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High-speed rail worries Peninsula residents

Original post made on Jan 23, 2009

The state agency charged with building a high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles has yet to convince Peninsula residents about the merits of having electric trains zip through their communities at 125 mph.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 22, 2009, 11:16 PM

Comments (105)

Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 12:05 am

"The trains would travel at speeds up to 220 miles per hour, delivering passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 minutes and 38 seconds."

Wow, 220MPH + wormhole tech/??? = SF to LA in 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

;-)

I found a vid of the tech they use on YouTube.

Web Link

qq


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

2 minutes, 38 seconds, you are right that is impressive ;^)
Since none of the passengers will survive the acceleration, they better get the fares up front.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2009 at 1:09 am

Their cost and time-to-completion estimates are off by roughly the same factor.


Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 4:10 am

I like the idea of putting it underground.
i would cost a lot, but it would make the alma area much better.
they were talking about putting a park down that strip of land,
and the train underground would be much more safe and quiet.


Posted by Impossible, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2009 at 5:20 am

"The trains would travel at speeds up to 220 miles per hour, delivering passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 minutes and 38 seconds." This is a thorough exaggeration because they've planned for 24 stops along the way. If this train is going to stop 24 times between SF and LA the train will have to travel well over 300 mph between stops, it won't happen.


Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 5:41 am

Huh ... 220 mph ... it is 400 miles to LA from SF, that is at least an hour and 48 minutes without stops, and the distance is really more than that. I think someone made a boo-boo.
Someone needs to revisit this article and get it fixed.


Posted by katjab, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 8:11 am

Greased lightining!

I've complained about the sorely lacking editing at the Weekly in the past, only to be met by arrogance and excuses.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2009 at 8:32 am

If money can be found to take man to the moon or mars, then I think money should be found to put this project underground. While I have nothing against space exploration, I think that making life better for those of us remaining on Earth should be given as much, if not more, consideration.


Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

"Convince" Residents..Prop1A Passes in the 65 percent range up and down the peninusla..NIMBYS are the problem on this 120YREAR old railroad


Posted by Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jan 23, 2009 at 9:18 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

It should read "2 hours and 38 minutes." Thanks for pointing out the misprint.


Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 10:15 am

It doesn't worry me, it excites me — and most others I talk to.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2009 at 10:50 am

Some questions that need to be answered:
— Four tracks ... how many houses will have to be taken out in Palo Alto?
— Short of undergrounding through all of Palo Alto, which won't happen because of the cost, what will be done at the Charleston, Meadow, and Churchill crossings ... and how many more homes will be lost to that?
— A stop in Palo Alto ... how massive would that structure be, and how much new traffic would it generate?
— The 2 1/2 hours is, as noted in other comments, absurd ... it won't happen. What is the real time.
— Has anybody done a ridership/use study?
And why isn't our Council talking about these and other related issues?


Posted by Car Renter, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

Several new auto rental agencies will be needed for the hundreds of daily L.A. tourists to P.A. so they can drive to their destinations. That will bring added jobs to our area and might be a good business to go into. Also new gas stations will be needed.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

Undergrounding the trains, though quite a bit more expensive in the near term,has clear advantages that even non-NIMBYs should be able to appreciate:
1) The grade separation issues go away. No need to build a Great Wall of China through the peninsula. No need to eliminate east-west crossing streets to reduce costs of tunnels
2) Noise problems go away. And with train traffic increasing to a train every 10 minutes (or more), the noise issue can't just be dismissed.
3) Land along the current Caltrain right of way can be used in a myriad of more productive ways. Off the top of my head I can think of four uses - I'm sure others can come up with hundreds more:
a) to start, a large parking structure at Palo Alto or RWC to handle the many users of HSR, a problem that Quentin Kopp wants to dump on those cities where most available lots are already taken.
b) bike lanes and pedestrian walkways between peninsula cities that provide a green alternative to energy using modes of cars and trains.
c) high density housing near all the stations for both Caltrain and HSR.
d) did someone mention a need for more play fields in the mid-peninsula?
4) I worry that the earthen berm proposed to support all four sets of tracks will be very susceptible to failure during strong shaking in either the San Andreas or Hayward earthquakes that are forecast for coming decades. And just how many homes will a HSR train, traveling at 125mph, take out when it comes off the tracks during one of these earthquake?


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Mike's comments got me thinking about what in Menlo Park would be at risk if the right of way (ROW) expands to accomodate 4 sets of tracks:
If the ROW expands to the west, Stone Pine Lane goes away; Roger Reynolds has to downsize; 1st floor apartments along Garwood Way are staring at a berm and people on the trains are looking back into 2nd story bedrooms; the Menlo train station has to move, along with the train station parking; Menlo Station loses parking; Stanford Park Hotel is sitting right over the new tracks, the historic El Palo Alto redwood tree looks like it would need to be removed.
If the ROW expands to the east, backyards abutting the tracks from Felton Drive, Laurel Place, Mills Court, and Mills Street will get whacked; some apartment buildings will be demolished; Alma St will have to shrink or be eliminated altogether; and all the mature trees along the ROW will be removed.
Google maps or GoogleEarth provide the satellite imagery to clearly see what changes 4 sets of tracks will necessitate.
Good question about why the PA City Council isn't asking these questions. Menlo Park and Atherton councils have been discussing it for years and have sued the HSR authority over their shoddy EIR that largely dismisses these questions as a NIMBY nuisance.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2009 at 12:30 pm

What about the 15 foot solid retained wall (reduced to a mere 8 feet by charleston - that the trains will run on. Trains run up on top of a big berm held up by solid retained wall. Throughout the length of the entire town (at varying heights but at Paly 15 feet high).

They'll be putting in 4 wide tracks. That means tracks will but right up against the outer edges of the right of way - right up against peoples backyards. So what are the required safety perimeters besides high speed rail tracks for earthquake safety?

How much auto traffic will INCREASE in Palo Alto - because HSR is not a replacement for daily commuting, its a replacement for air travel. HSR tickets will cost 3X more than caltrain. However, train stations are intended to be massive transportation hubs. So that's a DRAW of MORE traffic into the cities where stations are located. So tell us the traffic impact for roadways into to the station area.. (Oregon, Embarcadero, Alma, El Camino, et)

What are the impacts on creeks and underground water supplies? How will they be protected.

BTW, if you read any position material from HSR suppoerts (including Kopp) they make it clear that UNDERGROUND lines are NOT a benefit for HSR, only benefit the so called "NIBMYS", and that underground would be nothing but COST to the HSR plan, so they make it quite clear that they would FIGHT any efforts to have any underground solutinos funded by the HSR project - they say locals would have to fund the tunneling (billions). Where's Palo Alto's city council's plan to fund that?

The catenary system (poles and high voltage electrical) sits about 43 feet above the ground level.

By the way -noise improved? Are you sure? With HSR and Caltrain combined about 300 trains per day moving through town... Is the noise and vibration really improved at a total level?

What about social justice? They say, well Palo Alto is just a big fat cat wealthy community - boo hoo for them that they have to have a massive concrete barrier built through the middle of town, and 40 foot high voltage electrical strung up. Really? The EFFECTED IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT property is some of the lowest value residentail property in town. What is the socio-economic makeup of the residents DIRECTLY IMPACTED?

What are the impacts on schools (Paly) and parks (PEERs, Robles, etc), Historical Landmarks (El Palo Alto), endagered creeks, species, etc.

What is the impact on dense housing growth ACCELERATION (even over and above the currently ridiculous squeeze from ABAG mandates). That will be created, by intention, by the HSR coming to town. (Read the EIR/EIS - they specifically say Dense Housing Growth Acceleration is a DESIRABLE OUTCOME of HSR.

Real Question - where is the city council of Palo Alto, and what questions are THEY Asking the HSR Authority now? How are THEY standing up for the best interests of Palo Alto in all of this?






Posted by Just wondering, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm

What's wrong with building HSR line as an overpass down 101 through all the same towns?

Hits all the same peninsula cities.

