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Four-track design back on the table for high-speed rail

Original post made on Feb 10, 2012

A new analysis by the California High-Speed Rail Authority calling for a four-track rail system between the Bay Area and Central Valley has set off a fresh wave of criticism from Palo Alto and surrounding cities, with many calling the latest document a betrayal of the rail authority's earlier promises.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 10, 2012, 9:50 AM

Comments (41)

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Posted by George
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

Could HSR possibly design a system with more significant negative impacts? It seems to just get worse. Is it possible that they are trying to create smoke and fire to overwhelm the opposition or are they just being vindictive?

Can anyone shed light on the benefits of HSR as currently proposed? The project won't be carbon neutral for 75 years. There's no one that wants to pay for it so it will cost tax payers billions?

Other than job creation, why is it still on the table? Could we just give construction workers and environmental consultants money and save ourselves the trouble?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

As a HSR supporter, this is the one thing that will turn me against the project.

I fully support rail as a future transportation system, but not at the expensive of converting two rails to four along the Caltrain corridor. If we are going to put another set of rails then another route is necessary, either alongside the 280 or the East Bay to Oakland.

In fact, I would like to look at a different system altogether for HSR, something along the lines of a monorail system with one rail. Don't put in a system that is already dated. Let's put a future rail system with future technology.

No to four rails on the Peninsula.


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Posted by whiners
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

Repeated NIMBY whining is just encouraging the HSR people to do whatever they want. If you really want to work with them on improving the plan, you have to be constructive. Whining and stalling is not helping anyone.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

Sorry, typo.

I mean not at the expense of converting two rails to four. Not financial expense, but the cost of what that would involve in what we have to give up to do it.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:47 am

@whiners: the "whining" has lead to community and political reconsideration of these plans, AND to public knowledge of the HSRA's mispending of public funds, grossly inaccurate ridership and budget projections, ad nauseum. The "whiners" also worked with HSRA to create a more acceptable/less destructive plan that was affirmed by HSRA. HSRA cannot be trusted; public "whining" keeps people aware of their missteps.


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Posted by PA Observer
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

How about this solution: end HSR in San Jose. Nothing will ever placate the peninsulites short of going underground. San Jose should be the end point anyway as it is the largest city in the Bay Area.


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Posted by like monorail
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:43 am

I like the monorail idea!


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Posted by Laurie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

Better still ... nano rail.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Maybe the government should spend the $100 Billion that we don't have on RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT of alternative modes of transportation.

The government could give a $100 Billion grant to Stanford (making sure that little of it goes to "administrative costs" or "pensions") so that they can research "green" ways to propel cars.

After all, smaller battery-powered cars of the future will be much lighter than current battery cars or hybrids. Thus, the road system would last longer and without as much pollution.

Of course, we can always continue to give $100 Billion for a single operation that connects San Jose with L.A. Who wouldn't want to use such a system that is less safe, overpriced and more limited-by-static-control means of travel?


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Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

How can anyone still support this monstrosity? The concept was wrong from the beginning and has gotten worse as the Rail Authority keeps bobbing and weaving like a boxer trying to avoid his opponent.

Nothing in the original ballot measure has remained the same. If it was viable, the Authority would take a firm position and present a justifiable plan. The plan keeps changing, and money keeps being spent to employ useless bureaucrats. Our tax money going to waste. Ugh.


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Posted by tired of this nonsense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Whole idea is a rotten one. A waste of money and a headache for Peninsula residents. Time to shelve it, once and for all!


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Posted by by alma Street
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm

California need HSR. the same old NIMby in Palo Alto is against the project. it if better for most people, only in Southgate area, the houses bordering the tracks will make money by selling 10 feet of back yard to HSR, and receive a nice concrete soundwall.


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Posted by Ron
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

We don't want or need a high speed rail system. It is too expensive to benefit a very few and we don't have the space for it here on the penninsula. All we hear is arguements for and against from our area, but what do the affected Southern California communities have to say about the project? This is a money pit with no real winners except the top execs.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

"California need HSR"

Like a hole in the head.


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Posted by Don't get it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Why are these people still working? CHSRA is corrupt, incompetent, and manipulative. I'm amazeed that anyone still supports this project. Shut it down.


