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Palo Alto committee has 'no confidence' in rail

Original post made on Sep 2, 2010

Palo Alto took its most extreme step to date to oppose the state's proposed high-speed rail line Thursday morning when a City Council committee unanimously passed a resolution declaring "No Confidence" in the project and its governing body.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 2, 2010, 1:16 PM

Comments (97)

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Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm

If Palo Alto is committed to Caltrain and indentifies "Caltrain as the "indispensable backbone" of the local and regional transit system" then how do they propose to fund the several billion dollars to electrify and grade seperate the line? If Palo Alto can come up with that kind of money they can fund the cost of building the rail line in a trench. Caltrain needs the high speed rail money to survive and has publicly said so.


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Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Gail Price says we need more time to study this. Really? We've been studying it for two years, and now the CHSRA is ready to complete the EIR and start seizing homes. At what point would Price end her studies? When the train is built? If I recall correctly, it came out during the campaign that she used to be some sort of union official. Unions are the ones pushing this train, in the mistaken belief that it will create a lot of jobs. My guess is that she is only saying that the city needs more time to study HSR in order to stop the city from effectively fighting this project.


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Posted by Another Jerk
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I am another one!

I live in another city entirely and want all the peninsula cities to suffer the inconvenience and loss of property values that the HSR will bring. Yes, it is true that the train will not affect me, but as with the other non-residents who like to comment here, I like trains and think this will be good for the state.

Because you must endure the train and I do not, I will call you a NIMBY. It is an ironic accusation because I want to put the train in your backyard, not mine, but because I am mindless, I can use only memorized epithets.

Too bad I am neither intelligent nor compassionate!


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

This is after the Council voted almost unanimously to endorse the High Speed Rail Bond issue in 2008. Oh, now that we really read the stuff... Wow, that's leadership.


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Posted by For HSR
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

To another jerk

I live in Palo Alto and I want HSR here. Those who bought houses near the railtracks bought them knowing full well that they were going to live right next to a railroad track and its right of way.

I am sorry. You can't first take advantage of a discounted home value because you buy near the tracks and then come and complain when the tracks are going to be upgraded.

I wonder who is truly selfish and mindless in this story.


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Posted by HSRforCali
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

It's too bad the representatives of Palo Alto are too naive to see the benefits high-speed rail would bring: grade-separations, reduced pollution, reduced noise, improved Caltrain service, etc. They seem to complain that the Authority isn't listening to them. But whenever the Authority asks them about their concerns, all the city council does is scream for a tunnel or nothing at all! I have nothing against a tunnel except for the fact that it's ridiculously expensive.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm

@HSRforCali

Nice distortion of the reality of the situation. If you were following developments closely you'd know that CHSRA has not only axed the tunnel option but also the cut-and-cover trench option. It has also nixed the below-grade open trench option for most of the Peninsula. There is a consensus emerging that what CHSRA intends to do, because it hasn't raised anywhere near the amount of money it needs even to cover the latest estimate of project cost (about $45 billion) is to resort to the cheapest option: an "aerial structure" along the Peninsula over the CalTrain right of way. Do you care about that? Probably not, since you're "a resident of another community." Many of us in Palo Alto DO care about that and will fight against the damage it would do to our communities and our city. Moreover, the price tag of at least $45 billion is ill-advised when the State of CA is in deep trouble financially. So, along with your utopian account of the blissful likely consequences, maybe you'd be honest enough to look seriously into the negative consequences of this project as planned and as likely to be shoved down the Peninsula's throat by CHSRA.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm

"It's too bad the representatives of Palo Alto are too naive to see the benefits high-speed rail "

Sorry. It's the HSR True Believers that are the naive ones.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Palo Alto committee has 'no confidence' in rail"
Now there's a coincidence - I have no confidence in anything out of City Hall.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Great resolution. I hope Council moves ahead with the actions listed.

These recommended actions are not "premature," as Gail Price states. There is ample evidence that HSR, as currently proposed, is a disaster.

See "Fast train to financial disaster" at
Web Link Web Link


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Posted by SmartInvestment
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Poor little Palo Alto. It's the attack of the evil bullet train! Everybody run!!!

If you guys are so worried about the visual effect an elevated structure would have, why don't you get off your lazy butts and try to pass a bond measure to pay for a tunnel? Berkeley did it with Bart.

@Robert

I'm sure you're well aware that California will have to invest over $100 billion in further freeway and airport expansions just to move the same amount of people as a high-speed rail system. So really, high-speed rail is a good deal as far as cost vs. benefits.


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Posted by HSRforCali
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm

@ Pat

That article has the nerve to say our airports and highways provide an adequate capacity. Are you kidding me??? The state's freeways are jammed and the amount of delays at airports keep on increasing! It's obvious Californians ride trains when given the choice. Look at Southern California's Pacific Surfliner, LA's Metro Rail, SD's trolley system, the Peninsula's own Caltrain even! In fact, if anything, additional capacity is greatly needed on many of these rail lines. LA's Metro Blue Line already had to extend platforms at stations to satisfy demand, and Amtrak has been having to turn customers away from the Surfliner due to lack of sufficient capacity, even with 7 car trains!

Let me know when you find an article that doesn't stink of false information and inadequate claims.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Palo Alto voters knew full well that Gail Price was endorsed by the unions, supported the unions, was involved in the unions, etc., etc. etc. The Weekly should have known or did know what her tendencies were and endorsed her. There should be an all out effort to defeat her next time around. The night of the Neighborhood forum at the Arts Center, she was the epitomy of 'being bored', "ho-hum, I'm going to win, why did I bother with this.........." condescending attitude. She seems to march to a different civic drummer.....and is increasingly out of step.


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Posted by fools
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:41 pm

HSR will be built..these stupid people will look like fools in 10 years when HSR opens and the station is in MT View and all the business goes there...But this type cares not about anyone but themselves or the long term outcome


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Posted by Richard Peterson
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Palo Alto doesn't want High speed rail to go through there town so here is an Idea, lets have the high speed rail go From Anaheim to downtown mountain view station. and have the train opperated so it would give some time for palo alto to save up for the Tunnel for the high speed rail so it could reach the transbay terminal. and that mean that people want to travel to San Fransisco will have to make connection with the Caltrain and ride it to San Fransisco. beside its only 38 miles so it would take 35 minuts to get from the Transbay terminal to downtoan mountain view this isn't far. or just have the high speed rail train run at 79 MPH on the existing caltrain tracks, and it will only take 32 Minuts to travel at that speed.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm

"If you guys are so worried about the visual effect an elevated structure would have, why don't you get off your lazy butts and try to pass a bond measure to pay for a tunnel? "

Are you a troll against HSR trying to make the advocates of HSR look bad? Because you're doing a fine job of it.

This kind of attitude is exactly why there is no confidence. The authority has just as little regard as you for HOW the way they choose to do this project affects local communities. There is more than one way to do this, and the options that would be workable for communities THAT WOULD GARNER SUPPORT FOR HSR from those communities, have been nixed by the authority because they don't want to get off THEIR lazy butts and make it work.

Let's face it, they don't want to consider 101 because it's more headaches for them -- but no communities would be faced with the problems they're opposing in the Cal Train corridor, and there wouldn't be any of the same opposition.

If the HSR is allowed to do whatever it wants and destroys the fabric of these communities that make up the high tech engine of Silicon Valley, YOU will have to get off of YOUR lazy butt to make up for the huge loss of revenue and jobs to the state.

Palo Alto has one of the highest family incomes in the country. Because people don't want to pay for your boondoggle -- in the stupidest manifestation it could take because the rail authority won't work with local communities -- you call names?

You've gotta be an opponent trying to make the proponents look bad.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:28 pm

"Those who bought houses near the railtracks bought them knowing full well that they were going to live right next to a railroad track and its right of way."

Sorry, but your ignorance of the situation doesn't lend credence to your claim that you live here.

Those houses along the Cal Train corridor in South Palo Alto near where you claim to live have been there for decades, no HSR in the works. People buy lower priced homes, there, yes, but that's because they live with the noise, not because HSR is going to take their homes. If you know this place, you know they don't exactly buy LOW priced homes there.

HSR will affect more than just the homes it takes along the tracks, it would affect whole neighborhoods and the character of the whole town. Palo Alto is not Los Angeles or even Berkeley. This is neither a large nor an urban place. There are lots of little enclaves that would disappear if rows of houses were destroyed, and those enclaves are a big part of the whole. The whole town stands to be hurt, and the fabric of the community destroyed. Klein called it just right.

The state would be hurt if, by doing HSR in the stupidest way possible, it got a train and destroyed the magic that makes Silicon Valley what it is.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:36 pm

"It's too bad the representatives of Palo Alto are too naive to see the benefits high-speed rail would bring: grade-separations, reduced pollution, reduced noise, improved Caltrain service, etc. They seem to complain that the Authority isn't listening to them. But whenever the Authority asks them about their concerns, all the city council does is scream for a tunnel or nothing at all! I have nothing against a tunnel except for the fact that it's ridiculously expensive."

@HSRforCali

So, if you care for HSR so much, why does it HAVE to come across the Peninsula? HSR saves time coming across 350 miles, why does it HAVE to come 60 miles right through the many communities of the Peninsula or not at all? If you value HSR for California so much as you claim, and you're worried about money, why not end HSR at San Jose and integrate it with a nicely upgraded transportation system around the Bay, so that HSR becomes part of a smart regional transportation SYSTEM, instead of an expensive point-to-point boondoggle?

