News

Study: Caltrain trench could cost $1 billion

New analysis looks at placing tracks underground in southern half of Palo Alto

To trench or not to trench? That is the billion-dollar question.

That's according to a new engineering study that the city commissioned last year and that concluded that constructing a trench for Caltrain in the southern half of Palo Alto could cost up to $1.05 billion.

The project has been on the city's radar and wish list for years, with interest starting to resurge in 2009 as California's proposed high-speed rail project brought new focus on the city's rail corridor. In recent years, council members, planning commissioners and a specially appointed citizens committee that considered the city's official vision for the rail corridor all stated a preference for going underground with Caltrain and, ultimately, for high-speed rail. With undergound tunnels generally seen as cost prohibitive, the city has focused on open trenches as a more cost-effective option for improving safety and road circulation at the rail crossings.

Even that option, however, will be far from cheap, according to the Hatch Mott McDonald analysis. The firm evaluated two different trenching alternative, a 2 percent grade and a 1 percent grade, and estimated the cost to implement each one south of Oregon Expressway. The firm concluded that a 2 percent trench would cost about $488.2 million, while a 1 percent trench would cost more than twice as much: $1.05 billion. In each case, the rail traffic would be submerged under Meadow Drive and Charleston Road.

The firm concluded in its analysis that either design can be accomplished with no property acquisitions. By contrast, a design that sends roads under the tracks would cost $320 million but would require acquisition of 32 full parcels and seven partial parcels, the firm found.

The 2 percent grade is less expensive because it minimizes the length of the trench, which would begin just south of Matadero Creek and pass under Baron Creek, Meadow Drive, Charleston Road and Adobe Creek and return to grade just north of San Antonio Road. The alternative with a 1 percent grade would require an additional 10,000 feet of trench, as well as reconstruction of Oregon Expressway to remove the existing undercrossing and return the roadway to the same grade level as surrounding streets.

Even at $1 billion, the price tag for trenching Caltrain in the southern half of Palo Alto is expected to be far less than in the north half. That's because going all the way north would require a complete reconstruction of three grade-separated crossings – Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero Road and University Avenue – and submerging the city's two Calrain stations, according to report from the office of City Manager James Keene. The San Francisquito Creek, which passes along the border of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, would also pose significant design complications.

The staff reports notes that the study is "intended to facilitate community dialogue on the issue and ultimately to help form a policy position on grade separations."

"The study is not definitive in determining an ultimate configuration, but does provide a starting point for dialogue on the issue," the staff report states.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the report and the trenching study on Oct. 20, at which point they will consider (but not vote on) whether to proceed with a future study that would include design work, refined project costs and assessments of feasibility. The study would cost $67,760.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

So, either raise the money or stop the train. At or above grade is not acceptable. Without separated grade crossings, no one will be able to cross the tracks when Caltrain increases service. Above grade tracks would be an urban design disaster, ruining neighborhoods and view corridors and creating an even worse barrier through town.


1 person likes this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

So, either raise the money or stop the train. At or above grade is not acceptable. Without separated grade crossings, no one will be able to cross the tracks when Caltrain increases service. Above grade tracks would be an urban design disaster, ruining neighborhoods and view corridors and creating an even worse barrier through town.


5 people like this
Posted by Paul McBurney
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:58 am

It needs to be accepted that trains are part of the future. So why try to stop them. No cost is too high for those of us who live near the tracks, and have to cross them frequently. The benefit on life quality will keep the house prices up and eventually pay for itself through maintained tax base. Go for it.


7 people like this
Posted by A resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

Stop wasting tax payers' money on the high speed train. A high speed train makes sense only when the current population density increases by 10 times. If the State has money, please invest on education and save our public schools!


4 people like this
Posted by Tony Carrasco
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Caltrain and High Speed rail should pay for grade separation as mitigation for traffic impacts. The costs of acquiring 32+7 properties + $320,000 are about the same as the 2% grade option.
Build a Ped/Bike path on top or adjacent and connect our neighborhoods.


6 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Assuming you could get a billion dollars (good luck), what do the logistics of digging the trench while maintaining existing service look like? For a billion dollars, you could probably turn caltrain into a 4 lane express bus lane and serve 10 times the number of people, and still reduce the environmental and community impacts.


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

We already have several grade-separated crossings (University, Embarcadero, Oregon, San Antonio). How about just improving those and shutting the rest down? They can be replaced by pedestrian bridges or tunnels for a tiny fraction of this $1 billion price.

Now that we've kicked Facebook out of town neighborhood groups are trying to keep Google in Mountain View and HP is going down the tubes, we don't have any sugar daddy companies to cough up $1 billion on this pet project and I doubt that residents or merchants will support a massive sales tax or property tax increase.


3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

So .. does this new $1+B cost to improve the quality of life here in Palo Alto get added to the city's infrastructure wish list, or does it just disappear until some future time when some special interest group (like construction companies, labor unions, or property developers) want to dip into the city's coffers and pull out a big plum?

This is a lot of money, and with teh HSR still having no definite plans for Palo Alto--it's crazy to even think about this kind of project.

It would make more sense to come up with a meaningful cost, and footprint, for an underpass at E/W Charleston & Alma. It's hard to believe that such an underpass won't come close to $100M.

How much did this study cost? Anyone know?

Oh, and let's keep in mind that with the so-called "electrification" of Caltrain, poossibly to cost upwards of $1B, and the outstanding capital costs of Caltrain at possibly $1B--we are looking at possibly $3B to provide transportation to maybe 30,00 unique people out of a service area of about 3M!

This is simply insane use of public money!


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

Didn't San Carlos / Belmont / etc. rework some of their rail crossings to above-grade in the last 10-15 years? Does anyone know how much that cost, just for reference?

Not that above-grade crossings are an appealing solution, even if the trains switched from diesel to electric.


3 people like this
Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:59 am

Divide 1Bn$ by 60,000 residents and your get about 17K$ per resident.

