News

Residents share high-speed-rail ideas -- civilly

Transportation officials, residents and elected leaders talk rail at Palo Alto 'teach-in'

High-speed-rail officials vowed Saturday to collaborate with Peninsula residents on the design of the controversial rail line, which has galvanized pockets of opposition in Palo Alto and surrounding communities.

Officials from the California High-Speed Rail Authority shared information and solicited input from elected officials and concerned residents at an all-day teach-in, organized by the Peninsula Cities Consortium.

More than 250 people showed up at the Cubberley Community Center in south Palo Alto for an event that was part information session, part pep rally and part group therapy. The 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule stretched to 4:30 p.m.

The consortium consists of elected officials from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Belmont and Burlingame. Members have long complained that state official have been too hasty in their decision-making process and too dismissive of local concerns about 125-miles-per-hour trains zipping through their communities in addition to existing Caltrain commuter and Union Pacific freight traffic. Some estimates show one train or another passing through just minutes apart.

The Saturday event took place just days after the rail authority pledged to apply the "context-sensitive solutions" (CSS) method to the high-speed rail segment between San Francisco and San Jose. The method, which the state already uses for major highway projects, includes an aggressive outreach process and consultation with stakeholders along the corridor.

Many residents and elected officials interpreted the rail authority's commitment to CSS, as well as its participation in Saturday's event, as hopeful signs that the Peninsula's sometimes strident call for more collaboration is finally getting through.

Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program, a partnership between Caltrain and the rail authority, encouraged the public to remain involved in the project but cautioned the audience not to have unrealistic expectations. He warned that a project such as high-speed rail could easily die of lack of funding if people demand more than can be realistically achieved.

"Let's dream, but let's be realistic about the dream," Doty said.

Dominic Spaethling, the rail authority's regional manager in charge of the Peninsula segment, said the agency has yet to determine how to bring the CSS process to each of the cities along the Peninsula.

"One size does not fit all," Spaethling said. "We'll have to sit down and discuss what the high-speed-rail authority's needs are and what the community's needs are."

Like other rail-centered meetings, Saturday's teach-in featured many more questions than answers. Rail-authority officials said they had not yet determined whether the trains would run on elevated tracks, through a deep-underground tunnel or through a different alignment altogether. Residents worried about having their properties seized through eminent domain also came away with little new information about the right-of-way requirements of the proposed line.

Spaethling said the rail authority has scheduled a series of workshops focused on the alignment of the Peninsula segment. The first workshop is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 30, in the Caltrain headquarters in San Carlos.

Several panelists Saturday said they were skeptical about the proposed line and criticized the way the rail authority has been handling the $40 billion-plus project thus far.

Gary Patton, special counsel for the Planning and Conservation League, said government projects only work when the public gets involved.

Richard Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation, warned that the high-speed rail project could end up being a "scam," that the rail authority's business plan is inadequate and that the project's costs could easily spiral out of control.

The project's primary initial source of funding is the $9.95 billion bond California voters approved in November.

"I encourage everyone to keep an eye on the project costs, to rein in the politicians and to make them redefine the project as something that can fit within the available budget," Tolmach said.

The event concluded with an exercise in which residents wrote their main concerns about the high-speed-rail line on colored cards, which were then taped to the walls. Participants with shared concerns congregated in clusters around the cards and discussed possible solutions, which were written down.

After mingling for about an hour, the group sat in a circle and used words such as "hopeful," "encouraged" and "gratified" to describe the exercise.

Palo Alto Council member Yoriko Kishimoto, who chairs the consortium, said participants' ideas will be posted on the consortium's website. She thanked rail authority officials for committing to a more collaborative design process and asked the participants to continue to give their input.

"We need to take advantage of the CSS process and to make sure that we do this important work upfront to define our vision for the Peninsula," Kishimoto said.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I am glad that the meeting yesterday, which I did not attend, went well, was civil, and had as many participants as it did.

