News

Menlo Park joins high-speed-rail lawsuit

 

Like an endless loop, Menlo Park City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday (Sept. 21) to join neighboring cities in a lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Councilman Andy Cohen recused himself due to a conflict of interest -- his home may be impacted by the project's construction.

Palo Alto and Atherton decided earlier this week to file the suit, which challenges the project's environmental impact report (EIR) certification.

An earlier lawsuit filed two years ago also attacked the project's environmental impact report. A judge ruled in August 2009 that the rail authority did need to revise the portions evaluating land use, right-of-way impacts and vibration effects.

The authority revised the report to address those areas and released a new, final version on Aug. 20, 2010 -- which is now facing another legal battle.

Attorney Stuart Flashman, who represents the cities, said this lawsuit examines different aspects of the project from the previous one, such as widening its right-of-way and eliminating tunnels as an option for the Peninsula segment.

"Most important of these is the discovery that the published ridership model was not the model used in the prior EIR, and the flaws subsequently found in that ridership model that make its validity very questionable," Flashman said. "All of this should have changed the impact analysis, but the authority chose to ignore the information."

He will file the suit in Sacramento Superior Court by Oct. 4, he said.

Not everyone believes another lawsuit is the right way to go. Former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt suggested forming a high-speed rail commission, describing the city's latest legal action as "little more than harassment of the high-speed rail authority."

At Tuesday's meeting, Schmidt thanked the project's critics for highlighting problems that the planning process needs to address, but also discussed the benefits of high-speed rail.

Those benefits include reduced pollution and traffic, and increased pedestrian safety, he said.

"How it travels through our city needs to be dealt with now. I encourage the council to use a rational and realistic approach," he said.

"Being litigants and part of a negative chorus is not good enough. We need also to be positive, creative and eventually prepared for a likely outcome that can benefit the region and Menlo Park."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:18 am

The problem is that none of the mid peninsula Cities have any representation on the HSR Board.
Until that happens, the existing Board will continue the thumb its nose at the peninsula.
the HSR Consultants are only parroting what the Board tells them to do.

How about Joe Simitian, Can he help?


Like this comment
Posted by Marian S
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I'm glad to see Steve Schmidt's voice of sanity.


Like this comment
Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Once revered by many, Steve Schmidt has lost it I fear. He's gone zonkers.


Like this comment
Posted by Barb
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Excellent!
Sue away!
Good to see another city has the financial and common sense that Palo Altoans have!


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Sep 22, 2010 at 7:44 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

Bravo to Steve Schmidt !
("At Tuesday's meeting, Schmidt thanked the project's critics for highlighting problems that the planning process needs to address, but also discussed the benefits of high-speed rail.

Those benefits include reduced pollution and traffic, and increased pedestrian safety, he said.

"How it travels through our city needs to be dealt with now. I encourage the council to use a rational and realistic approach," he said.

"Being litigants and part of a negative chorus is not good enough. We need also to be positive, creative and eventually prepared for a likely outcome that can benefit the region and Menlo Park.")

That's the type of level-headed thinking we need to see more of!


Like this comment
Posted by YEESSS
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

NOW where O where is the headline "news" that another lame lawsuite has been thrown out yet AGAIN by the anti-HSR gang??? biased here?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

YIMBY,

Too bad the HSRA doesn't have level headed people who are interested in listening to the communities they serve. Instead they've gone out of their way to railroad this process, eliminate input and hide information. The conclusion will be a heavily ruined peninsula.

I'm not against HSR. I'm against the lame way they're doing it now.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Today (and yesterday) 3 million people in France has held strike to protest a pension proposal that increases retirement age from 60 to 62.

What has that to do with HSR?

Well, at the personal level, I sympathize with many of those strikers. They have planned their lives based on the rule book. But now the rule will change, to their detriment. It is not their fault. But they will suffer.

However, at the grand scale of things, it has to be done, or France will go broke.

