News

Palo Alto committee blasts rail station proposal

High-Speed Rail Committee agrees to oppose plans for a local high-speed-rail station

Palo Alto's chances of hosting a high-speed-rail station suffered a heavy blow Thursday morning, when a City Council committee unanimously agreed to oppose a local station.

Palo Alto is one of three cities that the California High-Speed Rail Authority is considering for a possible Midpeninsula station. Redwood City and Mountain View are also in the running.

The committee's Thursday vote is another sign of the council's growing disenchantment with the rail project, which California voters approved in November 2008. The council had already passed a resolution declaring "no confidence" in the rail authority.

Councilwoman Gail Price said that while she doesn't oppose the rail as a concept, her lack of confidence in the authority prompted her to join her colleagues Thursday morning. Price had previously said that she would like to get more information before making a decision on a local station.

"If I had more confidence in the technical capacity of the rail authority, I would be in a different position," Price said.

The rail committee cited a list of reasons for opposing a local station, most notably the authority's requirement that a host city build 3,000 parking spots for rail riders. The authority's plan calls for cities to partner with private companies to build the parking structures.

The authority estimated that a station would attract about 15,600 people daily by 2035. City officials estimated that it would cost about $150 million to comply with the authority's parking requirement. It would also require the city to build the equivalent of six 50-foot tall garages within three miles of the station.

Earlier this month, authority officials hosted a local community meeting to gauge local sentiments about a Palo Alto rail station. Of the roughly 30 people who showed up, not a single one expressed support for a station. Eleven people said it would be incompatible with the city, while about seven said they were still undecided.

The rail committee indicated Thursday that they share the community's concerns. Committee members were concerned that a new station would increase traffic congestion and force the city to devote what little undeveloped land it has to parking. Committee Chair Larry Klein said a local station would be a bad land-use decision.

"I'd stress that this would be economically detrimental to our community," Klein said.

Before Thursday's meeting, Klein was the only council member who unequivocally opposed a local rail station. Other members criticized the authority's plans for a station, but stopped short of calling for opposition until they have more information.

The Thursday vote indicated that Klein's strong stance of opposition is now the rule, rather than the exception. Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd, who made the motion to a oppose a local station, said Palo Alto already has a rail system that works for the community -- Caltrain. She said she sees no reason for the high-speed rail system to have a Midpeninsula stop.

Mayor Pat Burt said the rail authority's proposal would add cars to Palo Alto streets and, in doing so, conflict with the city's goal of reducing automobile traffic.

"We want to make it clear that we have a strong vision for less automobile-intensive community," Burt said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Oct 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

so why am I not surprised ? :-)


Like this comment
Posted by Geoff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm

HSR is a concept whose time has long passed.

No city can afford getting cut in half by an elevated train structure, no city has the $150 million required to build parking structures to accommodate an HSR station, no city can tolerate the projected traffic HSR riders would generate.

HSR is a political boondoggle being exclusively managed by a High Speed Rail Authority intent only on jamming HSR down unwilling throats.

Shame, shame, shame on politicians who hold the purse strings but are coming at the HSR concept with blinders on and are not doing their homework as new facts emerge from very credible sources.

When the smoke clears, all will see HSR as a non-starter.


Like this comment
Posted by Corey Levens
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Given the incompetence of the HSRA and the failure to identify adequate sources of funding, it may very well be the case that the HSR will never be built. If, however, the political powers that be get their acts together and are successful in resolving these issues, the recent actions and statements of our City Council will insure that Palo Alto will have minimal or no influence in how it gets built in our community. The City Council needs to stop with the unnecessary grandstanding announcements, lawsuits, and expensive studies. There are other more effective means for making our positions known that do not involve cutting ourselves off at the knees with regard to future decisions.

As for refusing a station, again, why come out with definitive statements against it at this time. The requirements for the station are not set in stone and are going to be negotiated. Why not preserve some negotiating leverage (which may actually increase with time) and see how the issue develops? Refusing the station because our current facility works fine or because we want to reduce congestion on our road is nearsighted to say the least. And at the rate businesses are closing down and leaving Palo Alto, it may not be long before we solve the congestion problem entirely.


