News


Caltrain loses bid for exemption from state environmental law on electrification project

 

Caltrain must comply with the state's environmental quality act in electrifying its rail system between San Francisco and San Jose, according to a ruling July 2 by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

The ruling is a setback for Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which runs Caltrain. In February, the joint powers board was sued by Atherton and two other groups saying the environmental report on the electrification project had been improperly approved.

The Caltrain board responded by asking the federal transportation board to declare it is exempt from complying with the state environmental act.

Just months earlier, in December 2014, the transportation board had declared the state's high-speed rail project is exempt from the same California environmental laws because the project fell under the oversight of the federal board, mainly because that project is expected to link to the interstate rail system.

In the July 2 ruling, however, the federal board said that it does not have jurisdiction.

"Caltrain provides only commuter rail service on the line ... and operations of this sort are excluded from the Board's jurisdiction," the ruling says.

The ruling means the lawsuit can now go ahead. The lawsuit was filed in San Mateo County Superior Court in February by Atherton, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a transit advocacy nonprofit, and the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, which is headed by former Atherton Mayor Jim Janz. The lawsuit asks that work on the project be stopped and the approval of the environmental report be rescinded, until issues raised in the lawsuit are addressed.

In February, Stuart Flashman, the attorney filing the suit, said the lawsuit is an attempt to force the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to acknowledge the impacts the project will have on the Peninsula.

Atherton filed the lawsuit after its request to extend the period when the environmental report could be challenged was turned down by the Caltrain, which said "that time will not materially change the responses" to the town's concerns.

The lawsuit claims the environmental report is flawed in several ways, including its failure to address the cumulative impact of high-speed rail and electrification. The lawsuit says the projects must be considered together because approximately $600 million of the projected $1.5 billion cost of the electrification project is supposed to come from funding approved for high-speed rail by the voters in 2008.

Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said at the time that Caltrain is "disappointed to see that rather than working with Caltrain collaboratively the town of Atherton has chosen this expensive path."

Comments

24 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Of Course Caltrain wanted exemption from state environmental law. Exemption from the law would allow them to steamroll over any entity that stood in their way. This reads like a page from the Jerry's CA High Speed Rail Authority manual on how to get things done; seek exemption from relevant laws, and proceed. "working with Caltrain collaboratively" is a laughable way to describe what Caltrain really wanted to do. Ms. Ackemann earned her weekly pay check for that spin lingo! The environmental laws in CA exists for good reasons. They do not exist to be applied to everyone except politically well connected organizations. Shame on Caltrain.


9 people like this
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2015 at 6:07 am

Ben,

Well said.


25 people like this
Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 4, 2015 at 8:14 am

See this article with interview from the Stuart Flashman, the attorney and more from CalTrain spokesperson, Ackemann is located at:

Web Link

Now CalTRain faces real problems. The electrification project is short $300 million because of cost over-runs before it has even started. Now CEQA is going to demand that full study of the effects of High Speed Rail be included and the High Speed Rail Authority's project level EIR for the corridor, which surely will be needed, has not been prepared.

Yet, CalTrain as part of the funding, was granted $600 million of High Speed Rail funding, from Prop 1A, but considers their project to be independent of High Speed Rail. Pretty Amazing.


22 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2015 at 9:14 am

NIMBYs are just trying to stall the project and jack up the price. In the end, these stalls are just a big waste of tax dollars as well as a big inconvenience for commuters and more cars on local streets. Thanks, NIMBYs.


28 people like this
Posted by Excellent Decision
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2015 at 10:28 am

I don't live anywhere near the train tracks or Atherton, and I am very thankful Caltrain did not get an exemption from a law that is meant to protect all of us.

The acronym/word NIMBY has got to be the most over-used and misunderstood part of the Palo Alto vernacular. It's ridiculous that anyone who disagrees with anything gets slapped with the term, no matter how incorrectly applied.
"
>> NIMBYs are just trying to stall the project and jack up the price."

That statement makes no sense whatsoever. What, exactly, would the benefit be to these "NIMBYs?"


19 people like this
Posted by NIMBYs
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 4, 2015 at 11:10 am

NIMBYs are like gremlins. They just want to reduce the quality of life for everyone else, even if it reduces their own quality of life. They want to gum up everyone else's projects, especially if it has nothing to do with them; that's what they live for.

So the best result for the NIMBYs here is to slow the project down, make it cost more, and still damage the environment (even if it's damaging their own back yard).

Did I get that right?


10 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 4, 2015 at 11:15 am

Yeah - glad to hear that logic and reason prevails. We have a huge investment in the system that is currently in place. New engines are available that are interchangeable with the new AMTRACK trains. The new engines are the best new technology.

We need to have a system that is flexible and interchangeable with AMTRACK because we can get a better rates on new engines and cars if ordered together.

You all should note that the current lite rail system from Mountain View to San Jose is operating in the red and is not gaining much ridership. The current systems are not that great - no improvement. And look at the city - SF - all of the ugly overhead wires.

I cannot figure out why the area of the peninsula keeps digging itself further into the muck. We did not sign up for BART when it started out - though we paid taxes to build it. San Mateo County will benefit from the expansion of their services as well as the rest of the peninsula. We need a system that can travel up and down the coast as well as hooking up with ACE and AMTRACK in San Jose.

As to HSR don't bet on that - by the time it makes it's way out of the valley the system will be running on a different technology.

Oh - and you want to save green carbon points? How do you get electricity? By generators powered by gas. So much for a NIMBY caller - you just want the power source to reside outside your neighborhood.

I think the people who are complaining are the contractors who would be doing the digging and setting up the power lines.


8 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2015 at 11:42 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

NImbys vs hypocrites - y'all love environmental impact reports when it stops a dam, stalls commercial construction, or drags creek improvements into a decade long slog, but oh no, now it affects the beloved trains and it is an evil tool.


25 people like this
Posted by Disheartened
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I was in Europe again recently. Much quieter trains, smooth and without fumes. No at grade crossings and no horns. Much more frequent too, including through suburban neighborhoods, Palo Alto style.