Effects no property adversely that isn't already dusted by freeway

Avoids schools, parks, backyards

Will HELP in the revitalization of blighted areas along 101 in the places where stations are built. Those become high dense housing growth hot spots, which means they are remodeled/stimulated by economic growth. (As opposed to intentionally blighting even more perfectly viable neighborhoods with HSR infrastructure)

Keeps massive influxes of auto traffic off already highly impacted neighborhood streets (Ever try to drive from 101 to Stanford during rush hour? That only gets worse with HSR.)

Stays in the long distance traffic freeway corridor where it ~might~ be replacing some auto traffic for the once a year trip to Disneyland.

Cheaper - no imminent domain. No tunneling. Build it on an overpass structure right down the middle of the freeway. It could be very cool - like the monorail at Disneyland passing by... Train riders would have better views too...


Posted by Suzan Syrett, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Although all of the issues raised (earthquakes, effects on neighborhoods, etc.) are valid and need to be addressed, this project is part of where we need to be going. It will cut down on airline passenger miles which generate greenhouse gases and use much fossil fuel. It will eliminate the need for travel to an airport for these trips, saving both time and fuel.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm

It REPLACES travel to an airport with travel to an HSR station. It takes ZERO cars off the road. If you haven't noticed before, trains travel in straight lines. Only.

The entire US population uses cars daily for commuting, for life. Not much help to give them a way to eliminate their 1 or two plane rides each year. They are still DRIVING DAILY.

If we really want to make a dent in greenhouse gasses, use the same investment to convert the US automobile infrastructure to electric. If every Californian was handed a small electric vehicle for commuting, and at the same time 50% of all freeway lanes were converted to mini commuter vehicle lanes - we'd take a billion cars off the road. And think of the economic stimulus that would create!

Get gas using vehicle off the road for real.


Posted by Martin Engel, NIMBY, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2009 at 3:32 pm

CHSRA against tunnels? Not really. They do want a tunnel between S.Tomas Expressway and the Diridon Station. Rafael has pointed this out for us already. You can see the diagram:

Web Link
Vol. 2, Appendix 2-D, page 2-D-7.
Click on PDF file Vol. 2, Appendix 2-D
<20080528112058_App%202-D_stacked.pdf>

Even though Kopp, in his royal declarations, has denied bond issue funding for the 1.5 mile tunnel to the Transbay Terminal, we all know that it will happen regardless. So, they don't oppose tunnels and therefore, given that this new rail system will be in business for another 145 years, it should be underground. Not because of NIMBYs like us, but because every major city has its intercity rail systems and commuter subways underground. San Francisco will. The Peninsula should. Major rail systems have no business running down the middle of high-density, high population cities. In 75 years, that's what the Peninsula will be.


Posted by nimbysareus, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm

your total nimbys..yes and whiners...


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm

"This is a thorough exaggeration because they've planned for 24 stops along the way. If this train is going to stop 24 times between SF and LA the train will have to travel well over 300 mph between stops, it won't happen."

The 2 hour and 38 minute claim is for direct express trains only. That is, a train traveling directly from LA to SF (or SF to LA) without stopping. Local trains that hit all stops and limited express trains that hit less stops will take longer.


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

HSR express trains that go from S.F. to L.A. with NO stops in between? There'll be a bloody hue and cry over that from all the communities that build stations and make right-of-way available and HSR trains don't even stop there but whiz right by.

Let's do a little arithmetic. If there are 24 stops and trains stop for five minutes (a very conservative estimate) at each one, that adds 120 minutes or two hours to the trip. So if an express train takes 2:38, a train which makes all the stops will take 4:38. If the trains stop for 10 minutes, that will add four hours to the trip, making it 6 hours 38 minuts. Big deal, I can take Interstate 5 and make the trip in less time and probably cheaper, AND I'll have the use of my car at my destination.

WRT undergrounding the tracks, are you prepared to pump the water table 24/7 all up and down the entire right-of-way through Palo Alto as is done at the Oregon Expwy. underpass? That's the first engineering hurdle that will have to be overcome if the trains are undergrounded.

You want a really, really radical idea? Move the Palo Alto depot to Embarcadero and make part of Town & Country Village the "transportation hub". If HSR is to draw the masses out of planes and into trains, travelers are going to want car rentals and lodgings. You could build car rental facilities in T&C and there are lodgings nearby. It would then be a straight shot down Embarcadero to Bayshore for that important meeting in Sunnyvale. An alternative would be for HSR traffic to go down University like a stone through a soda straw - that's no good. Another alternative is to put the depot at California Avenue and use Oregon Expwy. as the artery, but where would you build the "transportation hub" unless you demolish the condos adjacent to the station? Yet another alternative would be to demolish McArthur Park and nearby buildings and expand the existing depot there, and dump any auto traffic onto El Camino. It would likely encroach on the baseball field, but such is the price you'll have to pay if you want to have a "Destination Palo Alto".

Oh, and let's not forget that ridership survey.


Posted by Me, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 23, 2009 at 11:00 pm

We need to use genetically engineer humans with wings. Voila! Problem solved. (just watch out for the old flyers!)


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2009 at 1:50 am

I thought the issue with building the train underground--which I agree would be preferable--was the water table.

MeMe,

Why would it be a problem if some HSR trains were expresses and others stopped along the way? Most rail systems, including CalTrain, have a variety of expresses, semi-expresses and locals.

T&C as a hub wouldn't have been a terrible idea except that there's about to be no room for extra parking there with the expansion. California Ave. wouldn't be a bad idea, IMHO.

That said, I see no indication that Palo Alto will be a destination hub. The studies I've seen indicate that such a hub will be in major cities, such as San Francisco. Redwood City and/or Palo Alto would be stops, not hubs. If we're going to get the tracks--which seems very likely--there should be a Peninsula station. That station may well be in RWC as RWC may try harder for it.


Posted by resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 24, 2009 at 6:55 am

I live near the rails, and frankly 2 lanes is bad enough, now 4? With all the recent deaths, and now the thought of having to deal with 4 lanes, plus a concrete wall makes me want to move to Los Altos.


Posted by md, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 7:26 am

Simple solution - end HSR at the main station in San Jose. Take BART or Caltrain from there. How many people will actually be going all the way to downtown SF vs. how many will be going to other destinations. We already have rail around the Bay - no need to build a redundant system.


Posted by Teddie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2009 at 8:22 am

I agree with MD. Upgrade Caltrain with new grade separations, electrification, and a new station at the Transbay Terminal. My hope is that as money runs short they won't make it up the Peninsula b/c of the expensive cost and issues with NIMBYS.


Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 8:22 am

End the HSR at San Jose?? SO why dont we end all the freeways at San Jose..then you can take the local streets to San Francisco and other peninsula cites. Thats about on the same stupid level as your simple solution


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 24, 2009 at 9:00 am

I thought it was implicit in my post that undergrounding the trains is infeasible from the get-go due to the water table issue unless you build pumping stations all up and down the right of way.

I agree that if HSR is to happen, it should not come up the Peninsula (going instead to San Jose airport and not the Cahill street station) due to the redundancy with CalTrain. Why spend hundreds of millions building a parallel service which duplicates what's already there? From San Jose HSR could continue to Oakland and on to Sacramento. The problem is, that's not the way they're planning to build it. If the grandiose plan is for HSR to draw the masses out of airplanes by the thousands as their ridership projections suggest, those travelers are going to require some basic services at their destinations: car rental, long-term parking, taxi service, nearby lodgings and connectivity to local bus and shuttle lines. All major airports have these things. According to the article, these are the details Quentin Kopp wants to palm off on the local communities. Without them, HSR will be deemed less convenient than flying and people will continue to use airplanes. If you buy into the bureaucrats' fantasy, HSR will carry 10 million passengers per year by 2030. That's not exactly the Lark and the Daylight passing through Palo Alto once per day each way. The HSR bureaucrats have put wildly optimistic ridership projections into their business plan (available on line) in order to make it look like the system won't be a total money sink.

WRT local vs. express, how many express trains can you have whizzing through a town like Visalia without stopping before the locals get pissed when they realize they're not getting as much benefit from HSR as promised? If they take a local or limited the times are not going to be much better than driving as previously calculated so why bother taking the train?

WRT the depot, looking at Google Earth there is a patch of apparently vacant land on the other side of Oregon Expwy. from the Calif. Ave. depot fronting Page Mill Road. I suppose you could expand the depot there.