We are being co-opted.

This whole idea makes no sense, not just on the Peninsula but up and down the State.

The amount of money that could be poured into this boondoggle would create much greener benefits if put into adding more local transit throughout the state. That is where most traveling takes place and where most of the waste occurs.

To have a meeting such as what took place yesterday in effect concedes the larger question of whether this whole thing makes any snese at all. I voted against it last year, and I am of the opinion that if it were put on the ballot again, it would fail. The more information that comes out, the more misgivings people seem to have.

We need to go back to Square One and ask ourselves if this whole concept makes any sense? This is an incredibly bad policy choice.


Like this comment
Posted by It's Pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Thank You Paul losch,
I agree 100% This is a waste of money on a pipe dream that will go way over any predicted budgets. If and when it is ever finished. It will lose money from the start. I can not see sufficient travelers using this service to transport them to L.A. and back.

This is not Germany or france. Were their are bullet trains, that travel great distances in open country ant great speeds.
Once our line is complete we will not see our high speed train zipping along the length of CA. at 100mph. Speeds will be reduced to lower than estimated. Their will be stops up and down the state. travel time from SF to LA will be close to 3 to 4 + hours.
Why take the train you can fly their in 30 minutes from SF international. 20 minutes from san jose airport. for around $60 if you buy cheap tickets. The airlines will also compete if they feel threatened by loosing customers to the rail.

Voters voted yes on this project, because it sounds neat and exciting. Why cant we have a fancy high tech bullet train like other countries. I dought many voters voted yes because the saw them selves using as a real forum of transportation.

This project is a joke. If the economy was not so bad. And we as a state, were not as screwed up as we are. Maybe I would feel different about a massive project like this.

This whole project needs to be put on a 10 year hold. We first need to dig our selves out of our current crises, before it gets worse.


Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm

"Voters voted yes on this project, because it sounds neat and exciting." That's right. And I still think it's neat and exciting. Full speed ahead!


Like this comment
Posted by BB
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 13, 2009 at 4:11 pm

To It's Pat:
A: Both Germany and France have higher density of population than California.
B: Do you take in consideration efficiency and pollution?
I suggest reading this article about planes, trains and cars:
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm


HSR in Taiwan is a disaster

"High-speed rail was Taiwan's first non-government funded infrastructure project and its T$489bn ($14.8bn) construction cost made it the world's biggest build-operate-transfer project.

But with the privately owned High Speed Rail Company facing debt trouble after accumulating T$67.5bn in losses, there is mounting concern that the experiment in public-private partnership is proving a failure and taxpayers will in the end still have to bear the cost of building and running one of the world's most advanced train systems.

The bullet train's financial failure would also be a stark warning to other countries planning their own high-speed rail systemWeb Link


Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Before anybody starts suggesting that HSR would be a money sink and a bane for taxpayers, let's read the following article about the billions of dollars in subsidies collected by airlines and airports in the US.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm


Sunk cost thinking is a decision trap. Why should we repeat any mistakes made with airlines?

The lesson from Taiwan is that HSR is an economic and net CO2 disaster.

HSR in CA will not happen and those shilling for it will pay a political price, it is a pariah.


Like this comment
Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2009 at 11:20 pm

The Midtowner link is without credibility. There are taxes on airline tackets and on the fuel they burn; thst's where the money comes from.

The HSR project planned here is a total fiasco. How to stop it is another matter. Yoriko continues to state the project will be built and it will come into the Cities along the Peninsula. She is termed out shortly, so we will hear much less from her in the future, at least at the PCC meetings.

Next up is the charette/workshop in October --- essentially a developers forum to try and convince PA that it should transform itself into a mini-San Franciso in density and height along the CalTrain air-rights that would be gained when the trains are put into a tunnel. I'll not bother with that event. It has no credibility. Hopefully Mike Cobb will speak up and denounce this waste of time and energy. John Barton is part of the group promoting this effort.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 6:07 am

Please tell me which airlines are flying to Lax in only 30 minutes from SFO - must be the fastest commuter airlines in the world: approximately 800 mph!


