Guest Opinion: Legislators need courage to end high-speed rail now


Readers! Please inundate our local state legislators with calls, emails, tweets, whatever, urging them to vote no on high-speed rail. No hedging their bets, kicking the can down the road or face-saving compromises. Just vote no and end this terrible boondoggle.

In particular, the education community at all levels should be concerned that the state Legislature may pass a budget this month authorizing nearly $3 billion of high-speed rail bonds. The money necessary to repay these bonds -- up to $700 million per year -- will " crowd out" other items from the state budget, most likely education.

Recent polling shows another connection between education and high-speed rail. When first questioned those polled support the Governor's proposed tax increase on the November ballot, passage of which is necessary to avoid major cuts in education. The same polling reveals that high-speed rail has become unpopular with the electorate. When those polled are told that under the Governor's plan the money raised isn't legally committed to education but could be used for other purposes, such as high-speed rail, support plummets. These potential voters apparently had no problem in connecting the dots.

We should be hearing education leaders speak about how high-speed rail will have a negative impact on California education but silence seems to be the rule so far.

As time has passed since the voters narrowly passed Proposition 1A in 2008 authorizing $9.9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail, subject to legislative approval, it has become increasingly clear that this idea is deeply flawed. Indeed, there are so many things wrong with it that high-speed rail opponents have difficulty in agreeing which flaw is the worst. Here are some of the candidates, any one of which ought to sink high- speed rail:

• The estimated costs have nearly tripled since 2008. That's an extra $30 billion to $60 billion.

• The ridership estimates have been exposed as ridiculously high.

• The high-speed rail proposal as we now know it is not what the voters approved in 2008. Plain and simple, the voters were misled.

• There is no credible identified source of funding for the additional $60 billion to $75 billion that would be needed to complete the project

• The high-speed rail authority's estimate that it can operate trains at a cost of 10 cents per passenger mile is ludicrously low. France, which has been operating high-speed trains for 30 years, appears to be the world's low cost leader at 20 cents per passenger mile and most other nations are around 30 cents.

Voters have picked up on these shortcomings and I hear from constituents that this project just has to be at death's door. Other local elected officials report similar discussions. But the truth is that despite these seemingly fatal flaws and negative poll results high-speed rail is alive and well in Sacramento. Authorization for the sale of $3 billion in bonds and even a significant loosening of environmental laws as they apply to high-speed rail are likely to pass the legislature. This amazing disconnect between Sacramento and California citizens seems traceable to the Governor's desire to leave a legacy, a belief that we ought to back anything that would increase jobs ( even if the number of jobs is wildly exaggerated) and party discipline. At present no Democrat has announced that he/she will vote against high-speed rail and no Republican has declared to vote for it.

I am in my 16th year as a local elected official and like to think that I have learned something about politics and politicians during that time. Here are some things I believe: 1) Joe Simitian, Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill are excellent legislators; I have voted for all of them and expect I will again; 2) politics is usually compromise and 3) it's hard to buck calls for party discipline.

But there are issues that are so important that one has to stand up and be counted even at the risk of a career. I believe high-speed rail is such an issue. California can't afford to waste billions of dollars on an unrealistic vanity project.

In his book "Profiles in Courage" then Sen. John F. Kennedy wrote of eight United States Senators who, at various times in our history, took principled, lonely stands on major issues at the risk of incurring the wrath of their party. In praising their courage JFK wrote, "the senator who follows the independent course of conscience is likely to discover that he has earned the disdain not only of his colleagues in the Senate and his associates in the party but also that of the all-important contributors to his campaign fund."

To counter that pressure our office-holders need to hear from their constituents. Let's help them achieve their Profile in Courage moment by letting them know of our support for a No vote on high-speed rail.

How to contact your local legislators:

State Sen. Joe Simitian

650-688 6384; 916-651-4011

Assemblyman Rich Gordon

650-691-2121; 916-319-2021

Assemblyman Jerry Hill

650-349-1900; 916-319-2019

Larry Klein is a member of the Palo Alto City Council, 1981 to 1989 and 2005 to date, and is chair of the city's Rail Committee.


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Posted by Larry-Klein--An-Hour-Late-And-A-Dollar-Short
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Klein, like so many politicians, has “flip-flopped” on his support for HSR:

> The Palo Alto council, which initially supported the
> high-speed-rail (HSR) project in 2008

He was for it before he was against it. From reading his Guest Opinion, you’d think he was the only person in town who researched the HSRA’s claims—and came to the conclusion that they were not telling us the true. Reality is that hundreds of people came to this conclusion before Klein did.

Well .. at least he is on the right side of the fence, for once in his 16 years of voting for bigger, more expensive, and unaccountable government here in Palo Alto.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

California needs jobs.