Posted by Some Other Guy, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2009 at 9:17 am

Glen: your argument is specious. There is already train service from SJ to SF. It's been there since the 1860s in case you hadn't noticed. It has recently been retracked and there are now Baby Bullet trains running up and down its length.

On November 4 voters approved ONLY $10 billion (that's billion with a "b"), just a fraction of the projected cost (not including budget overruns). They think they can get money from private investors, but with the economy and the state's credit rating in the toilet I predict that funding will be hard to come by. Hopefully this boondoggle will never get built.


Posted by Glen, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 9:44 am

In case I had not noticed? ITS more like have YOU people NOTICED its a 120year old railway YOU people moved next to!!YES we are going to get this system built. 61% said yes in San Mateo county..even more in San Jose..AND yes we are going to upgrade this 120 year old railroad even more! Its a Boodoggie only in old Mccain type brains..and nimbys


Posted by myself, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

The homes that are close to the tracks all along alma (Old PA included) will lose value by being so close to a FOUR lane stretch of track. There would be Caltrain, High Speed AND the freights at night. That train activity so close to homes will surely devalue. If I owned a house within four blocks of Alma I'd be fighting this in order to maintain the value of my home. These issues will happen from here to LA...homeowners are going to fight this much train activity close to their homes. Imagine all the homeowners that will fight this and delay it...years of fights and lawsuits in the making.
The numbers that were published in the Chronicle stated that they are actually NOT trying to get riders from airplanes, but people who drive. I believe the number was 5% of the people who travel between SF and LA travel by plane...the rest drive. People who take the train will need to pay to park their car at the train station (if its like airport parking not cheap), rent a car at their destination (expensive) and add on that time to thier trip (extra hour at each end to rent/return a car) and that is added cost, hassle and makes the 2 1/2 hours all of a sudden 4 1/2 hours - so only a 2 1/2 hour savings in travel time. Not the easiest sell. The ridership numbers must be high in order for the new train to keep low fairs-and if not, fares go up leaving this option even less enticing. Fun in theory, but in reality not logical.


Posted by Steve C., a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

I am wondering why it wouldn't make more sense to terminate the High-Speed run in San Jose, then develop designated non-stops that would handle the traffic destined for San Fransisco, thereby eliminating the need for the High-Speed peninsular run? Everyone else could simply transfer to the regular train runs between San Jose and San Fransisco if their destination lay between San Jose and San Fransisco.
Sure, there would be a loss of time and efficiency involved in this transfer plan, but my guess is that many of the economic and environmental roadblocks in front of the project would evaporate with an integrated plan as opposed to a one-size fits all, my-way-or-the-highway plan.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Too many people commenting here are looking at this with 20th century values. What we must look at is not what would suit people today, but what would suit the population in 20, 30 or even 50 years' time. With options of car sharing programs, technological advances in things like parking garages (pack 'em in on conveyer belts and park 'em on top of each other) and other options we can only dream about, public transport at both the local and long distance levels needs to change dramatically over the next 20 years. We can only imagine the needs of our grandchildren, but a rail system put in now can only be a starting block for the next idea whatever that might be. Getting a foot in the door now will be a great help to the future needs.

Look at this not from last century ideals, but futuristic remedies turning into realities.


Posted by Get together, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2009 at 1:19 pm

The City will build their $80 Million Public Safety Building, then the HSR Authority will take the building over by eminent domain and buy it for $80 Million. Public Safety Building is demolished, HSR is built. End of $80 Million PSB, now where are we going to build it?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

It doesn't make sense to terminate HSR just when you get to the areas people actually want to go. The train will probably go up the Peninsula for two reasons--this is a major urban area with tons of jobs and commuters--and there's a right-of-way already.

HSR should be safer for pedestrians than the current system simply because there will be no crossing of the tracks and they'll be raised.
It should also be quieter (better tracks) than the current CalTrain system. I doubt it will be a major freight line.

As for Visalia--you don't need every train to stop at Visalia. What will happen is that someone in Visalia might take a local train to an express station and catch the express from there.

It's helpful to look at how HSR is managed in Europe to see how this works.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 2:09 pm

> I am wondering why it wouldn't make more sense to terminate the High-Speed run in San Jose, then develop designated non-stops that would handle the traffic destined for San Fransisco, thereby eliminating the need for the High-Speed peninsular run?

Excellent question.

The issue is track capacity, i.e. how many trains per hour you can run on a given track. When you run trains of different average speeds on the same track, you have to let the slow train clear the tracks for a long time before you send the fast train after it, or it will catch up. Mis-matched speeds thus *reduce* track capacity. This is already the case today, with Caltrain's Baby Bullet service. Caltrain's maximum rush-hour traffic is 5 trains per hour per direction, which is absolutely abysmal by world standards.

Doing what you propose would require building another pair of tracks, so you're back to square one.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Another reason for not taking HSR to SF is because you are forgetting that many people who will want to use this service will live or want to get to North of San Francisco, or to Oakland, or Berkeley, or Marin. For them, SF is not the end of the journey, just a point where they make a change to BART or some other transportation. If they have to change at SJ to Caltrain, and then to this other connection, you are not in fact making it easier for them to use. Unless the HSR is fast into SF then you are basically cutting down the number of people who will use it. There are a lot more potential customers than just those who want to visit/live on the peninsula.


Posted by Facts 'n' Figures, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 2:52 pm

People are acting as if the Peninsula will be cut off from civilization if it doesn't get HSR. The Peninsula already has deluxe rail service complete with Baby Bullet trains. In 2003 the line was re-tracked for $157 million, in 2004 a maintenance and operations facility was built for $140 million, and there are plans to electrify the system for at least another $600 million. That's almost $1 billion in improvements and it's still not considered good enough, so the state must lavish hundreds of millions more on the Peninsula by building a redundant rail service? That's bad economics no matter how you slice it.

In order to make that 2:38 express time from L.A. to S.F., Palo Alto (or Redwood City) will be one of the stops HSR will have to zip through without stopping. Then, once it gets to S.F., the train has nowhere to go. It can't cross either bridge. If it went as far as San Jose it could continue up to Oakland and Sacramento. As for the people in Visalia, if the express termini are in L.A. and S.F., it makes no sense to take a local train to either one and then catch the express to the opposite city. It would likely be faster, cheaper and less hassle for the people in Visalia to get in the car and drive, screw the train, and have the use of their vehicle when they get there.


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 24, 2009 at 3:13 pm

<< Unless the HSR is fast into SF then you are basically cutting down the number of people who will use it. >>

Realistically, how quickly does a person need to get from S.J. to S.F.? Is it really worth hundreds of millions just to shave 30 minutes off a train trip? Is our society really that preoccupied with celerity?


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 4:23 pm

> The Peninsula already has deluxe rail service complete with Baby Bullet trains.

We all have different notions of what is "deluxe". Caltrain clearly scored a huge marketing coup by getting the futuristic "bullet train" aura to rub off on its commuter service, but their fastest train still averages only 49 mph (that's right, FOURTY-NINE) from SF to SJ. Many smaller stations on the peninsula are served twice per hour, even at rush hour, when most trains skip them entirely! Even at Caltrain mega-hubs like Palo Alto (the second busiest station after San Francisco) there are only five trains per hour at rush hour.

I contend that your notion of "deluxe" is a bit provincial.


Posted by straight face test, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 4:50 pm

The question is not whether it's deluxe enough, but whether it makes any sense to duplicate existing service when our unmet transit needs are so vast and complex.

Another poster mentioned thinking ahead. I have a real hard time peering down the time machine and seeing old-fashioned railways on the landscape in 50 years -- other than as curiosities. Too inflexible, too capital intensive, too expensive. All the progress we've been making since World War II has been moving us away from these outmoded means of transportation.

As for the comparisons to Europe, my understanding is that our federal laws wouldn't allow us to run similar trains. Besides, HSR only works in Europe because the local transit systems are excellent: people can use the train to travel to another city and then rely on public transit once they arrive. The only high speed rail system in this country right now is Acela, which has not exactly been a huge success. The fare is twice as high as regular train fare, which itself isn't cheap, and it only shaves an hour or so off a 4-5 hour train trip.

