News

Palo Alto officials worry about rail's Plan B

High-Speed Rail Authority's contingency plan would leave the Midpeninsula with two tracks, more trains

If things go as planned, California's $45 billion high-speed-rail system would stretch through Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton on four tracks, with Caltrain sharing the tracks and cars crossing the rail corridor above or below the rails.

But if the project's funding dries up, city officials could find themselves stuck with the existing two-track rail system, though used by many more trains that would be powered by electricity.

The scenario is depicted in a revised grant application the California High-Speed Rail Authority submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration earlier this month. The rail authority had received a $2.25 billion award from the federal government in January. In the new document, the authority redefines the scope of its planned work on the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the voter-approved rail line, which has become increasingly controversial on the Peninsula.

Rail authority officials characterize the revision in the federal-grant application as only a contingency plan, which the agency put together to meet an application requirement. The Federal Rail Administration requires federal money to be spent on a project with "operational independence," which means the grant money would be put to good use even if the ambitious 800-mile rail project were not to proceed as planned.

The revised application is thus meant to reassure the administration that even of the worst-case scenario were to happen and funding were to dry up, the grant money would improve the existing train infrastructure and enhance Caltrain service, rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker told the Weekly.

"It's a fail-safe," Barker said. "The FRA wants to know that even if we don't build the system, this money wouldn't be wasted."

The rail authority states that the proposed Peninsula project "will grade separate most portions of the line, and reduce rail and road exposure to accidents at grade crossings." But "most of the line" apparently doesn't include the Midpeninsula, which would continue to have two tracks at street level.

The revised scope gives top priority to building a four-track, grade-separated system between San Francisco and Redwood City. The second phase includes building a four-track aerial structure between Mountain View and San Jose.

The third phase would focus on the Midpeninsula, but because this phase isn't part of the rail authority's revised application, the document offers few details other than: "Existing two tracks will be shared in sections south of Redwood Junction to Mountain View."

Barker said the rail authority fully expects to build a four-track system in the Peninsula, as described in the agency's environmental-impact report for the line. But with funding for the $45 billion line far from certain, Palo Alto officials fear that this "fail-safe" contingency plan could ultimately become reality, leaving the Midpeninsula burdened with traffic congestion, a busier Caltrain corridor, and street-level trains for the foreseeable future.

Mayor Pat Burt and Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie both said recently they were concerned about the possibility the rail authority would build other segments of the rail line first and move on to the Midpeninsula section later.

Burt mentioned this grim scenario at Tuesday's meeting of the City Council High-Speed Rail Committee when he referred to the possibility of the rail authority taking the "phasing" approach for the Midpeninsula -- an approach he said would leave the city with the existing two tracks. He said this could impact the city's traffic, safety and emergency response and called it one of the most critical questions facing the Midpeninsula cities.

Rob Braulik, Palo Alto's project manager for high-speed rail, said the city has "serious concerns" about the proposal in the grant application, even if the design in the proposal is far from certain.

"We could be stuck with an at-grade, two-track system along our corridor for many, many years," Braulik told the Weekly. "Who knows when they'll get the funding to do some of the other alternatives?"

The rail authority currently has $3.3 billion for construction of the rail line, which currently has an estimated price tag of about $45 billion. Though California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the rail line in November 2008, proceeds from this bond money have to be approved on an annual basis by the state Legislature and must be matched by other funding sources.

If the rail authority adopts the "phasing" plan, the only major improvement Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto would see is an electrified Caltrain corridor, which would enable more trains to pass through the Midpeninsula. The rail authority estimates that Caltrain service will increase from 90 daily one-way trains between San Francisco and San Jose today to 162 trains in 2025.

But even this "improvement" could have a negative impact on Palo Alto and its Midpeninsula neighbors. The electrification project would require Caltrain and the rail authority to install overhead catenary system along the corridor, Braulik said. This system could be more than 20 feet tall and would create a major visual barrier throughout Palo Alto, he said.

Barker said the rail authority worked with Caltrain to come up with a plan in the Federal Rail Administration application that would be most beneficial to the system. He also said the revisions in the application don't fully reflect the rail authority's plans. The authority plans to send out a letter to cities and other stakeholders to clarify this information, he said.

"When it comes to what we would actually build on the high-speed-rail system -- that's being described in the environmental-review process that we're still nailing down," Barker said. "The application for federal funds in no way prejudices that process."

Related materials:

High-speed rail station a tough sell in Palo Alto

VIDEO: Palo Alto city officials take rail representative to task at recent meeting

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by electric Caltrain
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Electrified Caltrain will be quieter, cleaner, safer, and more reliable. That will attract more riders and get their cars off the road. Ignore the NIMBYs and get it done already.

If you are worried about doubling the number of trains, remember that all those new passengers are not driving their cars and causing pollution and accidents and oil spills. That improves the quality of life for everyone.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

How does Caltrain expect to almost double their trains when they don't have the ridership as it is? Are people more likely to take the train because it's electric? I don't think so. Why will it attract more riders?

And should that come true, with 167 trains per day, you might as well close off those crossings that aren't grade separated.

The article says that "Rob Braulik, Palo Alto's project manager said the city has "serious concerns" about the proposal...The electrification project would require Caltrain and the rail authority to install overhead catenary system along the corridor, Braulik said. This system could be more than 20 feet tall and would create a major visual barrier throughout Palo Alto, he said."

So, the project manager is worried about 20 ft. high wires, but the main alternative HSR is looking at is an aerial viaduct with 20ft high wires ON TOP of that, putting it around 45 ft. high. How is that better???


Like this comment
Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm

"a major visual barrier"? Ummm, most of the tracks are behind trees that are much taller than 20 feet anyway. This will allow Caltrain to ditch diesel engines, and have MUCH better service. Trains will also be quieter.

Sounds like a serious win, with just about no negatives. A great step toward a fantastic local/express transit corridor, that doesn't divide the community with grade-level crossings or honking horns.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Holy crap, do these people even have an inkling of how ludicrous they sound? First it's bitch bitch bitch about how an elevated structure would divide Palo Alto, take land from private owners, and generally destroy the town. Now when faced with the alternative in which NONE OF THAT HAPPENS -- in which the tracks stay EXACTLY AS THEY ARE NOW -- it's bitch bitch bitch about how Palo Alto is not going to get the improvements that come along with high speed rail. Fer chrissakes, you can't have it both ways!

By the way Rob Braulik, does Palo Alto have any overhead utilities like power, phone, cable tv? If they're anything like those in my community they are higher than 20 feet and, admittedly, unattractive, but they have not yet caused anything particularly horrible to happen. And HSR aside, does Palo Alto intend to fight Caltrain electrification because it would require overhead wires?


