing that this bond passed. Electricity is not free.
If you watched the presentation for this high speed rail, every slide showed a train out in the middle of nowhere. If you have been to Japan or Europe, you know how awful these wires look.



Posted by Greg K, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I live near the California Ave. train station. I use Caltrain all the time. The trains are old and noisy and spew diesel fumes into the air. Because Caltrain is waiting for electrification before they buy new cars, the existing trains are crowded and I regularly see the conductors not letting new passengers (who have already bought tickets) board the train.

Electricity is not free, but it is cheaper and cleaner and quieter then the current diesel powered trains. I cannot wait for electrifying Caltrain.

We hear about accidents at the Caltrain crossings all the time. Perhaps the victims were careless. Who knows? Killing people is still a waste. Grade separations are a huge safety improvement. They will also improve traffic flow along the peninsula since cars no longer have to wait for the trains to pass.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Of concern here Greg is the positioning and juxtapositioning of the much needed safety and quality Caltrain improvements with the high speed rail line - that grade crossings and electric trains are a stepping stone to getting the high speed rail in through this cal train corridor - which would be a devastating impact to our small town communities along this route. (But a big boon to Caltrain.)

In other words what we've just seen set up is a hostage holding scenario - in order to get our cal train issues resolved (upgraded trains and grade crossings) we need to subject to the high speed rail and they are unabashedly positioning now to make that happen!

This is unacceptable.

As an example, what if the state or the cal train authority were allowed to eminent domain strips of land around the existing tracks to do the massive rebuilding of underground or overhead parallel tracks that would be required for high speed rail? What would happen to say - Paly High School? And what would be the resulting impact on Palo Alto school district?

Greg, I'll ask again - do you live in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton (or anywhere else within a 1 mile distance of our current Cal train line?) It doesn't sound like it.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Greg if you live near the caltrain station at California then you may find your self a beneficiary of views (and shade) from an overpass for high speed rail some day! Congratulations!

Or they may just come in and eminent domain you so they can build a huge concrete trough for the below ground passage of the rail - that's if you are one of the lucky ones - otherwise you may find your front yard looking out over this huge trough. Hmmm I' wonder if they'll give you "fair market value" as were it were calculated ~before~ the highspeed rail construction, or ~after~ the high speed rail...

And I'm sure the noise from a 200mph train won't bother you a bit.


Posted by Greg K, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Parent, where do you live? Is "another neighborhood" actually in Palo Alto? If you look at the election statistics, the majority of Palo Alto voters did support HSR. The time to campaign against it was before the election. Now is the time to work with the city council and transit engineers to get the best possible system for our money. If aesthetics are important to you, then make sure you give them your input.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm

I live in Palo Alto and grew up in Palo Alto, and I voted against it. The reason so many people voted for it is because there is this gross misprepresentation out there that it will be nothing more than a different kind of train running down the CAltrain tracks.

"If aesthetics are important to you". And Greg, who are they not important for?

Campaign starts now to prevent the high speed rail coming through Palo Alto.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Now may be the time to move.

If I were a corporation, I would consider relocating to another state where the quality of life is better.

Massive buildup of Stanford
Overcrowded schools
Massed dense housing

Drought
Increased crime
Air pollution
Predicted rise in our sea level; increasing our flood zone.



This area will soon look like the area surrounding UCLA & USC -
where professors and many employees commute (by car)for 2 hours a day.


Thank you to the poster who provided the link - that is scary!

Remember - the presentation to push this showed trains out in the middle of nowhere - no homes were shown in any of the slides.

I was there, and I voted against this bond.
Although I am a Palo Altan, I will join forces with the folks in Menlo Park and Atherton to stop this.







Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Interesting that PAUSD school board meeting tonite they were being asked to consider use of significant amount of bond money for Paly fields improvements. Now, what I plan to ask PAUSD is whether they have anyone sitting in any meetings related to the high speed rail line decisions, looking out for the interests of PAUSD? What impact would a decision to put high speed rail through the Caltrain corridor have on PAUSD property at Paly? High speed rail would most certainly mean signficant construction, perhaps massive encroachment on Paly site (according to what can be gathered from the available info onthe HSR website about how HSR works).

Are they any laws or regulations that protect a PAUSD (Paly) site from an eminent domain type of action? If not, should PAUSD actually be considering spending $1.5M on renovation to the football field at this time if its going to be grabbed by the state in a couple years?

Plus PAUSD board was having a whole other discussion about relocating the 'corp yard' (bus parking lot)which also is bordered by the tracks on one side, for possible use as a soccer field - or other master plan uses. I wonder if the city of Palo Alto or PAUSD has anyone looking out for the cities best interests on this high speed rail impact? If not, wouldn't it be prudent to put something in place ASAP to protect one of PAUSD's most valuable resources now?

Superintendent Skelly; any comments?


Posted by Shame on me, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:24 am

Even though I voted against the measure based on the current economic crisis in the state, shame on me for not also looking more carefully at how the train could impact this town. I assumed that it simply meant that there would be another train running on the already existing track. Parent has brought up some valid points about what this new train project might look like as it cuts a path through the Peninsula. Did we all get snookered by a slick public relations job? Is it too late to get some answers to the questions raised by Parent?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:49 am

I hope its not too late.

"What particularly appeals to Caltrain about the high-speed project is the proposed widening of its tracks and construction of grade separations up and down the Peninsula because bullet trains must run above or below street level.

But some local officials are unhappy with the project, saying the reworked tracks will displace nearby property owners and endanger historic properties."

Again, how much of our town is going to be eminent domained? Clearly they are going to have to significantly widen the tracks for high speed rail. Why is this not being publicly discussed? Why is this town completely asleep on this?

GregK, you are wrong. Grade level crossings don't mean the train stays at grade level and the crossing go over or under. Grade level crossings mean the crossing are at grade level and the TRAIN goes over or under.


Posted by Annie B., a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:24 am

My family has lived in Palo Alto for four generations. There have been many, many changes over that 110 years that we have been here. Some were very difficult. I myself have seen housing density greatly increased, roads put in, orchards raised for development, and lots of other changes. Putting a high speed railroad in will be painful, no question. But it's the right thing to do. We are one generation of many who will live here. Not putting it in will doom our children, and theirs, to over crowded roads, increased pollution, and reduce their access to jobs and services they'll need. There will be a lot more people living in Palo Alto by 2020, 2050, 2070. They are going to need that railroad to survive. Pretending that the population won't increase, and that somehow highways are going to be more efficient is ridiculous. This is something we can't afford not to do. If you don't want to be near the railroad, move across town, now, while you can. I lived within 400 feet of the railroad line for a year. It's loud, unsettling, and the air pollution from it is palpable. Moving to electric is going to be great. And yes, there will be a big ditch (I hope). Would you rather that Alma got turned into a six lane road? That's the other option. 30 minutes from SF to SJ sounds a lot better to me than a two hour drive to SJ - with gas that will cost $4 a gallon.

Change is scary, and painful in the short run, but in the long run, this is the right thing to do. The only thing to do, that makes sense. We are just one of many generations to use this place. We need to do a good job of shepherding it for those who follow. Those PALY kids are going to need jobs, and the train will help them get to them. Ask them if they support it. I am sure most of them do. We're creating a better future here for those who follow us. If we screw it up, it simply may not be possible later. I remember very clearly people here refusing to have BART, and we've suffered with Caltrain ever since. Let's not do that again.




Posted by Lori, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:51 am

Well said, Annie B.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:54 am

Parent is getting perhaps a little more worked up about this than is warranted by the circumstances.

> Greg: they said: "because bullet trains must run above or below street level"

That is probably just a journalistic screw-up. It is a way of saying they must be grade-separated. You could equally well say that street level must run above or below the bullet trains.

> So if they leave it at grade (I assume street level?) they need 100ft clearance?

Yes. And they've already got 100 ft of clearance through Palo Alto. Many decades ago, the Southern Pacific railroad had the foresight to acquire the necessary land to build four tracks. That land is now owned by Caltrain. There are some temporary easements (such as the bike path behind Paly) that can be revoked at any time.

> And I'm sure the noise from a 200mph train won't bother you a bit.

The maximum speed through Palo Alto will be closer to 125 mph. Take away the horn blowing and the screaming diesel exhaust, and I think you'll end up with a much more pleasant experience that you have today.

> Greg, I'll ask again - do you live in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton (or anywhere else within a 1 mile distance of our current Cal train line?) It doesn't sound like it.

Does one have to live close to the tracks to earn the standing to argue against NIMBY people?

(For the record, I live within 1/4 mile of the tracks.)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:24 am

Annie B (careful they are deleting posts when same person posts under multiple names)...

Your reasoning is completely false. First, a high speed rail line can go in elsewhere, in a way that is not 'painful' and disruptive to existing quality of life. Along 101, or 5, where massive commuter infrastructure already exists, strikes me as two much better alternatives (for starters). (or other existing freeways)

Alma getting turned in to a six lane road is the alternative? Not putting it in will DOOM our children?? PUHLEASE! That is purely blatant, transparent, hyperbole, scare tactic (sounds familiar...)

The fact is those PALY kids are going to have jobs without the high speed rail coming through their town. (The high speed rail can go through any route in California with the EXACT same impact in economic stimulation. In fact, if their parents property values are not decimated, then they will likely have better jobs because they'll still be able to afford a college education. If that rail comes in here its going to slaughter property values for miles around it.

There is NO good reason for that rail line to come down this corridor (unless you're a big business/developer drooling over mid peninsula realestate.)

I'm not interested in sacraficing our small town quality of life for the greater good of a BART style High Speed Rail, when there are other perfectlyh acceptable alternatives.

And I KNOW you are not 4th generation Palo Alto because you would have more sense than to know that just moving "across town" and abandoning the heart would NEVER make this OK. (I already live well away from the tracks by the way, across town. I would not personally be impacted.) And I'm talking about more than just Palo Alto here - its every town up and down this line that would be destroyed.

Anyone with a right mind is going to fight for their neighborhood's quality of life FOR their children and their future.

(Noise? Have you watched any of the slick production video's on the High Speed Rail website - with sound? If you listen carefully you'll get a hint of what that high speed train's screeching whine will sound like. You'll LONG for the days of the sound of cal train passing by - if indeed you actually do live here. Which I find it impossible to believe because of your blantant disregard for this entire towns quality of life, and property values and history..

Annie B and Greg K - its stops now. The alarms have now sounded.


Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

All you naysayers many more people voted YES on this issue then NO!!
get over it and stop whining its the 21 century..and you dont live in Mayberry RFD..you live in a metro area with 3million people ..enough with the "small little town"


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:32 am

Clem, gee, I hope you don't need to live close to the tracks to put up this fight! For the record I live 2 1/2 miles away. And I've lived 1 mile away, and I've lived two blocks away. And I've crossed those tracks by car, by bike and by foot for more many many years. This is about WAY more than a strip of land adjacent to the tracks.

And CLEM - not in my backyard? YOUR DARN RIGHT! And not in my neighbors' backyards! You pull out the oh too typical and tired "NIMBY" name calling - as if its an insult. That is lock stock and barrell from the out of town big developers bag of tricks to attempt to shame a towns residents into giving up their quality of life - because some has to do it. Not going to happen here. NOt if we can stir this up.


Posted by Mark Simon, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

I work for Caltrain and something Greg K said in one of his posts caught my eye. This is unrelated to High Speed Rail. I'd appreciate it if Greg K. would e-mail me directly.
Mark Simon
Special Assistant to the CEO
Caltrain
simonm@samtrans.com


Posted by Richard, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 11:53 am

People, compared to the deviation caused to our communities and environment by the automobile, the impact of high-speed rail is small. That said, there will be impacts but the alternative are more highways and airports.

Think of the future.

Web Link


Posted by Phil, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm

I live close to the train tracks. I'm excited about the prospect of a bullet training coming through Palo Alto.

I hope it stops here. We really need to get our act together to try to get the train to stop here, instead of Redwood City.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Can the state of California never build anything if eminant domain is going to be used?

"Alma getting turned in to a six lane road is the alternative? Not putting it in will DOOM our children?? PUHLEASE! That is purely blatant, transparent, hyperbole, scare tactic (sounds familiar...)"

Saying that Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto will be destroyed is also a scare tactic.

"I'm not interested in sacraficing our small town quality of life for the greater good of a BART style High Speed Rail, when there are other perfectlyh acceptable alternatives."

You got yours, right? That seems to be the mentality in neighborhoods like yours.

But there's hope. San Mateo County voted overwhelmingly to pass prop 1A. Even Menlo Park as a whole voted yes on the measure. Only one precinct voted no in Menlo Park.

Funny, I thought it was going to destroy these cities? Why did over half of the county vote for it then?


