News

Rod Diridon: High-speed rail on-track, needed

Transit advocate tells Palo Alto Rotarians that project is too far along to reconsider basic routes as requested by local cities

Note: Diridon's entire Powerpoint presentation on high-speed-rail projects worldwide can be viewed by clicking the "video" image to the left or by visiting YouTube.com

Rod Diridon, a key leader of the high-speed rail project to link San Francisco and Los Angeles, told a Palo Alto audience this week that it's $77 million and many months too late to reconsider routes.

Diridon, speaking to the Palo Alto Rotary Club at Ming's Restaurant, said the rail project is too far along to re-open the routing discussion, despite a coalition of Peninsula cities that are suing or threatening to sue to block the route up the Peninsula along the Caltrain right-of-way.

Diridon the week before ruffled feathers at the Palo Alto City Council meeting when he refused to say the project would "negotiate" with local cities, but that their comments would be considered along with other input to a "scoping" process leading to a full environmental-impact review and report on the Peninsula segment of the $40-billion-plus rail system, between San Jose and San Francisco.

He said there have been about $77 million (corrected from an earlier reported $90 million) in engineering and route-assessment studies done for various segments of the preferred route, selected after many months of public meetings and discussion.

Most of Diridon's presentation focused on how the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in utilizing high-speed trains. He said the trains have massive environmental benefits over other forms of transportion, using 1/5 the energy of cars and 1/3 the energy of airplanes, which he called the "most polluting" form of transportation per passenger mile.

As envisioned, the trains would speed up and down the Central Valley at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, but would travel through the Peninsula at about 125 miles per hour. They would require grade-separated tracks, with alternatives of either tunneling or elevating the tracks triggering resident protests of a raised "Berlin Wall" through communities.

Diridon said as a rail authority official he is precluded under federal regulations on environmental reviews from expressing personal opinions about preferred alternatives. He said the scoping sessions will define alternatives to be studied in an extensive environmental review of the project, which will culminate in and environmental-impact report (EIR) with all alternatives listed, with impacts and costs.

The final EIR is expected to be completed by mid-2010, at which point everyone involved will know more precise details of the project so the debate over alternatives will be more strongly based in facts, Diridon told the Rotarians.

He hurried through a PowerPoint presentation showing the sleek trains already in use in Japan, France, Germany, Britain and all other industrialized nations -- save one: the United States.

Diridon, who has focused on transportation issues for decades and has been called the "father of light-rail" in Santa Clara County, is a former member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and a former candidate for the state Assembly. He currently heads the Norman I. Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, and is chairman of the board of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Voters approved the rail project last Nov. 4 by a 52 percent majority, authorizing $9.9 billion in startup funds, with the balance of the estimated $40 billion to be raised from major grants and other sources.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by samuel
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm



why do I feel I am being railroaded by mr Diridon ?

Because I am and we are.

There would be no customer demand for such a HSR if it were built, which it will not be.

we have far more important things to do that enslave our children in debt for some feelgood very, very expensive door stop project.
it is dead in the water, throwing good money after bad has never been a pursuasive argument.

It is a decision trap called SUNK COST THINKING.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Diridon's slick presentations show NO european trains ramming through residential areas with houses 30' away from the tracks- NONE OF THAT exists in Diridon's presos.

Resistance to this boondoggle is intense all over the bay area, Diridon has a massive fight on his hands. My bet is this never gets built.

My favorite HSR scam du jour is the SF transbay terminal being "too small" for the massive ridership claimed by HSR. Actually they just pulled the numbers out of the keester to make the numbers look better, of course.


Like this comment
Posted by Betty J
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm

High Speed Rail (HSR - 220 mph) ideally should travel between Los Angeles and San Jose. Medium speed rail (80 mph) can complete the trip, you chose express or local, to San Francisco or Oakland with no expensive rebuilding of tracks or disruption of anyone in the Bay Area. This would assure the success of new, quiet electric CalTrain for decades to come. And it would get people closer to where they really want to go without an internal combustion engine involved.

Who appointed Rod Diridon king? Mr Diridon's claim to fame: the father of San Jose Light Rail, by far the most subsidized transit system in the US. Users pay something like 16 cents per dollar of Light Rail costs.