I'll bet you'd have Palo Alto's support for that. Why instead do you support ramming this project IN THE WORST WAY POSSIBLE for these communities down their throats?


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Posted by For HSR
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 8:11 pm

parent

Once you try to take public transportation to the airport at SFO, you'll understand that what you propose is a non-starter.


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Posted by For HSR
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Parent

By the way I do live in Palo Alto and I stand by what I said in my first post on this thread. What you try to argue makes no sense.


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Posted by SmartInvestment
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Your comment makes no sense what-so-ever. I want to see HSR done. However, people like you, who believe it should end in San Jose, are preventing progress. You can piss and whine all you want, even throw as many lawsuits at the Authority as you want. However, California must progress and move into the 21st century, whether you're onboard or not. It's a shame too, a high-speed rail station in Palo Alto would've been incredible!


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:58 pm

@Smartinvestment,

Another "resident of another community" curiously interested in the deliberations of the P.A. City Council HSR Committee.

You have a perverse idea of "progress." You probably thought that discontinuing the Concorde was "preventing progress" too. It has taken decades for society to realize that "social progress" is not to be identified with "technical progress." Whether a particular technological progress represents "progress" depends on what its effects are or will be all things considered. Was the Chernobyl nuke plant "progress"? How about the hydrogen bomb" or "DDT" or the "Three Gorges Dam" that displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed archeological records and could eventually malfunction. Hopefully we will reach a point in this society when we will make judgments about whether a particular technology or technological project is "progress" hinge not on their properties in the abstract but on their actual effects on real people when they are deployed under particular plans made by particular competent or incompetent people. If a technologically magnificent achievement bankrupted a society, I wouldn't call that "progress"; I'd say that it might embody technical progress but actually be socially regressive. The rhetoric of "progress" is thrown around so loosely by many, of whom "Smartinvestment" is but one.


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Posted by SmartInvestment
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:11 pm

@ Robert

The term "progress" can have several different meanings. I'm talking about the progress of mobility within the state of California. The interstate highway system was a progressive idea of the time, as well as flying. You can't compare high-speed rail to something like the concorde and nuclear power plants. High-speed rail has been a proven technology for almost 50 years. Your acting as if high-speed rail is California's own version of the space program. We need to move foward and meet our mobility demands of the 21st century. The highway system is great, but it can't do it on it's own.


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Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:32 pm

@parent

Once again you use loaded language speaking of "rows of houses" destroyed. There is no carried forward alignment that destroys rows of houses in Palo Alto. What street are these rows of houses on? Your appeal to emotion is based on a lie.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm

"However, people like you, who believe it should end in San Jose, are preventing progress."

Why exactly is that? HSR from LA to San Jose will be a viable alternative to air travel. Trains from San Jose can be taken up the Peninsula AND up the East Bay, its a local rail hub.

Why exactly does going high speed across the entire state of California not make sense if you can't run roughshod over densely populated, complex communities on the final small leg on the Peninsula to bypass existing transit (instead of improving it) and save, what, 20 minutes on the whole trip?

"Once you try to take public transportation to the airport at SFO, you'll understand that what you propose is a non-starter."

And your point is? We have a completely dysfunctional SYSTEM in this area. Bringing in another point-to-point piece won't improve the system. Destroying the quality of life for residents in this area for what? Fix the SYSTEM, that would be progress for the whole area AND California.

There are plenty of alternatives that people are proposing here where they would support HSR, just not the one that runs roughshod over their communities. The rail authority won't consider any of those alternatives because it was endowed with so much power that those running it don't have to care about anything but their own interests. So people here are left with no choice but to oppose the HSR.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm

"Once again you use loaded language speaking of "rows of houses" destroyed. There is no carried forward alignment that destroys rows of houses in Palo Alto. What street are these rows of houses on? Your appeal to emotion is based on a lie."

Well, if you want to call what the rail authority has said a "lie", be my guest.

You've already made it clear you know nothing about our community. (Were you the one who thought Palo Alto backyards were as big as parks?) Where the corridor is too narrow, would you eliminate a neighborhood (it doesn't take much to destroy some of these small enclaves, one row of houses is enough) or would you destroy our main cross town artery? Or are you just going to continue to carry on the magical thinking of what you imagine between your little map and your amply voiced disdain for peninsula residents?


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Posted by For HSR
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Parent...

My point is that having to take connecting trains is highly inconvenient and dissuasive. Like you said, we've had enough dysfunctional transportation systems in this area. High Speed Railroad makes sense only if it convenient and ... speedy. Adding a change of train and 20 minutes to the trip makes it worthless.

Furthermore, the quality of life of residents of this area won't be destroyed. The only residents that will be really affected live along the railroad tracks and moved there knowing there was a railroad that might one day get upgraded.



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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm

"The term "progress" can have several different meanings. I'm talking about the progress of mobility within the state of California. The interstate highway system was a progressive idea of the time, as well as flying. You can't compare high-speed rail to something like the concorde and nuclear power plants. High-speed rail has been a proven technology for almost 50 years. Your acting as if high-speed rail is California's own version of the space program. We need to move foward and meet our mobility demands of the 21st century. The highway system is great, but it can't do it on it's own."

Fine. Everyone here wants HSR across California. We voted for HSR across California. Last time I looked, there was no pressing need for a high speed train from San Jose to San Francisco. If the proposal had been just to put in high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco, you'd have been laughed all the way home.

There is, however, a huge need to make Bay Area transit more cohesive, a real SYSTEM.

What exactly is your personal stake that when people propose high speed rail to San Jose, or up 101, or up the east bay -- SUDDENLY HSR across the rest of California is no longer this great idea you think it is?

The rail authority just announced that HSR WILL go up the Peninsula on the Cal Train corridor. So people whose communities WILL be damaged by this WILL fight it, even though we voted for it and previously supported it.

Before you go off with your jerky attacks again, please first explain why HSR across the entire state of California is a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why is it worth possibly destroying the community dynamic in places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Silicon Valley high tech incubators) so that this last leg of HSR can be done just this way?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm

"My point is that having to take connecting trains is highly inconvenient and dissuasive."

I have traveled from the far eastern end of Switzerland in the mountains on narrow gage rail, all the way around the country, to TGV across France to Paris, making several connections where I simply walked off one and onto another that took off in a few minutes. Connecting trains made absolutely no difference to whether I took that trip or the TGV across France.

Connecting trains is only highly inconvenient and dissuasive if you don't have a working SYSTEM. Fix the system -- which would be far cheaper and more useful to millions of Californians than destroying the Silicon Valley environment for a miniscule point-to-point "benefit" -- don't destroy our communities because you're too lazy to do that.

Are you even listening to yourself? You say taking connecting trains for the last, small leg of the trip is so inconvenient no one would take HSR across the entire state of Caifornia, but you don't think a huge berm, elevated track right down the middle of small, complex communities (or, depending on the magical-proposal-du-jour, at grade additional trains that would further disrupt local commutes and commerce) would ? By that reasoning, no one would fly from LAX to either San Jose or San Francisco because it's too inconvenient to rent a car (which can take an additional hour) or take transit to get to the Peninsula or any of the other heavily populated parts of the Bay Area.

You said
"Like you said, we've had enough dysfunctional transportation systems in this area. High Speed Railroad makes sense only if it convenient and ... speedy. Adding a change of train and 20 minutes to the trip makes it worthless."

If that's the way the rail authority feels about it, then we SHOULD junk HSR. 10 or 20 minutes up the Peninsula is simply not worth billions of dollars and destroying local communities, especially since millions of people could all get that 20 minutes and more back if our transit SYSTEM were simply improved to work AS A SYSTEM.

HSR should be something that augments our transit, an opportunity to make it part of a system. It shouldn't be the personal toy of a few people with demanding whims, everyone else be damned.

You wrote:
"Furthermore, the quality of life of residents of this area won't be destroyed. The only residents that will be really affected live along the railroad tracks and moved there knowing there was a railroad that might one day get upgraded."

Again, clear evidence that proponents of HSR are being rigid, selfish, and unrealistic.

You really don't live here, do you. No one who bought those homes even ten years ago had an inkling of this, never mind the people who bought 40 years ago. And again, you'd have to live here to know that people right on the tracks will NOT be the only ones affected. Having a huge aerial track across a small, complex community is "highly inconvenient and dissuasive" to living there. Ever lived near any of the elevated tracks in Berkeley and Oakland? HUGE psychological barriers. Those are much bigger, more urban places.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:28 pm

For the benefit of everyone who sees that the current rail authority is acting with total disdain for our communities --

The current rail authority was not put in place by the election. The rail authority was created by a vote of the legislature, and the legislature can tell them they have to work with our communities. The legislature can take away their excessive autocratic power.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. CALL YOU CALIFORNIA REPRESENTATIVE AND ASK THAT THE LEGISLATURE CURB THIS ABUSIVE POWER OF THE RAIL AUTHORITY.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I'll ask one more time:

Last time I looked, there was no pressing need for a high speed train from San Jose to San Francisco. If the proposal had been just to put in high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco, you'd have been laughed all the way home.

There is, however, a huge need to make Bay Area transit more cohesive, a real SYSTEM.

What exactly is proponents' personal stake that when people propose high speed rail to San Jose, or up 101, or up the east bay -- SUDDENLY HSR across the rest of California is no longer this great idea they think it is?

The rail authority just announced that HSR WILL go up the Peninsula on the Cal Train corridor. So people whose communities WILL be damaged by this WILL fight it, even though we voted for it and previously supported it.