Posted by Adny, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Thanks Glen for your comment. I was also getting irritated with the whole "small little town" cry. A town of 70,000 people living in the heart of Silicon Valley, where some of the most important companies in the world are and where one of the best university in the world is, it's not a "small little town". There are ways to embrace new changes and technology that if well performed should not impact the looks, the charm, or how livable a town is. Changes are also a chance to get done the well needed improvements in this town, and in my opinion the whole Caltrain corridor in the Peninsula is a mess!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Here are some excerpts from the Visual Impact study for our corridor (part 4 of the report speaks to our areas specifically, found at:
Web Link


First note that the visual impact area is considered ľ MILE.

The Traditional Urban Town Center Typology and/or the Urban Mixed Use Typology describes our areas:

General Description: Typology represents the historic cores of a cities or smaller urban communities in the Bay Area, primarily located along the Peninsula UPRR Caltrain Corridor. These settings are characterized by mixed residential, commercial, and nstitutional uses in early to mid-20th Century contiguous buildings, average building heights of two to three stories, minimal setbacks from streets, mature public landscaping, and pedestrian-oriented streetscapes. The dominant visual feature is the streetscape with its picturesque architecture and channeled vistas


NOTES from the IMPACTS SECTION:

"Context impacts which can SIGNIFICANTLY DEGRADE TRADITIONAL URBAN CHARACTER include overarching scale, historically inappropriate structure types and conflicting architecture (a problem partuclar to historic train stations). FUNCTIONAL impacts include shadow casting and BLOCKAGE of HORIZONTAL VISTAS from ground or upper levels of adjacent buildings.

"Residential Neighborhoods are considered more sensitive to these impacts, particularly as elevated HST embankements and viaducts. Horizontal blockage can serve to divide neighborhoods at the level of perception which influence issues such as community pride and PROPERTY VALUES. Residential uses are also PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE to other negative visual impacts (OVERARCHING SCALE, SHADOW CASTING, INAPPRROPRIATE DESIGN DETAILS, etc.)"

(Visual impacts for our typology are described in part 4 of the report, but NO VISUALIZATION simulation is provided for this type of typology even though it is noted as particularly sensitive.)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Spokker, because people have been given the false impression that its simply going to be a different kind of train running on the existing caltrain line. That does not appear to be true at all from what I've read. Once they start understanding, the stuff is going to hit the fan.

Its only a matter of getting the community aware, and they'll get fired up about this. These BIG HUGE towns up and down this route are amazingly 'small town' when it comes to community engagement, pride and concern for our aesthetic, our quality of life, our history and our future.

Mark Simon, perhaps you can let this community know where to get detailed information about the plans specific to this stretch of the proposed route, and the specific impact analyis for our specific towns? It would be excellent to hear more about how Caltrain is working hard to protect our towns from these bleak impacts if the HST comes through here.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Could someone please explain how east-bound traffic will move from the crossroads (Charleston, Meadow, Churchill) onto Alma? I was under the impression that this section of track was proposed to be elevated. If true, then how will the tunneled crossroads meet the street-grade Alma? Has this been discussed anywhere?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Web Link
Menlo Park's online discussion about this impending disaster.

Wary - Think about that - 'thought this section of the track was proposed to be elevated' Tracks don't go up and down like a rollercoaster, so if part of the palo alto track were to be elevated that would mean the entire stretch for miles and miles would be elevated. That's like these nasty concrete BART overpasses you see in the most downtrodden areas of the east bay. Or monstorous berms (like what - 20 feet tall?) that would slice us down the spine. That would be like utter decimation of the character of the towns up and down this corrider. (Where you'll cross would be the least of your problems)

My understanding from reading on the website over the past two days is that the profile recommendations (tunnel, vs trench, vs overhead) and specific of environmental impacts are yet to be designed, engineered and studied at the 'project' level. People who give a hoot about these towns really need to get deeply engaged ASAP.

I think you can probably kiss pretty much everything you think you know about current traffic flows at these cross roads goodbye if this comes to fruition. In fact, I assume you could probably kiss Alma Street itself, and all the housing between the tracks and Park goodbye as well. (What would the width have to be for FOUR TRACKS plus 100ft of clearance??? Thank about that..) I assume you could kiss all the daylight and trees along that broader corridor (Alma to Park) goodbye too if they were to do something overhead.

Unless they start drawing some pictures real fast that can convince otherwise, it sounds to me like this will be like a WMD going off in our midpeninsula towns along the caltrain line.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 3:34 pm

> Tracks don't go up and down like a rollercoaster

They can, if they must. The HSR environmental impact documents for the peninsula indicate a maximum 3% grade. That's pretty steep for a train. You could probably hump the tracks over the three crossings in Palo Alto, with a split grade separation where the road dips and the track rises half-and-half. Nothing says you need to elevate the entire right of way through Palo Alto.

Believe me, Palo Alto has it much easier than Menlo Park and Atherton.

> FOUR TRACKS plus 100ft of clearance

It's four tracks WITHIN 100 ft width. There are already several areas along Caltrain's tracks, in Redwood City, Sunnyvale and Brisbane, that have four tracks within about 80 ft. The 100 ft figure includes two access roads for periodically trimming back vegetation.

Redwood city: Web Link
Sunnyvale: Web Link

In discussing the plans for high speed rail on the peninsula, it would help if you cooled off your scaremongering, sky-is-falling rhetoric and studied up a little.


Posted by Reality check, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Uh-oh, Mark Simon's interest was piqued ("caught my eye") when Greg K. talked of riders who have paid for their trip regularly not being allowed to board. I suspect he will breathe a big sigh of relief when he learns they were "only" riders with bicycles -- a low and unworthy life form that apparently (in Caltrain's eyes) does not feel pain and enjoys abuse, unlike "normal" walk-on riders. Caltrain can't seem to be bothered by the fact that untold thousands of fare-revenue-generating trips are NOT being taken aboard its trains because they have stubbornly refused to remove even a handful of seats to create more bicycle space aboard their trains.

Most of the right of way Caltrain acquired from Southern Pacific RR is easily wide enough for 4 tracks already. There will certainly be some strips of property acquisition in some areas. Palo Alto looks to be in great shape in that respect and so the loose talk about Alma (or adjacent houses) going away appears to be blatant fear mongering.


Posted by HSR doesn't belong on the mid-peninsula, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Spokker is an LA sock puppet. As has been noted already on this thread, HSR benefits the southern part of the state.

Check google maps. HSR, if implemented as the plan indicates, will wipe out a chunk of the Southgate neighborhood and demolish much of the housing along Park Blvd. Palo Alto may not be as negatively impacted as Menlo Park and Atherton, but there will be substantial damage and approximately 0 benefits. It's too bad the voters were not better informed, but there was so much money backing HSR (and why not? the backers stand to make huge profits!) that there was no opportunity for rational debate.

Anyone who attended the Rod Diridon presentation in Menlo Park saw the HSR project for what it is: a lot of hype and a huge pricetag.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Clem, thanks for the two links showing that - if Google's scale and my ruler can be trusted - the 4 tracks shown are 80 ft from fence to fence as you stated. Moving the map to parts of Palo Alto, here's how 100 feet affect us.
Paly will lose their long jump and triple jump pits, the bleachers, and about 10 feet of their maintenance buildings. PAMF won't be affected; their border is right on the 100 foot mark. However, the entire stretch of new bike path starting at Forest, behind PAMF and Paly to Churchill will disappear. Southgate residents on Mariposa Ave will lose their garages and about 25-40 feet of their backyards. Incidentally, their lots are about 120-140 feet deep. Maybe their entire lots will be considered eminent domain?
Peers Park tennis courts will be spared. Evergreen yards along Park Blvd will shrink by approximately the same footage as Southgate, however their lots are deeper. Partial eminent domain? The California Ave Caltrain station will lose a row and a half of its entire length of parking, essentially cutting its capacity in half. The little side street that connects the parking lot to the other side of Oregon will disappear.
Most properties adjacent to the next section of rail from Oregon to Meadow clear 100 feet. These include the industrial strip near Fry's, Ventura neighborhood homes and apartment buildings, and the two creeks. A few houses on either side of Meadow will lose some backyard. In the Meadow-Charleston stretch, most yards are spared except the last 6 near Charleston. The houses south of Charleston are built near the back of the lots, so shrinking their lots even by a few feet would leave a wall uncomfortably close to those homes. Like Southgate and Evergreen, these might also be susceptible to eminent domain.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:02 pm

> HSR, if implemented as the plan indicates, will wipe out a chunk of the Southgate neighborhood and demolish much of the housing along Park Blvd.

Nonsense.

Visit the California HSR Authority's Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIR/EIS, Volume 2, Appendix D. (Warning: 51 MB) Web Link

You will see that the preliminary track profile through Palo Alto is a quite reasonable 15-foot retained embankment (80 feet wide, per figures CC-3 and CC-4) at Churchill Ave, descending to grade level over Oregon Expressway, back up to an equally sensible 8-foot retained embankment (80 feet wide) over Meadow Dr and Charleston Rd, and back down to grade level shortly thereafter.

All your dimensions are there, so please, spare us your irrational diatribe about neighborhoods getting mowed down.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 7:49 pm

> the entire stretch of new bike path starting at Forest, behind PAMF and Paly to Churchill will disappear.

Correct. This bike path is built on a revocable easement of JPB land.

> Southgate residents on Mariposa Ave will lose their garages and about 25-40 feet of their backyards.

That is incorrect. There is nearly 100 feet of right of way at that location, with ample space between the back fences of properties on Mariposa and the existing tracks. The JPB property boundaries are well under the trees on both sides of the tracks, which makes Google aerial photography look deceptively narrow. Some of those trees, of course, would have to go. Here is a relatively tree-free spot on Mariposa (I think it's behind that garish blue & white house) where you can see the lay of the land: Web Link

These trees could be replaced with cypress or another narrow, tall screening tree species, to preserve the character of the neighborhoods in the long run.

> Evergreen yards along Park Blvd will shrink

Same as Mariposa: adequate room with roughly 100 feet of existing right of way.

The biggest impact from eminent domain will likely be on the east side of Alma, where the affected road intersections would be lowered. The properties on the corners of those intersections will probably have to be taken.

The Palo Alto stations, newly renovated, will get torn up once again, although that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $4.2 billion the project will cost on the peninsula alone.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:04 pm

I have said it before elsewhere, but why can't the tracks be put underground and Alma turned into the extension of Central Expressway that it should be, on top of the tracks, and then Central can continue to Sand Hill Road and make a proper Expressway.

Alma is at present an important artery, but it is thwarted in its role by the bottleneck in the downtown area and the ridiculous intersection which befuddles everyone with the poor accessibility to Sand Hill and Stanford Shopping Center. If we could improve Alma to become an Expressway on top of the tracks, we would be making great progress.

As for funding, surely there would be county and state money for improvements to an Expressway and I for one would rather improve transportation in the Bay Area than pay for money to fly a space ship to the moon, or Mars.


Posted by Teddie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Clem thank you for a breath of reality. For you dire "split us down the spine" people please show me anywhere in Palo Alto where there exist a cohesive "town" connection across the combined corridor of Alma and the Cal Train Tracks. I do think this type of transportation system has to be done. I personally believe what's coming is HSR between some location in LA and some location south of us where it can connect to an upgraded and faster CalTrain. Believe me 80 billion will never make b/t downtown LA and the Transit Center in SF. There all ready exist dissension about who is going to pay for the last 1.3 miles b/t SF's 4th street station and the new Transit Center in downtown SF. IMHO this thing attempt at HSR is an attempt in the right direction but it is going to be a wobbly set of baby steps till the train leaves the station. FYI I live 2 block from the California Ave. station and voted yes for California's future.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 8:32 pm

"Spokker is an LA sock puppet."

Now that Prop 1A has passed maybe I'll finally get paid!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Hey Clem, thanks for the link, after waiting for the 50mb to load, found the 160 pages of engineering profile drawings with maps undecipherable. Which page number? I don't see figure numbers on these pages...

But lets just take your word for it and discuss:

"Reasonable 15 foot retained embankment" down to "an equally sensible 8 foot retained embankment down by Charleston and Meadow."

(BTW, only a non-Palo Alto resident would say such a thing. Can you tell why? Hint: nothing to do with the embankments... Thanks for the confirmation - at least we know we're not talking with a fellow Palo Alto resident but rather a HS project operative.

Clem, the links you keep sending with Google views showing the existing Caltrain tracks and their rights of way show us with certainly that 4-wide caltrain tracks butt pretty much right up against the existing right of ways. So all these assumptions about minimal encroachment on property (minimal loss of property) are all under the assumption that the plan would be OKd allowing 125mph trains to pass right up against the borders of the right away - literally right up against property and people outside the 100ft way.

