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Hill's bill seeks to guarantee Caltrain electrification

Original post made on Feb 22, 2013

As Caltrain prepares to embark on its long-stalled voyage toward electrification, Sen. Jerry Hill on Friday unveiled a bill that would bring the the project the funding it needs while, at the same time, ease local anxieties about the controversial high-speed rail line.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 22, 2013, 12:21 PM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

> Officials have long maintained that electrification
> is necessary to modernize Caltrain, allowing
> the agency to run more trains and reach financial sustainability.

Spending between $1B (and more when the cost-of-funds is considered) can never be recovered from the riders. With at least $1B in capital costs already sunk in this money-pit, and upwards to $2B more with this loony project—how can any sane person believe that anyone associated with the project is either numerate, or honest?

This money is simply a gift to the labor unions, and various capital equipment suppliers.

Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

More people commuting by train means fewer people commuting by car. Improving Caltrain is much cheaper than building new freeways up and down the peninsula. Expanding Caltrain service is a win for everyone.


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Posted by Please no
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Please do not let this happen at all, Jerry Hill. My house became unsellable, like others in my neighborhood, on the mere rumour of HSR. The reality means I will have to practically give it to HSR thru Eminent Domain.

I am pregnant and need a bigger house !


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Seriously? We can never revisit the four-track solution? That's what we SHOULD have on the Peninsula -- tracks for local service or tracks for express service. On most of the Peninsula, there's plenty of room for that, and where there's not, homeowners will be justly compensated and rewarded with quieter, less-disruptive trains that don't interfere with traffic. Glad to see that no one seems to be looking out for the future of the Peninsula, just their own self-interests.

And "Please No", what are you talking about? The reality of Hill's proposal means that the state would be giving in to self-interested people like yourself, and HSR wouldn't expand the width of the tracks. Why are you against this? Additionally, you paid less for your home because it's near the tracks! Now you're complaining because, wait, your home is undervalued because it's near the tracks? Please. Don't look for sympathy from me. I have a friend on Mariposa who sold his house just fine, for 500% more than he paid for it 20 years earlier.


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Posted by Please no
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I do not wish to go bankrupt because of HSR. Historically, Eminent Domain has paid well below market value ( ask any realtor) for land they confiscate. Buyers are staying away from Park ave and its off streets, as well as the Alma off streets. Most of us bought into these locations as a foot in the door of Palo Alto, hoping to upgrade eventually. Now, that is an impossibility.


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Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm

> Improving Caltrain is much cheaper than building new freeways up
> and down the peninsula.

If we spend $1B-$2B in expanding Highway 101/280, we get a significant increase in capacity (not to mention that if each single occupant car were to add only one passenger, that would increase the capacity of these significant roadwas by upwards of twice.

> Expanding Caltrain service is a win for everyone.

There is very little evidence that spending this $1B-$2B on electrification will actually increase the capacity/use of the Caltrain system. It will, on the other hand--burn thru $1B-$2B, without a doubt.

Sorry, but electrification will have very few positive effects in the grand scheme of things. It might reduce the yearly fuel bills for diesel fuel, but it will force the generation of electricity somewhere in/around California.

All-in-all, not really that great an idea.


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Posted by You asked for it
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

@ please no

Tough. You knew what you were getting into. No sympathy for you whatsoever.


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Posted by Clive
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 22, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I'm glad Jerry is trying to Legislate what the HSR Authority has said that they will do, referring to the so-called blended system. That the CA HSR Authority needs to be the subject of specific legislation to essentially force them to honor their agreements is truly pathetic. They (CA HSR) really are a bunch of lying fraudsters with their snouts in the public trough.

From a thread on the Menlo Almanac site, the big labor groups are doing their best to ensure that they get most, if not all of the lucrative contracts to build the beast Web Link Remember, the big labor groups went to the mat to help re-elect Jerry, and this is the payback, billions of your hard earned tax dollars squandered on a train that's not needed, to solve a crisis that does not exist, but keeps the money fueled political machine in California well greased.


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2013 at 9:01 pm

You cannot simultaneously claim you are electrifying toward a high speed rail system and restrict capacity to the point high speed rail is restricted to the point it cannot run to San Francisco, thus cutting the main revenue point in northern California. This is a scheme to fund Caltrain through high speed funds without any intention of runnin high speed to San Francisco. However, if the tracks ever do reach San Jose, it will be necessary to build a four track peninsular system. You cannot have it both ways. Yet you can.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Congratulations to Jerry Hill!
It seems that every time something is written in the weekly on public transportation all the libertarians in the area get excited - this time "Shut-It-Down" is the speaker.
My guess is that none of them ever tried to use public transport, as if they would, they would not believe that they are in the Silicon Valley!
The numbers that Shut-It-Down provides are fiction, and there are so many unaccounted other coasts for expanding the highways.
Jerry Hill – hopefully your next step will get the public transport agencies in the Bay Area (BART, Caltrain, etc..) to join forces and form one modern, coordinated and efficient modern system. This will benefit everyone living here.