Only here do we refuse an obvious improvement. This country is now on the wrong side of history.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2015 at 3:17 pm

"This country is now on the wrong side of history."

That depends on which side of history you consider the right side. Europe tends toward public investments. Over here we call that socialism. Our rails and roads and bridges are going to ruin, but by gum we ain't socialists.


16 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2015 at 3:43 pm

@ Disheartened

You should know that Caltrain has no plans, or funds, for converting any more at grade rail crossings to separated crossings. In fact, as per the EIR for the electrification project, Caltrain considers additional grade separation projects along their right of way to be a problems for local city governments to fund, and they have washed their hands of it. The goal of electrification along the Caltrain corridor is run more trains, that go a little bit faster than the diesel electric trains that are used today. With no additional grade separations, that means more crossing gate closure time, more cross traffic congestion, probably more train pedestrian/car collisions, and certainly more gate bell noise, and much more train horn noise as the number of daily trains rises. Train horns can be heard much farther away than the diesel locomotive. In essence, electrified Caltrain will most likely not be very similar to the trains you speak of in Europe, and probably never will be.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 4, 2015 at 4:05 pm

>> "go a little bit faster"

Accelerate faster is what I've heard. Higher maximum speed not.
79 mph is the limit for both the Caltrain corridor and all of BART.
Please correct me if I'm wrong.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

@Ben

What you're describing is exactly what Palo Alto and the peninsula cities wanted right? They didn't want the state to pay or plan for handling the future increase in rail traffic, because they were afraid of having BERLIN WALLS imposed.


5 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Jul 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Opponents of Caltrain electrification may have legitimate environmental concerns, but there seems to be an underlying fear that Caltrain will take advantage of the electrification project to do more than just electrify the line, doing such things as putting up walls, seizing right-of-way, chopping rows of trees, and ruining older neighborhoods in new as-yet-to-be-determined ways. Yet, electrification would bring the advantages of lighter trains, less rumble, no diesel exhaust, less noisy braking, better grade separation with fewer horns, fewer car collisions, and hopefully fewer suicides. Also more frequent trains means fewer cars on 101. Not calling anybody a NIMBY but, just sayin.


3 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

@ robert

CA HSR wanted the elevated tracks, aka, the Berlin Wall. The city did not want that, and I believe they still do not want that sort of rail allignment. Elevated tracks were the least expensive path to grade separations, at least at that time. Grade separations can be done without the elevated track HSR wanted.

@ easong

The electrification of Caltrain includes no new grade separations. I'm not sure what a 'better grade separation" is, you either have grade separated tracks, or you don't.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2015 at 2:04 am

They managed a grade separation at Homer without elevating the tracks.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2015 at 5:26 am

There's a difference between a pedestrian tunnel (Homer or Cal Ave) and the motor vehicle grade separations like Oregon, Embarcadero and University. Besides the obvious cost difference, the amount of land required for the the approaches/slope in order to go deep enough for a vehicle tunnel would require the taking of a block of properties on each side of the underpass. Not saying it can't or shouldn't be considered, just pointing out a logistical sticking point.


6 people like this
Posted by Need a better solution
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Why is it that the only two options for train transportation are diesel fuel or electrification with overhead wires? Can't we come up with something better? Why not hybrid trains or really great batteries capable of running the trains for long periods of time? Can't the folks at Tesla come up with something? This is Silicon Valley, THE place for innovation. Why isn't someone coming up with a better solution than diesel or overhead wires???


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2015 at 1:24 pm

BART doesn't have overhead wires.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2015 at 1:58 pm

@Ben

That's exactly what I was saying, the Penisula cities pushed for the blended solution without four grade seperated tracks (which will eventually have to be built either way), so once Caltrain is electrified they're going to have to deal with 8 trains an hour blocking traffic.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Between 7 and 8 a.m. we already have 11 Caltrains per hour.

Given that the heavy auto traffic on Alma blocks cross-traffic 20 times per hour (on a 3-minute signal cycle), has anyone modeled whether train traffic really hinders the volume of cross traffic at all?


8 people like this
Posted by Disheartened
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Overhead wires a problem? Not at all, except maybe as a sight for the people living right next to the tracks. If these neighbors do not like the overhead wires and rent they can move. It they do not like them and own their house, they need to remember that they knowingly bought right next to the tracks with all that it implied. This included the potential upgrading of the train service, and also the big discount they got on their house because of the tracks. Honestly, it is hard to feel sorry for such people. Conversely, it is maddening that, after having their cake, they want to eat it too and punish everybody else in the process with subpar train service forever.


12 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm

We discontinued the rail service to Santa Cruz, and tore out the Foothill Expressway line to Los Gatos. It's a wonder we still have any Caltrain at all.


15 people like this
Posted by ❤️Riding Rails
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I would love to have the railine to Los Gatos and Santa Cruz restored. I could live on Santa Cruz, where I would rather live anyway, and still work here. No atrocious traffic between here and there.

Can't help wondering if anyone else would be interested--seems worth clamping for. Should never have been taken out. Obviously someone lacked foresight!


7 people like this
Posted by ❤️Riding Rails
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 5, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Most electric trains, unless really old, do not have wires. The tracks are electrified instead--which is why they are elevated: otherwise, one could not cross them without being electrocuted. As a side benefit, there can be more unimpeded cross traffic.
If the RR is not elevated, it would have to be completely fenced in-- no crossings at all.


7 people like this
Posted by govt failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 5, 2015 at 9:11 pm

I too recently returned from Western Europe. It's not just the rail systems which draw such shocking comparisons to our situation here, it's the architecture,the urban landscape, the new buildings blending in with the old, the aesthetic values in evidence there. We have unprecendented economic
prosperity here but government failure on an equal scale. Apart from
quality of life issues,just from a sustainability standpoint, can these
private sector and public sector trendlines move in opposite directions indefinitely or will they converge over the long-run.






1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 5, 2015 at 10:46 pm

All of the tunnels and bridges on the "Sun Tan Special" route were either destroyed or filled in decades ago.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2015 at 7:23 am

You are all betting on HSR happening. And you are betting that it will be based on electricity. You are going to lose that bet. Gov. Brown will be out in a short time. If Newsome wins he is not a advocate for HSR is it's current form. You are throwing money on a lame dog.