This project is probably affordable, if we have the will to make things better. We can self fund it.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:12 pm

@Jared -- such calculations are better done per household.
Mitigating factor, if tax-deductible, State and Fed contribute about 1/3 or more.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

The underpasses currently being built in San Mateo County were funded by a special county sales tax. The last time Santa Clara County approved a transit sales tax, all the money went to BART and none to Caltrain. Of course, BART is not coming anywhere near Palo Alto.


9 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Even with the Trench alternative to tunneling, there is also the opportunity to cover the trench with solar panels. this is done in some European countries and contributes a significant amount of electricity to running the trains.

Its time for Palo Alto to join the 21st century in transportation, instead of just complaining about it.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I wonder how this compares cost wise to an overhead alignment? Either way, at least there's progress in the sense that Palo Altans are evaluating their options, rather than burying their heads in the sand thinking rail traffic isn't going to increase.


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

@ senor blogger,
What a creative solution! Actually, I was thinking that if we put in a tunnel, a couple of things would happen that haven't been accounted for:

The value of all the properties along the tracks would increase. Those people would then pay additional property taxes, and that adds up.

More importantly, if it's a tunnel, we can use all that land, it buys us a throughway for bikes and pedestrians all the way across Palo Alto in an easy shot, separate from traffic. This would be priceless as our kids could be pretty independent around town. Exercise would increase. It would be easier to get from housing in Mountain View to work in Palo Alto by bike and vice versa.

That's worth something, too. It doesn't offset $1B, but to get right off way all the way across Palo Alto? Incalculable.

Actually, it would make it possible to BOTH do a bike throughway and put up solar panels ...


11 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

The headline is misleading - it should have said "2% grade trench same cost as needed grade separation, plus you save homes and gain land". As Tony Carrasco pointed out, the article says that the cost is half if the trench is steeper. The costs for grade separations on Meadow, Charleston and CHurchill would cost about the same. It may be cheaper. Eminent domain to acquire 32 needed properties for the grade separations, particularly if there were lawsuits, could be very expensive. It would be good to see complete financials, including the value of the land above the tracks if it were trenched. We just need to convince Caltrain it should be a 2% grade, instead of the twice as expensive 1% grade.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm

> Divide 1Bn$ by 60,000 residents and your get about 17K$ per resident.

That's not the best way to do this calculation, since taxes generally are applied to properties, not people.

There are about 20K parcels in Palo Alto--so this would come to over $50K per parcel/home.

Given that property taxes are usually apportioned as ad velorem, then some people would end up being taxed possibly 3-5 times the $50K average. Don't think that adding $100K to $150K to the taxes of many Palo Alto properties is going to get the support of those property owners, and it will go a long way to demonstrate how unfair property taxes are for paying for infrastructure.



Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I think tunneling, while superior because of the gained land, is much more expensive than trenching. The trench would only have to be covered at the stream crossings - and maybe the road crossings.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Oh .. one other point .. the financing costs on $1B will add another $750M, or more, to the construction costs. So--let's be honest about this, and call it a $2B project.


3 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm

We are long past overdue asking the state agency in charge of paying for unfunded mandates to pay for all the costs of the extra development and housing up and down the Peninsula. Citizens can actually do this, it doesn't depend on City Hall.

That might be a source of money. If not, at least it will get the state thinking about the cost of all these unfunded mandates leading to development.


6 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Experience in riding European high-speed trains makes me question the use of Caltrain tracks for California High Speed Rail. The European train systems are designed for travel between the largest cities, and their stations in smaller cities are not in the city centers. The use of Caltrain tracks is an attractive idea from a cost basis, but the resulting upsetting of life in the smaller cities of the Peninsula is not worth the argument.

Caltrain a necessity to California, but it should reconsider a new right-of-way between San Jose and San Francisco that does not result in an extensive upset of existing cities.


2 people like this
Posted by Peninsula Commuter
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

What's another $1 billion on a project that has been projected to cost between $66B and $99B, depending on who is spokesperson for HSR at the time. Knowing this is a government project, the actual cost is likely to go well over $100B. Why not just kill this ridiculous, bloated project?

Most people will continue to fly to Southern California. It's faster, and far less expensive for CA taxpayers.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

> Caltrain a necessity to California,

What? Caltrain services about 30,000 unique people a day. There are over 35M in CA, at the moment. There are perhaps 3M to 4M in Caltrain's service area, here in the SF Bay Area.

Caltrain is a huge boondoggle, and should be stopped before it gobbles up billions of taxpyayers dollars for a handfull of people who don't believe that they should have to pay for their transportion, to and from work!


7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Could someone explain why High Speed Rail has to follow the CalTrain tracks? Why not just send it above the medium strip on 101?


6 people like this
Posted by SuperD
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

California has bigger needs than a fast choo-choo train from SF to LA. Let's kill this high speed rail idea for now, until such time as the economics are shown to actually work out AND the engineering issues thought through...This thing will end up requiring infusion from the state once it is built and that means more taxes for you and me. Abolish Prop 13 and I might be OK with a choo-choo train assessment, but right now my property taxes are killing me. No mas...


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:51 pm

@SuperD and others, if you didn't notice the second word in the headline, this is about Caltrain, the existing rail system, which (apart from folks like Joe who are far removed from the mainstream) everyone agrees is an important if not necessary, part of the Bay Area transportation infrastructure.


4 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

> but right now my property taxes are killing me. No mas...

What makes you think that your taxes will be lower if Prop.13 falls? Some of your neighbors’ taxes will be higher—but there is no way your taxes will be lower!

And there is no reason to believe that the increase in revenues to the State will result in that money’s being spent on infrastructure. With the Democrats having sold out to the labor unions—virtually all money spent by the State goes into salaries and “programs” to redistribute wealth.


3 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm

The engineering study was done by Hatch Mott McDonald that donated $25,000 in support of Proposition 1A (November 2008), the High Speed Rail bond measure:


Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Like it or not, a lot of people are opposed to any improvements to Caltrain because increasing the usefulness of Caltrain also increases the usefulness of HSR.


