High-speed rail hit with legal setback

Lawsuit from Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto forces rail authority to revise environmental analysis

A coalition that includes Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto scored a legal victory over the California High-Speed Rail Authority Thursday when a Sacramento judge ruled that the state agency has to reopen and revise its environmental analysis of the controversial line.

The ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny follows three years of litigation by the Midpeninsula cities and various nonprofit groups, which challenged the rail authority's selection of the Pacheco Pass as its preferred alignment for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line. Menlo Park and Atherton were also involved in an earlier lawsuit, which forced the rail authority to "decertify" and revise its program-level Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The authority certified the document for the second time in September 2010.

Kenny's latest ruling means the rail authority now has to go back for more revisions -- a process that could further extend the timeline for a project whose estimated price tag now stands at $98.5 billion. He agreed with the petitioners' contention that the rail authority failed to sufficiently analyze the traffic impacts of the proposed line at Monterey Highway south of San Jose.

In its revised program-level EIR, the rail authority had shifted the rail line's proposed alignment to address Union Pacific Railroad's opposition to having high-speed rail in its right-of-way. The shift would require Monterey Highway south of San Jose to be narrowed. Kenny found that the revised EIR "fails to adequately address the traffic impacts associated with the narrowing of the Monterey Highway."

"The traffic impacts stem directly from the fundamental choice between the Pacheco Pass and Altamont Pass alignments connecting the Central Valley and Bay Area and are required to be addressed at the program level," Kenny wrote.

He also found that the rail authority did not include adequate analysis in the EIR of traffic impacts at streets along the Caltrain right-of-way.

The petitioners hailed the ruling as a major victory in their long legal battle against the rail authority.

"In rejecting the EIR, the Court has upheld the principle that significant project impacts cannot be swept under the rug for later consideration, after the key decisions have already been made," Stuart Flashman, the lead counsel for the coalition, said in a statement.

At the same time, Kenny sided with the rail authority on a number of key issues. He rejected the coalition's arguments that the rail authority had failed to respond to public comments in the EIR and that it should have considered more alternatives. He also found that the rail authority's analysis of design alternatives complies with state law.

Kenny also declined to get involved in the dispute over the rail authority's ridership projections, which have been criticized by the Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) at UC Berkeley and by the Palo Alto-based watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design. Critics had argued that the rail authority's consultant, Cambridge Systematics, used flawed methodology in calculating ridership projections.

The rail authority had argued that the dispute between ITS and Cambridge over ridership methodology is a "classic disagreement between the academician and the industry practitioner.

"In the Authority's view, the professional opinion of the industry practitioner carry more weight in this particular 'real world' context," the rail authority's 2010 letter to Sen. Alan Lowenthal stated.

Kenny upheld this position and wrote in the first of his two Thursday rulings that Cambridge's approach is "supported by substantial evidence." The dispute over ridership, he wrote, "represents the classic disagreement among experts that often occurs in the CEQA context." He said the Court "declines to interfere with Respondent's (rail authority's) discretion to adhere to Cambridge Systematics' ridership model despite the criticisms presented by Petitioners' expert and ITS."

Kenny ruled that these factors did not require the rail authority to re-circulate its program-level EIR -- a voluminous document that describes the voter-approved project and analyzes various alignments. But he found that the rail authority should have analyzed in the document the traffic impact on streets near the Caltrain right-of-way. The rail authority was planning to conduct this analysis later, in the "project-level EIRs" -- environmental documents that focus on individual segments and that include a greater level of specificity and engineering detail.

Kenny wrote in his second ruling that this analysis should be conducted in the broader document because it is pertinent to the selection of the Pacheco Pass alternative. He wrote that the "loss of traffic lanes as a result of placement of the high-speed-rail right-of-way is more than just a design element appropriately handled in a second-tier project-level analysis."

"Instead, it appears that the permanent loss of traffic lanes is a direct consequence of the physical placement of the high-speed rail right-of-way in the Pacheco Pass alternative and, consequently, must be analyzed in the context of Respondent's programmatic EIR."