The current technology is going to surpass electricity - Japan is using a different technology as are many other countries. What will eventually happen is that the train will be moving in it's own tube platform and not interact with Caltrain. Caltrain needs to be able to interact with Amtrack and other universal systems across the country so that the engines and cars can be made in America for American rails. Splitting up the platforms across America is the worst idea.


7 people like this
Posted by ❤️Riding Rails
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

Japan has mag-lev now, which all but eliminates friction and increases speed. Germany has talked about this for thirty years. It has never come up in the US due to cost.

As for public vs private sectors, in Germany they have a saying about that, referring to the U.S.: "The right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."

Every time I go to Europe, I am sickened at what I notice anew when I return: potholes, rust, bumps, decay, disrepair, etc. In the last forty years we have traded places with Western Europe, it seems.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:19 am

"All of the tunnels and bridges on the "Sun Tan Special" route were either destroyed or filled in decades ago."

The tunnels and bridges on the Los Gatos - Santa Cruz route were removed in the 1940s when the route lost ridership and became a money hole after hwy 17 was built. What remains is a single track tourist spur from SC to Zayante.

The Suntan Special ran through Gilroy and Watsonville to Santa Cruz. The tracks are still used for miscellaneous freight today. Passenger service could be restored if somebody came up with the money.


2 people like this
Posted by blatt
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:38 am

Finally.....some good news!


9 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 11:05 am

❤️Riding Rails wrote:

"Most electric trains, unless really old, do not have wires."

This is incorrect. The vast majority of electric trains on this planet are powered by overhead catenaries. An electrified third rail is only feasible if the entire system is grade-separated and isolated from pedestrian, vehicle (cars, bikes, etc.) traffic, like BART or Paris Metro. Most of Japan's train systems are based on overhead catenary; some of the subway lines in Tokyo have an electrified third rail.

"Japan has mag-lev now, which all but eliminates friction and increases speed. Germany has talked about this for thirty years. It has never come up in the US due to cost."

Mag-lev is still in development in Japan. Commercial maglev service has been proposed in Japan, although the estimated date is 2027 and some are worried about the cost. The current project estimate for the initial leg Tokyo-Nagoya (approx. 177 miles) is US$100 billion; 80% of the route is supposed to go through expensive mountain tunnels. The proposed service would run around 300 mph, whereas the current bullet trains (shinkansen) have a maximum speed of 200 mph.

Note that Japan's bullet trains use overhead catenary as their power source.

Here's an article from UK newspaper The Guardian about a recent maglev trial in Japan: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

Maglev has been "in development" for at least five decades. It has been proven to work many times, but the capital and operating costs remain prohibitively high. No relief in sight.


6 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

As pointed out in several letters, the train service in Europe makes USA look like a third-world country.
Railroads have for years been given exemptions from various laws because of their overriding advantage to the public. It seems appropriate that they be given exemption from environmental laws in this case.


10 people like this
Posted by Senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Thank you Atherton, and all the other Naysayers.
We are rapidly becoming a Third World Country.


10 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:22 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Everyone who think NEW HYBRID TRAIN ENGINES, needs a reality check: We have hybrid engines already and have had them since 1949. The real problem is getting enough power cells that are safe and easy to handle MEGAWATTS of power!
I worked on energy storage batteries; we do not have the technology to make such systems safe, easy to handle and provide the power necessary to make even a one-way trip on Caltrain.

The real solution is to properly BUILD OUT BART THE WAY MANY OF US WANTED BACK IN THE 1970S! THAT WAS WHY WE PAID THE " BART TAX " WITH THAT EXPECTATION IN MIND!

BART and RTD DENVER did a similar thing; raise the right of way on elevated pedestals or stayed on existing trackage right of way that had BERLIN WALL sound barriers already in place. That works and creates far less noise than Caltrain does now.

So pull out Caltrain, and build a BART system LIKE THE ONE I AND MANY OTHERS PAID FOR!

When SP pulled out of the passenger business, that was the best logical time to finish the BART LOOP like many cities have now for automobile traffic.

" You can pay me now or pay me later " was how that commercial went. Time to grit your teeth, get rid of the VTA and Caltrain and do rapid transit the way people wanted it in the first place. That is what RTD is doing right now.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

As a side note there is the new "silk road" train that takes computers produced in China across the eastern European countries to western European countries for sale. These are HP computers and HP is assisting in this project - as are other US companies. Biggest problem is that there are different size rails in each country requiring movement of product in transit and duplication of engines and cars to fit the different rails.

We do not want to duplicate that problem here - we need a standardized rail size and made in America engines and cars. This whole project needs to be viewed as a USA standardized project - not a piece meal project that has everyone on these forums going to foreign countries to see what is going on there. It is like a giant boondoggle. We do not need foreign engines and cars - we do not need trains that move on different size tracks.

Get out of the rut here - the project needs to be a comprehensive USA project that can work in any state and link up. Caltrain needs to be interchangeable with Amtrak.


5 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Posting while vacationing in Germany: point of fact - they still have grade crossings. I just got stopped twice at a grade crossing here in Bavaria for freight trains with no overhead wires or third rail. I think this means they had diesel engines.

While there are more trains here, there is still a high demand for cars, and major issues for where to park them everywhere. There is also a lot of demand to live outside cities where the air is cleaner and there is a slower pace of life. Subsidized agriculture means there are many bucolic villages that have increasing numbers of commuters, especially if there is commuter rail nearby.

Many of Europe's cities have also put in height restrictions on buildings to retain architectural integrity. I just visited Arco Italy on Lake Garda. It is a major tourist destination plus industry. This area of Italy has the highest economic success of all of Italy. The maximum height in Arco for buildings seems to be four to five stories - I would guess 60 feet max. The cities have expanded outwards with lots of new housing. There is no train in this area so there are lots of cars and buses.