So the spectators sitting in the visitors bleachers at Paly games will have to hold on to their hats as the 125mph trains whiz just feet behind them? Currently the slow speed Caltrain may have built some 4-tracks right up against their right of way outer limits, are you telling us high speed rail is not going to have any more rigorous safety precautions and wider required outer clearances?

Additionally, loss of property is not the only issue (although its ENGOUGH of an issue in and of itself.) Its the degregation of quality of life, noise impacts, aesthetics, character etc.

Clem the EIS makes clear that impacts such as noise, vibration, environmental and aethetics reach far outside the 100ft border and ARE high impacts in residential areas.

Also, the EIS says rather than the high speed rail simply serving population growth, that it will be a population growth DRIVER in and of itself, so much so that it will need to be mitigated. One mitigation the EIS suggests is that highly dense housing clustered near stations would help mitigate for the wider communities. So, Palo Alto? Or Redwood City? Signing up for a massive influx of MORE dense housing?

Uhhh. Do we have schools, fields, shopping or any SPACE to accomodate infrastructure for this massive influx of dense housing? (Clem if you lived in Palo Alto or anywhere nearby I'd suspect you'd be able to answer that question.)

The more we look at the details, the clearer it becomes - the high speed rail line (particularly if it includes a station in PA), will redefine our town, and our quality of life in profound ways that locals haven't yet internalized.

(btw - another dead give away... "those trees would have to go, but could be replaced with cypress..to preserve the character of the neighborhood." Woopsie Clem, maybe you ought to get someone else in your office to on this particular thread.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Clem, I found it. Its on page 9. Thanks for interpeting I never would have figured it out, but I do see the +/-3% grade change you mentinoed above.

However, Question - I see provision for San Francisquito Creek.. where are the other creeks on this drawing? You know we have about 4 running through PA, right?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Teddie, how about for the massive numbers of kids that cross the tracks daily to get to school?

Resident: If the train were going to run in an underground tunnel for about 10-20 miles (without disturbing all these small communities along the way) then I'd support it.

I have no faith whatsoever that the HS authority has any interest at all in making a much more expensive solution that would save our communities happen.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:08 pm

"Teddie, how about for the massive numbers of kids that cross the tracks daily to get to school?"

Now they won't have to cross any tracks.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

> 125mph trains to pass right up against the borders of the right away

Only the center two of four tracks would see trains that fast. The outer two tracks would see maximum speeds of ~80 mph. That is the speed of the Baby Bullets when they cross that same neighborhood. Apparently, nobody thinks that's unsafe today.

> So the spectators sitting in the visitors bleachers at Paly games will have to hold on to their hats as the 125mph trains whiz just feet behind them?

Please. Have you ever seen a modern electric train go by at 125mph? It's not nearly as intrusive as you imply, and certainly not as intrusive as those rattletrap Caltrain diesels shrieking by at 79 mph and blowing long, insistent horn blasts for the Churchill crossing, leaving a pall of diesel smoke in their wake.

> I found it. Its on page 9.

You will also find the referenced figures CC-3, CC-4 and CC-8 in Appendix E. Those figures show how wide the tracks will be.

> HS project operative (...) if you lived in Palo Alto or anywhere nearby

No, just an informed peninsula citizen. It would be nice to have a discussion based on facts, without the baseless insinuation and rampant paranoia.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 1:52 am

Clem, you are incorrect about the 100 feet on Mariposa. Try measuring 100 feet from the edge of the Alma pavement. It wipes out most of the garages on that street, including the one in your link.

I notice that neither you nor spokker are willing to explain how eastbound traffic can move from the cross-streets of Churchill, Meadow and Charleston onto Alma. I don't see how a direct turn is possible with grade separation. Do you?

According to the high speed rail link, the crossings at Meadow and Palo Alto Ave will be eliminated. Good luck to the Charleston commuters when Meadow's traffic joins them. Wow.

To 'parent' who was concerned about "visitors bleachers at Paly games will have to hold on to their hats as the 125mph trains whiz just feet behind them?" Don't worry. Only the bottom two rows of seats will remain – their hats will be safe down there.


Posted by Nicholas Clifford, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 6:08 am

Full Disclosure: I do not live in Palo Alto. Indeed, I am an American living in France, so far from your back yards and schools.

Conversely, I have no "horse in this race." I don't work for the railroad industry, I don't work in construction... I guide bicycle tours for a living. I think of myself as a generally anti-development environmentalist.

And, living in France, I have a lot of experience of high-speed rail. This country is pretty much criss-crossed by lines now, and everyone wants more!

So, those whose minds aren't made up already (and, in America, that is a rare breed — "often wrong, never in doubt" — that's our motto!), may be comforted by what I have to say.

(1) High-speed rail can run at grade (that is, not on a bridge, not in a tunnel). Line protection is important (fences, signs, and yes, grade separation). But it can, indeed, happen by virtue of road and pedestrian tunnels and bridges under and over the tracks. You have at least two examples in Palo Alto that I can think of, adjacent the two stations.

So, the Mercury-News got this part wrong: "because bullet trains must run above or below street level." No, there is no reason for that. The vast majority of France's TGV track (that is, track for our 320 kph bullet trains) are at grade, even in urban and suburban zones. So, no need to assume eyesore viaducts. They may be appropriate in some very high-density spots, but will not generally be necessary or desirable, either for the community — eyesore — or for the railroad — more expensive than building at grade.

(2) While there will be an inevitable increase in train traffic through your town (that is, after all, the point), electric trains in general and TGV's (bullet trains) in particular, are MUCH quieter than the conventional diesel-powered Caltrains that rumble through now, even at very high speed. Overall, you will find their presence to be less of a bother than the current line's, even if traffic quadruples. The new line will also result in the electrification and soundproofing of the existing line, so you will benefit substantially.

(3) Electric trains do not pollute at source: this will be another benefit. Fewer emissions in your community, even if you don't care a fig for the greater good (things like reduction in carbon emissions).

(4) I understand the NIMBY sentiment here, but you are wrong to assume your community will receive no economic benefits. Even if the nearest stop is San Josť, imagine being able to take a modernized Caltrain for 15 minutes, making a cross-platform transfer in San Josť, and being in LA 2'30" later. It will change the way you live. And for the better. Believe me, I have watched in France. We can go from Paris to the Mediterranean in 3 hours. It used to take 7. Christmas shopping in Strasbourg in 2 (it took 4 just a year ago!). I can reach 4 foreign countries by train before I could even get to the Paris airport and taxi to the runway for take-off.

Even if you never leave home, your children / parents / friends can get to you! From Sacramento, from the Central Valley, from Southern Cal. And even if you have no friends or distant family, your air (and your children's air) will be purer (highway traffic will inevitably thin). When oil runs out, and it will, you will still be able to move, and your property will still be worth something.

And, the further modernization of the Caltrain line will bring further benefits up and down the peninsula (faster trips to SFO or the city, for instance).

So... try to relax, and influence the project in a positive way.

Will some homes be taken through eminent domain? Let's hope so, in everybody's interest! The rail right-of-way will need to be widened throughout from 2 to 4 tracks, and though that is probably largely possible in the existing property envelope, you absolutely WANT the homes closest to the tracks to be condemned, in the interests of their owners! Sound barriers are effective, but not perfect: this is a chance for lineside owners to move a bit further away. So, don't say NO, say, "OK, for fair value." It can be a win-win: again, I have watched in time and time again.

Will every, single person benefit? No. As in every public works project, there will be winners and losers. In this case, the former will vastly outnumber the latter, but work to care for the latter, and you will all win!

If this really happens (and I still don't believe it) your world will change. I promise, based on much first-hand experience, it will be for the better!



Posted by John, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2008 at 7:03 am

As Nicolas points out,
Caltrain and HSR will be using those modern EMU trains from Europe. At 80 mph, they will be *no* louder than the existing
At 125 mph, they will be comparable to what Caltrain is today.

If Caltrain/HSR removes the horn requirement, either by installing quad gate quiet crossings or by grade separation , then the overall noise goes done substantially.

What Palo Alto and the rest of the peninsula really needs to do is to get rid of the 2AM Freight trains - which is something Caltrain and HSR may try to do if Palo Alto wants it.

We need to make sure we hold Caltrain/HSR to these numbers and get the quiet Caltrain and quiet HSR.

-john

Caltrain References:
Page 3:
Web Link

Section 3.11 Noise, Vibration
Web Link (3MB)
(Note that Caltrain is going for Option 2, but the 2% noise impact is not a *measured* result, but a manufactor's worst case specification)

HSR references
Noise of Caltrain vs HSR 100,150,200mph, and freight train
Web Link

Same noise measurement as Caltrain:
Web Link


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:41 am

> Clem, you are incorrect about the 100 feet on Mariposa.

Right you are, thank you. It looks a bit shy of 80 feet from the back yard fence to the Alma curb. So it is possible that eminent domain might be used in that location to acquire 5-10 feet of land.

> explain how eastbound traffic can move from the cross-streets of Churchill, Meadow and Charleston onto Alma.

Not unlike the way that eastbound traffic moves from San Carlos Ave onto Old County Rd in San Carlos. Take a look around there using Google Street View. Web Link

As I mentioned before, this would likely impact properties on the east side of Alma, at the street corners. You could no longer access those driveways because of the road sloping down to the intersection.

> the crossings at Meadow and Palo Alto Ave will be eliminated.

I'm not sure I follow... where does it say that?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 8:55 am

This is really a good thing, but it is going to be the mindset of the public at large and transit in the whole of the Bay area that will make it work.

We are not talking about transit between 2 or 3 big cities, but an improvement in transit all over as a result. Imagine taking the train to go Christmas shopping in San Francisco without taking the car and worrying about parking. The cost? Well if the authorities get it right they will make discount tickets available for low peak times and include Bart and Muni as part of the deal, it will be competitive. I realise that BART and Muni will have to step up to the mark, the one and only time I took BART to go to the theater, I arrived at the right station, climbed the stairs to the street and there was not one street sign to give me any type of direction hints of which way to go. As it was dark, I couldn't even find compass directions. So they will have to develop signs for visitors all over the place, just like London which is great for getting around by public transport.

Imagine taking the family for a 3 day trip to Disneyland. You get a friend to drive you to the station here and then you won't need a car again til you get back because your ticket will include all transport needs to your hotel and shuttles both way to the park and no need to drive at all. The American mentality of needing a car at your destination is not on as you won't have to and instead you will be able to play board games with the kids on the train, watch the scenery, read, or sleep!! You will arrive on time without the hassel of getting lost or needing to find gas or food on the way. No more potty breaks at grotty gas stations.

So it will take 2 things, public transport at both ends to step up to the mark and marketing tickets that make it worth while and attractive and then the mindset of Californians that see the train as the way to go.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 9:34 am

>> Right you are, thank you. It looks a bit shy of 80 feet from the back yard fence to the Alma curb. So it is possible that eminent domain might be used in that location to acquire 5-10 feet of land.
Let me translate this for the Mariposa residents, as if they don't know their own backyards. Eminent domain will take away a MINIMUM of 5-10 feet of each of their lots which includes most garages, landscaping and a few pools. Since the garages are on or within feet of the back and side property lines, those homeowners will have to strike a deal with the city allowing them to ignore set-back requirements, otherwise they're forced to grapple with major lot reconfigurement issues. Those lots are tiny. Where would a code-compliant garage sit? Your wording minimizes a non-trivial change which affects more than a handful of our citizens, some Park Blvd residents included.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 9:46 am

>> explain how eastbound traffic can move from the cross-streets of Churchill, Meadow and Charleston onto Alma.
> Not unlike the way that eastbound traffic moves from San Carlos Ave onto Old County Rd in San Carlos. Take a look around there using Google Street View. Web Link
Is that the proposed height of Palo Alto's rail?! The poor residents on Mariposa & Park. Where Caltrain now travels behind fences and mature trees, the HSR will tower above their houses and shrunken lots. Even their buffer of trees will be removed because of eminent domain or their branches coming in conflict with tracks. Are these the residents we offer to the fire in the name of common good?
Are you speculating or is this in the HSR documents? You mention the road sloping down to the intersection. This implies that Alma will be the roller coaster some other poster mentions.
>> the crossings at Meadow and Palo Alto Ave will be eliminated.
>I'm not sure I follow... where does it say that?
Page 9 of your Web Link . Churchill and Charleston are labeled as GS-UC (grade separated under crossing). Meadow has no such label, and Palo Alto Ave isn't even mentioned. Additionally, the track elevation is too low at Meadow for an under crossing. It appears that the Meadow crossing will be history and traffic will be diverted to Charleston.
As for Charleston, my question stands. The track elevation there is a mere 6 feet. How will this intersection look, and how will Charleston traffic get from El Camino onto Alma?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:17 am

Spokker, they will cross in underpasses or overpasses (have you read the news lately about muggings in Palo Alto underpasses?) AND they will have a 15 foot wall with 15 foot trains riding atop them, cutting their city in half.

