News

Judge: Further study on high-speed rail a must

California High Speed Rail Authority ordered to rewrite parts of its environmental report, but Pacheco route still stands, rail officials say

A Sacramento judge ruled Wednesday that the state agency charged with building a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles must rewrite portions of its environmental review, a ruling that could delay the $40 billion project.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued a ruling Wednesday stating that the rail authority's voluminous Environmental Impact Report inadequately described the project and failed to address Union Pacific's refusal to share its right-of-way with the new rail system.

The judgment was prompted by a lawsuit by the cities of Atherton and Menlo Park and a coalition of environmental and transportation groups, who contended that the rail authority failed to consider the environmental impacts of running the high-speed trains through the Pacheco Pass, along the Caltrain corridor.

Kenny upheld the coalition's claim that the project was inadequately described in the environmental review.

He criticized the authority's "inadequate" description of the alignment of the high-speed rail tracks between San Jose and Gilroy.

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"The lack of specificity in turn results in an inadequate discussion of the impacts of the Pacheco alignment alternative on surrounding businesses and residences which may be displaced, construction impacts on the Monterey Highway, and impacts on Union Pacific's use of its right-of-way and spurs and consequently its freight operations," Kenny wrote.

But he ruled that the rail authority fairly considered the Altamont Pass and other alignments before choosing the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alternative. The environmental review, Kenny wrote, accurately described the challenges of using the Altamont Pass.

"Substantial evidence supports the FPEIR's (final program environmental impact report's) discussion of operational and environmental issues related to the Altamont Pass alternatives," Kenny wrote.

But Kenny ruled the rail authority failed to sufficiently consider Union Pacific's opposition to the rail authority's plans. Under the agency's preferred route, Union Pacific would have to share its right-of-way with the new system.

"If Union Pacific will not allow the Authority to use its right-of-way, it appears it will be necessary for the Authority to obtain additional right-of-way outside of this area, requiring the taking of property and displacement of residents and businesses," Kenny wrote.

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"However, none of this was addressed in the EIR."

Palo Alto had also filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the plaintiffs, though the court disregarded the brief in forming its opinion.

The coalition's lawsuit maintains that the rail authority inadequately considered the merits of the Pacheco Pass and the Altamont Pass (which runs through the East Bay) before selecting the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alternative.

The plaintiffs also argued that the rail authority failed to address how it would mitigate some of the project's environmental impacts and failed to respond to some of the comments submitted by various agencies before the review was finalized.

The authority has been negotiating with Union Pacific in recent months in hopes of resolving the dispute.

Rod Diridon, a member of the rail authority's Board of Directors, said the judge's ruling doesn't necessarily mean the project will be delayed. The only part of the environmental document that would need to be restudied is the one dealing with the rail segment between San Jose and Gilroy, he said.

Diridon said the Attorney General's office was studying the judge's ruling Wednesday afternoon to determine its impacts. He also said the impact of Kenny's judgment won't be known until the judge rules on the remedial actions the rail authority must take.

"It's too early to know for sure to know what's going to happen," Diridon said.

One such action could be further negotiations with Union Pacific, Diridon said.

Elizabeth Alexis, chair of Civic Affairs for the Greenmeadow Community Association in Palo Alto, said the ruling vindicates her belief in the legal and environmental-review system.

"It's good to see that the legal system can work and that the safeguards built into the environmental review process actually work -- that a project just can't be steamrolled through," she said. "Hopefully, the High Speed Rail Authority will step back and ask, 'Is this really how we want to do this?'

"It will be a test of the rail authority's willingness to do it right. This is a 100-year project and it should be done right," Alexis said.

David Schunbrunn of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, one of the six plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenge, told the Weekly that the ruling has an extra sweetness beyond the legal issues.

"It's particularly delicious in light of (Quentin) Kopp's blustering about this being a frivolous case last week in the San Mateo County Times," he said.