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2009 at 8:07 am

Crescent Park Dad, it's a relativity thing. Consult your Einstein...

And yes, observer, that Midtowner link is from a site that caters to airline bashers.

I figure if the proposed HSR is completed, the service will be only one train each way per day, until people get tired of subsidizing it.


Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2009 at 8:25 am

Wow, California has a real inferiority complex when it comes to HSR. Just because Japan and European Countries have high speed rail, California must have it too!! I think it's pathetic that we must follow these other countries. The high tech industry has put California in the lead, this is what we are good at. Let other countries follow our lead.

Meanwhile, watch as the French tax payers subsidize their HSR system at a huge loss, and will eventually give it up as they did the Concord.


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 8:40 am

I can't wait for high-speed rail. You talk about getting to LA in 20 minutes from San Jose. Ha, I'd love to join you for a flight and time you, from the time you leave your house until the time you actually leave the airport. Try more like 3.5 hours.

California can be a leader is transportation once again, and not every public works project is a sinkhole. Have you heard of the Erie canal? Critics at the time called it "Clinton's Big Ditch" (that's Dewitt, not bill) — a massive $5 million project in the early 19th century. The project transformed New York and the northern half of the East Coast, and turned New York into America's center of commerce until this day. Even better, the project paid for its before it was even completed through usage fees.

Have some, dare I say, faith. This project could finally turn the corner on California's recent history of sprawl and wasted traffic time.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:34 am

The trouble with rail transit in this area is lack of leadership. Take BART and Caltrain for example. These two authorities (why they don't merge is another subject) both have huge daily riderships and both run at deficits. What do they do? Do they try and get ridership up in the off peak hours? Do they encourage tourists, or airport transportation by having high speed shuttle buses from the nearest stations? No. They put up prices and reduce service during off peak hours to "save" money. What they should be doing is encouraging ridership on these offpeak times. They should price innovative off peak fares, family rates after 10.00 am. Short term cheap hop-on hop off tickets for tourists. How about BART doing a one way BART trip and one way ferry trip for tourists across the Bay.

All these ideas work in other big metropolitan areas which attract tourists. They could work in SF Bay Area if somebody got their act together.

Likewise, HSR can work if it is marketed properly. However, the way things are going and the blinkered approach most appear to have shows that all the same mistakes are going to be made.

HSR can work, but it shouldn't work on the Peninsula. It has to be a high speed service from SF to LA with perhaps a stop or link to SJ and also perhaps a stop on the outskirts of SF and LA with huge parking facilities and local transit options.

The way it seems to be heading, I think it will turn into the boondoggle many are predicting.


Like this comment
Posted by dave
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] California is propably at the front of the list for HSR networks that WOULD turn a operating profit and great model for HSR in North America. Most of opponents have a lot of blockage in your heads and need to clear your mind before you throw these outrageous claims of the apacolypse if HSR comes.

I am going as far to say that the State's future depends on this project being built. The reason we need it is because we are the leader (compared to other states) and is why we are the first to build True-HSR. The transportation issue with our Auto-based sprawl is the reason we are in this budget business in the first place. It's the root cause and has triggered a chain reaction along with the mortgage mess became what we have now and you people are proposing not doing anything about it by blocking HSR? That's like shooting yourself in the foot.


Like this comment
Posted by dave
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:56 am

Another thing, HSR will encourage TOD (Transit Oriented Develpement) arount HSR stations wich will also encourage what else but Transit, better transit to take advantage of the people coming from all over the state. We will in a way be forced to live in tighter developed areas wich will be good for us in the long run. Less sprawl, more walking, riding bicycles and less dependence on Oil.