Given the split ruling, both sides in the lawsuit issued statements Thursday celebrating victory. While the coalition touted the court's decision to force the rail authority to once again revise its program-level EIR, the rail authority emphasized the court's validation of its ridership model and its response to public comments.

Thomas Umberg, who chairs the rail authority's board of directors, issued a statement saying he is pleased that the Court ruled in the authority's favor on a number of issues, including the authority's discretion in rejecting alternatives proposed by the coalition, its response to public comments and the consistency of the rail authority's alternatives analysis with state law. He called Kenny's ruling "a big step forward" for the project.

"The two biggest issues in these lawsuits were ridership and route alternatives, and the Court ruled in our favor on both issues," Umberg said in a statement. "Additional CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) work may be needed, but that work appears to be focused and manageable and the Authority will comply fully with CEQA."

Members of the coalition, meanwhile, celebrated Kenny's ruling for requiring the rail authority to once again revise the document that selects the Pacheco Pass. They have argued that the Altamont Pass in the East Bay is a more viable alternative and that the rail authority used faulty ridership projections in choosing Pacheco.

In addition to the three Midpeninsula cities, the coalition in the second lawsuit includes the nonprofit groups Planning and Conservation League, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, the California Rail Foundation and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail. The association Midpeninsula Residents for Civic Sanity and Patricia Louise Hogan-Giorini were also on the list of petitioners.

Gary Patton, an attorney with the Planning and Conservation League co-counsel for the petitioners, said in a statement that the court's decision "tells the California High-Speed Rail Authority that it can't keep ignoring the public's right to participate."

Richard Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation, said, "Twice in a row, the Authority ignored the requirements of environmental law."

"The Judge found they still have not done a proper study," Tolmach said in a statement.

Links to the two rulings are available here.

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Posted by MinorSetback
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

The court said that impacts that were going to be discussed in the more detailed Project level EIR designed for shorter segments must be in the Program level EIR for the Bay Area to Central Valley. A very minor setback that will be corrected long before construction is ready to start toward the Peninsula.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

What would it take to have a re-vote for this debacle? I feel confident that this thing wouldn't pass another vote.


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Posted by Thomas
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:04 am


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Posted by Fall of the Roman Empire
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:09 am

Want to enjoy high speed rail - tour China; USA stinks.

History always repeats itself - you are watching "Fall of the Roman empire"

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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

Well hopefully this NIMBYism over HSR does not foreshadow the collapse of our society and our invasion by Goths, Persians, Sassanids and other Barbarians. On the other hand have you seen Occupy Oakland?

Seriously the sad part of this whole story is HSR can be (should be) a great thing for all of us but this highly adversarial process means much wasted effort (wasted money) and in the end half of the people will be very angry no matter how much has been compromised.

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Posted by MT
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

Well, if we won't shut down this project, the project will shut down the state. With the current price tag, we just can't afford it. Nice high-tech toy though...

Out of the proponents of the project - how much of your personal money will you in the high speed rail project to see it built?

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:52 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

It is one thing to like a concept, it is another to make it a success.

HSR is a fine concept, and this particular "market" cannot make it pencil out.

Each and every update around this just seems to present more information that bears my contention.

I have ridden the maglev HSR in Shanghai from town to the airport. It is awesome. According to a news report I saw recently, it has a very low capacity utilization (i.e. load/yeild/occupancy) rate, because people find it to be too expensive, and find another way to get to and from the airport. Take that to its logical conclusion in this part of the world.

CA HSR makes no sense on so many measures, which I have weighed in on before. I tire of people who accuse those who question its viability as NIMBY's. That is a facile way to dismiss the economics, the environmental impacts, the policy alternatives, and the management flaws that continue to manifest HSR. They have nothing to do with NIMBY concerns, which in some cases also are legitimate.

HSR=High Speed Rasputin--an evil thing that will not die. Eventually, Rasputin was killed, as will be this effort. I just wish it was sooner than later.

