Rail authority approves $9 million PR effort

High-speed rail agency to combat Peninsula 'misinformation,' revamp overall outreach with 'flying squads of emergency response'

Peninsula residents concerned about California's proposed high-speed rail line may soon notice some new faces addressing the crowds at public hearings on the controversial project.

That's because the California High-Speed Rail Authority has just welcomed a new member to assist its admittedly flagging community-outreach effort -- the global firm Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

Ogilvy, which will be paid up to $9 million over five years, is expected to increase the frequency and effectiveness of the rail authority's communications, correct misinformation about the project and engage stakeholders along the rail corridor in the environmental-review and design processes.

Perhaps more importantly, Ogilvy is charged with bringing the state agency's previously diffuse communications effort "under direct report to the rail authority," according to a report by Jeff Barker, the authority's deputy director.

The authority's Board of Directors agreed the new contract is urgently needed. The state agency has been battling a storm of criticism and a high-profile lawsuit from Palo Alto and other cities where residents have been packing into public hearings to question and, occasionally, denounce the rail authority's plans for the new system.

The proposed rail line would stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles and carry passengers through the Peninsula at a speed of 125 mph. State voters approved $9.95 billion for the project in November 2008.

The communication problem, Barker said, has much to do with the fact that the authority has been conducting outreach through dozens of different project contractors, each working on a specific segment of the 800-mile line. The new public-relations firm would streamline the process and report straight to the rail agency's Board of Directors.

Director Rod Diridon agreed with Barker that the agency's communication structure needs an overhaul.

"We need top-down control in terms of consistency of message, which was a real problem in the past," Diridon told the board at the Nov. 3 meeting.

Diridon pointed to "misinformation" as a particular problem. He likened the misinformation to "a sore that festers" and a "rotten apple" that Ogilvy needs to get out of the barrel immediately.

Diridon told the Weekly he was specifically referring to an incident in Visalia, where a project manager reportedly told a local newspaper the rail authority had reached a decision about a possible station in Visalia. It hadn't, Diridon said.

He also had in mind the popular Peninsula belief that the rail authority will build a "Berlin Wall" along the Caltrain tracks to support the new rail line. Elevated tracks are just "one of four or five alternatives" and "not a very likely one," Diridon said.

Diridon asked Ogilvy staff at the November meeting how they would create "flying squads of emergency response to nip those problems in the bud" and directed them to come back with information on how they'd go about it.

But while the communication professionals from Ogilvy are preparing to pluck rotten apples, soothe sores and teach its responders to fly, another group has been performing its own outreach effort across the Peninsula.

Unlike the top-down model trumpeted by the rail authority in Sacramento, the largely local, grassroots movement has consisted of residents and local officials. Since spring they have been holding meetings throughout the Peninsula to discuss the rail project and get regular updates from rail officials working on the local segment of the line.

A few Palo Altans have even made the trek to Sacramento to address the rail authority directly. One, Elizabeth Alexis, said she took issue with Diridon's Nov. 3 comments about "rotten apples" and "flying squads."

"We're trying to build something positive, and it's very disappointing to hear this type of language," Alexis said. "I was very surprised to hear someone in that role, in that responsibility, speaking that way."

Alexis has been working with a group of Peninsula residents and elected officials to create a more collaborative approach to designing the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the line.

In October, the group convinced the rail authority to use the "context sensitive solutions" (CSS) approach to the project. The context-sensitive approach, which is often used for highway projects, gives stakeholders along the rail line a greater say in how the project is designed.

Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto has been a leader of the local outreach movement for high-speed rail. Kishimoto chairs the Peninsula Cities Consortium, a coalition of elected officials that meets on alternate Friday mornings to discuss the $45 billion project. The coalition, which consists of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Belmont and Burlingame, was formed largely to address the dearth of information coming out of Sacramento about the potentially transformative project, Kishimoto said.

Earlier in the fall, the coalition sponsored a teach-in and a design workshop on the project.

Last week, the group brought in Hal Kassoff, an expert on context-sensitive solutions, to explain the process to the residents and local officials.

Since the organization has sprung into existence, the mood at the community meetings on the project has gradually lightened. In late February, more than 200 angry Palo Alto residents jeered and booed at rail officials at an emotional meeting at the Mitchell Park Community Center.