HSR ridership figures may look impressive, but if they are trying to reduce auto trips to and from LA, they are in fantasy land. You can't get around LA -- or most of the Bay Area -- without a car. And if you're driving your car, you can take 4 or 5 other people for no incremental cost and a lot less money than it costs to buy train tickets for everyone. Most people who are traveling for pleasure will still want to drive, and people who are traveling for business will take the train.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 5:10 pm

> As for the comparisons to Europe, my understanding is that our federal laws wouldn't allow us to run similar trains.

The laws will be changed. Caltrain is already chipping away at the FRA's resistance to modern trains that are not built like tanks, just so Caltrain can buy their next train off-the-shelf without costing you and me an arm and a leg. A '57 Chevy is certainly a lot stronger and sturdier than a Toyota Camry, but guess which one is safer for its occupants?

> HSR only works in Europe because the local transit systems are excellent

BART is excellent. Caltrain will be excellent when this project is complete. The bus systems will follow demand.

> The only high speed rail system in this country right now is Acela, which has not exactly been a huge success.

It has been an enormous success if you judge by Acela's market share against the airline shuttles. Whatever the case, it's beside the point since Acela hardly qualifies as "high speed rail".

Never judge a train by its pointy nose.

> The fare is twice as high as regular train fare

They charge what the market will bear, and they provide only business class service. High prices are indicative of high demand and low supply for fast, efficient, convenient and comfortable service.

Finally, there is no talk of "duplicating" existing service on the peninsula. HSR and Caltrain will serve different markets (local vs. long distance) and about the only thing they will share is the right of way.


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

<< HSR and Caltrain will serve different markets (local vs. long distance) and about the only thing they will share is the right of way. >>

Hundreds of millions of dollars so the HSR passenger will not have to suffer the dreadful inconvenience of changing trains from HSR to CalTrain in San Jose. Taking CalTrain might add a whopping 30 - 45 minutes to the trip from SJ to SF -- what a calamity that would be!

Seriously, when you weigh the huge cost of construction against the benefit of getting to the city incrementally faster, the cost/benefit ratio is dubious.


Posted by straight face test, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm

"Caltrain is already chipping away at the FRA's resistance to modern trains..."

So you acknowledge that European style trains are not allowed, and may not be permitted. "Chipping away" doesn't sound like anything is going to happen soon.

"BART is excellent. Caltrain will be excellent when this project is complete. The bus systems will follow demand."

Unlikely. The bus systems aren't following demand now, which is why we all drive cars. I have never ridden BART on a regular basis, but I understand it's not all peaches and cream for their riders either. Never mind that we don't have BART here.

" High prices are indicative of high demand..."

Or high subsidies. When bottomless pockets are funding you, you can afford to lose money, speaking of Acela. Anyway, to the extent that Acela works, the reason is that there is excellent public transit in NYC, DC, and Boston. So people can travel via train among those cities, knowing that they won't be stranded when the arrive. Oh, right, we're going to get a better transit system here after HSR is built. So will LA. Using, um, whatever money is left after HSR plunders the treasury.

"Finally, there is no talk of "duplicating" existing service on the peninsula."

Let's see. HSR, like Caltrain, offers train service down the existing Caltrain corridor. The name is different, the prices will be different, and the cars will look different, but the route is the same. But you don't like the word "duplication?" How about "replication?" Same difference. Bottom line: we already have trains that run in a more-or-less straight line from a station in San Jose to a station in San Francisco. The proposed route would add no functionality.

The pro-HSR arguments are weak. Pretty clear that they can't stand up to probing. If HSR were free, I could understand that some might advocate for it, but for $10, 50, even $100 billion? Please. We're smarter than that.

Time to fess up, Clem. Whom do you work for?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Some of you really need this explained in words of one syllable.

If you, living in Palo Alto, want to go to San Francisco, or San Jose, by train. You would use Caltrain. That would be the efficient mode of transport. On the other hand, if you wanted to go to LA, you would get Caltrain to RWC (or wherever on the peninsula) or Caltrain to San Jose, and transfer to HSR. Likewise, if you lived in Sunnyvale, or San Carlos, you would do the same. If you lived in Oakland and wanted to get to Palo Alto, you would use BART to Daly City, then use Caltrain to Palo Alto. If you lived in Oakland and wanted to get to LA, you would get BART to SF, then HSR to LA. If you lived in Marin, you would get a ferry, then Muni, or a ride, or drive to SF, then get HSR. If you lived in Morgan Hill, you would get Caltrain or bus or a ride, or drive, to SanJose. If you lived in SF and wanted to get to San Jose, you could use Caltrain, or HSR, or even BART. If you lived in SF you would get Muni or BART to HSR.

This service will provide some choice, but not always. Consequently, this will not be a duplication of service, but an alternative to driving or flying to LA. Unless you want to go from SF to SJ, you won't get much choice.

For public transport to work, you need to get fast service between major hubs and good service to the hubs. The number of times a passenger needs to change transportation is the key. Most people won't mind one local mode of transportation each end, but would not be happy to have to change 2 or 3 times each end.

For anyone who has used transportation around London and its outer suburbs, and traveled to other British cities, that is the ideal we should aim for. The channel tunnel works because of the time it takes to get from the center of one city to the other, not because every town inbetween gets a train stopping to take it through the tunnel.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm

High speed trains (HST) do not solve the global warming issue, unless they are powered by electricty from nuclear power plants. They are no better than automobiles. Additionally, trains are subject to many safety and national security issues (think about a major train bridge being taken out, or a 4" metal pipe being thrown across a HST track over a gorge).

I have discussed this issue before on this forum. I won't go through it all again. I will just say that these arguments about routes are minor, compared to the ineffectiveness of HST.

A much more practical approach is to simply built more roadways for automobiles and buses.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2009 at 8:32 pm

The average occupancy of an automobile during commute hours is 1.1. One point one.

If we could get that up to two (or even three or four!), think of what that alone would do for traffic, for the environment, for our "communities", this now meaningless word you people like to throw around so often.

You call a railroad inflexible. Yet we can't organize a carpool to save our lives. We drive our own separate cars and dread the thought of sharing a vehicle with anyone else. You want to insulate yourselves from people. You move to these godforsaken towns just to get away from them. You advocate working from home. Are you scared of the world that much?

A much more practical approach is to simply build more roadways for single occupant automobiles and buses you won't use. How many homes do you want to demolish to build more useless 16 lane superhighways, you insufferable hypocrites.

A terrorist might attack a train. Some scare tactic. You want more roads and the accidents that come with it. Over 40,000 people a year die in automobile accidents. Between 2002-2007, over 255,000 people dead. And you're scared of f'ing terrorists.


Posted by Rider Guy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm

<< If you, living in Palo Alto, want to go to San Francisco, or San Jose, by train. You would use Caltrain. That would be the efficient mode of transport. On the other hand, if you wanted to go to LA, you would get Caltrain to RWC (or wherever on the peninsula) or Caltrain to San Jose, and transfer to HSR. Likewise, if you lived in Sunnyvale, or San Carlos, you would do the same. If you lived in Oakland and wanted to get to Palo Alto, you would use BART to Daly City, then use Caltrain to Palo Alto. If you lived in Oakland and wanted to get to LA, you would get BART to SF, then HSR to LA. If you lived in Marin, you would get a ferry, then Muni, or a ride, or drive to SF, then get HSR. If you lived in Morgan Hill, you would get Caltrain or bus or a ride, or drive, to SanJose. If you lived in SF and wanted to get to San Jose, you could use Caltrain, or HSR, or even BART. If you lived in SF you would get Muni or BART to HSR. >>

Pity the Marin county or Oakland resident who has to suffer the horrible inconvenience of taking CalTrain from SF to SJ, while the poor schmo from Burlingame or Morgan Hill has no other option but to take CalTrain. By your reckoning, HSR on the peninsula would be useful only to a subset of passengers.

HSR on the Peninsula would be a great option if money grew on trees (as it seems to in Palo Alto).


Posted by look forwards, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm

The London to Paris bullet train has one stop, it's in the countryside in Kent where they've built a stop like an airport terminal. Everyone in south-east England drives to this one stop parks and catches the train to Paris. Forget about 24 stops between SF and LA, build one big one where we can all park and catch the train to LA.