Get real. Mr. Diridon may think it is too late to change his HSR Master Plan, but he hasn't been dragged through our jurisprudence system, our political system, or our court of public opinion yet.


Like this comment
Posted by Bruno
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I'm so excited about this HSR. I can't wait for it to be completed so I can ride it down to L.A. for the weekend. Yay HSR!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

how often do people go between LA and bayarea??? I hope not everyday or once a month.

HSR is another wasting $$$$ project....... Let's focus on more important and immediate needs.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm

SARAH ARE YOU SERIOUS? You asked: "How often do people go between LA and Bay Area??? I hope not everyday or once a month."

GOSH SARAH -- Southwest runs planes hourly. United, Virgin America, American, and others seem to think a lot of people go pretty often.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm

If the ridership estimates for this train are limited to the number of flights from SF->LA ridership, that isn't even going to COME CLOSE to the cost of this thing. My god, it makes me wonder if Diridon and friends actually considered the FLIGHT TRAFFIC when estimating ridership, and multiplied it to whatever they needed to make the numbers work.


Like this comment
Posted by Vote "NO"
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Sarah: There are people who live in the Bay Area and fly to LA everyday to work and vice versa. I know because my husband did it for months before we moved up here.

Before everyone gets too upset about the HSR coming up the Peninsula. So far the voters have only agreed to pay $9.5 Billion for planning. When the HSR Authority comes back and asks you for the many Billions of Dollars to actually construct HSR; show your opposition and vote "NO" to anymore money.


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Posted by HelenSS
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:13 pm

The article states that "He said there have been about $90 million in engineering and route-assessment studies done for various segments of the preferred route, selected after many months of public meetings and discussion."

Is anyone checking his numbers?? $90 million spent so far on what!!! Is anyone checking his facts - months of public meetings and discussion - where??? I can't believe that people actually take him at his word. If it's really true that this much has been spent with nothing built yet then California and the Feds will never have enough money to ever build this.

He keeps saying it's too late to revisit the routes yet there isn't one bit of track laid. Now is the time to rethink this and get it done right so that it benefits everyone without burdening the cities and homeowners on the Peninsula. It doesn't have to come up the Peninsula.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:16 pm


Why throw good money after bad and waste $b9.5

Diridon grossly mismanaged the light rail project and he has grossly mismanaged this project so far.

Let us kill it and get rid of him now, before he can do any more damage


Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Do we really need another money pit to toss our money in? Let's see....BART is losing money, VTA is losing money, Amtrack is losing money, lightrail is losing money, airlines are losing money, Muni is losing money, the state is bankrupt and somehow the mother of all public transportation projects is going to be a big financial success. Get real. LOL


Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Can't wait for this thing to be built. I'm sure they'll be able to iron out the wrinkles. Palo Alto -> Downtown SF in 30 minutes would sure be nice.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The rails are there - no one living near the tracks was unaware when they moved there. This is a modernization of an existing facility, not new construction. I only hope that they do not exclude freight.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Regarding taxpayer subsidized HSR, there's good news and bad. The good news is that the fine print of the proposition states that “2704.04 (5) (d) Proceeds of bonds authorized pursuant to this chapter shall not be used for any operating or maintenance costs of trains or facilities.” - Web Link
The bad news is that according to Prop 1A summary, "When constructed, additional unknown costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year, to operate and maintain a high-speed train system. The costs would be at least partially, and potentially fully, offset by passenger fare revenues, depending on ridership." - taken from the official voterguide.sos.ca.gov Web Link.
In plain English this means that the CHSRA isn’t very confident in their ridership projections if passenger fare revenues will pay for operation and maintenance costs only “at least partially”. The bond money is protected from being used to subsidize operation, but that doesn’t stop CHSRA from picking our other pockets.


Like this comment
Posted by MeMe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Just watch the recent interview on ABC7 with Diridon. He comes across as an arrogant shark. I guess you could call him the original San Jose Shark. Indeed, he comports himself as if someone anointed him king.

In selecting the Pacheco Pass route they have left out one significant detail -- they don't have a deal to use the UPRR right of way between Gilroy and San Jose. D'oh! In my book I call that lying to the public.

And don't give me this nonsense about "People knew they were buying their houses next to train tracks". That's a load of B.S. How were they to know in the '70s that HSR would be coming through?