Like this comment
Posted by Phil Green
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

What is happening to us? Why are we incapable of taking the long view on issues like high-speed rail? Can't the "greatest country on earth" provide its people with a national intercity rail system (that Europe and Japan have had for decades), not to mention a functional intercity bus system? Europeans and Japanese like there cars too. But they have options, and they use them.

As to banning HS trains from passing through Peninsula cities, let's just require that they maintain CalTrain speeds until the clear San Jose.

Of course we don't want to build massive parking garages. Suppose we rearrange city/county bus routes and schedule so that buses arrive in time for the HS-train departures and arrivals. A bus pass could be included with the train ticket. Or a prepaid, automatically scheduled taxi could arrive at your door. If that's not enough, what would it take to make people prefer to leave their car at home?

The nation needs an integrated HS rail system, coordinated with intercity and local buses, maybe even with air departures and arrivals.

Silicon Valley has enormous intellectual resources to bring to bear on the design of such a system. We ought to be the ones grabbing the reins and making it happen, and making it even better than anyone can now imagine. Instead, we're dragging our feet.


Like this comment
Posted by Seriously? VTA support PA?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Hmmm...Let's just TRY to get VTA Board to reorganize county bus routes and schedules around a Palo Alto station. Is the writer aware that Palo Alto has only intermittent VTA Board representation (sharing a seat with other citys' representatives on a three-year cycle)? The reason Palo Alto VTA service is horrendous is because the VTA Board is controlled by south county cities. They view us as being on the outlying border of their universe...and that group will never do more than throw us an occasional bone.

Politics make the public bus option impossible. Show me a solution that might work, please.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Perhaps Podcars will solve the transportation to and from the station problem Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by WHo is Larry Klein?
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

"The Thursday vote indicated that Klein's strong stance of opposition is now the rule, rather than the exception. "
Love the little game that Council Member Klein is now playing. He bears responsibility for HSR even being an issue now--let's not forget his rabid support before the 2008 election.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by PA HSR station
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I have just returned from a trip to France where I was paying special attention to their HSR and their stations. I came to the conclusion that it should be advantageous to be the city on the Peninsula that hosts a HSR station. The towns in France that had HSR stations took advantage of the additional visitors with shopping, cafes and hotels made convenient to the traveller.

I agree with Corey and Phil above that this is a time we should be pushing forward designs that work to our advantage, that address transportation needs and uses in this area instead of using all our energy being unconstructive.

Yes, it is possible to get the buses to set up a useful schedule. Where there's a will....


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Why the greed? Palo Alto has Stanford, the private plane airport, and the regional sewer plant. Let (make) someone else host this thing.


Like this comment
Posted by Gordon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Wow, 150M for 3,000 spaces means $50,000 per space. I kind of wish I was in the barking lot building business :). In any case, won't train passengers have to pay through the nose for overnight parking, just as airport passengers do? This should be a potential for profit rather than an expense. Downtown near the trainstation is full of surface parking lots which could be changed to garages to accomodate the extra traffic. Or they could build a giant lot near the Embarcadero offramp and shuttle people downtown. That should help with the traffic congestion issue too.

I feel that Palo Alto is being short sighted in fighting HSR. We're going to have to deal with HSR cutting through the city in any case, so we might as well have a station.


