News

Palo Alto to sue High Speed Rail Authority

City Council unanimously supports a lawsuit challenging an environmental report

Palo Alto will urge federal and state officials to cut off funding for California's proposed high-speed rail and sue the agency charged with building the project, the City Council agreed Monday night.

The city's lawsuit, which the council unanimously supported, will challenge the California High-Speed Rail Authority's recently certified Program Environmental Impact Report, a comprehensive document that identifies the Pacheco Pass and the Caltrain Corridor as the preferred alignment for the new rail system.

Menlo Park and Atherton had already sued the rail authority over the document, forcing the agency to decertify it and to revise several sections.

Palo Alto officials are claiming that the new document violates the California Environmental Quality Act because it fails to address many of the city's comments on the voluminous document. These include concerns about the project's ridership and revenue projections and its route selections.

The council's decision to sue the authority followed a lengthy discussion in which members repeatedly reasserted their increasing skepticism toward the project. The council unanimously adopted the "no confidence" resolution that was recommended by its four-member High-Speed Rail Committee.

Council members had supported the project in the 2008 election, but have increasingly turned against it as more details emerged. Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said it's become clear that the rail authority is not being a good partner with local agencies.

"When you see a business plan that's studied by numerous outside entities and deemed to be completely bogus, you really got to start questioning what type of partnership you have," Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said.

Councilman Larry Klein, who chairs the council's rail committee, proposed a series of changes to the original "no confidence" resolution, further toughening the city's stance against the voter-approved project, which has an estimated price tag of $43 billion.

The new language calls for the city to urge state and Federal Railroad Administration officials to "cease funding" for high-speed rail.

The Atherton City Council also voted Monday morning to file a new lawsuit against the authority. The Menlo Park council is scheduled to discuss the matter tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 21).

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 21, 2010 at 7:28 am

Good for City Council!

There are myriad reasons why this CAHSR proposal is an albatross, MOST of which are not NIMBY. I don't need to repeat them here. Those that have followed various reports and threads know what they are.

It is common in the commercial world to approve looking into a "concept," put some money into it, and then shut it down because for various reasons the potential turns out to not justify the investment. This is how we should view this project. Sounded good (for some) at first, but after drilling down, it is increasingly apparent that its envisioned promise is not there.

It also is common in the commercial world for people to get shown the proverbial door when they deal in bad faith and display incompetence. Time after time, CAHSRA leadership has produced shoddy reports that have been been criticized by objective 3rd party experts. Community input has at best been paid lip service at meetings, and in some cases outright been ignored or rejected. Such behavior is unacceptable from a group that supposedly is stewarding a public trust. What's more, it calls into question--as many have said--their competence to pull this thing off were it come to pass.

I voted against this beast in 2008 on policy and economic grounds. I also include myself as a Palo Alto skeptic on the impacts that it will have here in town.

But it is a beast at this point, and slaying it will not be easy, even though I predict that ultimately is what will occur.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 8:42 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

With all due respect [God, that gags me] for our beloved City Hall-ians, They are throwing a tizzy fit because they are not given veto power over the design, budget and operation of the project. The tracks have been there for over a century and yet the project is treated as if it were bulldozing houses and parks randomly.
Biggest losers are the people who will die at the grade crossings this dog-in-the-manger action keeps from closure.


Like this comment
Posted by LAMEBABIES
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:29 am

Our city is unbelievable. We're now fighting to jeopardize $billions of funding to create transportation alternatives that will greatly reduce greenhouse gasses; will prevent the need to build hundreds of miles of new freeways and plus new airports; and will provide grade separations of our existing train crossings to protect the lives of people crossing the tracks.

Our city grew up along the railroad. Most of us value the train. Now our 'leaders' are throwing a tantrum trying to deny the entire state the same modern option that many other countries have had for decades!


Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:37 am

Killing free improvements to the rail corridor that created your little town, great leadership Palo Alto!


Like this comment
Posted by M.C.
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:48 am

Go PA!


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:52 am

If you wrote your opinions in an intelligent, respectful way I doubt they'd remove your posts, LAMEBABIES.

I've read a lot of your posts before they were pulled (or maybe they were by other like-minded people) and I agree with you - I also wish the Weekly wouldn't remove them. I don't think the editors should attempt to protect us from the vitriol (with exception to the extreme language, threats, and targeting specific people); it serves a purpose to know what sort of sentiments exist. Let's see it for what it is, so long as we exercise some self control and not engage in that type of discourse ourselves. How about it, Weekly? Can you trust us to not get in a pissing match with these guys and let us see what they're saying?