Related stories:

Text of judge's high-speed-rail ruling (PDF)

Menlo Park, Atherton join suit against high-speed rail

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Judge: Further study on high-speed rail a must

California High Speed Rail Authority ordered to rewrite parts of its environmental report, but Pacheco route still stands, rail officials say

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 26, 2009, 5:08 pm

A Sacramento judge ruled Wednesday that the state agency charged with building a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles must rewrite portions of its environmental review, a ruling that could delay the $40 billion project.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny issued a ruling Wednesday stating that the rail authority's voluminous Environmental Impact Report inadequately described the project and failed to address Union Pacific's refusal to share its right-of-way with the new rail system.

The judgment was prompted by a lawsuit by the cities of Atherton and Menlo Park and a coalition of environmental and transportation groups, who contended that the rail authority failed to consider the environmental impacts of running the high-speed trains through the Pacheco Pass, along the Caltrain corridor.

Kenny upheld the coalition's claim that the project was inadequately described in the environmental review.

He criticized the authority's "inadequate" description of the alignment of the high-speed rail tracks between San Jose and Gilroy.

"The lack of specificity in turn results in an inadequate discussion of the impacts of the Pacheco alignment alternative on surrounding businesses and residences which may be displaced, construction impacts on the Monterey Highway, and impacts on Union Pacific's use of its right-of-way and spurs and consequently its freight operations," Kenny wrote.

But he ruled that the rail authority fairly considered the Altamont Pass and other alignments before choosing the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alternative. The environmental review, Kenny wrote, accurately described the challenges of using the Altamont Pass.

"Substantial evidence supports the FPEIR's (final program environmental impact report's) discussion of operational and environmental issues related to the Altamont Pass alternatives," Kenny wrote.

But Kenny ruled the rail authority failed to sufficiently consider Union Pacific's opposition to the rail authority's plans. Under the agency's preferred route, Union Pacific would have to share its right-of-way with the new system.

"If Union Pacific will not allow the Authority to use its right-of-way, it appears it will be necessary for the Authority to obtain additional right-of-way outside of this area, requiring the taking of property and displacement of residents and businesses," Kenny wrote.

"However, none of this was addressed in the EIR."

Palo Alto had also filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of the plaintiffs, though the court disregarded the brief in forming its opinion.

The coalition's lawsuit maintains that the rail authority inadequately considered the merits of the Pacheco Pass and the Altamont Pass (which runs through the East Bay) before selecting the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alternative.

The plaintiffs also argued that the rail authority failed to address how it would mitigate some of the project's environmental impacts and failed to respond to some of the comments submitted by various agencies before the review was finalized.

The authority has been negotiating with Union Pacific in recent months in hopes of resolving the dispute.

Rod Diridon, a member of the rail authority's Board of Directors, said the judge's ruling doesn't necessarily mean the project will be delayed. The only part of the environmental document that would need to be restudied is the one dealing with the rail segment between San Jose and Gilroy, he said.

Diridon said the Attorney General's office was studying the judge's ruling Wednesday afternoon to determine its impacts. He also said the impact of Kenny's judgment won't be known until the judge rules on the remedial actions the rail authority must take.

"It's too early to know for sure to know what's going to happen," Diridon said.

One such action could be further negotiations with Union Pacific, Diridon said.

Elizabeth Alexis, chair of Civic Affairs for the Greenmeadow Community Association in Palo Alto, said the ruling vindicates her belief in the legal and environmental-review system.

"It's good to see that the legal system can work and that the safeguards built into the environmental review process actually work -- that a project just can't be steamrolled through," she said. "Hopefully, the High Speed Rail Authority will step back and ask, 'Is this really how we want to do this?'

"It will be a test of the rail authority's willingness to do it right. This is a 100-year project and it should be done right," Alexis said.

David Schunbrunn of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, one of the six plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenge, told the Weekly that the ruling has an extra sweetness beyond the legal issues.

"It's particularly delicious in light of (Quentin) Kopp's blustering about this being a frivolous case last week in the San Mateo County Times," he said.