5 people like this
Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm

As much as I love trains, with "driverless" cars on the horizon, it does make you wonder if we shouldn't be thinking about leapfrogging technologies and giving up on high speed rail, and instead spending the money on more flexible advanced technology. Thirty years ago I wondered in amazement that California did not have HSR. But now, it just seems like it's a huge investment and less efficient than things we could be leapfrogging to.

For example, imagine driverless car autobahns which could be designed to maximize safety and speed - with the ability to possibly make "trains" of several cars for efficiency. Imagine taking your driverless car onto the autobahn in the evening and waking up in LA at your destination, or your car waking you up when it's time to start paying attention. Or getting on a driverless car train where only one person has to stay awake and be the "designated" driver or perhaps there could even be professional conductors as part of a professional lead car team, who is paid from the autobahn tolls, but the costs even for those would overall be less than a train system.

I've flown to parts South for the day only to spend more time waiting through rental car lines and plane delays than it would have taken to drive. The cool thing about driverless cars is there would probably be a competitive rental market versus planes until everyone had one. If I thought I could get to LA in 4 hours, not have to drive myself, and arrive in my very own vehicle that would take over for me in stop and go traffic -- I'd pay for that.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

@Robert - the article is about the same tracks/right of way that HSR intends to use, so the HSR discussion is relevant.

The above grade separation in up by San Carlos isn't bad visually, and doesn't divide the community any more than the current fenced tracks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Can we give some research money to élan musk to come up with some thing innovative?

A TUBE like in London?

Respectfully


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm

One reason for opposing Caltrain is that it is incredibly ineffective at carrying people. We are seeing 300-passenger buses now on the market, as the information at the link below expains--

300-Passenger Buses:
Web Link

China has made a momentous step forward for public transportation by unveiling the world’s largest bus – the Youngman JNP6250G. The megabus Superliner is 13 meters longer than regular city buses, and it can transport up to 300 passengers in a single trip. A fleet of the new buses will make up the Bus Rapid Transit service in both Beijing and Hangzhou, where populations are high and urban living creates great demand for public transportation systems.
----

Two of these buses will carry about what one Caltrain can carry. Unlike Caltrain, which generally can carry only one train per track, with a sizable time interval between each train for a safety buffer, many buses can travel in the same lane, with only a short time interval between each bus, for safety considerations.

Before one more penny is spent on Caltrain, a small fleet of these buses should be purchased, and used during the peak traffic hours to work out any problems that their increased size might cause. Moreover, it could not hurt to try targeted destinations, like the Apple Complex, and Intel—to see what riderships might develop.

Trains on tracks are not the technology of tomorrow. Buses will carry far more people for vastly less money.


2 people like this
Posted by stan
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2014 at 8:12 pm

It is unlikely that Caltrain is going to disappear in the near future. It is unlikely that Union Pacific, the owners of the rail right of way, are going anywhere either. HSR is still unfunded pie in the sky, but a possibility. Regardless of what trains rumble by, increased train trafic seems to be the trend for the future, and the value of grade separations becomes more self evident. Trenching the tracks in south PA seems to me to be the best long term if not permanent solution to get rid of the rail/road crossings, the related traffic congestion, and increasing rail noise. I would also support grade crossings at Charleston and Alma as well.

The electrification of Caltrain will be a traffic disaster without grade separations because the ultimate goal of electrification is to have more and faster trains on the tracks. Not one dollar for grade separations anywhere along the caltrain right of way was included in that 'deal'. Our inept state politicians saw piles of cash for their big labor buddies, and really don't care what the details are. The electrification of caltrain could be a great success, with grade separations all along the rail route.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Joe, we hear what you're saying, but you're seriously tilting at windmills. On a per mile basis Caltrain is the busiest commuter rail system outside of New York, and it's not going anywhere.


2 people like this
Posted by My Take
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

How refreshing to see a variety of opinions on this instead of the usual nimbys. I'm always amazed at how in a city full of people whose livelihood depends on innovation and outside the box thinking, we have so many boat anchors voicing opinions based only on how it might be a problem in their own personal situation never mind the good of the community, the environment, the planet. Rail travel is so much more efficient than bus or car transit. It has always been clear that we need to figure out a way to incorporate efficient rail transit into the SF to LA plan, and that having it go through Silicon Valley is inevitable. To not do it just because of a few vociferous, selfish nimbys would be idiotic. Keep at it, all you inventive, green minded, forward thinking citizens! Onward!


Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I totally agree with Tom DuBois. If Caltrain will accept a 2% grade, trenching seems only a little more expensive than above ground. It is possible it might even be cheaper, given the cost of acquiring all the needed land for grade separations.

Not included in the evaluation was the potential value of developing some land over the trench. My understanding is that you can cover parts of the trench as long as it isn't too long. This would connect east and west Palo Alto. Maybe we could even get some moderate income housing and additional retail establishments.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Reference to Belmont and San Carlos - CALTRAIN is not in a residential area in those cities - it is in the industrial section and has always been on a raised rail bed. I think the raised section in part is like a levee because they are closer to the bay. PA has a different problem - the whole track through the city is in the residential area.
Have you seen the advertisements for the new Siemens Diesel . Electric locomotives? They are build in Sacramento. That is what we should be doing - upgrading to California build new locomotives.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

SteveU is a registered user.

It is not that simple: Caltrain is not the only user of those Rails. Freight runs after hours. Add 'grade' and they need to add more engines to pull the grade. Want to hear what that is like? Go near the intersection of I 15 and I 215 in San Bernadino.

IIRC San Carlos and Belmont did Raise the rails, taking the back areas behind businesses on Old County Road. You can still see the (bare) strip along parts of ECR where they used to be.

Japans HSR is celebrating 50Y of use. We are celebrating 50Y of obstructionism.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2014 at 7:55 am

Does Japan's HSR run through long-time established residential areas? Does it come close to breaking even without heavy governmental funding?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2014 at 9:09 am

The trains were here long before it was a residential area. There used to be orchards before the trains.