In September, many of the same people came to a teach-in at Cubberley Community Center, where the mood was considerably more civil and respectful.

"We basically stepped in to fill a vacuum because there was nobody really taking any action to really have true dialogue about how we can potentially merge the high-speed rail with the community in this area," Kishimoto said. "There's still a gap. In some ways, it's almost like the future is coming at us faster than we expected."

Kishimoto said it's too early to judge whether the rail authority's $9 million effort will improve communications. But she said the authority's efforts might be more effective if it focuses less on "public relations" and more on "public participation."

"It doesn't have to be a kumbaya, happy discussion," Kishimoto said. "It should be a hard-nosed discussion about what on-the-ground decisions we should be making."

She also said it would be a mistake for the rail authority to put "paid PR people" between the Peninsula community and the rail officials with whom the community has been negotiating thus far.

Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program, and Domenic Spaethling, the rail authority's regional manager for the Peninsula segment, have become a familiar presence at local meetings, often staying late to provide information and answer questions. The rail authority should take care not to create an extra public-relations barrier between these project managers and Peninsula residents, Kishimoto said.

But the rail authority's board agreed its new contractor should strive to provide a disciplined message, directed by the board itself. In the coming weeks, Ogilvy will be surveying public opinion, coaching project managers on effective communication strategies and helping the board craft the proper message.

Diridon said he doesn't see the authority's new communication effort as in any way competing with the grassroots effort on the Peninsula. The two efforts should complement each other in a way that ensures the information being put out is accurate, he said.

"If it's all accurate and there's no attempt to provide skewed information or inflammatory information, then the more information the better," Diridon said.


Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 15, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Now the taxpayers of California will be paying $9 million for a PR firm to suppress and cover over dissent that has arisen in great volume over the High Speed Rail project, known in many circles as the High Speed Rail boondoggle.

Here is a transcript of what Diridon directed at Ogilvy as first orders of business, which can be viewed on YouTube at:

Web Link

(transcript of above video from Diridon)

Second is, and I’ll use as an example again one area, but I have an idea that its occurring in other areas too, miss-information is causing serious media relations problems in the mid-peninsula – Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto area especially. That miss information coming sometimes from in-advertently our own staff, but then again its being presented by opponents, blatantly providing false information to the media and then having no correction. No information being provided that would counter that miss-information and I think you related to that earlier.

So would you relate to those two examples, not those two specific cases but those examples as kind of in the weeds detail, that you really need to be on immediately, so that it doesn’t , the kind of thing are like a sore that festers, or the rotten apple in the barrel , if you would like to use another example. And you got to get that apple out of the barrel immediately and please figure out a way and let us know at some time in the future and call us individually or give us a report on how you would be creating kind of flying squads of emergency response to nip those problems in the bud. You want to avoid them if you can but if you can’t avoid them you need to have a way of countering them immediately so that , miss-information isn’t allow to float around, its corrected . So please consider that as early tasks.

Mr. Diridon was interviewed last week by the Daily Post and was asked to name an example of misinformation that needed to be corrected. He responded that a picture of the Menlo Park train station area depicting a ‘Berlin’ wall type of structure would be built was such an example.

Well I took the photo on which another person inserted the 20 foot high wall structure. The EIR for the project clearly shows a 20 foot high elevation of the tracks in Menlo Park and we certainly knew how grade separations had been done in San Carlos and Belmont, so this was hardly misinformation. The pictures referred to can be viewed at:

Web Link

As further information cones along we learn more about the low balled cost estimates for the project, estimated one year ago at 32 billion and now at 40 billion. We now know from the Federal stimulus application, as an example, that the segment from LA to Anaheim has doubled in previously estimated cost.

So the misinformation has not been coming from the ‘rotten apples’ in Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto, but rather from the Authority. The last I knew, the ‘rotten apples’ didn’t have $9 million to spend on PR.

Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:11 am

What a silly, biased article. Every project of this sort spends a small part of its budget on public relations. Certainly the info on this project needs to get disseminated. And the misinformation, spread by opponents, needs to be addressed. Also, Palo Alto merely submitted a "friend of the court" brief in the lawsuit, a half-hearted and totally ineffective gesture. Furthermore, the lawsuit is on its last legs, the Court haaving rejected the bulk of the allegations. And the notion that there is substantial opposition to HSR is nonsense. Only a handfull of NIMBYs are opposed. The majority of citizens are for HSR, rightly seeing it as a prime solution to transportation in the new meillenium. If the City Council does not get on board and strive to have an HSR station here, they are fools.

Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:02 am

A posting like the one from Howard above, illustrates the kind of misinformation the Authority wants to spread.

The CEQA lawsuit handed the Authority a stunning defeat. No, Menlo Park, et. al. did not win all or most of the contested points in the suit, but they won the key point. That being that the route from San Jose to Gilroy was not acceptable. The court has ordered the project level EIR de-certified. Now the EIR will will have to be re-circulated.

A new route will have to be found. The key point one should understand is how badly planned this whole project has been from the very start.

Here after more than 10 years of effort, the Authority was doing an EIR on a corridor, owned by the Union Pacific Railroad and they had no rights to use that corridor. Now they don't have a pathway to Gilroy and they must find one, so that they can do an EIR on a new routing. Millions and millions are being spent in the meantime, much of which might well be wasted by going ahead with the project level EIR work, which until a certified program level EIR can be completed might prove worthless.

It is all one big mess. Next month finally a real business plan is due, over one year after it was promised to the voters on Prop 1A. We shall see what it will claim, particularly in terms of costs to build and new ridership projections.

One last thought. Prop 1A was not overwhelmingly passed by the voters. The vote totals were 52.5% yes and 47.5% no. This was hardly only a handful of voters opposing the project. Since that time, opposition has grown enormously. As evidence take the case of the Palo Alto council, which endorsed Prop 1A but after the election when learning the true nature of the project has risen up in opposition.

Like this comment
Posted by handfull
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:09 am

Howard -

Why do you think that only a handfull of NIMBYs are opposed to HSR?

It seems clear that most of the state, realizing our financial situation, is now opposed to HSR.

Like this comment
Posted by NIABY
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:50 am

I voted against Prop 1A because it was so obviously a pork belly project that would not address any of our very real transit problems. However, when I talked to friends prior to the election, I realized that most of them had limited understanding of Prop 1A. No one knew that the plans included routing the train through the middle of communities, or that HSR would really cost a lot more than the amount specified on the ballot.

The CHSRA has masterminded a campaign of deception for years, and this $9 million handout to Ogilvy is just the latest maneuver. It must be so frustrating for them that there continue to be citizens -- people who don't have that kind of money and aren't playing this game because they expect a big payout in the end -- who have successfully managed to push back.

High speed rail doesn't belong in anyone's backyard.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2009 at 9:27 am

I think the PR Firm is being hired because of guys like Morris Brown and Handfull. If anything, you people are the reason the taxpayers are goint to have to pay $9 million with the lies you just made up here in the comments. Thank yourselves for that accomplishment because that's all your gonna get!

Not only that, you are delaying a project that will not be stopped. It's innevitable that this project had to be built some time because of our states geography and population growth patterns. So why delay the innevitable and make all of us taxpayers pay for your lawsuits?

I think if anything, this project has gained support since the election. A lot of questions unknown at the election have been answered as well as new one have come up. We now have the Federal backing of HSR that we didn't at the election. Back then it was very uncertain if we had support from them. Six months later we had our answer.

In short money was a big reason a lot of people voted no on Prop. 1A. The second could be that they were not directly served by the rail line and thought it wouldnt benefit them, i.e, Counties north of the Bay Area, Sierra's, Desert couties south east of Los Angeles, etc.

I'm not telling you to rollover and not fight for what you think is right, I'm telling you to know when your beat and work to find a solution, not kick and scream like a child because you are unhappy.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2009 at 9:43 am

Response to NIABY

Sure, mastermind, yeah whatever. If you are a responsible voter you would have read all of the ballot measures, researched what was at stake. Then when you understand it you vote accordingly, yes, no. If for a reason you don't understand the proposition, you are safest voting NO. This deception of the CHSRA was clearly such a big plan that you could actually type on the internet (California High Speed Train) and get to the main website with routes, info, etc. By the time the vote came around, Pacheco and the decision to run trains on the Caltrain Corridor was set in stone. All it needed was the vote.

We the people of California are not responsible for you not being responsible at the voting booth. If you lost, too bad. Don't be sour, just move to a different state. Sell your property now, and retire somewhere else.

Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 16, 2009 at 11:35 am

My parents always advised me that what you don't say can be as much of a lie as what you do say. And... there is a big difference between what is known, and what is knowable. Integrity would have required full-dislosure.

There is no doubt that we have been lied to and now we are paying $9 million to "spin" those previous lies. Salt in the wound is the common expression.

$9 million can not erase a clear lack of ethics on the part of the promoters. Let's support HSR for the greater good, but in its current form that ignores several proposed solutions that mitigate the documented harms, it is headed for lots of spending and no benefit to the people who are paying the tab. Lack of integrity is trying to hide behind NIMBY name-calling. A consensus-based solution does not require a $9 million sales job. Stop the NIMBY accusations and let's find a solution together.


Like this comment
Posted by NIABY
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Whoa, Richard, I did do my research. I voted against this boondoggle, as I said, and so did millions of other Californias. I know you wish we would all leave the state now, but many of us aren't ready to retire, and besides, you need someone to pay the taxes! In addition, many other people have since realized the folly of the proposed HSR. My perspective, having observed the constant barrage of attacks from CHSRA, is that those of us who are opposed to this ridiculous project are in fact gaining ground. Hence, the "need" to hire a costly PR firm (at our expense).

This particular project would be absurd in any economy, but given how much we have cut education, it is a travesty that the state continues to continue throwing money at high speed rail. An educated populace, not money wasted on outmoded forms of transit, will ensure a brighter future for our state.

Like this comment
Posted by Railroader
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

The most cost effective way to go is to elevate high speed rail trains along the Caltrain right of way high over Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Response to NIABY

Is spreading mis-info gaining ground to you? If you soley stick to the facts without empty accusations then the PR firm is not needed. But that is not likely because this project is not a Peninsula project, it's not a Bay Area project, it's a State project. A projecty this size would require a PR Firm anyway so I don't know what the whole fuss is about.

If you did your research and still voted no on Prop. 1A then good for you. You did what you beleived was right. But just because you think that this is a bondoogle doesn't mean you have to lie and say that everyone was duped into voting YES.

In other words, don't be a sore loser because you didn't win. Leave that type of fighting to children. Now that HSR is actually is advancing you are better figuring out how to be productive and working with, not against the project.

Remember that building it "right" doesn't always mean "building it right". Example, if building it "right" like most HSR opponents on the peninsula, means building it on the freeway and losing massive ammounts of ridership. Then that's not actully "Building it right". It's building it for your own personal needs and not the needs of the rest of the state. Don't get them mixed up. The real way to build the system is to build it so that it serves as many people as possible and thus making the system profitable. You can only do that by serving City Centers, not running it on the/next to the freeway. Who lives and walks on the freeway? HSR, passenger trains in general serve city centers or places where people live, work, shop. If that means going through your backyards, then you have no one to blame but yoursleves for moving that close to active train tracks, and blame auto based sprawl developement.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Two things bother me. They are the estimate of ridership and total cost. Originally I think the estimate was 100,000,000 riders per year which would probably justify the $40 B cost.

However, that number of riders would require every one in our state - man, woman, and child - to ride the train 3 times a year. Highly unlikely when you consider that less than 60% of the potential market lives close enough to the right-of-way to use the train. I'm reasonably sure that most of the riders will drive cars to reach the relatively few stations. This doesn't bode well for pollution reduction.

$40 Billion? Try doubling or tripling that amount as inflation eats away at our tax base and the usual cost overruns occur. I hope the PR company can address these two factors satisfactorily, but I won't count on it.

Like this comment
Posted by Will-HSR-Censor-The-News?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2009 at 3:13 pm

It will be interesting to see how information and opinion about the HSR will now be available to, and printed by, the local, regional and state media, particularly given that there are now people paid to monitor the news, and to "jump on "anything that remotely displeases the "powers-what-be" of the HSR.

One can only wonder if the media will now begin to listen to just the HSR people, or if they will provide equal access to critics as they seem to have done in the past.

Some newspapers seem to favor government sources. Given that there now exists an HSR “Thought Police” force, what will become of our long-cherished freedom of speech, at least where opinion of HSR is concerned?

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Somebody please remind me: Why is HSR a good thing?

