News

New measures to limit access to train tracks could start in August

Fencing, cameras aim to prevent suicide by restricting the means

In an effort to address Palo Alto's recent teen suicide cluster, the city is stepping up its efforts to limit access to the train tracks, city officials announced on Monday, June 8. At the same time, it is working to restructure Project Safety Net, the community collaborative that works on suicide prevention and youth well-being, officials also announced.

The four-mile right-of-way through the city has become the locus for more than two-thirds of the teen suicides along the rail line since 2009, city officials noted.

"We are actively seeking to do everything possible to limit access to the tracks, and on an accelerated schedule," City Manager James Keene stated in the announcement.

"While the city does not regulate or have authority over the right-of-way along the rail corridor, we are pushing to go beyond what might typically be done to limit access to the right-of-way. We are in the midst of a suicide cluster, and that demands we look at every means-restriction alternative that might be possible," he said.

Palo Alto and Caltrain officials have been meeting to develop a three-pronged approach to reducing entry to the rail corridor. Research shows that limited access is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, he said.

The city has asked Caltrain to fence both sides of the corridor and to consider additional safety measures such as higher or improved fencing.

Caltrain has proposed 8-foot-tall, welded-wire fencing from Oregon Expressway to San Francisquito Creek on the east side of the right-of-way, along Alma Street. The new fence would cost approximately $420,000. Work could start as early as the beginning of August, pending the removal of bushes and shrubs by the city, he said.

From San Antonio to Oregon Expressway, the corridor's east side already has 8-foot-tall fencing.

Shrubs and bushes have been removed along the west side of the tracks between Meadow Drive and Charleston Road and 1,000 feet north of Charleston, he noted.

The fencing is a top priority along the entire Palo Alto corridor, Keene added.

"We have also asked Caltrain to evaluate and fill in gaps on the west side where existing fencing is inadequate, he said.

Much of the west side of the tracks is lined by private property, including homes that have their own fences.

Caltrain and the city have also agreed to a pilot program that uses thermal infrared cameras to detect heat and other cameras and sensors at the Meadow Drive crossing. The cameras can distinguish between humans and other objects.

An automatic warning would go to Palo Alto dispatchers as well as Caltrain, which would directly contact the trains' conductors or engineers. The city hopes to have the pilot program running by the end of the summer, he said.

Palo Alto has contracted with a security firm to provide guards to watch over railroad intersections. The guards are currently stationed at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive and Charleston Road crossings, and the California Avenue Caltrain station. The services cost $40,500 per month. The contract will expire on June 30, and it is likely that a new contract will be more expensive, he said.

The city is also working to restructure Project Safety Net, the community collaborative formed in 2009, which created a community-based mental health plan for youth well-being.

The loose collaboration of personnel from the city, school district, nonprofits and mental-health agencies has been plagued by leadership gaps and insufficient resources, the announcement stated. The city council's Policy and Services Committee will consider staff recommendations on June 9 to develop a coordinated, structured program for Project Safety Net, which would include a director, executive board, improved data collection resources and an increasing role for youth.

Comments

34 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:50 am

This insane overreaction does not actually seal the right-of-way. Access can still be had at crossings and stations, and anyone with a cell phone can time trains to a point-of-no-return scenario at a crossing that a guard or detector won't have time to stop, no matter how much money is spent.

Yet Palo Alto refuses grade separation by Caltrain offer, insisting on impossibly expensive trenching instead which will never happen, thus keeping the four crossings open and exposed both to suicide and auto error. [Portion removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:11 am

Can we reduce the number of At-Grade crossings.
Tunnel Charleston, E Meadow, Churchill.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:26 am

Having used commuter and long distance rail in Europe as well as observed the tracks at crossings, bridges, etc. it is apparent that they do a much better job of making the tracks inaccessible to would be trespassers.

We definitely need to get rid of the grade crossings as well as making the track inaccessible. Our bridges are just as poorly protected from possible suicides. In the past few months I can remember at least 3 traffic snarl ups due to someone threatening to jump as well as at least one succeeding.


21 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:34 am

Fences aren't that hard to climb... especially not if you're determined.


18 people like this
Posted by Dorx
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:47 am

It is high time for this short-sighted city to take CalTrain's excellent suggestion of grade separations. These suicides-by-train affect the driver of the train in a most traumatic way that most people don't think about. If the city won't think about preventing the deaths of teens, at least think about preventing the PTSD of the engineers.


18 people like this
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:50 am

Grade separation is the right solution.