In California, there is still lots of land nearby suitable for building, as long as it does not get zoned for offices. There is no need to build tall sterile buildings that degrade the environment by replacing trees and plants with concrete, turn streets into tunnels, reduce air quality and use far more electricity, with elevators and air conditioning required. As traffic snarls, far more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. This is more sustainable?

Quality of life matters to Europeans too. Many cities here are struggling with the same issues we are in the US. I am really tired of Europe being referred to as being so much more advanced in transportation than the U.S. is. The traffic and parking is horrendous despite all the buses and trains. For that matter, traffic is horrendous in Singapore, despite 90% of the population using mass transit. We all have lots of problems to solve.

Personally, I am thrilled that CalTrain is required to do an environmental impact statement. There needs to be transparency for their plans. We have already lost a lot of trees next to the CalTrain right of way from putting up additional fences. They need to learn how to be good neighbors and how to look for win-win solutions and not put all the burden from the electrification of Cal Train on their neighbors. Buying next to train tracks 20 years ago, does not mean it was an agreement to lose all the trees screening the tracks, nor does it mean that we should have to close off lanes of Alma Street permanently (and yes - HSR did propose this) or for months at a time. I still think that selling development rights to land above the train tracks, would come very close if not exceed the cost of trenching the tracks. Overhead electrical wires are incredibly ugly and environmentally unfriendly. If there is another way, I hope they can find it. They definitely won't unless they have to consider to costs to the environment as well as the actual construction costs.


8 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm

resident 1 wrote:

"Biggest problem is that there are different size rails in each country requiring movement of product in transit and duplication of engines and cars to fit the different rails.

We do not want to duplicate that problem here - we need a standardized rail size."

American rail size was standardized in 1886.

Caltrain runs on standard gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches) and accepts the same rolling stock as much of the rest of the world. The former Southern Pacific right of way is over 150 years old and as far as I know, it has always been standard gauge. The same with the Central Pacific Railroad (Sacramento-Ogden Utah) built after the Civil War.

Even before the 1886 standardization, many American train operators had already built out their systems to standard gauge because most of the early locomotives came from Britain where standard gauge first emerged.

Interchangeability with Amtrak is not an issue. You can run ordinary freight trains on Caltrain's tracks Southern Pacific did so rather frequently -- especially at night -- until the mid-Nineties.

The use of diesel locomotives for commuter service goes back to the 1950s; prior to that steam locomotives were used.

Marie wrote:

"I am really tired of Europe being referred to as being so much more advanced in transportation than the U.S. is."

Sorry that you find it tiresome, but it's the truth. And Japan is even better. Their first attempt at HSR featured a train that traveled 130 mph and within the first year of service carried 22 million riders. That was 1964.

Let's look at *one* Tokyo rail line, the Yamanote Line. Today, it serves 3.7 million riders every day. That one line serves about the same amount of riders in one month as the entire five-line BART system does in a year. At peak hours, the Yamanote Line trains run at 2.5 minute intervals.


1 person likes this
Posted by Disheartened
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 3:42 pm

@ Marie

"Buying next to train tracks 20 years ago, does not mean it was an agreement to lose all the trees screening the tracks, nor does it mean that we should have to close off lanes of Alma Street permanently (and yes - HSR did propose this) or for months at a time. I still think that selling development rights to land above the train tracks, would come very close if not exceed the cost of trenching the tracks. Overhead electrical wires are incredibly ugly and environmentally unfriendly."

Not an ounce of sympathy for you there. Buying next to the train tracks meant you got a big discount on your house and knew there could be any kind of changes to the right of way. With this kind of statement, you make me think of a spoiled child screaming "no fair" when their parents do something perfectly reasonable that they child does not like.


3 people like this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Reader is correct in saying "Caltrain runs on standard gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches) and accepts the same rolling stock as much of the rest of the world". But note BART has a gauge of 5 feet 6 inches. Mind-boggling as to who thought that up. Can't even run BART down Caltrain tracks if one wanted to.


6 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

BART's implementation of wide Indian gauge was one of the project's major design flaws.

It basically increased costs because custom rolling stock needed to be built. Worse it means that all the track maintenance and support equipment has to be custom as well.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm

In a number of proposals for newer systems they - the famous they - keep talking about engines and cars being built in a foreign country. A major error happened in France when the contractor failed to take into consideration the stations that the train would go into and made an error on how the doors interface with the station platforms - don't match when people getting on and off.

We need to make sure that we are using USA made cars and engines. I do not believe that the BART cars are made in the US.

If any foreign made cars or engines are discussed in context to any developmental projects then we need to stop that and make sure this does not become a handout to foreign countries. We keep putting people in charge of large programs that have no knowledge of the technical elements of the project - they are political appointments. A disaster in the making.


1 person likes this
Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm

All of this angst and discussion would been moot if the HSR line simply terminated in San Jose. This is simply a very cost effective and logical choice. Arrivals at the Terminus in SJ would then connect with existing systems to get where they wanted to go. That being said.......

That being said, given that HSR is double the projected budget ALREADY and they haven't even completed any portion of the track and the fact that only two HSR lines are actually competitive and make a profit (Paris -Lyon in France and Tokyo-Osaka in Japan)and MOST enjoy subsidies to run, why EXACTLY is this being built? We are going to be left with an underused system, that requires constant infusion of money to keep afloat, is only viable in certain, select circumstances, etc. Does AMTRACK ring a bell? (Web Link)


5 people like this
Posted by Disheartened
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm

HSR stopping in San Jose is the same as the current trains stopping in Oakland. It would be the same as trains stopping 50 miles away from London or Tokyo. It would be nonsensical and a sure way to make HSR a completely losing proposition.


7 people like this
Posted by Disheartened
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:36 pm

The old subsidy red herring. Air travel and roads are both heavily subsidized in the US. Why should rail not be? What is it that makes air and road travel subsidies acceptable to all, but not rail subsidies in so many people's minds? This too is mind-boggling.


5 people like this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Nimby's basically enjoy being a shadow government with more clout than local governments usually exercise - yet the principals usually couldn't be elected dog catcher.

