Tunnels to be considered for high-speed rail Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Feb 18, 2009 at 7:28 am
As Palo Altans continue to define their love-hate relationship with the high-speed-rail project, residents and city officials are increasingly looking to deep-underground tunnels as a possible solution.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 2:51 AM
Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:01 am
What you're saying is that HSR won't work without a respectable local transportation system, which is what I've been saying all along. Fix the transportation issues in the greater bay area - including Sacramento - and the equally public transportation challenged greater L.A. area FIRST. Only then will a method of high-speeding hoards of people between the two regions make sense.
If the Bay Area had a decent public transportation system we wouldn't be discussing putting high-speed rail tracks through highly populated areas. San Jose would be close enough.
Posted by Clem, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:24 am
It's obvious that the CHSRA is obligated to study the tunnel option, and this should not be construed as a concession on the Authority's part. The CHSRA was similarly obligated to study alignment alternatives through Altamont Pass.
The real crux of the matter is what alternatives are later rejected.
The switch to Caltrain at San Jose is a non-starter. Running HSR into SF is already the preferred alternative in the certified regional EIR/EIS. Therefore, this question is no longer on the table, and is beyond the scope of the SF-SJ EIR/EIS. Demands to study that option are likely to be met with a polite "outside of scope" reply.
Trying to end-run around the EIR/EIS process would certainly arouse passions in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington DC. This isn't a local Palo Alto issue... it's not another Alma Plaza.
Posted by andy, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:25 am
Why don't all you geezers give it up and build the thing RIGHT the FIRST TIME so we don't have to keep redoing it. (This means a tunnel to the transbay terminal in sf) WE are going to be paying the majority of taxes on it and any (fantasy) subsidies that might be necesary in the future (we're actually going to get paid). Do this project right because the younger people of California want it done right and we and our children and descendents are and should be the focus of this.
Posted by andy, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:25 am
Why don't all you geezers give it up and build the thing RIGHT the FIRST TIME so we don't have to keep redoing it. (This means a tunnel to the transbay terminal in sf) WE are going to be paying the majority of taxes on it and any (fantasy) subsidies that might be necesary in the future (we're actually going to get paid). Do this project right because the younger people of California want it done right and we and our children and descendents are and should be the focus of this.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:35 am
First of all, $10 Billion is no where near half. The first phase is currently estimated at more than $40 Billion. And that doesn't even include the specific detailed design and multitude of mitigations that will be developed with the project level EIR/EIS.
What really needs to happen urgently is an emergency measure on the California ballot that reverses the measure 1A bond approval until the California High Speed Rail authority designs an actual HSR that is feasible, that is non-destructive along its intended route, and that meets the requirements for HSR performance and ridership projections, AND until the route and design are APPROVED BY THE VOTERS.
California is not in a position to issue bonds anyway. Yet, with the Federal Stimulus package there is $8Billion in funding for HSR projects which CHSR is agressively lobbying for, to be brought to the CHSR project. All this does is put the process on FAST TRACK, which in other words railroads the community input process, railroads adequeate study and vetting of all aspects, and pressures decisions up and down that line that are suboptimal (at best) wasteful, dangerous and destructive at worse.
We need to let our California politicians, Federal politicians and local politicians on notice that they SHOULD NOT be throwing money at CHSR until they design an acceptable system, and put in on an acceptable route.
How do we get this known through Sacramento and Washington. Californian's are NOT in support of CHSR... yet. Much more critical work needs to done to get this to spend-ready state.
Posted by observer, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:38 am
Believing a supporter of HSR like Clem is nonsense. He most likely is a shill for the CHSRA or a contractor. There is a pending lawsuit to invalidate the now approved EIR. It has real teeth. The lawsuit should be supported in every way possible. It is going to be the avenue to stop this monster, which if Diridon and Kopp have their way will essentially destroy the quality of life here on the peninsula.
Palo Alto is not nearly as affected as are Menlo Park, Atherton and Burlingame, but the effects are still large.
Sure the tunneling option will be studied --- hey guys how about a one hour session on this before we write it off. Diridon has told everyone what is going to happen. "You object --- You will be overridden".
That is the way the CHSRA does business. Give San Jose and SF their gold plated train stations, let the rest of the state eat S---.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:41 am
What Clem is pointing out is absolutely true. The CHSR is ONLY PACIFYING the angry public by agreeing to 'study' this option. Read and CHSR Blog and you'll see that tunneling option would KILL the project completely, and over their dead bodies will they agree to undertake tunneling.
What this means is that Kishimoto and Emelyse are HARMING PALO ALTO by sending you home pacified and quieted UNTIL ITS TOO LATE.
The passion of this group needs to be channeled immediately to pursue other options for forcing a halt to the progress of CHSR until/unless they move the route, stop in San Jose, agree to tunnel. Waiting until the study is over is sure death to Palo Alto, the thing will have been set in irreversible motion by then. By the time the study is done and their findings are 'no tunnel' it will be WAY WAY WAY too late.
And let me tell you, they don't give a crap about Palo Alto. All they care about is the cheapest, fastest high speed train route from SF to LA. Period.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:51 am
I'm sorry, did we miss something? Does Palo Alto suddenly own the land above the tunnel?? No, that's Caltrain land. If homes are built, that will be on Caltrain land. How does Palo Alto financially benefit from homes built on Caltrain land?
Palo alto is nothing but damaged by dense housing that would be built there (overcrowded schools, city services, etc)
Would Palo Alto even have the authority to PREVENT homes from being built on this land? I highly doubt it.
No tunnel, no housing. Stop in San Jose, or change the route. Period. NO CHSR through Caltrain corridor!
go back to the Altamont pass option... Or how about elevated over median of 101? Why isn't that being studied? It hits all the same Peninsula cities, so it hits all the same customer base. Stations along 101 would improve the accessibility to the HSR and stations and dense housing growth around 101 would actually improve some very blighted areas along 101.
Why isn't CHSR actually studying viable alternatives instead of cramming this through people's backyards?
Posted by MIKE, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:57 am
To date, the implicit assumption about the HSR is that it must use the CalTrain right of way. This presents Palo Alto with just two alternatives; (1) above ground, which will forever divide the community and in the process take out countless homes and other structures while creating a noisy eyesore that will inevitably lead to further densification and reduction in our quality of life; or (2) underground, which would be a prohibitive cost and thus almost certainly not a real option, particularly when you consider that other cities will want the same option (are we so special that we are the only one?) creating an even greater cost barrier. Question: why not look at less disruptive alternatives like 101 or 280 where the HSR doesn't have to destroy Palo Alto and other communities. A footnote: I have talked with a number of people who voted for the concept, not realizing its impacts, and who would now vote no rather than yes. One reason for this is that our civic leaders never discussed those impacts in advance. If they had, the outcome in Palo Alto would, I submit, have been very different. Now, they need to listen to the community and oppose the above ground use of the CalTrain right of way.
Posted by Clem, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm
@MIKE: you seem to have missed the train. The Bay Area / Central Valley regional project EIR/EIS already made the final route selection over Pacheco Pass that causes HSR to be routed through Palo Alto. That decision has a stamp of approval from SF, SJ, Sacramento, Washington DC. There are immense political forces arrayed against the superior Altamont pass alternative, which Palo Alto cannot hope to overcome by itself. The lawsuit pending against that EIR/EIS may re-open the process, but the same political forces may lead to the same outcome a second time. (namely, the only viable path from Altamont into San Jose is earmarked for the $6 billion BART extension... try messing with that!)
@Grandparent: if I'm not mistaken, the JPB includes the three counties, not individual cities. Palo Alto would be pitted against San Jose, which is the real engine behind the Pacheco alignment. The JPB is 100% behind the existing plan, and may even be expanded to include the high speed rail authority as one of the stakeholders/owners of the land.
Like I said, this isn't another Alma Plaza. I think the best bet for Palo Alto is to join the lawsuit and somehow appease San Jose's civic inferiority complex, which is fueling their grand ambitions for a massive HSR / BART / Caltrain / VTA / ACE / Amtrak terminal complex.
Posted by Engineer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm
HST make no sense from an energy standpoint, unless they are powered by nuclear power plants, to provide the base load electric energy. I have discussed this issue before, on this forum, yet I have not read any rational replies that would negate my point. Any takers out there in Palo Alto?
It was obvious, at least to me, that any HST would be costly, elevated, frequent and (literally) divisive of communities. I voted no, even though I do enjoy trains.