Proponents, please first explain why HSR across the entire state of California is a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why is it worth spending all this money and possibly destroying the community dynamic in places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Silicon Valley high tech incubators) so that this last leg of HSR can be done just this way?


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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Who really has power over the Authority is the Governor, who appoints 5 members of the 9 member board.

All funding indeed must go through the legislature.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm

"There is no carried forward alignment that destroys rows of houses in Palo Alto."

Wrong. You are talking about rows WIDE from the track, not what I was talking about. Through several neighborhoods along the track, if you take out just one row along the tracks, you destroy not just that row of houses, you destroy that street and that neighborhood. I was speaking of ROWS along the route from one end of Palo Alto to another.

If you knew this community, you would have known what I meant.

Are you now saying that HSR can be done through Palo Alto, with no taking of any houses or impinging on our main artery right next to the track on the other side, and no huge dividing aerial monstrosity? Can we get that in writing?

This is not a bedroom community, this is an incubator for a lot of California's prosperity.

These communities are not big cities like Los Angeles, they're not suburbs, they're not urbanized centers like Berkeley. They're small, complex, highly integrated, unique towns unlike any I've lived in across the country. Whole towns will be impacted by this project. Our unusually green-oriented Council, that supported this project when they thought it might involve intelligent planning, is now opposed because it will do far more harm than good.

(I think the rail authority has so much power, they'd push through an ill-conceived agenda based on bruised egos alone.)


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:48 pm

"Who really has power over the Authority is the Governor, who appoints 5 members of the 9 member board."

I called the governor's office, they said the legislature SET UP the authority and endowed them with their power, and the legislature can change that. They said the governor has no real power to do anything.

The authority has too much power, rotating in new people who still don't have to work with peninsula communities isn't going to change that.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm

ONE MORE TIME! PROPONENTS PLEASE ANSWER MY QUESTION!

Last time I looked, there was no pressing need for a high speed train from San Jose to San Francisco. If the proposal had been just to put in high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco, you'd have been laughed all the way home.

There is, however, a huge need to make Bay Area transit more cohesive, a real SYSTEM.

What exactly is proponents' personal stake that when people propose high speed rail to San Jose, or up 101, or up the east bay -- SUDDENLY HSR across the rest of California is no longer this great idea they think it is?

The rail authority just announced that HSR WILL go up the Peninsula on the Cal Train corridor. So people whose communities WILL be damaged by this WILL fight it, even though we voted for it and previously supported it.

Proponents, please first explain why HSR across the entire state of California is a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why is it worth spending all this money and possibly destroying the community dynamic in places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Silicon Valley high tech incubators) so that this last leg of HSR can be done just this way?


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Posted by D. P. Lubic
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Well, I'll probably be condemned for responding as an observer from out of state, but I see this as an important issue, not only for California, but for the whole country. I think there are some very important questions to consider, and so far I haven't seen anything about them here.

1. The USA uses two thirds of the oil it consumes for transportation. Something like 48% of total consumption is gasoline alone. Heavy trucks burning diesel fuel account for another 6%. That means that 54% of the oil used in this country is for motor fuel alone, strongly suggesting that our highway system is our Achilles heel. There is also the question of peak oil (also called Hubbert's Peak or Hubbert's curve, for geophysicist Marion King Hubbert who first proposed it in 1956, and seems to be having his theory confirmed. How would you address this?

2. One thing that has been suggested is more drilling for our own oil. This is certainly something to pursue, and it will be pursued, but the figures I've seen for total estimated reserves, including the offshore stuff that's presently off-limits for a variety of real and political reasons, totals 79 bbs (billions of barrels). We currently use 7 bbs per year. At that rate, the estimated 79 bbs would last only 17 years. What would we do in year 18, and not just for cars, but for air service, too?

3. Electric and other alternative fueled vehicles are touted as the future of the automobile. I won't say this is a bad idea–it's not–but there are other problems. For instance, how do you deal with failing road revenue (which is mostly fuel taxes) when you get a significant number of vehicles on the road that do not burn fuel as such? What would be your alternate highway funding mechanism?

4. In a related matter, currently only 51% of highway expenditures comes from fuel taxes on a cash flow accounting basis. Not included in any of that are other costs, such as deferred maintenance, and external costs, such as air pollution. This strongly suggests the road system is badly underpriced. How would you deal with this?

4. We are, I believe, at the limit of what we can do with cars in terms of operating speed. The limit is not the cars themselves, but the abilities of drivers. This is becoming one of the attractive attibutes of even "higher speed rail," or HrSR (as an editor of Railway Age suggested calling 110 mph operations), and of course is a core benefit of true HSR. Assuming you prefer to stay with a modern highway option, how would you improve overall running times, and do so with improved safety?

5. As a corollary to the above, we have an aging population, with problems due to failing eyesight, hearing, reactions, and other problems. What would you propose as an alternative transportation system for people who are, through no fault of their own, becoming unfit to drive? (P.S.: I'm facing this personally, with failing night vision, specifically vision that does not recover from headlight glare as readily as it used to.)

6. Part of the reason for pursuing the HSR option is highway capacity problems. In many places, roads can no longer be widened, due to constraints of a filled right-of-way. If you were to add still more road capacity, where would you do it?

7. Other problems include incompetent drivers, rude drivers, drunk drivers, and finding a parking space. Many of us are weary of dealing with this same old garbage day in and day out. How would you address this?

I'm going to say I know HSR is not an answer to many of these questions; rather, I would argue that a general change of lifestyle, largely based around a turning away from the car culture as we currently know it and returning to a "rail culture," much like what this country was in the 1930s and 1940s, would be be strong answer to a good deal of these questions. This would include reviving streetcars and interurbans such as the old, gone and beautiful Sacramento Northern, intercity rail service (i.e., Amtrak), and something that wasn't around then, high speed rail.

Now,others would say I'm full of hooey (and I've also been called a rotten Communist, which was hooey), but these questions still remain. What would be your opinions on how to address these things, and do so without a greatly expanded rail component, including the high-speed stuff?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

Mr./Ms. Lubic,
You're coming into the conversation cold.

Palo Alto is one of the greenest communities in the country. People are concerned about these issues. People supported and voted FOR high speed rail.

The argument here is not over whether transit or high speed rail is the issue. It's over whether it's going to be done in a smart way that improves transit for millions of Californias, or if it's going to be a pet project to serve a few people while destroying some densely populated, productive communities on a small segment between San Jose and San Francisco.

There are lots of options that people on the peninsula could support. No one is arguing about the majority of the route, the biggest stretch, between two major urban centers, Los Angeles and San Jose (both of which have large airports for cross-state travel.) If that's not good enough, no one is arguing about sending the HSR up the East Bay to, say, Oakland, and on to Sacramento. Lots and lots of people already commute between Oakland and San Francisco daily, that infrastructure exists and can be upgraded easily. No one is arguing about the option of putting the HSR on the existing major highway corridor called Hwy 101. There are other options.

The rail authority won't consider all of the other options because of its own interests. This isn't the way you do transportation projects that are supposed to serve people.

Here's an analogy. Let's say your local town wants to pave a bike path to the local high school. They have the option of putting the bike path on an existing throughway nicely all the way to the school. But then they'd have to deal with the agency that controls that throughway and they don't want to be bothered. So instead, they want to run the bike path right through the living rooms of the homes right by the high school, claiming that taking any of the paths between the houses instead will make the whole project worthless.

This is an argument over stupid planning by an autocratic body that won't consider the needs of highly populated and productive communities -- on a very small leg of this proposed project. They refuse to explain or consider any alternatives that would allow the rail line but not maximally impact the communities. That's what this is about, not about the concept of public transit.

Make more sense?


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:42 am

"Yes, it is true that the train will not affect me"

The train will not affect my neighborhood, but a 500 foot wide freeway currently does.

I don't go to the city council and tell them to knock it down because it's noisy. Those passing through from cities hundreds of miles away don't care that it affects me.

Oh gosh, an 80 foot right of way for sleek, relatively quiet electric trains. If that ever happened to our community it would totally destroy it with its... mobility!


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:59 am

What if some of those people from hundreds of miles away decided the trip wasn't worth making if they couldn't take that last, little stretch right through your living room? Couldn't be bothered to take any of the other routes, it's your living room, or nothing damn it.

I'm guessing it would affect you then.

Why is HSR across the entire state of California a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why is it worth spending all this money and possibly destroying the community dynamic in places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Silicon Valley high tech incubators) so that this last leg of HSR can be done just this way?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:10 am

"Oh gosh, an 80 foot right of way for sleek, relatively quiet electric trains."

So -- if HSR is only worth putting across the whole entire state of California if that last, little segment goes up the populated peninsula -- why can't those sleek, relatively quiet electric trains go onto the existing right of way on the existing freeway already going up the Peninsula? You know, the kind of ugly freeway that's constantly under construction anyway, that keeps getting expanded and that already divides the Peninsula physically and psychologically? (Ans: Cuz the rail authority can't push around the people in charge of the freeway the way they can the communities on the peninsula, right?)


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:12 am

Palo Altans: Call your California legislators and ask that they curb the abusive, autocratic power of the rail authority now.


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Posted by dfb
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:41 am

@spokker stated: "Oh gosh, an 80 foot right of way for sleek, relatively quiet electric trains."

Relative is the key word.

According to the Authority environmental reports, high speed trains at 125 MPH are the same loudness as diesel commuter trains at 80 MPH.