Like this comment
Posted by Henry Lew
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thank you unanimous City Council! You saw that High Speed Rail(HSR)has a shaky business plan and ridership projections that 1) may saddle us taxpayers with bond debts, cost overruns and multi-year deficits 2) mandate the cheapest rail options,such as an elevated train highway on the Peninsula 3)transfer our tax dollars to Asia,China or Europe rail businesses ,a pricey hangover for " job creation".


Like this comment
Posted by Californian
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:15 am

The Palo Alto City Council is simply amazing. They don't want the railroad to be upgraded, refuse to cooperate with the Authority and instead issue demands and ultimatums backed up by litigation. Between the issues with HSR/Caltrain and their extorting Stanford by demanding Stanford pay for a new PA police station and PA infrastructure in exchange for allowing them to upgrade their hospital, which serves the Palo Alto community, the Council has shown its cards - a bunch of self-righteous, extorting idiots. The PA process is a sham, much like the Council, have fun shooting yourself in the foot.


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:47 am

Californian, Please define "refuse to cooperate with the Authority". Examples? I'm not getting that message.

Palo Alto has played by the rules for 2 years. They hosted meetings, conducted their own outreach in the absence of the CHSRA stepping up to their responsibilities, attended workshops including Policy Working Group and Technical Working Group, hired staff in order to keep up, joined with other cities to keep informed, responded according to the CEQA EIR process, corresponded with the CHSRA, respectfully requested additional information so they could make informed decisions, and the list goes on. And on.

There comes a point where you get the sense that you're banging your head against a brick berm (or maybe it's merely an aerial viaduct, as if that will reduce the pain to light-headedness). Palo Alto's time has come.

I predict that more cities throughout the state will eventually come to the same conclusion, if they’re not exhausted and frustrated already. Everyone has their breaking point where enough’s enough. The only questions remaining are when will other cities reach that point, and what will they do about it.


Like this comment
Posted by Marian S
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

As a resident, I wish I could, as an individual, opt out of this suit. Palo Alto, as well as all California, will lose out if we don't get high speed rail. I hope our Dear Leaders don't succeed in derailing this project.


Like this comment
Posted by Hi, Neil
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

Don't know if you are the guy from Boston.

Anyway, what you write coheres, but does not incorporate the wider picture.

"We're now fighting to jeopardize $billions of funding to create transportation alternatives"

However much federal money comes in, California will have to pay for the certain deficit on this. Even if foreign countries provide initial financing, California will pay that back with interest. No project of this kind turns a profit; a likely figure of what state taxpayers will end up paying is over 100B. And most of the jobs, and future technology and business benefits will go outside California.

The state does not have any money for luxuries of any kind, it cannot even afford its own employees for critical services. We are cutting food and other help to the poverty stricken. Taxpayers cannot pay more now, it will stunt growth too much.

\"that will greatly reduce greenhouse gasses"

actually, it may have a net negative impact on our environment and global climate change. It certainly will initially during the build, and the power has to come from somewhere. In fifteen years, it's likely to come from a source that pollutes more than cars will per person mile.

"will prevent the need to build hundreds of miles of new freeways"

Maybe. But we are in a situation of growing terrorist activity, and HSR makes a way better target than a freeway.

"and plus new airports;"

Yes, I agree with this.

" and will provide grade separations of our existing train crossings to protect the lives of people crossing the tracks."

Maybe. But spend $100B for a $100M job? In fact, there will be more than 100M in uncompensated value lost in a few cities alone as this thing is built.



"Our city grew up along the railroad. Most of us value the train. Now our 'leaders' are throwing a tantrum trying to deny the entire state the same modern option that many other countries have had for decades!"

I actually agree with this sentiment. But HSR is so screwed up now, that it's not the answer. We need to invest in regional mass transit.

Another problem with HSR independent of its funding and environmental impact problems is that it will greatly accelerate suburban sprawl, which brings with it so many ills that planners consider it the devil itself.


Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:16 am

I am also disappointed in the councils action - although I'm somewhat surprised to see the high level of support for HSR (implied by disapproval of PA City Council's disapproval of HSR). Where were all of us while this was being discussed.

If Oregon Expressway was up for discussion now would it be supported or would our council try to kill it too? 280?


Like this comment
Posted by Arg
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:21 am

When you don't like something sue sue sue....
Negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action


Like this comment
Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

To Arg, this is the way the CEQA process is designed. If the agency (who incidentally signs off on its own report) doesn't adequately address concerns, the ONLY recourse is a law suit. You could say that CEQA is a rich man's sport. Read through the EIR comment letters to the Authority and you'll notice an extreme level of frustration about comments being blatantly ignored. Those of us who don't have the time or money to pursue a lawsuit rely on Palo Alto and other organizations to do the necessary dirty work of defending their position, and indirectly ours. Although legal action is usually considered an aggressive action, in the case of CEQA it’s actually a defensive move as there is no other recourse to correcting errors and omissions. CEQA forces those who believe in standing up for accuracy and full disclosure to sue.