Is there something in the water in Palo Alto that prevents a rational analysis of such huge projects? Did anyone on our city council make a semi-serious attempt to understand this issue? Do we have staff engineers that could have done even a cursory analysis?
If we have Berlin Walls in our minds that block rational thinking, we will get Berlin Walls that divide us.
Posted by Cecilia, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 1:16 pm
It is truly imperative that we let our city leaders know how we feel about this. There are several ways everyone can be a part of this. Attend and tell everyone you know about the city meeting with the HSR authorities on February 26th at the Mitchell Park community center, attend the "Walk to City Hall" on March 2nd. We are meeting at Lytton Plaza at 6pm and walking over to the city council chambers to hear the city council members discuss High Speed Rail. There is no time to waste. The comment period was extended 30 days because of pressure from the citizens of Palo Alto.
Posted by aw, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 2:20 pm
Any discussion to route HSR up the Bay? Why not stop at SJC, SFO and the Transbay terminal in SF. These are places that already have the parking, roads and transit connections to handle HSR. PG&E has transmission rights of way that could potentially host rail.
HSR is like an airline. It is _not_ local transit. I am not a transit user today, but if we had an integrated local system, I would use it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 2:36 pm
That's a trench. Also unacceptable. Not to mention the fact that its ugly, its still an encroachment on our properties and our propery values, and it still draws MORE dense housing upon our town and an INCREASED RATE of growth... Consider that there are significant water aquifers under ground all around this area, and creeks above ground throughout Palo Alto that make trench or tunnel infeasible. Palo Alto sits on top of the San Francisquito watershed, critical to the water resources, and ecosystem of the bay.
There's no explanation for why they would be looking at putting HSR down this route (through the middle of historic landmarks, peoples' backyards, schools, parks, small downtowns, and through the middle of critical watershed.. other than greed, short sighted political power plays, and greed. HSR elsewhere.
HSR goes hand in hand with dense housing push. You think ABAG mandates are destroying character and quality of Palo Alto? Well, what kind of density mandates will be pushed upon our city at the hapless helpless laps of a dumb struck city council, once they push HSR through here? Palo Alto is basically done.
Every realtor and property owner in Palo Alto should be fighting HSR strongly.
Posted by SouthCountyResident, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm
The real solution to this issue is to select the Altamont Pass Corridor rather than Pacheco Pass for the trans-valley connection. An abandoned railroad right of way exists between Lathrop and Niles. Using the soon to be demolished Bay Bridge structure would provide the bay crossing ending directly at the SF transit terminal. A crossing at Dumbarton Point to Willow Road is an alternative route to connect with SFO and BART. Ending the HSR in San Jose makes no sense since the marketing spin on the Rodney's Rocket has always been San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and one half hours.
Caltrain electrification will allow BART to grab the commute right-of-way after the high voltage sub-stations are in place every four miles.
Point to point, regional transportation solutions like CalTrain (NOT BART or VTA) is the long term solution.
Posted by Me Again, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 3:29 pm
Here is a Palo Alto trivia question: Which Palo Alto underpass must be pumped 24 hours per day, seven days per week due to the high water table?
Steve Emslie seems oblivious to the fact that water table issues will have a major, major impact on any plans to underground the trains, HSR or no HSR. Tunneling under San Francisquito creek will be a non-trivial undertaking to say the least.
HSR is supposed to have its own exclusive pair of tracks. What are you going to do, underground a total of four tracks, two for CalTrain/freight and the other for HSR, thereby creating the world's most expensive bike path, or just underground HSR? The figure I hear is $4.2 billion budgeted for HSR on the peninsula alone, and that's without undergrounding. How many billions more will undergrounding add?
HSR should stop at the Santa Clara CalTrain depot where it could share the facilities of San Jose/Mineta airport (long-term parking and car rental) and go not one inch further. From there travelers could connect to CalTrain. HSR could then continue to Oakland and Sacramento. Want to go from Palo Alto to New York? Take CalTrain to Santa Clara (SJC) and board your plane. This would scuttle the vainglorious mayor of San Jose's dream of turning the Cahill St. station into another Grand Central Station. Oh well. If HSR goes up the peninsula to the city, where's it going to go after it gets there? Are the trains going to fly across the bay to Oakland and Sacramento?
Oh, and I still haven't seen a convincing, credible ridership study which describes how HSR is going to lure people out of airplanes and off I-5 in sufficient numbers to make it even remotely justifiable. Where's the market research?
Posted by ParkersMarkers, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm
SouthCountyResident: They are only replacing the eastern (cantilever) span of the bay bridge. Repurposing the abandoned span for rail is an interesting idea, but it would only go as far as Treasure Island. How are you going to go the rest of the way to Transbay Terminal?
Also, how are they going to sell bonds for this with the state's credit rating in the toilet?
Posted by ODB, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 6:54 pm
Before anyone wastes any more time or hot air on this issue, the City of Palo Alto should commission a study. Pay $100,000 to a geologist and a civil engineer and have them study the feasibility of undergrounding the trains for the entire length of the right of way in Palo Alto, strictly from an engineering standpoint. The engineering work from the '60s for the Oregon Ave. underpass should be around somewhere and could be used as a starting point. I would expect such a study to conclude that undergrounding is feasible, isn't feasible, or is feasible but prohibitively expensive. Until you have such a study in your hand you're basically blowing smoke. If the study concludes it isn't feasible at a reasonable cost, that will put and end to this discussion once and for all.
Posted by Richard, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm
I notice several threads running through many of the comments. First, for those of you who still oppose HSR: get over it. The people of our state voted and it won. The voters were not stupid or wrong. It won because it is a very good idea whose time has finally come!
Second, I know many on the Peninsula think they live in a unique and special place. Well, those of us who live in other parts of the Bay Area and California value our communities, our homes and our quality of life too. Unlike you we had the foresight to permit and pay for BART to connect our communites and we are very happy we did. HSR will soon be built for the benefit millions of Californians. Do your part and find a way to accomodate the greater good and not just your own parochial concerns.
Here is a suggestion. Berkeley residents thought they were "special" too. They paid for their own BART tunnel and it wasn't cheap. Instead of becoming obstructionists, make the leap and commit to a reasonable solution, express a willingness to help pay for it and use your political skills to get the Federal and State governments, local agencies and business community to do their part too. That is the smartest course to follow to protect your interests while respecting the interests of your fellow Californians.
Posted by ODB, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm
<< Unlike you we had the foresight to permit and pay for BART to connect our communites >>
History will show that the peninsula had rail service approximately one full century before BART was built. Granted, it was only steam engines, but what do you expect for the 19th century? So don't lecture us about "foresight".
Prop 1A was for almost $10 billion in bonds, approximately 1/4 of the expected cost of the project. It was not an up-or-down, yes-or-no referendum on HSR.
<< HSR will soon be built for the benefit millions of Californians >>
Oh, puhleez. If you think "millions" of Californians are going to abandon planes and cars for HSR, you must be smoking something funny. Furthermore, comparing BART to HSR is an apples-to-oranges comparison. BART is local and HSR will be long-distance.
And it's not going to be built "soon".
Come in on your high horse and visit us again some time!
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park, on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:45 pm
I also was at the meeting and was dazzled by the energy, awareness of and resistance to what was in store for Palo Alto if the rail authority pursues their “default” agenda. I wish that spirit and concern permeated the residents of Menlo Park and Atherton to this degree.
The notion of development on the rail corridor, once stripped of the rail tracks, is complicated. But, the rail corridor belongs to us, the people of the three counties, and we are represented by the joint powers board. It does not belong to Caltrain. We must have a say in what happens on it as well as below it.
Both Menlo Park and Palo Alto have downtowns through which the corridor runs. In those areas, both “green” zones as well as developed, built-up opportunities can be taken advantage of. Palo Alto’s rail corridor is over 4 miles in length. Much of it may become green zone only. Only parts of it need to be developed, especially in those areas where land values are the highest.
Those who state that what is absent is an adequate urban public mass transit system and that it should be developed before we consider inter-city rail, are, in my opinion, correct. Furthermore, I agree that if any high-speed rail is built, it should be built first where it can be of greatest use, connecting Sacramento with San Francisco, and San Diego with Los Angeles. Both the Bay Area and the LA Basin lack a well-coordinated, integrated, multi-modal transit system. That should come first.
High-speed trains are the icing on the cake. California has no cake, unlike Europe and Japan, where there is a huge dependence on rail transit and a highly developed rail system. To be clear, riding high-speed trains anywhere is going first class. It’s like flying first class. High-speed trains are a luxury intended for the well to do; i.e. “suits” with laptops.