Airports are overcrowded and delays are common.

High Speed Rail is a proven superior alternative to both air and automobile.

Let's put Californians back to work and let HSR become our next "Golden Gate".

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

HSR is a boondoggle which is a waste of money because it is already outdated, the cost and ridership figures were a fraud.

Heads should roll.

Airports are working fine-we could also start using Moffet Field for short haul flights as well as PA airport for commuters within CA

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Larry Klein,

Did you initially support HSR?

Do you provide the backdrop for it, by recklessly crying "global warming"? The sky is falling, Chicken Little argument, Larry?

Do you support nuclear power, like France? France can run its trains without CO2 emmissions, because they have nuclear power.

It is not so hard to read you, Larry. You seem to want to support something, until you put your finger in the air, then realize that that the air is blowing the other way.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Larry Klein came to the right side of the High Speed Rail eventually, and I'm happy that he did.

Larry talks about this being a key issue, about politicians having the courage to take a stand. Larry needs to take a stand with the people he has helped to elect, Joe Simitian & Rich Gordon. He needs the courage to help vote them out of office. He needs not to stand with his party, but have the courage to support one of the opponents of Joe Simitian & Rich Gordon, especially since this is a "critical issue".

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

PAO's runway is far too short for any decent commuter aircraft. Palo Alto would, in fact, love to see that airport shut down and used for housing/office space. Only Federal/AOPA intervention keeps it open. Do you really want to see scheduled commercial air traffic out of Moffett? Even if Sunnyvale would tolerate the arrivals, Palo Alto would never accept the even noisier departures not to mention the additional freeway congestion. Between SFO and SJC the only remaining route out of NUQ is over us.

Quiet, comfortable, modern, High Speed Rail trainsets running between San Francisco and LA is the perfect solution. Not to mention the local job creation we so desperately need. Blended rail on the Peninsula should alleviate local NIMBY concerns, while the eventual HSR only route up the East Bay would turn Oakland, of all places, into into the go-to Bay area destination. So sorry, San Fran. :)

San Mateo eventually overcame their fear of BART to buy back into the system only after their foot-dragging denied any city south of them affordable access to the system.

In hindsight, outsourcing the new Bay Bridge to the China did our state a disservice. Does no one learn from history these days?

Jobs for Californians. Support High Speed Rail now.

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm

>Quiet, comfortable, modern, High Speed Rail trainsets running between San Francisco and LA

How many per hour? At or above ground, or below? Decibel level per passage? Berlin Wall? Displaced carbon footprint? Private takings? Business model?


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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Blended rail already addressed those issues. No "Berlin Wall". Electrification of CalTrain decreases Db and pollution. You can't debate without keeping up with the current status of the project.

People are so afraid of HSR that much worse alternatives such as PAO as a commuter airfield and NUQ as a reliever for SFO and SJC are being seriously considered. Business model remains to be worked out, but no one seems concerned about continuing to pay tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge decades after it was supposed to be paid off.

HSR is California's next Golden Gate Bridge. If anyone is really concerned about quality of life issues, they should take issue with the city council allowing every available parcel of city land being turned into high density housing. Think about that the next time you try to get onto 101 via San Antonio or Charleston at commute time.

HSR now. Jobs now. Right project, right time.

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm

>Blended rail already addressed those issues.

No, it does not. Not even close. Time to get serious.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Enlighten us. No Berlin wall. Decreased noise. Decreased pollution. Hopefully some improved schedules which, you will have to admit, would be better than CalTrain ceasing service altogether as they were threatening to do just last year. Eventual funding for the additional grade separation planned long before HSR was on the table. Electrification years ahead of the imaginings of the JPB. Lower air traffic, or at least a slower increase in the Bay area with a co-commitment drop in airborne particulates. You can smell SFO miles before you get there.

Where, exactly, do we lose? The recent articles in the Chronicle on the the debate against building the Golden Gate Bridge were so on target with respect to HSR. Throw your shoes into the loom if you will, but your children will not thank you for it.

Jobs now. Money is fungible.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

> HSR now. Jobs now. Right project, right time.

It didn't take long for the Union trolls to show up. The idea of a perpetually bankrupt California seems to be all that these people understand.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:48 am

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

No troll here. I'm in tech where unions seem to be non-existent. Money spent on capital projects doesn't just vanish, it is recycled into the economy where it is once again taxed, spent on consumer goods, etc. One reason Greece can't successfully use an austerity program to revive their economy is partly because the populace avoids paying taxes and partly because the austerity program itself reduces the basis from which taxes can be collected. That's far from the whole story, but it is a significant chunk. It is also why buying the Bay Bridge from China was a mistake. It failed to take into account the knock-on effects of keeping that money at home. HSR might fall on it's face, but if you take the long view and look at California population projections, I don't think so. Another example of California short-sightedness were the plans to build another runway at SFO. The economy tanked and the plans were put on hold. Now the economy is waking up, we're going to need that runway, but the cost is now way higher. Growth and the economy are tied together at the hip. Eventually unlimited growth is going to bring problems of its own, but that is a different discussion.