Of course transportation is something that should be funded by government. From roads, to airports, government funding is a necessary ingredient in global as well as local transit. Rail travel, particularly local rail, is very necessary.

Here in the Bay Area, we should be concentrating on getting localized transit streamlined with one authority overseeing advertising, scheduling, ticketing, etc. We should also be ahead of the game, not straggling behind.

Money has to be invested in Caltrain just like it is being invested in BART and highways. Looking at the Bay Area as a region with innovation and new ideas to get people moving rather than stuck in gridlock on a daily basis. Even with the new lanes on highway 101, it is still a parking lot in Palo Alto in commute times.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2014 at 9:36 am

SteveU is a registered user.

CPD
Of coarse. Japan is very built up around cities.
Look at the Map Web Link
I never rode the 'Bullet' but I did use the regular trains there in the late 60's. Japans Rail works. It is well used (and crowded by polite people).


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2014 at 10:05 am

As pointed out above the rails are used by more than one group - CALTRAINS. There is also freight that goes through in the later hours. It is unclear who is paying for the continual need to upgrade the tracks, repair and replace, and add the numerous safety features that have been added to the overall rail system. There have been many upgrades in the last two years for safety features.

I know that in Redwood City the rails interact with the activity in the port area so freight is going through for those businesses. There is more than one funding pot that needs to support all of that activity. It is unclear how the rails are used in the Gilroy area since that is an agricultural area.
1. I would like to see AMTRACK have a morning and evening train for tourist travel going up and down the coast - that would be so great. It could meet up with the AMTRACK in San Jose and complement that activity which is the capitol corridor train and ACE.
2. I would like to see new engines - Siemen's new California built Diesel/Electric which have full page ads in the WSJ - we do not need to go foreign for engines - support the state built rail components;
3. I do not see the need for electrification as proposed since the new engines perform the same task. The proposed electrification appears to be a land grab by the state and corporations - a continual problem regarding the HSR.
4. HSR is not needed on the peninsula CALTRAIN corridor - it should by pass and travel on the HWY 101 corridor in the industrial side of the tracks. People keep thinking it is going to stop and pick you up - that is a contradiction in what its purpose is - how can it meet the goals if it is stopping to pick you up? BART can go very fast when it is in a long haul area so HSR is really competing with CALTRAIN and BART who can go as fast in a closed in - multi-stop are.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2014 at 10:44 am

> The trains were here long before it was a residential area.

For the record, the Western Pacific Railway started construction of a San Francisco to San Jose railroad around 1865.

> There used to be orchards before the trains.

Well, farm lands, and open space, to be sure.

> Of course transportation is something that should be funded by government.

Just like health care, education, and a guaranteed income for life, right?

The idea that the government should pay for everything, is nonsensical. The SF to San Jose line proved to be unprofitable to Southern Pacific because of low use by people, once automobiles because the dominant form of transportation. Nationally, airplanes replaced trains around 1960, as the dominant carrier of passengers, displacing trains—which had been carrying people since the 1830s.

This country is $200T in debt because people believe that the government should provide everything for everyone.

Caltrain is a prime example of an ineffective transportation modality that is being kept alive politically to placate a handful of people living in San Francisco, who work at Stanford, and a few of the larger technology companies. It has never been profitable, or even close to breaking even.

Any idea of trenching any portion of this line will immediately embolden other communities to demand the same accommodation. Adding $2B per 1.5 miles of track, for towns like Menlo Park, Atherton, Mountain View, and possibly some sections of San Jose will add tens of billions of dollars of capital cost to this white elephant—billions of dollars that will not increase the lines capacity by even one rider!

Perhaps the government should be investing in transportation. Certainly our road systems have deteriorated sufficiently in many places that hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to restore conditions to a near-new state. But spending hundreds of billions on trains that mostly run empty makes no sense at all!


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2014 at 10:47 am

A side thought on HSR - there is z proposition to approve an Indian casino in Madera. They do not own that land - it is a result of a trade. So who owned the land that is being proposed? Was that an eminent domain land grab?
Strangely - when you look at status reports on HSR Madera is one of the many stops. So if the casino is approved you could go by HSR to the casino. What a picture that is.
It is an example of the twists and turns regarding HSR. They tell you on the peninsula they will stop and pick you up - that is the only way you will get on board for this activity. But it does not make sense for it to keep stopping to pick everyone up. It can then go no faster then CALTRAIN or BART who make multiple stops.
When HSR was conceived - how many years ago - it was based on one technology. Technology has moved on - the rational that you can tear up the whole corridor for something that will not meet the proposed goals makes no sense. This is a Barnum and Baily magic show. The mag-lev train makes more sense and should not compete with BART or CALTRAIN in that corridor. It should operate on the 101 corridor in the industrial or raised bay area.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2014 at 10:47 am

A side thought on HSR - there is z proposition to approve an Indian casino in Madera. They do not own that land - it is a result of a trade. So who owned the land that is being proposed? Was that an eminent domain land grab?
Strangely - when you look at status reports on HSR Madera is one of the many stops. So if the casino is approved you could go by HSR to the casino. What a picture that is.
It is an example of the twists and turns regarding HSR. They tell you on the peninsula they will stop and pick you up - that is the only way you will get on board for this activity. But it does not make sense for it to keep stopping to pick everyone up. It can then go no faster then CALTRAIN or BART who make multiple stops.
When HSR was conceived - how many years ago - it was based on one technology. Technology has moved on - the rational that you can tear up the whole corridor for something that will not meet the proposed goals makes no sense. This is a Barnum and Baily magic show. The mag-lev train makes more sense and should not compete with BART or CALTRAIN in that corridor. It should operate on the 101 corridor in the industrial or raised bay area.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

> It is unclear who is paying for the continual need to upgrade the tracks, repair
> and replace, and add the numerous safety features that have been added to the
> overall rail system. There have been many upgrades in the last two years
> for safety features.