They are the equivalent of the Concorde in commercial aviation. Those "visions of the future" are all now in museums.
Yes, the rail authority ought to do it right the first time. That means putting the rail system where other metropolitan cities have their rail systems, underground. Although we don’t like it, with the growing California population, especially in the two major population regions north and south, the Peninsula will, in 100 years, become a dense mega-tropolis. Having a major rail system running down the middle of such a vast, dense city is inconceivable.
Clem, who has his own rather train-technical web site, is right insofar as he suggests that a number of alternatives are, realistically, off the table. He points out that the current HNTB and PB consultants, (Dominic Spaethling, Tim Cobb and John Letzinger), have a specific charge to design alternative alignments for the Caltrain corridor only. They cannot consider other options, whether 101 or 280 or Altamont. That’s non-negotiable.
But, what I wish to say to Clem, and all the other critics of those of us who are seeking alternatives we can live with is, “Don’t tell me why it can’t work; tell me how we are going to make it happen.”
Those who criticize the tunnel alignment, for whatever reason, must acknowledge that it is engineering-feasible. It can be done. It should be done. The biggest constraint is cost. But with full-cost accounting, it can pencil out far more favorably than what the HNTB people will tell us. Our three cities should be researching this right now with tunnel and rail construction experts. Brian Steen told me the story about 4th Avenue in Manhattan which had a rail trench running down the middle and slum housing on both sides. The city decided to cover over the trench and thus put the rail system, including the New York Central, underground. The street became Park Avenue. We can have "Park Avenue" in Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.
Yes, the rail authority will jerk us around and reject all our alternative alignments. We must not let them. We must argue from strength, and as cities on the Peninsula join together, there will be strength. Kudos to Yoriko Kishimoto for leading this.
There is a current CEQA lawsuit but I’m not sure that Palo Alto can join it as a plaintiff since there was a deadline (which Menlo Park and Atherton met), and all plaintiffs must have “standing” or legitimate legal claims. That’s a question for the Stuart Flashman law firm handling the suit.
However, other lawsuits are certainly possible. It is quite plausible that upon completion of the current project-level EIS/EIR, our cities will find other reasons to sue. The point is that we must fight for a “level playing field” and seek negotiating leverage.
One of the central tenets of this current lawsuit, to be heard by a judge in Sacramento in May, is that Union Pacific owns the rail corridor and tracks south of San Jose to Gilroy, the route identified by the CHSRA in their program-level EIS/EIR. Union Pacific has made it publicly clear that this route will not be available for high-speed train use. The CHSRA has ignored that restriction in their documentation. They have no Plan B. Getting from Gilroy to San Jose is the heart of the Pacheco Pass route. Rail engineers say there are no other possibilities available for this segment. You can see the problem.
Finally, for those wishing to support the lawsuit, and I am among those who have sent funds, here is the address:
Planning and Conservation League Foundation (PCLF) at 1107 Ninth Street, Suite 360, Sacramento, CA 95814 Attention: HSR Lawsuit.
And, here is a web site that explains more about it.
Posted by jb, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2009 at 10:56 pm
It has always seemed a good idea to be able to get from northern to southern Calif. on the train. (And I wish it were planned for farther north.)Amtrack has shot itself in the foot by conducting what little transit it affords like a cruise rather than like transit.
But the better idea might have been to connect the high speed rail with the outer limits of the impacted areas and simultaneously design a much more complete local transit system with which to connect to the interior communities. It makes no sense to whiz through such an impacted area as the Bay Area or parts of LA with only one or two stops. Patrons then board something and backtrack to their destinations. It makes no sense to try to carve a high-speed corridor out of such impacted areas. Most effective transit systems were in place first, and the communities grew up around them.
In my student days I lived in the home of an old lady who remembered taking her children to Monterey on the Del Monte Express from San Francisco. I myself came to San Francisco on the train with my mother when I was in high school. The bottom tier of the Bay Bridge was a railroad corridor and we boarded the train in Roseville and disembarked in San Francisco. The train continued to points south. These train rides went at a resonable pace consistent with sharing space with other types of transportation. The tunnel being discussed sounds like another BIG DIG.
Posted by Clem, a resident of another community, on Feb 18, 2009 at 11:51 pm
Martin, the land is owned by the PCJPB, which is the board of directors of Caltrain. I'm not sure what you mean when you say it's not owned by Caltrain; they are the same entity.
I am in agreement that we should be looking for ways to channel our energy so that HSR is done right. In my opinion, rather than fantasize about a tunnel, it is far more productive for Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton to get the environmental certifications overturned in favor of the Altamont alignment, which is the better, cheaper, faster alternative. Many people probably don't know that the lawsuit you mention is supported by several transit and environmental advocacy groups.
In the meantime, today's Daily Post rang the alarm bell over El Palo Alto. Discussed on my blog: Web Link
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 12:13 am
Thanks very much for you continued efforts and thanks for posting here.
A few questions for you.
How can we join forces with Menlo Park and Atherton, not from the lawsuit perspective, but from a grass roots political, organizational perspective. Is there a group formed or something?
How can we keep up on the current lawsuit status, what the outcome or next steps are in May when the suit is heard in Sacramento, and other updates from MP or Atherton.
Is there any organization around contact with politicians? In your opinion, which local, state or federal representatives are sympathetic to these concerns, if any? Have there been any attempts to contact federal or state representatives? with what success?
Are there any more Northern Peninsula towns involved/contacted, with the same or similar concerns.
With all due respect, I think the idea of tunneling can only serve to quell and hush opposition, until and up to the point that the CHSR authority is ready to pull the trigger, at which point it will be much too late to make things happen to protect these communities.
"We're listenting" and "We're studying" are nothing more than 'don't worry your pretty little heads'
I believe that what needs to happen urgently is organized contact with the Obama administration, and Sacramento politicians to let them know that not only is CHSR not "shovel ready" but that we don't even have a project designed, environmentally vetted, or even fully costed yet. Throwing stimulus money at it piece meal now can only serve to legitimize what can only be characterized at this point as a 'vision'.
(Kopp has submitted at least $1B in project list to Feds for stimulus money for CHSR, even without a project design or project level EIR/EIS yet!) This funding under the name of "HSR" can only serve as after the fact "proof" (polticial arm twisting leverage) that THIS CHSR plan has support and was meant to be.
The public needs to be fully aware that the CHSR is very politically connected, very organized and very active in lobbying Washington and Sacramento for funding and support. They don't just support CHSR conceptually, but they are dead set on THIS ROUTE, THIS PLAN, through the Peninsula, down Caltrain Corridor, and no other, in the cheapest, most expedient manner possible.
Martin, in my opinion, I think the citizens of the Peninsula need to get politically organized to oppose this route immediately. You seem to feel its OK to bide time to allow CHSR to 'study' tunneling. What protects us from finding ourselves too far down the slippery slope?
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 1:40 am Walter_E_Wallis is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Google Earth Alameda Corridor. This is there now and, as with most viable transportation facilities, serves primarily freight. It shares one commonality with BART, total elimination of grade crossings.
Ground water can be a problem, bu it could be an asset if it were stored, purifies and introduced into the water system. [That might even be a good idea with the existing storm water system]
Posted by stock trader, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:28 am
The U.S. government will be bankrupt before this project even gets off the ground. Forget about it. California can't even pay refunds. I suspect the state will default on bonds and this project won't get done.
Posted by itsyourmoney, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:17 am
<< Those who criticize the tunnel alignment, for whatever reason, must acknowledge that it is engineering-feasible. It can be done. It should be done. The biggest constraint is cost. But with full-cost accounting, it can pencil out far more favorably than what the HNTB people will tell us. Our three cities should be researching this right now with tunnel and rail construction experts. >>
Agreed it should be studied by tunnel and rail construction experts, but that should be done before all else. You can't legitimately make the blanket statement that "it can be done" in the absence of such a study. It may be doable but be prohibitively expensive. In Palo Alto you are going straight through the San Francisquito aquifer. What about the environmental impact of that? And you expect it to pencil out more favorably? Anyone can make a lowball estimate and then go over budget once construction begins. The Big Dig in Boston went from $2.6 billion to $14.6 billion -- a mere $12 billion over budget. There's nothing to prevent this from turning into another Big Dig.
The Altamont alignment would be preferable. For one thing it wouldn't parallel existing CalTrain service.
Now where's that ridership survey that says there will be more than 100 "suits with laptops" using this thing each day (the ones who choose not to fly, that is)?