Without this TOD, HSR in California will not reach it's potential in ridership. Notice I said Potential, not that it won't attract a lot of riders wich I beleive will from the get go. Airlines will suffer because I don't know of any plans for Solar powered Commercial Airplanes coming anytime soon and they are at the mercy of the Oil industry. Electricity is in abundance on this planet, it all goes down to how you can harness it. Now HSR will be powered on Electricity. Now what do you think is a better idea?

Let's forget about HSR covering it's overall cost because I don't think it will cover it's capital cost (But what has), but it will cover it's operating cost and even have a surplus which we can manage and be able to expand the network of lines and even subsidize other rail operations in California perhaps Amtrak.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I�ve followed this HSR project closely for some time now, and I�ve noted a curious phenomenon. As people�s awareness and understanding of the project increases, their skepticism increases, too. What makes this particularly fascinating is that it holds true for HSR supporters, enthusiasts and even those who are involved in the project in an official capacity.

Another way to state this is that as ignorance is replaced with facts, critical thinking displaces blind enthusiasm. There�s plenty to be wary of with this HSR Authority and their implementation of HSR. I�d hardly call those who are willing to dig through the details and choose to oppose the project based on facts which aren�t part of the CHSRA�s PR campaign or don�t make the nightly news �ignorant�.


Like this comment
Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

To Dave, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood:
Your comment was like an opening in the in the fog bank....thanks...ok, let the fog come back now.....


Like this comment
Posted by Sara
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I don't think anything would ever get built with the attitude I see here. You can nit-pick a project to death. No project will be to everyone's liking when you're looking at the minute details. I am excited about HSR. Auto and plane traffic spew tons of toxins in the air and the gridlock is unbearable. Please don't tell me van pools or busses are the solution. I hope cynacism doesn't kill this project.


Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm

"Overall, trains produce a fraction of the carbon dioxide per passenger-mile of cars or planes"

This quote is from a link by "BB", above.

I would like to see that statement proven, regarding cars, on an apples-to-apples comparison. If HSR is compared to electric autos, I am unaware of any environmental or cost favoarability for HSR. If the per person weight per mile is considered, HSR has a hard time competing with standard internal combustion engine cars.

There are also significant security concerns with HSR...which have not been considered, in most discusssions. It will only take one terrorist with a bomb (onboard or offboard) , causing a derailment to drive up the costs and time delays that massive security requires.

Perhas someone, who knows, can correct me.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

The editors chose to delete my quote of Dave's comment, but not his original comment. I then went on to write, "Interesting perspective, but quite different from what I’ve observed." I don't know how to express that with a greater tone of civility, and yet Dave's comments about "how ignorant people around here really are" stick. What gives??


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm

To engineer: Try driving an electric car to LA. I think you'll find out the problems pretty quick when the car runs out of juice before it hits Bakersfield. Sure, technology (and hopefully infrastructure), but this isn't a reason to stop development of high speed rail.

Cars aren't going to disappear (though they'll hopefully be replaced with electric engines) in the future. However, I'm guessing you're not going to be able to drive 150mph to LA any time soon. Not everyone can purchase an automobile or wants to spend 6 hours driving themselves to LA, and we should bring high speed rail to california to reduce air and freeway congestion and hopefully serve as a springboard to huge public transit improvements in the state. Not to mention the time we'll save for california residents.

Point being, electric or not, it's going to save time and money. I'll see if I can find some data to back me up one of these days.


Like this comment
Posted by Irvin
a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:46 pm


DENSITY, HSR, and American Suburbs

On the 'Density' issue - comparing the Peninsula to European cities....

Does anyone remember reading this rather short column, "More on density and rail", published Tuesday, August 25, 2009, by the New York Times?

"I think we can agree that it's ridiculous to compare the average population density of the United States with that of European countries, and think that this says anything about transportation options. But I was curious, on my own account, to get a sense of the conditions under which large numbers of Americans live.