28 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 9:54 am

All this money for fancy fences, while Project Safety Net is underfunded and poorly managed. Our priorities are backwards! Mental health and counselling projects should be the primary priority.


8 people like this
Posted by Do Something
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

If grade separations or tunnels are the right thing to do, then do something. Start researching and advocating for what you believe in. I'm sure the Palo Alto residents and parents would appreciate your efforts if these are the right answers that would help Caltrain run a safer service through Palo Alto.


9 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:51 am

"If grade separations or tunnels are the right thing to do, then do something."

This is up to the City Council, which has frozen its tongue to a cold metal poll of politically expedient inaction, resulting in future deaths.

Caltrain has offered and will work with Palo Alto on raised or semi-raised berms similar to projects in San Mateo County, with associated removal of grade crossings at Alma (needs to be full underpass), Churchill, Meadow and Charleston (probably shallow underpasses with half-raised berm). This is do-able. Yes, unlike projects further north the trains will be on a berm adjacent to houses (along Park). This is not ideal for those residents. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where the safety of the whole must outweigh the negative impact of those along Park. The negative is real and I understand how those people feel, but there is no other practical solution.

Therefore, the Council must make the hard decision, alienate some constituents, and move forward.

As information, here's the problem with a trench: the cost is several billion dollars; this cannot be raised locally and federal and state funding in those quantities is not forthcoming, as the massive amount cannot be justified for a single city, and to do the whole corridor or even a large part of it in a trench is fiscally unfathomable; therefore, Palo Alto's "wishes" for a trench are incredibly self-centered, and only serve to move NO SOLUTION BY DEFAULT forward. I am calling the Council out on this: by not making a decision, you are allowing the unsafe crossings to remain for years and years longer, and each incident, each death, is on your collective shoulders.

As well, there are huge issues with creek crossings, groundwater flow, grade-separation with existing underpasses (Oregon/Embarcadero), connection to trenches (ha,ha) or berms in other cities, depth to account for catenary height, soil disposal, property takes for construction, limiting corridor capacity, freight train separation, security, land for shoo-fly tracks, and long-term service disruption. Some of this can be addressed, but again at enormous cost.


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:33 am

Grade separation berms are easy to climb. No bang for the (big) buck.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm

@ Roger: If grade separations are implemented in PA, they would most likely look something like this:

Web Link

Reason is simple, there isn't enough land on either side of the right of way to build up separations via the berm method.

BTW - this is one of the reasons why there are some people in PA who are against going up with the tracks. They fear a "Berlin Wall" effect.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm

@Roger Overnaut

Of course a determined person can do just about anything, but do you believe its possible for a car to drive up a berm, which is one of the greatest dangers as it also puts the passengers at risk?


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:35 pm

@CPD, inaccurate photo, not covered with graffiti.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 12:38 pm

@Crescent Park Dad

I'm sure even those concerned PA residents would prefer an ugly berm to a complete closure of Charleston, Meadow, Churchill and so on...


15 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Reading "relentlesscactus" comment, I'm reminded how these conversations NEVER HAPPEN for San Francisco.

NOBODY questions that they'd dig under that metropolis to accommodate HSR/Caltrain, which has much much more infrastructure (critical skyscraper pylons, wastelines, waterlines, stormdrains, and on-and-on) than the Caltrain ROW on the peninsula. Creeks on the peninsula are a showstopper, but stormdrains, wastelines and skyscraper pylons in San Francisco are no big deal? Please, spare me your lies.

The South Bay and Peninsula are an economic superpower that dwarfs the 750k suburb called San Francisco, and you people need to stop thinking of yourselves as subservient and demand the political clout and political standing that our status as an economic superpower would enjoy anywhere else on the planet.

Any funding used to dig under San Francisco for Caltrain or HSR should be funding used to dig in the peninsula for Caltrain or HSR. Digging under SF isn't going to be done with hopes and dreams, and we need to demand the same financial standing for improving the Caltrain ROW as SF currently enjoys.

We should agree to have a berm going through the peninsula when San Francisco agrees to have a berm going through downtown San Francisco.


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm

"demand the political clout and political standing that our status as an economic superpower would enjoy anywhere else on the planet."

Good luck with that.

But since you found for us the infinite supply of money at the end of the rainbow, reality is not longer an issue, and the fact that comments are an extension of the Council position of non-action-by-demanding-the-unfundable are no longer applicable. We can also build that staircase to the Moon from Baylands Park that everyone has been talking about -- y'know, because of that infinite money supply you uncovered.


Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm

> But since you found for us the infinite supply of money at the end of the rainbow,

I didn't say that or imply that.

> reality is not longer an issue,

I didn't say that or imply that.

> and the fact that comments are an extension of the Council position of non-action-by-demanding-the-unfundable are no longer applicable.

I didn't say that or imply that.



Any money spent on digging in San Francisco should also be spent on digging in the Peninsula. Do both or do neither.

Comprende?


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:43 pm

"Any money spent on digging in San Francisco should also be spent on digging in the Peninsula. Do both or do neither. Comprende?"

Yes . . . and thank you for solidifying my point.


5 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I thought Palo Alto was a quaint little suburb; generally you reserve tunneling only for the dense urban areas.


Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Cubberley neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm

We've been asking for this since 2009! And not just for the teens as there are too many adult suicides as well.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 3:51 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Skeptical is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 4:54 pm

"They fear a "Berlin Wall" effect."

Effect schmefect. That IS a Soviet style wall. Never happen.

The solution is simple and relatively inexpensive: widen University, Embarcadero, and Oregon; close the gtade crossings.

"Of course a determined person can do just about anything, but do you believe its possible for a car to drive up a berm?"

Why would anybody want to? There are four wheel drive parks for that. You could drive almost any car up the tracks to achieve the same objective but, again, why?


Like this comment
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm

"I thought Palo Alto was a quaint little suburb; generally you reserve tunneling only for the dense urban areas."

Keep a secret? Nowadays they have ways to make tunnels that don't show. You'd never know they're there unless somebody tells you.


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:25 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:46 pm

"Nowadays they have ways to make tunnels that don't show. You'd never know they're there unless somebody tells you."

They also have tunnel openings that don't show. The most amazing thing is the money to build them, which you never know is there, because it isn't.


Like this comment
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 9, 2015 at 5:54 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:02 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by walker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:11 pm

just how is grade separation supposed to help the situation. if a train can go there, so can anyone. the only thing a grade separation would stop is an impatient driver getting stuck on the tracks--but, it certainly isn't going to stop anyone else. seems like a lot of money for not much results. also, best to keep the speed train from using this avenue for their trains.


Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:44 pm

The price for tunneling gets more feasible if you reconnect the street grid and replace the tracks with homes. This would also benefit the neighborhoods in south Palo Alto in that their property values would increase.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The price for tunneling gets more feasible if you reconnect the street grid and replace the tracks with homes. "

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 20, 2015 at 10:48 am
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
The way to put it underground is to bore a tunnel or two. Trench and cover is not the solution because it does not provide a right of way during construction.

Deep tunnel boring is being done all over the world. Not cheap but clearly the best long term solution.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

Please at least think about a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Why not see this as an opportunity rather than a problem?

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 8:50 pm

"the only thing a grade separation would stop is an impatient driver getting stuck on the tracks--but, it certainly isn't going to stop anyone else."

An impatient, confused, or suicidal driver, all of which have derailed trains and killed passengers in California... I'm confused when people speak of this as some kind of marginal benefit.


2 people like this
Posted by Peninsula
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 10:12 pm

It does seem extremely odd that getting rid of Caltrain altogether is not an option anyone considers in these discussions. Caltrain ridership is ~58K/day. The combined ridership of Google/Facebook/Apple/etc.Bus is already getting close to that. Frankly if there were an UberTransit, modeled on UberPool, that would do a lot better job than using extremely expensive 19th Century technology that is very hard to upgrade.

I am actually a big fan of the German train system, which works quite well (except when the train drivers go out on strike). But the problem is that the Germans have almost two centuries of infrastructure development, with development and train lines being built together, and more importantly a public resource management culture that is much better than ours. Americans are actually very bad at running public transit agencies, even in the denser parts of the country. Better to do what we do best which is use technology to leapfrog problems.


Like this comment
Posted by walker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:08 pm

by all means--we need more housing and high-rises. why not put in a hotel along the caltrain strip (if it goes underground), as well. brilliant thought by one commenter.

it is time to think before bloviating.


11 people like this
Posted by cost
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:38 pm

"Palo Alto has contracted with a security firm to provide guards to watch over railroad intersections...The services cost $40,500 per month."
$40,500/month could pay for a lot of subsidies allowing PAUSD to see local psychotherapists who virtually do not accept insurance. The security firm workers are poorly educated and not particularly effective. Could they be replaced with nonprofit workers, volunteers, or psychotherapist trainees?