A specific answer, based on environmental, ridership, financial, electrical consumption/generation would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Response to Bill

I beleive that the system breaks even on operation costs at around 45 To 55 Million riders a year. I don't have the link that stated this but if we use these numbers then a system actually in real life getting maybe 60 to 90 Million a year is a sure profit. We may never recoup the Capital Costs (That's what the Feds are for), but if the system can be self sustaining then I'm all for it. I would still be for it even if it broke even on it's operating costs.

This HSR system should and will be the backbone of most of the transit in our state. Just like I-5 is the backbone of car transportation across our state, feeding one dense population into another.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm

How about getting back to basic service? Like re-opening the Atherton station during the week? I'm sure that $9 million contract would go a long way toward restoring that service. Time to redeploy the funds, I say.

Like this comment
Posted by Will-HSR-Censor-The-News?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm

> I beleive that the system breaks even on operation costs at around
> 45 To 55 Million riders a year. I don't have the link that stated
> this but if we use these numbers then a system actually in real
> life getting maybe 60 to 90 Million a year is a sure profit.

It would really help to have these numbers in a spreadsheet, so that they could be reviewed by one and all.

There was a time that about 30M visited California a year, but it’s more than a stretch to claim that all of these people will ride this train. That leaves people in California to make up the bulk of the ridership.
Let’s run a little though experiment: “So, how many times a month do you currently go to LA? How do you get there when you do go? And what do you use for ground transportation when you are in the LA area?"

If you go not at all, will you start taking the HSR in order to help “make the quota” needed to “break even”? So .. at $55, that comes to $220 for a family of four (before all of the hidden fees) kick in, and then there’s the cost of being in LA for the time you are there. It’s hard to believe that a trip to LA on the HSR (and all of the other expenses) isn’t going to cost at least $1,000 for a family of four for just a two-day weekend. Is it your claim that most people in California are going to start making this pilgrimage just to “make the quota”. (Oh, and this is a two way street—do you really think that people in LA are going to spend that kind of money to come to San Jose, San Francisco or Oakland?

> We may never recoup the Capital Costs (That's what the Feds
> are for),

The US is in debt to the tune of over $120T (and counting). Anyone who believes that the Feds are going to bankroll this system so that Californians don’t have to pay the true costs of building it and running it is nuts!

When the capital costs are included in a "true cost" scenario of pricing a ticket, it's likely the costs will jump up to about $500/ride. (This number is a SWAG, but it definitely not be $0.00.)

> This HSR system should and will be the backbone of most
> of the transit in our state.

Really? Care to provide some hard evidence. While you are at it, why not give us some insight into the future of our highway system, and our air transportation system in your scenario.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 16, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Why would HSR be so successful and support itself when none of the others, ie: Caltrain, VTA, Bart etc. can't. It seems to me that it would be much more beneficial to have our local transportation around the bay supported first. Then send the HSR up the 101 or the East corridor. How many thousands ride Caltrain daily and it can't survive. Those projections are the biggest concern for me. Or, run it to SJ and then take the Baby Bullet.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Response to Will-HSR-Censor-The-News,

">This HSR system should and will be the backbone of most
>of the transit in our state.

Really? Care to provide some hard evidence. While you are at it, why not give us some insight into the future of our highway system, and our air transportation system in your scenario."

Well if you consider HSR a state connector, dropping people off at stations where it branches off to Commuter lines wich in turn drops people off at light rail stations, wich in turn drops people off at bus systems wich takes you almost to your destination (Walking distance). Then you can see who's at the top of the transit chain. I mean if it's within the state. I don't think your car will run 220mph on the highway anytime soon.

If you consider what I just said in National terms, the Airplane would be at the top, HSR second and so on. The car can jump in after HSR or anywher after that.

That sums up my point that everything transit within California and going out will focus on HSR.

When do you hear someone going to Japan and coming back without ever riding the Shinkansen at least once to get around Japan. Let alone any rail based transit? Probably Never. You travel Japan for example you get on the Shinkansen at one point in your trip.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm


While I don't expect that I-5 will be deserted like you might think I'm inplying. NO, I beleive people will still drive their cars but at a much less rate and only where the gaps of rail, bus or air are. The highways will still be used but less congested, less cars on the highway means less damage to pavement and structures wich will need less maintenance and less cost, bottom line. The highways might not even shrink at all depending on our growht rate. They might look the same even though HSR will be full of passengers, that just means that HSR is absorbing the growth new and existing and it's not being put on Highways by force because we have no other option to get around.