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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:54 am

Mr. Klein,

As much as I agree with you on this issue, and with all due respect, I only wish that you could turn some of this enthusiasm and energy toward our own issues involving our deepening city budget and financial mess that we're in.

In order to dig ourselves out of the hole we're in, it will undoubtedly take more than pension reform and city employee salary concessions. Public employee pensions and salaries are often time cast as the sole culprit of these financial problems, and it's simply not the case. It certainly is not the only part of the solution.

Our city leaders and elected officials must set some financial priorities and see those through. We cannot continue to buckle under the pressure of special interest and niche groups. In order to offset the budget deficit, we have to seriously consider what city services should be either outsourced, reduced, or eliminated. There has to be tough decisions. No question about it. But that's what responsible city management and leadership is all about. We must consider the greater good. Many times I get the sense that our city government is so concerned about not appearing uncaring or dismissive, that all common sense and logic is lost. We must have the courage to say not to these feel good, fluff projects and services that we obviously can no longer afford.

You talk about high speed rail being a vanity project? Palo Alto is absolutely wrought with vanity projects and services. We only need to look at ourselves to realize that we have been the champions of vanity, frivolous spending, and irresponsible expenditures. Especially in light of the financial challenges we face. If this weren't enough, I suppose my greatest cause for concern is the city management team, knowing full well that we do not have the funds to pay for our vital needs in infrastructure and public safety, have the audacity to float the notion of another bond measure and tax increase to pay for these essential needs. After decades of irresponsible and frivolous spending, seemingly without a financial plan, there is actually a belief that the tax payers will bail out the city once again. Not this time. Enough is enough.

You cited an excerpt from Profiles in Courage. I would suggest that our city management team read it thoroughly and apply those principles and convictions to our own city affairs. It would serve both yourselves and the city well.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2012 at 9:24 am

South Palo Altan, I like what you say and agree with you in so many ways. I have always been enthusiastic but the enthusiasm is waning.

However, I don't think the present plan is the right way to go. I never liked the Peninsula idea, think the East Bay makes much more sense particularly as it could spur off to Sacramento and points north much easier. I don't like the leadership and I don't like the cost. I am also not sure that a two lane track is the way to go either. The one advantage of not having started work yet is that new technologies are coming along the pipeline all the time and we don't want an outdated system before it is even built. I would like to see California HSR the most advanced system in the world, but it is turning into something very outdated. If we are going to invest all that money it must be something cutting edge and state of the art. Nothing I have seen so far is that.

Where are the new ideas? Where are the funding plans? Where are the electricity sources? None of these questions are being asked.

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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

Without a doubt, it will be very difficult to finance HSR: the ridership assumptions are pure fantasy. HSR is profligate & imprudent; it's time to end this madness now!

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I give Larry credit for changing his position on HSR as it became more apparent that it is an ill-conceived idea. So many people who post on this forum talk about how CPA officials need to think and act like people do in the business world. With new information and analysis, businesses choose to not pursue investments that no longer pass the sniff test.

Larry has done that, as he got more information, he concluded his initial support for HSR no longer was tenable. He has taken it a step further with this Op/Ed piece.

I find fault with Jerry Brown, Anna Eshoo, Joe Simitian, and Rich Gordon, none of whom seems capable of taking a firm position on this matter. Enough of hearings and consultants' analysis. If they are for it, say so. If they against it, say so. The mamby pamby rhetoric from these 4 elected officials is not helping us get to closure.

I personally find tiresome comments about NIMBYism and job creation. In my HPOV such rhetoric misses larger points about the financial viability of this concept and other policy issues that relate to local transit needs and the best ways for people to travel between NORCAL and SOCAL. I have weighed on these things many times already, and will not repeat myself.

Larry Klein has shown some spine. I wish those who are in positions to do so at the state and federal level would do the same on this matter.