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Posted by Poor US
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

The US used to be a forward thinking country. We have really become "has beens". All advanced countries in the world have embraced high speed rail because they have understood its wide ranging benefits. I guess the US no longer is an advanced country by many measures including this one.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2011 at 11:59 am

Oh brother, here we go again. Many of us voted for HSR, but then we didn't expect people with their own little agendas and empires to implement it so badly, they would make our communities serve it rather than the other way around.

That attitude is evident in defendants' scornful and community-adversarial interpretation of the ruling. I have been an HSR advocate for California for 20 years, but with this Rail Authority, I'd rather see it killed, even if it never comes up again.

We're not against HSR, we're for HSR done well, and against HSR done badly (hence the lawsuit).

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I suppose that the majority of those against HSR are over 40 and have owned a car most of their adult life. I suppose that these people think the next generation will follow suit.

To begin with, I think HSR is the answer, although I am not necessarily of the opinion that the Peninsula is the best route. I can also see that a two track system may not be the best idea, but nothing has been done to study a unirail system, or a hover system. Why not, I wonder.

I think that the next generation is going to be very different from the present over 40s and we are beginning to see that even now.

Many 20 somethings are not car owners, but many have access to a car. Couples are increasingly sharing one car. Many college students not only do not own a car but don't have a drivers' license. ZipCar and other car rental/sharing businesses are booming. Many 20 somethings see this as their future, after all they can get a car simply when they need it and can choose the kind of car they need for each time they take a Zipcar. Sometimes they may need to move groceries or household goods, other times they may need to carry more people and other times they may need to take a couple of people and luggage which may be odd shaped like skis. All of these things need a different shaped car and with Zipcar they can get exactly what they need.

People who have zip car can use one to take them to the airport or the station and leave it there, and can take one from their arrival airport or station.

The notion that the future generation are going to be just like us is erroneous. The future generation do not see each individual owning a car as given. Younger people, particularly those who are well traveled in the world, see that there are options and want those options here.

I think we owe it to our children and grand children to give them the options, just like those who came before us gave us bridges and highways. The future generation will be paying taxes regardless and I feel sure they would prefer to be paying for something of benefit to them rather than paying for something that is old fashioned.

We shouldn't be closing doors on options for the future.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

So we retain the existing system in a time warp until...?

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Posted by Ever?
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Are we ever going to get our rails back? It can carry many people to sites of businesses, etc. Faster and quiet is good.

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Posted by Ever?
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Agree with "Resident" comments.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@ "Poor US:"

"Forward thinking country?" Because we don't support a TRAIN? And you are saying this because many voters don't believe that the HSR is vital to this state/country (with our already existing transportation infrastructure) like it is in other countries?

To be clear: The HSR is simply a very fast train. However, it is still slower, more expensive and less safe than flying. Patrons are limited to destinations located near a handful of various stations found along a single line of track. The cost of construction is enormous. And, of course, we all suspect that the estimates of ridership are liberal (at best). The odds are that this thing will be as efficient and in demand as much as a statewide CalTrain system.

And this is "forward thinking?"

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Posted by Waiting to Ride
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm

The new members of the HSR Board are doing a great job of addressing many of the problems that the previous Board managed to make worse- like the feeling in Peninsula cities that they weren't being listened to. Too bad the project got off to a rocky start.

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Posted by Why so high?
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The problem is not the HSR it is the price tag.

Ok, lets face it right on. When we are given a price tag we seem to sit like idiots and simply do not ask:

"Why is the price tag so high?"

Should we get the Chinese to help us build it - we are doing so for the Bay Bridge already.

Web Link

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Posted by Poor US
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm


You make me laugh. You assume that I know nothing about fast trains and pretend to teach me. Have YOU ever ridden them?

As a matter of fact I grew up in Europe, where they have had fast trains for THIRTY (!) years and I am very familiar with those fast trains. Why do you think they are built not just in Europe but also in Japan, China, and even South Africa if they are so useless?