Related stories:

Text of judge's high-speed-rail ruling (PDF)

Menlo Park, Atherton join suit against high-speed rail

Comments

PAmoderate
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm
PAmoderate, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm
billy
Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm
billy, Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I'm no longer expecting any Caltrain grade separated road crossings during my lifetime.


Watabe
Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm
Watabe, Downtown North
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm

I still cant believe the voters of California. Agreed to give this asinine project in the first place.


Allen Edwards
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm
Allen Edwards, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm

I can't believe they didn't just stop in San Jose and connect up with the existing train, perhaps improving that. Why duplicate a train system where one exists. When the voters said LA to SF, they probably didn't mean SF literally otherwise the SF Airport would be called the San Mateo County International Airport. Taking this train through the peninsula makes as much since as building SFO in Golden Gate Park would have.


Track neighbor
Ventura
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:10 pm
Track neighbor, Ventura
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Hooray! I always thought they forced the Pacheco vs. Altamont decision without due diligence.


yay
Green Acres
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm
yay, Green Acres
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Well, if the train went underground up to SF, perhaps that would make sense. And yes, the existing train is inadequate if it is to be a part of an improved system. Because of all the grade crossings, there is only so many trains that go can through at certain speeds. But making below grade crossings part of the expansion would make more sense. (Perhaps if the below-grade crossings were tunnels and the HSR work allowed putting all the train tracks below grade through town, we could have an incredible biking right of way over it! And it would certainly remove the easily accessible tracks near the hs's.


Mary Carlstead
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm
Mary Carlstead, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:13 pm

A large number of California voters have no idea what they are voting for. Few read the ballot statement. If the ad is a 'heartbreaker", if the ad appeals to the heart strings, if the ad is for the CHILD.....DREN, the voters will fall for it 'hook line and sinker" especially for schools even if it is budget-breaker. The voters in the San Joaquin Valley couldn't care less what happens to the cities between San Jose and San Francisco and probably can't even name them let alone want to come to San Francisco - and the southern part of the state which holds the bulk of the votes care even less than that. But they voted for it. This was one of the touchy feely - feel good propositions with delusions of grandeur. I've always wondered just how many per-train passengers each day or per year would be needed just to break even or come close. AMTRAK is a financial loser now and needs massive Federal subsidies. How many people want to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles per day? Europe HSR is successful because the area is much smaller, cities are close together, and there are more of them on a route. There are lot of European countries than can be put into California - together. The Northeast corridor of the USA served by the Downeaster from Boston to Portland, ME serves the commute route north from Boston. It is heavily used. The HSR Acela Express goes from Boston to DC via the major cities on the East Coast and serves most of the major IVY league universities and many state schools. They are not far apart either although it takes about seven hours to go from Boston to Baltimore. It is also heavily used. It is also subsidized. This whole HSR here needs to go back to the drawing board and to the voters if necessary with details on the actual cost and who is paying for it. I don't think the voters of the USA will look kindly to using any more stimulus monopoly money to subsidize a HSR for California.


Wrong
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm
Wrong, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm

IT means NOTHING!!! the Ruling thru out many of the silly claims...ie run it up 101 ect..the UP issue is the main point...SO stop silly NIMBY hype


ODB
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm
ODB, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm

If HSR took the Altamont Pass route, the mayor of San Jose wouldn't get to build his futuristic and visionary transportation center. Hmmm, think he and Rod Diridon might be buddies?


neighbor
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm
neighbor, Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Asinine IS the word for the high-speed rail idea. Just consider the noise, the disruption, the sheer idiocy of it all. I would say that the Palo Alto community was indeed "railroaded" into this.


AndyDuncan
another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm
AndyDuncan, another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm

"Hooray! I always thought they forced the Pacheco vs. Altamont decision without due diligence"

"If HSR took the Altamont Pass route, the mayor of San Jose wouldn't get to build his futuristic and visionary transportation center. Hmmm, think he and Rod Diridon might be buddies?"

"Taking this train through the peninsula makes as much since as building SFO in Golden Gate Park would have."