5 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

Happy, well-adjusted people don't commit suicide. Instead of treating the symptom, why not address the root causes instead? An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, especially when the cure has not worked so far. As @Jason noted, "Fences aren't that hard to climb... especially not if you're determined." For those who think that treating the root causes would be too expensive, just how much money is a teen's life worth?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:50 am

One of the recent suicides in the area was an elderly man whose wife had recently passed away.

My point is that no improvements in health services in schools or in society itself is going to prevent all the suicides. A bereft senior missing his wife is not the typical suicide candidate. Many people who commit suicide are not the typical suicide candidate, in other words, there is no such thing.

Making the tracks more inaccessible will help. Getting rid of grade separation all along the Peninsula will help. And do it right, we have to work with all the other Peninsula cities to prevent a roller coaster railroad.


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:04 am

"The price for tunneling gets more feasible if you reconnect the street grid and replace the tracks with homes. This would also benefit the neighborhoods in south Palo Alto in that their property values would increase."

This is not feasible. Show where this has happened in a remotely similar circumstance, give an estimated cost, and find a funding source. As long as Palo Alto believes this is possible, a real, fundable solution is not.


Like this comment
Posted by mom in Southgate
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:37 am

Underground the train already! While it is hard to deter an absolutely determined person, I believe there is an element of impulsiveness to some of these suicides, and creating a harder-to-access track would be enough to reduce the chance of success by someone who is impulsive and knows that 85 trains a day pass on a given weekday. Meanwhile, I fully support the building of this fence as it is a much faster action we can take, and trenching, even if it happens, may take many many years.


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:40 am

Tunneling the train will take billions of dollars. The money is simply not available.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 10, 2015 at 10:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The money is simply not available."

Intersting - cities like San Francisco, Tokyo, London and New York are building tunnels that cost mush more.

What is lacking is leadership, political will and vision.

Think small and you get small - like fences that won't make much difference, if any.


10 people like this
Posted by Um . . .
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 10, 2015 at 11:21 am

The number of deaths by train is low, considering the big picture. 2013 data from the CDC: Web Link

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:

Heart disease: 611,105
Cancer: 584,881
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
Alzheimer's disease: 84,767
Diabetes: 75,578
Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

The number of train deaths? Web Link

1981 - 728
1982 - 607
2013 - 231
2014 - 267

Spending billions of dollar on track suicide prevention?


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:15 pm

@ PC: The SF subway project is funded by Federal, State and Local dollars...nearly $1B in Fed money, $0.5B from State and $0.1B from Local. The 1.3mi Caltrain tunnel (to run from 4th/Townsend to the Transbay Terminal) is estimated at $1.7B and is currently not funded (was going to come from HSR, but that got cut). Of course now Ed Lee wants to change everything and make a longer tunnel and do a land grab via the 280 extension.

So yes - if you think big, you can possibly get there --- but not with local monies.

The CalTrain leg through PA is approximately 3.5mi. Just to tunnel PA would be at least $3.5B. Before interest expense... But we would also have to agree that just doing a tunnel in PA and not through other cities would be somewhat silly. So now you're looking at 10's of billions of dollars.

Like I said - the money isn't there.

Of course we could sell the above-ground development rights at $100mil per 100 yards. But that doesn't exactly equate to affordable housing.

BTW - I'm not against tunneling...I'm just trying to be realistic with the funding model.


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

You have it exactly right.

When "mom in Southgate" says "Underground the train already!" that's a fine sentiment, but it's a "free beer argument", as in:

"Would you like free beer?" . . . "Yes"

"Would you like a free $3.5 billion tunnel?" . . . "Yes"


4 people like this
Posted by Uh-boy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Yes, the problem is access to train tracks. Once that is solved this shouldn't be a problem...oh why do I even bother.

We ALL know the root cause, we just can't say it out loud.
Political correctness could be blamed more than access to the tracks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

Seriously, does anyone think most of these suicides would be prevented by making it more work to get in front of a train?

How about putting the creativity of IDEO or the Stanford D School to work on a "people catcher" for the front of each train? If it minimized life-threatening injuries it would eliminate pretty much all the motivation for those wishing to commit suicide. They are not going to throw themselves on the tracks if death is not a sure thing.


3 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

What an inane conversation you all are having. Those who commit suicide do so because they're surrounded by such myopic thinkers.
Stop forcing kids to go to your vaunted, hideously overrated public high schools.

Suicide prevention cannot be bought with money. For more the love of God.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Getting rid of grade crossings is not just a suicide prevention measure, or even a prevention of cars being stuck on tracks and being hit by trains.