Guess what, we can fix the railroad crossing and electrify Caltrain if we want to, without decimating our city with a high speed rail.

Clem - actually many DO feel that is too fast, AND those trains DO NOT pass right up against the edge of the right away today. They pass with 40-50 feet clearance to either side. And Clem, I'm pulling my info from the EIS. You can feel free to make any factual corrections you wish (since your working on it), and I'll gladly accept them. The problem is the EIS (and you) discount any of the negative impacts simply because we already have a rail running down that path under the absolutely false and misleading assumption that the new HS rail adds nothing new or incremental to our experience.

Clem - question - how tall is a HS train?

John, no not the same noise impact as Caltrain. They found that there were high impacts to noise from HST, that were particularly worse in residential neighborhoods:

"Removing all potential remaining horn noise would not eliminate noise impacts, however, because the sound of the trains would remain. The proposed HST would add its own noise to that of other
trains using the railroad corridor. Carrying the focused study further, it was found that approximately 75% of the at-grade crossings to be eliminated with the proposed HST system are
located adjacent to residential areas with a high potential noise impact rating. Although there would be a clear benefit from the elimination of the horns and warning signals, there would be
additional train noise and vibration primarily from the high train speed and frequency of service."

"Based on these results, the potential noise impact ratings from screening were adjusted to account for segments where at-grade crossings would be eliminated for existing passenger and freight
trains as part of the implementation of HST service along that alignment."

Web Link

In other wordds they made the issue go away mathematically by assuming that fixing the grade crossings and putting sound barriers (mitigations) would reduce the impact to net neutral to Caltrain.

Well guess what - the grade crossing can be fixed without the high speed rail. Caltrain can electrify for sound, without high speed trains coming through. And big 20 foot walls cutting our town in half down its entire length are a BIG issue!

Nicholas, not sure how you claim to be an uninterested bystander from France (who just happened to wander on to this thread but mysteriously knows alot about specifics of town of Palo Alto... but I'll ignore the fishiness of your 'story' and comment on what you said.

First - lets be clear that the drawings that CLEM showed us didn't have the trains running at grade level, they have them running up on top of 15 foot walls through our town (don't forget to stack a train ON TOP of that 15 wall (another 15feet?) which will divide our city in half and create a MAJOR impact on the quality of life and aesthetic of this whole town (not just the strip of property owners bordering the current tracks). So, why would we have any reason to believe they have any interest in seeing this happen in a non-destructive, non impactful way (like underground)? They've already drawn it out, and now CLEM is DEFENDING it as entirely reasonable 15 foot walls!

Secondly, eminent domain - great news for those property owners -IF- they are compensated at fair market value. Will they be compensated at fair market value? (Like pre or post HST values?) Or some 'fair' value calculated by the HST front office sitting in Southern California? What's the liklihood of compensation of $750K-$1.5M and more for 3 to 5 bedroom houses. I'm sure those kind of values for houses that back to tracks are unfathomable outside of PA.

And there's a MUCH bigger picture here for property values in Palo Alto (Menlo Park, Atherton, etc), that will effect everyone, not just the unlucky who lose to eminent domain. The degredation in quality of life in the IMMEDIATE surrounding areas - up to 1/4 mile away according to their own environmental impact study, INCLUDING negative consequences to Palo Alto High school, will degrade property values in PA in a much more profound way. Couple that with a concrete expectation that the HST will ACCELERATE population growth in these areas, and CREATE MORE and DENSER high dense housing specifically TARGETED in the communities near the lines, (not to mention massive removal of trees and vegitation that today screen us from the effects of the Caltrain), this all points to further massive degredation of quality of life and property values in Palo Alto.

(Nicholas, since you and Clem are not familiar with our town, let me just fill you on the situation - we are severely over capacity in all our schools (elementary, middle and high), we have not enough fields for our community to play soccer (football for you), baseball, softball, etc., We have very little in the way of basic shopping amenities in Palo Alto (few basic grocery stores, no low cost chain stores for basics) in town, we have overcrowded roads, crumbling sewers, old libraries, etc., We have no empty lands for expansion of these services, and even just the current dense housing growth we are experiencing is negatively impacting us significantly. So all in all while its easy for outsiders to say 'well someone's gotta sacrafice' its a gross misunderstandnig and ovesimplification of the MASSIVE impact on this small town (and the others like us down the line) that will occur. We have a RIGHT and and OBLIGATION to say FIND ANOTHER WAY.

If Clem (since he seems to be an insider) can get his people over there to start showing us how this will NOT all come to pass in such a negative way for Palo Alto (first by demonstrating even a bit of an understanding of what he's talking about in terms of quality of life issues for Palo Altans, second by showing the concrete plans for a different engineering solution for those tracks), then maybe we can start settling down. If not, they have a fight on their hands.

Resident - all this IMAGINE stuff is just all unicorns and rainbows, but they CAN NOT decimate these valuable small towns along they way. That's the 1800's Industrial Revolution version of progress. They MUST find a way to put these lines without impact. They can put them underground, or they can choose lines that follow existing freeway corridors (like elevated, running down the center strip sections of existing freeways - which would not displace any more people and would not change the character and quality of any more towns.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:39 am

Wary - he's not speculating - he said the tracks would ride atop these 15 foot retained walls - and I believe its in those drawings (labeled as meters, across the top of the elevation drawing - 15 feet high at Churchill, down to about 8ft or down toward Charleston.

And don't forget the trains themselves are probably 15-20 feet high or more - so you'd have these huge overscaled structures/trains running all the time down these lines.

This is life altering event for Palo Alto. Palo Altan's need to get educated on this immediately.



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

Clem, what happened to the Oregon Expressway crossing, and the Embarcadero crossing? I don't see those in the drawings you referenced? The only "GS-UC"'s listed are Charleston and Churchill.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 11:37 am

> Are you speculating or is this in the HSR documents?

Speculating. The HSR documents do not have the details we are discussing, because the detailed engineering is yet to be done.

> how tall is a HS train?

Depends on which kind - as an upper bound, same as Caltrain, or about 15 feet

> 15 foot walls through our town

Only the part of Palo Alto near Churchill. Not all of Palo Alto. As I said before, Menlo Park has it much worse: they plan a 15-foot embankment through all of Menlo Park.

> If Clem (since he seems to be an insider)

Enough with the paranoia! What's next, commandos from the High Speed Rail Authority rappelling onto your roof from blue and yellow helicopters?

It boils down to this: I acknowledge there will be negative impacts to Palo Alto. I take issue with your gross exaggeration of those impacts.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Clem, what happened to the Oregon Expressway crossing, and the Embarcadero crossing? I don't see those in the drawings you referenced? The only "GS-UC"'s listed are Charleston and Churchill.


Posted by Interesting read, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 1:01 pm

A just-released study, The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report by transportation experts Wendell Cox and Joseph Vranich, documents the actual costs of the project, which are greatly at odds with the estimates put out by promoters of Proposition 1A. The study, jointly sponsored by the Reason Foundation, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and Citizens Against Government Waste, can be viewed here:

Web Link:
Web Link


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 2:48 pm

"I take issue with your gross exaggeration of those impacts."
Clem, who are you directing your comments to? I've been careful to be factual in my interpretation of the HSR plans. Although I disagree with your measurement estimates, I've kept quiet. I take issue with your trivializing the impacts, portraying those who are less than thrilled with HSR in PA as over-reactors.

Parent, about the speculation. I had asked how the crossings might look and Clem provided a link to the Old County Road crossing in San Carlos as a potential example. It's a plausible implementation for Churchill because of the 15 foot track elevation. To clarify, the elevation will be approximately 15 feet high from Embarcadero Road through most of Evergreen Park. This includes Paly, Mariposa, Peers Park and the residential section of Park north of the CA Ave Station.
The tracks are at grade at the CA Ave Station and gradually rise to only a 6 foot maximum at Charleston. It appears from the HSR document that the Meadow crossing will be eliminated, and that the Charleston crossing will somehow pick up the Meadow traffic. How the crossing might look is still a mystery. How does a street go under a 6 foot railroad bridge and then intersect with Alma? Will Alma be lowered the same amount in that intersection? Talk about roller coasters.
So basically PA North gets a Great Wall and PA South is bestowed with more traffic. There's something in the plan for all of us.


Posted by H, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2008 at 3:00 pm

There are some very interesting things to read on this thread. With other neighboring cities ready to file a lawsuit, what is our City doing?

Having lived here for most of my life I just can't imagine the nightmare this will become. Our State is in a financial crisis and we come up with ideas like HSR???

Has anyone here shared any of this information with our City Council/Mayor/City Manager?
Or are they just absent form this topic?


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 3:28 pm

> Clem, who are you directing your comments to?

To Parent; I'm sorry I wasn't clear.

> Although I disagree with your measurement estimates, I've kept quiet.

I accepted your correction of my bad estimate at Mariposa. I had underestimated the impact. I certainly don't wish to trivialize the impact because I would resent it if it happened to my house. Nonetheless, to make an omelet, we will have to break some eggs.


Posted by Eric, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Parent,

I think you seem to forget something very basic. YOU moved next to the train tracks with its right of way. Not the other way around. The train has been there LONG before you were ever born. Your town was created from the railroad. So if you don't like what the majority voted for, move away!! If you don't like the fact trains are running and will continue to run through your town, move away!!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Clem, "to make an omelet we will have to break some eggs", Wow, that's a real whopper of dismissal of the devastating fundamental human and community impact that this project will have on the entire communities of (at least) Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, (and more), let alone the swaths of property owners along the tracks that will get eminent domained.

So to make it perfectly clear we're not even disagreeing on the details, you're just saying - oh well, such is life. Ok. Got ya.

I'll just continue to dig the facts out of the EIS and plan strategy around how to get the community organized around this.

In the meantime, H - I was recently loooking at another PAOnline thread based on a article that said three of our City Council (Barton and two others), were coming out in favor of a fully underground tunnel for this stretch of the route. That would add massive cost for the project, not likely to be considered by the HST Authority (because of the cost). This does not seem at all adequate a response. They need to be aggressively and proatively opposed to anything OTHER than an fully underground solution. (Not even sure an underground solution is acceptable, as it could still come with the high density growth and environmental impacts to underground water, property rights, etc. I am drafting a message for city council and for PAUSD, I'm working on bringing references from the EIS into the letter so its slow going (as the EIS is a maze of info about 1250 pages long.)

In the meantime, if others in the community want to start asking them questions, that would be an excellent start. IF you do, please share what you learn about their positions and invovlement so far.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Clem, it's your corrected measurements with which I disagree. If you use an engineer's scale (triangle ruler) the 40 scale will match Google's 20 ft scale, conveniently eliminating the mental gymnastics of converting screen inches to actual feet. Each ruler tick is one foot. Of the houses we keep discussing on Mariposa, I can't find a single one which will lose less than 20 feet of their (tiny) backyards. For most of those homes the HSR will be about 20 feet from the house, but a few will be closer and at least one will lose about 20 feet of actual house. Working the raw numbers, it doesn't look good for Southgate. If HSR requires such a large portion of those lots, they're likely to claim the entire property. And if they don't claim it, these homeowners will lose their landscape, pools, garages and will face trains & tracks a measly 20 feet from their bedroom windows.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Wary- actually they'll face an 8-15 solid wall 20 feet from their windows, with high voltage power structure and a nearly constant parade of trains screaming by at a dizzying 20-30 foot height nearly overhead. At the point this goes through they will be counting their blessings if they are eminent domained. Their neighbors across the street however, will have front doors opening on to this disaster.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Wary,

> Of the houses we keep discussing on Mariposa, I can't find a single one which will lose less than 20 feet of their (tiny) backyards.

I superimposed a scale on the Google aerial view of this location: Web Link

Each tick on the scale is 5 feet. From the Alma curb to the back fence is about 77 feet, give or take a couple of feet for scaling error.

From Appendix E of the HSR EIS document, page 7, figure CC-3, the elevated retained fill structure is 75 feet wide. (not 80 feet, as I had incorrectly estimated before).

I note this structure is very amply sized. The track centers are 15'4", significantly wider than 14' standard used on Caltrain and countless existing railroads. You can save another 4 feet that way, so we're down to 71 feet wide, if need be.

Is it a tight fit? Certainly.

Will it take a little bit more room than that to build it? Probably.

Will it encroach by 20 feet on these people's back yards? No.