Posted by observer, a resident of another community, on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:18 am
Forget all the talk about tunneling. It isn't going to happen. Mr. Engel brings up false hopes when he relates our situation here to New York. Our land values are 1/10 or less of the land values there. In point of fact he has changed his whole position. Don't go down this path of false hope.
Kopp says 2 billion to tunnel 1.4 miles of 2 tracks from King Street to the proposed Taj Mahal like new transit station to be built in San Francisco. (San Jose, not to outdone, is planning a station of equal grandness -- at 2 billion dollars each, they should do much to pad the pocketbooks of their local interests)
The project is corrupt and has been from its very beginning. Why is Palo Alto just now beginning to realize what has been going on. Why wasn't Senator Simitian alerting you what what was going to happen and instead just passing along the party line. Why don't some of the writers here read what took place last summer in the State Senate Transportation and Housing committee? (Simitian a key member)
If this project is not stopped, Palo Alto is going to get a 15 foot high wall about 100 feet wide at ground level and electrical wires stretched 20 feet above the top of the wall. You may also loose some present grade crossings. That's what is in store for Palo Alto. Same for Menlo Park, Atherton, Burlingame and the rest of the Cities along the CalTrain route.
All of this destruction to build a train, that will never begin to realize the kind of ridership projections, which by the way, are now only 1/2 of what the voters were promised during the Prop 1A campaign.
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 11:23 am
Park Avenue Resident- I was of your opinion too (that a trench was a good compromise). It sounds like it isn't a feasible however, because Caltrain service needs to continue while they are building HSR. So a tunnel would work in that scenario, but a trench would be harder. At least that is what I understood from the meeting on Tuesday night.
Posted by Effess, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm
The last time I remember that a traffic study was requested of the city for the architectural "beauty" that sits at the se corner of W. Charleston and El Camino, the answer was that the increase in traffic would amount to only a 4 second delay in turns!
What would be the vortex effect to the surrounding area of a train going at 125 mph: leafless trees, dead trees and shrubs, polluted air from the swirling debris? All of the above? Does SF or SJ care?
Does anybody really want to go to LA? Is the Paris Metro or the London Underground above ground?
Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 12:30 pm
Martin Engel wrote: “One of the central tenets of this current lawsuit, to be heard by a judge in Sacramento in May, is that Union Pacific owns the rail corridor and tracks south of San Jose to Gilroy, the route identified by the CHSRA in their program-level EIS/EIR. Union Pacific has made it publicly clear that this route will not be available for high-speed train use. The CHSRA has ignored that restriction in their documentation. They have no Plan B. Getting from Gilroy to San Jose is the heart of the Pacheco Pass route. Rail engineers say there are no other possibilities available for this segment. You can see the problem.”
Clem wrote: "Martin, the land is owned by the PCJPB, which is the board of directors of Caltrain. I'm not sure what you mean when you say it's not owned by Caltrain; they are the same entity."
Clem, according to Caltrain that stretch of track is indeed "owned and controlled by the UPRR” (Union Pacific). Refer to page 27 of Web Link for ownership specifics for that and other stretches of the San Francisco-Gilroy corridor.
Posted by Palo Alto Commuter, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 1:43 pm
Could we have a more spectacular demonstration that Palo Alto and the Mid-Peninsula are the NIMBY (not in my back yard) Capital of the World? The amount of emotionally-charged misstatements of fact is overwhelming -- both at the community meeting at the P.A. Board of Ed Tuesday night and in this list.
The passionate public discourse about the Pacheco Pass versus Altamont Pass alignments for High Speed Rail has been going on for at least ten years. There is a very strong constituency for HSR throughout the state to connect the Bay Area with the Central Valley, LA, and San Diego. The idea is to catch up with the rest of the "developed world" that has been running fast, clean, safe, dependable, and affordable train service for decades. Having ridden high speed trains in Europe, Japan, and China, it is clear to me that UNLESS the United States develops a superior high speed rail alternative -- not just in California but throughout our nation's urban corridors -- we are condemning our people and our economy to enslavement to the automobile, the oil companies, and the vast quantities of green house gases that combination produces.
After much deliberation and support from multiple state and local agencies, the California High Speed Rail Authority chose the Pacheco Pass. Some of us followed that process closely, and even participated in the public comment process. Sure, Altamont presented some advantages for better connections to Stockton, Tracy, and Manteca, but an improved ACE train could do much the same without degrading the essential LA to San Francisco connection. And, yes, no doubt there are some valid criticisms of the HSR Authority's process, but that all misses the point.
The overriding purpose of HSR is to connect California's five or six major cities with a reliable, fast, and relatively low-cost ground transportation system that is competitive with door-to-door air and automobile travel. Please note that San Jose is the third largest city in California (after LA and San Diego) and is far more of a fundamental economic engine than San Francisco (the fourth largest).
If the wishful thinkers (and the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton)who think the Altamont Alignment is their salvation would take the time to look at the many websites dealing with the HSR, both for and against, they would see a fact -- a very different fact. Even the staunchest advocates of the Altamont Pass alignment such as TRANSDEF Web Link show the HSR running up the Peninsula Caltrain Corridor after it absurdly bypasses San Jose.
Under either alignment, the HSR would run up the Caltrain Corridor. So, let's deal with it. Instead of putting up the usual "Whatever it is, I'm against it!" Horsefeathers-type of campaign, the people and City of Palo Alto should come together to craft the best possible design and implementation of these prospective concurrent projects:
1) Electrification of Caltrain by 2015, which means platform-level access improvements at all the stations, more trains, faster trains, electrical transmission towers and overhead cables, and probably the need to build more grade separations at some existing grade crossings.
2) Dumbarton rail connection from the East Bay to the Mid-Peninsula, which would best be an extension of Caltrain or alternatively, the ACE train.
2) High Speed Rail service beginning in 2020, which will be closely coordinated with the electrification of Caltrain and require complete separation from freight service and local Caltrain tracks, and also complete grade separation along the rail corridor. Realistically, the design and engineering for HSR and electrified Caltrain from San Francisco to Gilroy must include a combination of open trench, cut and cover, tunneling, on-grade open and on-grade enclosed, and elevated track and bridges, depending upon the local conditions and conformance to the track slope constraint of about 2% to 3%.
4) A HSR station in Palo Alto.
This HSR-Caltrain multimodal station is the real prize that Palo Alto residents should pursue. It would bring enormous economic benefit to be the only stop in an urban center between San Francisco and San Jose (the Millbrae station is nowheresville by comparison). Instead of wasting our time and energy raising emotionally-fraught objections, we should devote the same level of effort to winning a Palo Alto HSR stop as part of a package deal for the best, least environmentally intrusive design for Palo Alto's four mile rail corridor.
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park, on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm
@ wary traveler
OK. Clem is not talking about the segment from San Jose to Gilroy. He is disagreeing with me when I say that the Caltrain corridor is owned not by an entity called Caltrain, but is administered by an entity called the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. Indeed, Caltrain is administered also by the JPB. For instance, Caltrain must submit its budget to the JPB for approval.
This is not to say that there are a number of overlapping organizations occupying the same office space, the JPB, Caltrain, SamTrans and the San Mateo Council Transportation Authority. In my opinion, they are highly incestuous.
However, formally, the “Caltrain Corridor,” which we will hereafter call the
Caltrain Corridor is not the “Caltrain” corridor since it was purchased from Union Pacific with funding from the three Peninsula counties administered by the Joint Powers Board. Although perhaps we should, we don’t call it the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board Corridor. And, those funds came from us, the taxpayers. Hence, it’s ours, if you see what I mean. That doesn’t mean that the extremely heavy hand of Caltrain doesn’t lord it over the corridor and us. It does mean that we better get our act together. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
By the way, Clem, while you are right about the sloppy journalism regarding the Redwood tree, (The Post, the new kid on the block, has a long way to go.) I agree with Rafael insofar as the tree is really not a problem, including tunneling which will be 50 ft. down, under the creek and the root system of the tree.
You are absolutely right. The document to which you refer is almost 200 pages long and is called The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report, by Wendell Cox and Joseph Vranich. It is a detailed refutation of all the verbiage and promotional rhetoric generated by the high-speed rail authority prior to last November’s election. Unfortunately, the document came out in October, with not enough time to be reviewed and commented on by the press.