You are just plain wrong. There are distances on which fast trains are faster than airplanes once all segments of the travel are included. And there are other aspects to take into consideration other than speed, such as safety, comfort and energy consumption. But let's leave these aside for now.

Personally, I have a daughter in LA and I'll welcome the chance to ride the train there to go visit her rather than take the plane or my car, or the current slow train that takes something like 10 or 12 hours to get there. Our trains are indeed stuck in the 19th century!

Additionally, once HSR is built, people will go live in areas around its train stations, such as say in the central valley, and commute to work with the fast train. Conversely businesses will also to set up shop in those towns. Believe me, that's already happened in Europe. Cities that used to be in the middle of nowhere and that were given an HSR station have actually grown quite nicely since they were given the station.

Yes, the US IS fast becoming a backwards country.

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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

"With the current price tag, we just can't afford it."


And no public or private entities will finance it. It's high time we killed this HSR plan; it's far, far too imprudent.

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Posted by stan
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

estimated cost of HSR: $98.5B
approximate population of California: 36,961,664

cost of HSR due from every man, woman, and child in CA: $2665

That figure does NOT include interest to service the debt on the billions of bonds that will need to be sold, which could easily double or triple the cost per person to close to $8000. Considering that CA is so poorly run, and has already had its credit rating dropped, CA will likely have to pay a higher interest rate to attract any buyers, escalating the cost even more. This of course assumes that the actual cost won't be closer to $200B to $300B, or significantly more. Just look at any large public works project in this country in the past fee decades, any built on time and on budget? I doubt it.

Now think of all the other better uses of YOUR tax dollars. Don't want services cut, want all those other deferred maintenance projects worked on, don't want the quality of your children's education to swirl down the bowl? expect to pay even more taxes. Maybe you would simply to keep more of your income in your pocket!

Sacramento is salivating at the chance to have a grand photo-op, and wreck the state in the process.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm

@ "Poor US:"

You grew up in Europe? Fine. However, this is NOT Europe. During grad school, I studied in Europe. I understand why some European countries would need high speed trains. There just isn't much of a transportation infrastructure or inexpensive fuel supply in Europe as compared with the United States.

In Spain, I traveled from the airport in Madrid for several hours by taxi to the university. Like most non-coastal cities, the city where the university was located didn't have a major airport.

Passenger trains in the United States have not been viable for 60 years. Why? Because it is cheaper, faster and safer to fly. In shorter distances, Americans DRIVE to their destinations along the expansive list of highways and interstates.

This state cannot afford the cost of this train at this point of time. The benefits aren't worth the cost. Of course, those who plan to benefit the most from a multi-Billion dollar fast train to southern California aren't likely as worried about everyone else paying for it.

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Posted by Poor US
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm

@ nayeli

You took a several hour taxi ride from the Madrid airport to your university? Haha, any knowledgeable and reasonable young student would have taken public transportation, ie train, subway and/or bus.

Plus you are still wrong on your assertion that plane is always faster than train. It just is NOT true on some medium distances.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm


Unfortunately, your comment about a several hour taxi journey shows that even though you are an immigrant (which I respect in many of your descriptions) you have totally immersed yourself in the bad aspects of American car culture.

Fortunately, many young Americans nowadays realise that the individual ownership of a car is just too expensive and too much of a luxury when there is easy car share programs and good public transportation.

Can't really believe that traveling by taxi for several hours in Europe is anything that anyone other than an American would do.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2011 at 1:08 am

@ Resident:

"American car culture?" I would argue that most people who live in this country NEED a car unless they plan on living and working via limited confines of public transportation or lacking the luxury to visit friends, family and stores (department and grocery) whenever they wish.