Want to take the train to L.A.? Take Amtrak. Need to get there in a hurry? Fly!


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Neighbor - gosh are YOU serious? You think all those people at SFO and SJC are coming from the Peninsula? Those airports are serving all of Northern California - including everything EAST of the Bay. Do you think those people are going to come squeezing themselves into the Peninsula to get HSR? Don't worry, this will all have to come out in the project level EIR/EIS. The CHSRAs ridership assumptions from Peninsula to LA are a crock, but they'll have to come clean on this. The days of them flying under the radar are over over over.


Like this comment
Posted by James Harrison
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Walter, I usually enjoy your posts as you cut through all the bs. But saying this is not new construction is uninformed. There are tracks there, but HSR wants to ADD at least 2 more sets of tracks. It's not $50+billion of upgrades. It would essentially be ALL new construction. All overpasses, underpasses, street crossings, stations, etc... would all have to be redone, not "modernized". As far as the tracks being there when people moved there, sure they've been there, but no one expected MORE tracks to be put there or an elevated train wall. And it will affect more than just those on the tracks.

None of this touches on the fact that the business plan is a total sham. Any private investor has to see that. The only way anyone gets money out of it is from the gov't subsidizing it, which they will have to.

How can anyone put the "father of Light Rail" in charge of any transportation project????


Like this comment
Posted by Gotcha!
a resident of University South
on Mar 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Script for Terminator Salvation Reloaded (2012):
“John Connor was slowly moving through rubbles and glanced over a street sign still barely displaying: “University Ave.” and “Ramona St”… He could not believe that just several years ago this was a center of Palo Alto – a popular destination for Silicon Valley folks… Now it was all abandoned. Suddenly, a sound of loud explosion made him duck for cover - that was a HSR train passing through the dead city at speed of 220 MPH…”


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2009 at 9:13 pm


There are many prospects for high speed sea transport of freight from Oakland and SF to LA.
The infrastructure at each port is already in place.

Smaller packages will continue to go FedEx because they know the logistics and they know the business.

We do not have heavy industry anymore and the food comes, or should come mainly from the central valley or locally.

There will be no customer demand for the train, business is using TelePresence, families use cars, the rest will use fuel efficient planes.


Like this comment
Posted by Elena
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I don't understand people complaining that they won't go to LA every weekend. Won't the train stop at other cities? Can't people go from Fresno to San Jose, for instance? I have friends who live in the Central Valley and come to Silicon Valley to work. And how do cities in Europe and Asia handle trains going through neighborhoods? They don't stop at the edge of town and tell people to walk the rest of the way. So how do they handle it?


Like this comment
Posted by jim
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Once this is up and rinning it will be a great stimulus to the state economy and help california continue to be the national leader. America would be lost without California's forward thinking. In addition to that I won't have to risk my life flying anymore. ( train crash easy to survive, falling from 30000 ft not so much) Plus now I won't have to spend 45 minutes getting to the airport, check in an hour before flight time, spend 20 minutes on the tarmac, and do it all again at the other end. Now Ill be able to go to hollywood for lunch, go shopping on Melrose, and be home by dinner and be able to meet have my freinds join my at fresno on the way down. very nice.


Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:33 am

Quick question: How long it will take for one to go from SF to LA in the high speed train>?


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:06 am

You better check your facts before you get too excited about the travel times, Jim. According to the CHSRA, using HSR instead of air travel will shorten your SF-LA door-to-door travel time by only two minutes. You could travel via San Jose instead. There you’d see an improvement of 12 minutes.
It's hard to believe. How many people do you think were aware that the travel times were so close when they voted? You can check these numbers for yourself on page 3 of their glossy “Fly California” brochure Web Link.


Like this comment
Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:09 am

I watched the light rail project from the beginning.

They were proposing it was going to be a overhead monorail at the beginning.
Then I guess Mr.Diridon got involved and as his hobby as a child was toy trains it turned into a early 19th century train type project.

The first route went to IBM to downtown San Jose. All improvenents to Hwy 101 going south were blocked as everyone was supposto take the light rail south.

What a joke and disaster.
Mr Diridon was promoted out of the VTA as a way to get rid of him.
Light Rail is rated as one of the countrys worst transit system.