So I went to Census data, county level. It turns out that about a quarter of the population lives in counties that are as dense or denser than Mercer County, New Jersey, which is where I live. Now, most daily life in the Princeton area depends on cars; but for medium-distance travel, at least as far as DC, trains really dominate, even at current speeds.

With European-level high-speed rail, I wouldn't fly anywhere in the Northeast Corridor. And while you can't just rely on the county population densities, I think it's fair to guess that at least a quarter of the US population is similarly positioned -- which means that we've got a bigger potential market for fast rail than any European country...."

That was from "The Conscience of a Liberal" (Blog, entitled "More on density and rail", by Paul Krugman, August 25.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 1:54 pm



When talking about CO2 etc impact you have to factor in the pollution caused in building the infrastructure.

When you do that honestly HSR looks very, very bad.

Economically it would be a complete disaster

So it loses on both fronts-- badly


Like this comment
Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Evan,

All electric vehicles (AEV) are probably closer to reality than HSR, SF-LA. Why? Because AEV are currently being marketed, and because battery switchout stations are being contemplated, and will probably be online long before HSR.

Of course, whether it be AEV or HSR, the primary source of the electricity must be considered. If it is nuclear or solar-derived, then there is an environmental benefit; if it is coal, or natural gas, or any other carbon-based fuel, then no deal.

Although I love to ride trains, I just do not see how this HSR turkey can fly. It doesn't pencil. We can no longer afford green dreams, and kick-the-can-down-the-road financing.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Engineer, a resident of the south of midtown neighborhood is correct that there are significant security concerns with HSR. In july 2006 Mumbai ,India had a very coordineted terrorist bomb attak on several stetions ,in several trains killing many people. We can not ignore the security . We have to take that cost and time spent under consideretion, just like traveling by air plane.


Like this comment
Posted by Southgate mom
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

HSR is neat - but planners should think seriously about who their patrons are - who is going to benefit most from HSR? If it's people going from LA to SF, how many are going to want to stop in Palo Alto or any of the other towns served now by Caltrain? How about people in underserved locations who are not well served by public transportation - either air or train (i.e., Central California - even say Castro Valley? If this population makes more sense to serve, then the track location should be there and not here, causing the loss of historic houses and the new PALY track and field.


Like this comment
Posted by OMG, He's A Snake Oil Salesman
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Californians made two poor decisions in the 2008 election: 1) voting "yes" for HSR; and 2) electing Obama as president. We'll be living with the negative consequences of both for years to come.


Like this comment
Posted by Engineering
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 3:54 pm

At a minimum, the proponents of the evironmental benefits of HSR should be required to list them, then defend their list. For some very strange reason, they have been given a pass. Where is the beef?

Regarding travel times, HSR must must be considered in its entire trip context, just like air travel and car travel is. If proper security is considered, the home-to-boarding time is the same for HSR and air travel. Cars are not subject to such dwell times. Cars win hands down, at the end-of-trip-to final destination. Cars obviously lose during the actual trip, although fast lanes can be developed that allow faster travel times. For those who do not want to drive their own car, one can use fancy charter buses, with all the works.

In the end, we need to become realistic about the cost vs benefits. HSR does not pencil, under any scenario I have seen. I wish I was wrong, because I thing HSR is cool, and I would use it. However, just because it would be fun to ride does not make me decide to hide my head in the sand, and further erode the fianancial standing of this state.


Like this comment
Posted by NOTEABAGGERS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 14, 2009 at 7:31 pm

1-I just can't envision trains running through Palo Alto at 125mph. I've ridden the TGV in France.
2- Why would I want to go to LA except to transfer to an airline headed for some foreign city.
3- The Concorde is stabled for the same reasons that the HSR will not endure.
4- Do the plans call for it to even stop in Palo Alto?


Like this comment
Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:40 pm

The biggest benefit for us residents of the Peninsula will be the elimination of all Caltrain grade crossings. All the rhetoric about HSR "dividing communities" is total chicken little hogwash. HSR will reunite our communities. All along it we will be able to create connections for cars bikes and pedestrians wherever we want.