Besides, it is also an economic issue. A person can buy a decent used car in this country for $1500 (look on Craigslist or local classified). I have only purchased ONE new car in my life. The cost of riding CalTrain to San Francisco (round trip) for five days a week and 50 weeks a year is more than twice that ($12.75 x 250 days = $3187.50). In the typical time frame of purchasing a vehicle (five years), that comes out to approximately $16,000. That would cover the cost of a nice used car and all of the gasoline and repairs over five years.

Unfortunately, CalTrain's straight line wasn't able to take me to my job in Los Altos or my husband's job in Sunnyvale. There just weren't any CalTrain stations within walking distance from our jobs either.

As for my experience in Europe: I had to take a taxi because there was something wrong with the train from Madrid to Salamanca on the day that I arrived. I was told that I was either going to have to stay at a hotel in Madrid for a night (and pay for it) and then hopefully take the train the next day, or pay a slight bit extra to take a taxi. I opted for the taxi because I couldn't afford the delay.

The HSR may be something to aspire for in the future. However, it is not VITAL at this day when our state is steeped in enormous debt and the cost of our public works projects are perpetually underestimated. And, of course, there are many people who question the viability of a system in the first place. What happens if we spend so many BILLIONS of dollars on a system only to have it operate in the red -- even with overpriced tickets and underutilized ridership? What happens if there just aren't enough interested passengers to make such an expensive system viable between Sacramento and Los Angeles? That would be quite an expensive "I told you so" or "oops" to leave to our children.

I would like to add that the United States is NOT like Europe or Asia -- and many of us are quite thankful for it (and, no, this is not being "xenophobic"). Those who try to use various nations in Europe and Asia as primers for "forward thinking countries" need to stop comparing apples and oranges and take a good hard look at the economic culture of those nations they seem to aspire for us to mimic.

There are plenty of things that such money could be spent on. The existing roads and airports are in need of improvement -- and will STILL be in need of improvements regardless of whether the HSR is built or not.

I spoke with someone recently who seems to operate under the weird belief that existing interstates and highways will become obsolete if the HSR is built. It just isn't true. It could possibly (and I emphasize the word "possibly") relieve some traffic and get people from Sacramento to LA faster than driving. However, I can't see it ever being faster than air travel -- and it will never be safer than air travel. And, sadly, even after we spend BILLIONS in building the thing, it will probably end up more expensive than air travel.

The bottom line for me is the fact that California cannot afford to advance this massive project right now. We need to wait until the state has the money...and then determine whether the need is so pressing that we should jump into such a hefty and burdensome financial commitment for us and our children.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2011 at 9:19 am


Hard to know where to begin.

Did you read my previous post where I described how young people are choosing to not individually own cars in favor of car sharing programs such as Zipcar, or owning only one car in a family? I know one couple who actually share a car with their neighbors. Zipcar is booming around the Bay Area.

Have you seen the number of people who take bikes on Caltrain? They use bikes for the first and last part of their commute. Have you seen the number of shuttles at Caltrain stations for Google, Facebook and Marguerite for Stanford employees (and others), and probably others I am unaware of? Have you seen the amount of housing being built in places like Sunnyvale around Caltrain and VTA light rail? Have you been on a Caltrain in the busy commute hours and been unable to find a seat?

You live near Caltrain, I believe, so it is possible at some stage in the future due to change of job or job location, that Caltrain may suit you at some time in your commuting future.

You and your husband need to both drive singly to work, but that is a luxury to many. At the very least, many people carpool and couples take an extra 15 minutes commute to get both to work, even Sunnyvale to Los Altos could be done by one of you driving the other. You cite figures based on a daily commute from SJ to SF, but the numbers of people doing that is very small as are the numbers of people driving that same route daily. The figures are also skewed because you do not take into account the extra time driving into SF or SJ traffic as well as insurance and parking costs.

People are surviving without individual car ownership and that will increase, I'm sure.