One possible ways to stop or slow the project is to have a ballot measure that would require all operating costs to be paid by the passengers (fares)and by the private contractors/operators/part owners.
His latest comment on a talk show (oh! it was Judge Kopp) said the $50 fair would be adjusted by inflation when the sys was operating 15 or 20 years from now. He also said the 50 to 60 mile section from San Francisco to Gilroy would cost $4.4 billion. Isn't the BART line, 16 miles, from Fremont to S.Jose costing $6.6billion??
I wonder if the $9.9billion includes the terminals in S.F and S.J. and Palo Alto or Redwood City.??
The major terminals would have to be as big as the airport terminals as the HSR is to carry at least 30 million people per year to S.J.and S.Francisco.,Right
Imagine 30 million in San Francisco going to L.A. each year.
Isn't S.F. a city of about 1 million people? Also S.J. about 1 million people.

The ridership no.s were picked out of the air to justify building it, I would guess. Do a million people a year use Light Rail or even BART? Does BART make a profit? HSR is projected to make a profit according to Mr.Diridon. All gov projects make a profit don't they? Gov project beat private projects don't they? Gov is so much more effecient aren't they. HSR will put the Airlines out of business I guess.
Who says HSR won't have all of the security systems and delays that airlines have?
If an earthquake or anything else knocks over the 15+ ft high rail system going thru the city, think what would happen with traing coming by every 3 minutes. How many trains going at 125 mph would crash, one after another. Each carrying hundreds of passengers.

Nothing has been said where the megawatts of power to run HSR is going to come from. ?? Windmills as shown in the ad's?
Or solar power?? or Coal power plants lining the tracks??

Or magic power?? That cost probably isn't factored in.
How about Hydorgen/Fuel cells? No power lines needed then.
Hydorgen is free I guess, made from water, magically.

HSR is much more important than schools or health care, Right?


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:15 am

Quick answer to Anna: According to the “Fly California” brochure, door-to-door SF-LA HSR travel time is 3:30 and SJ-LA is 3:02.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:03 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The corridor is there. My preferred business model would be to open the rails to private users just as airports are. Municipalities maintain airports but business owns the planes. Operating personnel would balance their job demands against competitive pressures.
Grade crossings are an abomination now. Whatever happens to the rail corridor, crossings at grade must be outlawed.
New design tools and emulation programs can produce quieter trains, but the base line goal must be current levels, not forrest glade levels.


Like this comment
Posted by Mitakes that have been made
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:06 am

"And how do cities in Europe and Asia handle trains going through neighborhoods?" They elevated them through London. However, the whole bullet train system from the outskirts of London to the Kent coast has had to be rebuilt in a trench.

Many of the towns between London and the coast objected strongly to bullet trains running through their towns at high speed along the same route as the regular trains. The bullet train has been rebuilt and now goes through the countryside in a trench with one big stop like an airport where everyone drives to, parks, and gets on the train to Paris.

This is how our HSR should be built. After they've built it along the peninsula Caltrains corridor they'll see what a huge mistake it was and rebuilt it West of Hwy 280.


Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:03 am

The reason bart estimates are so much more than HSR (bart over 6 billion fremont->SJ vs HSR 4 billion for entire peninsula route) is because bart is done right, underground where it belongs and HSR is an underfunded scam intended to promote san jose to "San Francisco status" where nobody lives there and instead people commute in from Central Valley to all these jobs in SJ. that way, SJ gets more tax revenue from the companies located there. But to do that they need this transport that is the incentive. But SJ is not SF, nor will it ever be. The good parts of SJ are going to be ruined by this train and there will be nothing left.


Like this comment
Posted by anon.
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:10 am

Observer, SJ is a great city. I object to your statements. I grew up in Almaden Valley, a much nicer place to live than SF or PA.


Like this comment
Posted by Betty J
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:21 am

Based on my TGV train experiences all over Europe and Bullet Train experiences in Japan, boarding HSR will be like boarding any US commercial airline flight, security checks and all.

While a HSR train may travel between Palo Alto and San Francisco in 30 minutes, your elapsed time for this HSR trip will be closer to 2 hours because of the secure boarding process that will be required.

Why are our civic leaders, including Rod Diridon, not telling us this?

San Jose Airport, which Mr. Diridon should know well, provides the perfect model for what it takes to board a commercial flight, destination Los Angeles, flight time one hour.