Caltrain does not travel at 80MPH. So, the high speed trains traveling through the peninsula will be louder relative to Caltrain.

What's more, train sound travels twice as far on elevated platforms relative to trains at street level. You can clearly hear them from 2,000 feet away. See the Bay Area to Central Valley EIR/EIS 3.4-10.

And for geeks in the crowd, "[s]peed has a strong influence on noise in the medium speedrange, usually about 30 times the logarithm of train speed." Los Angeles to San Diego via Inland Empire Noise and Vibration Technical Evaluation EIR/EIS


And might I add that there will be a hell of a lot more high speed trains passing through than Caltrain currently sends. The Authority published a draft schedule with the following:

San Francisco and L.A. (each direction):
* Peak hours: trains will leave every 9 minutes in each direction
* Off-peak hours: trains will leave every 11 minutes in each direction

The trains likely will run more often the more popular the system gets. In Germany, trains may run as little as 2 minutes apart.


BTW: if you're wondering why this article is paid so much attention from trolls outside your community, check out: Web Link


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Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 2:38 am

High Speed Rail is coming through Palo Alto because Caltrain owns the strip of land for railroad use. Caltrain signed an agreement to share the land and supports the revised environmental report favoring the Pacheco Pass. Caltrain needs High Speed rail to pay billions of dollars for electrification and road crossings that Caltrain says is necessary for its own survival.


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Posted by Biff
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:03 am

@ 'parent':

"no one is arguing about sending the HSR up the East Bay to, say, Oakland"

Right, because that's where all of the poor people live. Better Oakland than PA, Menlo Park, or Atherton!


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 7:32 am

""no one is arguing about sending the HSR up the East Bay to, say, Oakland"

Right, because that's where all of the poor people live. Better Oakland than PA, Menlo Park, or Atherton!"

Racist jerk. Oakland is a destination city like San Francisco. Or can't you imagine going TO Oakland (rather than THROUGH Oakland)? San Francisco isn't like Los Angeles, it's not the only major city in the Bay Area.

No one is arguing about sending HSR up the East Bay because it wouldn't have to go right through densely populated, compact, complex cities like up the Peninsula. Oakland would then be the DESTINATION. Going up the East Bay is the ALTERNATIVE ROUTE there.

There is a lot of existing public transit between Oakland and San Francisco, Oakland and the East Bay, Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area. Oakland, like San Jose, is a transit hub. That transit hub could be improved if HSR went there, benefitting the whole bay area and the state, and it wouldn't have to threaten to destroy the dynamic of Silicon Valley communities.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 7:34 am

HSR trains are quieter, I have heard them have you? They make a different noise a swoosh, it arrives and is gone in seconds because the train travels faster so the sound can be heard for a shorter time and there is no clickety clack, no horns and no claxons. If you are talking about decibels, the noise may be similar, but when you hear the difference you will find that the HSR is a much less annoying sound almost pleasant in comparison.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

Resident,

Palo Alto is not Los Angeles. Putting anything more on that corridor will be a huge problem for these communities. People come here because of the quality of life. That's why it's such a huge high-tech incubator. Paypal was born in the coffee shop around the corner from me. HP was born in a garage. This area is a big part of California's prosperity.

The state has endowed a small body of people with too much power, so much power they're going to do whatever they want that serves them and their interests, above the interests of the people who live on this segment of their planned project. This last, small segment could be routed other ways, like up the 101 corridor, but the HSR authority doesn't have to bother with those headaches because it's easier to destroy these other communities than do something that would actually work FOR them. Remember, these communities overwhelmingly voted FOR this project, *I* voted FOR HSR, because we mistakenly believed it would be implemented intelligently.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

Last time I looked, there was no pressing need for a high speed train from San Jose to San Francisco. If the proposal had been JUST to put in high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco, you'd have been laughed all the way home.

There is, however, a huge need to make Bay Area transit more cohesive, a real SYSTEM.

What exactly is proponents' personal stake that when people propose high speed rail to San Jose, or up 101, or up the east bay -- SUDDENLY HSR across the rest of California is no longer this great idea they think it is?

The rail authority just announced that HSR WILL go up the Peninsula on the Cal Train corridor. So people whose communities WILL be damaged by this WILL fight it, even though we voted for it and previously supported it.

Proponents, please first explain why HSR across the entire state of California is a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why is it worth spending all this money and possibly destroying the community dynamic in places like Palo Alto and Menlo Park (Silicon Valley high tech incubators) so that this last leg of HSR can be done just this way?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:02 am

My kids cross the tracks every day to get to school on their bikes. I have had to drive them to sports practices, etc. on regular basis during their lives. I have often had to wait for not just one train but two trains at crossings. I have also had to wait as only a couple of cars go by before the gates come down for the next train.

I check PA online at home, and at other locations - often in other countries.

Others may try to pretend they live here, but I do not. When we moved here we did not expect to be living here so long. We also thought back then that Caltrain would be upgraded at some stage and the tracks would be used for electric commuter trains and intercity travel. We were not suprised by this at all. It seems strange to me that those who bought near the tracks are surprised that the tracks would go through modernization.


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Posted by Biff
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:07 am

If sending HSR through the East Bay is A-OK because Oakland is a "destination city", then why can't HSR go all the way to the "destination city" of San Francisco? Why is it okay for HSR to go through San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County, etc., etc. but PA/Menlo Park/Atherton are just too incredibly special and shiny to even *think* of having a train touch *your* neighborhood?

Palo Alto is too "densely populated" and "complex" to have a train run through it? Please. You're living in a suburb just like any other (but because you probably paid a couple of million bucks for the privilege, like to tell yourself you're not). PayPal was founded around the corner from your house? Well, goodness! We'd better run the trains and the freeways through the working class suburbs so that your brilliant, hyper-creative minds can dream up the next outside-the-box envelope-pushing paradigm breaker!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:31 am

When we moved here we saw the trains and laughed at the archaic system and fully expected it to be sent to a train museum within months.

We heard the noise and did our best to live as far from the noise as possible. We live near 101 and can hear that, we live near PA airport and hear planes above us often (the buzzing sounds that many complain about on other threads doesn't bother us) but it is still the trains, with the clickety clack, the horns and the claxons, that we hear that annoys us and gives us headaches.

It actually scares me every time I cross the tracks that we still have grade crossings here and the fact that we have so few accidents considering the barricades are flimsy and so easy to drive around coupled with the fact that right beside them are lights for major intersections. I shudder to think what may happen if there is a computer malfunction and those lights lose synchronization with the tracks.

It bothers me that my kids have to cross those tracks twice a day and I have been in classrooms at Paly (on back to school night) where the teacher has to stop talking until the train passes because no one can hear what is being said. It bothers me that my eldest child who was at Paly the morning of one suicide at Churchill when those bells continued for an hour or so telling all within hearing distance that there was an accident and later to find out that it was a classmate. That said child is now out of college but still hates that noise and it is still something spinechilling to our family.

Finally, it bothers me that if one of our kids moves south for college or for jobs, that there is no good train service in this country. I have lived in other places near trains and found them not as invasive to my lifestyle as it is here. I have used trains for daily commutes and for longer trips. The trains are a much more pleasant way to travel than a plane - I can't see any reason to fly and go through all that airport hassle for an hour's flight.

So, if for reason of college my kids lived in the LA region I would not want to have them drive there - the expense and inconvenience of them owning a car at college is pointless, and the absurdity of flying such a short distance, would make train travel so much better.

Lastly, my family uses public transit because we are used to doing so. Of course we own cars also, but it makes so much more sense when visiting SF or SJ to go by train. We use Caltrain for Giants and Sharks games and for other reasons. We do not automatically give our 16 year olds cars because we do not think they need them - although they do learn to drive. We do not drive my teenagers around very much and they use their bikes, the bus, or Caltrain without question. Well, perhaps they think it is unfair that we don't drive them everywhere when their friends' parents do, but that is another subject.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:32 am

@Biff
You said:
"If sending HSR through the East Bay is A-OK because Oakland is a "destination city", then why can't HSR go all the way to the "destination city" of San Francisco?"

I never argued against San Francisco as a destination city. It can be a final destination from Oakland, it can be a destination on HSR up 101, or any of the other alternatives.

Again, the question is, why HSR across the entire state of California a completely worthless bad idea UNLESS it runs right through our communities on this last, small leg? Why can't it even just run NEXT to our communities up 101?

You asked:
"Why is it okay for HSR to go through San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County, etc., etc. but PA/Menlo Park/Atherton are just too incredibly special and shiny to even *think* of having a train touch *your* neighborhood?"

Umm... Is the train going through all those places and is everyone in those communities up in arms about it? Then HSR really should die, because it doesn't sound like anyone wants it.

Fact is, every one of those cities you mentioned is very different than the Peninsula towns. I'd be happy to have the HSR go up the 101 corridor (on the Peninsula). No argument from me there. It would still be going up the Peninsula, it would still be going to San Francisco.

You have also mentioned very different, mostly MUCH larger places that have corridors that wouldn't impact the whole city the way this project would impact the whole communities of Palo Alto, Menlo, Atherton, etc., on the Cal Train corridor. If it were moved to the parallel 101 corridor right next to those towns, it wouldn't have the same impact, and those communities wouldn't be fighting it.

I don't live near the tracks, I live near the foothills. I'm very involved in this COMMUNITY. A project like this -- done just this way -- would be devastating to this community.

Biff said:
"You're living in a suburb just like any other (but because you probably paid a couple of million bucks for the privilege, like to tell yourself you're not)."

No, not even close.