You guys realize the ruling affirmed the peninsula route, correct? The ruling affirms CAHSR's EIR assesment eliminating Altamont, the Dunbarton Rail bridge, a new Dunbarton bridge, the 880 alignment, the 101 alignment, and the 280 alignment.

There's two things in the ruling that CAHSR needs to address: the UPRR ROW issue between SJ and Gilroy, and a typo about vibration. All the other kitchen sink arguments were rejected.


AndyDuncan
another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:21 pm
AndyDuncan, another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 7:21 pm

@Mary There's lots of information available online to answer your questions and concerns, but at least one point stuck out. This was not forced on Peninsula residents by an ignorant or uncaring state. In fact, the entire peninsula (with the exception of atherton) voted for 1a, and did so at a much higher percentage than did anywhere in Southern California (much of which voted against it).

You can see a map of the results here: Web Link


Mary Carlstead
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm
Mary Carlstead, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Yes, Andy Duncan, you are absolutely correct. But "they" in the Valley and those in Southern California combined had a lot of votes combined with Bay Area voters who also didn't have a clue and/or didn't care since it did not 'gore their ox'. I did not vote for it. There was no 'vision' or clue of a 15' high wall through cities. There were no nitty gritty details, no talk of eminent domain that I remember. No clue how much land Palo Alto High School would lose or the PA Clinic or Town and County Village or the Stanford Park Hotel or historic train stations and properties or homes or apartments up and own the line. I think everyone thought the HSR would use the same tracks as Caltrans. Frankly, I'll admit I didn't read it because I was against it from the beginning, and I'm as guilty as anyone else not to get on my own soapbox and shout "This is insane."


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm

They chose the route up the Peninsula because when the decision was made only East Bay cities objected to the HSR being built through their communities. So, they decided to send it where the there was least resistance.


walkingtheline
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm
walkingtheline, Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm

the pacheco route is dead meat, Kishimoto now needs to explain her support for HSR last year as reason to get elected to State Assembly.


Eshoo attendee
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:05 pm
Eshoo attendee, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Just attended the Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's meeting where she was shocked to learn that the route had already been decided when Prop 1A went to a vote.

I sure hope there is video footage of that event - because her reaction embodied the reaction of all the citizens who feel duped by Prop 1A. When the HSR folks said the information was made public prior to the election - Eshoo quipped about how the Federal Government puts things online and makes them available to the public - but that's not the same as making it clear.

She then asked "was the route selection language in the proposition?" And the audience shouted "NO!"

Eshoo said " I consider myself someone in the loop and I didn't know"

That says it all!


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 27, 2009 at 5:19 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2009 at 5:19 am

When a judge goes beyond the validity of the datums in an
EIR and proposes to evaluate the judgment of the selection/decision process the judge is assuming a role of superiority over all other decision making bodies. I do not believe that is a function of the judicial branch, and I do not believe it is rational policy even were it legal.


How CHSRA will fix the EIR
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 8:29 am
How CHSRA will fix the EIR, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

My prediction.

1. The vibration issue will be fixed by saying it will be studied in the project EIR (which is reasonable considering the judges rulings on related matters).

2. CHSRA will say that an aerial route over Monterey Highway will be used if the UPRR right-of-way between San Jose and Gilroy is unavailable, with the actual alignment to be decided at the project level.

This is only a temporary victory.


safinfrock
Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:57 am
safinfrock, Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

Due to rash of recent teenage suicides, sure hope if high speed line is directed through the Peninsula that it be above street level or below ground.


P.A. Native
Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm
P.A. Native, Mountain View
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Obstructionists. That's what the residents pushing this lawsuit have become.

"I think everyone thought the HSR would use the same tracks as Caltrans."

Uhhh no, not everyone thought that. Some of us actually read up on the HSR before voting and were well aware of the Pacheco route. Stop blaming the voters and start blaming yourselves if you were uninformed before this was PASSED.


Observer
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Observer, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Where is the Pacheco route specified in measure 1A? Its not. In fact measure 1A said specifically that the bond funds could be used on ANY route, AND specifically called out Altamont as one of those. Voters were intentionally misled. And we'll soon see lawsuits getting measure 1A thrown out.