They also have the conceit that they can work towards jacking up their house prices, but that no change must take place for miles radius around said house. When they catch on to the massive change that will come from self driving, communicating vehicles they will doubtless try to block them.

As we know, there are no Environmental Impact statements that are not "fatally flawed" which is good for another decade of lawsuits.

The present demographics of the peninsula are changing and the lawsuit's principals will likely be way over their life expectancy when any electrification project could actually be built. It may never be just as BART was ended. People in the newer demographics on the Peninsula need to vote and be politically active as soon as they can or the dinosaurs will foreclose much of the convenience of their future everyday lives just to add another half a million to their house prices. Foreign property owners should assert themselves as well, possibly through an organization. Corporations like Google, Facebook, Intel, VC's, or hundreds of others should recognize that the Nimby's here are jeopardizing their ability to continue. The Nimby's simultaneously like their house prices but want them gone.

Of course corporations, developers and so on have indeed rolled over California for years. Homeowners can hardly be blamed for saying "where's mine" which is realistically what they are doing. But they have gone so far that they are seriously damaging the future lives of everyone after them.

I know it doesn't help matters that most of their children will be unable to live here because of the expense - so they feel they have no stake in the future other than their house price. That's why all the stakeholders need to step up to the plate and move things forward. Time waits for no man and all that.....


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Everyone in this city has paid into getting BART to circle the bay - that was the original plan that we all bought into and want to happen. Everyone paid taxes in to make that happen. So what is preventing it from happening? Not the homeowner's. It is the combined transit systems which have spent the money on other projects - like the bridges, BART to the Contra Costa cities, and now BART to the southern end of San Jose.

BART can travel on the 280 side of the peninsula and join Cupertino / San Jose with Daly City and Milpitas. That would give us two different forms of transportation to work with.

Meetings on HSR go back twenty years or more - it is the excuse for doing nothing. We should all fight to get BART to travel through Santa Clara County and join up with the south and north connections so the bay is completely circled. Unfortunately BART does not have any money at this time - they need to get upgraded cars and upgraded tracks. Money allocated for HSR should go to fix BART.

I am tired of hearing NIMBY complaints - especially someone from Mountain View. Is Mountain View working to get BART going through that city? I haven't heard that they are working to make that happen.


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Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 7:11 pm

@Disheartened: The HSR is already a losing proposition. Please show me where the VAST majority of the projected ridership has SF as their ultimate destination? Why build to cater to a select few?

You are 100% right, we subsidize way too much in this country. (Including an existing rail system that lets face it does not work in terms of passenger service) so why should we allow yet another flawed system to be created that as it stands is flawed with dubious ridership claims, no real plan except to leech tax dollars, will disrupt the Peninsula, etc. This one is here and now and we have the ability to stop it.

Seems that NIMBY's have become a strawman in this debate. If you believe something is fundamentally flawed or ultimately a detriment, why wouldn't you fight it?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 7:33 pm

"Please show me where the VAST majority of the projected ridership has SF as their ultimate destination?"

Seeing as the area around the transbay terminal is an order of magnitude more dense in terms of jobs and residents than any other station, it seems like a reasonable assumption. Its also the busiest station on the Caltrain line, which I might add, this article is specifically about.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm

The whole argument about the electrification of Caltrain was to accommodate HSR. However - HSR is becoming more elusive. It is going to go to Southern California before it comes up here. That should kill this whole deal right now.
Rather than arguing about electrification we should be using funds to get modern engines like used on Amtrak and some new cars for bikes. We should be focusing on what the ridership wants - they don't care if the train is electric or not - just that it gets them there.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Latest average weekday ridership shows 13571 at S.F. vs 44674 at other stations.


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Posted by NIMBYs
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 6, 2015 at 8:51 pm

The Yamanote line circles Tokyo.

The argument that,"if they can do it, so can we" is empty.

Go to California or University Ave, or San Francisco or Los Gatos. Look at the people there.

Imagine 100 people replacing every person. Now imagine three hundred people replacing every person. Now imagine 3000 people replacing every person.

That's the population density of Tokyo.

When you talk about ridership numbers of a train and use the most popular train in Tokyo, it has nothing to do with us, and won't until our population increases 3000 fold.

Will any investment in trains last until that happens? Until 1/10 of that happens? 1/100? 1/1000 of that happens?

"We should buy HSR because it works from Tokyo" is not sound reasoning either.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Nah, I want electrification, not HSR.

Remember that electrified BART already services communities similar to Palo Alto/Mountain View/etc. VTA Light Rail and Muni Metro are in the same boat.

My comments about the Tokaido Shinkansen/HSR/etc. are mostly aimed at people who think that HSR is some new thing.

There's a strong contingent of people here who are blind to the rest of the world and think that Caltrain/BART/whatever are pioneers in the universe of public transit. Some of these people seem to be unaware that there have been train tracks on the Peninsula for over 150 years and recent population growth have the cause of transit strains, not the other way around ("waaaah, why is Caltrain cutting our community in half?" "waaaaahhhhh, Caltrain's at-grade crossings are a bad design decision that are killing our teenagers...").

I just think some people should actually travel to other places and see how the rest of the world does rail transit.

Many of the comments here reflect a crushingly provincially and myopic worldview in regard to urbanization and population growth.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Want an example of this myopic provincialism?

Heck, how about the person proposing that we set up an "American standard for track size?" (sic)

1886 was the year when standard gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches) was picked. It's been covered.

It's stuff like this that shows how little some Embarcadero Media commenters even understand the tracks that have been there for 150+ years.

Hilarious.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 9:21 pm

@resident 1

Well now its clear you have no idea what you're talking about, plans for electrification have been around much longer than the current HSR iteration, though its all the more urgent now because Caltrain is over capacity and the goal of the modernization program is to *increase capacity*; yes they are designing it to be compatable with HSR, would it make sense to not do so and have to rebuild the tracks in the future?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:05 pm

The gauge question only comes up regarding BART. Rail transit in London, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, and even Montreal are all standard.

@res1, all the new BART cars from Bombardier will be assembled in New York, just inside the border from Montreal. Where the parts come from, who knows? I assume the finished product will arrive here by ship, since I can't imagine how else.