Here is what you add to your one hour flight time...

1. Pack, get in car, head for airport
2. Arrive San Jose Airport
3. Go to Long Term Parking
4. Find Space and Park
5. Carry luggage to Shuttle pickup point
6. Board Shuttle
7. Ride to Terminal
8. Get off Shuttle, retrieve luggage
9. Check-in luggage at least 45 minutes before flight time, get Boarding Pass
10. Go through airport security check
11. Wait to board plane
12. Board plane
13. Plane pushed back from gate
14. Plane taxies to take-off holding point
15. Plane waits for tower clearance for take-off
16. Take-off (flight time begins when wheels leave tarmac)

Total up the time it takes you to accomplish Steps 1 to 16. Add that to your airline flight or HSR train time.

Boarding HSR will be almost exactly the same as boarding any commercial airline flight because the security checks are identical. The reason: HSR is a 'terrorist target' just as airline flights are.

Armed with this information, now how long do you think it will take you to go from Palo Alto to San Francisco using HSR?


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:40 am

You are correct that they haven't built any of the power supply infrastructure build out into the costs - in the Program EIR/EIS they basically say YES the power will be a signficant impact on California's already strapped power generation and bottlenecked transmission network (every heard of Stage 1 Emergency? rolling blackouts?) And the mitigation? The only thing they offer is that because the HSR project is phased, it will come on line over time so it won't be such a shock to the system - that eventually California's energy grid will build itself up to accomodate HSR.

People, you need to start immediately writing letters to your California State level representatives. Let them know they do not have the backing of the people behind them on this issue. They MUST start asking these tough questions and requiring answers from CHSRA before our dollars are thrown down the toilet and WELL before CHSRA is allowed to start demolishing towns.

In other words, - they don't give a crap where the electricty will come from - they'll just plug in and roll. Where it will come from and how much it will cost to create that capability - OUR PROBLEM.


Like this comment
Posted by HBR
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:34 am

According to Caltrain's web site, their "Baby Bullet express service makes it possible to travel between San Francisco and San Jose in less than an hour. Caltrain offers 22 weekday commute-hour bullet trains." Web Link

The schedule shows that these trains take either 57 (4 stops) or 59 (5 stops) minutes from SF to "San Jose Diridon" station.

Considering the added time for security check-in, etc., on the high speed train as contrasted with Caltrain, considering also that the upgraded Caltrain would doubtless take fewer than the current 57/59 minutes, one has to ask whether it may well be faster to take Caltrain from SF to SJ than to take high speed rail. This may be so even allowing for the fact that high speed rail plans only 2 stops as contrasted with the Baby Bullet's 4 or 5, stops that enable the Baby Bullet to actually serve the peninsula not just barrel through it.


Like this comment
Posted by floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Since this issue surfaced, I've been trying to think of a reason to go to LA (at any speed), but nothing comes into mind.


Like this comment
Posted by Diane
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Taxpayers need to know that if this high speed rail system were to go through as planned, it would be the largest construction project ever completed in the history of the USA - and it would be funded by a state that is already in a state of near bankruptcy! Think the Federal Govt. will pay for it? Only $8 Billion has been allocated to HSR and that's for all the states. CA will be lucky to get $2 B. Projected costs for the run from Sf to LA range from $150 to 200 BILLION!! Who is going to pay for this???? Generations yet to be born.

As much as anyone in CA, I would like to see high speed rail in the US. I've ridden them in Italy and France and can testify that the experience is wonderful. However, their routes are planned as to avoid residential areas almost entirely and the traveler views the rural beauties of the country.

If the current plan is adopted and the HSR is run from San Francisco to San Jose, a total 140 trains/day will roar through our neighborhoods. That's right! 140/day! The residential areas will be divided by a 20+' concrete wall, at least 4 tracks wide, with towering electrified wires. If there is a desire to diminish the sound of train traffic, walls will have to be raised another 20 feet. Can anyone imagine this?

Why push the necessity of HSR from SF to SJ? Why not try first to alleviate the traffic nightmares that exist on the corridor from Tracey to the Bay? Why not let the first money be spent where it will resolve the horrendous traffic from San Diego-Orange Co-Los Angeles? There is money there to fund HSR and people support it solidly.