Posted by straight face test, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm

So the reason to duplicate the Caltrain route on the peninsula is that peninsulans would be able to take Caltrain to Palo Alto and catch HSR there rather than taking Caltrain to San Jose and catching HSR there. The benefits of doing the former rather than the latter would be...a trip that might be 5 minutes shorter? A trip that could cost slightly more, thereby profiting the transit agencies? A few extra minutes to make new friends with other people who might be going to LA?

Still waiting for one good reason, just one, to run a duplicate train route between San Jose and San Francisco.


Posted by Some Other Guy, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:51 am

<< Everyone in south-east England drives to this one stop parks and catches the train to Paris. Forget about 24 stops between SF and LA, build one big one where we can all park and catch the train to LA. >>

Air travel works the same way. Want to fly from Mountain View to L.A.? You don't go to San Carlos or Palo Alto airport, you go to SJC, SFO or OAK.

<< So the reason to duplicate the Caltrain route on the peninsula is that peninsulans would be able to take Caltrain to Palo Alto and catch HSR there rather than taking Caltrain to San Jose and catching HSR there. >>

It depends where the stops are. As calculated previously, if each stop takes 10 minutes and there are 24 stops (Palo Alto/Redwood City being one of them) that adds four hours to the trip -- quicker to drive and you'll have the use of your car when you get there. If you make it an express, the termini could be in SJ and Burbank. If you make it a limited, there could be stops in Fresno and Bakersfield, adding maybe 20 minutes to the trip. Once in Burbank you could take public transportation (Metrolink) to wherever or rent a car at Burbank airport which already has this infrastructure in place, as does San Jose airport.

Still waiting to see the results of that ridership survey.


Posted by Teddie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

My guess is you will have more room in San Jose for a "regional" transit center where all the necessities of parking garages, rental car lots, etc. can be built. This San Jose station will also allow for transfers to Bart (up to Oakland an beyond) and to an updated Cal train system. Remember HSR will only travel 120 mph in urban areas. If you upgrade Cal train with new electric engines, grade separations, and maybe a third track couldn't they begin to approach speeds of 100 mph on express runs. Not to begin a provincial argument b/t SJ and SF but does anybody know what the rider-ship projections are for both cities?


Posted by Teddie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

Glen tone down the hostility and remember sometimes simple solutions exist if you simply open your mind.


Posted by Facts 'n' Figures, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 12:13 pm

There already exists this regional transit center: the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. The parking garages and rental car lots are already built, there is easy access to Bayshore freeway, and the existing rail right-of-way goes right by it. Make the existing Santa Clara depot the HSR terminus -- it is fairly on the doorstep of SJC, and you've got all your car rental, long-term parking, connections to ground transportation and the freeway right there, ready to go.

It is this kind of planning Quentin Kopp wants to wash his hands of, foisting it instead on the locals (Santa Clara county, I suppose). Everyone would have to get on board with where the south bay HSR terminus would be.

The top speed of a BART train is 80 mph. If you can get an electrified CalTrain going that fast, shouldn't it be fast enough for peninsulans?


Posted by Politics, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

End the HSR at San Jose, great idea for all the reasons quoted by other bloggers. Unfortunately, it won't happen because politics will get in the way. Already voters have voted for plans for the HSR system to go from LA to SF that's what we've agreed to pay for, so that's where it will go. It's all politics


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 25, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Voters approved $10 million in bonds, less than 1/4 of the estimated cost (taking into account budget overruns). The planning, or lack thereof, is being done by political-hack nitwits in Sacramento.

Originally HSR was going to fork off at San Jose and go on to Oakland and Sacramento, but that was dropped.


Posted by resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Has anyone thought of the fact that El Palo Alto (our ancient tree) will be in the way of a four lane train? It is located near the tressel bridge/Alma/El Camino intersection. The current track runs literally feet from the tree. Who thinks Palo Alto will do away with El Palo Alto in favor of transportation for our future generation? I see a major problem here.


Posted by GooGoo Earth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

El Palo Alto is California Historical Landmark #2 so not much can happen to it. Looking at Google Earth, they would have to pass HSR to the southwest of the tree and trestle, smack up against somebody's back yard (there is already a fallow third rail there). It also looks like part of the park/ball field is in jeopardy, as well as the Palo Alto depot itself and part of Mitchell Lane. Looks like some businesses will lose some parking spaces but this thing could encroach on Hod Ray field and Peers Park. Did anyone take any of this into consideration when planning HSR? I doubt it.


Posted by GooGoo Earth, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2009 at 3:14 pm

<< there is already a fallow third rail there >>

Sorry, a fallow third track.

Might as well start the lawsuit now.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Spokker,

I only meant to address the irrationality of HST, according to reduction of CO2 (global warming), as well as the inflexibility of HST, which inlcudes the security issues.

My argument is based on the number of seats being moved, not the number of persons in those seats (ridership). The vast majority of light rail trains and buses are near-empty when I see them. Most automobiles are also near empty during commute times. However, automobile seats get filled up with people making a trip to LA, thus it is not "one point one" on I-5. A HST from SF to LA would, presumably, have a ridership equal to the automobiles that travel that route. If one leaves aside riderships debates, there is no advatange of HST over automobiles, in terms of CO2 emmisions (unless the electricity driving the HST is generated by nuclear energy).

You seem to be a lonely soul, who likes to meet people on public transportation. I am unable to address that issue, except to say that I have had many deep conversations, while trapped in an automobile, on I-5, with people I barely knew. I married one of them.


Posted by Joint Power, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:10 pm

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board purchased the right-of-way between San Francisco and San Jose from Southern Pacific in 1991. So where is the Joint Powers Board now when HSR is planning to barrel through the right-of-way THEY OWN? Have they said word one about this?


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:22 pm

> The top speed of a BART train is 80 mph. If you can get an electrified CalTrain going that fast, shouldn't it be fast enough for peninsulans?

If that were true, there should be no need to electrify. Caltrain already goes that fast with rattle trap diesels.

What matters is not top speed, but average speed. From SF to SJ:

Caltrain all-stops local 96 minutes, 79 mph max, 29 mph average
Caltrain Baby Bullet, 57 minutes, 79 mph max, 49 mph average
High Speed Rail, 30 minutes, 125 mph max, 94 mph average

> Has anyone thought of the fact that El Palo Alto (our ancient tree) will be in the way of a four lane train?

The High Speed Rail authority has already thought about it, if you read their Bay Area EIR/EIS. The two extra tracks will go to the west of the existing tracks.

For those who are new to this, I put together an overview & map of Palo Alto impacts: Web Link


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2009 at 4:34 pm

> The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board purchased the right-of-way between San Francisco and San Jose from Southern Pacific in 1991. So where is the Joint Powers Board now when HSR is planning to barrel through the right-of-way THEY OWN? Have they said word one about this?

They know about it and officially support it. They are currently negotiating a memorandum of understanding to establish how the high speed rail authority will interact with the JPB. I have no idea, but it's quite possible that the CHSRA will actually become a member of the JPB, joining the 3 counties in the ownership of this land, in return for certain improvements to Caltrain. Who knows what they will hammer out.

Do note that the previous owner of the land, Southern Pacific, long ago had the foresight to acquire enough land to build 4 tracks through most places along the peninsula.

Our very own University Ave. underpass was built for four tracks back in 1940, as you can note by looking at the ceiling as you drive through it. The station area has oodles of land available.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Clem,

Could you please try to defend HST as beneficial to global warming, especially in comparison to automobiles and more roadways?

I fail to understand why we are spending so much money on something that does not contribute to global warming mitigation. Building more roadway capacity would be much cheaper, and less intrusive. Adding another lane to I-5 is much less costly than the infrastrucure required for HST.


Posted by Lugano, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm

What the heck are people whining about? High speed rail is a good thing, not a bad thing. It will provide an alternative to flying or driving to Southern California. Construction of the project will also provide much needed jobs. Driving to SoCal is a pain in the neck, and post-9/11 flying is also an annoyance.

"The top speed of a BART train is 80 mph. If you can get an electrified CalTrain going that fast, shouldn't it be fast enough for peninsulans?"

BART is not a long-distance, high speed NorCal to SoCal rail system, so the comparison is apples to oranges. A large speed differential becomes increasingly important as travel distance increases. People got around just fine in Model A Fords going 40 MPH, so do we really need to have cars that can go faster than that? Not at all, but it sure is nice to have.