But today is a great day, because what we now have is an invalid EIR, which means CHSR isn't shovel ready which means they are not ready to break ground, which means it isn't qualified for federal stimulus funds.

It also means that the ALLEGED premise behind Measure 1A (the Certified Final Program EIR) is invalid, which means the vote on measure 1A was invalid. False information supplied to voters.

Next step - write to your state politicians/state attorney general and tell them they need to repeal or rescind measure 1A and require a new initiative on the ballot when a REAL 'final' EIR is done. Maybe this time voters will be given the truth, with route decisions specified in the ballot measure.


Why dont WE
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 1:02 pm
Why dont WE, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Why dont we write to have these stupid nimby laws that raise costs 3 times removed?? since these laws let a small groupe of people control
and damage the infastructure that this county needs


GoPA
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 1:06 pm
GoPA, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2009 at 1:06 pm

One of the great parts of the ruling was that the judge said that Palo Alto's amicus brief raised OTHER legal issues not raised by the petitioner or respondent so he ignored Palo Alto's petition. IN other words, he didn't rule on Palo Alto's items.

And that means that Palo Alto can file their own lawsuit somewhere down the road - preferably not until the existing two lawsuits run their course.

CHSRA - arrogant CHSRA - who have not a clue... The biggest error made so far has been the political miscalculation of choosing the Peninsula Caltrain route. The residents and voters and tax payers of the Peninsula are going to have your corrupt, poorly rationaled, and sloppy ways for lunch.

And PULEEZE - All these scare tactics about how Caltrain will wither and die without CHSRA - what a crock of crap. First of all, caltrain can electrify, and slow down, and remain tightly within its two track corridor - even go underground - all those things - IF the people of the Peninsula wish it to be so. Or it can go away completely. So be it. But that's for SF to SJ residents to figure out, what to do, and how to do it, with THEIR Caltrain. Secondly, federal stimulus funds can go just as easily to a Caltrain dedicated to serving the Peninsula from SF to SJ, as they can to a CHSRA.


bass2444
Midtown
on Aug 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm
bass2444, Midtown
on Aug 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm

For interesting facts see Web Link HST_Ridership2_20081021150533

There are 56 (3+9+27+17=56) one-way trains in the Peninsula corridor in the 6-hour peak period or 10 trains per hour or a train every 6 minutes; for 2-way traffic, one passes your home every 3 minutes. A train 1300 feet long at 150 mph will take 5.9 seconds to pass any point. That means you will be hearing a train for about 10 seconds every 3 minutes. Compare this to CalTrain's one train every 15-20 minutes. An interesting interactive map of trips is at Web Link

The most recent ridership forecasts for the HST estimate between 88 – 117 million passengers annually by 2030 for the entire 800-mile high-speed train network connecting Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire, and San Diego. Of the 33 million 2030 air trips forecast, 12 million would be attracted to HST. Of the 911 million 2030 auto travelers forecast to make trips between the 14 regions, 50 million would be attracted to HST.

The nine Bay area counties have 7.3 million people. If we assume half of the 100 million riders will be from the Bay area and half again will go to the Los Angeles basin, that means 25 million riders through San Jose. Thus each one of us (man, woman, and child) will be riding the train about 3.5 time a year. Buckle up!


Jean
Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm
Jean, Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Forget this project ! I don't think we need HSR any more. Saving money & energy to our education system-- UC, State U, K-12, is much more important than other things. Our children cannot get the their education if they are staying here. It will be a big problem very soon. We still can drive our cars to South CA. No issue !! We are not rush !!


Paul Losch
Registered user
a resident of Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm
Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I project that this will be the first of protracted litigation events against HSR.

While I have opposed HSR for various policy and public benefit reasons, most of which are not NIMBY, it is troubling to me to think that this thing is going to be in the courts for way too long.

There appears to be voters' remorse on this matter, and the counterpoint is that those on the advocacy side don't appear to care that there are some second thoughts, it is "full speed ahead" on their side of the matter.