You suggest that I bring up false hopes. Well, I hope not. My thinking goes like this. We should prevent this high-speed train project from happening. If we can’t, we need a Plan B. Plan B is keep it off the Peninsula entirely. If we can’t, we need a Plan C. Plan C is the Altamont route, which brings the train across the Bay into Redwood City, through parts of Menlo Park. If we can’t obtain that, we need a Plan D. Plan D. means the train comes down the Peninsula, but not in the intended, highly destructive way. That means that Plan D is putting the tracks over highway 101 or 280. Are you following me here? If we can’t do that, we need a Plan E. Plan E puts the train on the Caltrain corridor from one end to the other, but out of sight.
That means a tunnel. Now, there are lots of arguments for and against all of these plans. But, NIMBYs like me want to remain realistic and do the best we can to protect our homes from the barbarian horde. That doesn’t mean I’m happy with anything after Plan A. But, I have to accept what I can’t change.
You and I agree much more than you suggest. Absolutely must the tunnel be studied, but not by those who oppose the tunnel on principle. However, in the absence of more detailed accounting, I’m not ready to throw in the tunnel towel regarding its cost. Full-cost accounting should give us a more reliable picture than merely saying that tunneling will cost so many billions. The big picture is that if they can’t be stopped to build the HSR expansion on the Caltrain corridor, at least we want it out of sight. The higher costs of that, whatever they are, is the price that must be paid to do something that is basically wrong; that is, running the train down the middle of the Peninsula.
One of the arguments that the HSR authority persists in using is that there will be greater costs if they don’t build this train; that is, costs for more highways and runways. Well, then there are also greater costs if they insist on “destroying” at least three highly residential towns through which they insist on running their train. Furthermore, if they don’t tunnel it, but build bermed or walled track elevations, there will be enormous costs to at least three towns; property value costs, lost business costs, loss of quality of life costs, human displacement costs; and doubtless others. Those are our costs, not theirs. They won’t compensate us; they want our “sacrifice.” That certainly cannot be OK with you. After all, it’s your money.
@qq, stock trader
To all those who say that it will never happen because there’s no money. I wish that were true. Perhaps I wish it even more than you.
But wishful thinking is fruitless. As you can learn by reading the newspapers, there is a groundswell of support for HSR from Washington. They are currently printing money and will bring it in suitcases to our state and give it to Kopp and Diridon. Don’t like it? Neither do I. But, we mustn’t kid ourselves. That train has left the station. The biggest boondoggle in the history of the world and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you.
I wish I could answer one of your questions. I’m not politically savvy. I’m not an organizer. I’m just an old guy sitting at his Mac, looking out the window at the rail corridor.
I have been promoting city affiliation for over two years. There was a multi-city organization, CETS (council for expanding train service) that consisted of San Mateo Cities whose train station had been closed or the number of stops sharply reduced. The member cities wrote a total of about 15 +/- resolutions and sent them to Caltrain, which used them to line their parrot cage. Then, I have been pushing Atherton and Menlo Park to form a joint committee, but that never happened until Yoriko Kishimoto called a bunch of cities together into an ad hoc group that is now looking to affiliate in a formal way. What to do about that?
Let Peter, Yoriko and anyone else who matters know that this is what you want. You want a chair at the table. You should also let them know what you want.
About the rail authority. Yes, they will ignore us if they can. But, if we do organize both at the grass-roots level and at the various municipal levels into a larger Peninsula organization, it will be more difficult to ignore us, especially when the lawsuits start flying, as they should.
Who to get in touch with and at what legislative level? All of them.
We are represented at the local, county, state and federal level by people who need our money and our votes to stay in office. There are several committees in the state senate that can exercise control over the high-speed rail authority; the Appropriations committee and the Housing and Transportation Committee. We should demand that they do their duty and exercise oversight over and require accountability from the authority. They have not done this so far.
Finally, you say that the Peninsula needs to get politically organized. Damn right! No, I don’t feel its OK to bide time. I want us to get organized yesterday. Remember, I’ve been bitching about all this for over five years and have been ignored. That is not to say that we shouldn’t be retaining reliable and independent consultants to inform us about tunneling and find attorneys knowledgeable about eminent domain. We need to become really, really smart about all this. Sooner is better.
Finally, I want to commend all those who have been writing comments on this thread. It’s heartening to read calm, reasonable people express their views and knowledge and even disagree. It’s the hysterical, ad Hominem road-rage attacks that are annoying.
Although an old timer, I’m still new to blogging. Is it the custom of the culture to not use you full real name? Does it feel more protective?
In another blog in The Almanac, someone attacked this pseudonym practice and signed their comments with a pseudonym. Go figger!
Posted by Palo Alto Commuter, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm
Third Rail versus Overhead Electrical Contact Cables
WilliamR: To answer your question about whether an electrical third rail is feasible for HSR, the highest speed that a third rail can support is about 100 mph, far short of the 125 to 200 mph range projected for HSR. The California HSR Authority web site has a bloggish statement that third rail could also pose a safety hazard under certain conditions.
Posted by ODB, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm
First you say:
<< The idea is to catch up with the rest of the "developed world" >>
then you say:
<< The overriding purpose of HSR is to connect California's five or six major cities with a reliable, fast, and relatively low-cost ground transportation system that is competitive with door-to-door air and automobile travel. >>
Which is it?
I keep hearing this 2:38 travel time from S.F. to L.A., but I'm told that's for an express train with no stops. Then I hear there will be up to 24 stops. If each stop is 10 minutes in duration, that's going to add substantially to the 2:38 travel time. Someone who wants to get from L.A. to S.F. in a hurry will continue to fly. The family taking HSR to Disneyland will not have the use of their automobile at their destination so they will continue to drive, saving the cost of car rental when they arrive.
It's all well and fine to debate this alignment over that, and talk about tunnels and 15-foot walls, but who and how many will use HSR besides a few "suits with laptops"?
Posted by menlopark arrogance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 3:52 pm
Does anyone here whining about this care to comment on why 63 percent
of the voters said YES to prop1a!!! dont you think your personal
view as law is self centered arogance..and those people on this board know who they are..SO if you dont like what the majority voted on you can simple move ..but you dont want to because you will loose your prop 13 welfare that the rest of us dont get.
Posted by Guy, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm
Ummmm...how about thousands if not millions of Californians. Someone else said "Who really wants to go to L.A. anyways?" I DO! That's why I voted yes along with the majority of Californians. Saying that people won't take HSR to Disneyland because they won't have their car to drive around... Drive around where!?! Most Disneyland hotels are within walking distance of the park, there's no need to drive.
Seems to me people are more concerned with property values than they are with trains. That's ok. We'll just tell the rest of California that the HSR just doesn't work for Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton so it must be cancelled. They'll understand. Or maybe we could move it to Altamont like many of you suggest. That way if I want to take the HSR I'll need to drive an hour North first before heading South. Makes perfect sense because your home value will be skyrocketing!
I wonder why Palo Alto, Menlo and Atherton are raising the biggest fuss over this...I wonder why...
Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm
The Southgate community meeting on High Speed Rail earlier this week was dominated by a vocal, but poorly informed, minority of Palo Altans who oppose the California High Speed Rail project largely out of selfish fears that their property values might be negatively impacted by the slight expansion of the existing Caltrain rail corridor in their backyards. Nobody mentioned that Prop 1A won by a 625,000 vote margin state-wide and that our fellow Peninsula voters showed some of the strongest support for the measure back in November.
In reality, our community is already divided in half by the Caltrain tracks, which are unattractive and home to one of the slowest, dirtiest (diesel-burning), outdated commuter trains in America. The opportunity to significantly improve this rail right of way in the context of developing High Speed Rail should be enthusiastically embraced by our City. Not only will the arrival of high speed rail bring new transit opportunities and vastly reduced travel times, we will also benefit from a modernized and more efficient electrified Caltrain on the new tracks.
Palo Alto should be aggressively pursuing a HSR station to be located in our City, which would bring huge benefits and make it incredibly fast and easy for all of us to get to San Francisco, San Jose, or even Los Angeles. Which future is better for Palo Alto: being a center of NIMBYism and parochialism or being a vibrant community with world leading businesses, a top university, and a hub for efficient transportation?
Redwood City is aggressively lobbying for the mid-Peninsula HSR station because their city's leadership understands the extraordinary economic benefits of having an HSR station and the opportunity it would create to elevate Redwood City to being the Peninsula's de facto center for business and culture. It would be truly foolish for Palo Alto to willingly pass the mantle of being the Peninsula's leading city to Redwood City.