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Posted by Jim Loomis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Rubbish! A massive misinformation campaign directed against high speed rail is being waged by the Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and numerous other ultra-conservative “think tanks” funded by oil companies, some of the major airlines, the highway lobby and, of course, the infamous multi-billion dollar Koch Family Foundation. They wail about the cost of high-speed rail, but do not answer the one critical question which should be driving the entire discussion: How is California going to provide mobility for the additional 20-30 million people that will swell the state’s population over the next several decades? In today’s dollars, highways can cost as much as $75 million per lane, per mile. And one major interchange costs as much as 20 miles of a high speed rail line. The special interests want to kill rail and they are doing it for both selfish and ideological reasons. If they succeed, the vast majority of Californians will pay the price, literally and figuratively, for generations to come.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Simple answers

Businesses will use TelePresence instead of travel for meetings and sales--as Cisco, HP, Oracle, the US Defense Dept etc already do.

Leisure travelers will use high efficiency and Google cars combined with computerized freeways--these will increase the capacity of the freeway system by 400+ %

We now have proven reserve of natural gas to take care of our energy needs for 150+ years to fuel transportation, power generation etc-

-new reserves of NG are been found every day and will make US the global trade and export leader again

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 7:58 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.


I agree. An East Bay alignment would have made much more sense. There is already a four-track right of way in place with a clear shot to Sacramento. AmBuses run today from the Ferry Building to the Amtrak station in Emeryville. Threading the needle up the Peninsula was a risky strategy since it is a heavily NIMBY laced route. Blended rail is a fair solution.

Sharon, Telepresense has its uses, but I'm in sales. We don't fly for fun, we fly because face to face meetings simply have no electronic substitute. You can do an update over WebEx, you can't do lunch.

You may be happy confined in your car in a Google road train, though I wonder how you stop for bathroom breaks? :)

Give me HSR with wide comfortable seats, on-board entertainment, a restaurant, and a bar car. Even Amtrak trains have a small on-board theater where you can park the kids and get away from the "are we there yet!" chorus.

The reserves of natural gas are perfect - centralized, clean, powerplants for our electric HSR.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

For HSR in CA there is no need and no market.

Their is no congestion on HY 5-

The computerization of freeways will reduce local congestion by 400% according by Stanford research.

Google cars and like systems will solve local congestion.

HSR is a legend in its own mind--it will never happen

If you are really in sales--- then you are living in the 70s

Cisco is saving many millions in travel by using Telepresece for sales and service-- as is Oracle, HP etc

Get educated on 21 C technology--or be history

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 8:39 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Sharon, I work at one of the companies you mention and can assure you that you are wrong. Tech companies -are- saving money using WebEx. Dedicated TelePresence facilities are much more rare. Travel budgets for sales are up, not down. We're driving the next decade of technology but humans are humans and not as amenable to being turned into machines as you might think. The CXOs of every company you mention are in constant motion about the planet.

I agree that there is no congestion on 5, or 101, or 1 outside of the urban areas. The problem is that automobiles are -slow-. That's why people fly.

The population of California is growing. HSR solves a real problem. Will it pay its own way? No. But neither would the airlines if they were forced to pay for their share of the Federal Air Traffic Control system and the FAA, much less the wasteful and ineffective TSA.

HSR doesn't address local congestion. It solves the problem of moving ever more people more efficiently over long distances.

CalTrain and BART address the local transit issues. That is why WETA is adding more ferry service as rapidly as it can.

HSR is inevitable. We can build it now, or pay more to build it later.

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Posted by LenoJames
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Dear Sirs,

After reading an article posted by Palo Alto Councilman Larry Kline at, I was motivated to respond. Hopefully this email won't be lost among the hundreds you will likely get in opposition.

Mr. Kline calls High Speed Rail a "boondoggle" and an "unrealistic vanity project." And I'm sure that the name-calling emails that you get in ALL-CAPS will agree with him. But angry caps-lock name-calling is a poor substitute for reality.

HSR is very real, and very useful in places like France, Germany, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Africa, and even Uzbekistan. And soon it will become real in places like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iraq too...the same places where we get our oil.

Mr. Kline believes that voting the project down is better for California, and that it's the corageous thing to do. But unfortunately, he's got it flipped. Voting against the project, and to keep the status quo is the easy way out. It's also detrimental to the State in the long run as well.

California always has the highest gas prices in the nation. Even now, as gas prices fall elsewhere, California's prices are rising again. And since we have no choice but to drive, we have no choice but to pay.

So without a cushioning force like HSR against gas , Californians will keep bearing the heaviest brunt of notoriously volatile gas prices, for yet another generation.

Just as the article says, I ask you to be corageous in your vote. But remember, it doesn't take courage to do what the latest opinion polls tell you to do. It takes courage to do what is right for California.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 9, 2012 at 10:09 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

I think I see the conceptual problem. WebEx is enabling virtual meetings where earlier there there would have been fewer meeting participants, or vanilla telephone conference calls, or no realtime "conference" at all. Profit for Cisco may equate to enhanced corporate communications, but that does not necessarily indicate reduced corporate travel expense, though as a salesperson I could easily see that in a Cisco slide deck.