"Has anyone thought of the fact that El Palo Alto (our ancient tree) will be in the way of a four lane train?"

Give me a break. Does anyone seriously believe they are going to cut down or endanger El Palo Alto to make way for the new train?


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm

> Could you please try to defend HST as beneficial to global warming

I don't know; personally, I'm no big environmentalist.

I'd just like to get quickly from point A to point B without having to stand around in my socks or send any money to Chavez and Ahmadinejad. If I can walk about, sip coffee and watch the countryside zip by between sudoku puzzles, even better. But that's just me...


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Clem,

Can you please explain how HST will decrease our dependence on Chavez and Ahmadinejad?


Posted by Facts 'n' Figures, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm

<< BART is not a long-distance, high speed NorCal to SoCal rail system, so the comparison is apples to oranges. >>

The comparison was between BART and CalTrain, not BART or CalTrain and HSR. Both BART and CalTrain are local services.


Posted by Travel trends, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Has anyone considered, as part of these studies, the likelihood that business travel will decrease substantially, so as to become nearly obsolete?

I used to go to LA occasionally for business. I don't now. All of the professionals I know, across a range of industries, have cut back substantially on travel, relying instead on webex, video conferencing, and similar services. These services are so good, they can in many cases substitute for a face to face meeting (and the technology will only get better). Personally, many people I know prefer to conduct business online and go home to the family at night.

Those who are not comfortable with the technology will soon be forced to become comfortable, as most big companies are cutting back substantially on travel budgets. By the time the recession ends, online meetings will become a habit.

Sure, we must look to the future, but what if the future is--less travel? Will leisure travelers alone support the planned high speed rail route?


Posted by straight face test, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2009 at 11:31 pm

HSR doesn't make a lot of sense for so many reasons. As Travel trends points out, for business travelers, face-to-face meetings just aren't as important as they used to be. And as Engineer says, most people who drive to LA (typically on pleasure trips) are accompanied by others. My family of 6 isn't going to pay $1000 to take HSR to LA when we can drive for 1/10 the cost -- and have our car on the other end.

When you start to talk about extending HSR through the peninsula, the rationale truly evaporates. Clem, whoever he works for, is an HSR advocate. According to his figures, someone traveling from SF to LA could shave 27 minutes off the trip by using the nonstop HSR. But anyone on the peninsula who wants to catch that train would have to travel to SF or SJ, thereby extending the trip. If HSR stops on the peninsula, then it will take longer than 30 minutes to travel 50 miles. In any case, it's a lot of money and a lot of disruption to save a few minutes for a handful of hypothetical travelers...and inconvenience tens of thousands of others.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:03 am

"I am unable to address that issue, except to say that I have had many deep conversations, while trapped in an automobile"

Keep your eyes on the road! Focus on your driving! I don't want you to slam into my car because you're too engrossed in a conversation!


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:03 am

Mike of Greenmeadow asks how many homes will have to be taken out of Palo Alto. From north to south, here's the probable breakdown, which totals over 50 homes.
Southgate will lose all 23-24 homes along Mariposa, no question. The lots aren't deep enough to sustain the damage of losing a significant portion of their backyards and garages.
Evergreen has 11 homes that will probably not be taken out, but they'll likely give up several feet of their backyards for the raised berm, train and overhead electric wires which will tower directly over their lots.
Properties in Ventura and the stretch of Park Blvd. between Oregon and Meadow will be spared.
Charleston Meadows will lose 2-6 homes on either side of Meadow and Charleston, depending on your sources.
Monroe Park and the south section of Charleston Meadows will lose all 17 homes south of the Charleston intersection.
There've been hints by pro-HSR that the properties across Alma near the Meadow and Charleston intersections will have to go as a result of lowering Alma to meet those streets.
Total lost homes in Palo Alto will be over 50.
If this is unacceptable to you, it's possible to advocate for a "No Build" option for the San Francisco - San Jose section, but the deadline is March 6. (In fact, part of the "No Project Alternative" includes highway improvements including the Embarcadero-University Ave stretch of 101.) Here's their Alternatives document, FYI. Web Link


Posted by Facts 'n' Figures, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:40 am

Those aren't cheap homes, many of them, but expensive Palo Alto real estate. What about the definite encroachment on The Circle at Alma and University and the possible encroachment on the Sheraton, the clinic, Town & Country Village, the Paly campus, Peers Park, the housing near the California Avenue depot, etc.? There would be major reconstruction at the stations themselves to accomodate four tracks and much if not all of the $35 million just spent improving those stations would go down the drain. Will the Alma/Embarcadero underpass have to be completely rebuilt, in addition to all the various other over/underpasses that will have to be built? What about the water table issues involved in possibly building underpasses at Alma/Churchill/Meadow/Charleston? Who's going to get stuck with the cost of inevitably realigning The Circle? (My guess is the City of Palo Alto.) Can the University Avenue underpass support the weight of all this added trackage and trains or will it have to be rebuilt, too? Face it: parts of the city were built around the S.P. tracks with very little wiggle room. I suppose you could avoid many of these issues by making HSR elevated through Palo Alto but it would be the unsightliest damn thing you ever saw. If there were a station in P.A. it would have to come down to Earth at some point.

This whole deal seems like a lot of disruption and unfathomable cost just so a handful of travelers to L.A. can have it easier -- all cost and microscopic benefit. If I were one of those 50 affected homeowners I'd be mad as hell and contemplating a class-action lawsuit. There are better ways to spend $40 billion (probably more after it goes over budget as these things inevitably do) and good luck selling those bonds with the state's credit rating in the crapper.

This document leaves a lot of these questions unanswered but it's a small taste of what's to come:

Web Link


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2009 at 8:49 am

> Can you please explain how HST will decrease our dependence on Chavez and Ahmadinejad?

HSR runs on electricity which can be generated from domestic sources, and consumes fewer joules per passenger meter. To get around, I'd rather burn Wyoming coal than Venezuelan oil. Then we can worry about finding cleaner sources of electricity, but in my opinion that is another problem entirely, with little direct bearing on HSR.

> Southgate will lose all 23-24 homes along Mariposa, no question.

That's a little bit alarmist. The ROW is 75 feet in that area. Web Link

Caltrain already has densely built-up areas with four tracks inside of 75 feet (see milepost 26.9 in redwood city) Web Link

> raised berm

No, retained embankment. That means vertical walls, not wide sloping walls. And no, I wouldn't like that in my backyard either.

> Charleston Meadows will lose 2-6 homes on either side of Meadow and Charleston, depending on your sources.

Your only source should be JPB right of way maps.

> Total lost homes in Palo Alto will be over 50.

A number plucked out of thin air, based on what we currently know.

> What about the definite encroachment on The Circle at Alma and University

What about it, indeed? The JPB already owns all that land.

> much if not all of the $35 million just spent improving those stations would go down the drain.

That is true, but you do have to retain a sense of perspective. Those new platforms are a drop in the bucket compared to $4200 million budgeted for the San Francisco - San Jose segment alone.


Posted by Facts 'n' Figures, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

<< The JPB already owns all that land. >>

Regardless of who owns it, you're still going to have to realign Alma street, The Circle and the underpass with it. I have serious doubts about whether JPB owns part of Alma street.

<< you do have to retain a sense of perspective. Those new platforms are a drop in the bucket compared to $4200 million budgeted for the San Francisco - San Jose segment alone. >>

Perspective indeed. Instead of "$4200 million" why don't you say what it really is: $4-point-2 BILLION with a "B"? Four billion dollars to make it a little easier for a relatively small number of travelers to go to L.A.. I suppose $35 million is a drop in the bucket compared to $4.2 billion.

I'm glad money grows on trees in your world.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2009 at 10:42 am

> Instead of "$4200 million" why don't you say what it really is: $4-point-2 BILLION with a "B"?

Simply because the human mind is intuitively better at comparing 4200 to 15 than it is at comparing a B to an M. If you're a billions kind of guy, and you like decimal points, the comparison is 4.2 to 0.015

The comparison works even better visually: Web Link

Your brand new platforms are smaller than the little dot at the bottom of this chart, so you see why it's pointless to fuss about them.