Like this comment
Posted by thetruth
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

what a bunch of whinners..!!! NO,we dont want the caltrain to stay as it is..we want it fixed..We just want it fixed with an 800million dollar tunnel and park so that railroad thats been there as long as the town goes away and we dont pay and get to enjoy living next to a park..


Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

If streets intersect rails at grade level, then that part of the train trip is limited to a maximum 79 mph just as it is now. Grade speparation is required for higher speeds. Four tracks requires grade separation. If we don't increase the number of tracks, then we won't have High Speed rail in Palo Alto, because the trains will be traveling just as fast (or slow) as they do now.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

"a major visual barrier"? Ummm, most of the tracks are behind trees that are much taller than 20 feet anyway."

Umm, Evan, those trees will have to be clear cut to make space for the catenaries. I got that directly off of Caltrain's Environmental Impact Report. So in place of beautiful trees which, as you pointed out, screen the existing tracks, there will be a clear view of the tracks AND the ugly catenaries.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Just to be clear, I'm not arguing against electrification per se, which I think is a good thing. I'm putting out there that there are side effects, and losing the tree screening is one of them. It's good to understand all the facts when forming an opinion.


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Posted by mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Well, Wary Traveler, as you've just demonstrated, Palo Alto's beef about unsightly catenaries is a beef with Caltrain more than with CHSRA. High speed rail or no high speed rail, catenaries are coming. Unless the solution that you're looking for is that passenger rail on the Peninsula goes away.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I wonder what will be planned for the land under the 4-track aerial viaduct. If it means that the city is free to pave roads underneath, just like under highway bridges, wouldn't it mean a much better local traffic between North/South or East/West of the cities?



Like this comment
Posted by electric Caltrain
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I bet the NIMBYs will complain that grade separations are ugly. Some people will whine about anything. The benefits are so large that we need to move forward now.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Oh, no no no, James Hoosac, didn't you get the memo from Pat Burt? The aerial structure will DIVIDE the community! Yes, you are technically correct James, streets that currently are blocked by the at-grade Caltrain tracks could be continued underneath an aerial structure at negligible cost ... but Pat Burt says that an aerial structure would create a barrier that divides the city, so that's just the way it is. Apparently Pat's definition of "divide" is something unattractive that you have to look at. Your definition, James, might be that to divide the community means to create a barrier that prevents free and convenient movement from east to west -- such as the current Caltrain tracks do. But that's not Pat's definition. And Pat is right and you -- and anyone who sees things differently than him -- are wrong.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

City of PA and PAUSD should pursue legal action to prevent the hsr/caltrain combo from going forward with ANY proposal which would create any impedement to crossing those tracks in a timely manner at every crossing that exists today.

100% of Palo Alto's high school capacity resides on one side of the tracks (both high schools west side of tracks), while about 75% of their high school students reside on the other side of the tracks. Similar for their middle schools (East/west), and some of their elementary schools, - in other words the ability to cross the tracks safely and expediently in several locations from North to South, is mandatory, not optional, in order for kids to get to school in PA. Probably same goes for other mid-peninsula cities.

You can't prevent school children from attending school, and I bet it would be illegal to make it an undue hardship or practically impossible for them to get to school.

There are socio-economic impacts to this version that HAVE NOT BEEN STUDIED in the EIRs. (ie: leaving mid-peninsula at two tracks, while the surrounding north and south are increased to 4 tracks - forcing a huge volume increase in train traffic through the two track section in turn forcing closure or practical closure of the railroad crossing).

LAWSUIT.


Like this comment
Posted by mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Okay Parent, why don't you take a moment to catch you breath and then explain what it is that high speed rail is going to do that is going to prevent kids from getting from one side of the tracks to another. Is it the plan to elevate the tracks on an aerial structure so that kids can safely walk underneath from one side to another? Is it the plan to do nothing to the tracks? Is it some scary bogeyman track configuration that exists only in your mind?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

There are so many interesting viewpoints and arguments here that it will be hard to break this down. However, it's worth a try.

Personally, I hate it when uninformed anti-NIMBY posters make unsubstantiated statements. There's really no one that wouldn't object to an unsightly, monolith placed in their back yard. So in effect we're all NIMBYs.

Those of us living along the corridor and those who have attended HSR meetings and who are attempting to maintain a balanced point of view on the project have a really hard time doing so. The HSR board has published ridership numbers that haven't stood up to scrutiny. They've published environmental impact reports that have been plagued with issues. They've ignored the citizens and customers impacted by the project all along. They're operating on pure ego. Based on the overwhelming evidence that this board isn't competent, it's hard to imagine that there aren't more objections not fewer.

The real issue isn't so much the wires, or the high train or electrification or being green or not being economically viable or whatever. The real issue is that the HSRA can't deliver and they can't be trusted to not completely ruin our communities.

Electrification will be great. HSR will be great. But will they be great enough to outweigh the possibility that this could be the largest public works failure ever. Right now it's clearly on track for that outcome.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Well, Bill, since you believe that HSR is a scammy organization that will never be able to deliver the promised system, then you should be perfectly happy with the idea of leaving tracks as-is in Palo Alto. If high speed rail never becomes a reality then there will never be a need to finish the improvements through Palo Alto, and there will never be new HSR trains running on the existing tracks through Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Mike you're ok with a high probability of failure on this project given the completely flawed financial report from the HSRA and therefore ok with high probability of failure which might lead to a ruined community.

Beyond all the shadiness of the HSRA, it's just basic common sense that HSR won't work. I haven't yet met anyone who's taken the train form SF to LA. I also haven't been on a sold out SJC/SFO BUR/LAX flight in a while. They happen on occasion, but not enough to merit a $90B public works project.

For reference, shadiness includes:
1) Faulty ridership projections which grossly overestimate riders.
2) An attempt to control information flow with gag terms in their vendor contracts.
3) Clearly misleading vote information.
4) Faulty and poorly managed environmental impact reports.
5) Full on indignation from board members when pressed hard for the real truth on numerous matters.

I'd love to see this work and provide quiet, electric trains. However, the project can't be successful in its current configuration and managed by the current board.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Well Bill, there is this thing known as the Great Recession going on, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are currently fewer people flying between SFO and LA. HSR is a project for the next 50+ years, over which period the recession will probably end and growth will return. Let's not even bother with your observation that you know noone who has take the train from the Bay Area to LA; the Coast Starlight and HSR and just entirely different services and there's no point in comparing them.