Most of the big-ticket upgrades, like the so-called Baby Bullets, were paid for with grants from the Federal Government and the State. Some of the smaller upgrades are paid for with grants from various local country-level transportation agencies.

The riders of this system pay only about 65% of the operational cost of their ticket, and about 0 percent of the captital costs that are needed to own, maintain, and upgrade the so-called "system".

That means that the taxpayers from all over the country are paying for these large "investments" in Caltrain--which carries only a handful of people on a daily basis.


1 person likes this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

If you are searching for an alternative alignment for HSR, try the median of I-280.
Its Federal Right of Way.


1 person likes this
Posted by James
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Our plan is simple...and pays for itself. The Palo Alto City council should create a study group on this one.

1) Half trench and cover below grade...move Alma over the train trench...cars go over on "side ramps via two lane access road.

2) One long two lane strip of land acquisitions from city (half of Alma) is sold or leased to support affordable housing and all the parking garage one desires to fix the snarls downtown and future train passengers.

3) The height of the raised Alma will be at existing height of Caltrain and the alignment goes straight past the very old redwood tree El Palo Alto so that existing tressel bridge is demolished...The historic redwood is saved.

4) The existing right of way past the bridge in Menlo Park is sold to mansion builders but will be optioned for the existing Hotel to move over a tad.

5) Cause the eminent domain of all the defunct dealerships and the Stanford Hotel. Maybe part of the bookstore as the alignment jogs back to the Menlo station.

Alternative is go high and elevate everything with 3 or 4 tracks so fast trains can zip commuters on through our little or town and build glass hoarding platforms and mini skyscrapers with rock clubs and restaurants with parking structures towards El Camino side.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I beg to disagree that public transportation should be self funding. All types of transportation receive government money. Airports, Security, air traffic control, do not get paid from ticketing and freight. Sea ports are another area of government oversight and spending. Highways, bridges, CHP and Caltrans, more spending.

You may think that getting people to work along the Caltrain corridor is paltry compared to the population of the Bay Area, but recent traffic messes at the Paul McCartney concert and the new Levi stadium are perfect examples of what happens when government don't step up to help with traffic and getting people to where they want to go. Over the next Giants play off season, what would happen to everyday commutes if all the Giants fans could not use trains, ferries and buses to get to the game.

Caltrain is more than just getting people to work and home again. It is much more to do with keeping them off 101 and 280. It is much more to do with keeping their vehicles nearer to home than parking for 8 hours in congested areas while the occupants work or attend events.

Government should be overseeing transportation infrastructure. It is what we pay our taxes for. I for one would much rather see money spent on what the population use on a daily basis rather than space exploration or fact finding trips to China.


Posted by ternation
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive

on Oct 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm


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Posted by titan
a resident of Fairmeadow

on Oct 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I disagree with Joe who said CALTRAIN is ineffective transportation. I went to AT%T Park in the midweek to meet people at the SF stadium. There were people getting off the train and getting on the train in PA and it was full. Lots of people who were going to work or the game. It was packed. And of course you get off near the stadium. I was very impressed with the amount of people - both AT%T fans and regular workers who were using the rain as opposed to driving in to the city. The people I met had to park way off - I did better than they did - and they had to pay for parking. When you consider the parking cost and gas money to get into SF the train or Bart is great.
I prefer BART because it is usually going where I want to go but for the baseball park it was great.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 12, 2014 at 12:54 am

Every seat was filled on my Caltrain ride Saturday morning #427 northbound and Saturday evening #450 southbound. Cost me $14.50 from Cal Ave into the City and back. 1.1 hours each way. Often a toss-up for me whether to drive to Millbrae or Daly City and take BART, which goes up Market Street, usually much closer to my ultimate destinations. Not sure what's going on with the Caltrain extension -- still arguing about the alignment I think.


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Posted by K
a resident of University South
on Oct 12, 2014 at 4:08 am

UGH. Living close to the tracks downtown here, that's going to be one big dusty mess and to think it was once so pretty here. Go for all the gusto, Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2014 at 11:15 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Who built The Union Pacific (and others) Line? Private Industry.
The Feds just mostly paved the way with friendly laws to acquire property.

The reason we need Regulated Transit (all types) is Private Industry would only provide the most profitable (peak load) runs to keep stock holders happy.

Public transit needs to supply the needs of the PUBLIC, not just stock holders and run (schedule) transit other than just peak hours (eg the 22 bus). Even then, we don't always have service.
Need to work days in Gilroy? No Trains at all.

Need to be at work in SF by 6AM? No trains or connections.
Need to work in SF on Weekends? Hope it is not before 10AM

We need to find a economical (time and $), mid-point solution that meets the needs of commuters that does not require the use of the Private Auto.
Small, Automated people movers using the rails during off-Peak hours?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm

> Who built The Union Pacific (and others) Line? Private Industry.

With a lot of financial help from the Fed. Government. There was a lot of Fed. Subsidy involved in the Union Pacific.

Most railroads were built with private capital, however. And, in the early days, a lot of that capital was British.

> The reason we need Regulated Transit (all types) is
> Private Industry would only provide the most profitable
> (peak load) runs to keep stock holders happy.

And the reason to provide the most profitable routes is that government would/has seen its role as more in the domain of wealth redistribution than providing cost-effective solutions to real problems that confront the country. Regulated transportation has wasted untold billions of dollars building bridges to nowhere, and propping up airports that have virtually no traffic (see link below):

John Murtha Airport (brought to you by the American taxpayers):
Web Link


> Need to be at work in SF by 6AM? No trains or connections.

And whose problem is that? And what about the people who need to be in Sacramento for work at 6AM, or Las Vegas, or LA? Certainly these people would love to have a public transportation system that provides them virtually free transit to these remote locations. Maybe if you need to be at work more than a twenty-minute car ride to your job site, you should move to the town where you work, rather than living far, far, away. Alternatively, you should find a job nearer where you want to work.