These Peninsula communities are most definitely NOT "suburbs" "like any other". They are small cities UNLIKE any other. In Palo Alto, people pay huge sums for the quality of life and that unique community, but it's not Beverly Hills as your disdainful imagination paints it. Most parents mortgage themselves into oblivion and lead spartan lives to live in postage-stamp sized houses so they can be here and send their kids to school here.

But you are right in one sense -- this area DOES produce a lot of California's prosperity.

Your disdain is starting to make me think the motive is envy of Silicon Valley.... I've heard some people are trying to create a new tech center South of Market in SF....

ONCE AGAIN, THE QUESTION IS, WHY IS HSR ACROSS THE ENTIRE STATE OF CALIFORNIA A COMPLETELY WORTHLESS BAD IDEA UNLESS IT RUNS RIGHT THROUGH (RATHER THAN NEXT TO, FOR EXAMPLE) OUR COMMUNITIES ON THIS LAST, SMALL LEG?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

@Resident,

Now you are making an argument for HSR, instead of addressing why this exact route on this last, small leg of the journey across the entire state is so critical to it. I voted for HSR, I've been complaining since 1980 that we ought to have high speed rail in California. I just think HSR should be FOR citizens, not DESPITE them. (Or if you look at the disdain of posters like Biff toward Peninsula residents, perhaps TO SPITE them?)

Please explain why you think having an elevated track right down the center of Palo Alto, or alternatively as has been discussed, yet more trains on an at-grade crossing (which you seem to be against) is so important that the rest of the HSR project across the entire state of California isn't even worth doing unless that is the route? Why wouldn't you support HSR right next to those peninsula communities on the 101 corridor instead?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:48 am

Parent

Just reading what you say to Biff (who is perfectly correct even if he is not as polite as he could be) makes us sound smug and self centered.

Biff

All Palo Altans are not like this. We are not all suffering from self entitlement. We all chose to live here for various reasons and although Palo Alto is not a suburb in many people's eyes because it is not a dormitory town for SF or SJ, it is still suburbia in the true sense of the word. Yes, property may cost a lot more than other areas of the Bay Area and yes people do come here for the schools and live in small homes when they could afford to live in a much nicer home in a different town, but the majority are not Palo Alto born and bred and have chosen to live in their present residences.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

Parent

I support HSR and I support getting it done. The exact route doesn't bother me at all. I also support getting Caltrain upgraded. I support Palo Alto also and don't think an elevated track would be an eyesore. The tracks already bisect this city and cause us, its residents, to be delayed, upset by noise and fume pollutions and I can't see that what is being proposed would make any detrimental difference to what we already have which is indeed an eyesore and an earsore and a breathing sore (is that what we can call it?). I agree that those with homes bordering the tracks may be incovenienced, but I am amazed that it never occurred to those homeowners that upgrading would not happen. For the rest of us, I can't see any problems at all.

If the proposed HSR route were through the East Bay I would still support it and I would still support upgrading Caltrain. I support public transit for long and short hauls.

I do not stand in the way of progress. Palo Alto is a wonderful place to live, a wonderful place to work and yes it does also have some disadvantages, but then so does everywhere. Progress will occur everywhere and Palo Alto is only going to suffer if it remains in the 50s as far as infrastructure is concerned.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:16 am

Folks,

It seems we all need breathing and yoga training. CHSRA has written extensively about the difficulties of following either 101 or 280. I agree, their analysis may not be believable to those living From Palo Alto to Atherton, but they have studied it. Along most of Caltrain CHSRA does not need to acquire any property. Since highway right of way was purchased with the help of federal highway funds and cannot be used for anything else, CHSRA would have to buy whatever they would need at current market rates (analyzed before the current recession). For part of the Peninsula that might make sense, but not all the way. Somebody else has already explained that 280 is too steep in many places for HSR trains to maintain speed.

We have three choices:

Kill HSR and hope for futuristic transportation modes or freeway and airport expansion (not cheaper than HSR by any analysis). This also kills any hope of upgrading Caltrain.

Fight the CHSRA tooth and nail trying to get what some of us want, resulting in years of lawsuits while property values decline anyway due to the uncertainties (long term results same as above).

Do the work (as opposed to just whining) to help CHSRA do the best job they can for the ENTIRE PROJECT, and be proud when California once again leads the nation.

There is still much risk and uncertainty for sure. But folks in PA etc, just remember that Silicon Valley Leadership Group (many CEO's live in your communities) is one of the main reasons HSR is coming up Caltrain. Other parts of Silicon Valley also innovate.

And the last thing is: We voted for Los Angeles to San Francisco (not Oakland or San Jose). So if we don't go there, we can't fund the project no matter how we build it.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:42 am

@ "Resident"

I don't see my question anymore, so maybe that's why you ignored it. Which "another palo alto neighborhood" is right next to the tracks and 101 as you claim to be? Palo Alto is a pretty small place. Are you aware of how small an area "another palo alto neighborhood" covers?

Can you please tell me which part of my reply to Biff made "us sound smug and self centered."? Was it the part where I questioned why this project has to go smack through our communities, instead of just NEXT to our communities? Is it the part where I keep asking why HSR across the ENTIRE state of California is a completely worthless, bad idea unless it runs right through (rather than next to, for example) our communities on this last, small leg?

Or the part where I asked you directly (and you didn't answer) why you think having an elevated track right down the center of Palo Alto, or alternatively as has been discussed, yet more trains on an at-grade crossing (which you seem to be against) is so important that the rest of the HSR project across the entire state of California isn't even worth doing unless that is the route? Why wouldn't you support HSR right next to those peninsula communities on the 101 corridor instead?

Or maybe it's the part where I question why you keep attacking residents of a community you claim to be a part of for wanting intelligent transit improvement as if that's NIMBYism or any of the other insults you and your compadres keep lobbing at us instead of trying to think of what could work for everyone?

Or perhaps our not just quietly accepting a proposal that hurts our community when there are good alternatives for the same end just isn't in some interest of yours you aren't disclosing.

Many of us voted for HSR. HSR should support California communities, not supplant them.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:54 am

@ Steve,
You wrote:
"CHSRA has written extensively about the difficulties of following [101]"

Difficulties worth overcoming if this project is worth doing. Please elaborate on those "difficulties" OTHER than the argument that it's easier to run roughshod over Peninsula communities.

"We have three choices"

That's just the problem with the rail authority. There aren't just three choices. If the rail authority hadn't been given so much power by the legislature, they'd have to work and problem solve to actually come up with better choices.

What about the choice of bringing HSR to San Jose, UPGRADING the Bay Area transit SYSTEM so that it seamlessly integrates with it, allowing people to go quickly not just to San Francisco, but also to all points on the East Bay, Silicon Valley, Sacramento, etc.?

One choice is letting go of the idea that you have to destroy Peninsula communities to make HSR work across the entire state of California.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

> Can you please tell me which part of my reply to Biff made "us sound smug and self centered."?

Parent, you said, 'These Peninsula communities are most definitely NOT "suburbs" "like any other". They are small cities UNLIKE any other. In Palo Alto, people pay huge sums for the quality of life and that unique community…'

That definitely sounds smug and self-centered. Palo Alto is just like many other suburbs around the country, it's just got a bigger sense of entitlement.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

Parent

To answer your questions.

I never said I was next to the tracks. I do live near 101 and nearish the airport to hear planes. I have no idea where "another Palo Alto" neighborhood quite is which is why I use it. Where I live in Palo Alto does not really matter other than that I live in Palo Alto and I have told you that I don't live near the tracks. But, like most Palo Altos, my family and I constantly cross the tracks.

To answer your next point about your reply to Biff, you should read your comments again. You described Palo Alto as being very different from other areas. You explained that we live in very expensive homes and spent a lot of money to live in postage sized homes to get our kids into school here. That makes us sound smug, wealthy, and better than other communities in the Bay Area. It may be true, but it does not make us better. You also said that this was not a suburb. It may also be true that we are not a SF or SJ suburb but this is definitely suburbia. We are not an urban area and we are not a rural area, so how else would you like to describe it?

I don't like the idea of "at grade" crossings and I agree that we should not have them. I will protest that as much as I can. However, I don't think an elevated train is as bad as some fear, particularly since we have a really unsightly track running through the town at present. It is really ugly, dangerous, and a constant reminder to everyone of the tragedies we have suffered. Anything must be better than that. I have seen elevated tracks, have walked in parks underneath them, have you? We are not talking about old fashioned railroad elevated sections from the industrial age, rather a sleek, modern structure which to some extent reminds me of the strange beauty of the new Bay Bridge which we have also only seen on computer graphics - just like the envisioned HSR rail.

I have never said that this has to be the route. I do think that if it is the chosen route then we should make the best of it and that a station in Palo Alto, with parking at Baylands and improved shuttle and public transit, would not be a win/ win but could be a lose/ win. So if the Caltrain route is chosen, we could benefit, even though I am not sure if I think it is a better route than the East Bay. I am just not as familiar with that route.

I can't really picture what using the 101 corridor would mean. Are you advocating a structure about the highway? There would be encroachments on property all the way along the route with perhaps the Palo Alto section being the only exception. That sounds to me like you want to give problems to everyone else rather than those of us in Palo Alto. Once again, there is a hint of entitlement there.