I'm certainly not going to defend the CHSRA Board or the way that they've managed the communication side of this project. If your point is that California should simply abandon HSR entirely, then that's a valid point of view that can be debated, but also a point of view that only a minority of Californians and elected officials hold. Otherwise, the question is how to move forward to implement high speed rail (including meeting the legitimate concerns of Palo Alto and other communities); towards this point, the phased implementation plan makes a lot of sense.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

mikeorama, the plan they're talking about (scenario in the federal grant application - and the plan discussed above IN THIS ARTICLE would leave 2 tracks at grade through mid peninsula, while north and south get 4 tracked, with potential of leaving quite a little bottleneck of a vastly increased level of train traffic through this stretch.

I'm talking about what THIS article is talking about. Did you even read it, or too busy foaming?


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Parent, I do apologize, I was all wound up from some the other posts and didn't adequately think through what you're saying. What you're saying, I think, is that Palo Alto needs to get a four-track grade-separated solution just like the rest of the Peninsula. Of course this is exactly what CHSRA is studying in Palo Alto, either on an aerial structure or in an open trench. If there were more support from Palo Alto leadership to move in this direction then perhaps the Authority would commit to doing the Palo Alto improvements sooner. But given all of the resistance and general community resistance to any construction/expansion on the corridor, it's not surprising that the CHSRA response has been to offer to leave PA tracks alone for now.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Mike, even prior to this recession there weren't sold out flights. So even anecdotally and from a simple back of the envelope calculation the HSR doesn't make sense. It's still going to take longer and cost roughly the same price. More importantly, and this is widely substantiated, there just isn't demand for HSR. And minus the demand, why would we irrevocably tear our community into pieces?

Add to this the fact that CalTrain may need to drop trains due to low ridership. Seriously, who's not getting the picture here? Saying that we're preparing for the future isn't a logical argument based on anything we know today.

Coast Starlight, Amtrax, Greyhound, Southwest, American, United, etc - how many people do you know go to LA on a regular basis? Likely not many. I go on work quite a bit. Ask one of my friends and I'll likely be the one person they mention. Even more comically, how many people living in San Francisco would consider a weekend in Bakersfield? Seriously, it's mind bogglingly clear that this makes no sense.

Finding a way to electrify CalTrain without ruining the cities it serves is the question. And that question is intertwined with the HSR mess.


Like this comment
Posted by Transient
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Caltrain may have to drop trains due to costs of fuel costs rising. The cost of petroleum has doubled in the last 10 years and is not going down to previous levels. Caltrain has said that electrification is the only way for the train to reduce costs and avoid bankruptcy.

The cost of jet fuel has also risen forcing airlines to cut expenses. As fuel costs continue to rise fares will go up as ways to cut expenses are exhausted.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Questioning the ridership projections, which I did too a while back, is futile. There are plenty of historical arguments to prove the contrary.

Example 1. When Golden Gate Bridge was to be built, many fiercely opposed it. It was in the midst of depression. The population living on the other side was tiny. Car ownership was still small. The building cost was too high, etc., etc. But now who will not say the Bridge was a huge success?

Example 2. Going back even further, when Yellowstone was to be set aside as our first National Park, many, especially the early settlers, thought the president was out of his mind. 80% of the population lived on East Coast. There were no cars. Who would come and visit? Why not encourage local land development? But now who will not say Yellowstone is the treasure of our land.

Future is hard to predict. But population will grow, especially on California coast. Oil price may go to $250/b by 2020. All these factors will affect the projection.


Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Bill,

Comparing HSR to the number of people riding the Coast Starlight or other Amtrak services to the Southland isn't really fair. For example, the "Coast Starlight" departs from San Jose at 10:07am and arrives in Los Angeles at 9pm. That's apples to oranges. Furthermore, airline route load factors are not a great predictor of demand, either.

You are also neglecting the number of people who drive between the areas via the 5 or 101.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 5:32 pm

bill, i don't plan to spend much time helping you to correct your facts, but what would you say to sfo about its forecast for significant growth in sfo to la traffic? are they wrong too?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Unsightly catenary??? Wash your keyboard out! The well aligned catenary is one of the high points of beauty in the blending of man's work with nature's laws. I would vote to get rid of the fractally assembled trees so the real beauty of the catenary was open for observation by all. For a lagniappe I would suggest a 900,000 volt transmission line above the ROW to give us a much needed alternate electrical feed.
My only reservation about this plan B is that I see no guarantee of improvement of the freight and express handling capabilities of the route. And I definitely oppose leaving ANY grade crossings.


Like this comment
Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This plan B is what Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton got for officially opposing HSR as they have. No need to cry over it now.

Never mind that a very large number (possibly a majority ?) of Palo Alto residents have been supporters of HSR all along.

(As to the 20 foot catenaries being an eyesore for all of Palo Alto, that is so laughable. Most people won't ever even notice the catenaries. Only people along the rail line will see them. Being from Europe where they are all over the place, I don't think they are a big deal whatsover).


Like this comment
Posted by 20 feet tall is hardly anything
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I can't believe people are whining about 20 foot high power lines for Caltrain. The utility poles and cables that already run all over town are 40 to 60 feet high. 20 foot high will be practically invisible, hidden behind the bushes that already line Alma Street.


Like this comment
Posted by howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm

re: "Umm, Evan, those trees will have to be clear cut to make space for the catenaries. I got that directly off of Caltrain's Environmental Impact Report. So in place of beautiful trees which, as you pointed out, screen the existing tracks, there will be a clear view of the tracks AND the ugly catenaries"

I have heard that if one cuts down trees, you can then plant new trees, and after a while the new trees will grow high enough to do a pretty good job of masking. A few years of no tree masking. Not what I would call an end of the world tragedy.


Like this comment
Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Howard, your point is true but probably not satisfying if in fact any trees were going to be "clear cut" as Wary Traveler claims. However, WT is simply wrong; the Caltrain EIR reads as follows:

"The JPB would trim trees only insofar as necessary to provide the required safety envelope. It is not anticipated that this tree trimming would result in the removal of mature trees. A structurally weak, overmature, or particularly fast-growing tree on JPB property may be considered for removal. No removal of trees on private property is contemplated. Tree trimming would be conducted consistent with arboricultural industry standards. The JPB would evaluate potentially affected trees on an individual basis. The City of Atherton tree ordinance requires a permit and potentially a tree protection plan to be approved if 25 percent or more of a heritage tree’s canopy were to be pruned in a single season. Such drastic trimming is not anticipated. The “El Palo Alto” redwood tree is located outside of the proposed project right-of-way and
would not be affected by the Electrification Program Alternative."

Page 3-45 of the Caltrain Electrification EIR.


Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 26, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Thank you Walter for prompting me to look up "lagniappe". To think for all these years I thought it was to take a nap on a lawn!