> I'm glad money grows on trees in your world.

I think we're past the to-build-or-not-to-build musings. Not worth my time.


Posted by Steve C., a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2009 at 11:33 am

I have a couple of questions regarding this discussion:
1) Is the peninsular issue primarily that many are unhappy with the current rail/public transportation system between San Jose, or is it with the perceived system that would be built?
2) Can any of you explain to me the difference between an accounting cost and an opportunity cost?

A good lesson on the difference between reality, and perceived or calculated reality, lies in the the hearings on the Challenger Shuttle tragedy(1986), with specific reference to the contribution of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, when challenging the analysis of the engineers called to testify on the cause of the O-ring failure. It is an example well worth the effort of discovery and study.

I appreciate the analysis offered by all parties involved in this discussion, but I would submit that if the current peninsular system is so inefficient, I find it hard to believe that a re-configuration of current services would not mitigate at least some of the difficulties that seem to require the High-Speed Rail service running straight into San Fransisco, without requiring the addition of another track, and the resultant taking of or encroachment of private property. It probably won't be a perfect solution, but then, what is the cost of perfection, and who among us can see so clearly into the future that we can pre-determine perfection from our current vantage-point?

Once you include emotional factors in an economic analysis, all bets are off; and when you factor quality-of-life-costs into the analysis, you implicitly have to include the emotional factors. It seems far less messy to avoid those factors whenever possible, if we are talking about economic feasibility and actually getting things done. If the concept of terminating the HSR line in San Jose doesn't work out, why couldn't the Peninsular Component of the service be re-visited in the future, instead of calculating and guessing about it all beforehand? The land in question isn't going anywhere, and I doubt if the property rights are either. Much of what I have heard here so far is opinionated and speculative in nature, including my own thoughts, with no exact model/example from which to draw conclusions and lessons from.
As for the rail vs. automobile energy-efficiency debate: we have to go way beyond the emissions issues and into the total resource draw, from natural resource extraction to road maintenance, to resources used per moving body and freight tonnage, and then again into property value takings and encroachments, before that issue can be discussed and evaluated intelligently. Job creation aside, I would not want to be on the side of the automobile, if God was the expert resource economics witness, on some economic-efficiency Judgement-day.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

How does a raised embankment affect rain water runoff to the directly adjacent properties? I've read plenty of the HSR documents but I haven't come across any mention of potential flooding.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I hope this thread meanst that people are finally waking up to these questions - there are so many.

Two things must be done immediately:
1. Write to Palo Alto City Council, ask each member what questions THEY will submit to CHSR for the EIR/EIS impacts on our town. What actions, discussions, invovlment is Palo Alto city Council doing on behalf of THE BEST INTERESTS OF PALO ALTO to influence HSR plans and to protect this community? What mitigations will they REQUIRE? WHat are their intentions with regard to support for HSR through PA?

2. Write to CHSR. Ask ALL the questions you can about the impacts -They MUST be required to completely study and show adequate mitigations and full costs for each and every issue. YOUR COMMENTS must happen NOW. By the time they are done with this study.. IT WILL BE TOO LATE.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Clem,

"HSR runs on electricity which can be generated from domestic sources, and consumes fewer joules per passenger meter. To get around, I'd rather burn Wyoming coal than Venezuelan oil. Then we can worry about finding cleaner sources of electricity, but in my opinion that is another problem entirely, with little direct bearing on HSR."

You will need to provide the reference that HST consume fewer joules per passenger mile. The inherent efficiency of rail travel is cancelled by the higher weight per passenger, compared to automobiles. Please take a moment to read the following short article. It explains why autos and trains, including electric trains, end up being about equally efficient.

Web Link

Electrical power generation is using more and more imported natural gas. Coal is the major generation fuel, but it is highly problematic in terms of pollution and enviroomental destruction. One of the sales pitch for HST was that they would help with global warming. How does burning more coal do this?

One also needs to consider that automobiles will be switching to electically driven engines in the future. Some have already done this. There is going to be huge competition for electricity, and the costs will go much higher, unless an alternative cheap generating fuel is brought on line. For a variety of reasons, nuclear power is the only answer to this problem in the next few decades.

I fail to see how an inlfexible HST system from SF to LA is cost effective, compared to just building more motorway lanes. Perhaps you could explain this to me.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Regarding noise levels, here's some info taken from the HSR website about how the noise levels will affect Palo Alto and vicinity. Source: Web Link .

"The noise created by the proposed new service at higher speeds would likely overshadow the reduction in horn and bell noise resulting from the grade separation."

"In the speed range from 60 mph to about 150 mph, mechanical noise resulting from wheel-rail interactions and structural vibrations dominate the noise emission from trains."

"For trains on elevated structure, HST noise is increased, partially due to the loss of sound absorption by the ground and partially due to extra sound radiation from the bridge structure. Moreover, the sound from trains on elevated structures spreads about twice as far as it does from at-grade operations of the same train because of clearer paths for sound transmission."

From Dumbarton to San Jose, the Noise Impact Rating is Medium and the Vibration Impact Rating is High. The chart Table 3.4-4 on Page 20 of above link Web Link) claims that there are zero hospitals and zero schools along that stretch, but obviously it's not true since Palo Alto has one of each – PAMF & Paly – sitting right against the track.

The document talks at length about the horns disappearing, but they seem to forget the noise generated by non-high speed trains, especially freight trains. The rumble of their engines and lengths of heavy cars is more disruptive than their horns. On an elevated structure, those freight train rumbles will reach twice as far.

Does anyone know: for each of the types of trains using these rails – HST, Caltrain, freight – will they be required to ring bells or blow horns when they arrive or pass through a station? How will the rules change if we have a HSR station in addition to the Caltrain station?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 2:04 pm

And the noise evaluation is per train passing through? Per train car? HSR will AT LEAST triple the volume of trains passing thorough. At the very least. And each HSR train will be longer (more cars).

The volume of trains passing through this route daily goes alarmingly WAY up in order to meet the HSR ridership projections.

It equates to something on the order of 1 train (HSR or Caltrain)passing through town every 3 minutes CONSTANTLY from 6 in the morning to 8 at night.


Posted by common sense, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2009 at 3:58 pm

WHY did you people move NEXT to an active railroad thats been there long before any of you were born? AND now your going to complain!


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm

<< WHY did you people move NEXT to an active railroad thats been there long before any of you were born? AND now your going to complain! >>

Well, common sense, I think the complaint is that the noise is expected to increase beyond what they've become accustomed to. My family moved about 100 yards from the tracks, between High and Emerson, in 1961. The noise wasn't so bad once you got used to it, and eventually you tune it out. You could feel the vibration from the big freight trains and we thought that was neat as kids. Later Paly moved some classrooms very near the tracks and the teachers had to either talk over the train noise or stop; the trains were quite noisy at that distance.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:38 pm

High speed trains should actually be much quieter than the present diesel trains. Instead of the clatter and bells, there would be a swoosh which would pass quicker than the noise from the present trains.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Wary Traveler,

Thanks for the link.

A couple of notes though--it's not clear that HSR through here will be on elevated rails--the plan seems to be to build it up somewhat, but use underpasses for grade crossings. So the lack of ground absorption wouldn't be a factor except on the overpasses.

The speed of HSR in this area isn't above 125 mph, so the noise levels wouldn't exceed those of conventional trains according to the report.

PAMF is not a hospital. It's an oversized clinic. Paly, I suspect, is a bit more of a fudge in that the buildings aren't right against the track, but the fields are.

And where does it say HSR will be used for freight? The CalTrain corridor isn't used for freight at this time why would it be when *more* passenger trains are running on it? Just a quick search of the issue indicates that no freight is planned. Even overseas, there's little HSR freight.

Parent,

Not all ridership on HSR would be people going from LA to SF--Plenty of the ridership would be shorter trips--i.e. commuting to SJ to SF.
I'd be surprised if every train would go the entire route. (Given that there are branches, it's impossible.) That's not an efficient use of trains or track. You'd have some trains go from, say, LA to Bakersfield. So you're not going to have trains every three minutes all day long.

However, because of the speed--noise and vibration impacts will be of shorter duration.