To Frank who asks where were all the vocal supporters when this was discussed. Several (many? most?) of the vocal supporters you see here are not from Palo Alto at all. A better question you might ask is where were the vocal supporters during City Council meetings, community meetings or in this Web Link city hall poll? If the supporters aren’t showing up in public meetings or in city polls, one starts to question how many of them actually exist.


Like this comment
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

Kudos to the PA city council. I am glad that you're speaking for us powerless residents. Great job.


Like this comment
Posted by Chuck Mangioni
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

Thank you PA city for standing up against HSR. HSR reps did not give all the facts before this was put up for vote in 2008. If all the facts were givin' (and we still don't know all the facts), Then I'm sure this HSR project would never have gone through with that slim 52% of the vote. The engineering firm is not from California so our tax money will be going to people who live out of state. People say it will create more jobs for Californians? maybe a handful. The people that will get the jobs will be from out of state who will work for lower wages highered by the engineering firm that is running the show. The materials are going to come from out of the country, China, Japan. So we will be paying them for most if not all of the materials needed for this project. Look at the Alaskan pipeline. It created jobs for outsiders. It also brought violence and drugs to small towns in Alaska (study it if you don't believe me, the drugs and violence still exists today in those small towns), and let's not even talk about the Exxon Valdez(environmental impact). I believe the same thing will happen here. Last. At first a ticket for one way would be $55, now it's $105, do you think it will go higher? At first there was maybe going to be 5 stops from L.A to S.F., now there are over 27 stops (that's not a bullet train, that's a regular train). At first they projected it would be about a 2.5 hour train ride. Now it's estimated to be more than 4 hours with all the new stops. At first they said it would not impact more that three or four schools, are they kidding? Let's talk about all the other schools and hospitals and senior citizens homes and yes residential homes and busineses. How many people are going to affected negativly? A LOT. And tax payers. It's estimated that each household will be paying over $400 in taxes for this project. Let's at least triple that too. $43 billion for the whole project? How about triple that or even more as well. This is no longer a case for the so called "Nimbys". If you are educated enough and really study this whole HSR project you will come to the same conclusion as the PA city council. I could go on forever but I think you get my point.


Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Thank You City Council for taking the initiative to be heard. I suspect this will provide leadership for other cities who also have major concerns about the viability of this project at this time.


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

Walter_E_Wallis, wrote "... our beloved City Hall-ians, They are throwing a tizzy fit because they are not given veto power over the design, budget and operation of the project....."

Note the difference in how the SJ council approached this issue. They accepted an above ground alternative PROVIDED they have veto over the design.

May I say that is a practical approach?

I expected the city to go ahead with the resolution - I think they are acting on emotion more than practicality - there is a real bitterness toward Rod Diridon as well as the entire HSRA.

Disappointed but not unexpected is my reaction.


Like this comment
Posted by Adam
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I voted for this, and I would love to be able to hop on the train and take it to LA (although I probably would not use it more than once a year.) However, at some point it became just too obvious that the CAHSRA is motivated by corrupt influences. To borrow from a Daily Show routine about a certain cable news channel; they are either really, really dumb or really, really evil.

I think the first and probably most telling evidence of this is when they withheld all the details of their plans until just after the referendum vote. The clincher was the various reports and estimates that were so easily debunked by experts.

If this train will never make economic sense, it is time to kill it now. A money-losing transportation system is not environmentally efficient. It means it is ultimately consuming more fuel and manpower resources than the alternatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Go Palo Alto! Good move. Arg, the time for dialogue has passed. CHSRA forced us into this position by ignoring the concerns of our community.


Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Way to go City Council for realizing that the emperor has no clothes on!


Like this comment
Posted by political_incorrectness
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm

The City Council is wasting your local tax dollars in litigation that will probably be blocked as with any suit against BART. The concerns have been addressed and heard, but the fact remains that the City of Palo Alto expects a four-track tunnel on my dime from the federal taxpayer and on bondholders dimes as well. Which will then start the vicious cycle of tunnel demands, bringing the cost up to the $80 billion figure due to delays in construction, lawsuits from home owners when their homes begin to sink, more ROW accquisition due to tunnel safety, so on and so forth. Either you want the CHSRA to spend tax dollars corectly, or you want them to spend it all on you. There is no two way street in that. Besides, we are still 2 years away from construction. Sacramento Airport's new terminal looks nothing like it did in initial alternatives. Ariel structures can be made attractive, but the people are not willing to help with design suggestions for it. Some people also believe berm's are ugly, viaducts are uglier and at least there is some asethetic appeal to berms. I'm tired of hearing this crap, it is why projects cost so much in California, sue happy people not getting their way.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve T
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

To those who think the HSR is a sensible project that will improve the transportation system, don't you think the money could be better spent improving the existing local rail system so that it can become a real commuter rail? Doing so would cost less and offset far more driving than a long-haul SFO to LA rail with only a few stops here and there.