Having lived previously in two countries with high speed rail networks (Japan and Korea), I feel the need to emphasize how favorable of a transit alternative HSR really is. In Japan, for example, it is not uncommon to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka for an afternoon business meeting or an evening dinner engagement and come home the same day. You can even board the morning train in downtown Tokyo and go skiing in the Japan Alps, with the train to gondola transfer inside the station in Niigata.
In South Korea, the completion of the KTX high speed train not only made travel from Seoul to Pusan take about half as long as it previously did, it also transformed Daejeon, a university town 90 miles south of Seoul, from an often-forgotten location into a major center for business and academia and a viable community from which to commute into downtown Seoul.
Contrary to some of the absurd statements made on Tuesday night that implied there was little to no local support for the HSR, many Palo Altans are strongly in favor of the project. I, too, live just a few blocks from the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto with my wife and daughter and we strongly support the HSR and hope our City lobbies hard for an HSR station in Palo Alto. Would we prefer an underground solution? Sure, but if that were to prove to be prohibitively expensive (which seems likely), we still favor an above ground grade-separation solution if that is the only viable option for bringing High Speed Rail to Palo Alto.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:34 pm
I don't think that because the voters of California approve sopmething (in this case by a razor thin margin) that it means it is a good or wise idea. That is part of the reason we are in the rediculous budget crisis we are in today.
Lots of people in this state want things that they think others are going to pay for, so they vote for it. I doubt much of anyone thought of the logistics of digging tunnels in highly populated areas. Atlanta did this to their downtown where three interstates intersect, and it has forever changed the character of the center of town. Plus it was a horrible mess for many years of construction. The Big Dig in Boston was much the same.
Looking out for property values and quality of life is not selfish. And if you don't like prop 13, think about the fact that every buyer knows at the time what they are going to pay. And the buyers before you have been paying in longer than you.
Posted by stock trader, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:48 pm
How exactly did they plan to pay for this?
From bonds we sell to the Chinese who no longer want to buy bonds from the U.S., from a state bond we have to vote on, from raising taxes on all those people who've lost their jobs? From increasing property taxes on homes who's values have declined?
Please, someone please tell me how we are to pay for this?
Posted by ODB, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm
<< Saying that people won't take HSR to Disneyland because they won't have their car to drive around... Drive around where!?! Most Disneyland hotels are within walking distance of the park, there's no need to drive. >>
What a naive statement. Suppose this hypothetical family on vacation wants to go to Knott's Berry Farm or the Aquarium of the Pacific or Six Flags Magic Mountain or Universal Studios or Legoland? Those sure as heck aren't within walking distance of Disneyland hotels. In addition, if they took HSR they would have to pay separate fares for Mom, Dad and each kid AND rent a car when they get there, as opposed to piling the everyone in the car and taking I-5 much more cheaply.
I still haven't seen anything credible or convincing which addresses these questions (e.g. a marketing plan) and which tells me how they're going to lure "thousands if not millions" of people out of planes and cars onto this wondrous high-speed rail system.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Voters approved a bond, they did not approve this route. Show us where measure 1A links bond funding to a specific route. In fact measure 1A says expressly that bond funding does not prejudice route decisions. And lets be clear that measure 1A expressly calls for full discolusre of the ENTIRE PLAN including full cost, and WHO WILL PAY for the whole thing, before legislature can pay for any bonds.
So voters have committed to basically NOTHING with the measure 1A vote.
Secondly voters, right, wrong, or otherwise ,were not informed on the extent or specifics of the 'plan' that already existed for CHSR, or what it would mean specifically in their towns. You can well argue they should have proactively gone out and read 1200 pages of EIR to get informed. (You'd be wrong - the legal wording of the Bond should have specified what voters specifically approving. But even if they did, they'd have found a Final Program EIR/EIS that punted MANY specific impacts and mitigations, and costs to PROJECT level EIR/EIS's to be completed in the future. In other words, impacts unknown at time of vote, even for the MOST informed voters.
You might say they should have expected truth and full disclosure from their local government representatives - you'd be correct there, but THAT, they did not get.
Anyone think it rather ODD that Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously to support High Speed Rail before the vote, but ONLY NOW are saying they have to scramble to understand its implications for Palo Alto? They asked for a time extension to submit their questions on impact. They are just now undertaking their own impact analysis/studies. But they rashly gave the impression to the entire town of Palo Alto that HSR was something that would be good for Palo Alto. How did they know then? They don't even know that now!
So, that's 65,000 in Palo Alto alone that were hoodwinked by an apparently negligent city council and a glossy CHSR measure 1A marketing blitz.
Posted by Palo Alto Commuter, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 7:49 pm
You ask: <<Which is it?>>
Actually it's both -- catch up with the rest of the world in terms of economically competitive transportation systems and doing it by linking the half dozen major cities in California in this way.
Then you go on: <<I keep hearing this 2:38 travel time from S.F. to L.A., but I'm told that's for an express train with no stops. Then I hear there will be up to 24 stops. If each stop is 10 minutes in duration, that's going to add substantially to the 2:38 travel time.>>
To answer your inquiry, the way a "real world" train system works such as the shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan or even the Acela / Metroliner system on the East Coast rail corridor is that there is a hierarchy of services, based on time and cost. There are some trains that make no stops (e.g. Osaka to Tokyo; Boston to New York/New York to Washington; some that make a few stops, and some that may make a dozen stops. The fare varies inversely with the number of stops. For example the non-stop fare from Osaka to Tokyo was about double the fare with about five stops when I took it.
ODB, As for the "24 stops," most of them are in the Southland, between Bakersfield, LA, and San Diego, where many cities campaigned hard to demand stops in their downtown. Even so, that does not mean that every train will stop at every station.
You continue: <<Someone who wants to get from L.A. to S.F. in a hurry will continue to fly.>>
Not so, ODB. Consider the cost in time and money for your smarmy "few suits with laptops" (how many Palo Alto residents own laptops and heaven forefend, suits) coming from downtown LA. The cost of a taxi from downtown LA to LAX is about $75 (I did it a few months ago). At any time of the workday, the trip can easily take an hour. Then there is the wait to check in, which even with a preprinted boarding pass can take a half hour if you are checking a suitcase (American Airlines at LAX six weeks ago). Then there is the security line, which can easily take an hour if you hit a bad patch in the TSA's day. Then, hopefully, you are still in time to arrive at your boarding lounge, say, a prudent half hour before the flight. Total time liability to board reliably the plane from downtown LAX: THREE HOURS. Then the flight is an hour if there are no other delays. Then retrieving your bag at SFO can add a quarter to a half hour, then a cab ride to downtown SF for another half hour. Total elapsed time: easily four or five hours, plus lots of stress.
ODB, Compare four to five hours door to door to fly city center to city center to the high speed rail which realistically would probably take three hours, with far less stress and uncertainty.
Also, rail traditionally is far more flexible about changing reservations than airlines (I believe there is a legal requirement in this regard). The typical one week advance purchase of a ticket on American Airlines RT SJC/LAX is about $149. The AA change penalty is now $150. Change your reservation for one leg and effectively, you lose the entire value of the ticket. Compare to AMTRAK's Coast Starlight, where the one way reserved coach SJC to LAX (yes the train stations use the same acronyms) is $44.10 three day advance purchase for an AAA Adult. If you change the ticket less than three days in advance, it goes all the way up to $49.00, but you retain the entire value of your original purchase, so the cost delta is $4.90 compared to $150 penalty plus as much as $200 for the difference in ticket price.
<<The family taking HSR to Disneyland will not have the use of their automobile at their destination so they will continue to drive, saving the cost of car rental when they arrive.>>
ODB, Here you are WAY OUT OF TOUCH. There is already a well established "Disneyland Express" bus that runs hourly from LAX to the "Disneyland Resort" for $32 RT for adults, $25 RT for children, and I have seen it more than fill up with passengers who DO NOT WANT cars at Disneyland. Plus, many more people fly into John Wayne Airport in Orange County and take the express vans and buses to their hotels.
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm
With the advances in telecommuting there will be less need for most business travel, with smaller cars the freeway capacity will increase for personal travel.
Last month I tried the LA metro from LAX to downtown LA, what a disaster-- it takes longer than the bus and is called the Blue Gang line for good reason, I doubt that 15% had a ticket it was gang land experience.
HSR will not work in CA, it is too vulnerable to terrorist attack, too expensive and people will not use it.
Europe and the East Coast were built around trains and trolleys, California was built around cars.
We can have high speed and high fuel efficient car based systems here that people will use.