We need to think creatively and leverage the catenary system potential:

Add antennas to reduce dropped mobile calls and decorate them to look like trees.

Add WiFi transmitters.

Add electric distribution wires to reduce outages.

I'm sure the art commission can come up with some interesting public art projects.




Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:52 pm

What a crazy idea I have! Rather than electrify CalTrain, do away with it altogether and extend BART to San Jose. Leave one standard-gauge track in place on the peninsula for freight, which would only run from, say, 1 am to 5 am. Why isn't this a good idea?

Another idea which may or may not be possible technically is to build dual-gauge tracks: a wide-gauge track for BART with an inner third rail for standard-gauge trains.


Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:58 pm

1. California cannot afford HSR right now. We are already $XXX BILLION in debt and we furlough our state employees! In addition, Californians can't afford another tax/fee/toll just so we can be like one of those other "forward thinking" (cough cough) countries! Our strange attempt to be like those "forward thinking" (cough cough) countries might be one of the reasons that we are in debt right now!

2. There is NO PRESSING NEED for the HSR. We have sufficient transportation infrastructure that meets the needs of all of our residents! A person from Sacramento can fly to Los Angeles for $49. If the price doubled to $98, it would STILL be cheaper than the off-the-record estimated cost of a single ticket of the HSR! More importantly, we don't have to spend $50-200 Billion building the tracks, stations and machines!

3. The HSR will be extremely expensive to build and will only be used by a fraction of California residents. You can try and compare the HSR with highways and roads, but we don't have to PAY to use them (although there have been some calls by some crazy legislators to change that). If CalTrain is any indication, the HSR would be overpriced, underutilized and costly to maintain (with the cost constantly underestimated with subsequent increases in fare).

4. There are more important needs in our state! How about spending some money on improving our schools, hospitals and roads? How about coming up with a plan for encouraging business development that can create permanent jobs for the 12-15% of residents who are out of work?

I know that these concerns might not bother some of those who are willing to spend everyone's money to get this thing built. Yet, times are tough for so many of us! The current Administration is whispering about the current economic situation being a "new norm" in America. Can we really afford to spend so much money right now? How many Sacramento residents REALLY want to go to Los Angeles during any given week (and vice versa)? Is the demand really that great? How many of them would choose a train over a plane/bus/car?

This looks to be an experiment. Unfortunately, it would be one of the most costly experiments that California has ever participated in! I just don't think that the need (or lack thereof) justifies the enormous cost.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:38 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Add antennas to reduce dropped mobile calls and decorate them to look like trees."
Real engineers do not try to compete with God's creations by emulating them. We try, instead, to glorify God's greatest gift, free will and curiosity. Only God can make a tree. Only man and spiders can make a catenary.


Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:12 am

Nayeli said it best. Our pockets are empty and California has much greater needs.

Feed our hungry, care for our sick and educate ALL our children.

All else is gravy.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:35 am

Nayeli and Train Neighbor

Investing in infrastructure does improve the economy although it may be invisible at the time.

Take Ireland, for example. Back in the 70s it was a poor European country with high taxes, early 20th century infrastructure and a high emigration rate with a large percentage of its population under 25. The EU invested money, pumping it into infrastructure - particularly in transportation around its capital, Dublin, and the other major cities and their inconnectivity. Now it is a go ahead country with an increase in educated population and has more immigrants than those who want to emigrate. It is known as the Celtic Tiger and although it is a little more shaky during the present recession, it has transformed itself dramatically.

Changes like this don't happen without major investment, innovation and risk taking. Yes the State of California has major budget problems. Its major problem, imo, is that it is still stuck in 20th century mindset and even though some of the most major innovations in the tech world are taking place here, the setting is still not changing. We may have the highest tech gadgets in our pockets or on our desks, but we are living in an environment which is decades behind the rest of the world.

Some may say that we can't afford to improve our rail system. Those who have witnessed themselves by travel to other countries and understand what our competitors for big business can offer to the environs of their situation, know that we can't afford not to.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:39 am

The one advantage of being late from the starting gate on this one is that we may end up (a) learning from others' mistakes and not making the same poor decisions ourselves and (b) end up with a more state of the art system if we use the most modern technology available provided in both cases that we look ahead and think smart.

Thinking smart is done with keeping our heads alert and not putting them in the sand.


Like this comment
Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:53 am

Nayeli,

I think you should take a year and travel around the world so that you can see that some things ARE done better in other countries than in the US.


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

Daily Post says Pat Burt says his best guess is that HSR will decide to put its tracks at ground level in Palo Alto.

Who is right and who is spreading fear?


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Posted by Rich
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

If a below- or above-ground route for the tracks is not feasible, maybe the planners should consider converting the Meadow and/or Charleston grade crossings into underpasses — similar to what was done years ago at 42nd Avenue in San Mateo.


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Posted by Morgan Hill
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

Give me a break.
I can understand not wanting a HSR viaduct dividing your city. But balking at the wires over electrified Caltrain?! Cmon. Remember what it looked like before buried fiberoptic carried rail communications? Remember those telephone poles along the RR right of way with ALL those wires on ALL those insulators?! Just look at Light Rail or Muni.

Don't whine about this one, it isn't a big deal. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

Hah, Mikeorama, this was one of the best comments I've seen in while:

"Oh, no no no, James Hoosac, didn't you get the memo from Pat Burt? The aerial structure will DIVIDE the community! Yes, you are technically correct James, streets that currently are blocked by the at-grade Caltrain tracks could be continued underneath an aerial structure at negligible cost ... but Pat Burt says that an aerial structure would create a barrier that divides the city, so that's just the way it is. Apparently Pat's definition of "divide" is something unattractive that you have to look at. Your definition, James, might be that to divide the community means to create a barrier that prevents free and convenient movement from east to west -- such as the current Caltrain tracks do. But that's not Pat's definition. And Pat is right and you -- and anyone who sees things differently than him -- are wrong."


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Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm

It's easy to identify the "not-in-the crosshairs" folks.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Hi HSR supporter...

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Just FYI: I studied in Europe during grad school. I even rode on a HSR. While the HSR was interesting, it was very evident that citizens in European nations just don't have a similar eclectic mix of transportation opportunities as enjoyed by this nation.

There aren't airports located in most cities. In fact, Spain only has ONE major airport that isn't located along the coast. There are nearly 850 Million residents in Europe, but less than 425 Million road vehicles (whereas there is almost a 1:1 ratio in the US). There are over 4 Million miles of paved roads in the US, and considerably less in Europe. Fuel is also extremely expensive in Europe.

In other words, there was a real pressing NEED for a viable alternative for distant travel in Europe.