I can safely say that WebEx has contributed to my productivity without reducing my travel budget.

There -is- however, an interesting thought here. Cisco, like the airlines, has a vested interest in blocking HSR. If they can divert 10% of corporate travel to WebEx, they make a handsome profit even if the WebEx session is less effective for the client than a face to face meeting. It would be fascinating to see where Cisco political funds are being spent WRT HSR.

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Posted by Larry-Klein--An-Hour-Late-And-A-Dollar-Short
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:16 am

Yes, it’s true that Larry Klein has changed his position after a lot of compelling evidence was produced by people of which Klien is otherwise contemptuous, but he showed not evidence of understanding the problems going into the Prop.1A election. He could have not endorsed the project, but said that it was too soon to understand the issues, and simply not voted.

And then there was the Council’s Resolution to endorse Barak Obama. Again—not something that the City Council should have been doing—but there was Larry Klein right in their—praising Obama to the heavens. And what do we get—the biggest mess since Jimmy Carter.

Klein has managed to use the Dais for purposes that are wide of the mark of managing Palo Alto municipal affairs. Neither has be gotten around to apologizing to the people of Palo Alto for his failure to act in their best interests when he was a big HSR supporter.

> Jobs for Californians Now

Well .. maybe that’s the theory .. but what’s the practice? We’ve seen how competitive and innovative the Chinese have become, while we have sat on our collective butts—

Bridge Comes to San Francisco With a Made-in-China Label:
Web Link

There was a time that the US would have been building bridges in China, but thanks to Union labor, and government over-reaching/over-regulations, it’s almost impossible to do anything in this country any more.

While a lot of the “boots and the ground” kinds of work that seems to be designed for American labor unions, it’s difficult to believe that all of the “value added” work will be done here in the US.

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Posted by Larry-Klein--An-Hour-Late-And-A-Dollar-Short
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:34 am

> I can safely say that WebEx has contributed
> to my productivity without reducing my travel budget.

That's today's experience, but what about tomorrow's? We (as a society) have yet to scratch the surface of what the world of "ubiquitous" communications can do, or what our society will be like in just thirty years.

There are clues, however. We've seen analog photography disappear in just a few years. You won't see anyone with a packet of photos in a coffee shop, showing off the grandchildren to a neighbor, any more. You see older folks now with smartphones, or iPods, showing off the images that have been emailed to them by their kids. The problems with the Post Office's seeing vastly reduced traffic, is another clear example of the impact of barely 15-odd years of effective Internet/web growth.

The analog telephone companies report a yearly loss of business, as people shift their communications from voice, to email, Instant Messenger, Facebook and VoIP. There furious activity going on now in the telecommunications industry as it becomes clear that everyone in the world will have a smartphone one of these days, while the number of land-line customers will be decreasing continuously, over time.

We have yet to see effective video conferencing being used by American business. Skype now offers a fairly effective 1-1 service. And there are others that now are available. When more of these capabilities are integrated into email, and our browsers--it's quite possible that short, only so-so-important meetings that require f2f (face-to-face) interactions can be conducted via video conferencing. No matter what the deficiencies of today's software/hardware--these packages will only get better in the future.

And then we're beginning to see the emergence of 3D printers--

ZCorporation 450 3D printer in action rapid prototyping machince:
Web Link

The idea of being able to send a set of #D Printer instructions to a client, who then "prints out" a prototype/model of whatever your trying to sell the client would reduce the need for many on-site visits.

Most people have given no thought to what life can be like in the coming years, based on our moving to a more integration of the Internet, and the almost infinite possibilities of digital tools like 3D printing.

It will no doubt fall to the next generation, or perhaps the Chinese, to run with these advances in technology. The current generation of Americans seems to be looking backwards, more than forwards.

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Posted by John
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 9:23 am

If it could be built it would have started by now.

The vote was 4 YEARS ago!

It can't be done. It was a lie to open up the taxpayer to more con men.
LA to SF in less than 3 hours with self supporting fares and a blend of public bonds and private investment. Not happening. It was a lie.

What is going on now is intentional. Fool the public and rake in the cash.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

Larry Klein not only supported HSR in 2008, along with Yoriko Kishimoto he proposed a resolution in support of the HSR ballot measure which was approved by the City Council!!!

Give Larry credit he has finally seen the light and changed his mind. Getting a politician to admit they were wrong is an achievement in itself although, so far, he hasn't admitted it!!