That said, I was interested to see a Dumbarton route was being considered--that could be an interesting alternative. We'd end up with a station, most likely, in Redwood City, maybe EPA. It would be a good alternative to cars for some of the big Central Valley commutes. I think it's a better idea than the rail just going up the East Bay and crossing the Bay to SF. It's more in line with where people need to go here.


Posted by Engineer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Although I feel more comfortable discussing electrons and frictional losses, I will venture into the jungle by asking the following social question.

Does not HST, assuming that they have a few stops along the way from LA to SF, promote urban sprawl? If commuters are willing to commute from Manteca to Palo Alto, using automobiles at an average speed of 50 mph, what is to prevent them from living three times that distance away from their jobs, if the transit speed is 150 mph?

I think someone needs to remind me what the benefits of HST are. I thought that environmental improvement was a big issue, but apparently not.


Posted by Southgate Resident, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I've lived here all my life and I think it is completely unfair to take out all these houses(including MINE). Why should we have to give up our homes? Would you? Why did you vote Yes for over 50 families to lose their homes?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm

This actually brings up a good point. Because of telecommuting, people will not need to live near their homes in the traditional way. I already know of one person who lives in San Francisco and drives to his office in Mountain View only two days each week and does so outside the commute hours. This train service may actually cause people to live further away from their jobs and only go to their office once or twice a week. It is possible that they can live in the Bay Area and be employed in LA. In two parent working families or dinky (dual income no kids yet) relationships, this type of arrangement could work for many people and instead of less business travel as has been discussed above, it could mean more business travel on a semi-regular basis.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Newsom wants the high speed rail to go to San Francisco.

Web Link

Good luck with the bake sale to raise the funds to put this rail line underground or else it's rumble, rumble, rumble while you grumble, grumble, grumble.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

OP, the CHSR documentation says HSR fare will cost 3X as much as a caltrain trip. Why would you say some of the ridership will be local? some? Very little. Not enough to be worthy of an argument in favor of HSR. And that's NOT how they built their financial argument. Make no mistake, even the most adamant train fanatics say HSR is a replacement for airline trips. Trains WILL be passing through every three minutes when you include all the trains that will pass through both directions - HSR and Caltrain combined, given their ridership proposals. Add it up.

PAMF not a hospital... Well, I had surgery there, my daughter had double eye surgery there, and we've had multiple emergency procedures there over the life time of my kids. You can mince words all you want, its a significant medical facility which will be impacted by HSR. I suppose you'll next tell us Peers is not a park, Paly is not a school, Alma, Charleston, East Meadow are not a major commuter thoroughfares, and that Palo Alto doesn't have an overcrowding problem.

Yep, you got it. We moved next to 120 year old train tracks. In fact we love our 120 year old train tracks. And we'll fight to keep it that way. Get used to it. Don't worry, our 'bake sale money' will go to shutting the whole project down from end to end, not just for underground. Come and see us in 25 years when you're still in court over the EIR. We don't need train geeking fanatics from out of town to come in and tell us what a bunch of loser we are for not wishing to decimate our property values and our quality of life. Move to France if your so in love with high speed rail.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 27, 2009 at 4:51 am

And how are we supposed to cross over the tracks when these high speed trains are coming? And more of them too? Are they going to build over passes or do we just cross over the tracks in the same manner we do now?


Posted by Train Neighbor, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 27, 2009 at 8:02 am

OP says "The CalTrain corridor isn't used for freight at this time why would it be when *more* passenger trains are running on it?"

Obviously OP you don't live near the train tracks. Freight trains do currently use those tracks on a regular basis (usually in the evenings).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2009 at 9:10 am

Resident - high speed rail lines, and the their high voltage electrical infrastructure that hangs 40 feet over the tracks, are a completed solid, uninterupted line, fenced off from all access, at every point. The road crossing must all be underpasses.

(or if they put the train underground, which they won't due to cost, the crossings could be at ground level).

This is called grade separatation.

If you live on the west side of tracks you'll be looking at a solid wall the entire length of Palo Alto. You will not have a view of anythign on the other side. If you live on the east side, or drive down Alma, you'll be driving up agains a solid wall.


Posted by jim, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2009 at 10:59 am

HSR project is good for all California residents ( North, South and intern Valley area). It will bring a lot of wealth for the poor area and average high density living space. People should have a big view for our community. As to the traffic noise, the project team will think over it. We should trust them. HSR can work well in Japan, China, Taiwan , England, and European countries. Why not in our area ? Don't worry too much!


Posted by bobbie, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2009 at 11:13 am

"As to the traffic noise, the project team will think over it. We should trust them."

Um...trusting the "project" team to think it over and come up with a result Palo Altans will be satisfied with seems like the height of Ostrich "head in the sand" inaction.

This thread started because the people in our government who we trusted to look after our interests (Klein and Kishimoto, e.g.) bought on to the HSR idea clearly WITHOUT thinking very much about the negative impacts on Palo Alto of this project. They bought the hype without any analysis at all.

If our elected representatives who are SUPPOSED to look after our interests in this matter were so dazzled by the hype that they forgot their primary duties to their constituents, how in the world do you think a bureaucratic "project team" will now make up for the lack of thought about the traffic and noise impacts to our local community?!

If we "trust" these guys, we will get what we deserve: a cut up, noisy, traffic creating scar down the middle of our town that will last forever.


Posted by I Smell an HSR Funded Rat, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I want to make sure that people following the Palo Alto Weekly Town Forum comments on High Speed Rail are also aware of comments made on The Almanac's forums on the same topic.

Here's one you should look at:
Web Link


Posted by NOISE, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

NOISE!

Here's an astonishing video on Youtube of some WILD compressor noise (not even train noise) from an HSR in Europe. By the way, is this 4 tracks wide? Good eyefull AND earfull on this short video.

Any Peninsula residents here who will say that THIS is what they voted for with measure 1A?

Web Link



Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm

> Here's an astonishing video on Youtube of some WILD compressor noise (not even train noise) from an HSR in Europe.

The high speed train shown in the video (a French TGV PSE) is thirty years old, designed and developed in the mid 1970s, entered service 1981. A more recent example isn't nearly as "wild" or "astonishing". Web Link


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm

c'mon Clem, you're giving us apples to oranges. Your giving us noise from an electric train at about 10 mph as it leaves the station. BTW its still a miserable high pitched wail - which in this video "appears" to dissipate - but in actually the engine simply moves past the video takers equipment - the grating high pitched wail just moves on down the line...

And at less than 10mph - exceedingly slow speed (!) leaving the station.. C'mon, do you think we're stupid??? Unless you're trying to trick us (again) into believing this is how the train will look and sound as it moves 150 mph or greater down the Peninsula? I KNOW you're not suggesting this, so why give us a non-realistic non-comparative video.

Its exactly this kind of nonsense that lulled voters into agreeing to bond funding for the concept under completely misleading and incomplete pretenses.

We would be interested though in hearing more about compressor noise, something that apparently is incremental to the actual train noise you are representing here.. How about some compressor noise in current technology terms, taken from the windows of some neighorhood homes - as in the first video?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Speaks to the issue of whether we should just be sitting around 'trusting these guys' to do the right thing for these communities. And Clem is one of the MORE informative and trustworthy.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2009 at 11:38 pm

> c'mon Clem, you're giving us apples to oranges.

The train in the other video was stationary, zero mph.

> C'mon, do you think we're stupid???

If I ever showed you disrespect, please accept my apologies.

> How about some compressor noise in current technology terms

Stand on the platform next to a baby bullet engine. When the compressor kicks in, you'll hear a chug-chug-chug-chug sound (mostly drowned out by the diesel engine).

> Speaks to the issue of whether we should just be sitting around 'trusting these guys' to do the right thing for these communities.

While I am a supporter of high speed rail, I don't necessarily trust "these guys" any more than you do. Part of the reason I started my blog ( Web Link ) is to keep them honest, however feebly I can do that, and also to keep this sometimes emotional discussion as rooted in facts as possible.


Posted by supporter, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

Many people Vote for High speed train from SF to LA. Most people like the train go through this route instead of going stocking route. We all live in here ( Palo alto, California, America). We should respect the majority decision and support them. Have any suggestions are welcome, but don't do any emotional comments. All of them are useless.


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