California just doesn't have the same pressing need. More importantly, we don't have the FUNDS for such an expensive project right now! Our state is in UNBELIEVABLE debt right now! Our state can't even find the money to pay state employees on Fridays! In some cases, our state was giving IOUs in lieu of payment. So WHERE are we going to come up with the money to pay for this "project?"

We are already taxed beyond belief! You're right, I wasn't born in California. Heck, I wasn't even born in the United States! However, I am a citizen of the United States and a resident of California. This is my home. It was a SHOCK to see the extreme cost of living here -- especially from taxes, fees, tolls, CRVs and other methods that the state uses to reach into our pockets and bank accounts. While you may have plenty of money to give the state, most California residents aren't so economically endowed. Regardless of how it is initially funded, this HSR will ultimately cost everyone some of their remaining income.

I can't help but wonder how many people are estimated to choose using the HSR anyway. With SO MANY options for travel in the state, what makes us sure that a majority of residents will use the HSR? This is especially true when you realize that airline travel is faster and will likely remain less expensive. In addition, many residents will still opt for other forms of travel -- from buses to good, old fashion road trips.

Anyway, my point is that I am entitled to an opinion EVEN IF you do not agree with it.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Could the editor also signify that he/she removed the portion of the scornful statement in the post by "HSR supporter" of which I quoted and offered a short response? That inflammatory sentence was removed from his/her post but it hasn't been noted in the post that it was edited by a PaloAltoOnline editor.

Otherwise, my post will not reflect the fact that I was responding to that poster's incendiary remark. I don't want readers to assume that I was just reacting for no reason.

Thanks!


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Posting this from Washington, DC where I ride the electrified Metro trains all over (and all under) the city. And there is not an electrified catenary anywhere to be seen. Instead the "hot" rail is hidden at ground level on the far side of the track from the platform and is used in tunnels (50 miles), overhead tracks (9 miles), and at grade (46 miles).
Why is CalTrain telling us that catenaries are the only solution for electrifying their trains?


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Posted by SanePerson
a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

There was a very important paragraph in this article that some of you may have missed, so I will repeat it:

"The rail authority currently has $3.3 billion for construction of the rail line, which currently has an estimated price tag of about $45 billion. Though California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the rail line in November 2008, proceeds from this bond money have to be approved on an annual basis by the state Legislature and must be matched by other funding sources."


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Posted by HSR Supporter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Nayeli...


A simple search of this site allows anyone to see how many times you have mentioned Texas in the past on other threads in this forum. You advertised that your parents live there and that you once lived there and worked there.

To me it seems that you miss that state greatly.

I don't know what could possibly be inflammatory in pointing that out...


Otherwise, I am not aware that California has major airports outside its coasts (much like Spain). You don't seem to be aware that many, many European cities DO have airports served by low cost airlines such as Ryan Air.

Furthermore a comparison between the US and the European Union would be more apt that your comparison with all of Europe all the way to the Ural Mountains.

Lastly, you don't seem to realize that with our growing population density we will one day run out of space for cars, just like Europe. And that one of these days gasoline and jet fuel prices will skyrocket here too. Should we be caught unprepared?

I don't think so.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Quote:

Near the end of his iPhone launch, Jobs said, “There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very beginning and we always will.”

End Quote

In terms of future population growth, in terms of future oil and overall energy price, and in terms of global warming, we should think in the same way.


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Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Nayeli, as HSR Supporter pointed out, California has no major airports not near its coast (unless you count Sacramento as a major airport) just like (according to you) Spain. But more importantly, so what? What is the significance to anything of whether an airport or a HSR station is near the coast or not?


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Hi HSR Supporter...

What does my having lived in Texas have to do with a HSR being built in California?

Is this grasping the straw man?

I don't apologize for having lived in Texas, and I think that there are some things about fiscal responsibility that could be learned from that state. But, just to be clear: I don't talk about the state of Texas as much as you seem to pretend. I mentioned it some time ago as a contrast to a California issue. Was that wrong at the time? Why is that even relevant to THIS issue?

As for what was "inflammatory:" It wasn't that you pointed out (for no apparent reason) that I once lived in Texas (as if that was a "bad" thing). It was that you recommended that I leave California and move back to Texas. It was deleted by someone with the PaloAltoOnline, as was my short response to that statement. I thought that it was odd that the person who deleted that portion didn't note it on your post, but it was there. I find it silly to ask someone who disagrees with your view to move out of the state just because they don't agree with you. Where is the "tolerance" and healthy discussion in that sort of response?

Now back to the (non-Texas) topic:
You continue to compare apples and oranges. Spain has a handful of small "major" airports -- mostly on the coast -- most of which cannot even handle the capacity of airports in Fresno or Bakersfield. People in Spain just don't fly throughout the country because there is no way to do it outside of private planes in tiny, rural airports. That is why a HSR was a viable solution in that nation.

With all of your talk about my having lived in Texas, you continue to cite other countries -- countries that lack a transportation infrastructure as eclectic as California.

This is NOT Europe. We have more highways, more interstates, more bridges, more roads, more vehicles, more buses, cheaper fuel, more regional airports, more regulated air traffic, and more choices than countries like Spain (which is about the same size as California in both area and population) or other Western European nations. The people in those nations really NEEDED a viable transportation option because they lacked other options.

The "need" in this case is fast, safe, inexpensive transportation from Sacramento to Los Angeles (and some stops in between). Yet that ALREADY EXISTS! We have large regional airports with inexpensive flights that allow travelers to fly to those locations in a fast, cheap and safe manner. We have good highways and interstates (and cheap fuel) that allow people to drive the same distance. Very importantly, the State is IN EXTREME DEBT and does not have the economic cushion to spend so much money right now!

A more proper comparison is NOT one where we claim that other "forward-thinking nations have HSRs so we should too." Rather, it is wondering if those nations would be willing to spend MONEY THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE on a comparable transportation infrastructure.

Should Spain spend BILLIONS OF EUROS to build airports all over their country since they already have the HSR? Of course not. They don't have the money or a pressing need, because they already have the HSR. Why, then, should California build a HSR if we don't have the money or a pressing need because we have a comparable solution (regional airports with high capacity)?

Anyway, I hope that clears up where I am coming from. BTW, there really isn't a reason to bring up the fact that I lived in Texas again since it really isn't important to this discussion. This is just my perspective on the HSR issue. There is no need to ask anyone to leave California (again) if they simply disagree with your view on the matter.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hi Mikeorama,

You wrote: ---> "Nayeli, as HSR Supporter pointed out, California has no major airports not near its coast (unless you count Sacramento as a major airport) just like (according to you) Spain." <---

When we speak of "major airports" in Spain, those coastal airports aren't comparable with major hubs like SFO, SJC or OAK. In fact, most of them aren't really comparable to regional airports like SBP, OXR or FYI (Fresno). The coastal airports in Spain mostly cater to small regional aircraft for a low capacity of fliers. That is why it is a relevant comparison. Those small coastal airports in Spain (nearly every airport with the exception of Seville and Madrid) don't have capacity to fly even 50 flights a day carrying 200+ passengers.