I did not blindly follow our City Council's resolution in support of HSR, I voted against it. There were two things in 2008 which I did not like. One was the cost, at $33 Billion, even then I thought that was too much. Second, the idea of trains roaring through Palo Alto at 200 MPH I did not want. If everyone had just thought of those two things, that should have been enough to defeat the bond measure.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm

There are plenty of us out there who continue to support HSR, just as we did in 2008. All of the reasons to support it are still valid, if not more so. We are not union members, or shills of any other group.

Much of this discussion is just the selfish whining of the local NIMBY constituency out to "protect" their outrageous property values on the Peninsula.

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Posted by Alan S
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

HSR is an interesting idea that isn't practical at this moment with our high budget deficits and airline system that already works reasonable well. The large metro areas in the US are too far apart to make HSR practical. Building a line between only SF and LA doesn't really make sense, since most of the time I don't need to go to LA. Most of the time I need to go to New York, or Dallas or Chicago, and the few times in need to go the LA the airlines work fine.

The amount of money for HSR just to server two end-points, SF and LA doesn't make sense. That is why the number of riders had to be puffed up. Someone looking at realistic numbers would conclude it doesn't make sense. I would rather spend that money on better rail connections to the airports. I'd like to see something that could take me straight into the San Jose airport for example.

We need to end HSR now. It costs too much and someday all the debt will turn the US into a Greece or Spain. Stop the financial madness now.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Alan - I'm with you, I don't need to get to LA, I'd like to be able to get to SFO or San Jose airports. Currently, to get from Palo Alto to either airport by public transportation takes 4 different modes of transport and close to 2 hours. Even with a fast train to LA - there is not the supporting rail transport that exists in other cities like the El in Chicago, the T in Boston, etc.

Plus we just don't have the money. Period.

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Posted by Caboose
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm

It would seem South Palo Altan is willfully ignorant of what high speed rail means for California, likes to arguw for the sake of arguing, or somehow to the HSR public relations machine.

"California needs jobs." yes it does, but a few thousand transient jobs to specialized rail workers that most likely do not live in CA costing the state hundreds of billions when all is said and done is a really wasteful and terribly expensive way to create any jobs.

"Airports are overcrowded and delays are common." What a general statement, which airports? SFO and SJC are busy, I assume Oakland is too, but I've never heard the airlines complain about a lack of gates, or demand for seats exceeding availability. In So cal, the Palmdale airport closed due to lack of use, and Ontario is on the verge of failure, due to lack of use.

"High Speed Rail is a proven superior alternative to both air and automobile." Again, what a general statement, superior in what way; consuming tax dollars? Air traffic is a profitable business venture. With the exception of one or two rail lines, high speed rail is a money pit, a business failure.

"Let's put Californians back to work and let HSR become our next "Golden Gate"." Again, a myth. Most of the skilled construction jobs will likely come from rail companies. Some dirt transient dirt moving jobs will come and go, and the permanent jobs will be a state run rail agency, think BART. One of the most expensive, poorly run mass transit agencies in the country.

CA HSR is a fraud, nothing more.

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Posted by Peet
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I would love to see Simitian, Gordon, and Hill respond point by point to Larry's commentary.

Unfortunately they won't; they are cowards when it comes to this politically motivated wasteful project.

Hey Joe! Is this "high speed rail done right"?

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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm

"There -is- however, an interesting thought here. Cisco, like the airlines, has a vested interest in blocking HSR. If they can divert 10% of corporate travel to WebEx, they make a handsome profit even if the WebEx session is less effective for the client than a face to face meeting. It would be fascinating to see where Cisco political funds are being spent WRT HSR."


Cisco has bigger issues than to worry about what's going on in a dying state (albeit a state in which its headquartered). Languishing stock price, non-competitive products, etc. Something that won't go live until the 2030's at the earliest is not even on the time horizon.

If anything, Cisco should be worried about the increasingly excessive tax burden this white albatross will be around CA neck - but, like people, companies can easily move their headquarters to other, less burdensome locations.

Anything else your tinfoil hat is suggesting?

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Posted by Menlo Park Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hey Larry, interesting points. I hear similar points made in Menlo Park by people that live close to the tracks. Oddly enough, these points seem to be raised a lot more by folks that live close to the tracks that those who live further away.
Perhaps comments for and against the high speed rail should be accompanied with a, I live x miles from the tracks. Any chance one might find a correlation?
You appear to live 1.3 miles from the tracks; not too close.
I live 0.1 miles from the tracks, but then I'm from Europe and have enjoyed the benefits of good train and public transportation systems for years.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

The headline for this story SHOULD read: "Legislators need the courage TO BUILD HIGH-SPEED RAIL NOW." Palo Alto may not have voted in favor of it, but a majority of California voters did.