The small but very vocal groups of protesters that have the most to lose have homes and backyards right up against the existing tracks. Too bad. They knew this day was coming because the tracks were there long before their homes. Eliminate the grade crossings and we will have a better community all along the corridor.


Like this comment
Posted by Because We're a Leader
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Dave's argument is that we need HSR because California is the leader.

This is actually not an argument at all. You can claim, "we need X because California is the leader" for any X whatsoever, including X = "to repeal the HSR vote," X = "to increase capital punishment," X = "to eliminate the state income tax," X = "to expand nuclear power in order to assure charging capability for electric cars."

HSR makes sense when California has more money than it knows what to do with. But we're far from that now.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm


Run a truck train from LA to Sacramento? , may be.
Read todays WSJ about FedX and UPS migrating to electronic rather than physical transport of documents
If HSR happened it would be full of empty trains as the Taiwan disaster shows us.

This dog dont hunt


Like this comment
Posted by Stanley
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 15, 2009 at 7:31 am

Seems like history is repeating itself.

BART was initially envisioned to run a ring around the entire Bay Area to provide efficient transportation to all parts of the Bay. It was effectively killed decades ago due to the penninsula not wanting "undesirables" to have easy access to the area since statistic shown crime rates are higher around transit stations.

This is the reason we have effectively cobbled together transit system throughout the Bay Area. Everyone is looking out for their best interest and not the bigger picture.


Like this comment
Posted by dave
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:11 am

Because we're leaders,

NO, I meant that HSR seems like a bad idea to a lot of you because we are the first to really take this seriously. No other state would feel the uphill battle we are facing because if California builds it, it works great, then every other state will want it. It will be way easier for local governments and residents in other towns/cities in other states to Choose to build HSR because they've been on CAHSR and they like it so much that they face little opposision as we are right now because we are the leader in building and innovating.

I am not saying that that we are obligated to build this for the sake of being popular in the eyes of other states. Or is it you want to break my credebility because I made good points?

To Engineer,

Completely electric vehicles, although I think should be the future for cars, will NOT help congestion issues. What good is the fully-electric car if it's stuck in gridlock? Electric vehicles will wean us off oil but we will still have traffic and wasted productive time you could be spending on a Train, better High Speed Train. Not to mention that electric vehicles will only open another market to get us to pay big time for energy to move those electric cars. Maybe change battery packs, Plug-in stations, etc. The good thing is that If High Speed Rail proves successfull (I beleive it will) any profit or benefit will ultimately be for our state in the form of network expansions, further expanding the connectivity of the system and thus making it even more prfitable if done correctly. Bottom line is, CAHSR will benefit us as a State and not an oil company in another state or country.

I find it funny how my first comment of people being ignorant on here was deleted. While I don't think it's offending, I do find people around here seem to "crash into the walls of a dark room" with their comments.


Like this comment
Posted by dave
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:24 am

Because we are a leader

"HSR makes sense when California has more money than it knows what to do with. But we're far from that now."

That's true ONLY when the spending is non beneficial to the overall picture and when it's not related to one of the three most important subjects wich are:

1. Transportation
2. Health Services
3. Education

Not in that order.

This is an investment, it's not state money to build a giant casino, or mega mall, or theme park. It's transportation and it's vital for our growth. Just like the interstate system in Ca helped us grow economically, it's potential has been reached and will not be as effective if we keep building it unless we choose an alternative. Not to mention the raw materials to build more roads is in Fact more OIL. HSR gives us a choice. We're not forced to a single monopolized form of transportation.


Like this comment
Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:45 am

Dave is correct- HSR is an investment in infrastructure. Like the Golden Gate Bridge or the freeways, HSR will become an integral part of our state's economy, helping move people and goods from one place to another.