Airlines will have to do business moving people across country or overseas as they should.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Response to Concerned,

Here's an example of how higher speeds attract more passengers. While I don't have the actual numbers, Caltrain saw a surge in ridership ever since it started it's baby bullet a few years back. They've pretty much reached their peak. It cannot attract any more passengers unless it upgrades to even faster speeds, and new equipment such as EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) train cars wich are in fact 100% electric via catenary wires above. Electric Trains are faster, cleaner, accelerate quicker, stop quicker, hold even more passengers, don't have a power car at the front or rear, make very less noise because they are electric, don't need to blow their horn (grade seperated from cars) and will share some stations with HSR wich will bring more potential passengers to the area.

Pretty much, what I'm saying is that this new equipment will cost less to maintain, you won't need to buy expensive diesel and then burn it, EMU's use standard gauge welded rail and will not need to have expensive modification (Cough! BART), They are pretty much Plug-N-Play if you have the infrastructure to use them. So is HSR equipment. So what keeps potential riders from riding those examples you mentioned and keeps them unprofitable; VTA, Bart, Caltrain is. 1, The cost of maintaining this old equipment is expensive 2, slower speeds means less conpetetive with you speeding (Doing 80mph) on the freeway in your car. 3, less efficient connections to get to HSR, Electric Caltrain and connectivity to other systems is not good, not good at all (Too many gaps). That last one is a big one. People are lazy and a small thing like walking a block or two to get on a different mode of transportation will kill the whole thing off. They will just use their cars.

Make it easy for me to catch a clean new bus at a convinient location where I can get off at the Bart Station where I ride 10-15 miles to a HSR or Caltrain station and then have the same thing on the other end of my trip and I will ride HSR all the time. That's all it takes.

Like this comment
Posted by What a mess
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Even if they give me the $9 Million it wouldn't change my mind!! California can't afford this horrendously expensive project.

Also, the State is preparing a new Statewide housing plan which will take into consideration potential communities along the HSR line. If it is built they will greatly expand the State's housing stock on what is now farm land and open land.

I read the other day that California plans to put a $10 Billion bond measure on the ballot to pay for an upgrade of the States water system (read Periferal Canal). They are not sure it will be passed by the voters, but they can vote $10 Billion for HSR!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Yes to HSR again
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm

I don't understand why people are so dead set against HSR going up the Peninsula corridor as opposed to another route.

HSR will be a vast improvement over trains such as those used by Caltrain. Let's see: Caltrains are huge double-decker behemoths, probably much taller than HSR will be. They have very loud, smoke spewing diesel engines, AND they use horns to warn people at the crossings and train stations. They are also painfully slow, quite embarassing as a matter of fact by modern standards.

I am from Europe were I spent the first 25 years of my life, and I can tell you that electric trains are a huge improvement over Caltrain when it comes to nuisance.

* They are much quieter.

* When railroad crossing are closed (as they mostly are in Europe in urban areas BTW), there is no more need for those terrible horns. For safety, train stations will have loudspeakers warning people on the platforms to back up from the edge before the train passes by. You won't hear from your homes any more.

* HSR trains will be less tall than Caltrains, reducing the visual impact as well.

As to the argument that it will create a new wall separating Palo Alto, that's bogus too. The "wall" is already there in the form of a rail line. Closing the remaining intersections won't change the landscape or access.

Finally, for those who don't like the idea of a (quieter) train zipping through Palo Alto at over 100 MPH, there is a wonderful solution. Have the peninsula station be in Palo Alto, as proposed. That will force the train to go slower for much of its travel through our city. Then, you will also be able to enjoy going to San Francisco in less than 1/2 an hour. What can beat that?

Yes to HSR, all over again.

Like this comment
Posted by No shinkansen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Dan -

Most people who visit Japan do not take the Shinkansen. They do rely on the local public transit developed for the Japaense population density - roughly ten times the density we see in California.

That local public transit is where we should be directing our best minds (not just our money). We currently throw money at it and it is fair to say we do a very bad job at it. We need to be smarter about local transit.