I voted against the HSR because it's a vanity project that will bankrupt the state. But I support sensible upgrades of the caltrain corridor.


Like this comment
Posted by Martin
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm

HSR discredits itself on a daily basis.

Kudos to Palo Alto, its citizens, council members and many in surrounding communities who played by the rules and got ignored or steamrollered by incompetent HSR management and leadership. This is no way to run a railroad.

The only way to stop this monster is to cut off its oxygen.

Palo Alto is on the right track. I applaud them for wise, step by step actions.


Like this comment
Posted by Neva Yarkin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Congratulations Palo Alto City Council for finally taking a stand against the HSR.
In 2008 it was going to cost 33.6 billion then it went to 43-45 billion. I believe it will go to 100 billion when finally completed. Who will pay for that? No city on the Peninsula can afford that.
Closures of 1-2 lanes on Alma Street, bike paths in Palo Alto closed, will affect every resident in Palo Alto. Traffic alone will be a bigger nightmare.
If there is a derailment of the train, earthquake or other disaster we will all be on our own.


Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

So the new train is going to bring terrorism, earthquakes, jobs to out of state workers, traffic, tax dollars to Asia and bankrupt the state. I can't believe nobody mentioned the apocalypse!

You say that our money would be better spent upgrading SF to SJ, but this is a STATEWIDE initiative. You don't get to just cancel the project and then take the money to make your own project. You simply don't have the final say in this, and I don't know why you would think that you do. I've said it before and I'm saying it again. This is obstructionism. Just because you're loud, it doesn't make you right.


Like this comment
Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I voted for the train, I still support it, I'd like a station at Calif. Avenue.

Seems like a waste of money for us to sue several agencies.


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Neva Yarkin wrote: "In 2008 it was going to cost 33.6 billion then it went to 43-45 billion. I believe it will go to 100 billion when finally completed."

The current cost estimate is the most accurate one so far. In coming up with that estimate, what do you feel they did wrong?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Has anyone on the city council ever been on a train? Has anyone on the city council ever been on a train anywhere else in the world? Has anyone on the city council ever been on Caltrain and talked to riders?

People who use the train desperately want to see the service improved and brought up to modern standards. They know that without HSR we are going to continue to have a third world level service which gradually gets poorer and poorer.

Let's be innovative and lead, and the city council should be at the helm.


Like this comment
Posted by Barb
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm

SUE SUE SUE!
IS PALO ALTO THE ONLY CITY WITH ANY SENSE?
AT LEAST IT DOES!


Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

This is an absolute waste of my taxpayer money.


Like this comment
Posted by chirs
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm

The Chinese are going to pay for it on easy credit. California HSR will be a tremendous showcase to the rest of the US and the rest of the world.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Folks,

Now that Mountain View is losing interest in a station, have any of you "Sue CHSRA Fans" considered that a mostly open trench, supplemented by at grade near creeks and short covered sections near grade level street crossings might well be HSR's most cost-effective alternative? You realize don't you, that Caltrain's money to upgrade has been revoked by Muni, Samtrans, and VTA? So if there is no HSR, there is no Caltrain upgrade. Eventually there will be no Caltrain service without an upgrade, but UPRR can maintain their trackage rights forever just by paying. So we never get rid of trains entirely, or get them modernized in our lifetimes without HSR.
PA will spend $500,000 anyway in litigation. If we win, see third world railroad above. If we lose, how many police and fire hours will be cut to save $500,000? We should all be working with HSR and Caltrain to be the first segment, not stalling to be the last and have it jammed down our throats. If PA, Redwood City, and Mtn Vw all choose not to have a station, then we get all the construction abuse, but still have to ride Caltrain to SJ in order to leave our precious Silicon Valley by train.


Like this comment
Posted by Richard R.
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

That's it, I'm boycotting Palo Alto. If it's so determined to get in the way of HSR, then why should I support its efforts?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Let's see. This vigorous citizen participation has saved California from at least 2 dams, Auburn and Eel River, 10 years of freeway development, assured water for the world's richest agriculture, clean inexpensive nuclear generated electricity, turnover in death row, a doubling of wedding planner's income, most of our military bases, Oil lease revenue, and constructive jobs. I don't know if we can stad to be more blessed.
Not all is lost - Nevada and China love us.