Back to Caltrain, last weekend I rode on one of those surplus Metrolink cars that Caltrain bought. Just like what we already have. Lots to be said for interchangeability.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:41 pm

In 2008 California voters approved the sale of bonds to finance the construction of HSR in California. They did not vote to finance Caltrain electrification or grade-separated crossings in Palo Alto or any other peninsula city. The funds to electrify Caltrain are being hijacked to finance a project which was never approved by California voters. This is the basis of Quentin Kopp's current objection to HSR. The so-called "blended approach" was a ploy to grease the skids for HSR in peninsula cities such as Palo Alto which are resistant to the project.

Electrify Caltrain if you will, but not by hijacking funds approved by California voters for an entirely different project.

Palo Alto needs grade separation in the worst way at Charleston, Meadow, Churchill and Alma streets, but Palo Alto should pay for it. It will result in improved traffic flow in Palo Alto and that is why P.A. should pay for it. San Carlos already has grade-separated crossings without funding from the feds or the state. Why doesn't Palo Alto?

HSR should not happen in the first place, but if it does, there is no reason to acquire additional right-of-way and build additional rail capacity up the peninsula to be shared three ways: Caltrain, HSR and Union Pacific freight. It would not be an insurmountable inconvenience for HSR passengers to debark in San Jose and take Caltrain to their destinations, compared to the inestimable expense (including "cost overruns") and disruption of extending HSR to just two or three peninsula stops (San Francisco and likely Millbrae and Menlo Park).

This is not "NIMBY"-ism. I am a Palo Alto native, a Paly graduate and am quite familiar with the area but now live elsewhere in the state.


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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 7, 2015 at 6:02 am

Seven Caltrain grade separation projects have been completed in San Mateo County. The primary funding for these projects has been Measure A, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transit and transportation projects in San Mateo County. Fifteen percent of these sales tax revenues are allocated to grade separation projects. Additional funding from state and federal sources were also used in these projects.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link




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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:53 am

Marie is a registered user.

I am so tired of anyone disagreeing with another person, labeling them "nimby" rather than addressing the issues. FYI, I am a long time supporter of commuter rail, and CAARD, Californians for Responsible Rail Development. I urge you to google them and read their very reasonable position papers.

Why does it always have to be us vs. them? Why can't we propose solutions that are win win? A trenched solution for Cal Train would improve the neighborhoods, eliminate grade crossing and improve Cal Train. That is why the city council has, last time I checked, come out in favor of investigating this alternative. Again, why can't CalTrain sell air rights to trench the train?

BTW The commuter rail east from Munich to Schwinndegg and any other train on these three sets of tracks are not electrified as there are no overhead wires and no third rail. The town has grade crossings all over the place. I don't see this as better or worse than what we have. It takes an hour to go 40 kilometers which seems fine to everyone here. Electrification, while a nice to have, is not necessary if the costs exceed the benefit, and I include costs to society, not just production costs.

I still favor electrification of CalTrain and am willing to pay taxes to subsidize it. I'm not willing to allow the surrounding area to be degraded when it doesn't need to be. I think HSR is a political monster that is a big mistake. I support, along with CAARD, high speed rail done right. If BART had not been developed using mostly political instead of economic decisions, it would be far more effective and far less costly today. I still cringe when I think of how it was developed. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

And also by the way, I receive no benefit for the increase in value of my property near the train tracks as taxes on the profit on any sale would not leave me with enough money to buy another property close to my kids. So for me, and many other older citizens of PA, the increases in property value do not affect our decisions one bit. What I want are livable neighborhoods, no grade crossings, and lots of trees as well as more efficient local rail transportation. It is more likely to find a win-win solution, if you can drop the resentment for those of us fortunate enough to buy in PA when a middle class person could still do so.


1 person likes this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 10:46 am

2-3 years ago the Legislative Analyst's Office wrote a report on High Speed Rail. The main gist was that the finances made no sense. But they also found that this project would actually increase Green House gases. Yep, it's anti-environmental. But of course, we look the other way as wind farms decimate our bird populations.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Robert - I was on the HSR planning committee 100 years ago. I have a lapel pin for it. All the political dogs went to visit Europe, etc on political funds then the whole thing died. Mission accomplished - go to Europe. A boondoggle.

However - if we started this project way, way back then there would not be so much development on the potential tracks that we are now backed into a corner as to where this would happen.

If we started BART when we were suppose to we would not be in this ridiculous situation.

The movement for electrification is a PLAN - has anything happened? NO ! HSR is going to be in Central Valley to Los Angeles first so all of the money will be used up in that effort. Jerry Brown will be gone. The momentum will be gone. And the technology will be replaced by a better solution.

Caltrain needs to be fully integrated with Amtrak and any other combinations that come up. There is no need for electrification - we just need the newer engines and cars for bikes. We cannot base our whole ability to move around on electricity - it is generated by oil and gas - or coal in the east coast.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Wonder why the HSR is going to end up on LA first? Because up here we got bogged down in studies and lawsuits which results in the costs rising. The final result is the need for more funding which will delay the construction of the project. In the meantime more studies and lawsuits.

BART has problems of their own, the track are in need of repair, the system is costly to run and crowded. They need a another transbay tube or bridge. The computer system that BART has is over 30 years old. The system is old and breakdowns are becoming more frequent.

We have BART, MUNI, ACE, SMART and VTA, 5 different rail systems with HSR becoming the 6th. Don't forgot Amtrack being the 7th


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Who thinks HSR is going anywhere? It's being built from Bakersfield to Fresno. That's the cheap section. Beyond that in either direction it gets seriously expensive.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Los Angeles has a great subway system and a good transit system. They have a huge right-of-way going along I-5. They also have a good transit right of way going up to the Tehachapi's. The rail systems there are dominated by the freight trains that have over 100 cars so that is where it all breaks down. They have to build tunnels through the mountains to make this work - HUGE DOLLARS REQUIRED.