Too many questions remain unanswered for even this pro-HSR advocate to get on board.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I thought HSR ran out of money...? what is this all about? How will they continue if they don't have money and people are working for free on this? A bit confused as to what the facts are regarding funding for this.


Like this comment
Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

The twenty-foot high wall notion is a red herring people who oppose high speed rail have invented to scare people. The Palo Alto Planning Commissioners are asking that all the options be explored- nothing is carved in stone at this point. But people who have a vested interest in opposing high speed rail are exploiting people's fears about how things may change.

People need to stop and think about how expensive the alternatives are. Highways are expensive, and are taxpayer-subsidized. Airports are VERY expensive, and are also taxpayer-subsidized. In twenty years California will have another 15 million people living here. Doing nothing is not an option. There is still time to engage in the process to make sure it is something that is reasonably acceptable to our communities. We are talking about upgrading an existing rail corridor. Caltrain as it stands now divides our communities, delays traffic, hampers pedestrian flow and looks unsightly. Grade separations and electrification are a good thing. Expanding highways and airports are expensive alternatives to HSR. Are we going to just pave the whole state?


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Bianca, the 20 foot high wall is in the Final Program EIR/EIS which is the basis for Measure 1A. Robert and Rafael will be the first to point you to that document to PROVE that measure 1A included express voter consent for the Pacheco pass route. Are you suggesting the Final Program EIR/EIS was a crock? That some parts were believable, some were just phony half-baked? Which parts were which? Should we throw the hole thing out? or just the parts you think were nonsense?

Bianca -Caltrain is slated for upgrade see Caltrain 2025, without the negative impacts of HSR.

And news flash Bianca, trains go in straight lines. Your HSR doesn't get anyone out of cars. It generates MORE traffic into congested neighborhoods that are NOT transport hub sensible locations. It doesn't get any freight trucking off highway 5 - the biggest source of traffic between SF and LA. And HSR threading through the deepest parts of Peninsula neighborhoods doesn't serve a damn person east of SF Bay. The rest of Northern California east of SF Bay is completely hosed by this route. So go find another route that makes sense and doesn't decimate perfectly fine working neighborhood communities and school districts in the process.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Parent says,

"The rest of Northern California east of SF Bay is completely hosed by this route."

Uhhh, what about the stations in Modesto, Stockton, Merced and Sacramento? Those cities are clearly in Northern California and East of SF Bay.

So many lies being spread on this board and way too much whining. People forget that these peninsula cities were actually built around the existing railroad. See the giant Mayfield railroad mural on Ramona off of California Ave. as an example. Just think what our NIMBY residents would say to that now!


Like this comment
Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Parent says:

"the 20 foot high wall is in the Final Program EIR/EIS "

Citation, please.

I searched the Final Program EIR/EIS. If it's there, I didn't find it. But I did find this:

"3.9.5 Design Practices

It would be speculative to address specific aesthetic treatments at the conceptual level of design of this program-level study. However, the Authority is committed to working with local agencies and communities during subsequent project-level environmental review to develop systemwide design elements that draw from the best practices worldwide and treatments for HST infrastructure (overcrossings, bridges, tunnel portals, soundwalls, walls and fencing, stations, support facilities, etc.)"

You can read the EIR/EIS for yourselves at Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:14 pm