Would I like it in my own backyard? No.


Posted by soma64, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2008 at 2:28 am

wow all this uproar over a train in a right of way that has been there forever. talk about small town peyton place. hey its not 1954 anymore - you live in the bay area.... they can always just cut and cover it if they have to but really.... how are you gonna live in metro area with 7 million people and expect peace and quiet?


Posted by Nicolas, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2008 at 2:36 am

To "Parent, Resident of another Palo Alto Neighborhood."

First, your debating technique is not the most courteous. You can't even be bothered to spell my name — which _I_ at least am sufficiently honest to provide — correctly. And then you doubt the veracity of my "story." Sir, or Madam, I don't know you. Failing that, I assume you are honest. But you are not very nice.

"Nicholas, not sure how you claim to be an uninterested bystander from France (who just happened to wander on to this thread but mysteriously knows alot about specifics of town of Palo Alto... but I'll ignore the fishiness of your 'story' and comment on what you said."

Wiping the sarcasm from the word, here is my "story." My memory of Palo Alto is dated, but I had a good friend in grad school (and then teaching) at Stanford for many years. I always arrived and left by train, hence my (vague) recollection of the underpasses near the two stations.

He keeps in touch with the community, to which he remains attached. He sent me the thread, because he thought it was funny, in a navel-regarding way. And he knows my interest in transportation (I was a grad student in transportation at the University of Pennsylvania, though I was more interested in urban at the time — and have never worked in anything but tourism in the years sense).

So that is how I wound up commenting. I'm sorry it irritated you, but sometimes an outside point of view is helpful. In a forest-for-the-trees type of way.

I understand your position, though, if not your discourtesy: my friend now lives in San Francisco, and is not directly affected by issues of back yards and schools (though he has several friends still in Palo Alto). He just likes your town. And he remembers his decade+ there fondly. As I remember my many visits, the last of which was probably 5 years ago. I am sure you like your town, too, though it is tough to see why with all the ills you describe,

So, clearly, you have concerns that cannot be those of people looking from afar. And I pointed that out by way of introduction to my piece. My detachment does not invalidate the truths I presented. It just means that they are only part of the picture. You will still have to weigh them against your back yards!

Someone like you can never be convinced. But your neighbors, to whom I wrote, should understand that the best reasons to argue for these changes are precisely those in your condescending reply.

"(Nicholas, since you and Clem are not familiar with our town, let me just fill you on the situation - we are severely over capacity in all our schools (elementary, middle and high), we have not enough fields for our community to play soccer (football for you), baseball, softball, etc., We have very little in the way of basic shopping amenities in Palo Alto (few basic grocery stores, no low cost chain stores for basics) in town, we have overcrowded roads, crumbling sewers, old libraries, etc., We have no empty lands for expansion of these services, and even just the current dense housing growth we are experiencing is negatively impacting us significantly. So all in all while its easy for outsiders to say 'well someone's gotta sacrafice' its a gross misunderstandnig and ovesimplification of the MASSIVE impact on this small town (and the others like us down the line) that will occur. We have a RIGHT and and OBLIGATION to say FIND ANOTHER WAY."

This is part of that other way.

Two casual observations: there is no question that the impact on your town will be huge. But it will be mostly positive, something that is certainly hard to imagine from where you sit now. Still, rather than refusing a transportation artery that will inevitably channel and concentrate development around a new public transit artery (which will, itself, encourage public transit feeders), and so lessen (not increase) the demands on your overcrowded roads, you just yell "no." Yes, that is your RIGHT. But it is most certainly not your OBLIGATION. Nor that of your possibly more thoughtful neighbors.

And another: the world is a changing place. We (the US — I am American, although I live in France) have just been through an artificial boom fueled by deficit spending and speculation in housing. But it's over. BOY is it over.

You may find that the explosive growth your town has recently experienced slows substantially in the decade to come.

Of course, empty land is a thing of the past in most of America, but that doesn't mean that the land you have can't be better used. An apartment block put up on land taken by the railroad can replace 10 houses (and reduce carbon footprint by half). Room for a school! Cheaper sewer infrastucture! Something tells me YOU wouldn't want to live there. But that doesn't mean no one would.... "Walking" town centers have attractive aspects to many people, and diversity in housing stock is generally a good thing for a community, not a bad one.

A new soccer pitch (or, for that matter, a new school) would be good uses for land acquired in eminent domain procedings (see below).

In sum: this is a chance to look at your town, and fix its obvious failings, which you so bitterly lament! All with a windfall redevelopment budget. Another will not come in your lifetimes! Don't miss the train ;-)

Look, someone like me doesn't care a fig whether you fix your town or not, expand your rail line or not, nor even whether California builds the thing (other than in a vague "world would be a better place" sort of way). I only wrote because I thought it might be helpful / reassuring to hear the first-hand experience of someone who has witnessed the process at fairly close range, and many times. Our lives have been massively altered by our bullet trains, but I don't know one person who thinks it has been for the worse, in town or country!

Here is a suggestion that would go a long way to solving many of the issues you raise: work for legislation that would require the State to condemn entire properties if they condemn even one foot, but then give the expropriated owners right of first refusal on the resale of the residual property (no originality, I am just roughly parroting the existing French law). This would also provide the state with an incentive to negotiate for purchase, rather than condemning. I think I remember that in France, over 90% of the land needed by our most recent line (to Strasbourg) was bought in open-market transactions, rather than through eminent domain proceedings. These people are Latins, and they yell a lot, so I'm sure there was a lot of noise first. But the owners clearly wound up with "fair value" — by their own definition, — or they wouldn't have sold (the courts tend towards fair market + 10% or so).

Concretely, my idea would work like this. State needs a six-foot band of land at the back of someone's garden. It's going to take out the garage, the pool.... but the house will be left in tact, and there will still be ample yard between the new back of the property and the rear of the house. So the house can still be lived in, though quality of life will be impacted, at least by the smaller yard. Noise mitigation includes a new sound barrier, and replanting of trees, but which will take "x" years to grow (I'm not a tree expert — better at TGV's). Believe me, in such a case the line noise would substantially decrease compared to that of the existing Caltrain service!

So, two scenarios: current owners have kids and valued the pool. They are sad. But they sell, and buy new with the funds they get. Market is good for that right now... And perhaps they were hoping to get a bit farther from the rail line, anyway....

They have the inconvenience of the move, and we all regret that. It is one of the things that has to be put in the balance in any public interest project. But the town overall is probably a better place for the change (improved sustainable transportation, reduced pollution), so it is not clear that even those individuals lose in the end, let alone the town as a whole!

Scenario two: kids had grown up and moved out, anyway. No one really used the pool. Some of that land can be captured for a new garage... State expropriates at fair value + 10%, takes the land it needs, and puts the house on the market at 80% of the former "fair value" estimate (smaller lot, pool gone, no garage). Same owners repurchase. They wind up with compensation worth 30% of the price of their (now less desirable) property. They have to spend "x" on a new garage, but the rest goes to their badly depleted retirement account. They have a quieter rail line out back. And, over time, their property increases in value at a greater rate than the rate observed in surrounding towns not served by the rail line — something more valuable to leave to the kids.

It seems everyone might be better off there (though they will be living in a construction zone for 2 years, and that may not be much fun...).

Anyway, 'nuf said. I wish you all luck with your fight or non-fight. I remain convinced that, if it happens, you will (all) look back in 10 years and wonder how you could ever have been opposed. But change is always stressful, and you are right in one thing: this is much less my business than yours!

Nicolas

PS's: Thoughts and facts in the above thread. If Clem really works for the railroad or the state, instead of vilifying him, you should perhaps be asking him for advice on precisely how to go about mitigating the impacts of the project on your community! He sounds thoughtful, informed, and he has been unfailingly polite! If he is a standard example of your State functionaries, you have a pretty good government out there!

"...although there would be a clear benefit from the elimination of the horns and warning signals, there would be additional train noise and vibration primarily from the high train speed and frequency of service."

First, the former would vastly outweigh the latter, even if the statement were true. But it isn't. Neither noise nor vibration would increase. The FREQUENCY with which both happened would increase (more trains). But peak values recorded for both would decline, and for vibration, substantially. Most studies suggest that that is the more important "quality of life" measure. An example of a precise experience with a precise case from the terrace of a farm house in Burgundy. The old train at 60 mph made a heck of a lot more racket than the TGV does at 175 mph! It passed by only 10 times a day, but you sure knew it was there, and the first run was at 5a (everybody up!). The TGV goes by more than 100 times a day But you never even notice it.

And finally, to "Interesting Read," concerning the report by Wendell Cox and Joe Vranich. Vranich, in particular, is a horrible hack. He was a long-ago Amtrak employee. Since leaving Amtrak in the 80's, he has made a living as a transportation "expert" by being any conservative foundation's anti-rail "expert." For what I presume is a hefty fee, he will say anything, and use any technique (half truths being his favorite, but Rovian repetition of falsehoods being another) to provide talking points for people who want to obfuscate a debate on transport policy. Google his "reports" from the late 80's and the early 90's, where there is enough history to now judge the accuracy of their predictions. They are worth reading now, for the first time. For their comic value....

I would shred this particular one for you, but I have a life, and have to get back to it Pleasure meeting you all.... Well, most of you :-)




Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 8:31 am

Nicolas, My apologies for mispelling your name. And thanks for the lecture...

My underlying assumption all along has been that the property owners that would be directly effected by new right of ways encroaching on their lands (ie:directly in the path of the tracks) would indeed be compensated - fairly or unfairly depending on the eventual estimation of their property values. But I didn't imagine that there would be situations where properties could be half taken, (but not fully taken so as to be unusable), or condemned, or not taken at all so that the track wall sits just feet away from the homes, or any other scenario which would leave these property owners less than whole. That's a pretty alarming potential, which even I haven't raised, and which brings up even MORE reason for concern in our town. Another reason for Palo Altan's to wake up and get involved in this issue immediately.

In terms of HST as opportunity 'fix' our town, I guess that depends on ones definition of the concept of 'fix'. Many towns in the bay area are suited to, and enjoy the character and qualities of a high rise city. Cities like SF and SJ that thrive off tourism, high rise metro down towns, tourism, etc. I don't believe this is the Palo Alto that people value. In this town, many people consider destruction of our small town quality and character blight.

In terms of fixing roads, there is no reason to believe that HST would do anything for any of our roads or infrastructure beyond the immediate HST project (such as addition of a very large new parking structure at the university station - which by the way they say would be placed in El Camino Park (!), The HST, particularly a station in PA, would draw thousands of people on to our roads, no matter how 'fixed' they were. If you're talking about major arterial additions, that is just more cause for degredation of our city! The residents of Palo Alto would be left with clogged (or worse) conditions that would be foisted on the small residential neighborhood streets all over town. The scenario you're talking about is to build up a mini metro area directly around the line, while the outlying areas basically get thrown to the dogs. Any air quality improvements to California certainly would be offset for Palo Altans as cars and other type of public transport suddenly flooded our area to serve the HST.

This is to say nothing of the miserable aesthetic and quality of life impact of an 8-15 foot solid wall cutting across the entire town. The negative impacts (all negative, no positive for Palo Alto, as far as I've heard so far) are only offset by 'postives' in the most 'macro' sense of the state economy.

Sorry that I'm cranky but the entire picture is so ludicrous and miserable for the town of Palo Alto (Menlo Park, Atherton), that its frightening. And as well, its literally infuriating that we have a handful of non-residents apparently admonishing us to get with the program, completely discounting the destruction of our way of life as 'a few cracked eggs'.

MOst concerning of all is that we haven't heard much at all (if anything?) yet about what our city government (or other government representatives) are doing to protect quality of life in Palo Alto, and Palo Alto property owners - (they've shown their true colors as extremely pro-growth on many issues before), and so basically, unless ~someone~ stands up and starts shouting about it, this is going to go quietly onward, until one day we wake up and find its way too late to influence it.

I'll stop here because I feel sarcasm coming on.


Posted by H, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:10 am

Parent, I agree, now is the time to start the fight.

Who amongst us will stand up to become the voice and rally our residents?


Posted by WilliamR, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:41 am

One point that I haven't seen mentioned, in scanning all of these posts speculating about elevated trackways, etc., is that Caltrain will need to continue operating during the years of construction. When they built the elevated tracks though San Carlos some years ago, Caltrain continued to operate at ground level while the elevated work was going on, but they probably had more than 100 feet of right-of-way to work with. If the current service will be maintained while the additional tracks are laid, that suggests to me that double-gated crossings, but maybe fewer of them, might be used in some places, rather than elevated tracks.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:00 am

I'm not sure what you mean by double gated crossing (do you mean grade level crossings with gates, like the ones we currently have at Charleston, East Meadow, Churchill?