Like this comment
Posted by spoiled
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

"People who use the train desperately want to see the service improved and brought up to modern standards. They know that without HSR we are going to continue to have a third world level service which gradually gets poorer and poorer."

You obviously has never been on a commuter train in a third world. People there will want to trade place with you.


Like this comment
Posted by Thank you!
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Thank you PA City for standing up against HSR!


Like this comment
Posted by Just don't get it...
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Congratulations to our City Council for finally listening to the residents and doing the right thing. There is no room in PA (or many other cities) to house the hundreds of workers that will show up for the HSR or the Stanford Hospital project.....and, Stanford with it's hundreds of acres of land, just doesn't have the room to build housing for anyone other than their professors and coaches!!! Where are we supposed to put them??? Especially if we have to tear down property to put up the HSR berm???


Like this comment
Posted by Frances G.
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Thank you, thank you, City Council!
HSR may be wonderful in concept, but the details have done it in. Palo Alto has every right to protect itself from this pie-in-the sky project.
Frances G.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Thank you to the City Council. Enough is enough. California cannot afford HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thank you, PA City Council, for doing the right thing.

Traffic jams are local, not people driving to L.A. HSR will do nothing to help alleviate them; in fact HSR will make them worse. The arrogance of the Rail Authority in withholding information and putting out dubious ridership estimates just makes the whole situation worse.


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Thank you city council! The current CHSRA is a political nightmare that has been totally uncooperative. I support responsible rail development but this is not it. The city is not insisting on tunnels - rather I believe the most sensible alternative is covered trench with some open trenchees which would actually improve the city. Aerial trains, reducing Alma, poorly written business plans - I could go on and on. I hope the project will be revised and given to Caltrain to manage, focussing on more sensible upgrades.

I did vote against the original bond as I could tell by the details even then that it was a nightmare. If the lawsuit doesn't work, we need to get a another initiative out there to ensure responsible development, with a non-political management structure under Caltrain, that will work with localities and will design a win-win upgrade that will improve all of California, and provide jobs primarily in California.


Like this comment
Posted by Emily
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I hope we still get a station in Palo Alto. I think it will bring a lot of money into the local economy and increase our mobility and competitiveness. It is sad to see the city using money to sue during the recession. Talk about being fiscally irresponsible.


Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Was for the train. Still am for the train.

I am afraid most people ranting about HSR on this forum are actually mostly NIMBY dwellers that bought houses next to the tracks to get a bargain and are now trying to kill trains because they want to have their cake and eat it too.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Someone here previously wrote:
"This will be the nail that truly ruins this state for generations to come."
As I'm on the younger side, and as I will live to see and take part in those "generations to come," I have to vehemently disagree with this prediction, or at least pray for the sake of everyone that it doesn't come true. Because if HSR "ruins" California, then we're truly screwed.

For those of you saying "build it right or not at all," I ask you to look at the true cost of "not at all," the monetary and social cost for generations to come:
The population of California, and its transportation needs are growing
The price of oil will likely rise, and with it, the costs of driving and flying
Even electric cars don't solve the problem of congestion.
The (heavily government subsidized) infrastructure of highways and airports will require expansion at a cost of tens or hundreds of Billions of dollars.

How can you morally defend "not at all" for future generations? What is your alternative that addresses these problems?

If you like "the idea of HSR," and your alternative is "along 101" or "east bay" or "stop it in San Jose," then I give you this:
The CHSRA has studied the alternatives. As with any infrastructure project, in addition to economic costs there will be social costs, and people will be affected. In their judgement, the best way to maximize all the benefits and minimize those costs is to use an existing railroad right of way on the peninsula, and in the process, electrify and grade-separate it to improve the local and regional transportation system which both serves the community and feeds HSR itself.

Is there an alternative that inconveniences fewer people, with the same or more benefits? What is it, and is it economically feasible? Is it possible from an engineering standpoint? Prove that the current plan isn't the best, that something else is better, instead of just saying no.

As one of the "selfish" folks who would love to get to LA a few hours earlier, I'd also like to emphasize that this isn't just about getting to LA. It's about walking to the train station and being at SFO in 20 minutes, or at a meeting in San Jose in 20 minutes, or going anywhere between on a faster Caltrain, made possible by HSR.
You need only look to similar sized cities in Europe and Asia to see the kind of vibrant commercial center and economic boon that a train station can be.