High Speed Rail needs to slow down.


Tom Jordan
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm
Tom Jordan, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Here are three questions that the proponents of the HSR Plan that was cancelled by the court should answer if this is to be a resonable, rather than name calling, debate:
(1) Why is it that this HSR Plan goes to SF, when in the entire history of SF no east/west passenger train route and no north/south passenger train route has ever ever gone there? They have all gone to or through Oakland for obvious geogrphical reasons. There are 7,000,000 residents of the nine county Bay Area and only 750,000 in SF, and SF is a dead end, out on the tip of a peninsula. SF has not suffered from this and will not in the future.
(2) How much money and construction time would be saved if the route came over the Altamont Pass, then went to the BART Station in Oakland where all BART lines come together? The line to SJ may even become the main line if there are more passengers to SJ than to the Oakland station. No Bay crossing, no construction in SF or on the Peninsula.
(3) Under HSR's disallowed Plan, what is the route you would take if you were in SF or Oakland and wanted to go to Sacramneto on HSR? How many miles and how long in time? Same question, but for the Altamont Pass route?
The fact that HSR is a great idea, should not cloak the fact that it is being incompetently planned, with a huge flavoring of SF and SJ egos. Engineering, not egos should govern, and it would be wiser for the Legislature to dissolve the HSRA and give the task to Cal Trans to let engineering, not egos, control.


Richard Placone
Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm
Richard Placone, Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Disclosure: I voted for the HSR proposition without realizing (my fault) the impact on the South Peninsula. I have also used the HSR systems in Japan (extensively) and in Europe (once). I think HSR has a place in US and California transportation systems. That said, there are problems with the current proposal, most of which have been stated in earlier postings. I believe there is a time saving and money saving solution that will still give us HSR. It is this: Stop the HSR in San Jose, using the currently proposed routing up to that point. Then use some of the bond money to upgrade the existing Caltrain route from San Jose to San Francisco, providing grade separation where really needed, better designed crossing gates to inhibit suicides, and electrify and speed up the system. This will improve the daily commute, and still give folks a quick connection from San Jose, once they have arrived in two hours or so from LA to SF or points in between. Ditto for southbound travelers. SF has already stated that they need far more terminal room for HSR if it goes there to which the HSR authority has not responded, to my knowledge. Granted, this will require a few politicians to put their egos aside and begin to think for the broader good of the entire region not to mention the state and its economy.

But, there are other serious problems with the proposed HSR plan. One due diligence study, done by HSR proponets and experts, claim the feasibility study is flawed, that the system will always require heavy subsidy, that it will cost far more than projected, and that based on 25 years of HSR experience in Japan and Europe, this California proposal falls far short. This is a long report, but I am happy to send by e-mail to to anyone who requests it. E-mail me at [email protected] for a copy.

Richard Placone


for HSR
Fairmeadow
on Aug 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm
for HSR, Fairmeadow
on Aug 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Having grown up and traveled extensively in Europe, I voted for the HSR. It is a now brainer. High speed train are the way of the future. So convenient and on some distances faster than planes from starting point to ending point.

I think that making it stop in San Jose would defeat its purpose. Making people stop in San Jose to switch to a different train slows down the whole trip.

San Francisco remains a business and tourist hub and it makes sense to have the train end its trip there. I can imagine many business people taking the train between LA and SF, as well as many tourists, especially foreign tourists from Europe or Asia.

The train won't be traveling as fast on the San Jose to SF segment as between LA and San Jose. It will be electric and won't blow a horn, so it should not be that bad noisewise compared to CalTrain.

Finally, let's face it. The current rail tracks already divide this city in two parts. Closing the grade crossing and replacing them by tunnels or overpasses, won't make a big difference.

I am sorry for the people living along the tracks if it is going to impact them negatively (although i surmise the impact won't be as bad as they say). However, those who bought houses along the tracks knew where they were buying... Complaining now is a bit like people who buy houses near an airport and then complain about the airplane noise. They should have thought twice before buying in an obviously noisy location that could at any time become noisier from increased traffic.