Similarly, HSR is not going to be fair to everybody. Arguably the train tracks were there before most of the houses built too close to it. But still those who will be affected did not anticipate such a big change will happen in their lifetimes.

Yet at the grand scale of things, it has to be done. We have to move to a new model of transportation, of which HSR will be an important foundation. The world is moving towards HSR. It has been proven. California's population will grow significantly. And oil price will not stay at $75 forever.

The Golden Gate Bridge repaid its debt in 1971, 34 years after its completion. Even now the bridge district runs a slight deficit. At the time when it was planned, America was in depression. There was no easy money. Only the "elites" could afford cars. Very few people lived across bay. There was, as opponents argued, no use of the bridge other than for those rich elites to go on a gateway trip.

Today we are all proud of the bridge. It is a symbol of California and the country.



Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

James,
You are making convincing general arguments that don't apply here. I can tell you are earnest about this, so please go back and read some of the posts here and in previous discussions. Many of the people against the HSR authority, including the Palo Alto city counsel, support high speed rail for California, they just want it implemented in a responsible way so that it improves our transportation systems rather than ruining our communities.

High speed rail is supposed to bring people faster across the very long state of California. The stretch between Southern California and Northern California is the bulk of it. The short stretch from San Jose to San Francisco isn't the critical distance, it crosses a densely settled area and must be done carefully.

Yet the rail authority won't consider any of many alternatives to bringing the HSR across this relatively small distance except the one that has the worst impact on communities there. It's the rail authority that is hinging the high speed rail across the entire state on whether they can do this one short piece this unnecessary, specific way. Hence the opposition by people who otherwise support high speed rail.

I have taken the train from mountainous areas of Eastern Switzerland, narrow gage rail (tourist purposes), all the way around the entire country of Switzerland, then connecting to the TGV to Paris across France, where the whole trip took only 8-10 hours including several (easy) connections. The ease and speed of the trip did not hinge on whether the TGV reached into the mountainous areas of Switzerland. The best use of the TGV was over the long flat French countryside, not the relatively shorter distances in Switzerland where the train SYSTEM works so well. Is that a little more clear?

The benefit of HSR is to go across long distances at high speed. If it connects well with a very well-run SYSTEM, that is an optimal implementation, because people can make use of HSR across long distances, then go to a very many different places in the more densely populated areas easily.

We should be improving the system HSR links to. HSR would serve the region and the state just fine if it went to San Jose, linked well to (an improved) local system (including to SF, but also to all points in the Bay Area), and picked up again at high speed to Sacramento from SF. The distance between San Jose and SF is miniscule and easy compared to my example above in Switzerland. It's only a problem if the local transportation system doesn't work, and isn't interfaced with the HSR.

We do have a problem with all the different transportation in the Bay Area not working as a system. That should be addressed, it shouldn't be a reason HSR ruins our communities to serve its own ends.

The rail authority isn't even considering the option of improving the SYSTEM in the densely populated areas. The biggest problem with Bay Area public transit is the poor coordination and interface of different pieces, so the SYSTEM doesn't work well as a system. That's a solvable problem that is, frankly, more important to solve for this region than getting HSR, ever. The HSR authority is continuing with the worst of the narrow point-to-point thinking that got us this disjointed mess, planning the HSR in a vacuum, as if the train is the be all and end all, not the communities that need the best transportation SYSTEM to support them.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill Moisten
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Dear Parent,

Very well stated.

It troubles me the number of people, like James, who simply don't get it. You corrected his statement in a constructive way that covers the points that so many of us agree on.

Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by HSR!
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 3:05 pm

HSR is going to SF and up that Caltrain line ..So yes it will work like Europe!! and NO its not going to end in SanJose as no HSR anywhere in the world ends 50 miles from its major endpoint city.As much as Paloalto thinks its the center of the BayArea and everthing must go just as PA thinks this time its NOT going to..enough of the spin games you people play..dont want any changes to Caltrain..fine HSr will use the same system thats in place now...OO NOOO that wont work either..to many trains..deal with it as its pure bunk that will also will "ruin" the town.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm

And that -- HSR!'s comment and denigrating attitude towards Palo Alto, San Jose, Bay Area transit, and problem solving for a regional solution -- my friends, is exactly why all of these local cities must sue, why they must remove the existing rail authority or we will end up with a horrendous mess , a lost opportunity that will benefit no one except people like him who clearly will enjoy shoving down our throats.

@ HSR! San Francisco still would be the cross-California destination. Are you saying it's not worth building HSR across the entire state if you can't have the relatively minor distance between San Jose (major city) and San Francisco crossed by the new project (rather than upgraded existing transit)? If that's the narrow thinking, we really shouldn't have HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:49 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"No HSR anywhere in the world ends 50 miles from its major endpoint city"? I just gave you the example of traveling from all parts Switzerland to Paris using the TGV, something the French advertise heavily to the Swiss. An endpoint for the TGV line on the Swiss side is Pontarlier, France, population 20,000, which is well over 50 miles to Dijon, the next major city, with a population of only 150,000. For comparison, Paris has a population of over 2 million.

San Jose has a population of over 1 million, while San Francisco has a population of around 800,000. San Jose is considered the "capitol" of Silicon Valley. The entire metro region, including Oakland, SJ, peninsula cities, and SF, has around 7.5 million people. The Bay Area is a metropolitan region. There is absolutely no sane reason that HSR couldn't go to San Jose, be linked by improved regional rail to San Francisco and all other parts Bay Area, and pick up again from SF to Sacramento. In fact, it would be a far better solution for the people of this metropolitan region and probably far cheaper.

Actually, I can think of a good reason NOT to go THROUGH SAN FRANCISCO. Going up the peninsula involves not only crossing densely populated areas, a peninsula is a narrow strip of land bordered by water -- there are far more alternatives on the East Bay side. Going any farther north than San Francisco also means crossing water from San Francisco to ...where? Oakland and parts north? Will you be tunneling or building a new bridge? I'm sorry, you can't have the BART tunnel, that's pretty important for the region already.

Crossing the water is hugely expensive, and unnecessary. If the HSR went to San Jose, then up the east bay to Oakland, it's quite simple to take it on to Sacramento (state capitol), and quite simple to take regional transportation from Oakland to San Francisco. Changing one train for a short hop in a well-coordinated system is nothing. If the system were updated as part of this, it would be good for the region. Why put the HSR up the peninsula to San Francisco when going to San Jose then Oakland hits more populated areas anyway, leaves open the option to build more HSR to parts north (like Sacramento) more cheaply, and it's simple to get TO San Francisco from both cities?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I couldn't be more impressed with how the Palo Alto city counsel has handled this, and how they have joined together with other cities.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm

To senor blogger,
Yes, Simitian can help. The governor's office says the legislature set up the HSR, they endowed it with this autocratic power, and they can refine or end it. But he can't help unless he hears from enough of us.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 8:33 am

Until recently I had been living in Pal Alto. If you search my old posts here you will see. Now I live in "another community". My PA property is being rented. So I do have a stake in this issue.

The public transit systems in bay area are broken. But that is not an excuse for not having HSR. It can be addressed by some local ballot initiatives.



Like this comment
Posted by NONIMBYS
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 8:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by NONIMBYS
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 11:54 am

OOO Parent looks like that pie I just smashed in that big mouth of yours is so meaninng PPOO for wittle Paonline


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Hi James,
Please read my previous posts on this. The people fighting this are not against high speed rail, they're against it being implemented badly by people who don't care the damage they do to this densely populated region.

I'm really disappointed that NONIMBY'S juvenile invective was deleted by Palo Alto Online staff. The part of my post above that was deleted was simply a restatement of a point from above, and later a request to the staff not to remove NONIMBY'S ad hominem attack so that people could see what proponents of HSR are like.