It's also largely about the future, about what my peers and I want our communities to be: walkable, connected, dynamic, and not car-oriented. Instead of stomping our feet, claiming thatHSR is inherently incompatible with the status quo, we should see this as an opportunity for a paradigm shift, for creating a better community, centered around an integrated transportation network, starting with the backbone of HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Iphonegrrrl
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 22, 2010 at 4:44 am

What a waste of money. The train is inevitable, so why not try to benefit from it? Palo Alto has such an old-fashioned suburban attitude, not appropriate for its current realities.


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

Way to go Palo Alto City Council! It's about time we take off the gloves and start playing hardball with the criminal political insiders who are trying to push this train down our throats.

Anyone who thinks this luxury train that will cost over $100 billion to build and will require taxpayer-subsidies forever is a "good deal" needs to have their head examined. We need this train like we need another hole in our head.

Anyone who thinks the City of Palo Alto is "wasting money" by suing is absolutely clueless about this incredible boondoggle. Talk about wasting money, try $100 billion of wasted money!

Furthermore, there's nothing "green" about this project. Even if the unrealistic ridership numbers did materialize, when you include the carbon that will be poured into our air during construction, it will take decades -- yes decades, perhaps as much as 76 years -- for this train to reach a carbon-emission break-even point!

And for all you financial geniuses out there who think that China loaning us all the money to build this albatross is such a great idea, do you realize it's a LOAN, not a gift?! ...a loan that must be repaid with INTEREST. And who is going to pay the subsidy to operate this money-sucking monstrosity for the next hundred years? Maybe the Chinese will lend us this money too, at interest, of course.

I've noticed that many of the people so vocally in support of this luxury train are from "other communities". To people like Richard R, a resident of another community, who said, "That's it, I'm boycotting Palo Alto. If it's so determined to get in the way of HSR, then why should I support its efforts?", i say, "Oh, please do us all a big favor and don't visit our lovely little community. We'll manage to survive without your support".

It's time to drive a stake in the heart of this monster and jail the lying political operatives who have broken the law over and over again in their efforts to line the pockets of their friends and allies.


This is utter madness, plain and simple, and it must be stopped... NOW!


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

Way to go Palo Alto City Council! It's about time we take off the gloves and start playing hardball with the criminal political insiders who are trying to push this train down our throats.

Anyone who thinks this luxury train that will cost over $100 billion to build and will require taxpayer-subsidies forever is a "good deal" needs to have their head examined. We need this train like we need another hole in our head.

Anyone who thinks the City of Palo Alto is "wasting money" by suing is absolutely clueless about this incredible boondoggle. Talk about wasting money, try $100 billion of wasted money!

Furthermore, there's nothing "green" about this project. Even if the unrealistic ridership numbers did materialize, when you include the carbon that will be poured into our air during construction, it will take decades -- yes decades, perhaps as much as 76 years -- for this train to reach a carbon-emission break-even point!

And for all you financial geniuses out there who think that China loaning us all the money to build this albatross is such a great idea, do you realize it's a LOAN, not a gift?! ...a loan that must be repaid with INTEREST. And who is going to pay the subsidy to operate this money-sucking monstrosity for the next hundred years? Maybe the Chinese will lend us this money too, at interest, of course.

I've noticed that many of the people so vocally in support of this luxury train are from "other communities". To people like Richard R, a resident of another community, who said, "That's it, I'm boycotting Palo Alto. If it's so determined to get in the way of HSR, then why should I support its efforts?", i say, "Oh, please do us all a big favor and don't visit our lovely little community. We'll manage to survive without your support".

It's time to drive a stake in the heart of this monster and jail the lying political operatives who have broken the law over and over again in their efforts to line the pockets of their friends and allies.


This is utter madness, plain and simple, and it must be stopped... NOW!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:24 am

As a taxpayer, I would rather have my taxes supporting transportation in the Bay Area, Statewide and even all over the nation, rather than space exploration, political conventions, and so many other things that our tax $$ are wasted on.

Transportation is something that benefits all of us, all the time. Everyone of us has to get to where we are going, be there on time, and we make a choice how to do it. Our choices are fading. AC Transit, Caltrain and others are making cuts in services to save money. Huh? They are a service and they are not able to serve anyone if they keep making cuts. How can they maintain ridership by diminishing service? Taking the bigger picture, we all suffer if Caltrain stops weekend service, or late night service, because those who can will drive and those who can't are prevented from getting around.

Taxing gasoline to cover transportation subsidies is the only sensible option.


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:57 am

Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "...will cost over $100 billion to build..."

What do you feel the Authority did wrong when they came up with their latest, most accurate cost estimate of $43-45 billion?

Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "...and will require taxpayer-subsidies forever..."

Every HSR system around the world makes an operating profit. Even our nation's very own Acela Express. Why would California's HSR be any different?

Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "Even if the unrealistic ridership numbers did materialize..."

What do you feel was done wrong when the latest ridership numbers were determined?


Like this comment
Posted by Michael
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

@Dennis

How do you arrive at a $100 Billion cost? If you don't have a source for this, it sounds like you're just making it up. What's wrong with the current cost estimates?

And more importantly, what's your estimate for the incremental taxpayer cost of highway and airport capacity which hsr will displace?

The cost of obstructing this and doing nothing is far from zero.


Like this comment
Posted by Annoyed
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Why is this small minded city stalling a state wide plan that would help EVERYONE????


Like this comment
Posted by Annoyed to
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm

I live in Palo Alto and I agree with you Annoyed. It behaves in a small minded way. I find it very embarrassing. I assure you that many of us, in PA, are sorry for this state of affairs, and in favor of HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Sad
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I apologize. I had forgotten I had already posted on this thread and posted again under a different name. So, to make things clear "Annoyed too" fro "Another Palo Alto neighborhood" and "Sad" in "Midtown" are one and the same person, myself.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm

These are easy questions to answer.

<< Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "...will cost over $100 billion to build..."

What do you feel the Authority did wrong when they came up with their latest, most accurate cost estimate of $43-45 billion? >>

How do you know $45 billion is "accurate"? I'll turn this question around: How do we know this project won't have significant cost overruns as these projects traditionally do (c.f. Boston's Big Dig) and the true cost won't be significantly (like 50%) higher? The proponents have an interest in lowballing the cost estimate to make it look more attractive to the public.

<< Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "...and will require taxpayer-subsidies forever..."

Every HSR system around the world makes an operating profit. Even our nation's very own Acela Express. Why would California's HSR be any different? >>

I question your claim about every HSR system worldwide making a profit. Acela goes through the densely-populated northeast corridor which has historically relied heavily on train transportation. CA HSR will go through Fresno and Bakersfield which are nowhere near as densely populated and which have historically not been as reliant on train travel.

<< Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk wrote: "Even if the unrealistic ridership numbers did materialize..."

What do you feel was done wrong when the latest ridership numbers were determined? >>

Look at the flaws found with the ridership projections by independent third parties. You don't need a computer, just a little common sense to see that the original ridership projections were wildly inflated in order to make the project appear to be financially viable. How do you or anyone know those projections will eventually be met? Answer: you don't. In addition, as far as I know, a proper marketing survey was never conducted to determine the actual preferences of California travelers. If those projections are not met the project will hemorrhage red ink indefinitely and who will pick up the tab (including the interest payments going to Asia)? California taxpayers!

Nice to see you back Derek, even though just about everyone here sees right through you.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Interestingly, Bakersfield and Fresno could easily become boontowns because of HSR. At present, what businesses operate there? I imagine that with HSR many businesses and individuals will want to move there.

The HSR corridor could become an attractive place to relocate and even become Silicon Valley mark II.


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Larry Cohn wrote: "How do you know $45 billion is 'accurate'?"

They explain how they arrived at that number. I know how you arrived at $100 billion. You took the previous estimate from a few years earlier, put both estimates on a graph, drew a line through them and extended it to the year of completion. That isn't how you come up with a good estimate.

Larry Cohn wrote: "CA HSR will go through Fresno and Bakersfield which are nowhere near as densely populated and which have historically not been as reliant on train travel."

More importantly, CA HSR will go from Los Angeles to San Francisco, densely populated areas analogous to Madrid and Barcelona, between which runs a very successful HSR line.

Larry Cohn wrote: "Look at the flaws found with the ridership projections by independent third parties."

They all seem to refer back to the same Berkeley report which says, "We are, for the most part, satisfied with their responses and agree that their work on this project meets generally accepted standards for travel demand modeling."


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm

<< I know how you arrived at $100 billion. >>

Pay attention, Derek. I'm not the one who came up with the $100 billion figure. Again, these kinds of projects historically go way over budget regardless of the initial estimates. Now, care to address my point about a proper marketing survey? Didn't think so. Further, as many have pointed out, with the trend toward teleconferencing and manufacturing overseas, the demand for business travel between L.A. and S.F. and the central valley is more likely to go down than up.

If you are indeed a paid HSR shill as some have suggested, you're pretty transparent.


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Larry Cohn wrote: "Now, care to address my point about a proper marketing survey?"