Comparing West Coast train ridership with Europe does make sense, particularly if you take away the historical aspect and attitudes. The Bay Area and LA are like two major European cities connected by good rail travel. I still find it hard to believe that the university town in Spain did not have any public transport options to the nearest airport when "something went wrong with the trains". Generally speaking, like here, when something is done to the lines on a scheduled weekend or even a large malfunction, buses are brought in to take over. The fact that you had to use a taxi or else stay overnight tells me that perhaps you got the wrong information from the wrong person somehow. It sounds very quaint the way you describe it with the "manana" attitude, but I find it hardly likely if this was a university town and the nearest airport that there was no other form of public transport in a continent where generally speaking there are all sorts of public transport options competing against each other.

Changing attitudes, increased populations in both LA and Bay Area, and congested highways and airports will make a HSR link more viable. Weather delays at SFO which tend to hit the short hops more than the longer hops, are worth taking into account particularly after it has happened to you more than once. Of course it is not an exact science in estimating ridership, but to dismiss it due to safety, reliability and convenience of flying and individual driving is not realistic either. Our population are becoming more and more familiar with train travel elsewhere in the world and will give credence to the option of using it when it becomes available here. For many, the convenience of driving against the problem of ultimate destination parking alone will make it attractive. $20 per day parking in SF is a reality now and I recently had to pay $10 per day for hotel parking.

You are living in the individual car ownership koolaid. You choose to own two cars even though you live near Caltrain and do not have children. You may be a dying breed.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hi Resident,

I appreciate your opinions and advice, even if I wholeheartedly disagree. A ZipCar™ may make sense for a small segment of the population, but it has very real limits. We actually looked into it when we moved here, but it wouldn't meet our needs.

The company's service won't get me to Texas to visit my relatives. It wouldn't help us if we wanted to visit my husband's aunts and uncles in SoCal or Vegas. It doesn't afford me the freedom to get something at the store at the time that I need it. It doesn't give us the freedom to visit friends in need when they call. If I need to take my vacuum cleaner to Redwood City for repair, a ZipCar™ system turns it into a time-consuming situation. If I have a minor emergency and need to get to the doctor/dentist, I wouldn't have the freedom that I have with my own vehicle.

The price of "membership" for such groups is higher than the payments for a decent used vehicle. A $1500 investment in a nice used car (plus the cost of gas) would allow me that freedom (even if the cost of license plate, inspection/registration and insurance are incredibly high in this state).

In fact, car ownership peaked last year -- despite a nagging economy and the fact that modern cars are built to last longer. Remember, most Americans do not live in the type of setting as the San Francisco Bay Area. I lived in a college town in Texas that was several hours drive from my family...and an hour's drive from the nearest city.

So, I wouldn't accuse people who feel the need to own a car of drinking "Kool-Aid" or insinuating that the vast majority of Americans like us are a "dying breed." In fact, it makes me wonder whether or not you own a car.

The bottom line for me -- in regard to the HSR -- is that this state cannot afford it at this time. The enormous cost is more than many people are comfortable with -- especially given the limited "return" on such a hefty investment that is more than likely going to exceed estimates. There are too many questions and holes involved.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Hi Nayeli

Thanks for your comments.

I wasn't actually thinking of ZipCar for you, but it does work well for many people and it is gaining ground around the State. Places like Berkeley seem to be abounding in them as well as San Francisco. I agree that it may be that people who live in cities like San Francisco may find them much better than people who live in Palo Alto, but for those who do, buses, bicycles and the occasional tax about town with a ZipCar combo lifestyle seem to do fine.

No, I am not advocating that you change, but just making you aware that lots of couples are thinking of managing with one car or sharing a car. Car ownership figures are skewed because there are other options like leasing and company vehicles which get hidden by statistics.

I think we generally disagree on HSR and that is fine. The state is in dire financial trouble I agree. I think the problems with the state are more to do with unions, retirement packages at too early an age, political spending, etc. but that infrastructure must be kept in the loop because without basic infrastructure we really are doomed. I can't see that if we get the projected increase in population over the next couple of decades that the present transportation systems, roadways, etc. are going to serve us well. I think we honestly need a transportation guru who will oversee the whole sorry mess we have at present taking roads, airports, public transit at both the regional and state level is necessary instead of having all these small bodies which don't appear to interract with each other in a coherent manner. But that is another topic.