In addition, fuel is extremely expensive in Europe. This causes even commercial flights to be extremely expensive. It is worse for small commercial planes flying in between the hubs where the price of fuel is divided between the smaller number of passengers. Gas is expensive for those lucky enough to own vehicles too. That is why a high capacity HSR is an intelligent solution for a country like Spain.

We really don't have such a pressing transportation need here in California. Even if the HSR is built, people will have the choice of a pricey HSR ticket, a commercial airline ticket (cheaper and faster), a bus ticket (cheaper) and driving your own vehicle (cheapest). How many travelers would opt for the HSR if it is more expensive than air travel? Do we even have an estimate of how many people (and which demographics) would actually put the HSR to use if it were built? I just fear that it will be more of a pricey novelty than a viable means of travel throughout the state.

Most importantly, I am trying to emphasize that California CANNOT AFFORD this right now. Maybe this can be something to consider in the future -- if the need merits such a notion -- when we actually know how to balance our State budget without taxing this state even more than we already are.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Nayeli

You look on Spain as being typical of European transit. I am not too familiar with Spain, but do not think a comparison with Spain and California as an apples to apples comparison. They may be similar in size and population, but not in very much else. I don't think of Spain as being a commercial leader or high with innovation, but I might be wrong.

Most of the airports are on the coast primarily because their largest industry is tourism and cheap flights to Spain have been available since the 60s from nearly everywhere in Europe.

The other thing about Spanish airports is that the vast majority of flights to these tourist destination airports are charter flights, something which we do not have here. A charter airline is not like a commercial airline because it does not have a regular schedule and can be booked like we book airline flights here. Charter airlines typically sell blocks of seats to various tour companies and travel agencies who will pay for these seats regardless of whether they are filled or not. These tour companies and travel agencies then sell packages to their customers and generally sell them cheaper within a couple of days of use just to get back some money on their seat. Package vacations are something we do not have here the same as they do in Europe and as a result comparing Spanish tourist destinations with say Sacramento, Bakersfield and Redding don't make sense.

No, a better comparison would be France, Germany or the UK. Rail travel started in these countries back at the beginning of the industrial revolution and were popular until air travel started competing competitively in the 60s and 70s. As a result, rail travel did dwindle between major urban centers as air travel and freeways, autobahns, motorways improved and car ownership increased. However, the rail authorities and governments were aware of the competition and started innovatively competing for riders. The systems were improved in many and various ways in the last two decades of the last century and those wishing to travel had a number of options to consider when traveling.

Here things were different. Rail travel has never been invested in. The routes we have now have seen little changes they were first introduced. The more populous East Coast and other areas have done some investment and improvements, but rail options have never been given a fair chance.

Now here on the West Coast we do have a chance to compete. Will rail travel suit every trip. No, of course not. But neither will air travel or car travel. At present the biggest hindrance is that rail travel does not come to mind as a means of travel. This can be overcome by advertising and marketing.

It makes no sense for someone with a lot of luggage flying from SF to LA. It makes no sense for one person driving SF to LA for a one day business meeting. It makes no sense for a family who need a car at the other end to fly or even to go by train. But, it could make sense for someone with a lot of luggage to go by train, say a college student, when a shuttle or taxi can meet them - particularly if they have no parking available when they get there. It could make sense for a business executive to take the train when a taxi can take them to the meeting and he has a short walk to a local station from home and is able to work en route without having to turn off the computer, phone, ipad, for take off or landing, and get from city center to city center or home with only a short walk/local bus or train or taxi.

In other words, this sort of thing is possible in Germany, France, the UK, and even on the East Coast. It can be possible to do the same here. Anyone who has lived/worked in Europe knows this. Even tourists and students in Germany/France/Uk do this. Perhaps Spain is different, I don't know, I have only ever flown to Spain for package vacations on charter flights.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:00 pm

There may be a time when a family with kids can make a day trip from Palo Alto to Disney Land.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:11 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Caltrain does not have "low ridership". Caltrain has psoted steady increases in ridership over the past two decades with the exception of expected drops during recessions.

Caltrain's financial problems are not primarily the result of falling ridership but are the result of the loss of substantial funding from Muni, Samtrans and, I think, VTA in response to their budget woes.

I don't think the HSR as presently proposed have sufficient ridership to be financially viable even taking other benefits into consideration.

However, using the federal funding to improve local train service such as Caltrain is a winner in my view. Caltrain is very important to the peninsula and will continue to attract growing ridership.


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Here is the ridership link. Look at Figure 1 on page 2.

Web Link


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Posted by gh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

The tracks were built decades ago before the development of the peninsula's cities. Like it or not, the cities grew around the tracks.

Ignoring the safety, environmental and quality-of-life implications of hsr through the center of our cities is flat-out ignorant - Caltrain expansion of at or above-grade train travel through our neighborhoods is a mind-boggling disaster.


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Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

For those who are interested: A lagniappe (pronounced /ˈlænjæp/, LAN-yap) is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (such as a 13th donut when buying a dozen), or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure."[1] The word is chiefly used in the Gulf Coast of the United States, especially Louisiana.[2]

The word entered English from Louisiana French, in turn derived from the American Spanish phrase la ñapa ('something that is added' ). The term has been traced back to the Quechua word yapay ('to increase; to add'). In Andean markets it is still customary to ask for a yapa when making a purchase. The seller usually responds by throwing in a little extra. Although this is an old custom, it is still widely practiced today in Louisiana. This custom is also widely practiced in southeast Asia. Street vendors, especially vegetable vendors, are expected to throw in a few green chillies or a small bunch of cilantro with a purchase.

Contents [hide]
1 History of the American English word
2 History of the Trinidadian Creole English word
3 See also
4 References
5 External links


[edit] History of the American English word
After the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire certain Quechua words entered the Spanish language. The Spanish Empire for a time also included Louisiana so there was a Spanish presence in New Orleans. In his book Creoles of Louisiana, George Washington Cable comments on the effects of the Spanish presence on Louisiana Creole French:

The Spanish occupation never became more than a conquest. The Spanish tongue, enforced in the courts and principal public offices, never superseded the French in the mouths of the people, and left but a few words naturalized in the corrupt French of the slaves. The terrors of the calaboza, with its chains and whips and branding irons, were condensed into the French tri-syllabic calaboose; while the pleasant institution of ñapa -- the petty gratuity added, by the retailer, to anything bought -- grew the pleasanter, drawn out into Gallicized lagnappe.