> Small, Automated people movers using the rails during off-Peak hours?

Moving people from where to where? Not a very good solution, compared to people owning their own cars. Sure, moving people a couple hundred yards by people mover might make sense--but more than that, hard to believe it would be cost effective.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2014 at 1:52 pm

> I disagree with Joe who said CALTRAIN is ineffective transportation.
> I went to AT%T Park in the midweek to meet people at the SF stadium.

This is an example of someone who is looking at this issue from the point-of-view of himself, but not the whole system. And by the whole system, we mean all of the transportation needs of the roughly 7-8M people living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

The example provided does show that for this person, Caltrain provided (more-or-less) point-to-point transportation to a sporting event in another city. It’s hard to argue that he was provided a convenient trip, costing him less than what it cost Caltrain to provide the service.

But, when we ask: “how scalable is this point-to-point Caltrain service”, we quickly find that it is limited to a fraction of the service area of 7-8M people. Most Caltrain trains only hold about 500 (or so) people. Even if the train capacity could be doubled, that would only be about 1000 people who need to get to the Caltrain station, and to their final destination at the far end of the line.

This example was well-crafted to prove that Caltrain is effective at taking a small fraction of the people going to a sporting event near a sports stadium. Perhaps, on a good day, a few thousand people might be transported from the South Bay to SF. Maybe even a significant percentage of a 50-70K seat stadium. But this example simply does not “scale up” when it comes to carrying all of the people that used the roads on that day, or any day, for that matter.

Effective transportation modality needs to scale up to handle all of the traffic that presents itself. Yes, we do have congestion on our highways—thanks to inadequate upgrades over the past twenty years. But no amount of upgrading will ever allow Caltrain/BART to provide the number of trip-miles that our roads provide.

This lack of scalability is why these train-based modalities are ineffective for all of us.


2 people like this
Posted by stan
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm

If Caltrain operated on tracks that were fully grade separated from all road crossings, Caltrain could operate trains more frequently, and/or longer trains to accommodate passenger demand. I'm not sure what restrictions Caltrain operates under now with respect to the frequency of trains, but clearly more trains means more cross track auto congestion. The other day I was stopped at the East Meadow crossing for three traffic light cycles due to train traffic, and auto traffic backed up significantly, and quickly. With a fully grade separated rail system, Caltrain can also operate longer trains as needed, something they can not do now due to many of their stations being confined by road crossings at each end. In addition to moving more people more efficiently, grade separations simply make the rail system significantly safer for pedestrians, auto and train traffic, and as a benefit, eliminate the need for horns and bells at each rail crossing.

I support a fully grade separated Caltrain rail corridor. It's a safety issue for me. The debate whether Caltrain is economically justifiable is a more difficult question. Caltrain earns about 50% of it's expenses via tickets. For comparison, The VTA Light Rail System, a project spearheaded by High Speed Rail fanboy Rod Diridon earns only 10 to 15% of its operating expenses via tickets, for comparison.

Like HSR has been proposed, the VTA system was built where no demand existed, and tax payers are now saddled with the long term debt of supporting a system that was politically driven, not ridership demand driven. Caltrain on the other hand, has real growing ridership demand, and I would speculate that if it operated longer or more frequent trains on grade separated tracks, it would earn more of its operating expenses via ticket sales, rather than tax subsidies.

The electrification of Caltrain would be nice, but it's a politically driven project making promises of adding significantly more train traffic on a rail system not designed for it, ie, not fully grade separated. There is no funding for grade separations in the current electrification project. It's simply, again, a politically driven step toward running HSR on the Peninsula. Safety and related auto traffic congestion caused by even more trains have been ignored for political expedience.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Joe - more than one person noted the convenience of CALTRAIN - it is not just for sporting events - it is people going to work. Note we also have BART which I used today. I would like BART to come down the 280 corridor and close the loop around the bay. Lots of people on BART.
Stan - I agree with you regarding the politics of the light rail, VTA and HSR. HSR is poorly thought out.
For East Meadow and Charleston I think we should consider tunneling under the tracks so cars are going underneath.
I don't get how we change the system without disrupting the trains on a daily basis.


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Posted by Citiden
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm

The train is annoying, sure.
Give it 5 years, people.
Self driving cars and a high speed train can/will make this least of worries.
Bury the tracks, make people happy.
Just make it invisible, and hard to hear...


1 person likes this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 13, 2014 at 11:06 am

You underestimate the capacity of Caltrain. Each train currently holds over 700 and with standing room about 1000.

With electrification, frequency can be increased and longer trains are possible.

Try dumping all of the 60,000 Caltrain riders in individual cars and you won't believe the amount of squealing you will hear from car commuters. The freeways and streets are already overloaded. It is time to invest in infrastructure.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

> more than one person noted the convenience of CALTRAIN

Yes, they have. But convenience is not a word that has anything to do with effective, cost-effective, scalable, well-managed, and so on. It might also be convenient if these Caltrain riders were able to con the railroad into providing limousine pickup/take home service too. There is absolutely no end to the domain of convenience, as long as some one else is paying the bills.

What these same people fail to suggest is that they are willing to pay the total cost of their ride—looking to the government to strong-arm people into subsidizing them, and their ilk.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm

> You underestimate the capacity of Caltrain. Each train currently holds
> over 700 and with standing room about 1000.

Was only quoting numbers that have been attributed to Caltrain in the past. Have no doubt that the per-train capacity can be increased. However, these numbers should come from Caltrain.

> With electrification, frequency can be increased and longer trains are possible.

How does a $1B electrification of this system increase the capacity of each car?

Increased frequency and longer trains would seem to be something that Caltrain Ops can do today. Why aren't they?

> Try dumping all of the 60,000 Caltrain riders in individual cars
> and you won't believe the amount of squealing you will hear from car commuters.

Caltrain claims a ridership of 60,000 (more or less) at the moment. This means that 30,000 people ride in the morning, and 30,000 people ride in the evening--making the ridership 60,000. Understanding the difference between riders and ridership is very important.