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Posted by DDee
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2012 at 2:36 pm

HSR would be a good asset for our state, but for the life of me I cannot understand who and why the idea of bringing it through to San Francisco via San Jose seemed a good idea, let alone a sound idea.
The peninsula is already served by caltrain, light rail and bart, covering the entire span of the area from San Jose to San Francisco.
The East Bay has squat as far as a constantly running, quick rail system that links it to San Jose. As far as massive transit goes right now, it has the 880.
And between the bay cities and the highway 5 corridor, there is the Altamont Pass.... a very wide stretch of passes that run through much more easily negotiated and sparsely populated areas for a farhter distance than the southern alternative.
Bring the HSR up the Hwy 5 corridor (already owned by the state and its citizens) to a well conceived transfer station that feeds into the Bay cities. Use BART's existing easement or update, extend and use BART itself as the Bay area arm of the system!

We have become a nation of slaves who repeatedly pay too much to "experts" who seem to have no common sense!

We duplicate everything and have nothing of real quality to show for it. Instead of a transit system, we have a transit anarchy.
It takes 3 or 4 times as long to get places by our transit system as it does by car if you have to transfer because the various systems can't seem to work in conjunction, we don't put enough into them to keep them clean and attractive, and the stops are too sparsely located anywhere but in San Francisco.

Gee leweez!


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Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm

To be successful HSR MUST link LA to SF. It does not have to be through the Peninsula, but I, for one, would love to have it go through here and have a HSR train station in Palo Alto.

However, it seems that the backwards mentality in this town won't allow this to happen, unfortunately.


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Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

The HSR is grossly overpriced for what it will deliver. Much better use of tax dollars is Health, Safety, Education and Infrastructure. Infrastructure should develop and implement "smart highway" concepts to encourage "smart cars". This technology is in development locally at Google, Stanford, UC and other tech companies. Even some auto companies are researching and developing. Smart cars will take you where you want to go, when you want to go, using your own vehicle. I cannot believe anyone supports a destination-impaired, incredibly expensive system instead of a convenient smart transport system. Autonomous vehicles would allow youngsters and oldsters to be safely transported. HSR is not a viable alternative for youngsters/oldsters.


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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

The Palo Alto Rail committee meeting, the subject of this article, can now be viewed at:

Web Link

Examining the proposed revised program level EIR,(now in its third iteration), the Authority has completely backed out from the blended plan proposed by Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon.

It is now time for our elected Senator Simitian to meet his pledge to quit supporting the project.

Note his statement in the May 05 hearing:

Web Link

May 5 2011...


...but if the Authority persists in pursuing an approach which involves 60 foot viaducts up and down the peninsula from San Francisco, to San Jose, which involves without the consent and desires of the local communities, Mr. vanArk I'll give you that point, to push itself outside the boundaries of the existing CalTrain right-of-way,and to pursue an EIR for a project which may never get built, and in my judgment shouldn't get built, for which ridership studies frankly are un-persuasive, and that leaves a sword over the head of the business and residences up and won that 50 foot corridor then, I am going to be pretty hard pressed to support that effort going forward.



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Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

The high speed rail project stinks and the fact that CHSRA is not being responsive to Peninsula concerns are just another manifistation of this.

For example, the argument that we need high speed rail because the alternatives are more expensive is hogwash. The LA Times reported on it here:
Web Link

"Now, that alternative is coming under attack by a state-appointed panel of experts, who will soon release an assessment of the rail project's business plan and cast doubt on the accuracy and validity of the $171-billion figure," The Times reported.

"There is some dishonesty in the methodology," said Samer Madanat, director of UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies, the top research center of its type in the nation. "I don't trust an estimate like this."

Furthermore, the LA Times reports that the city of Burlingame weighed in too. "The astounding figure is completely divorced from any reality over the next 50 years," city officials wrote urging the authority to stop using the number. Madanat said the rail authority has rebuffed offers to have UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC Davis, which have among the top five university transportation departments in the nation, help analyze the bullet-train system.

Now Rich, why would the rail authority resist offers for UC to analyze the HSR system? Is CHSRA claiming that the University of California cannot be objective?

"You have a tremendous conflict of interest," said Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis, co-founder of the watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. "You can't see where the authority ends and the private consultants begin because they are so intertwined. It is extraordinary the institutional conflicts of interest that exist all over this project."

And you can't wash away the report of another independent agency, the State Auditor Elaine Howle, who said that "the program's overall financial situation has become increasingly risky." Web Link

Highlights of the State Auditor report:

1. The cost estimates do not include phase one's operating and maintenance costs, yet based on data in the plan these costs could total about $96.8 billion from 2025 through 2060.

2. There are no details about the current largest potential funding source, the federal government.

3. There have been inappropriate contracting practices such as splitting Information Technology services totaling $3.1 million into 13 individual contracts with one vendor. The State Contracting Manual prohibits agencies from splitting contracts to avoid competitive bidding requirements.