The info on HST website seems to make pretty clear that there is never any case of crossing high speed rail tracks at the same grade level as the tracks - the tracks will be fully enclosed by fences or other barriers to entry at all points. Crossing HST tracks apparently must always be grade separated. That's how I read the material, but maybe Clem or someone knowlegable about HST can answer that question.

In terms of construction, it seems like they would take the necessary additional right of way for construction (property rights, structures trees, etc.,) temporarily, but would leave that surrounding area basically devastated in its wake.

I'm also curious to know if the current drawings/EIS account for any crossing in Palo Alto besides Charleston and Churchill. I wonder what happened in the drawings to Oregon, Embarcadero, University..., and what not having them in the profile drawings means for those crossings. Clem any info or any idea where we can get more answers?


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

"Nicholas Clifford" aka "Nicolas", your debating techniques are less than honest. You originally signed your name as "Nicholas Clifford". When you didn't like Parent's debate style you called him/her on it, pompously lecturing Parent for not even spelling your name correctly. Er, s/he used your spelling. Apparently you can't spell your own name correctly, and neither can John of Mountain View. You've just lost your credibility. My guess is that you're connected with HSR in some way, and that every part of your intro is false: "I am an American living in France, so far from your back yards and schools. Conversely, I have no "horse in this race." I don't work for the railroad industry, I don't work in construction..."
I'm all for civil discourse. Honesty is part of civility. Hypocrisy is not.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm

This is what Nicholas (or Nicolas) above (a propoent of high speed rail), says is a BENEFIT of the High Speed Train

"a transportation artery that will INEVITABLY channel and CONCENTRATE DEVELOPMENT around a new public transit artery (which will, itself, encourage public transit feeders)"

Palo Alto - ARE YOU LISTENING?

Nic(h)olas, I clearly believe that you are not a Palo Altan now, for if you were, you would know that you could say not single thing more poisonous to this project for Palo Altans than this (uhhh, perhaps other than the rest of your post about government siezure of property.)

Wary - thanks for catching that name thing and pointing out the dishonesty in the "Nicolas" lecture/storyline. But one thing I completely believe him about is that he doesn't "give a fig" about the fate of our town.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Aha moment...

So, fast forward to the day that Palo Alto hosts one of these fabulous stations - this major transit hub. How will people from all over the bay area get there? Via major transportation artery of course.

Where is that? University Avenue? Oregon Expressway?....

And lo and behold county discussions are indeed already underway about the widening of Oregon Expressay... hmmm

And just how wide would this expressway need to be 5-10 years from now to support such a major transportation hub?

(So not only are we talking about cutting PA in half from North to South with a 15ft wall, but now East to West with a major expressway/freeway entrance to the HST station hub.)

Eminent Domain along the tracks is likely just the tip of the iceberg...


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

> Who amongst us will stand up to become the voice and rally our residents?

The most *constructive* thing that concerned Palo Alto residents can do is push for high speed rail to be routed over Altamont pass instead of Pacheco pass. Many transportation advocates and environmental groups support this option, which would spare Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto a four-track situation. The Altamont alignment was thoroughly studied in the EIS documents.

The Pacheco / Altamont issue is the subject of the lawsuit that Atherton and Menlo Park joined. It may be a good option for Palo Alto to throw its weight behind this, although Palo Alto would no longer have the option of being a stop on the high speed rail line. I suspect that's why your elected officials haven't made a big stink about this issue so far.

I personally think Altamont is a better idea, but the HSR authority has now chosen Pacheco. That was with plenty of arm twisting from San Jose politicos and construction companies who prefer the more difficult, earth-moving and concrete-pouring intensive option available. (ref: $6.2B and climbing for BART to san jose).

I don't think trying to stop the project will work at this point; it has too much momentum. Advocating for the superior Altamont alignment is a much more constructive approach than just saying "not in my backyard", and may be Palo Alto's only realistic option to dodge the bullet.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Clem, thanks for your very constructive suggestion.

Do you know why the profile drawings don't have any mention of grade separated crossings at University, Embarcadero or Oregon Expressway? Does that mean there would be no crossings there? Or that the project would not cover the costs of upgrading those crossing?

Would current pedestrian undercrossings (such as at California Ave and University Ave go away?


Posted by JimS, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Clarification: I live in San Francisco but I work in Palo Alto.

HSR does not "destroy towns". It saves them. Even if your town doesn't connect directly (Menlo Park, Atherton), you get a local train that connects you to the high speed one. You get access to the world.

Ask people in France, Spain, Japan, Germany, etc. who got a high speed line if it "destroyed" their down. It most certainly did it.

Want to see what's destroyed Palo ALto? The huge widenings of 101 that are far, far wider, louder, and more dangerous than HSR will ever be. The Oregon Expressway and its sprawling suburbs that lock people in without hope of a friendly corner grocery store or barber shop.

It's funny, but to me the only parts of Palo Alto that feels "small town" are the University Ave. and California Ave. areas. i.e. they are that way *BECAUSE* of the train, not despite it. The rest doesn't feel like a small town, it feels like 50's era suburbs -- i.e. the Los Angeles model, not the Main Street America model.

I live in the Castro, right next to a rail station (albeit subway), and it feels more "small-town" than anywhere in Palo Alto. Small Town America requires transit and a moderate amount of density, otherwise you can't have the corner stores, the local pub where everyone knows your name, etc.

Extremely low density and car-dependent transit, like most of Palo Alto, doesn't produce the "small town" feel. It produces suburbs. You won't get a Norman Rockwell painting, you'll get L.A.


Posted by JimS, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm

(And in the mother of all typos, I meant to type "It most certainly didn't" =P )


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2008 at 5:12 pm

> thanks for your very constructive suggestion.

You're welcome. Do realize that you are joining the Altamont / Pacheco debate roughly a decade after it started, and that some very powerful interests have made things the way they are.

> Do you know why the profile drawings don't have any mention of grade separated crossings at University, Embarcadero or Oregon Expressway?

I can only assume that is because those crossings require no particular definition of how they will be built, in the context of an environmental impact report... they are a "simple" widening of existing bridges without noteworthy impact. At University Ave, if Palo Alto becomes an HSR stop, it will require not only 4 tracks but additional platforms. (Refer to the appendix with station profiles). Alma may be so squeezed to the east as to lose its connection with University, and there has been talk of using part of El Camino park for a giant parking structure. All this stuff is extremely preliminary at this point. Who knows how the cookie will crumble, to avoid any proverbs about eggs.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2008 at 7:15 pm

All our city council members supported the high speed rail.

I don't.

I feel that this will create more traffic to our area.
Delivery trucks, buses, and cars will still travel through the city, but in even greater numbers.



Web Link



Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 8:26 pm

All our city council then is about to get an earful from their community. They're throwing us under the train.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm

JimS: "to me the only parts of Palo Alto that feels "small town" are the University Ave. and California Ave. areas. i.e. they are that way *BECAUSE* of the train, not despite it. The rest doesn't feel like a small town"

If you live in the Castro and everyone at the local pub knows your name, then you are a grownup yuppie and don't understand the meaning and definition of small town community that is Palo Alto.

This is the small town that meets on Saturdays at the soccer fields and softball or baseball games, and when we get there, we know all the families because we've been on the same teams with those kids for 5 years. And its the small town where the older kids ride with their siblings on bikes to school, (across busy but still safe streets like Oregon, MIddlefield and Charleston - which we're fighting like hell to KEEP safe), and drop them off on the way at the elementary school. And thats the small town where the middleschoolers meet on a Friday night at the community center for a dance, and they know kids from all the middle schools by name. The same small town where the ride their bikes or walk to meet on a Saturday in Midtown for a slurpee. Where the same families that graduated from the elementary schools are now sending their own kids through the same schools. And where we know the school board members and the city council members by name and by sight because we've been at schools and on teams with their families.

JimS, you don't know what the heck you are talking about. Get married and raise some kids, you might be looking at a town just like Palo Alto to raise your kids some day (if you're lucky). Thanks but we don't need to be 'saved' with high density housing, massive influx of traffic and maxed out city services.

(BTW, if you understood Palo Alto, you'd understand that California and University are pretty much the tourist trap/commuter/college drinkin & partyin parts of town. If this is where you're hanging out, you're getting a pretty limited view, further blurred by your beer goggles. The last time I went to University was to watch my kids in the May Fete parade - I suspect you missed that...)


Posted by HST NOW, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm

YOU DONT LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN!!!!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Clem, Do I realize I'm a decade late on the Altamont/Pacheco debate? Realize it now after having studied this for all of three days. But that does to show how little real info on impact has been reaching the public around these parts. Why? I guess those powerful interests have done a pretty good job of keeping the real ugly stuff as quiet as possible.

better late than never.

Powerful interests - Yes. That's pretty clear from studying the very very slick website and the measure A1 compaign material. Everything on the website (except for the most detailed documents available there) are very slick sales tools, right down to the animated 'gallery' that shows every scenario except oddly enough - completely absent of any visuals of the impacts through the Peninsula.

But its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog. Better late than never, and where there's a will there's a way. Seriously, knowing what I know now, I don't see how I can sleep at night without putting at least some effort into this.

Also, perhaps the altamont/pacheco debate isn't the only route here. I'd like to know more about the environmental challenges that MP and Atherton seem to be pressing, and I'd like to see more pressure on Palo Alto city council as what they are doing to protect PA interests on this. Also, Palo Alto has some sensitive creeks and watershed, and flood zone issues, and they have a very large school serving over 50% of the town, that are in direct line of impact.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

THE ISSUE IS NOT THE POPULATION LISTED ON THE CENSUS REPORT.

The entire town is served by two high schools and about three small grocery stores. There are less than 400 girls signed up for the spring softball league covering every age from Kindergarten to 8th grade. (Its the smallest rec softball league in the area.) There are a total of about six gas stations in town. (About 4 of those on El Camino near Stanford).

I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU MEASURE "SMALL TOWN" BUT YOU DON"T HAVE A CLUE WHAT YOU"RE TALKING ABOUT.

Frankly, I don't care how you measure it, because its irrelevent. What we're talking about here is the undisputed massively negative impacts that HST will have on Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, REdwood City, and other SMALL TOWNS up and down the peninsula.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:49 pm

How about Atherton, at population of about 7000, ranked 393 out of about 450 cities in California. Are they a small town? Is it OK to ruin their town with a 15foot solid wall running down the center?


Posted by HST NOW, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2008 at 7:59 am

You dont have clue what your talking about! Crying and screaming about how the small town is going to be Ruined!! Plans are still in the Design stage. Your "town" is more like a neighborhood is this 3.5 million metro area and outside the of "rich" neighbors in Atherton the MAJORTY voted YES so scream and cry like the spoiled kid that did not get be pitcher on that girls softball team.. Mom.
PS move to Iowa ..there you will see what a SMALL town is


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2008 at 10:54 am

HSTNOW as I said, its absolutely irrelevent how YOU determine an adequate size of town that is OK to destroy with high speed rail. These communities up and down the Peninsula will have their own opinions about whether its OK to be sacraficial lambs for progress, and it will have zero to do with 'smallness'.

You haven't even started to hear the screaming, so get some earplugs.


Posted by HST NOW, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2008 at 11:39 am

DID YOU notice the title of this article? its not about HSR is about improvements to the Caltrain. I only found this because I use Caltrain alot and its on my news updates.YOU have made it your personal scream post about HSR. You have an ultra-sensitive mind on what destroy means..MY grandmothers house and 3,000 others where taken for a freeway project in the 1960s ..they simply had the Sheriff nail evection signs on the doors! nothing like that is going to happen here!!ANYWAY enough of this thead because you have highjacked it GOODBYE


Posted by Eurotrash, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 22, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Wow, you people really have too much time on your hands...

Some info from european trains, compared to Caltrain:

- High speed trains don't race through cities, they are only going fast between them.
- They have to run on level tracks, therefore the grade separation
- They are much quieter (depending on who makes the train) then the current diesels
- They don't use (I hope!) the *retarded* horns (is there cattle on the tracks, or what?).

So overall, a huge improvement.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2008 at 11:07 pm

I can't wait until eminent domain proceedings begin in these white bread towns.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2008 at 1:39 pm

The configuration of Palo Alto is basically a length of caltrain line, bordered by about 1 mile strip of land on the east and a 1 mile strip of land on the West. This is not a corridor onthe outskirts of town - residents and commuters (including thousands of kids on bikes) cross those tracks as daily, the tracks, the noise the crossings, the traffic flows, the vistas created by the tree lines along the tracks, etc., are an integral part of life in Palo Alto. There is not a single person in Palo Alto that is not impacted by the train corridor.