“I searched the Final Program EIR/EIS. If it's there, I didn't find it.”
Don’t feel bad, Bianca. Besides the glossy pages that they want you to see, the rest of the CA high-speed website is tricky to navigate. The elevations can be found on page 9 of this link Web Link. They have us (Palo Alto) down for 15 foot walls for north PA and 7-8 foot walls for south PA. They need 21’ clearance at the crossings, but they’ve lowered the wall to what’s called a split grade separation and intend to lower the cross streets to make up the difference. However, if you’re intimately familiar with the cross streets you’ll know that this plan won’t work unless they lower Alma, too. Hence some people’s assumption that the walls will be 21’.
The CHSRA doesn’t have a good record for being open with their plans. I can document a pattern of deceptive behavior that’s on a knife’s edge of legal. People are slowly coming to realize this, and the CHSRA has earned every bit of the public’s distrust that’s directed at them. They pulled a fast one with the Altamont Pass. They distorted the ridership and revenue forecasts, the impact on the environment, the door-to-door travel times compared to air travel, and the list goes on. The latest is the fiasco with the Transbay Terminal trainbox. We should all be on high alert to watch them carefully and keep them from ruining our communities and being loose with our bond and federal tax dollars. We DO pay the bill for the federal stimulus package, despite everyone running around acting like it’s free money.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Getting back to Jay Thorwaldson’s original article, I’d like to thank Jay for putting the spotlight on Rod Diridon. He’s a big part of the HSR problem. I encourage you, Jay, to do some investigative journalism and expose how Prop 1A took shape, especially regarding the choice of the Pacheco Pass route. Team up with other Peninsula newspapers and see what you can collectively dig up – you’ll do your readerships a great service by making them aware of the history – and future – of HSR in their neighborhoods and communities.
From Jay’s article, “[Diridon] said there have been about $90 million in engineering and route-assessment studies done for various segments of the preferred route, selected after many months of public meetings and discussion.”
What Diridon says is false. In fact the Pacheco Pass alignment was adopted on July 21, 1999, according to a letter from San Jose’s Transportation Director to the Mayor and City Council dated June 16, 2005. Web Link Read the letter carefully. It was written in coordination with the VTA, the CHSRA, the Office of Intergovernmental Relations and the Silicon Valley High-Speed Rail Coalition. At the bottom of the letter it explains that the Silicon Valley High-Speed Rail Coalition, of which the City of San Jose is an active member, “was formed to advocate not only for the construction of the proposed high-speed rail system, but also for a Pacheco Pass alignment into the San Francisco Bay Area from the Central Valley.” Their membership list is here Web Link.
Referring back to the Diridon quote, he says that the route was selected AFTER many months of public meetings and discussion. In fact the selection came first and the meetings occurred after. The outreach meetings were held from Nov. 2005-2008. The invitation list is here Web Link and includes only one city on the Peninsula. Attendance at the Public Hearings was also suspicious. The majority of the speakers at the San Jose Hearing were members of the Silicon Valley High-Speed Rail Coalition – that group that formed to advocate the Pacheco Pass alignment.
So what have we got? Pacheco Pass was adopted in 1999; the EIR came after the fact and was almost certainly designed to come to predetermined conclusions; the route was adopted through political means, not fact-based research; CHSRA attempted to controlled who was informed and who was not. None of this is speculation – it’s all well-documented if you have the patience to dig.
How about it, Jay Thorwaldson, will you dig for us?


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm

"He said the trains have massive environmental benefits over other forms of transportion, using 1/5 the energy of cars"

Jay, did he defend that statement? I can assure eveyone that it is completely false. There is no energy benefit to HST vs. cars. The only environmental benefit would be if nuclear power is used to generate the base load electrical generation. Even then, automobiles, if fully electrified, would be equally environmentally efficient.

It might be useful, Jay, if you did your homework, instead of parroting Diridon's propaganda piece.

The "Berlin Wall" in Palo Alto was not necessary. It has now become a done deal. This sad outcome had no basis in fact, just propaganda based on absurd environmental claims.

There was no serious reporting on this issue before the election on the state-wide proposition, especially in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 1:14 am

"The "Berlin Wall" in Palo Alto was not necessary. It has now become a done deal."

Now you're the liar. It's not a done deal and studies are still ongoing to determine how to build HSR on the Peninsula.


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Posted by Bob Niederman
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

Hey, how about a little vision out there? This is Palo Alto, remember? Let's see, 10 years from now we'll have 20 % more people and 30% more traffic. How many out there are enjoying 101 and 280 right now? How many use trains? Very few. Why? Inconvenience and speed. Imagine having a high speed rail to SFO and to San Jose airports. Wouldn't that be great? And if you are traveling to LA time is not the only feature to consider. What about petroleum use? This will be an electric train. Jets burn lots of gas. It's time for California to come into the 21st century and get a high speed train. Put it underground, and create a park-like setting on top- from downtown all the way to San Antonio road. This would increase the property values along the tracks. We pull down the fences and now there is 2.5 miles of green space. They did this in Berkeley. I drove from the University down Heast St. yesterday and there is about 1 mile of green space- how great! It's time that Palo Alto treat itself to some great urban spaces. This could be one. Let's get rid of all the fretting and start to think about how we really want to live and what we want our city to become!


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:28 am



This whole HSR project is a gold plated feelgood doorstop.