Then there is the paragraph where you rant about me attacking the NIMBY attitudes of yourself and others, you say this about me and my compadres (as far as I know I have none but do agree with some of the other posters here) and say that I don't want to work with those who want the best for everyone. I am not sure how to answer this criticism as I am trying to politely point out that this probably won't be as bad as some fear, that it should be no surprise to those who live near the tracks, and that no matter what route is chosen there will be some affected. I can't see that I am not considering everyone when I say that there will be upgrades to our transit system, way of life and quality of life by getting rid of those ugly at grade tracks we presently have.

Lastly, I have no hidden agenda. I can see pros and cons of the proposed route, but I am not a stick in the mud who can't see the benefits of getting involved in this. I do have some sympathy if someone is going to lose their home or some of their land, but I don't think it is going to be rows of homes lost as some seem to fearmonger. I also think that those people who may lose out will be able to survive somewhere else with the compensation they are given and those that neighbor the tracks will discover that their home values will eventually lose any discount they presently have by being right up against the tracks.

I hope that you think I have answered all your concerns and my apologies if there is some criticism which I haven't answered to your satisfaction.




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Posted by ditchCHRSA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2010 at 11:37 am

Just because we voted for HSR doesn't mean we voted for them to implement it by any means necessary. I'm glad the City Council has come to its' senses.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:08 pm

@Parent,

I don't have the bandwidth to go find all of the 101 discussions I've read in all of the CHSRA documents, and you might not believe them anyway. Just look at real estate for a moment. If it is 60 miles from Diridon Station to Caltrain's 4th and King (exist terminal) and they would need the same 80ft width and most of it would be at least $1M/acre for unimproved property, that would be almost $600 million just for the rights. And then train riders cannot use Caltrain to access HSR, so you get more cars, parking, and traffic up and down the Peninsula.


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Posted by tom h
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2010 at 12:20 pm

good to see after reading the facts and listining a bit you finaly came to your sences


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

"Caltrain does not travel at 80MPH."

Correct. It travels at 79 MPH.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

@Pat
You wrote:
"Parent, you said, 'These Peninsula communities are most definitely NOT "suburbs" "like any other". They are small cities UNLIKE any other. In Palo Alto, people pay huge sums for the quality of life and that unique community…'

That definitely sounds smug and self-centered. Palo Alto is just like many other suburbs around the country, it's just got a bigger sense of entitlement."

My statement sounded smug to you because you didn't look at it as a statement of fact, you brought your own personal baggage. You also don't seem to know what a suburb is. Look it up, that might help. It might also help if you looked at why you have this animus toward Peninsula communities.

Having lived in the West, Southwest, Northwest, Midwest, New England, and the South, I can tell you these are unique communities you wouldn't "get" from the usual labels. Again, not a value judgement, just an observation from fact.

Palo Alto is most definitely not a suburb. Suburbs are typically defined as outlying regions of another city, or places adjacent to other cities.

Palo Alto isn't close enough to San Francisco or San Jose to be suburbs of those cities. Palo Alto is its own city, with all the cultural and service aspects of cities. Suburbs typically don't have all of these services, because people who live in them go there to sleep and get those services from the adjacent city.

Palo Alto has all those characteristics, and yet is not urban like Berkeley, for example. I love Berkeley, have lived there, but they are not at all similar places. Berkeley could sustain an elevated train through town without it affected quality of life negatively, Palo Alto can't.

Palo Alto has a lot of characteristics that give people who live there a high quality of life. People pay huge sums of money to live in teeny tiny houses for that quality of life. Those are also facts.

I never said anything smug or entitled. This is more about the chip on your shoulder than anything else.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

@ Resident,
You wrote: " It may be true, but it does not make us better."

You admit what I said is true. I never made any value judgements attached to that truth relative to anywhere else, only you did.

This has nothing to do with whether it's a good idea to put HSR right through the middle of all these complex, small city/communities up the Peninsula, or to put HSR NEXT to them so that these communities aren't harmed. The only reason I can see that the rail authority won't consider putting HSR next to those communities (not controversial in those communities) is that it's more difficult for the rail authority, and they have so much power they don't want to bother with those inconveniences.

Yes, I've lived near elevated tracks in the bay area and seen them in other parts of the world. No matter the design, they do physically divide the area, especially a small city of almost entirely low-lying buildings. Proponents of THIS route for HSR can't see HSR going across all of California to San Jose, then integrating into an upgraded and better functioning regional SYSTEM because of the mental barrier they perceive of changing a train, yet they denigrate Palo Altans for not wanting the physical and psychological barrier of a raised train track through the middle of town.

101 is a large transportation corridor, much larger than the Cal Train corridor. There are many options, trains along highway corridors are nothing new. How exactly does proposing the train go through a major transportation corridor (that, in case you hadn't noticed, goes through Palo Alto, too) instead of the heart of the community hint at "entitlement"? I'd call it common sense.

I know it's difficult over email because you can't see the other person, but please examine yourself for the personal biases you are inserting into this, they are inflammatory and unhelpful.

And no, you still have not answered my basic question that I have asked a dozen times:

Please explain why you think having an elevated track right down the center of Palo Alto, or alternatively as has been discussed, yet more trains on an at-grade crossing (which you seem to be against) is so important that the rest of the HSR project across the entire state of California isn't even worth doing unless that is the route? Why wouldn't you support HSR right next to those peninsula communities on the 101 corridor instead?

You may have no problem with an elevated track through the heart of town, but a lot of people do. You are also expressing that you are okay with some more reasonable alternatives -- alternatives that people on the Peninsula would then support. But the rail authority is not going to consider those, because they have too much power and don't have to care. Hence the conflict. If the rail authority decided to work with peninsula communities and endure a little problem solving to overcome the "difficulties" choosing any of the many options that don't run through the heart of Peninsula communities, people would go back to supporting HSR.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm

@Steve
"I don't have the bandwidth to go find all of the 101 discussions I've read in all of the CHSRA documents, and you might not believe them anyway."

Try me. This is too important for handwaving.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Parent

It may be true that we paid more to live in a tiny postage stamp home (your words) than a community in the East Bay, or along the 101 corridor, but that does not mean that we are above having some disruption in our City. You imply that because we pay a lot of money to live here, we are less deserving to having the downsides (as well as the upsides) of HSR. I feel that all communities are just as important to any other and just because our properties cost us more we are still equal to those that paid less.

Not sure what you are saying in the next paragraph.

I am not sure where there are modern, elevated tracks in the Bay Area. I have seen some very old, ugly elevated tracks and highways, but not sleek, modern tracks with parkland, shopping and bicycle tracks underneath. You are probably picturing drugies, homeless, and ghetto like inner city areas in your mind. I am thinking of useful land use under elegant structures, with parking, pedestrian/bicycle paths and even landscaping with children's play areas, or shopping or business area.

Our city is already divided by a track. It is noisy, smelly, and problematic with the need to cross and wait for trains to go by. I am not sure how an elevated track is going to make that worse. Yes, I do agree that we don't need more at grade crossing so as I have said before, I am against any at grade crossings anywhere in the City.

Having HSR stop at San Jose is a bigger stumbling block than you imagine to an HSR system which can run on to Sacramento and also to Redding or Oregon. It would be like trying to drive to Sacramento at present by using 237 through Milpitas where for some strange reason we have to lose freeway and drive on regular streets before getting back on 880 (or is it 680) to get to Vacaville. It is so onerous that it is easier to go another way. The best way will always be to stay on freeways. Or, in HSR terms, having to change to local transit to get to SF from SJ when the final destination is points North or East of SF makes it less likely to be used. Remember, we are not just talking about people from SJ and the Peninsula wanting to use the service, but people from all over the North and East of SF.

I would agree that if we had fields or trees all the way alongside the 101 corridor that it would make sense to use that corridor. However, we don't. The 101 corridor is all used up by freeway for most of its length. There are many residential areas very close to the 101 and to put a train alongside the freeway (which would have been ideal if there was space) would mean that homes would be lost. From my recollection of the 101, any space at various parts of its length are sometimes on the west side and sometimes on the east side and I can't picture how HSR could get alongside without continual criss crossing. If it could be done, I would be happy to see it being done. I just have my doubts.

I am sorry if you think I have personal biases which are inflammatory and unhelpful. I feel I am trying to see things from an unbiased point of view. You seem to have more personal bias than I do, but as you say, it may be because we can't see each other's expressions or tone of voice in this discussion.

I have already expressed why I am not against an elevated track. I am also not against any reasonable proposal that is being made. I would be behind any proposed use of the 101 corridor or the East Bay. I don't think that the Caltrain corridor is the ideal corridor, but I do think it may be (and I said may not is) the best option we have. There is no ideal corridor because of the way the Peninsula has been built up over the past decades since the railroad was built. Remember, the railroad was built before any of the Peninsula cities existed. It is a shame that a larger corridor of land wasn't left either side of the tracks for future use. Imagine what it could have been like if 101 had been able to be built alongside the tracks way back when. But, our predecessors didn't have vision for the need for space for freeways or HSR when the communities were built. So, no, there is no ideal corridor.

If HSR comes, then I will not be against it. If other alternatives are considered, I will not be against them either. I can't begin to get into the minds of the powers that be in the HSR authority and won't speculate on what they may or may not consider. But, I won't get myself upset and angry about what I consider to be an eventual progress whether it affects Palo Alto or not.

Lastly, the Rail Authority would have disapproval from whichever communities it had decided to put its tracks through. They were expecting that and although they are willing to do a little problem solving I think that what they are getting is more what a little problem solving can do. (Little problem solving - your words, not mine).