What they are doing is taking land by eminent domain - since the land has been in families for many generations the tax base is minimal. They will then lease this land out for a huge profit. The financing for this effort is totally questionable as to ethics. Since the Jerry Brown family has a ranch in Colusa maybe the train should go through there - they can take his land by eminent domain.

Back to Caltrain - the ethics related to this effort is totally questionable. It is a bunch of contractors who want to make some money building a system which should take them into their retirement.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Note on the electrical system - bringing down the electrical grid is a fairly easy operation.

No electricity - no trains.

Being dependent on electricity in an emergency situation is a very bad idea. The Diesel trains can run in an emergency. All aspects of the operation need to be weighted for any situation that will arise.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:15 pm

I strongly suspect a lot of the people who come here and throw the word "NIMBY" around are shills for high-speed rail.

I have seen nothing -- nothing -- in the years I've been following HSR to explain how it is supposed to compete with auto and air travel. No market study, nothing. Suppose we spend billions and HSR is all built but no one rides it, at least not the masses they want us to believe will ride it, and people prefer instead to stick to planes and automobiles.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:37 pm

I have heard that a firm in which Dianne Feinstein's husband, Dick Blum, has an interest recently won a contract worth almost $1 billion. No conflict of interest there.

I don't see the benefit of "integrating" Caltrain and Amtrak. One is a short-haul commuter service. The other is a huge money sink run at the whim of federal bureaucrats. Where is the benefit?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2015 at 11:30 pm

There is no advocacy of integrating the systems from a management point as to funding - the whole point is using the same equipment built in America
so the refurbishment and upgrades are cheaper overall. Amtrak has great new engines. It is for the interchangeability of parts, cars, and engines.

BART is using some cars from Los Angeles - great idea.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 8, 2015 at 1:34 am

BART is wrong gauge. Caltrain bought the used cars from Los Angeles.


3 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2015 at 8:31 am

NIMBYs complain about any improvement to infrastructure but then complain about the problems that inaction brings. You can't have your cake and eat it too


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2015 at 10:11 am

Patrick - you are slinging the term NIMBY around for what reason? HSR is a statewide issue from San Diego to Sacramento - it affects the whole state. Utilization of same gauge tracks is a universal issue. Infrastructure needs to make sense.

The fact that BART is not circling the bay does not make sense but that is not a NIMBY issue - the people in charge at the top chose Caltrain despite that everyone was taxed for Bart and paid for it.

Now it is a bigger issue because there are major infrastructure problems, overbuilding along the project areas for use, and lack of funding at the state level.

You are giving the homeowner too much credit - we are just a money tree for a bunch of people at the top that we have little control over. That term has no meaning at the state level where transportation issues are decided.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 11:13 am

"the people in charge at the top chose Caltrain despite that everyone was taxed for Bart and paid for it."

I keep seeing this statement and I find it misleading and/or inaccurate.

What killed BART coming down the Peninsula was a vote to withdraw from the BART District by the San Mateo County Supervisors in 1961. At the time, the Southern Pacific commuter trains were not subsidized and the supervisors saw no need for a second rail line that would require additional taxes and subsidies. They were also influenced by the Foster City developer and the Hillsdale Mall owner at the time. No BART taxes were levied in either San Mateo or Santa Clara counties since they were not part of the district.

Up until the recent Santa Clara Co. sales tax to extend BART to San Jose...how exactly have we've been taxed for BART?


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 11:20 am

I want to emphasize that in 1961, BART was proposed as a second rail transit system. It was never suggested that it would replace the SP commuter trains and/or run on the SP right of way. Which is one of the reasons why the Hillsdale Mall owner opposed the new line...he saw BART as a means to by pass his mall (SP station was across the street) and the riders would have a direct line to SF's Union Square for shopping.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Crescent Park Dad: thank you for the historical perspective on BART.

BART's non-standard track gauge is an impediment to bringing it down the peninsula. It can't run on the standard-gauge Caltrain right-of-way which is shared with Union Pacific freight, so it would require its own tracks/right-of-way, maybe alongside one of the freeways? You could then wind up with four rail services on the peninsula. Overkill?

1. Caltrain
2. CA HSR
3. U.P. freight
4. BART

I'm not sure Caltrain electrification will be the panacea people think. It was used as a ploy to grease the skids for HSR on the peninsula in resistant cities such as Palo Alto, nothing more. HSR funds would be diverted for the project. As Quentin Kopp points out, that is not what CA voters approved when they voted for Prop 1A in 2008 and is of questionable legality.

I don't have a clear vision of how HSR trackage will fit in Palo Alto without wreaking havoc to Alma street and/or properties on either side of the right-of-way.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2015 at 1:25 pm

It makes sense to run BART on the 280 / Foothill side of the peninsula to connect Daly City to Cupertino / San Jose. There can be a station on the west side of SU campus - a lot of building now on that side of the campus. It would also support the VA hospital. Many companies are in that segment of the city just above Foothill Blvd. There is more open land on the 280 side of the peninsula. Since there are no other trains that would use the tracks then it can go on a raised platform above the streets - similar to area near Daly City, or similar to BART segment in Oakland that goes to the Oakland Airport.

I was under the impression that we had 1/2% sales tax added for BART. If not for BART what was it for? My memory says we did have our sales tax for Santa Clara county increased specific to BART.

People keep counting HSR into the equation as though is has already happened. It hasn't happened. And we have too much building on the route on Alma. The cost associated with that route on the peninsula if that route is chosen is prohibitive.


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm

@ res 1: Yes, the recent SCCo sales tax increase was for BART to San Jose, not a subsidy to the entire system as other counties now pay. But your general postings imply that we've been paying for BART all along - which is not the case.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm

"BART's non-standard track gauge is an impediment to bringing it down the peninsula. It can't run on the standard-gauge Caltrain right-of-way"

Railroads can run dual-gauge systems Web Link . They just install another rail at the proper separation from one of the existing rails, and voila!


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm

I would think they would have to install two rails plus two power rails, one in each direction, to get the spacing right for BART.

What would be the advantage operationally of running BART on the Caltrain right-of-way? Would you shut down Caltrain and sell all the rolling stock? Putting a BART extension on the 280 where you already have the right-of-way seems like a better idea.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 9, 2015 at 12:33 am

Caltrain station platform height is also incompatible with BART.
Not to mention the entire ticketing/turnstyle concept.

