With Caltrain poised to declare massive service cuts, the Palo Alto City Council's High-Speed Rail Committee is hoping to broaden its scope to encompass the local commuter line as well as state plans for high-speed rail.
Members of the committee Thursday (Feb. 3) proposed a name change as well -- to City Council Rail Committee -- to officially widen their area of responsibility to the study of and influence over all rail systems passing through the city.
Previously the committee studied and critiqued high-speed rail's proposed design and cost. Caltrain and the planned high-speed rail line would use the same tracks.
"If light-rail were to come to Palo Alto, wouldn't we want it to fall into the purview of this committee?" member Pat Burt said during Thursday's meeting.
The name change is more political than procedural. Caltrain is the only public transportation service in the Bay Area that lacks a dedicated funding source and is in a financial crisis. Committee members hope to influence funding plans for the flagging transit system.
Council member Nancy Shepherd suggested the committee send a letter to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which governs Caltrain, suggesting an independent ridership study in addition to the one conducted by California High-Speed Rail Authority's experts. Shepherd also argued that the committee's stronger association with struggling Caltrain may put the committee in a better position to negotiate with the rail authority.
"Caltrain owns the right-of-way, and we have much more of a relationship with Caltrain than with the High-Speed Rail Authority," she said.
The committee's proposed name change may not reflect a change in direction as much as a changed strategy.
"Why don't we divorce high-speed rail?" Chair Larry Klein asked as the meeting concluded.
"Or get a pre-nup," Shepherd added.