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Posted by ditchCHRSA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

"although they are willing to do a little problem solving..."
????
Try NO problem solving. Just shoving the cheapest solution down our throats. Are the pro HSR forces so blind that they will support absolutely anything CHRSA wants? We voted for a modern thoughtfully planned HSR solution. Not this mess.


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Posted by Biff
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm

@parent: How would HSR running concurrent with 101 work, exactly?

A giant (and it *would* have to be giant, to provide a level running grade while clearing existing bridges and interchanges) elevated structure running down the middle of the freeway? Something that tall sounds like an incredible visual blight to those living near the freeway!

Or perhaps you'd widen the freeway so that trains could run down the middle? But that would require miles and miles of private property to be taken on either side of 101, far more than would be required with an expansion of the existing rail corridor.

And let's not forget that any 101-centric option would snarl Bay Area traffic for years, as parts of 101 are closed down to accommodate a major civil engineering project taking place alongside/in the middle of/above a constantly busy freeway. But I'm sure that any future drivers stuck in a permanent traffic jam will just smile, content in the knowledge that Palo Altans are preserving their little slice of heaven.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Correction, I should have said they may be willing to do a little problem solving.

However, I think that it is more than just a little problem solving that Palo Alto anti HSR people want.

And, if the whole thing could be tunnelled, I agree it would make the most sense even if it isn't the cheapest. I would be completely in agreement with tunnels or any below grade option rather than an elevated option. Just in case my views on these options hadn't been made clear from previous posts.


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Posted by opus
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm

OY!


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Posted by Eric
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I'm not sure why people think that an elevated structure or a berm is worse than the current grade crossings. The current grade crossings are super-dangerous and a traffic problem at rush hours.


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Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 5:54 pm

@Parent

If High Speed Rail took another path to San Francisco how would you grade seperate the Caltrain tracks through Palo Alto? Remember that Caltrain runs a deficit of 2.5 million dollars a year and has no money for improvements. The city council says that Caltrain is the "indispensable backbone" of the local and regional transit system. Is the city of Palo Alto going to pay for building underground grade crossings for Caltrain?


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Parent, look to your own shoulder for chips and animus.

I lived in PA for 30 years. I lived in Europe, on the east coast and Marin County. Palo Alto is a nice place to live, but no better and no more special than many other places.

> "Berkeley could sustain an elevated train through town without it affected quality of life negatively, Palo Alto can't."

I wonder if Berekely would agree with you.


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Posted by Adam Selene
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm

On much of the peninsula there isn't even room to add another lane to 101. Otherwise they would have done it long ago. Some folks think losing a lane on Alma is the end of the world, so imagine the reaction to a railroad replacing lanes on 101.

I do think quad-tracking the entire Caltrain ROW is silly. Caltrain and HSR could share the existing tracks after some relatively inexpensive upgrades.


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Posted by Larry K
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Listen HSRA, it looks like you won't play by my rules. So I'm taking my ball and going home. Na, na, na na, na, naaa.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Why would an elevated down 101 need to be GIANT, yet the elevated down caltrain row is no big deal for the neighborhoods?

The fact is, the overpasses between MIllbrae and SJC could ALL be rebuilt, with elevated ONE OR TWO track rail line running down the middle of the freeway, for a fraction of the cost of remodeling every town, school, neighborhood and downtown through the same 50 mile stretch. You would touch every single same city that you are so desperate to skewer. You would provide MUCH easier access and much better supporting infrastructure (parking, rental car and bus access, etc.) Its just a pure lie that the centers of all these neighorhoods are mandatory for riderhship - they are completely inaccessible, inconvenient, and pure nonsense locations for 'transportation hubs'. The only real reason these small downtowns have been targeted is for their real estate and redevelopment value.

Pure and simple, HSR is nothing more than a means to an end - and the end is the big bonanza property siezures in the most prime and valuable real estate in California, at penny's on the dollar, handed over to redevelopers (Wunderlick, Cruikshank and club) for the big payoff - finally a way to force their slimy paws deep into Peninsula 'downtown' real estate - on the cheap. REdevelopment along 101 - parking garages and car lots, and bus stations - just doesn't give them the same big fat payoff.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Parent, you are joking, right?


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Posted by NoAnswers
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2010 at 12:38 am

You people are so preoccupied with HSR's impact on Palo Alto and the peninsula that you've lost sight of the idea that HSR will mire the state woefully into even more debt than it is now and will never, ever pay for itself, nor even come close. Taxpayers will be funding it in perpetuity with subsidies. Instead of bickering about routing HSR up the CalTrain corridor or the 101, you should realize that the entire project needs to be scrapped from top to bottom, from San Francisco to Anaheim.

Your city council's resolution is seriously flawed because it recommends coming up with a "viable" alternative. The first step in doing so is to establish that there is demand for this project, something the CAHSRA has never done. It has never been established that people will abandon planes and cars and flock to HSR in sufficient numbers to make the project "viable".


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 4, 2010 at 7:37 am

The answer is so simple, but everyone is so entrenched...

Easy compromise:

- station in San Jose
- run up the 101 corridor
- stattion at 237/101/Moffett
- station at SFO
- station in SF at Transbay Terminal

Easy access to freeways so everyone in the Bay Area can use Hsr with convenience. No disruptions to communities or horrendous traffic to out of the way stations. Use CalTrns right of way, minimal property infringement - no need for expensive work arounds.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2010 at 8:54 am

CP Dad

Now you are doing it. Where is the space along the 101 corridor.

What nonsence!


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Posted by g'bye NIMBYS
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

HSR is going to happen. Some people will not like it, but most will. Some will oppose it because it brings noise to their neighborhood. Kind of an irony, really, in that NIMBY's have controlled the scene here for years. Along with HSR, lets get on with building some affordable housing along the ttransit lines. That's gonna happen, too. Sorry folks, the NIMBY party is over.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Getting back to the topic of HSR on the Caltrain tracks, we must ensure that we keep Alma as two lanes. If we could have an elevated track or a below grade track, ideally we could also make Alma into the extension of Central Expressway that it should be.

At present, Palo Alto seems intent to alter two lane roads into one lane, a la Charleston and Arastradero. I for one do my best to avoid both of these roads nowadays regardless of time of day even if it means adding miles to my journey. The surrounding residential streets as well as San Antonio and Meadow must have more traffic. If Alma was narrowed, then Middlefield, El Cam and various other residential streets would take up the slack. Already there are too many streets in Palo Alto with barriers to prevent through traffic (which gps doesn't show) and all this must add to traffic in Palo Alto.

The best thing to do with traffic is ensure that it has the most efficient way to get to where it is going. Narrowing roads and blocking alternatives does nothing other than raising blood pressure.

If HSR enables us to cause Alma to be a continuation of Central Expressway then it would be a plus. Our city council should be advocating for these type of improvements from the rail authority not giving a no confidence vote.


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Posted by PO
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2010 at 9:02 am

"Cal-train is an indispensable backbone"?....an extremely short-sighted statement.

Shepherd and Price repeatedly demonstrate a severe lack of understanding of Public Policy Economics.....supporting public employee unions and now this.

HSR is an environmental, economic and quality-of-life disaster.


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Posted by g'bye NIMBYS
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

"HSR is an environmental, economic and quality-of-life disaster."

Oh, and more highways and cars are better? Please. In case you don't know, the most devastating impact on our environment is the expansion of ex-urban development and the auto use that it stimulates. HSR will help get people out of their cars. It will take a generation to start using it, but we WILL use it, as our use of the automobile decreases. What a hypocritical community this is. On the one hand patting itself on the back for being "green" and then with the other hand doing everything it can to stop housing and transport innovations that will dramatically decrease carbon emissions over time. Remember the term "Inconvenient Truth". Get used to living it, NIMBYs.


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Posted by SFO?
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm

How could any plan for HSR not stop at SFO?


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Posted by Charlie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2010 at 11:05 pm

How could any plan for HSR not to stop at Disney? Presently this is on the HSR plan for both the Florida and California states and possibly the hidden ridership accounted for.... Now people can relate it to the SFO connection. It just doesn't sound too good for the locals. Just imagine the DIsney Express passing through the backyard every....


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Posted by D. P. Lubic
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2010 at 12:17 am

Gentle Readers;

Many of you are concerned about the effect of high speed trains in your neighborhood. Part of this concern is driven by costs (i.e., taxes) and worries about subsidy. What many do not know (and politicians seem reluctant to tell us) is that your automobile (and the oil industry that supports it) is very heavily subsidized, just in ways that aren't so obvious.

Come along for a look.

In 2008 (last year for which statistics are currently available), this country, as a whole (Federal, state, and local governments), spent over $182 billion on roads, but only collected a bit over $94 billion in fuel taxes and tolls ($84.9 billion and $9.3 billion respectively). The $88 billion difference, spread over the approximatly 174.5 billion gallons of motor fuel sold that year, works out to a bit over 50 cents per gallon. This is on top of whatever you are paying now.

Web Link

Web Link

All this material comes from a USDOT website called "Highway Statistics." Curiously, for all the statistical information there (and the site is a gold mine of information!), the subsidy cost I just mentioned above is not in it; you have to work it out yourself between the two tables listed above.

General link:

Web Link

Now, if we had an honest accounting, the additional 50 cents per gallon would be bad enough to pay on top of, say, $3.00 per gallon, but there are other costs, such as deferred maintenance, poor design and compromise in construction standards due to limited available funding, and external costs such as air pollution, unrecovered accident costs, and, at least until recently, a couple of oil wars.