Turning that corridor into 15 foot solid wall (with a constant parade of 15foot trains and high voltage electrical lines riding atop = total of a 30 foot wall), will without ANY question change the character, the environment (the traffic patterns, the accessibility, the visual asthetics, the trees, and so much more) for the entire town. This would be literally a rewrite on the character and layout of this town forever.

The EIS says the noise impacts from HST will be significant, but only mitigated by an offset of less horn noise when they grade separate the crossings. The noise from the train iteself will NOT be an improvment.

(And grade separated crossings could be done withough HST, which would make the horn noise improvements you discuss without bringing all the other negatives of HST through out town.)

You might want to argue that the impact to Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and other similarly small towns along the line DOESN't MATTER, or that the multiple water resources that will be negatively impacted are dispensable, or that highly concentrated dense high rise housing and paving over parks for parking lots is a net benefit to California in general (regardless of the impact on small towns that are being paved over for it), but if you are reading the environmental impact report you will see that the FACTS are that the impacts are true, they will be significantly consequential, they will alter the quality, character and environment of these towns forever.

Spokker's attitude seems to represent the the basic argument in favor of HST which is to say: "Everything negative you say is true, and I hope you don't like it."

(BTW, at the point the trains are running 15 feet above street level on solid retained walls that split our community down the spine, it hardly matters if they are going 50, 100 or 200 miles per hour, the damage is done by virtue of the infastructure.)


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 6:58 pm

"The noise from the train iteself will NOT be an improvment."

HSR running through Palo Alto will be quieter than the current Caltrain.

Personally, I think they shouldn't build HSR in the Caltrain corridor, but a giant freeway over it. That would impact the peninsula far more :)


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 11:22 pm

> Turning that corridor into 15 foot solid wall

Parent, only one third of PA will have the 15-foot wall in the preliminary HSR plan... and even then, were Charleston & Alma to be reconfigured lower (at the cost of greater impact to properties around that intersection) this 15-foot wall could be quite reduced in height, to something like 7 feet or less. We know you don't like the wall, nobody likes a wall, but please quit insinuating that it's a 15-foot solid wall bisecting the entire town.

Also note, HSR plans are, quote, "Preliminary and Subject to Change".


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 1:43 am

So you're just going to put a sound wall to block the view of people on the train? This railroad was carrying passengers before you were born and now you're just going to jump in and block the view they have through the windows? Now we have to look at a wall the entire trip?

I will be fighting all sounds walls, trenches, and attempts to put the line underground. The high speed train will be quieter than Caltrain. There is no reason to block paying passengers' view out the train's windows.


Posted by H, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2008 at 8:36 am

So....who has e-mailed the Mayor and Council? Can you post what you mailed to them here? Does someone have all the facts along with arguments listed. Maybe someone should create a form letter that all of us who are apposed to the HST can use to send to them?


Posted by No to HSR, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2008 at 10:16 am

Spokker, you seem to have a lot of energy. How about trying to put it to positive use instead of blasting people for being the wrong color and having more money than you? Your current argument is the most off-the-wall yet.

If people are traveling through our cities at 150 mph, they're not going to be able to see much anyway. If they want to sightsee, they should drive. Or walk. Or bike. The only rational place to put HSR in as densly-populated an area as ours is underground. Subways are ubiquitous around the world, and you don't hear a lot of the riders whining about the lack of scenery.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Absolutely not. Our standard of riding is based on above-ground, sunny scenery, not deep, dark caves or obstructive sound walls. You can't come in and use eminent domain on our eyes. You're going to alter the character and pride we feel in our train for all these riders? Get real.

We're going to fight this every step of the way. I will filing a lawsuit against the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, and any others that want to erect a sound wall or attempt to trench the line in a way that prevents us from looking at blurry trees whizzing by at 150 MPH.

Consider this sound wall idea D.O.A.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm

No, don't worry, there will be no train through here, and certainly no sound walls. You should have a fine view of the freeway by the time its all said and done. Enjoy (and i hope you get motion sickness as you look out the windows.) I'm sure they put barf bags conveniently placed, on the HST train.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2008 at 1:11 pm

H - I haven't written yet, I've just been researching this for a few days, and I'm still gathering statements and facts from the 1250 page EIS. I will put something here when I get a letter ready.

The main thing needs to be a BIG question to the city council - what are they doing now to get involved in this and to protect and advocate for the city?

Where is the Post, and/or the Weekly and/or the Mercury in communicating the specific details that are currently out there to these impacted communities?

The other main message that needs to go out though is to the broader community to start getting educated on this. Theres no benevolent agency out there thats going to look out for your interests.

Clem, 15 foot wall 1/3 through palo alto is a 15 foot wall (thruogh 1/3 of Palo Alto and that's not OK). And that HUGE wall gradually goes down to an 8 foot through the rest of town! Thats a HUGE wall, by any measure. A wall is a wall. A sound wall would be as equally detrimental - Spokker is completely correct in that single statement - sound wall idea DOA.


Posted by Build it Now, a resident of Southgate
on Nov 24, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Parent,
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] You should have fought this measure before the election if you felt so strongly against it. Now the majority of voters approved it (yes, even in your city) and you need to either be proactive with the rail authority on how to better your town, or crawl back into your hole.

All you are showing the readers of this discussion is how this country has been the past 50 years, REACTIVE not PROACTIVE. Your generation is what is causing the mess our country is in now and my generation is trying to fix it. Thanks for the mess you left us. We are coming up with other solutions that differ from the past. i guess the saying is correct, "you cant teach an old dog (YOU) new tricks".


Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Perhaps the new tracks can just bypass the Palo Alto city-state altogether. That way, the old diesel engines can continue to run back and forth from one end of town to the other, leaving Palo Alto pristine and untouched by the outside world, or any advances in train travel since the 19th century.


Posted by Ven, a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2008 at 9:38 pm

What about the new transparent sound walls? :)


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2008 at 10:15 pm

As I mentioned earlier on this thread, Mayor Klein and Council member Kishimoto issued a Colleagues Memo on October 6th 2008 to support a resolution endorsing Proposition 1A. All council member unanimously approved it.

Rodney Diridon, a long time friend of Mayor Klein, gave a presentation to the council on October 6th 2008.
Mr Diridon is the director of Mineta Transportation Institute. Web Link

As you can see, the photos used in his presentation show trains in other countries, OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. In his presentation he mentioned that the trains would slow down to 125 - 150 miles per hour when they pass through urban areas.

I once researched the accident/derailment rates on high speed rail and posted them. The worlds deadliest high speed train accident occurred in Germany in 1998. Web Link

China's deadliest high speed rail crash Web Link?

Watch this presentation and decide for yourself. It is Letter "D" item 29. This is the web cast Web Link

Here is a U tube video of the German High Speed Rail - Note the absence of homes, and the high voltage wires. High speed rail does make a lot of noise. There is no sound wall. The noise is different than traditional trains, but they are not quiet. Web Link

Imagine a 125 -150 mph train derailment on an elevated track along the Mt. View/ Palo Alto/ Menlo Park/ Atherton corridor.

I'm sure glad that Stanford is coordinating their hospital expansion with the high speed rail line.

I was astounded that so many folks voted for this massive boondoggle, considering the economy of our state.




Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2008 at 10:18 pm


Our council wanted to be trend setters. This massive boondoggle bond passed, and our state will go down in shame.

Although Dinah and her shack are long gone, you can sing along.

Web Link

Here's the The link to view The Resolution Web Link?
BlobID=13684


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2008 at 10:21 pm

I apologize for the city's web link, let me try this again.

Hope you're still singing

Web Link


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2008 at 10:38 am

> I once researched the accident/derailment rates

So, what are the rates? More importantly, how do they compare to auto, train and air travel?

One high speed rail crash with 200 casualties does not make high speed rail unsafe, anymore than a single jumbo jet crash with 200 casualties makes air travel unsafe. Over 3,000 people have died in Boeing 747 crashes; if that makes you think twice about boarding a Boeing 747 after *driving* to the airport, you're either paranoid or you don't really understand statistics.

I'm afraid the body count per passenger mile for HSR will not support your thesis that HSR is somehow risky or unsafe.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm

my generation? My generation has a kindergartner in elementary school right now. What generation were you referring to?

The only generation younger than me is my kids, and I don't feel like throwing Palo Alto into the garbage heap for them. So I'm going to fight. Sorry that I came late to the party and that you don't like it. Tough beans.

The reason I came late is because we had people in positions of trust and responsibility who we would ASSUME were there to watch out for the best interests of our own CITY, who threw us to the dogs. I voted no on the measure, but I had NO IDEA the extent of the gory details for Palo Alto. The city council has forsaken their own town. Amazing.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2008 at 1:33 pm

And for those that are arguing it will improve Caltrain service for local customers:

Its intellectually dishonest to say that Caltrain's capacity would be improved by the addition of the two tracks that HST will bring.
Here's why.

Caltrain today operates 98 trains per day. 22 are baby bullet. Baby bullet runs at the same top speed as the Caltrain local trains: 79mph

So, according to the "Bay Area to Central Valley Final Program EIR/EIS (Volume 1: Report, Chapter 4: Costs and Operations)

HST will operate at speeds up to 125mph in heavily developed areas. (The map showing train speeds shows the peninsula corridor at 100-150mph.) But once HST leaves the heavily developed portions of the bay area, it proposed to operate at much higher speeds (150-220mph).

What this means is that given the lower speeds allowed through the Peninsula, the peninsula stretch is a capacity constraint to the larger system. However, most of their customers to LA will come from this Peninsula stretch!. They will need to move HST trains through the peninsula stretch as efficiently as possible.

HST will operate 248 trains per day (fact from the EIS). While not ALL those trains will necessarily pass through the Peninsula, many of them will (given where the lions share of the customer base will be). Lets generously say only 60% will be moving through the Peninsula corridor – that would be 150 trains per day down the Peninsula line.

(By the way folks that 250 trains total running through the Caltrain corridor daily – Caltrain plus HST - 2.5X the number of trains today, and people are claiming the noise will be improved!.

Back to capacity...
Since they will operate HST 15 hours per day (6am-8pm), that would be a CONSTANT parade of ten HST trains per hour, that's one High Speed Train every 6 minutes for the entire 15 hour day. I'm not an engineer, but it doesn't sound like much leeway.. And that rate certainly doesn't account for any station stops whatsoever. So it seems only logical (and truly the only thing possible) that to maintain that traffic flow for the HST, they would have to switch the high speed trains off the high speed rails, onto the slower outer rails to accommodate for station stops, while leaving the inner high speed lines unimpeded. It doesn not seem feasible at all that you would have either stopping trains or slower moving trains on the inner high speed rails.

(Our well informed (if not mysterious) friend CLEM, tells us that high speed trains will travel on the inner two tracks, (mentioned above as a response to potential negative impacts on Paly).

They are pretty much going to have to maximize the high speed lines, in order to serve and feed the higher speed Central Valley portions of the overall system. And we know they have to maximize capacity across the system to make enough money to fund the project and the operations So it does not make much sense that they'd move the low speed Caltrains into the pathway of the high speed rails. This would only serve to further constrain the high speed rails.

So, the rail sharing that most likely would occur would be for high speed trains to move out of the way, on to the low speed outer tracks for station stops. What does that mean for Caltrains? Massive new constraints being placed on their two tracks: to their 98 existing trains they would need to factor in another 75-150 trains per day sitting on their lines at station stops.

Even if you disagree with the math, or the estimates, the logic is true, that Caltrain would AT BEST be somewhat worse off OR significantly worse off in terms of capacity constraints by sharing lines with HST.

I'm sure Clem or the beligerant Spokker or HST NOW will be happy to share some specific references to the EIS/EIR that prove this wrong. We're happy to hear it, so prove away.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2008 at 2:47 pm

> Baby bullet runs at the same top speed as the Caltrain local trains: 79mph

With 4 grade-separated tracks and electric trains, there is no reason to keep Baby Bullet speeds below 100-110 mph. This is already common practice, e.g. New Jersey Transit. Assuming that Caltrain is limited to 79 mph creates an artificial constraint.

> What this means is that given the lower speeds allowed through the Peninsula, the peninsula stretch is a capacity constraint to the larger system.

Throughput (trains / hour) is largely independent of speed, because trains must be spaced further apart at higher speeds. Headways (in minutes, not miles) are constant; therefore, the lower speeds on the peninsula do not create an additional capacity constraint.

> one High Speed Train every 6 minutes for the entire 15 hour day.

Since there are TWO express tracks, that's one high speed train every 12 minutes in each direction. 5 minute headways are no problem. Your back-of-the-envelope numbers show at least 140% spare capacity, perhaps less at rush hour when you would expect the highest levels of Baby Bullet and HSR service.