If you want to see what public transportation in California will look like get the Blue "Gang" Train from LAX to downtown, at your own risk of course, there is no security, but it opens your eyes to the delusions of public transportation in CA
Posted by Kate, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:12 pm
How many people really want to go to Los Angeles? (There may be more people wanting to leave Los Angeles - even for a few days to breathe.) What are the airlines saying about this? Let's NOT build this thing and give a free plane ticket on Southwest or other airlines to those who really do want to go there? How many train passengers will it take to pay for this HSR? By giving out one-third of the cost equivalent in plane tickets, we salvage the airlines, increase jobs, and help the economy via the 'back door'. AND cities that don't want this monster above ground may have to pay for all or part of the tunneling. That is just what Palo Alto DOES NOT need. I'm glad I'm going to be out of here
Posted by Glen, a resident of another community, on Feb 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm
Just because you people dont want high speed rail and want to drive your gas hogs does not mean the 6.5 million people that voted yes on this issue were crazy..If you want to drive GOOD do it..but dont impose your reasons as why we dont need what millions of people use and enjoy all over the world..
Posted by skep2cal, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2009 at 10:11 pm
<< Misinformed. Misled.
The demand does not exist. The numbers don't add up. We don't have the money. A few high profile politicians set a trap and voters fell into it. >>
I suspect these 6.5 million voters didn't study or fully understand what they were voting for (the recent meeting at PAUSD illustrates this). I suspect they heard the buzzwords "high-speed rail" and "reduced greenhouse emissions" and thought HSR was some kind of technological marvel from the future. I doubt even a small fraction of them would even actually use HSR.
Fun fact: Quentin Kopp is 80. He'll be 100 if and when the ribbon is cut in 2030.
Posted by Richard, a resident of another community, on Feb 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm
Isn't it amazing? When a substantial majority of the people of this state vote for high speed rail, it must be because they are misguided, uninformed, not aware of the real facts, didn't read the proposal closely, didn't really know how much it would cost, doesn't include a station at Legoland, weren’t aware of my better ideas, etc., etc.
Or maybe they just didn't agree with you and knew they wanted a change from the crumbling, oil addicted, pollution producing, traffic jam of a transportation mess we now have.
I'm one of those ignorant voters and, guess what, I voted yes because I believe my kids and grandkids need California high speed rail and I'm willing to pay my share for it. And yes, I considered all those arguments and claims and potential problems before I voted and they don't tip the scale for me. I still want HSR and I want it as soon as it can be built!
I know we all can't have exactly what we want. We cannot ask 30 million people to vote on Pacheco Pass vs. Altamont, Modesto vs. Fresno, Redwood City vs. SFO, Palo Alto tunnel vs. surface. Sorry about that but we cannot use the ballot box to replace engineers, economists and sensible local input.
My suggestion: accept the will of the people of California and work constructively for a reasonable accommodation of local and statewide needs.
Posted by Glen, a resident of another community, on Feb 19, 2009 at 11:05 pm
First off service starts in 2018-2020 not 2030 that is for the full system..and I bet many of the anti-HSR are also in there 80s and dont give a damm about the future..it shows in the comments and No people voted YES because they want High-Speed rail and thats what we are going to build, just because old brain thinking makes it seem science fiction, in the rest of the world its 35 year old technology And please if slow Amtrak trains run almost full why then would 220mph trains run empty?
Posted by skep2cal, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 12:21 am
<< First off service starts in 2018-2020 >>
Quentin will then be a mere 90. Think he'll be at the ribbon cutting?
<< When a substantial majority of the people of this state vote for high speed rail, it must be because they are misguided, uninformed, not aware of the real facts, didn't read the proposal closely, didn't really know how much it would cost, doesn't include a station at Legoland, weren’t aware of my better ideas, etc., etc. >>
I'm glad you finally came to your senses. I think that pretty well sums it up.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
<< accept the will of the people of California >>
They voted for apx. $10 million in bond obligations and that's all. That point has been made several times already. They didn't vote on the alignment, the stations, the tunneling, the color scheme, etc.
Posted by ya, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 9:12 am
I voted yes for the rail, like many others, because I thought it'd be a "greener" alternative. But now that I see that in fact this thing is going to cause more trouble, disrupt the community, I regret it and have changed my mind. This rail is not a good idea. How do I repeal my vote?
I also didn't know that my utility bills would go up, that the state would increase income and sales taxes, and that schools would have their funding cut. I think to do this rail is ridiculous now.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 10:08 am
There's a real misconception here that people that are opposed to this route are opposed to high speed rail. I for one think high speed rail would be neat in an appropriate transportation corridor.
Down highway 5 between Sacramento to LA, for example. With two feeder arms: one from SF to Sac and one from SJ to ?? Modesto or something like that.
A high speed rail line through 50 miles of people's backyards - and sullying more California landscape, property and natural resources in the process - just is pure evil. Californian's have already long ago given up a significant amount of land and resources to significant north-south freeway corridors - hwy 5, hwy 99 and hwy 101. High speed rail needs to not create a new one, they need to use what's already there.
(Caltrain is a local commuter line, that runs through the middle of a bunch of small towns, backyards, school yards, small down towns. Its utterly inappropriate to ram a 125mph train, all the influx of traffic and housing it would draw into the hearts of these towns. You wouldn't suggest SFO or LAX in the middle of small inaccessbile town, either.
Basically, they're throwing every town between SF and SJ under the train, for the pure showcase luxury status symbol legacy sake of two single California cities (and their self-centered politicians) SF and SJ (newsome, Diridon, and Kopp). Its wrong, and it has to be stopped.
State and Federal politicians need to be lobbied to force CHSRA to put the HSR where it belongs.
Posted by menloparkarrogance, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:11 am
No evil is self-centered people like the the above post that decides
in "Their" mind that everything is wrong unless they is okdeal YOU MOVED NEXT TO A 120 YEAR OLD RAILROAD..We voted yes ..its not going to ruin your life unless your an Ultra-senstive crybaby. its a whopping elctric train running on a 120year old Right of way..try moving next to a freeway and see how you like it..NO we are going to get this system built..No matter what a small group of fearmongers say
Posted by skep2cal, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm
I think rail is a concept worth exploring but not the way Kopp and his people have gone about it. I think their ridership projections have no grounding in reality. I think their estimates of construction costs are too low -- these kinds of projects are notorious for going way over budget (see the Boston Big Dig). I think their claimed travel times are unrealistic. I haven't seen so much as a sample timetable for this thing, showing which trains would be local, limited, express, etc. and where they would stop and when. I believe politics influenced the selection of Pacheco Pass to a great extent so the mayor of San Jose could have his version of Grand Central Station.
I wonder if there is a way to increase the use of existing rail resources. There is one all-rail train going each way between the bay area and southern California each day (Coast Starlight) which doesn't suggest a huge demand for rail travel.
Posted by SouthCountyResident, a resident of another community, on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm
I am encouraged to hear all the churn and discord on this. There was (and is) a huge misinformation campaign on HSR prior to the election. Like the CalTrain Bullet, HSR ONLY meets the alleged travel times by limiting the number of stops. The plan defines twenty four station locations, five are on the 2.5 hr timetable.
The Pacheo Pass option gives the Central Valley politicos a transportation corridor project which would include a huge expansion of Hwy 156. Four lanes on either side of the HSR corridor, just like Altamont Pass. There has been a desire to widen Pacheo Pass for years, but the Northern CA factions have not had enough juice to get this type of project funded. The larger portion of votes for HSR came from Southern CA, where the bulk of the population resides.
BTW - I was on a one man information campaign against the Pacheo route and Prop 1 with letters and email to Sacramento and area papers starting in August 2008. And remember, the Gov singled out Prop 1 to have changes made during the period where he was not signing any bills, that is why the proposition was titled 1A.
There needs to be more organization down in South County, specifically Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Any suggestions from you all up North?
Keep up the fight and let's get the route changed to a more sensible route, Altamont Pass
Posted by Richard, a resident of another community, on Feb 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm
The ballot proposition passed. A state agency has been established to plan the system and begin construction. The initial route has been decided. The bonds will be sold as soon as financial market conditions are favorable. The Obama administration has indicated it will provide initial funding to begin engineering and facilities construction. All this has happend or will happen in the near future.
When it does, a few will still be arguing about the I5 corridor, bridge routes to San Francisco, the Altamont Pass alternative and other issues that are already DOA. Or worse, they will continue making themselves look delusional by claiming the vote of the people doesn't count.
If we follow their lead, we will lose out on the chance for real and constuctive input to make the Peninsula segment of the line work for all of us.