Betty
Greenmeadow
on Aug 28, 2009 at 7:46 am
Betty, Greenmeadow
on Aug 28, 2009 at 7:46 am

Anybody see the similarities between ENRON and HSR?

ENRON built a dominant billion dollar business on self-serving statements, lies, manipulation, and exploitation. It took years to discover their deceitful practices and for the 'chickens to come home to roost.' Unfortunately, Palo Alto paid up before the fall.

Rod Diridon and High-Speed Rail deceived California voters with half-truths and deceptive statements to get the vote they wanted and suck the federal government into some funding. But 'what goes around, comes around.' Look for California HSR to get mired in lawsuits proving HSR is predicated upon grossly deceptive practices. As the onion is legally peeled down to its rotten core, HSR will gradually recede into the shadows with the fallen ENRON.

Do you think Rod Diridon may join Ken Lay on the notorious list of fallen heroes sentenced to prison for fraud? Or is he the 'great American' just as Ken Lay was hailed before all the facts were known?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2009 at 8:23 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2009 at 8:23 am

HSR will go from LA to SF. The City of San Francisco with it's large influx of tourists has much more political clout in this State than a few Peninsula Cities. They are certainly NOT going to settle for ending HSR in San Jose. So, if the train ultimately goes thru the Pacheco Pass it will go up the peninsula, get used to it.

The Altamont Pass route requires tunnelling under the Bay, much more expensive than building elevated tracks up the peninsula. They will not connect with BART for the same reason HSR will not end in San Jose. San Francisco has clout!!

Also Caltrains is heavily lobbying for the Peninsula route so they can get their train tracks and infrastructure rebuilt with taxpayer's dollars.

I am proud to say I voted NO to HSR.


Commuter
Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2009 at 10:28 am
Commuter, Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2009 at 10:28 am

GoPA, you really don't get it. First of all, don't tell me that it's totally OK to "slow down Caltrain." Are you kidding? I want me commute to be FASTER not SLOWER. The Peninsula was built around this railroad, so don't pretend like trains are now some new thing running through the area. Do you have any idea how much worse the commute on 280 or 101 would be without Caltrain? You try slowing down Caltrain and see how easy it is to get employees to work, or the impact on Palo Alto's downtown as business have one less (very significant) reason to locate in downtown Palo Alto.

The Peninsula was built around this railroad, and it's time for an upgrade.

Second of all, don't assume this route was chosen for purely political reasons. To go through Altamont would have met you'd have to split the trains three different ways to hit SJ, Oakland and SF when this system is built out. Now, all trains can hit SJ even if they build an Oakland extension. Not to mention the difficulty and expense of a Bay crossing.

Third, of course Caltrain "could" receive stimulus funds. But just cause it's possible, doesn't mean it's as likely. There's a huge push for high speed rail around the country, and funds are going to be going to train systems that deliver high speeds, not commuter upgrades. So it makes a lot more sense for Caltrain to piggyback off this project than to wait for some independent funding down the road.


Allen Edwards
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:15 am
Allen Edwards, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

Tom Jordan, good comments. When we voted for this LA to SF HSR, who had and idea that anyone would take SF literally. It should have been the SF Bay area. Even SFO isn't in San Francisco. Nobody puts an airport in the actual city. Why put HSR in the actual city? Taking HSR to Bart is a great idea.


Evan
Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:36 am
Evan, Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:36 am

To Allen: No, it's really not. Ridership in SF will be enormous. If we take it to BART, who's going to use it in SF or the Peninsula? Many, many fewer people. To even make it appeal to SF, Marin and Peninsula residents, you'd need to upgrade Caltrain with electrification and grade separations to make it fast, quiet and safe, and if you're going to do that, you should also add two tracks and build it to SF.

BART can then be a feeder from the East Bay to HSR via the Transbay terminal.