Just like many of the huge public projects built during the 30s Depression, the high-speed rail project will put thousands to work and stimulate associated economic activities -- and it will also create and grow economic activity for the long-term. Remember the East Bay before BART? Just like the highway system did 50 years ago.

BUT the world has changed. Now our challenge is to stimulate regional interaction and economies without depending on the unstable Mideast and without destroying the air we must breathe.

It's no great surprise that public transportation systems are rarely self-supporting, we subsidize the auto like crazy. Do you think "freeways" will continue to be free?

And we don't have the luxury of relying on individual car transit any longer. On another part of this website there's a story about how CalTrain ridership increased when gas prices increased. Now we also need inter-regional trains, not just intra-regional trains. The argument about how everything will be "spaceless" is specious -- and reminds me of how it was argued in the 1970s that with computers we wouldn't be cutting down forests to make paper. That didn't work out so well.

Behind this whole discussion (and so many others on PA Online) is the not-well-hidden fear that local home prices won't continue to appreciate obscenely. Maybe those $2 million dollar home prices on what are actually $500k tract homes won't continue to escalate at the same ridiculous rate.

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Posted by Larry-Klein--An-Hour-Late-And-A-Dollar-Short
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm

> Palo Alto may not have voted in favor of it, but a
> majority of California voters did

Actually, the vote was like 50.2% vs 49.8%. It was almost an even split. While a technical majority, it hardly counts as an overwhelming vote. And if we could have a re-vote today .. it's pretty clear that the HSR would be voted down by wide margins.

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Posted by wally
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:16 pm


you really don't understand the implications of moving forward with the CA HSR plan, do you? how a train few will ride, given the price of a ticket and not so fast transit between here and LA, benefit anyone, except the contractor who builds it? The train will generate massive amounts of pollution to build, and will most likely never break even, so speak, as a pollution neutral project. Where do you think all the electricity to power the train will come from? This is not a John Galt train powered by static electricity, it will require the construction of several power plants to satisfy its energy needs. In California, that means most likely a coal or gas fired generation plant. Solar and other renewables can't come close to powering a train like this. How are long distance trains with little or no local transit going that last mile, going to help anyone get anywhere?

This project is a multi hundred billion dollar fraud, period. If the only people complaining were those who lived by the tracks, as many HSR shills here claim, the dissenters would be out numbered significantly, but they are not. Communities all over the state, that are no where close to the train tracks, and never will be, oppose this train wreck because it's a fiscal disaster.

Building this train to make a statement of how great California is, or more accurately was, will drive California into the dirt.

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Posted by Seriously
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Give it up before public funds are spent on time that will have been wasted after many years of meetings to discuss, plan, poll, etc. Remember the fiber optic to home issue? Come on folks. It would be an honorable thing to stop now and refocus on existing infrastructure before new infrastructure is created. Which by the way would NOT be affordable under current budgetary numbers/process. Only thing left to raid is Community Services and we know how that would work out. Do the honorable thing.

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Posted by Voter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Actually we voted to fund $9B toward HSR if the project could fund itself beyond that.

We did not vote on a blank check for whatever plan our public servants put forward.

The current plan requires that California funds more than $9B. That has not been approved by voters.

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Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

We can afford high speed rail. All we have to do is sell Cal and UCLA to developers who can turn them into luxury condos. That idea make just as much sense as the official projection that 117 million people would ride HSR each year.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

The BART FY13 Preliminary Budget proposes a total of 3,347 direct employees for its 104 mile 669 car system. That's not counting the thousands of outside contractors and vendors that supply the ancillary components and consumables needed to keep the system running. Each one of those people takes their salary and buys goods and services.

"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."

That is how an economy works. The public finances the roadways, the Air Traffic Control system, and the rail systems. The airlines are barely (and sometimes badly not) profitable without public funding.

Is HSR the absolute best way to spend our tax dollars? Who knows, but the California population is expected to add 25 million people by 2050. We need to plan ahead.

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Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

We should not accept the arguments that say we should spend money on something simply because a bond allows it or Federal dollars are available. State lawmakers must understand that to taxpayers, checks they write to the local, state, or federal government are all the same dollars to them. Sacramento needs to remember that spending on one project ultimately means less spending on another. The annual general debt payments alone on high speed rail are projected to be $700 million a year. (Source: Web Link)

That's far more than Gov. Brown's proposed cuts to early childhood services for our neediest children. I'm proud to be a progressive, and I challenge any progressive who is willing to ride a new train while our children are being short changed.

Ask any long term resident, the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't California's most visionary policy. It was past investments in public education, made by the other Gov. Brown.

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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

SouthPaloAltan, are you arguing that HSR is some form of trickle-down economics?

Now that's even funnier.