I would like to see a form of HSR, not necessarily on the Peninsula and not necessarily and two rail track, because I honestly can't see that we can't afford not to. California is a large State, but it is only a small region of the US and like other states, we have got to get our population to where they need to go in an efficient manner. It is going to involve changing lifestyles, but we are a diverse community with a myriad of experiences and that is one of the strenths and reasons why this state can do it.

Your choice of being a two car couple even with jobs in what you think are two different destinations is your decision. I know of at least one couple where they drive together even when working on very different time schedules and 15 miles apart and actually consider this drive as quality time for their relationship as well as an economical solution. Times are changing.

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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm

<< With the current price tag, we just can't afford it. >>

The initial construction cost would be just the beginning, even when you factor in the inevitable "cost overruns". There would also be the usual costs of operation -- salaries, power, maintenance, etc. In addition, there would be a significant amount of interest to pay on the borrowed construction funds. The interest payments would have to be made for years and years and years to come.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2011 at 11:53 am

Nayeli, thanks for your long and thoughtful posts. I’m with you!

Resident, you also seem like a thoughtful person, but your predictions may or may not come true. What will happen to all those young people who now bike and Zipcar when they’re married with kids?

I’ve seen a lot of young men and women go from taking the train and roller-blading from the station to work (an extreme example) to becoming two-car suburban families out of necessity: two jobs, picking up kids from school, soccer/piano/tutors/etc., trips to CostCo, ....

What is really hard for me to understand is how most of the posters in favor of HSR completely ignore the absolutely stunning numbers Stan posted:

"estimated cost of HSR: $98.5B
approximate population of California: 36,961,664
cost of HSR due from every man, woman, and child in CA: $2665

That figure does NOT include interest to service the debt on the billions of bonds that will need to be sold, which could easily double or triple the cost per person to close to $8000."


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm


I agree with you about the ZipCarees turning into the 2 car suburban family with kids, but my point is that they are not the young professionals with individual cars, not the college grad students with individual cars and that alone must keep the overall number of cars down. The likelihood is that when they become empty nesters they will once again reassess their need for two cars and may, not a definite I agree, decide to return to one car ownership.
I know many empty nesters and senior couples, who each drive their own car, but I also know a few who feel that they only need one car. My own mother (not in this area) decided several years ago to give up her own car due to the fact that with senior tickets on public transport, the need to pay to park wherever she went and the cost of running a car, it was more economical for her not to drive. As the years have gone by she has never missed the car, she is healthy because she walks a great deal, she manages her time wisely and with occasional use of a taxi to supplement public transit and the purchase of a personal fold up shopping cart, she manages very well.

I don't think car ownership is going to decline dramatically across the board, but I do think that segments of our population are going to realise that they can do with less. ZipCar works really well for those who use it and even if there is a season in their lives that these individuals won't find it helpful, they may return to it later in life when it once again meets their needs.

As for the cost, yes it is outrageous I agree. However, so is the amount we spend on war and space travel. The breakdown is indeed frightening, but I would like to see how similar breakdowns compare.

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Posted by stan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I was wondering if anyone was going to notice the per person cost of the CA HSR project. I believe that time will reveal my numbers to be conservative low-ball estimates if the project moves forward.

Resident- Just because trillions are spent on wars and space adventure, does not justify in any way, hundreds of billions squandered on an overpriced train, as you seem to imply in your last post. If trillions can be spent on wars and space, why can't the education system in this country, something that truly befits everyone, enjoy excessive funding, for example?