4. The authority is missing statements of economic interest for some of its contractors despite the conflict-of-interest code requirements; and the authority does not require any of its subcontractors to file statements of economic interest. As a result, the authority has no way to verify that subcontractors do not have real or perceived conflicts of interest.

5. "There is no way the high-speed rail can meet the latest forecast of 36.8 million rides a year on a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles system. Where will the riders come from? There are only about 3.2 million airline riders a year going to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco and another 1.7 million traveling between Los Angeles and Oakland and San Jose.

And estimates of jobs created by the high speed rail project have been misleadingly inflated by using weasel-words like "job-years" as described in this report:
Web Link


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm

This is good news. The blended approach was an absurd pseudo-solution that was totally impractical. Nimby's should get out of the way.


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Posted by Liam
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Just as Diridon promised at a Palo Alto city Council meeting several years ago, the CA HSR Authority has no, zero, obligation to respond to individual or community concerns about the HSR project other than to receive them, and then ignore them. I recall Kishimoto making a pathetic effort to 'negotiate' with Diridon regarding that point as Dreckmeyer looked on bewildered. It took the city council many months past that meeting to figure out that the HSR Authority doesn't give a rats *** about anyone or anything. This news simply reaffirms that the HSR Authority has no interest negotiating, cooperating, accommodating, discussing, or having any dialog what so ever with any one, or community, that stands in their way.

As for our representatives in Sacramento, hey Joe, how many times can the HSR Authority kick you you know where before you notice? They rejected your blended approach when you publicized it, and you said you needed more time to study the issue. Well, here you are, months later, kicked in the you know what's, again, your blended caltrain proposal has been rejected, what are you going to do? It's time to cut HSR loose; de-fund them, and de-authorize the Authority. As for Gordon, he's only a bit concerned where the rest of the $100B will come from to build the train wreck, and has no clue about the additional $100B needed to operate it, but other than that, he thinks HSR is the best thing to come along in a long time! It's time for both of them to leave Sacramento and be replaced with representatives that actually listen to their constituents, rather then their campaign donors.

As for the HSR champions posting here, calling people nimby's for pointing out that the governor moonbeams train has 'no clothe', so to speak, is pathetic. If HSR is such a good thing, put your money where your mouth is. The first several hundred billion dollars sucked out of CA schools, and other worthy projects, will cost every single person in this state something in the vicinity of $16,000. Send your check, or better yet, sign up for direct withdrawal from your bank account to fund the CA HSR Authority. They might send you a post card from a far flung high speed rail station somewhere else in the world.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

How about an all freight HSR running 150 mph? Now THERE'S a money maker. Imagine I5 without trucks!


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

As for the eliminated houses, just open up another mile into the mountains to development.


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Posted by Dennis McGinn
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm

At 11:15 AM on Wednesday at the Churchill and Alma I had a sobering moment when I helped a car with three people who were stuck on the track with the RR barrier sitting on the top of their car to keep from being crushed by a southbound train. The driver was frozen no knowing what to do as the train was approaching and I was stopped alongside them but behind the barrier and held up the arm so they could back up. When the train passed us I could not see any gap between the front of the car and the train. The conductor immediately stopped the train and came running over very angry at the driver for almost getting killed. These folks were luck ones but this area is death alley - mostly from suicides - like one a month - and a few a year like this one but not so lucky. There is no known way that I am aware of the protect a ground level rail system that passed through an area like Palo Alto from these problems unless you spend billions to run the traffic under the rail like Embarcadero Road and build impractical barriers to the tracks. Yet we need the transporation system to support the vitality of the peninsula. I do not see any other viable long term option but to to go underground.


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Posted by peninsula commuter
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2012 at 8:52 am

With a projected $13 billion budget shortfall for 2012/2013 and $100 million in cuts each for the University of California and California State University systems, California is absolutely crazy to be building this $100B project. It is stealing money from our future.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

I would like the HSR to come through Palo Alto, and to have a stop in Palo Alto.


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Posted by m9
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

Put $100 billion into context. For 30 million Californians, that is $3,333 per person just to build the thing. Then if you actually use it you pay your fares. What kind of project is truly worth over $3,000 for every man, woman, and child in California? A rail system is most definitely not near the top of the list.

The problem is the cost, plain and simple. At $10 billion I'd be happy to support it. At $100 billion it should be completely obvious that it needs to be stopped in its tracks.

We throw these big numbers around and nobody can grasp what they mean, until you put them in some kind of per-person context.