WEEKLY: I hope they will PLEASE consider this second request to leave NONIMBY'S comments uncensored, his words may be childish and against Town Square rules, but the attitude is representative of what I have been seeing by proponents of HSR on these threads, so I think leaving them visible serves a purpose in this thread. Please also do not delete this request of mine, as I do not wish for other posters to think that I was censored for stooping so low. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by parent/MIT grad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Hi James,
Sorry, I wasn't thinking about you when I was talking about the out of town posters, I didn't even realize in this case that you were posting from out of town -- the out-of-towners on this discussion aren't usually as reasonable as you have been. Look back through this and other HSR threads and you will see to whom I was referring...


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Oops, sorry, automatic fill-in feature on this browser filled in another person's "name" above for me. I am "parent".


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Parent

You lost your credibility when you suggested that the best solution was to widen 101 to put HSR in the middle and tear down every bridge between Millbrae and San Jose.

You talk about sensible alternatives. The sensible option would be a tunnel or covered trench. Another alternative would be a streamlined, sleek, aerial track with parkland, parking and shopping underneath. Another alternative would be for the HSR to enter the Bay Area by Livermore/Tracy but this would not include San Jose, probably a poor option for that reason. I am not sure what the East Bay option would be - possibly along the 680 corridor.

However, the status quo with Caltrain at grade is ugly, noisy, dangerous and divides our wonderful town in two sections. Half our high school students have to cross this monstrosity every day. We have four at grade crossings, three underpasses and two pedestrian/bike tunnels. This is a huge problem in our City, it causes traffic delays and could lead to road rage, poor decision making and speeding.

The sooner something is agreed on the work starts the sooner we will all start to reap the benefits.

Nimbys standing in the way of progress can be very rude and often do not want to enter civilised discourse. Just saying No,No,No, is not productive. Calling others names and shouting with block capitals is upsetting to those of us who are politely pointing out our views. This is a democracy and we are all allowed to have our own point of view.

Palo Alto is a wonderful place to live. HSR is not going to destroy that.


Like this comment
Posted by NONIMBYS
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

NO parent ..your the childish one!!! reading your on going rants and silly arroagnt PA centered opinion says everthing about you..funny you have been crying wolf for so long about HSR its a joke..Prop1A PASSED in PA remember Parent? or are you going to be whinner about that too?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Parent

I have been rereading some of your posts.

8 - 10 hours between mountainous Switzerland and Paris is not a good comparison. The Swiss Alps have some picturesque narrow guage railways for reasons we do not have here - namely the steep terrain plus the views. No, to compare the Swiss Alps with California is wrong.

To get to major European destinations, trains travel to major city centers, not leaving passengers in suburbs to get suburban transport. If you want HSR to fail, then ending it in San Jose is the way to do it. The non-stop city center to city center is what will make HSR attractive for the ridership. The stops along the (San Jose included) will not be the majority of trains, just some of them. Remember, all the people who live north of San Francisco in Marin, Napa, will not want to end in San Jose and then go to San Francisco only to still need another form of transport to get them to Marin and Napa. The only sensible thing to do is LA - SF, the two cities which will attract most ridership. SJ is a major city, but not the same type of destination city that LA and SF both are. It needs to be servied by HSR, but SJ on its own will not be the draw.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Hi "Resident",
We should maybe move this to the other discussion, so we're not posting in two places. But I'll post my answer here, too, just in case you don't see the other (which I'll check next time, if you want to continue there).

Resident,
The point of my Swiss analogy is that the Swiss have no HSR, the French do. The French have at least one line that goes all the way across France through no towns of very large size -- i.e., no large cities on the other end, no major city centers anywhere near -- so that they have something the Swiss SYSTEM can interface with. The Swiss have a very efficient system, so you can reach the TGV and go to Paris quite happily and efficiently from even remote parts of Switzerland without having to run high speed rail in point-to-points between large cities or anywhere in the entire country. More clear?