We need to pull the plug now, in 5yrs car will be much smaller and very, very fuel efficient.
Freeway capacity will increase dramatically with automated traffic control.
Business will be conducted via TelePresence Web Link
"This is already a well-established technology, used by many businesses today.
The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, John Chambers in June 2006 at the Networkers Conference compared telepresence to teleporting from Star Trek, and said that he saw the technology as a potential billion dollar market for Cisco.
It will
1/ Reduce travel spend,
2/ Reduce carbon footprint and environmental impact,
3/ Improve employees' work/life balance
4/ Improve employee productivity

HSR is already irrelevant before the ink is dry on the blueprints.

Kill the frankenmonster in the cradle




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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2009 at 11:27 am

wary traveler said,

"Hence some people’s assumption that the walls will be 21’."

It is an assumption. I went and looked at the citation "wary traveler" provided for the Final Project EIR/EIS. The diagram there has a notation for 4.2 m of retained fill. 4.2m is 15 feet, not 21. More to the point, directly above that notation, in bold caps, is the statement "NOTE: PLANS ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE". So if that is the basis for people bleating about 20 foot concrete walls, that's not very persuasive.

Here we have an opportunity to engage constructively with the process. We need to be clear-eyed about what the Caltrain ROW is today (active rail line; noisy horns; noisy, smelly diesel enginges; delays car traffic and hampers pedestrian and bike movement) with what the Caltrain 2025 plan will bring regardless of HSR (grade separation, electrification) and how adding HSR to that mix will be meaningfully different in terms of noise and aesthetics.


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Posted by Mills
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2009 at 11:38 am

Why did it cost $77Milion to do this study of routes and not consider other alternatives. Does anyone else find that amount of money outrageous and thats just a study and not even the cost of the railway. The existing railroad is already a nuisance splitting the peninsula cities in two. The peninsula cities are not going to want to have to tunnel under every railroad crossing for this bullet train so then that leaves the alternative of a tunnel from SJ to SF. I think that'll cost more than considering a new route or why not stop the train in San Jose and hop on caltrans non-stop to SF. The logical place for the train is along the 101.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Bianca, did you read the sentences immediately before "Hence people's assumption"? It's an informed assumption, not "bleating", as you call it. You yourself need to be clear-eyed about the configuration of those intersections.
You seem to imply that those "preliminary plans subject to change" words should relieve us somehow. The CHSRA (Diridon/Kopp) has a terrible track record for considering anyone's opinion other than their own. They've given us no reason to believe that they might replace the 15' elevated retained embankment with something better. They've also --very clearly-- demonstrated that they make their decisions quietly then disclose them after it's too late to change. Peninsula cities are (or ought to be) on guard because Diridon & Kopp made it clear that we must be.


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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I have some questions about "high speed" and cost. The train might whoosh from LA to SF with no stops in between and beat the airlines. But they might be passing up a lot of paying customers at the cities they bypass enroute. Stopping to pick them up will cut precious minutes (10 per stop in a lavishly optimistic view) every time. Add 30 min to the projected time and the in-a-hurry gang will start getting anxious and wonder about air travel next time.

In fact, if they intend to make even two or three stops between SJ and SF, their time could look more like the current Baby Bullet runs. How do you slow and accelerate to 125 mph that many times without killing your fuel/mileage? Can you accelerate and decellerate between Palo Alto and Redwood City or San Mateo and still take advantage of 125 mph?

Bigtime Pessimistic observation. Unless the same security and
cabin attendants are maintained on the train that we have on air travel, we may just give gangs and smugglers an elegantly efficient way to ply their trades. Imagine: In SJ for a hit job and back in LA with alibi in an 8-hour work day. Or, if it is cheap enough could the homeless and the disconnected just ride the rails? Have you ever taken the bus between Marin and Mendocino and been harrassed by a drugged out, slightly dangerous, character who has just peed all over himself? If there is any chance of a devolution to that state what do you think the well-heeled will ride? HSR could become very expensive to maintain and to ride.

I remember reading about the superiority of European train travel where the commentator pointed out that bullet trains work best when they link areas that have superior local transit to connect with. Even our local transit is alternately in its infancy and in its decline.

I'll need some convincing that HSR represents both the new way and an improvement. Plus I didn't vote for it.


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