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Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm

> Numbers cited are total fantasy ..
Maybe they are, and maybe they are not--
Here's the source of the numbers--
Web Link
> Although the project has an estimated total cost of $600–865
> million, some of these costs can be offset by savings of
> $1–2 million a year in fuel and other saved costs;

Now—in all fairness, Wikipages are crowd-sourced, so the information is always subject to various kinds of errors. Caltrain is the only source of cost estimation that can be considered as valid, so without their issuing some sort of document that we call all accept as accurate and valid—we're left with numbers that most likely have come from people supportive of this project.

One of the really sad aspects of public transportation projects is that there is no life-time accounting, so it's very difficult to get much out these people other than a yearly operating budget—and then it's difficult to know if they are telling the truth, or not, when they publish these documents. Usually financing costs are not readily available from publicly-available finance records—particularly when the money is "money laundered" by the Federal Government via Treasuries sold to the Chinese, or other foreign investors.

But talk about fantasy, claiming that a $1M-$2M fuel savings will "offset" the cost of a $600M to $865M million dollar capital infusion is utter fantasy. At best, it would take 300 years to see a payback on this "offset".

As to the long-term capital costs sunk into Caltrain, one can go to the year CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) and look for that number. It isn't there in any clear way, but there are some "funny numbers" that are larger than one billion that suggest strongly that that a good first estimate into the size of this money-pit.



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Posted by Bob
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I am fine with electrification Caltrain.

What I really think needs to be done is to combine Caltrain and BART. Once administration and connect the two systems. One ticket that works on both and have new stations at both ends of Caltrain that connects directly with BART. That's the way to really make the system more efficient and usable.


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Posted by LOLOLOLOLOLA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Evan: 500%? No way. Here in old PA, you are lucky if the value increases 200%. If you are within two blocks of Alma, your house will have gained 150% in 25 years. Not so hot, especially when realtors are telling people looking to buy here that there are NO undesirable neighborhoods in Palo Alto. That is what we were told back in 1993, and most residents we talked to agreed. New moved from another region and had only our agent and the local residents to depend on. Obviously, we know now that neither were particularly truthful.







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Posted by LOLOLOLOLOLA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm

It is important to remember that California is nearly bankrupt, and there is NO WAY the state can pay any price, fair or not, for all the homes and lots they will need to demolish for HSR. The folks who lose their homes to e,invent domain will be screwed, plain and simple.


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Posted by autonomous vehicle booster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:13 am

Most of us don't need an HSR, we need a ride to the hospital, the dentist, the food, grocery and hardware stores, local entertainment venues, and other nearby destinations. What we need is a vehicle that drives itself economically and safely to and from our destinations DOOR TO DOOR.
Autonomous vehicles could increase the handling capacity of our road system while decreasing travel times. We should use the HSR boondoggle funds to research, develop and subsidize autonomous vehicles.
So maybe the once a year I go to LA or San Diego, NOT by rail, I'll be driven in an autonomous vehicle, or fly. The infrastructure is already there, the capacity is already there, we don't need an HSR.
Jobs are better created in the science, technology, math and engineering fields than rail construction.
Let's insist our representatives spend our tax money wisely, on what we the people need.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Some of the eastern and midwestern states decided they did not want or need HSR funds - so Obama directed those millions and billions to California - the place where he likes to schmooze and visit. And he wants to save money???? - like cutting back on Social Security.
By the way, Social Security is not "entitlement'. Retirees paid into that fund from the day they started to work waaaaay back. Wasn't it the 'thirties'? Medicare was the later 60's. And almost everybody pays into Social Security except some government employees - like Palo Alto.


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Posted by Julie B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm

If they were to electrify Caltrain and it starts running more often, I would take it to work. As it is now, it runs once per hour (unless you want to catch it at 6:30 a.m.), so not feasible for me. I drive to Millbrae and take BART. So I drive around 17 miles each way. I would much prefer to be able to take Caltrain the whole way to San Francisco and catch the train in Palo Alto or Menlo Park. We need better public transportation. So if you don't want to electrify Caltrain, we need to extend BART to San Jose or beyond.


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Posted by mikesonn
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Julie B, here is the Caltrain schedule.

Web Link


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Posted by Electrify it!
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Yes, electrify Cal Train! It would be so much quieter and cleaner. As it is, the noise is very disruptive for anyone living within two blocks either direction. Plus, it adds more air pollution to the smog from the cars on Alma.

CalTrain is slow, though. My brother commutes from SJ to SF every day, and it adds a total of 3 1/2 hrs to his already long work day. A few times, he has fallen asleep and missed his stop, too.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Prop 1A was passed by California voters in November, 2008. Prop 1A was for HSR bonds, not for CalTrain electrification. California voters have never approved CalTrrain electrification -- it was not part of Prop. 1A.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Electrification makes good sense.
Cleaner running trains (no soot into the air),
Quieter Engines which benefit all, specially those that live closer to the track.

As for 4 tracks (and all the space they would need): There is absolutely no need for this except near stations that would need to have HSR trains going in both directions at the same time. IMHO San Jose and San Francisco. These trains are not running at a frequency that precludes SAFE single tracking for most of the Peninsula. I do agree, that HSR should not normally share track with Caltrain (but there should be provision to move trains on that track in emergencies.)


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