Though the word is included in English dictionaries it is used primarily in the region influenced by New Orleans[3] (and therefore Louisiana French) culture and so may be thought of as being more Cajun French or Louisiana Creole French than English. This is especially so since the spelling has been influenced by French.[4]

Mark Twain writes about the word in a chapter on New Orleans in Life on the Mississippi (1883). He called it "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get":

We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — "lagniappe." They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a "baker's dozen." It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — "Give me something for lagniappe." The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor — I don't know what he gives the governor; support, likely. When you are invited to drink, and this does occur now and then in New Orleans — and you say, "What, again? — no, I've had enough;" the other party says, "But just this one time more — this is for lagniappe." When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady's countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his "I beg pardon — no harm intended," into the briefer form of "Oh, that's for lagniappe."


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Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

Citation of above is Wikipedia.

The purpose of this post is to give you a gift of a word.

And to move the dialogue back to the cementrification of the bay area.
One may ask why on the Peninsula, and why on this route. We have already destroyed the lush agricultural lands of Santa Clara Valley. The route picked (unlike European highspeed railroads) is parallel to the San Andreas and in close proximity to the Hayward. If one or both faults do have their 8 earthquakes, within 20 years, as predicted, we will have (a) the liquifaction of the 101 corridor from the bay shore to the bay (see USGS website for modeling of the effect on Middlefield Road and points east) (b) the devastation will stop the electrified Railroad since there will be no power for possibly months, to say nothing of the HSR (c) and what destruction will the RR tracks, and any overhead lines incur.

We haven't planned for that predictable disaster; why would one expect vested interests in the Railroad and HSR to plan for community impact from the installation of HSR? And why do they care? Not one of them lives within a mile of the proposed routes I am guessing.


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2010 at 1:06 am

@Bill Moisten: You say you haven't been on a sold-out flight to Southern California in a while. Well, can I ask when the last time you flew that route was? Because I fly it all the time (my girlfriend's parents are in Orange County), and I can promise to you that the flight is always full — and that's even flying into the craphole that is Long Beach Airport. LAX is even worse. So yes, there is a demand — and keep in mind that unlike an airplane route, demand also comes from short-haul traffic, not just long-haul. There are tons of people traveling between SF-SJ, Silicon Valley to Central Valley, Central Valley to LA, LA to SD, Vegas, Irvine, and all those permutations. There is huge demand, there's no question about that.


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2010 at 1:08 am

@Alice: So, turns out…it's not just Europe that has HSR. There are these other countries, Japan and China — you may have heard of them :)

What else? They are major earthquake fault zones. Sorry, want to try again?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2010 at 3:58 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The plow on Washington D.C. trolleys is just a hidden [at remarkable cost] 3rd rail. like exposed 3rd rail such as BART it is limited to a max of 1500 volts, while overhead can run at the more efficient higher voltages. The difference in installed and operating costs of underground 3rd rail vs overhead wire is enough to suggest reevaluation of the cost of pandering to an elitist aesthetic with the Victorian aura that saw pantaloons on piano legs.


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Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

After reading the comments, from my perspective the negatives outweigh the positives.
Most compelling is the cost that is a ridiculous amount to pay for a state that cannot balance a budget and cuts back on education, health and other public services
Next, the extremely limited destinations would seem to benefit only a very small percent of our state's population, yet we are all going to be heavily taxed for it.
Based on the history of BART and Caltrain, I don't believe the HSR will be financially sustainable without huge and increasing infusions of funds, coming from we the people, most of whom will get no benefit.
Energy prices as well as salaries are projected to rise; the HSR will not escape rising energy prices. The infrastructure to support the HSR will increase in cost every year.
Rail systems in other countries form a complex web inter-linking many (indeed most) cities, so it is possible to get from many "heres" to "theres" by rail. The HSR is fatally flawed by being limited to linking just a few cities.
Finally I'd like to see a state-wide vote taken whether to proceed or not with the HSR. I'd expect that with full disclosure a great majority would realize they would not benefit, but would actually be penalized by the HSR expenses, even if there is a huge infusion of Federal funds (which we'll underwrite with our Federal taxes, another grossly unbalanced budget).
I would like to see the Caltrain tracks grade-separated at all existing crossings; and more track crossing created. There is already too much traffic disruption caused by trains. However, I'm not sure the resultant traffic disruption caused by construction would be worth it.


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Posted by Adam Selene
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

"the extremely limited destinations would seem to benefit only a very small percent of our state's population"

What the hell? The plan is to link the SF bay area to LA via the San Joaquin Valley and eventually San Diego and Sacramento as well. Most of CA's population is in these areas.


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Posted by george browning
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Thank you, Stan, for a good summaary of the HSR flaws.

In addition you might mention that all foreign HSR lines are subsidized (one exception in Great Britain); so I would expect California's to be no exception.

And the greatest percentage of our population lives more than 25 miles from the proposed route. So Mr. Selene, it's a wash as far as convenience for the traveler getting to a station or airport is concerned.

Mr. Levy. It may be that ridership of Caltrain will continue to grow, but it seems to be losing money faster than it's gaining riders. Raising fares to reduce the 50% taxpayer subsidy, may stop rider growth. Many unknowns.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

> “If your point is that California should simply abandon HSR entirely, then that's a … point of view that only a minority of Californians and elected officials hold.”

> “… a very large number (possibly a majority ?) of Palo Alto residents have been supporters of HSR all along.”

So many claims, so little data. How about providing some?

> “There may be a time when a family with kids can make a day trip from Palo Alto to Disney Land.”

Uh-huh. And then turn right around and come back, since it takes more than a day to wait in line for most rides.

> “HSR is a project for the next 50+ years, …”

In that case, it should be built with the latest technology available, as China is doing. Web Link

At this rate, it will be out of date before the first groundbreaking.
From Web Link

“Why is China So Good at This?
“As with China's push to become the world leader in electric cars and hybrids, the country's command economy management means that big projects can get going faster than they might under a clunky American bureaucracy. Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector provides more than enough steel and concrete. But China's infrastructure success also rests on the early start it got: the rail build-up began in 2005, meaning projects were "shovel-ready" by the time recession hit.

“The U.S. meanwhile is still looking for its shovel.”

From Web Link

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks the right talk. But the American government seems fated to be unable to deliver on his promises.”

> “The real issue is that the HSRA can't deliver and they can't be trusted to not completely ruin our communities.”