Many of these riders use the train for very short hops. All of these people could easily take buses, which are currently running at a larger operating deficit than than Caltrain. There is no evidence that all of the 30,000 people using Caltrain today would go to work in a single-occupant vehicle.

> The freeways and streets are already overloaded.

Not according to Caltrans.

> It is time to invest in infrastructure.

Highways are most definitely infrastructure. There were highways thousands of years before there were any trains. The Romans were the best example of how roads were used to maintain their military occupation of the lands making up their empire.

Posted this before, but think that it is important for people to see that there are clearly superior alternatives to Caltrain--

300-Passenger Buses:
Web Link

China has made a momentous step forward for public transportation by unveiling the world’s largest bus – the Youngman JNP6250G. The megabus Superliner is 13 meters longer than regular city buses, and it can transport up to 300 passengers in a single trip. A fleet of the new buses will make up the Bus Rapid Transit service in both Beijing and Hangzhou, where populations are high and urban living creates great demand for public transportation systems.
----

Let's assume that one of these articulated buses costs between $150K and $250K, then two of them will carry 600 people, and three would carry 900 people. fifty to sixty of these buses would carry upwards of 15,000 to 18,000 people, which about the total ridership from SF to the Silicon Valley.

There were be some costs associated with introducing these vehicles into the transportation system, but hardly the costs associated with maintaining a train system.

Buses have the ability to use the existing road system, whereas trains are stuck to their tracks. Let's hope that some of the larger technology companies try out some of these larger buses, to see what problems they present.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Joe - why are you challenging convenience? If people like the experience then it is by definition effective, well managed, and people will keep using the service. Convenience means that it is meeting it's goals. If anything works well then people will keep using it.
That is the whole point of public transportation.

Rail is coming back in a big way but HSR is not part of the everyday commute. To pretend it is a big mistake.
From where I am sitting CALTRAIN is a popular, well managed form of transportation. And people are using it every day for whatever purpose they have. People like CALTRAIN. Go up to Redwood City - it is in the middle of where the action is - lots of people getting on and off.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2014 at 8:45 am

Electrification would increase the capacity of a train because every car would carry passengers instead of one car being all engine.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2014 at 9:22 am

I was in BART this weekend and rode the first car. The space allocated to the engineer / driver took up space. Whether the first car is the engine or electrified like BART there is still space allocated to the control system and driver. It is closed off and secure. People cannot just go in where the driver is - that is a major security issue. Don't compare this to a Metro electrified bus in the SF streets - they are not going very fast, have to stop often, and there is no security to the operating system and the driver. Read about the mayhem on those buses in the SF Chronicle. The drivers want hazard pay.

All said if I had to weigh the difference between a California made Siemens Diesel / Electric engine vs a foreign made electric train I will go with the Siemens engines which are interchangeable with AMTRACK. The whole system needs to be interchangeable with AMTRACK.

Was at the Alviso Don Edwards area and the trains are going through on a regular basis - AMTRACK capital corridor, ACE, ETC. It is so beautiful so see such a powerful engine and cars going by. They are beautiful.

You are basing an argument on a minimal number of people in one partial car.
The required disruption and cost of making the switchover is astronomical and what you get in return does not pay.


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2014 at 9:33 am

One other note on longer trains- this weekend people were driving in the bicycle lanes, breaking off to go through residential neighborhoods, and in general were in a state of chaos trying to get to whatever function they wanted to go to. And if you broke off to go through a residential neighborhood then the drivers were going too fast.

All this because of the people stuck at the stop lights on ALMA because of trains, especially at the high peak hours of the commute.

PA is stuck with only one rail transportation choice. We need to get BART on the 280 side to provide more choices.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

When it comes to ridership of Caltrain, of course we need to look at the daily riders. But, we also need to look at what happens to Bay Area traffic when there is a midweek Giants game, a game at the new Levi stadium, a Friday evening Stanford game, a major crash on 280 or 101, or even a Caltrain delay.

The answer is chaos. Our transportation systems can function (be it poorly) on a day to day basis in normal conditions. When something abnormal happens, the remainder cannot cope with the extra load.

We are moving around the Bay Area on a knife edge. We are continually increasing jobs and populations. We cannot look at transportation in the realm of present, existing conditions, but in the what if, when, and how situations we are going to be faced with in the next decade and beyond.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

> Electrification would increase the capacity of a train because
> every car would carry passengers instead of one car
> being all engine.

Really?

So you are saying that a 6-car electrified train, with each car carrying 50 people, would carry more people than a 6-car, diesel-powered train, with each car carrying 50 people?

Could you explain that to us?


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm

> Rail is coming back in a big way

Rail is sucessful only in the American Northeast Transportation Corridor.

AMTRAK is a financial disater, requiring hundreds of millions of taxpyer dollars to keep the system aflot, nationally.

Page.5 (History of Amtrak Operating Deficits):
Web Link

Amtrak deficits:
Web Link

The Hoosier State Line serves 37,000 passengers annually, and ridership has steadily increased over the past several years. Even so, it is considered to be a dead weight on Amtrak’s bottom line — especially compared to the far denser, high-speed Northeast Corridor’s annual 260 million riders. Even with Hoosier ridership growing, Amtrak loses about $80 per ticket to operating and maintenance costs.

Amtrak Rural Infrastructure Issues:
Web Link

The link to the Amtrak budget shows that the annual operating deficit has been about $500M a year, for the last 30+ years. Not clear how the capital costs are factored into this chart. So, the actual Amtrak yearly loss could be much higher.

Please, take some time and read up on the financial details of the American rail system. It has been a mess for a very long time. There is a national security aspect to having a working rail system. However, these days, the need for rail vs highways and air transport, is not nearly as important as it was during WWII, and before.