Like this comment
Posted by realist
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 22, 2010 at 12:38 am

Cowards hypocrites, NIMBYs. Proud of yourselves Palo Altans? The rest of know better.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2010 at 12:47 am


Interesting that China is lobbying heavily for CA HSR-- they want to build this fantasy rail to nowhere-- US companies do not have the capability

The proposed HSR is a waste of money, a boondoggle and another plan to export US money to China


Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2010 at 2:17 am

Sharon -

You are an asset to this forum. You are brilliant and extremely resourceful. Thank you for the info you posted on another thread regarding the tax breaks that major corps are getting.
I always appreciate your input.
I have agreed from the day I voted against it, that the HSR concept was a giant boondoggle. Now is not the time to burden our state with this issue when we are in a financial crisis. I feel that they did not inform the voters about the true cost to the state, and ridership numbers when it was snuck onto the ballot. Many people voted yes without knowing the real details.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2010 at 4:31 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

No city, no city, no city?
I thought Palo Alto was the city that could do anything.


Like this comment
Posted by WHo is Larry Klein?
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 22, 2010 at 7:31 am

""The Thursday vote indicated that Klein's strong stance of opposition is now the rule, rather than the exception. "

Love the little game that Council Member Klein is now playing. He bears responsibility for HSR even being an issue now--let's not forget his rabid support before the 2008 election.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]"

Looks like our editors are now protecting Larry Klein from excessive criticism for his actions regarding the HSR.
As I pointed out--Klein is now leading the charge against HSR--probably to try to distract attention from his role in getting the HSR resolution passed. Is he sincere in his actions or just trying to cover his tracks?
Klein likes to claim that he was "misled" when confronted with issues that the council should have acted on. I wonder how a man who is a former officer in the military and a member of a prestigious law firm can make those claims?
I also wonder why the electorate in this city keep returning him to the council.
Finally, I wonder if his law firm advertises in the PA Weekly.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

"I thought Palo Alto was the city that could do anything."

You been taking the city councilmember chatter too seriously for too long, good buddy.

As I said before, I think PA's done its share.


Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2010 at 9:54 am

Finally, the City Council committee did something I agree with. Bravo!


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

Bravo PA City Council! Please don't let the nonsense issuing forth from the supporters of this insane HSR project affect your resolve to stop this monstrosity from ruining our beautiful community.

Thank you for having the courage and foresight to make the right decision.


Like this comment
Posted by Dennis "galen" Mitrzyk
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

Bravo PA City Council! Please don't let the nonsense issuing forth from the supporters of this insane HSR project affect your resolve to stop this monstrosity from ruining our beautiful community.

Thank you for having the courage and foresight to make the right decision.


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Oct 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

just 2 quick comments @Geoff, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood,who wrote:

"HSR is a concept whose time has long passed."
[that's like telling someone who uses an IBM Selectric that PCs are no longer current]

"No city can afford getting cut in half by an elevated train structure..."

We are a city "cut in half by an at-grade train"....elevating it would actually unite the city from a street perspective.


Like this comment
Posted by Enuf-Is-Enuf
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

> The towns in France that had HSR stations took advantage of the
> additional visitors with shopping, cafes and hotels made convenient
> to the traveller

So where would all of these new buildings go in downtown PA? Are you suggesting that someone knock down all of the current buildings, and rebuild our 100+ year old down town in order to provide space for the HSR and all of these newcomers?

> 150M for 3,000 spaces means $50,000 per space.
If the facility is built with bonds (which it would no doubt have to be, then the cost per space would be effectively double--$100K--in order to pay the finances costs and the construction costs.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm

YIMBY -- question: would it be in your backyard? Would they take your house to make it happen? If not, then I can see why you may want it. It will be in your community, but not actually in your backyard, so no personal loss for you. No sympathy for the hundreds of families who would be affected? The greater good, you say? Really? Did you see the poles in Burlingame? Hard to imagine anyone seeing what amounts to an elevated freeway as uniting a community -- try visiting some communities with these structures. It is rare that they are considered "nice" areas by anyone's standards.

As for the station supporters. Ok, let's use Europe as an example. Please cite examples of city areas with train stations that are considered nice places to live? I have probably spent a year (accumulatively) riding European trains and I cannot recall a station ever being in a good part of town. Yes, lots of restaurants, but also lots of vagrants, graffitti, pickpockets and other problems associated with the station that will be of no benefit to Palo Alto. Granted there are some very small, out of the way towns (in the Swiss Alps for example), that have nice little stations, but you don't see nice areas next to surburban train stations in Europe.