I already did, in the last paragraph of my last post.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm

@Derek, "resident of another community,"

Which office of Ogilvy or for whom at Ogilvy do you work for, or how long does your contract stipulate that you shill for Ogilvy in electronic forums? Your cherry-picking single-sentence quote from the UCB transportation institute report suggests one of two things: either you are one of the most diligent and civic conscious readers of all HSR-related reports with a lot of spare time on your hands, or you do this because you are in some way working for or paid to promote the interests of forces pushing HSR. I know which of those two possibilities I'd bet on. I trust you appreciate that that part of your income that comes from Ogilvy-related work is money paid from the publicly provided $9 million paid by CHSRA to Ogilvy to put lipstick on this HSR pig. Carry on, Derek. You're fooling no one.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm

<< Larry Cohn wrote: "Now, care to address my point about a proper marketing survey?"

I already did, in the last paragraph of my last post. >>

Wrong. The correct answer is, they didn't do a proper marketing survey.


Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2010 at 12:18 am

This is very disappointing. I definitely will be changing my votes for some people in city council in the next election.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm

So many points to make that I don't know where to start.

Let's try something fun. The documentation estimates 7,800 riders on HSR boarding in Palo Alto a day. Yet, here's a quote from a poster above:

"I voted for this, and I would love to be able to hop on the train and take it to LA (although I probably would not use it more than once a year.)"

Seriously, how many people will use HSR for trips to LA? Likely far fewer than what's estimated particularly when far more convenient options exist today for roughly the same cost.

I like that the commenter above actually spoke the truth. There are so many useless, uninformed, ad hominem, strawman arguments made here that it sickens me.

Get educated on the way in HSR will likely ruin your community as it's planned today. Get educated on the overall lack of negotiability offered by the HSRA. This isn't so much about HSR or HSR. It's about having no trust in HSRA who's purposefully been manipulative, secretive and down right dishonest in the process. Now, who would want a group with that background seizing vast sums of your neighborhood for a train that most won't ride?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Bill

This is no way to look at it.

I live in Palo Alto and I admit I may not use HSR very often. But, in the nearly 20 years I have lived here, I have driven to LA twice and never flown. Perhaps I am not very average.

But, I have precollege kids who may end up in SoCal colleges. These kids may end up living there, or I may retire there and they may remain in this area. That means nothing in my past can determine my future. In fact, it may mean that SoCal may become more desirable because of the ease of getting there. Who knows?

Also, we have Stanford University and many huge companies in the area which also have branches (for a better word) in SoCal. I would imagine that Palo Alto will be more of a destination than a starting point for Palo Altans using the train. Imagine the ease that an attendee from SoCal can get to Stanford or HP or Facebook or ... with only an easy shuttle distance to get to their final destination. In fact, we may get more businesses or convention venues wanting to be near here for that very reason.

Don't look on Palo Altans as being the ones who need to use HSR, but look on what we have here that may attract users to arrive here.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Dear Resident,

So you're asking your friends and neighbors to make a $100,000,000,000 gamble on a "Who knows?"

Seriously?

"Might" and "maybe" and "probably" are interesting terms used in this argument.

7,800 people "might" use HSR a day in Palo Alto. However, as most evidence indicates that's "probably" not going to happen.

Based on your logic, which frankly I like (the part about attracting people here - that's a good thing), let's try the reverse. Some number of people from Bakersfield (I forget the number) "might" travel to Palo Alto, however a small fraction "probably" will.

The issue isn't about you "maybe" moving to SoCal or your kids "maybe" using the train to come home. The issue is whether the current High Speed Rail Authority, which has proven awful in nearly all respects, is planning to do this in a way that doesn't permanently ruin our lives.


Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Bill wrote: "So you're asking your friends and neighbors to make a $100,000,000,000 gamble on a 'Who knows?'"

No, the best available data shows it will only cost $43-45 billion, which is vastly cheaper than spending the $80-150 billion upgrading roads and airports just to move the same number of people.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

<< the best available data shows it will only cost $43-45 billion >>

Rather than "best available data" I prefer the phrase "lowball figure fed to voters by the CAHSRA".

If you expect us to believe there won't be cost overruns over and above $45 billion, and significant ones at that, you're living in Dreamland.


Like this comment
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm

<< The documentation estimates 7,800 riders on HSR boarding in Palo Alto a day. >>

That's almost 13% of the entire population of Palo Alto! So we are expected to believe that on any given day, over 1/8 of all men, women and children in Palo Alto are going to get the urge to travel to Fresno, Bakersfield, L.A. or Anaheim and hop on a high-speed train or will be debarking from such a trip? And this is going to happen each and every day? Does an equivalent number of people even fly or drive from the peninsula to/from these points every day? And they concluded this without even so much as a marketing study?


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

Mountain View's Hangen Szechuan to close after 25 years
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 1,901 views

Populism: A response to the failure of the elites: Palo Alto edition
By Douglas Moran | 12 comments | 1,848 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,452 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,254 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 991 views