Posted by stock trader, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm
Yeah, I'll be "waiting" for 4 years for this financial market to stabilize. The Dow is dropping to 3000 in the next 2-3 years. The unemployment rate will go to 30%, and housing prices have 20% or more to drop. Let California try and sell bonds, because the only time people will be delusional enough to buy them will be this year. This year is the last year the market, housing, and the government will be able to pull any of this off. After August 2009, we can kiss the life we once knew and are trying so desperately to hold onto goodbye and say hello to the Great Depression.
Posted by Me Again, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm
What fund manager would buy California HSR bonds after looking at California's credit rating, California's debt level, California's budget maladies, the public dissent over the project, whatever pending lawsuits there may be, the general pie-in-the-sky nature of the proposal, and the tendency of these projects to go over budget? There are much more sound public works projects to invest in.
Prop. 1A was not a referendum on the project or the routes. It was a $10 million bond authorization. They have yet to sell their first bond in this economic environment. It is misleading to imply that voters approved any aspect of the project other than allowing bonds to be issued.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2009 at 12:36 am
HSR strikes me as a preposterous folly, and a conceit dreamed up by folks that like to have fun with other people's money. I predict it takes twice as long and costs twice as much to build as predicted. Then, once built, the ticket price will be so prohibitively high that too few will use it and we'll be stuck subsidizing it with tax dollars for forever, like Amtrak. For goodness sake,how many people truly need to travel from LA to SanFran or Sacramento every day, and what proportion of those will actually be lured out of plane travel to do so? In all likelihood, those are business travelers whose travel expense is paid for and who'll take the fastest way, especially so if train fare and airfare are close to parity.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2009 at 11:07 am
As a frequent user of the Northeast Corridor which runs from Boston to DC and takes me from NY city to DC in less than 3 hours from city center to city center I wish nothing better than high speed rail with a stop in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is the most visited of the Silicon valley cities and the most cosmopolitan. It deserves and needs a high speed rail station.
Property values including commercial ones increase with more transportation options, but it's true that for small number of people might not and in fact they will have to sell their properties. The great majority will benefit. Properties to be eminent "domained" are not unique, fantastic or historical and can be replaced easily though for the their owners it will be painful, of course- it's their house and neighborhood, the proverbial eggs to be broken when making an omelette. That fact shouldn't make public policy.
I am already isolated from other parts of Palo Alto by not being being able to cross Oregon Expressway because of a well founded fear of being hit - I can't cross n one go and to wait fro the next green light I perch myself precariously on the 2 feet of curb while cars zip by me. There aren't any more accidents because not many cross Oregon E or Embarcadero to go anywhere (except for students because they have to and cross in group by the most part).
So, get that high speed train in - I, for one welcome it. But do so disrupting as little as possible.
Posted by skeptic, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm
Narnia, you obviously haven't done your research on Acela. It's been a disaster almost since day 1. If it's finally breaking even (it hasn't done so for most of its existence) it's because the prices are high.
My family traveled between DC and NYC last summer. We considered taking the train, but the cost was over $70/person for a 4 hour trip. Acela, which would have shaved an entire hour off that trip, cost more than twice as much as regular Amtrak. Not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars that way, we ended up paying $17.50 for a bus that took 4 hours and also took us to the center of the city.
How many people are willing to pay hundrds of dollars to travel to LA? And bear in mind that this is a totally different environment. Boston, NY, and DC all have excellent public transit systems. LA and most of the Bay Area do not. I have taken Amtrak to LA -- I like trains -- but had to rent a car on the other end.
HSR is a huge boondoggle that ignorant voters bought. I don't see where the money is going to come from, but assuming the project goes ahead, it should be done the right way. Destroying the peninsula is not the right way, and it's not just a few people who will be adversely affected. Most of us who truly understand the devastation that HSR could wreak do not live anywhere near the tracks!
Posted by Berkeley did it, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm
Not sure if anyone has pointed this out, but when BART was built, Berkeley voted to put the tracks underground despite dire predictions of huge increased costs. As I remember, the predictions were wrong. Someone might wish to go back and look up what happened there.
Posted by narnia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2009 at 10:58 am
Unlike most of you I live part of the year in the East Coast and I and my family travel on the Northeast Corridor very often. It is the only Amtrak service that pays for itself and has a HUGE ridership both of occasional and commuters ( for example the service to Wilmington DE where many if not most of the Bay Area's large companies* are incorporated, is oversubscribed).
* HP, Ebay, Google and so many others that a list would be too long...
The Acela few and minor problems have been corrected (it is after all a new and innovative venture). There has been no decreasing in ridership. The Acela is but one of the many trains running up and down the corridor....
In their anxiety to ward off the HSR project some bay area residents are counting every little problem and magnifying every little hurdle....But in the end Public Policy cannot and should not take into account the discomfort of few when the general well being is at stake.
I can discuss and see the possible drawbacks of the HSR in the Peninsula but it seems to me that the greater objections in this forum are of a private nature (train noise near my property, having to move, having to sell.....) and should not be taken into account with the
exception of treating people fairly financially in an eminent domain take over. Now is the time. Property prices are depressed and the project should move quickly.
I am for it if it is financially feasible and wise and I am not sure it is. But I will not entertain Nymbyism as a factor in a decision.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Feb 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm
Amazing to see so many people diatribe against a project that will CREATE JOBS, PROTECT OUR AIR, REDUCE FLIGHTS OVERHEAD, and IMPROVE OUR TRANSPORTATION OPTIONs. I agree we should push for the most environmentally friendly options for the routing and Palo Alto station, but let's get into the 21st century and stop fighting the concept of running the train up the Peninsula. We are LUCKY to have an existing ROW and to get full co-benefits of upgrading Caltrain and commuting speed and to have the SF end finally end at TransBay rather than 4th and Townsend. And let's make sure we get the station, not Redwood City. All this bickering is going to do is have us drive to Redwood City to go to LA. That makes no sense!
Posted by Richard, a resident of another community, on Feb 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm
"...say hello to the Great Depression."
Well, stock trader, in that case you have nothing to worry about. The bonds won't be sold and Pres. Obama will have the WPA build it for us. The government may even offer you a construction job since stock trading will be as useful as rag picking. I take that back-- rag picking still has real social value.
Posted by PokerDad, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2009 at 8:52 am
I love the idea of high speed trains, and I would probably use it.
But voted against this thing. It was an obvious boondoggle, well-underfunded. At the time it never seemed imaginable that someone would actually put a 130Mph train through neighborhoods, next to parks and schools. Had that been on the bond measure, it would have died a horrible death. The high speed trains in France and Japan operate at LOW speed in populated areas. They know these things are LOUD. I have been on the Shinkansen and high speed trains in Europe. There is a BIG difference between living next to a 50Mph commuter train on the Caltrain corridor vs. one of these monsters. They look cool, sleek, modern, and move fast. Fast == LOUD. Nobody should have to be subjected to this. I suggest you listen to one yourself.
As for the comments that the Majority benefit should outweigh the losses of a minority, I think that concept disappeard in the 60's. If the high speed train destroys property value, the HSR should pay for it. NOT just the eminant domain property taken for space usage, but the degradation of neighboring properties as well.
I have no problem with the majority will, but the majority must compensate the people affected. Period.
Money is the problem. The state doesn't want to pay the real impact.
The real issue here is that the HSR is trying to cut corners on this project to control budget, and push the environmental costs onto local governments, communities, and individual homeowners. That is not fair. If they really want a high speed train, then the state should pay to do this in a low impact way. Any other proposal is simply theft and destruction.
6.5M voters said yes. Ridership estimates: 117M. How does this work? I suspect the ridership is estimated by the same crooks who estimated the SJ Light-Rail fiasco.
Finally, what is wrong with running this along the bay from SF to SJ. The ACE train does this, and it is a straight, clean shot, you can run 200mph out there and nobody will care. Land is cheap, and I doubt the salt marsh will care at all. Why was this shot down?
Posted by stock trader, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2009 at 1:38 pm
Richard, seems you have trouble looking both ways. The stock market isn't just for traders to profit as it goes up. What goes up must come down and I trade it both ways. But unfortunately, the majority of Americans, including Obama and Congress seem to think they need to prop up the stock market with endless and meaningless stimulus bills.
Hey, I'll gladly pick up the rags when this mess is done and over with. :) When no one wants stocks, that's the best time to buy! LOL!
Note: we wrote it before the original deadline extension but already have signatures so I cannot change the text. If you agree please sign and forward it on to others who are concerned want a stronger voice at the table.