YES! This is the essential point. IF we could trust the HSR “authorities,” their numbers and assumptions, we might all have a different perspective on this project.

It’s not just California that’s being hoodwinked. See Milwaukee Biz Blog: High-speed rail will reap high-speed spending
Web Link


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

This is from “The Heritage Foundation,” a conservative think-tank, so its primary purpose may be to dis Obama.

Web Link

However, there are some interesting numbers in the report (which you may want to check out, given the source):

- An Amtrak study found that passenger rail subsidies in six European countries totaled $42 billion per year, proportionately similar to what the U.S. federal government spends on all transportation

- Despite these subsidies, only 7.9 percent of all surface passengers in these six countries use rail, while only 6.1 percent of passengers in all of Europe use rail.

- Despite these high subsidies for European rail, passenger rail's share of the market has declined over the past decade, while faster and cheaper airlines have gained.

To emphasize Nayeli’s critical point, just where do you want to spend money? Is HSR more important than educating our kids? Or do we want to keep them dumb so they believe government reports?


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Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Okay Pat, here's your data showing that only a minority of Californians want to abandon HSR. Web Link

13% oppose the project and do not want it built.
34% support and want to see it built asap
42% support and want to see it built but have some concerns

... moving on to address your next question directed at me with your concern about "latest technology" ... oh, just followed your link ... wow ... are you serious? How is an unbuilt, untested, unproved 20 mph crackpot vehicle in any way relevant to HSR?


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Posted by Jess
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Didn't Palo Alto city council unanimously APPOVE of Prop. 1A?!!!! Now they are screaming bloody murder because they got what they wanted.

I think HSR is a financial disaster, but I am getting a lot of perverse pleasure out of watching Palo Alto twist itself into knots! Lots of fun!!! It might be worth the price!!!!!

I eagerly look forward to more entertainment. How do you guys come up such a crew of "winners"?


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Posted by With Ears Plugged
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I am sure that there are some who live in these lovely quiet tree lined cities who are very willing to drive a large SUV down our highways to another beautiful plant covered area just to drive their ATV all over plants, chewing up the earth blowing dust in the air and making all kinds of noise and spoiling the air all in the name of fun.
Also some people are not aware of how much good food growing land is being wasted by large lawns and huge homes. For every road that is built it also takes away from land that we can grow crops on to eat and trees that cool our earth..... well I think some of you are getting the picture of the point I am making.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Yes, lets look to our European friends for their real life experience with high speed rail...

Web Link


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Posted by Reluctant Siliconer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Everything is temporary. In 50-100 years the seal level will have risen in the bay area by about 10 inches, by moderate estimates, and parts of 101, 1 and Caltrains will be under water, making them useless.

The electric train is probably a good thing for now though.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2010 at 5:38 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Divide Palo Alto.
Duh!
Except for a few grade crossings, there are tall bushes,trees and fences that have been there for the 50 years I have lived in this area. Palo Alto has always been "Divided" at the tracks.

There used to be ABOVE Ground Telegraph and signal wires all alongside the tracks. They have been mostly under-grounded now as the right of way got used for pipelines and mass communication.

I waas raised in New Jersey, where we had Electric trains that took commuters to New York every work day.
Overhead wires are fast/easy to maintain, less prone to environment caused malfunctions.
Skip the HSR and all its issues and give me a 19/7 commuter system that works (the other 5 hours a day can be used for freight. No problems mixing types of trains)


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:35 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

BART might actually pay its way if it would add express container trains to its roster and schedule. Imagine every building along Market receiving containers below street level. my caveat on HSR is that it does not sacrifice freight traffic.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:46 am

The City Council supported Prop 1A because they believed HSR is good for the state of California, even though better regional transit (or just more lanes on 101) are what the Peninsula needs now. The Council expected there’d be some traditional Bay Area give and take in the planning and routing. They didn't expect a 1950s Pat Brown era elevated structure. Why did San Francisco tear down their elevated freeways after Loma Prieta and refuse to rebuild them? Why does regionally important I-280 dump out to a 10mph crawl on 19th street?

The Peninsula is saying, “We support connecting the state together better. We’re not anti-progress. We’ll pay our share. But the big winners are elsewhere, especially cities in the Central Valley. San Francisco has a long tradition blocking transportation projects that help the region. Can’t we help Fresno without hurting us?”


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Posted by Mikeorama
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

@Walter_E_Wallis, if BART could do express runs it would also be MUCH faster on long trips that currently are MUCH slower than Caltrain (which is a big reason why people should stop dreaming of killing Caltrain and replacing it with BART). Unfortunately, it's too late; BART was built in a way that makes it impossible to do express or limited service.

@Anonymous, the way you describe it, the PA City Council sounds pretty rational and reasonable. Strangely, it never sounds that way when the PA Council is speaking for itself. Maybe you're projecting a bit and thinking of the Council as somewhat more sane than they actually are?


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Posted by anon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Yo, errybody in palo alto, imma let you finish, but electric trains have some of the best environmental statistics out there.

Kanye West joke aside, electric trains are much cleaner, safer, and economically smarter than driving. Seriously, as somebody above pointed out, it's either one thing or the other. Look how successful electric trains are in Europe! Does Europe have wonderful scenery? Yes! What about the community? It seems fine to me! Stop hopping on the bandwagon and saying such a train would ruin how Palo Alto looks, or destroy the community. Electric trains are a solid step into the cleaner future of transportation.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

BART doesn't do express runs? One wonders why. Another black mark. Black BART? Where have I heard that?


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2010 at 11:39 am

OK, Mikeorama, how long have you worked for Ogilvy?

Ogilvy, the PR firm that did the “push poll” you refer to, is getting $9M (of taxpayer money) from the HSR Authority to get out the “truth” about the project.

The job of a PR firm is to spin information in favor of the firm who’s paying. A “push poll” is designed to create the impression of public support for the client’s position. That’s why the press release claims “ Survey Finds Strong Support for High Speed Rail.”
The poll data shows that 52% of respondents either “opposes” or “has concerns about” high-speed rail. That does not translate into “strong support.”

During the survey, pollsters mentioned 11 potential benefits of the project -- but not one single potential drawback, e.g., the problems documented by the legislative analyst, the state auditor and the transportation modelers at UC-Berkeley.


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Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

@Evan - RE: Orange County. Fair enough. I should've been more clear. Yes, the Orange County flights are likely to be more packed. However, that's just one market. I was specifically referring to LAX and BUR. And a month after your comment and those routes, except for convention days, are not sold out.

Further, will you take HSR from Orange County to Palo Alto when it will add 2-3 hours to your trip? For 20-50% more, depending on the ticket price, you can fly in less time.


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

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