Paula
Monroe Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:40 am
Paula, Monroe Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 11:40 am

Would it be possible/feasible to put this issue on the ballot again to try to overturn the HSR idea? A number of things have come to light since the election and during the discussions on implementation. As Mary Carlsbad pointed out, many voters didn't have the faintest idea what they were voting on. It's a TERRIBLE plan to run the HSR through the cities on the Peninsula. In addition, I believe the dollars should be spent elsewhere.


No HSR
Southgate
on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm
No HSR, Southgate
on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm

To "why don't we" learn how to spell.


Bianca
Menlo Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm
Bianca, Menlo Park
on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm


"Just attended the Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's meeting where she was shocked to learn that the route had already been decided when Prop 1A went to a vote.

I sure hope there is video footage of that event - because her reaction embodied the reaction of all the citizens who feel duped by Prop 1A. "

How do you feel after learning that in 2007 Anna Eshoo wrote a letter to the CHSRA urging the selection of the Pacheco route? Web Link

Menlo Park and Atherton filed their litigation in August 2008. The route was known, it had been talked about since the late 1990's and decided formally in 2007.

HSR will bring grade separations, which silence the horns and improve air quality (no more cars idling waiting for the train to pass.) Grade separations will also improve pedestrian safety and significantly limit access to the tracks. HSR will bring an electrified Caltrain, meaning no more smelly noisy diesel engines and fumes. Even if you never ride HSR, you will benefit from the long overdue upgrade to the railway that was here before any of our communities were.


ODB
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm
ODB, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm

"HSR will bring grade separations, which silence the horns and improve air quality (no more cars idling waiting for the train to pass.) Grade separations will also improve pedestrian safety and significantly limit access to the tracks. HSR will bring an electrified Caltrain, meaning no more smelly noisy diesel engines and fumes."

You can do those things to CalTrain without building a statewide HSR (assuming you can come up with the money).

By what fraction of a percent will air quality improve by eliminating idling cars at crossings?


MeMe
Midtown
on Aug 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm
MeMe, Midtown
on Aug 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

1. I have not seen a timetable for this railroad service. We're talking about spending billions on HSR (not to mention the inevitable cost overruns) and they haven't even come up with a timetable showing how many express and how many limited trains there will be and where and when they will stop. How many full-speed express trains will there be between S.F. and L.A. per day? How many times will the train stop in say, Fresno per day? Does anyone know? If they can spend tens of millions doing an EIR, why can't they come up with a simple timetable showing the public what kind of service this will provide?

2. I have not seen a REALISTIC ridership study which addresses how they are going to get people out of airplanes and off Interstate 5 and into these whiz-bang trains. How is this service going to compete with airplanes and highways? Has that been studied? Has anyone given thought one to marketing and advertising? "Why spend one hour on an airplane when you can spend four hours on High Speed Rail?" That dog ain't gonna hunt. What kind of traveller will this attract? Businesspeople with laptops? As I write this there is exactly ONE train going north and ONE train going south between northern and southern California per day, and you're telling me HSR will ultimately have millions of passengers per year?

3. The state of California is worse than broke; it's mired in debt. California has the worst credit rating of all 50 states. What private financing source is going to go near this project?

That's three strikes against high-speed rail.


wary traveler
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2009 at 9:58 pm
wary traveler, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2009 at 9:58 pm

"How do you feel after learning that in 2007 Anna Eshoo wrote a letter to the CHSRA urging the selection of the Pacheco route?"
No, she SIGNED a letter that Zoe Lofgren wrote. There is a difference.


CC
Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2009 at 6:07 pm
CC, Mountain View
on Dec 4, 2009 at 6:07 pm

The population will increase, and the BayArea traffic is getting worst. We don't need a HSR right now, but we will need it later. South Bay used to have lots of open space, but now it's hard to find vacant lot. Soon, we will notice, high rise buildings are everywhere. That's the trend. No one can stop it.

HSR will be built on someone's backyard because CA needs the multi-billion dollar Federal $$ to create jobs. I feel for property owners who live close the rail road. Good Luck to all of you. I hope you can turn the HSR into subway.




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