What's appalling is exactly what Christopher Chiang said above - the fact that unions, the Governor and crony capitalists are more than willing to steal from funding services and education for children for a project that has no sense of economic reality.

That's pathetic. You should be ashamed.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

What happens when we run out of money for highways, not to mention land for freeway and airport improvements, We can take over Moffett Field but will it help or just move the problem. Traffic in the bay area is bad, it will only get worse, it will take big sums of money. As for the East Bay route, it will leave out San Jose, city of 960,000 people won't have a easy stop.

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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Garrett, HSR does nothing for local commutes. This is a tired and completely discredited argument. HSR won't do anything for a San Jose-to-Foster City commute.

Even if we spend all of your grandkids' money into HSR, we still will be grappling with bad traffic in the Bay Area. This white elephant does nothing for that.

If you're worried about local commutes, then you should be arguing for better transit infrastructure from VTA, Samtrans, Caltrain, AC Transit, BART and MUNI (and there is your problem - what a cluster), not putting money into HSR.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I have been divided about HSR in CA as I don't have a compelling need to get to LA that often, though, yes, there are "needs" for people to get around locally and long distance. I am REALLY worried about the horrendously high quoted cost of HSR (and that it changes) and wondering about the fare time of transit -- you know, those specific details. CA is currently many billions in debt and teetering so this seems an audacious project with a long time frame to payoff even if population rises quite a bit. Have independent, educated, respected superduper transportation planners weighed in on all this?!

@Palo Alto Mom June 10, 3:56PM has it right -- it would be fabulous to have fast rail or some fast system to get to the airports. The taxiis are very poor here and we avoid them after bad experiences. A clear and distinct need - another idea would be a carpool lot right off 101 at various places where airport transport busses could pickup/dropoff like they have to/from Boston Logan and various locales. I was amazed how well this worked - and not rocket science by any means nor costly. There could be a lot on the bayside of Embarcadero Rd off 101 - it would save a heckuva lot of driving to the airports in our case to drop off/pickup people...

And yes, Chicago and Boston have very good public transportation - has been low stress and effective and efficient for me as an occasional visitor to those places.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

To be fair, HSR would improve commute on the Peninsula since CalTrain will be the first system to benefit from electrification. I believe a similar situation exists in the southland, though I would not swear to it. Faster acceleration, shorter dwell times, and lower pollution (since power generation is centralized) are all benefits for local commuters. Overall Toady is correct since the benefit is limited to the CalTrain corridor and there are no scheduled interconnects between CalTrain, BART and AC Transit (though their really -should- be).

And, Toady, all I'm arguing is that HSR will generate revenue both direct and indirect as services and suppliers spring up around it. It is a fact, not failed Reaganesque "Trickle down economics".

And folks, not wanting to visit LA isn't an argument against HSR. I don't have kids, but I'm happy to pay taxes so yours can go to school.

It we had the guts to deal with the prison cartel and Prop 13 we wouldn't have this screwy boom and bust economy that makes people adverse to long term planning.

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Posted by LOL
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Ha! Nice spin "SouthPaloAltan", er, do you really mean "delusional dude in the Governors mansion"?

To hold up the massively bloated, wasteful, and terribly expensive (per mile of track, per employee, by probably any comparison) BART as a gleaming example how trickle down economics work is really pathetic. Really. Do you work for BART maybe?

And the fleas, what's with the fleas? Do you need to fumigate your home maybe?

And your argument that California's population bursting at the seams in the future as a justification to waste hundreds of billions on a train to nowhere falls flat. Had you bothered to actually read the reports projecting the population growth in CA in the future, you would know that most of that growth is expected to be from "international migration". Call it what you may, but in California, and indeed through out the South Western US, that means most likely poor, uneducated, unskilled immigrants looking for a better life. I suppose they could all be coming here to pay months of saved wages to ride the fabled train, right?

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Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:52 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

The following comment has been moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted June 8 at 4:43 p.m. by Rick:

California needs jobs. Airports are overcrowded and delays are common. High Speed Rail is a proven superior alternative to both air and automobile. Let's put Californians back to work and let HSR become our next "Golden Gate".

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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

What fact-free assertions from Rick. From my perspective, that almost wasn't worth transferring to this thread. I love the use of "proven." Can someone tell me how HSR will help me get from Palo Alto to Monterey Bay for the weekend? After all, it "is a proven superior alternative to both air and automobile!"

As for SouthPaloAltan's point of electrification, while Caltrain is hoping that HSR can help with electrification funding, it is a separate issue. Frankly, the alignment of Bay Area transit agencies would yield a much bigger benefit for everyone than electrification at this point. This is basic blocking and tackling that has yet to happen, and we're talking about big capital investments.


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

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