Nah, a fast train to Disneyland is much more prestigious. Europe will be jealous for sure.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Here is a solution to the study plan, lets do a blended rail system between San Jose to San Fransisco, beside San Fransisco and San Jose are only 45 Miles appart, there no reason to have train traveling faster than 79MPH 2 this would save CAHSRA or just leave everything as it is between San Fransisco and San Jose and have the high speed rail run from L.A. to San Jose and have people make connection with Caltrain and take the Caltrain from San Jose to San Fransisco. this would make sence.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2011 at 9:41 am

You have come to the crux of the problem most former supporters of HSR on the peninsula have with HSR. The powers that be in the rail authority consider the peninsula a bedroom community of SF, including SJ, and have argued that coming short of SF would mean no one would ride the HSR so why bother. Really, truly, they have been arguing that's it's HSR up the peninsula, on the cal train corridor, or it's not worth doing HSR at all. That is the crux of the ACTUAL debate over HSR right now. If the proposal were for a blended rail system as you suggest, the debate would be different.

I am with you, I believe blended rail is a better idea, and would personally find it easier and preferable to take HSR from SJ to LA than from SF. Frankly, I would love an undergrounded line between SJ and SF, but that will never happen. It also makes no sense to me that, given the HSR is supposed to go on to Sacramento, the HSR would have to go up the Peninsula to SF -- where it can't go on to Sacramento without going across the Bay -- when it could go to San Jose and up the East Bay, then on to Sacramento, and there is more than one way to get to SF on existing transit from those places.

Sure seems like your proposal would save money and be a reasonable compromise for the major adversarial parties here.

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Posted by Poor US
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

@ resident

So you propose HSR between LA and SJ and then a change of train at SJ to go up the Peninsula (and vice versa)? You think that would work? We have an example of a very similar set up in the Bay Area.

That's the transcontinental train line that stops in... Oakland. Do people ride public transportation from SF to Oakland to then take that train? Nope.

I am for HSR but I agree that making it stop in SJ would just make it an automatic failure, and that it is all the way to SF or nothing. Having to change trains in San Jose would automatically remove the HS from HSR.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The major flaw in HSR is that it does not accommodate freight and express. Rail is the preferred carrier for heavy goods, and each boxcar
removes two or three trucks from the highway. Give us 100 MPH freight & passenger and I'll be happy.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Poor US,
You're just talking out of your nose. There's no parallel here. Bay Area transit isn't a "system", it's completely dysfunctional. Are you saying that instead of paying attention to creating a real system, our only choice is to treat it like we never can have a system, ram HSR down everyone's throats, and treat the Bay area as if it's just San Francisco?

Passenger rail in this country is second priority to freight. I've tried to figure out how to take rail vacations with the family, and the problem wasn't an Oakland terminus. And if I were to take a transcontinental train, going to Oakland wouldn't be a barrier anymore than it is if I can get the best/cheapest airfare from there rather than from SF or SJ. I prefer to take public transit to and from home just because it's easier and cheaper for long travel, if the SYSTEM exists.

We live halfway between SF and SJ. I prefer to go to SJ if I'm taking a plane, because it's easier to go south than north. Same holds for the train, if I were going to LA, and I had a choice of SJ and SF, all things being equal, I'd head south. Existing transit is easier going south, too.

There are enough problems and controversies to work out without your bringing up the useless and unrelated.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm

And by the way, when the Oakland central station was new, there was rail all over the place in the Bay Area, Foothill Expwy was a rail line, and rail ran through Montclair to parts south, people did take the train from there to other parts of the region, BUT THOSE LINES EXISTED THEN.

The California Zephyr transcontinental train at present terminates in Emeryville, even more off the beaten path, with just bus service to both Oakland and SF. We haven't got a system, bud.

The Capitol Corridor, between the Sacramento area and SAN JOSE through Oakland, also has only bus service from EMERYVILLE to San Francisco, and despite this, is the 4th busiest Amtrak route by ridership. Hmmm.

Do we really need to duplicate this?

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Posted by Midtown Man
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2011 at 8:25 am

SO, when are we going to get back to "BART AROUND THE BAY," and forget all this HSR stuff? Think LOCAL! Yes, billions to be spent, but a great ROI (return on invetsment). We'd all use it.

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

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