1 person likes this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm

@Joe,

I hope you realize that 300 passenger figure for those buses is standing capacity, not seated capacity. If making an apples to apples comparison with Caltrain those buses can't even begin to compete with Caltrain in terms of capacity or speed. Long buses like that are only really effective on slow intra-city routes in congested downtowns. If they drive too fast they start to fishtail and even the best engineering can't override the laws of physics. Even the most ardent proponents of Bus Rapid Transit would tell you the best solution would be to put that bus on a fixed guideway and they will likely suggest replacing that bus with a train as the most appropriate and innovative solution. Also, have you ever tried boarding and deboarding a densely packed bus? It's not very fun. And neither is it a quick process. You can't add enough doors to a bus to make it as efficient as a train.

Every time these stories come up in Palo Alto Online it becomes more and more evident how intense the hatred is for High Speed Rail in Palo Alto that all Palo Altans care for is sabatoging any form of effective rail transportation on the peninsula (whether HSR or not) just to spite the rest of the Bay Area and the state. It's an intedibly selfish and shortsighted.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Southbay - the only short-sighted thing we have done is limit ourselves to one train - CALTRAIN. If we had signed up for BART on an alternate path - HWY 280 when it came out we would not be in this fix.
The Southbay has CALTRAIN, Lite Rail, ACE, AMTRACK, and BART. HSR for the south bay can integrate in many existing right of ways. We have not thought out the future by limiting ourselves.

If we invest the money in BART then we would have more alternatives to work with. Right now with only one train the idea of tearing it out is very frustrating. It does not look doable - it is like shooting ourselves in the foot. Also I think the Mag-lev technology - which Japan is using - is a more current form of technology. That can be elevated on its path. We are investing in old technology.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm

@Joe -- I believe Donald's point was that a six-car, diesel-powered train has a 68-foot locomotive at one end (the rear end going northbound for example). That length can be a seventh car on an electrified train (give or take 20 feet).


1 person likes this
Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2014 at 10:07 pm

The HSR will be obsolete before it is finished. It is destination impaired in that it does not go where much of the need is (where air travel is sparse and roads are poor). Before it's finished, autonomous vehicles will fill any need that currently exists much more conveniently. A point-to-point transportation is inherently more efficient than point-terminal[and wait]-to-terminal[and find transport]-point. I might possibly need the HSR at most once or twice a year; but I need transport to and from shopping, doctor, dentist, school, entertainment, etc. multiple times a week. Does anyone seriously think I or anyone else would take an HSR instead of programming the destination in my autonomous vehicle? Think Tahoe, Yosemite, Muir Woods, Santa Cruz, Disneyland, Red Bluff, Humbolt, Mt. Shasta, Clearwater, Napa/Sonoma... You get the idea of the HSR being destination impaired? However an autonomous vehicle could go anywhere you can program your GPS to go. Sure, you may have to drive the last few feet some places, but the HSR?
A much better use for the $100B or more would be to develop smart cars, smart highways and the control system that would give us safe, efficient point-to-point transportation everywhere. Google, Stanford, UC have already paved the way, showing proof of concept and affordability. Cost of vehicle paid by owner, not taxpayer; as opposed to HSR paid by taxes on all California residents whether they use it, or even want it. A little financial stimulus would shorten the time to autonomous vehicle availability. What are our representatives in Sacramento thinking? Or are they...


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2014 at 10:49 pm

@Stan Hutchings,
The Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, The Tea Party, The Republican Party and advocates for decentralized sprawling development everywhere thank you for your patronage!

May no one ever have to leave their cars ever and walk for once. May all our remaining cities and towns crumble to be replaced with even more strip malls, parking lots and tract homes. All to satisfy the retro-futuristic fantasy of self driving cars like it's the 1950's again. As they say the motto of this country is "Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death!"

A lot of things are technically possible like an entire nation filled with self driving cars but it's important to think of the social consequences and the development patterns it may lead to. It actually used to be true that our streets were designed for people, not for cars.


Like this comment
Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

If this is really long-distance transportation, it should go around the Bay Area. It should have a stop in Gilroy, with light rail into San Jose and beyond. Another stop in Tracy with BART into the City. Or bring it up the center of the Bay with a terminal somewhere like Angel Island or Alameda. I think the days of all manner of transportation coming into the center of the city (which city?) are over.

As someone has pointed out, it makes sense for transportation to converge in a city like New York or Chicago, when people who live out there are coming downtown to work. Out here, people live everywhere and work everywhere. You can't have big expensive systems for one portion of those travelers. Buses make a lot of sense, but of course the gasoline/diesel engine has to go.

Third point: as much as the train passes through my neighborhood and I'd love to see it trenched or tunneled, is it a good idea to be digging down in the coming era of rising oceans? Whatever gets done will have to be done soon because we soon will be spending billions trying to keep the rising Pacific from flooding the Bay.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2014 at 7:03 pm

JoAnn - good points. People keep talking like this is going to stop everywhere and pick them up. That is how they are selling this.
I think it is suppose to end in the new Transportation Center in SF - currently being built. It doesn't have to get there through the peninsula - it can have it's own raised rails up the bay. They are building new tunnels for BART to cross the bay so that is a good option here.


1 person likes this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

resident 1,
To clarify; they are 'proposing' a new trans bay crossing for BART. It is no where close to being designed or funded. The begin of construction would be a long ways off of course.

Ideas are also being floated about that a new trans bay crossing should also be built to accommodate an electrified Caltrain and high speed rail. That would transform the limited capacity trans bay terminal to a through station and most importantly add service to Oakland and the upper east bay. Direct Caltrain service from Palo Alto to Oakland and Berkeley would be significantly faster than transferring to BART in Millbrae and dealing with that long slow trek through Daly City and SF.


3 people like this
Posted by Its only $1 Bil?!?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 16, 2014 at 11:16 am

I am sure the air rights could be sold to google, facebook, or other deep pocketed tech company for more than that. And then they could build a new office building all the way through town!


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Don't forget what I call the "Bay Bridge Factor". Multiply the low-ball cost quoted to the public by 4. That's closer to the actual cost: $4 billion. Only Google and Facebook can come up with that kind of money, not the State of California.


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

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