My seat-of-the-pants estimate is that gasoline in this country really costs about $7 to $8 per gallon, and I'm conservative. There are others who estimate the cost to be as high as $15 per gallon. (You'll have to do an internet search for the "true cost of gasoline" to find out more about this, due to the limited ability of this page to relay links, otherwise I would have a couple for you.) You--we--are paying that $7 or whatever now, hidden in our income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, insurance costs, and so on.

This comes back to several of the questions in the original post. How do we get off the oil diet, particularly in transportation? How do we pay for roads when cars use little or no fuel as such, or, in other words, how do we divorce road revenue from fuel consumption? How do we come up with answers to the other questions?

Finally, I know a lot of the concern about rail and grade seperation in Palo Alto and other places is about the potential of noise and other nuisance factors. Believe me, it will not be what so many naysayers claim.

Now, in the interests of disclosure, I've got to admit I'm a rail enthusiast, or as some others would say in less flattering terms, a "foamer" or "train geek." Having said that, I am also quite familiar with railroads, and have spent time about them, including steam roads; I've even lent a hand (for an impromptu two hours or so) to a steam locomotive overhaul. We have commuter and Amtrak service where I live, plus freight trains, including heavy coal trains over a mile long (with their corresponding returning empty trains). Like your own, these are all diesel powered and oil burning, except the steam heritage roads, which have locomotives that burn coal and spit much of it out the stack, where much of it comes down as hot, sand-like cinders around the third car in the train (guess how I know this).

A notable exeption, however, is the Amtrak service north of Washington, DC. This is the Northeast Corridor, or NEC, and is the former main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was converted to electric operation in the 1930s. I've had the chance to see some of those trains whiz past stations on the line at well over 100 mph. Besides the visual speed (which is frightening the first time you see it), what was most impressive was how quiet the trains were compared to the diesel and steam trains I was more familiar with. I can easily imagine the possibility of one of these things sneaking up on you if you were on the tracks, and the engineer didn't see you in time to give a warning blast on the horn.

I will also mention that Palo Alto and other places would have good company if you got the electric HSR line built. Another line, also Amtrak operated, is the Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania. Again, this is a former line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, running west from Philadelphia to Harrisburg (state capitol). It was also electrified in the 1930s, and recently upgraded to 110 mph operation. This line goes through what are called "Main Line" communities west of Philadelphia, which are some of the richest places in the state; the Paoli Local is an institution for those moneybags commuters. It doesn't sound like something to hurt property values!

Amazingly, this same semi-high speed route also goes through some of the prettiest farming country you ever saw, and this country, in the vicinity of Lancaster, Pa., is worked by old-order Amish people with horses! (This was the setting for a film called "Witness.") Also on the line are a sweet-smelling chocolate factory in Elizabethtown (Mars), an 1880s era station with a great steel canopy over the tracks at Harrisburg, and a working interchange (ironically, for freight only) with the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road (yes, that's the way its corporate name is spelled).

To you and all, I welcome you aboard the train.


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Posted by D. P. Lubic
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2010 at 4:35 am

For reference:

Web Link

Looks like a place Peninsula residents would be proud to call home.


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Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2010 at 8:42 am

The speed and greatness of trains in other places still does not imply that HSR will be successful. Fast trains in beautiful Amish country are great for the people that live there, I suspect. However, let's stay focused on the Bay Area's peninsula corridor.

Regarding the aforementioned rolling farmland - the HSR project in the peninsula is not proposing to put a new train in farmland. Rather, the HSR will need to seize many properties and ultimately carve up the neighborhood.

So let me ask you and the other posters who like trains but don't live in Palo Alto - would you want your home seized to be replaced by the largest public works debacle in history? With a flawed EIR, completely flawed if not criminal ridership projections, HSR can't work the way it is and the current team of the CHSRA aren't to be trusted to get it done right.

Also, Palo Alto is not like Philadelphia or anywhere in Pennsylvania. Ask your typical Palo Alto resident if they'd move to PA. Doubtful.

I'm not against rail. I take CalTrain to and from work. At one point I was ok with an LA to San Jose HSR. Then I realized this - how many people would use it? If all the people who posted on this article took it from LA to San Jose round trip every day we'd still waste $100,000,000,000.


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Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi g'bye NIMBYS - your post is doesn't make any sense. It seems to imply that HSR will have no environmental impact whatsoever - it will. Most importantly, when the government comes knocking on your door to take your house, what would you do?

For the anti-NIMBYs - 1) do you take the train everywhere now? 2) would you really use HSR to go to Bakersfield? Seriously. Get real. Such a big, idealistic waste.


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Posted by D. P. Lubic
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Thanks, Bill, I'm glad you appreciate rail. But I would still have concerns about attempting to kill this project.

First, I should state that it's my understanding that the new railroad is supposed to fit into (or very nearly into) the existing right-of-way. That should minimize property takings, unless a house is right up against the tracks. I took a look at some satellite photos, and it does't seem to be the case here. Of course, if the project is rerouted for some reason, then my comments are off. . .

The semi-high speed service in Pennsylvania is, like the proposal in the Peninsula, over an existing legacy road that predates the Civil War. It was originally a single track, then expanded to two and later to four, was electrified, and later shrunk back to two tracks. Its grade seperations actually predate the electrification work of the 1930s by up to 20 years or so. Much of the upgrade to 110 mph operation involved new rail (when I saw it, the track had rail from 1942 in it--and industrial tracks had rail from 1898!), proper line-and-surface work, and upgrades to the signal system. Otherwise, it's essentially the same railroad as before.

That NEC is also a legacy route--yet it is the fastest section of railroad in the country. And yes, those electrics are quiet, almost unervingly so, at least to me. . .

What would worry me if I were a Californian would be the idea that this project (and rail projects in general) would get killed over money (again), and then we would be stuck with the next oil shock (again) because we decided trains weren't good enough for us, while we kept on feeding money to people who don't like us for a variety of reasons (again). I've been anxious about this for 35 years, following the first oil crunch in 1973. All that time, we wasted chance after chance to prepare for what happened a year or two ago. I want us to be properly prepared for the day.

Do I like the prospect of these construction companies gouging the taxpayer? Of course not, but I dislike the prospect of OPEC gouging us more, and on top of that, some of that money in support of the oil market winds up in the hands of the terrorists. Note that I know our actual oil imports aren't all that much from Saudi Arabia, but at the same time, our oil demand drives up the price world wide. This is because the oil business is truly a global enterprise; locally produced oil goes into the world commodity market, where we have to bid against everyone else for our own oil!

Al Gore was right, the internal combustion engine, at least as used the way we do now, has got to go, although not entirely for the reasons Gore suggests. Another writer, more creative than I am, suggested that the "American way of life," at least the part that considers cars to be freedom, is also our most serious and immediate security problem. If this project is killed, it will be a decade or more before someone attempts to bring it back. Considering the world oil situation, can we wait that long?

As to ridership, there is reason to think many such estimates may be understated, i.e., overly conservative. I believe part of this is that the loss of rail patronage in the past may have been generational. I'm short on time, so I can't write the whole thing out properly here, but there is another website where this was specifically discussed a while back. It's a history rail preservation site, so most of the material is on old trains (as in, steam), but much of what is said in this form (linked below) also applies to the pro-rail and anti-rail people in regard to modern rail service as well.

Web Link

General link:

Web Link

Enjoy.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2010 at 9:26 am

D. P. Lubic, I understand you're here because of your participation in Cruickshank's HSR blog Web Link, that you're proud of reporting back to those guys what you post here, and that you live on the east coast.

You have no clue what you're talking about. You wrote,

"First, I should state that it's my understanding that the new railroad is supposed to fit into (or very nearly into) the existing right-of-way. That should minimize property takings, unless a house is right up against the tracks."

Let me point out to you that a significant portion of the right-of-way through Palo Alto has homes backing up against the tracks. Furthermore, most lots in Palo Alto are the size of a postage stamp. Take "just a few feet" and you've taken a sizeable chunk of someone's living space. And for the yards that are not carved into - which you might dismissively characterize as 'unaffected' - they will suffer being up against tracks which hover over their living spaces and trains which pass through nose-to-nose with their bedrooms, if they have 2 stories. For single story homes, the proposed aerials are completely out of proportion with the scale of the homes and neighborhoods. The people of Palo Alto WILL be deeply affected, in particular by aerials.

I don't think you will ever appreciate that, given your limited resources (google maps) and fixed mindset. Carry on with your blather, but realize that you're making a fool of yourself in this community where we know the nature of our own collective backyards.


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Posted by TrainIsComing
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Palo Alto is fortunate that most of the Caltrain right of way is more than 80 feet and the narrowest area is over 75 feet. The two Caltrain stations will remain at grade and aerial structures would be needed if going over the 4 street crossings is prefered. There are lots that abut the right of way but what houses would be included in an 80 foot right of way of an aerial structure?


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I don't see anything 'fortunate' about people losing their view of greenery and blue sky for an aerial towering against their back fence.

I don't see anything 'fortunate' about losing a lane or two of Alma on the other side, as is proposed by the CHSRA's Supplemental Alternatives Analysis.

What you think is a reasonable size which the rail should fit into matters nothing; the CHSRA is calling the shots. Palo Alto/Palo Altans must stand firm against bad alignments. This is a 100 year project and demanding that it be done in a forward-thinking way is our responsibility to future generations. They depend on us to protect our/their community.


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Posted by D. P. Lubic
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Well, I'm back for a little while, at least. Thought you might want to see some commentary on Palo Alto from New England. (No, you're not the lead article, take no offense to that):

Web Link


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