HSR is a boondoggle.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Response to No shinkansen,

HSR is a boondoggle in perhaps, Idaho, Montana, Alaska. Boondoggle in California? Far from it. We actually need it. Were the second most populated state in the U.S. We need it to survive and enjoy a more pleasant life. I don't want to spend the other 1/3 of my life trapped in traffic. I already waste that much sleeping, let alone living.

Like this comment
Posted by Will-HSR-Censor-The-News?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2009 at 6:28 am

> Well if you consider HSR a state connector, dropping people
> off at stations where it branches off to Commuter lines wich
> in turn drops people off at light rail stations,

This is not hard evidence .. it is wishful thinking. Hard evidence would be some reasonable estimation of the total traffic to be shared by all of the various modes of transportation in the future--say, 30 years. Such an estimation would also include a very hard look at the impact of Broadband, which is likely to have as disruptive impact on business travel requirements as it has on information distribution. There is every reason to believe that we will see a reduction in business-to-business travel in the future, as video conferencing and other business-to-business software becomes commonly used.

> where it branches off to Commuter lines

And who is going to pay for this? The Feds?

What is needed is a really accurate view of the future that considers all of the needs and possible solutions into account. California is now teetering on permanent bankruptcy. And still, we have people dreaming that the State government can write blank checks to these kinds of pipe dreams and boondoggles.

> to get around Japan

Japan is a bit of a special case, in that it is long and narrow. There are reasons to see an HSR as a reasonable transportation mode in that case. Having a rail system (ie a subway) in New York City makes a lot of sense. Building a similar system in the Bay Area would be financially insane. Appropriate population densities become extremely important when designing systems that are to be self-sustaining.

The idea that California can build, and operate, an HSR, and not have it have a very adverse effect on our highway and air transportation systems is not very realistic.

Like this comment
Posted by For HSR
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 17, 2009 at 11:43 am

Our family is absolutely FOR HSR!!!!!! We would travel to LA and SF much more often - so much more convenient.

Like this comment
Posted by Shallommm
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 17, 2009 at 11:20 pm


Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm

HSR is a joke. Southwest Airlines solved this problem 20 years ago. Book ahead and tickets are $55 to LA. HSR can't match that. For HSR to be successful, they'll need people to abandon DRIVING to LA - check the financial projections. Driving is more economical and you get to use your car on the other end!!! Flying is faster. What's HSRs advatage?

Like this comment
Posted by Libertarian
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Makes me want to throw not only are we spending our children's income they haven't earned yet on a ridiculous project, we are spending our children's income on PR to push Orwellian propoganda on us.

Typical of our times...remember the National Endownment for the Arts, funded by our Taxes, soliciting artists to push Obama's agenda?

Same mentality.

These guys are turning me from a JFK Democrat into a an absolutely hard line taxes for anything except national security, "public safety" stuff. That's it. Otherwise you pay and pay and it is never enough, and then in bad times the "safety net" you paid into your whole life disappears. Most of us would have been a heck of a lot better off saving our own money for our own future and our kids own colleges rather than paying into a system which is now broke and begging for money..

OH wait!!! Not too broke to pay for a PR firm!!


Like this comment
Posted by libertarian please
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm

You voted for kenndy?? your opinion sounds very much hard line necon Foxnews washed thinking to me.Maby when people get old they get selfish and scared much like small child.This sytem is for people younger than 62 and future generations..just think if naysayers had stopped the Golden Gate or Hoover Dam..At this point in time the country is very short sighted and has a large percent of its population over 62..that may explain alot

Like this comment
Posted by Jay Tulcok
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2009 at 12:45 pm

The solution is right there in your comments, you all do not see it yet. 1A would not win today, in fact a campaign to reverse it would win.

Context Sensitive Solutions are not a grassroots answer. CSS is another leg of the PR machine that some have been led to believe represents them. Diridon in his ego centric comments on the PR machine is doing $9 million in harm to his own organization.

Supporters of HSR posting here should not worry, they beleive the project has grown in popularity. Unite and defeat the corrupt Authority. Support an initiative to reverse 1A.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

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

Couples: “Everything is a gift of the universe . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 956 views

Humpty Dumpty's Theory of Meaning + 1984 + Overton Window
By Douglas Moran | 19 comments | 773 views

Data and Compassion: Radical Tools in the Fight for Gun Control
By Aldis Petriceks | 4 comments | 660 views

Dinosaurs for baby girls
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 573 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 32nd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 6. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details