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Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:26 am

A correction to the headline on this story -- the four-track alternative never went away. Yes, I know there was optimism that the blended approach proposed by Simitian, Eshoo and Gordon would gain acceptance, but the rail authority never dropped its four-track plan. The reduction of lanes on Alma Street has always been part of the plan. (I realize the Weekly has been suffering from turnover in its reporting ranks, and that the current reports don't know about things that happened just a couple of years ago, but check your own files before writing things like this.)


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Posted by JOHN
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

Legalized corruption.

While you argue the HSR "authority" is collecting paychecks pensions and doling out "consulting" fees to the connected.

This con job will never be built.


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Posted by carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Finally reality sets in: 4 track HSR is the way to go, instead of sharing rail tracks with an outdated slow as molasses train system.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2012 at 11:57 am

Where are Joe Simitian and Rich Gordon, our elected representives to the legislature hiding? When are they going to represent their districts? HSR went from a $40 billion project to a $100 billion project, a project that is projected to take 13 years longer than needed, and independent analysis still find the plan full of holes.

Joe Simitian is termed out, but wants to run for County Supervisor, so he is still favoring the special interests groups to collect campaign contributions.

Rich Gordon is running for re-election, and he is favoring the special interest groups to collect campaign contributions.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I heard an a radio ad the other day that was union-sponsored and in favor of high speed rail (because of jobs). The narrator was that guy who used to be a comedian from S.F. (Will Durst, I think) - he does ads periodically for unions. Very peppy.
The irony is I thought I heard elsewhere that the majority of work/jobs on this would be in China - something I strenuously oppose.
If this thing has to happen, at least ensure Americans get the work.
Obama administration rolls full speed ahead on CA high speed rail, apparently...


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

answer: our elected representatives represent the unions.

As a constituent, I have given my thoughtful input multiple times to our elected representatives concerning our state budget problems and received very little interest or reply. This state is simply too large and individual citizens get very little representation or attention...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm

It doesn't have to happen. YOU can stop it.

Download the petition from:

www.notrainplease.com

sign it. Get your neighbors to sign and mail it in. 850,000 signatures needed by June 1 to get it on the November ballot. Just do it. Complaining doesn't work.


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Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

Resident wrote:

"I would like the HSR to come through Palo Alto, and to have a stop in Palo Alto. "

The HSR rail authority wanted a stop in downtown Palo Alto. They wanted the city to destroy all of downtown and replace it with parking lots. This is neither a joke or an exaggeration. The City Council wisely said "no thanks."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2012 at 10:25 am

If HSR wants to reduce lanes, they should put the new train along 101 and remove the carpool lanes. Why should cities suffer traffic nightmares locally because of a state run train? Think: moms picking up their kids at soccer, high school kids going to the library, old people trying to get their groceries.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Yes - the requirement for an HSR station is a city funded (not HSR funded) 3000 car parking facility. No freaking way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Four tracks through the Pacheco Pass? They're nuts! How much is HSR going to cost now with this new twist, and how many times are they going to keep reinventing this project?


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Posted by AntiNIMBY
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm

HSR agency need more flexible idea of operation. Palo Alto station itself already have space of 4 tracks. You will see 2 tracks of space between NB and SB platform. Californa avenue station can be 4 track if the packing lot convert into line. Those option does not affect community.
The other option is limit HSR train speed same as current Caltrain of 79MPH. Even now, Caltrain need more train more than 6 train/hours. After electrification, more people will use Caltrain. Blended operation plan indicate 6 Caltrain and 4 HSR train but this is not enough. Only the option is HSR need compromize its travelling speed within 2 track section - same as Caltrain.


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Posted by kay
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2012 at 11:08 am


All along, I keep asking-
Please tell me what "blended" means. The high speed trains will be using the old CalTrain tracks on the SF peninsula? Is that possible?
The same trains which will run at 200 miles per hour down the valley on new tracks? Furthermore, if these high speed trains run regularly from SF to San Jose, all the street crossings must be changed to keep traffic and trains separate...i.e. grade crossings. So the plan is to build grade crossings for the old tracks, and then eventually, as has always been implied, add the needed set of tracks for the high speed trains. And of course rebuild all the grade crossings?
No - always they plan for 4 tracks!
They will make the grade crossings large enough for 4 tracks to begin with.
How blended?

Why not run shuttle trains down the peninsula to San Jose, then changing to board the new High Speed Train? (a reasonable alternative)

I don't believe you can run these super fast machines on the old tracks, and alternate high speed trains and commuter trains all day long!

No one has said outright that they mean to run these new "bullet" trains on the old tracks, or what kind of grade crossings are envisioned. They just say it will be blended. How blended?

Of course, blended was just a bit of propaganda thrown out to shut up the critics of this awful plan


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