> Even if you disagree with the math, or the estimates, the logic is true

Your math underpins your logic. If your math is flawed, then your logic is flawed as well. HSR will help, not hinder, Caltrain capacity and throughput. I've already stated why in another thread, so I won't repeat myself: Web Link


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Please watch the presentation given by Rod Diridon to council on October 6 2008. I can't believe that there were so few opponents to this project, and that our council gave the project unanimous support,
without many questions. The presentation was lacking in many ways. Our council members may not have realized the magnitude of this project.

The HSR project makes other projects like the library, Alma Plaza, Edgewood Plaza, the Stanford expansion, or the Oregon Expansion (if you lived here back then) seem like nothing.

There was only one opponent to this and I am not sure that he was a Palo Alto resident.

Letter D Item 29

Web Link

I am very sad that so many people voted for this. Did you understand what you voted for? Did council understand what they voted for?
This makes me wonder. Watch the presentation and you will understand. Developers for small projects around town give far better presentations than this one.





Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Parent...Live in Menlo Park?? know anyone that was running a campain against the HST bond? You sound like it


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Clem, I'm not talking about speeds being the constraint. I'm using the numbers of trains that they've projected in the EIS - that puts HST trains running through every six minutes, 15 hours per day. That sounds pretty much like full capacity for the HST lines (whatever the speed that translates to).

Clem, show us the math for 140% extra capacity.

And Clem, you haven't refuted the concept here that the high speed trains would be moved off the high speed tracks for stations stops to prevent impedement of the HST throughput. You wouldn't add slower moving trains and stations stops to the HST tracks that would reduce that capacity, if you need the kind of throughput written into the HST cost analysis.

The low speed tracks would carry the extra load of all the extra station stops by the HST - or are you suggesting the HST will stop on the high speed inner tracks? I think the logic is true without the exact math, reasonable estimates tell the same story.

I don't live in Menlo Park, I am a resident of Palo Alto, and I live far away from the train tracks (as mentioned earlier on this thread). I don't know the people that are involved in the lawsuit from Menlo Park/Atherton, in fact I haven't read anything on that yet, but I intend to see who/how/if forces up and down the Peninsula can be joined to ensure that the communities are not destroyed.


Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2008 at 4:27 pm

AND now you have PHD in rail transit systems?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2008 at 4:48 pm

No, I'm not a PHD in rail transit. But the EIS/EIR is out there for anyone to read, all 1250 pages of it. And CLEM DOES seem to be, and even though he's straightening us out on some of the specific details, he is basically agreeing with most of the community impact conclusions we're reaching here - that the impacts for Palo Alto (MP and Atherton) WILL BE significantly negative and he wouldn't want it in his backyard either.

For example, Clem was kind enough to point us to the profile drawings that show the 15 foot retained wall through Palo Alto (up to Paly, going to to a mere 8 FOOT wall at Charleston. This is a fact I'M CERTAIN that 99% of Palo Altan's are not aware of, but they will be shortly (and we'll see what kind of kicking and screaming that generates.)

Glen, to clarify, I haven't been involved in ~any~ conversations up to now on HST, no opposition work at all. The initial post on this thread was my first intro to the details of the HST, and peaked my interest to find out the details. (Up to that point, I had trusted what now turns out to be lies and spin, that the HST would be nothing more to Palo Alto than a new kind of train running down the Caltrain corridor - which is what ALL the Palo Altan's I've spoken to so far thought.

So I'm a new voice on this issue, and I intend to make sure Palo Altan's get aware real quick on this issue, that the Palo Alto City Council either didn't see fit to share, or didn't reasearch themselves.

In fact, I'd really like to see the papers get involved in spreading some FACTS about the profiles the speeds, the numbers of trains, the emininent domain implications, the trees that will be lost, the paving over of El Camino Park for parking structure, the negative impacts on water resources, etc., so that Palo Altans' can also start to get their curiosity peaked.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2008 at 5:01 pm

> Clem, show us the math for 140% extra capacity.

I'm sorry I wasn't clear. You said there would be an HST every 6 minutes, 15 hours a day (i.e. 150 trains a day). That means 75 trains a day per direction, i.e. a northbound every 12 minutes and a southbound every 12 minutes. 12 minutes is 140% more than 5 minutes, which is a headway that can be reasonably achieved using today's off-the-shelf signal technology.

> you haven't refuted the concept here that the high speed trains would be moved off the high speed tracks

That's perfectly fine. Some HST's can use the slow tracks to make station stops as needed, and Caltrain bullets can use the fast tracks to pass locals anywhere as needed. There would be numerous crossovers to jog from one to the other; it's not like you're stuck on the fast tracks or slow tracks for the entire length of the peninsula. There's a lot of operational flexibility, meaning many ways to get dense traffic from point A to point B.

This is the exact opposite of the existing situation, where baby bullets must be dispatched well behind the preceding local (actually, "limited", since locals are incompatible with baby bullet service) to prevent catching up on the same track. Now THAT is indeed a throughput constraint. Caltrain's busy rush hour schedule has a whopping 12 minute average headway, with very little margin (witness the timetable disasters when one train is even a few minutes late). That's what we have to live with on 2 tracks, and that's why 4 tracks, even with HSR, will be infinitely better for Caltrain.

Gotta go (catch a Caltrain, incidentally...)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Ok Clem, I'll give you that at 75 HST trains per direction, per day, they'll be running the HST at about 12 minute intervals. And I'll take your word for it that that gives them enough time to FREQUENTLY intersperse the much slower moving baby bullets onto the high speed HST tracks.

But you will still have at least 150 more stops per day at one or more of the train stations along the Peninsula corridor (well more than 150 stops actually because each HST can stop at one or more stations depending on how "Express" they are. Some are "Suburban", some are "Local" some are "Regional" etc.) And those station stops will occur on the slow lane outer tracks... Which will significantly slow down the flow of what can be accomodated on the outer slow speed Caltrain commute lines. No?


Posted by H, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

Parent, if you draft a letter to our City officials, I'm sure you can get enough signatures or people that can use your form letter to wake up the City Council on this soon-to-be big issue for all of us.


Posted by Shame on me, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 26, 2008 at 9:54 am

PA Weekly, PA Daily, Post; PA City Council, PAUSD BOE, Joe Simitian, enviromental watchdogs:

Anyone looking at the HSR proposal as closely as Parent? Does anyone care? I don't think Parent is making this stuff up out of thin air. Parent seems to be wading through the 1200+ pages or the EIS/EIR and asking important questions. The time for getting straight answers to these questions is now rather than later, after the train has left the station.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

> And those station stops will occur on the slow lane outer tracks...

They don't have to. The stops at Millbrae and RWC/PA can be built with platforms on the center tracks. Like so:

====._.===._._.===._.====

That even makes it possible to do coordinated cross-platform transfers between baby bullets and locals, effectively bringing the benefits of baby bullet service to such Caltrain backwaters as Atherton or California Ave. Imagine that!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2008 at 11:28 am

Clem, you are talking about the physical layout of how to build a platform up to the inner tracks - obviously not an issue.

I'm talking about the time and distance constraints of putting 150 + stops on the inner two high speed tracks, while still moving that required volume of HST plus Baby Bullets through safely. For example, how long is one stop of an HST train, in minutes?

(Must be longer than a Caltrain stop - luggage, children, elderly, etc... Its a tourist line, not a commuter line)


Posted by JimS, a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 30, 2008 at 6:47 am

It's been a while and this thread is old, so I don't know if anyone will read it but...

I've lived in my fair share of "actual" small towns. Before I moved to the Bay Area, I lived in rural Idaho. To put this in perspective, if you exclude Boise and its suburb Nampa (on the opposite side of the state from me), Palo Alto exceeds the population of any city in Idaho, and in fact exceeds the size of all but a handful of entire COUNTIES.

Want to go to a real small town? A real small town doesn't have an Ikea. Or a Safeway. I remember in one town I lived by in Idaho, the town gas station got a Burger King -- the first fast food chain anywhere for 50+ miles. That made people sad as people liked the local burger joint that had served the town for so long.

Then came the sprawl (a lot of people moving from California, actually), and the town changed even more. The original small town part though that the locals knew and loved? It was centered around the train station -- even after the train no longer came.

Trains are what build small towns -- every small town of note I saw in Idaho was centered around a train station, even though they're almost all shut down now (Sandpoint is the only active station left, although they're trying to get the old Pioneer route up and running again).

Anyway, no, it's not beer goggles. The thing I noticed about the "Norman Rockwell-style" small towns? They were small enough *physically* that neighbors got to know each other because they saw each other every day. The newer sprawly suburbs? They didn't get that, because people didn't see each other unless they happened to belong to the same organizations (i.e. drove to the meeting places).

In other words, the "small town" feel comes from people living together. Freeways didn't create those places where people lived together -- train stations did, because they encouraged growth around a focal point.


Posted by Shame on me, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 30, 2008 at 9:56 am

We can quibble whether PA is a "small town". But we do have a town where both high schools are on one side of the tracks and kids must cross them to get to school. The town is small enough that there's lots of cross-town travel to get to eateries, doctors, etc. It's small enough that the Board of Education and the community anguish over reconfiguring the school borders, for fear that kids will need to cross an expressway or train tracks. It's small enough that neighborhoods protest the effects of a proposed supermarket because of it's size or architecture. It's small enough that the architectural and historical integrity of neighborhoods is fiercly protected by the city and it's citizens. We can go on and on.
So let's face it. Small town or not, when the real story of HSR is exposed for it's effect on this town, city or whatever you want to call it, I suggest that you hold on because you're going to be in for a bumpy ride.
I suggest Diridon and friends begin to take another look at Altamont Pass or other alternatives for the HSR dream.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2008 at 10:08 pm

This will make the building of the trans Alaska pipeline seem like nothing. The costs, corruption, and impacts to the environment and our communities will rival those of the building of the pipeline.


Posted by H, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:05 am

OK, so I've watched all the posts with some interesting points. When will someone formally begin the opposition? Will there be a letter writing or signature gathering effort? Who will lead this? OR is the City Council just assuming that we all want this nightmare?



Posted by High speed communications, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 1, 2008 at 9:32 am

I'm currently neutral on HSR, but wondering why there is no mention of significantly better, three dimensional video networking that's just over the horizon. Serious people are beginning to talk about the eventual degradation of the traditional Titanic-size jumbo jet model of travel as telecommunications capacity improves to the point where in-home and business-to-business teleconferencing, with better-than-photorealistic result is made available. We're on the cusp of that now. Cisco and other companies have entire divisional groups with working prototypes.

For instance, there is a lot of talk in the airline sector of smaller planes - much smaller planes that engage fast point-to-point travel.

It seems that we're making projections for things like HSR based on unquestioned forward projections about how much future travel will be necessary.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:06 am

High Speed Communications. I agree, there will be paradigm shifts through technology, that won't require massive transporting of people for business.

And for reasons of tourism (or even for business), they claim the HST is intended to replace auto travel and air travel for the movement of people (its definitley NOT going to movement of goods), then the HST should logically be placed in current freeway corridors, where the land and the communities have already absorbed the impact of transportation corridors.

Why in the world would we spread out these negative consequences and desecrate even more natural resources, wildlife and communities than already have been with the freeways?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

H - I think the first thing to do is to tap in to the significantly organized school community in Palo Alto, which is where I plan to start.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Clem, if you're still there - question. Any way to determine how much higher than the existing tracks the 15 foot wall (by Paly) will sit? The street level is higher on the east side of the tracks today than the on the Alma side. The current tracks are about level with the street if you are standing on the STanford/Paly side of the street. However, the tracks are about at eye level if you were standing on Alma side...

Would you measure the 15 feet in the new plan based on starting at street level on the east side of the tracks? Or from the Alma side?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Woops I should have said - higher on the west side (thats the Standford/Paly side). Lower on the east side, which is the Alma side...

Thanks


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2008 at 8:02 pm

> Would you measure the 15 feet in the new plan based on starting at street level on the east side of the tracks? Or from the Alma side?

I have no idea, since the detailed engineering is yet to be done. The stuff in the EIS/EIR is highly preliminary, and labeled as such.

While I don't think you'll have much success in preventing HSR from passing through Palo Alto, you will certainly have opportunities to shape how it is built, within reason. The 15 foot retained embankment (a.k.a. wall) was probably devised by a handful of civil engineers poring over Caltrain right-of-way maps. There is a lot more detail still to flesh out, which is the next task that the CHSRA will take on, no doubt in collaboration with the impacted communities. There will be many design requirements imposed by the city, Caltrans, the California Public Utilities Commission, the FRA, etc. and all of those conflicting requirements will have to be boiled down into something workable.

FYI the board of the CHSRA is holding a public meeting in San Jose on Wednesday.


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