I don't think I ever suggested 101 was the "best solution" of ALL SOLUTIONS. If choosing between the Cal Train corridor and 101, yes, 101 is the best solution -- at least for the people living here. Not so for the rail authority, hence the rancor. In past posts, I have also suggested the train go to San Jose and connect to an improved local system. I've suggested going to Oakland. I've suggested tunnels if the cal train corridor was necessary (wouldn't it be cool to reclaim the land above as a bike corridor up the peninsula? How is it that those tunnels are out of the question, but a tunnel under the bay from SF isn't ?)

There are many alternatives that more people in the affected towns would support, but the HSR authority won't consider because it doesn't have to. Again, hence the challenge by local communities.

You are inserting such strong opinions here and you don't know this region at all. San Jose is a major city center, with more people than San Francisco. It is considered the capitol of Silicon Valley, an important economic engine for the state. The peninsula is full of small cities, they are not suburbs of either San Jose or San Francisco.

I was suggesting San Jose as a hub, not an end. San Francisco would still be a major destination, it would just be reached by a long stretch on HSR from SoCal, then connected -- nicely and easily -- to a short hop to SF on improved local rail from either SJ or Oakland.

If you are suggesting HSR go north from SF, how are you suggesting this happen from SF? A new tunnel? A new bridge? Do you have any concept of the logistics and cost? Realistically, if the rail authority chooses the route up the peninsula, you can kiss anything further north goodbye.

A much more viable and cost effective solution is to send HSR to San Jose as a hub, where people can transfer up improved, existing rail up the peninsula, or continue on HSR to Oakland and parts north. Oakland is also a transportation hub. So people can connect easily to parts in the East Bay, and all over the Bay Area. This is a metropolitan REGION, not a single city.

You have a really erroneous idea of what this metropolitan area is like. This is not just one city at the end of the peninsula, San Jose is an important city in this state with more people than San Francisco. Places like Palo Alto and Sunnyvale are huge high tech employers. Ridership is more likely to be high if people can get from SoCal to all parts Bay Area easily, and from all parts Bay Area to SoCal, instead of some short-sighted point-to-point line that won't serve the region well.

I really don't think you have been reading my posts, which leaves me wondering what your stake in this is. I keep asking this question, and no one ever answers:

Why put the HSR up the peninsula to San Francisco when going to San Jose then Oakland hits more populated areas anyway, leaves open the option to build more HSR to parts north (like Sacramento) more cheaply, and it's simple to get TO San Francisco from both cities? (i.e., San Francisco is still a major destination). It makes more sense and is almost certainly far cheaper (and less divisive). I mean, do you want HSR, or is your support so flimsy, you'd scrap it if you couldn't get this one plan for such a small segment of it?

Your argument that you have to go point-to-point just doesn't hold up, doesn't serve the people of this region well, and will be destructive to communities.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 11:55 pm

@"NONIMBYS"
I joined this fray relatively recently compared to how long this issue has been argued on this forum. "parent" is a fairly commonly used moniker, I've noticed, perhaps you are thinking of another parent? Pretty much all of the parents I know are against HSR done in this particularly bad way that the rail authority seems stuck on.

Go back and read some threads on this issue. People are not against HSR. Most of the people opposed now voted for it, including me. We want high speed rail, we just don't want it implemented so badly that it harms our communities rather than serving them.

Would you argue to the people of Bell, California, that they should just let the mayor continue to collect his million dollar salary/pension, because they voted for him? They voted for him, and now they are holding him accountable.

Communities on the peninsula are doing the same with the HSR authority -- which, by the way, they did not vote for, the legislature installed the authority. Fortunately, we live in a democracy, where citizens can and should have some say in such huge impacts on their lives.


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

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