The people who think that HSR is too expensive need to answer the question "compared to what?" -- California is going to have another 15 or 20 million people living here by 2030. The alternative to HSR is not spending $0. If we don't build HSR, we are facing spending untold billions of dollars expanding existing freeways and airports and perhaps even having to build new ones. That's even more expensive. And what happens when oil goes back up to $150/barrel? That will be the end of those $49 airfares to LA. We need an alternative that isn't dependent on petroleum.

And before anyone says that telecommunications are going to improve to the point that people won't travel anymore, I'd like them to explain to me how teleconferencing would allow my mother-in-law in Burbank to hold her grandson on her lap and read him a book. People are always going to want to travel.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2009 at 10:55 am


Several comments have been made that I think are incomplete:

1. Taking into account the CO2 in building the project. That "sunk cost" as time goes by becomes smaller until at some point it is insignificant. This route could be in use for hundreds of years.

2. Switching over the HSR will not be green until the power sources are green. Again, over time that cannot help but happen.

I am partial to cars for the freedom they gives me, but HSR could work given continuance of certain trends and a change in people's behavior. I'm unclear who the riders of HSR are. Are they drivers, if so what do they do to get around at their destination? Are they flyers? If so they rent cars at the destination anyway.

The deciding factor for me, and other peninsula residents should be mainly determined by the plan. I like the idea of an underground HSR freeing up land for recreation, bike lanes, lowering noise and traffic levels. That can only happen is all trains and put underground. Can that be done cost effectively? If not then I have to be against it.

Whether we have HSR or not is not going to appreciably affect oil companies

Taiwan is about 250 miles long, maybe half the distance from SF to LA. That would make a big difference to me if I could drive to LA in half the time I would not think much about switching over to HSR. But, if we have HSR, and it works, what about extending up to Oregon or Washington to interlink the whole west coast?


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Posted by Scott
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2009 at 11:27 am

I think Engineer and Sharon, on the pollution issue, are overlooking something: it's been said that about half of the pollution that typical car "creates" in its lifetime is from its manufacture. The building of the HSR is a one-time deal in terms of carbon output, etc. In, say, 100 years you go through 12 or so generations of cars. The cars themselves may be getting cleaner, but their production is still going to pollute. Over a 100-year time period, I would bet that the total carbon output of the HSR, infrastructure creation and all, would be much, much less than the production, transport, distribution, and use of 12 generations of cars.


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Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2009 at 11:31 am

OMG, He's A Snake Oil Salesman says:

"Californians made two poor decisions in the 2008 election: 1) voting "yes" for HSR ("well, it seemed kind of neat at the time"); and 2) electing Obama as president ("he promised he wouldn't be a socialist"). We'll be living with the negative consequences of both for years to come."

All Americans are STILL living with the negative consequences of electing GW Bush president in 2000. Republicans so conveniently forget who was in charge for the most disastrous attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor, the orchestrator of two wars and the captain of the economic meltdown. Electing Barack Obama president and passing high-speed rail were progressive, forward-thinking decisions. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The future depends on progress, not stagnation.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm

"Completely electric vehicles, although I think should be the future for cars, will NOT help congestion issues. What good is the fully-electric car if it's stuck in gridlock?"

dave,

Congestion is largely an intracity/metropolitan problem. When I drive to LA, either I-5 or 101, I don't usually hit congestion until I get to LA. If HSR takes me to downtown LA, I still need to take a cab or rent a car to get to my final destination, so how does that help with intracity congestion?

Another thing that the HSR proponents neglect is the lack of redundancy of HSR. If a flood takes out a bridge, forget about HSR, until the bridge is repaired. Cars, and planes allow detours to get you to your final destination.

Financing is also a large issue for HSR. Have the bonds, already approved, been sold yet? If so, at what interest rate? California is broke, and our bond rating has deteriorated. Last time I looked into it, CAHSRA had to go begging to the state legislature to get walking around money, becasue it could not sell its bonds.