It is the fact that each time a train comes along, traffic is stopped. With more trains as Caltrain is aiming, we are going to have more traffic being stopped.

Traffic is abysmal in town and crossing the tracks is something that a great deal of traffic has to do at least twice a day. Half our high school kids have to cross the tracks since both our high schools are the same side of the tracks. Whether they are crossing by car, bike, or walking, these kids have to get to the other side to go to school. Each train delays people.

Let's not mix up suicide prevention with the effort involved in either elevating or trenching the tracks for traffic movement efficiency. Both are important.


Like this comment
Posted by Iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:47 pm

How far past the point of diminishing returns is CalTrain, a deadly toy that moves far fewer people daily than private autos or private company buses? How deeper into this hole do we want to spend ourselves


Like this comment
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm

It has nothing to do with traffic. The only place were backups caused by the train are somewhat a problem is at Churchill. But schools always have traffic and its tolerable because Churchill is a short road.

The headline clearly states that it's about limiting access to the tracks.

I am appalled at the disrespect shown at those dearly departed. People who commit suicide are obviously craven and sick in the head, right? They couldn't possibly have a legitimate reason. If only we gave them medication!

Well council members, next on the agenda is the teen suicides that have been riling up the town. I'm sure a ditch and some fences will save lives. Truly a worthy investment. Are we not compassionate and noble?


6 people like this
Posted by Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:10 pm

"How about putting the creativity of IDEO or the Stanford D School to work on a "people catcher" for the front of each train? If it minimized life-threatening injuries it would eliminate pretty much all the motivation for those wishing to commit suicide. They are not going to throw themselves on the tracks if death is not a sure thing."

It's a great idea, but the laws of physics and the nature of the human body are against it. A split-second acceleration from standstill to 60 mph is deadly, even if the locomotive front is covered with 10 feet of featherbedding.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 8:09 am

Why not just build underpasses under the railway? Eliminate the ability for traffic to turn into Alma and vice-versa. It'll be cheaper.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:14 am

Unfortunately easily said than done. If you look at either the Embarcadero or Page Mill underpasses, you'll note how much "before and after" real estate is required. For Churchill, you would have to buy up the properties on each block leading up to the underpass. And also note that Alma has no access at Embarcadero and at Page Mill more real estate is required to go from Alma to Page Mill.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The need for more property to do underpasses is exactly why boring a tunnel under the existing right of way is the ONLY option that will not require condemnation of existing adjacent properties.

Web Link

Cheap - no

Best long term solution for the entire Peninsula -yes.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

I think the long-term answer will be overhead construction since it is the least expensive solution. However, there are several things that can be done to make it work beyond just elevating the trains and providing safe crossings.

I would suggest that the elevated tracks are "tunneled" ... in other words the elevated tracks are enclosed. Benefits are many: minimizes noise in the surrounding neighborhoods; keeps train passengers from looking into the backyards as they go flying by; definitely minimizes rail access to "trespassers". Eliminates problems/delays due to inclement weather. You can add windows or remove the tunnel in commercial zones.

Instead of the traditional berm, build an "El" platform so that the space underneath the tracks may be utilized for:
- "small houses"
- a Peninsula pedestrian/bike path from San Jose to SF.
- dedicated VTA electric bus line (instead of taking a lane from El Camino) --- but subject to stop lights synchronized with Alma, etc. Though this would probably be seen as redundant to CalTrain...except that it could do more frequent stops.


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Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2015 at 10:43 am

@Peter Carpenter

"Cheap - no . . . . . . Best long term solution for the entire Peninsula -yes."

Well, you're a "resident of Atherton", Peter, "Show me the money!".


2 people like this
Posted by Iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Jun 11, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Kill CalTrain and put the real estate to other use. In Palo Alto, use it to widen Alma, which is the real people mover.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

It's been said above, and I'll say it again. Stop the root causes of suicide!
Trains are NOT the only way to commit suicide, there are many easy ways. Fences and inaccessibility my reduce (but probably not eliminate) suicide by train, but there will be some other "fad" that will attract suicide-prone people. Several are already popular: binge drinking, drag racing, heavy drug use, gun, razor, by cop, etc.
Traffic would be greatly improved by grade separation (by whatever method), and noise of train's horns would be eliminated. I'd like to see that, and free beer!
Spend more money on counseling, classroom & assembly discussions, and eliminating the root causes of depression and mind-set that lead to suicide. Less on making tracks inaccessible.


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