It baffles me why any Palo Alto resident would see traffic gridlock, a depersonalization of our town, and expenses associated building parking as positives for our community. We must consider that tax revenues will increase, but costs for policing, street maintenance, traffic control, etc. etc. will also increase. I moved to Palo Alto because it has a small town feel. That's a good thing in my book, and not something I want to go away in the name of "progress".


Like this comment
Posted by Train buff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

French trains are fast, clean, and attractive to ride. I understand the attraction to HSR after riding on the TGV. The problem is, we don't run trains like the French. BART, Caltrain, and AMTRAK paint a better picture of how HSR will look, not the SNCF. Besides, the Europeans would never dream of cramming HSR down such a crowded corridor.


Like this comment
Posted by just don't get it
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I'm certainly not against HSR....just against it running right through the middle of established communities when there are so many other places to put it with less disruption and then bus to the center of towns. That would make way to much sense and probably cost way less...we have never seen the estimates/reports for running it up the 101 or other alternatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Midtown shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm

"the Europeans would never dream of cramming HSR down such a crowded corridor."


Oh really? Well, let's stay with the example of the French TGV. It was introduced about 30 years ago, when Paris was already what it is today, a densely populated urban and suburban area of about 10 million inhabitants.

And where did the TGV go? All the way to the train stations in downtown Paris, going through all the suburbs and even through some downtown neighborhoods! How did they do that? By routing them... on the existing railroad lines!

Fast forward to San Francisco and the Bay Area in 2010.

By the way, making trains stop at San Jose or elsewhere and then having people transfer to local trains or buses is a non-starter. That's the best way to ensure that HSR to fail. Mass transit can succeed only if it is convenient for the riders. Agreed, we don't seem to be aware of this in our area.


Like this comment
Posted by litebug
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

(former resident, moved out in 08)

Way to go Palo Alto...you were once a forward-thinking, great place to be in love with and to live in. No one was a bigger P.A. booster than I was and I thought the love affair would never end. Many of us have had love affairs like that, which did finally end badly. I fell out of love because the object of my affection had changed almost beyond recognition due to cumulative bad decisions and a major negative change in the values of its citizens.

Heaven forbid your doing anything to begin to compete with other developed parts of the world, anything to point to with pride and enthusiasm, anything to help prepare for a better future with less dependence on oil. What was once the essence of Palo Alto and Silicon Valley, namely forward thinking, seems to have largely evaporated. That train has left the station (and it's not a high-speed train from a station in Palo Alto).

Your soul, your pride, your investment in the future, the sense of community, your being a great place to live in, sadly, are pretty much a thing of the past, and that has been painfully true for some years. Having the Children's Theatre fiasco play out during our move added another big, parting shot of distaste and disgust.

So glad we got out when we did. Never thought I would get to the point of feeling this way about Palo Alto, but I did, and it still makes me sad, as does any love affair gone bad. But surprise! There are better places to live than in Palo Alto and we're happy to have found one.

Hope you enjoy being NIMBY, regressive and going steadily downhill as a desirable place to live. I haven't even wanted to come back for a visit. It was already too heartbreaking to see what had become of the place before we moved and it can only be worse in the 2 years since then (for example...no trees on Calif. avenue and the horribly ugly, imposing Jewish center on San Antonio). And keep building those ugly rabbit warren developments and McMansions. Hope you enjoy living with your current values and taste. They are certainly not my cup of tea.


Like this comment
Posted by disneyland express
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 22, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Ok, for all the HSR supporters and station enthusiasts. If a HSR station is the only way for Palo Alto to ensure its future, why don't you put your money where your mouths are? I'm sure Diridon, Kopp, and the HSR hacks will gladly cash your checks, and if you're lucky, maybe you'll get an engraved brick on the platform with your name on it. Then you'll be able to boast to infinity and beyond about what a visionary people you really are. Oh, but you all think that this massive rail fraud will be paid for by someone else, and you certainly wouldn't spend a penny on it because other people should pay for your nutty projects. Is that about right? By the way, does HSR pay you non-resident forum prowlers bi-weekly or monthly?


Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I would love an HSR station in Palo Alto, or Mountain View. It would change it from being a resource that passed near my house and was available for my use on par with San Francisco and San Jose airports, to one that could be readily and easily used.


Like this comment
Posted by marsha
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

I live in Europe 3-4 months every year and I see the train stations are not in neighborhoods where people live. They are usually on the outskirts of towns. I don't want more traffic in Palo Alto, we already have too much, I don't want anymore parking structures, and I don't want a new train station. Get real, this whole plan would ruin our town for the few who would ride the HSR. Why not use Am Track rails? I use the trains in Europe, but would not in CA...plane is faster.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Marsha

Not sure where you visit in Europe. When I lived in two European countries I was able to use trains connected by excellent bus services and also to walk to stations. I have friends in many parts of Europe who travel by train a lot and most are able to walk to their nearest station.

I have traveled a great deal by train in Europe and yes, there is parking at stations, but there are excellent bus services, taxis, and drop off/cell phone waiting areas at all the stations I have seen. This is what makes the service more user friendly than flying.

European flying is and always has been more security conscious than here. Even between two countries that do not require passports by land travel, air travel requires that you carry id. Train travel does not have these constraints (apart from the Channel Tunnel) which means that taking a train is instantaneous compared with the hassle of air travel.


Like this comment
Posted by Enuf-Is-Enuf
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

> I have friends in many parts of Europe who travel by train a lot
> and most are able to walk to their nearest station.

That's nice for your friends, but what about every one else in Europe? There are maybe 350M people in the Euro-Zone .. is there a train station within a 20 minute walk for all of these folks too?


Like this comment
Posted by Midtown shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm

France has 60 some million inhabitants, and is about 1.5 times the size of California to give you an idea. France has 170 TGV (HSR) train stations, including FOUR in DOWNTOWN Paris (and several in the suburbs), 2 in downtown Lyon, one in downtown Marseille, etc. In general, downtown TGV stations are traditional train stations to which TGV lines were added, as in Paris.

There are some stations that are at the periphery of cities, in particular there are TGV stations at the airports ofen, but many more stations are in downtowns.

See the list at:
Web Link

(I am French, lived in France for a long time and spend much time there still each year. I have lived in Palo Alto for 20 years)


Like this comment
Posted by Midtown shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Also, to add to the above post, out of the 170 TGV stations in France mentioned above, it appears that only 19 were built outside urban areas. Their list is at:
Web Link

This sure is an interesting topic, no matter what one's opinion is on the California HSR project.


Like this comment
Posted by Gazoo
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2010 at 11:25 am

Talk about a bad attitude... Public transportation is a good thing, and should be encouraged by the city council. Opposing a HSR station in PA sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your own face.

"So where would all of these new buildings go in downtown PA? Are you suggesting that someone knock down all of the current buildings, and rebuild our 100+ year old down town in order to provide space for the HSR and all of these newcomers?"

Lol - Most of the buildings built 100+ years ago were long since replaced. So where would all the new buildings go? Build up rather than out. Replace some of the newer buildings with high-rise office and residential complexes. It certainly beats pushing the downtown into the surrounding residential areas, as is currently being done. Or perhaps you think that tearing down the lovely single-family dwellings and replacing them with condos (with no yards!) is a good thing? Palo Alto is heading downhill, sad to say. Time to change things for the better.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack B Nimble
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 26, 2010 at 9:13 pm

We should just do the station. It puts Palo Alto on the map yet again. Brings in scads of $ in revenue to struggling businesses. Raises property values (convenient access), expands transit options, and is environmentally superior to driving.

So now the station goes to another city.

Arrogance is expensive!


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

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