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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I think the opponents here would gladly sell out California for their own selfish agenda. They speak of what a mess HSR will become, but the don't acknowledge how their own actions so far have helped to create that mess. Are there any cities in SoCal that have joined lawsuits to stop HSR, or is this just a Peninsula thing?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

From the article that Sharon linked to claiming that HSR is a "disaster" in Taiwan:

"planners did not anticipate the exodus of Taiwanese businessmen who left to seek their fortunes in mainland China. "They would have taken the high-speed rail [had they been in Taiwan]," he said."

Are we going to have an exodus of businessmen to China? The population of Taiwan is only about two-thirds of the population of California. How is that comparable?

What about Japan, France, Spain, Germany - they have had great success with HSR and continue to build more. Not to mention China- China is spending $50 billion on HSR this year alone.

The point about my mother-in-law coming to visit was not intended to be any kind of best shot, merely an example of the kind of travel that teleconferencing can't replace. She comes up once a month on Southwest, and would like to make her carbon footprint smaller. If you only travel once a year I can understand that it might not seem as relevant to you.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2009 at 8:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

What IS rather foolish is all the fuss being made against HSR.
There is absolutely NO alternative plan left to criss cross this country, starting with California.
It is inevitable that HSR is going to happen in America.
Face up to it.
Electric cars on pot holed turnpikes across the states? Ever drive across country? Not a pretty sight.....or too speedy, may I add.
The future is here. We created it. Now we must remedy it.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 2:54 pm

"There is absolutely NO alternative plan left to criss cross this country, starting with California."

The essential question is: Are there any AFFORDABLE alternatives to criss cross the country?

Our current choices are airplane, automobile, train and ship. There is a lot of room to expand airplanes, by increasing the size of the planes, even without increasing the frequency of flights, although there is still a lot of room to increase the frequency, too. Automobiles/buses still have a lot of expansion left in them, on the interstate highway system. Amtrak would love to have increased ridership...they will add additional cars/trains on existing tracks. Ships are for the slow and relaxed folk who want to go through the canal.

HSR is immensely expensive, and it lacks the flexibility of any of the above modalities of transportation. At some point, we need to reject emotionality, and address rationality.

I might add that teleconferencing, for business, is faster than any of the above. HSR will never compete with planes for speed. If you are in a real rush, take a plane. If not, relax, and enjoy your trip by car/bus/Amtrak/ship...and avoid the immense public expsense of HSR.

HSR is a dream that is a real financial nightmare (much as I might like the fun of riding HSR!).


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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Engineer,

Your "current choices" assume the availability of cheap gas. Those options aren't very attractive when oil goes back up to $170/barrel.

When cheap gas goes away, what then?


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm

"When cheap gas goes away, what then?"

Bianca,

When cheap electricity goes away, what then?

The underlying message in your post is that electricity is provided by plugging in the cord, similar to those who think milk comes from cartons at the store. It is important to think about how electricity is generated. There is no free energy lunch.

Fossil fuels and electrcity track each other, unless nuclear is unleashed. Nuclear will not be unleashed, so what is your point?

The enormous commodity market, going forward is electricity.


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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I never implied there was any free energy lunch. But electricity can be generated from a multitude of sources, whereas petroleum is finite. And alternative sources of energy become cost-competitive as petroleum gets more expensive. But you were arguing for increasing capacity in transportation modes that are at this time dependent on only one source of energy, and I am suggesting that planning for dependence on petroleum is shortsighted.

Perhaps with time we will be able to develop an alternative to jet fuel to power our airplanes, but the technology isn't there yet. But HSR can run on any number or a combination of energy sources: wind, solar, geothermal, and more conventional ones.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Sep 16, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Actually there is an energy free lunch if anyone cares to implement it in America. Other countries are already way ahead of us. Read this piece by Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times: Web Link

HSR will be totally non-polluting when we finally wake up to full scale solar power. This will work especially well for sun drenched California. Let's see how soon electric jets come to fruition.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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