For proximity to population, the 101 median makes more sense than 280.
The whole idea of BART down the peninsula further than Millbrae is a non-starter.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm

This isn't an either / or situation. Caltrain is doing a great job - it's destination is AT&T Park. If you take BART from Daly City then you are on the 280 side of the peninsula and BART is going through the Mission and under Market Street in SF - different destination points.

The Foothill / 280 side is focusing on a different user - the goal is to connect SU with Stanford Research Park going south to Cupertino / San Jose - Apple; and going north on the 280 side of the peninsula to Daly City.
You have to match logical connection

One does not displace the other - they have different ridership and destination points. The goal is to provide more choices. I drive up to Daly City to take BART. But now the parking at the BART station in Daly City is a challenge - the ridership is so high on both Caltrain and BART that you need both of them.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

" I would think they would have to install two rails plus two power rails, one in each direction, to get the spacing right for BART... Would you shut down Caltrain and sell all the rolling stock?"

Just one rail per track. Check out the link in my prior post. Also no need for power rail, just hook on a Caltrain diesel for the run.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm

That's what I said: one additional rail northbound and one southbound = two additional rails.

"no need for power rail, just hook on a Caltrain diesel for the run"

Then what's the point? Just leave Caltrain the way it is and save a pile of money. A standard-gauge diesel Caltrain locomotive hauling BART cars -- ??? Caltrain has double-decker cars -- does BART?

I agree with keeping Caltrain diesel for now. People think electrification will solve all of Caltrain's problems. It's very poisonous bait to lure peninsula cities into thinking HSR is a good idea. Talk about your back-room deals.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Sorry about the rail misunderstanding.

You want BART here, diesel towing is the simplest and cheapest option. It will work.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 9, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Well - you have all pointed out why getting BART here is an undoable situation. You all keep thinking that it needs to replace Caltrain or work on the same set of track lines going down the 101 side of the peninsula.

The Caltrain organization and the BART organization are two different organizations working on two different funding schemes. You are never going to put that whole set of different organizations into the same pot - don't waste your time.

BART needs to hook up to Daly City and go up to SF serving a different set of business commuters going different places. The two systems if split up can better serve the peninsula and SF. You will note in SF they do not cross paths.

The insistence on taking it up 101 is exactly what is killing it. The insistence on going up in the Caltrain rail right of way is not doable.

SU can support a transportation hub on the west side of the campus. Stanford Research Park can support a hub on the west side of the Park. The US Government can support a hub at the VA center. Mountain View can support a hub on the west side of the city.

If you travel HWY 280 in the morning it is loaded with cars because they are going where Caltrain does not go. The traffic patterns are telling you where the need is.

Do you ever go on BART? Drive up to Daly City - on HWY 280 and take it up to the city. You are not on the Caltrain side of the peninsula.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Running BART from Daly City down the 280 to San Jose where it would connect with SJC and loop back north in the east bay is an intriguing idea. The 280 right-of-way is bought and paid for -- just add tracks! Caltrain doesn't really connect with SJC now.

It would be entirely separate from Caltrain and U.P. freight.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 10, 2015 at 9:54 am

Joe - I agree. Unfortunately BART just got trashed in the papers today. What is so great about electricity? Arcing fire under the car causing people to punch out windows and jump. A list of aging equipment - BART is going to ask for more money in the next election. Aging cars, aging tracks, electrical generators catching fire.
Who made the cars? Who made the tracks? Who decided that they should be a different gauge then the standard gauge for all trains? Some European experts? Can we please stop with the European experts?

And Caltrain did not fair any better in the papers today - their electrification project has hit a hurdle - thank goodness. Someone out there wants to make money, take down trees, for a system that has already been determined to be out-of-date because they want HSR - another out-of-date project.

Our current fairly successful Caltrain system will be sacrificed for this nonsense.

I still like BART but they picked the wrong bunch of people to make it, run it, and manage it.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2015 at 11:55 am

ISTR reading that the non-standard BART track gauge was selected specifically so they would never be able to run freight trains on BART tracks. Although it wasn't envisioned at the time, it also precludes running Amtrak trains on BART tracks. The decision was made before Amtrak even existed and Southern Pacific was still in the passenger rail business. As a result, all BART rolling stock must be custom built.

Caltrain, on the other hand, uses double-deck cars which doubles their passenger capacity over the single-deck cars used by BART.


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Posted by Joe Waterman
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 10, 2015 at 6:10 pm

BART on 280 ROW? Never happen. But just dedicate a pair of lanes for superbuses and you're in business in a year.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 11, 2015 at 11:10 am

Joe - You are a hills NIMBY. I hate that term but we had a person who owns the Hillsdale Mall shut down BART coming through San Mateo to Santa Clara. And we have the "hill" people shutting down a major throughway for further development. It is not just you - I have talked to people in Los Altos who do not want their pristine existence disturbed - they would rather get in their car and drive to Apple in Cupertino - or SU / SLAC / VA Hospital / Tesla, etc.

Think that the majority of people are not retired and have to go to work. And all of the major facilities depend on support staff for the cafeteria, security, and in the hospital nurses and staff.
And there are the just graduated in their first jobs who do not have the time and money to keep driving all over the place.

If you take BART up to the city you can come up at many points that are interesting and fun - no parking required - except at the BART station which is cheap.

The drive to keep everything on the 101 side is to increase housing on the flats and keep the hills undeveloped. I think the "flats" people need to push back on that theory.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 11, 2015 at 11:42 am

I am wondering if the move to electrify Caltrain is to make the system exclusive so that Amtrak and freight cannot use the tracks.
There is major development in the south bay on the west side of the county. We need to be able to move people south as well as north. And the south end needs to match up with the other rail services that are going south - the Coast Amtrak. What a good idea to get on the train in PA and go to Carmel, or further down the coast?
We have an opportunity to expand the use of the train beyond the short term commuter. As development expands we need to keep all of the options open - not isolate how each system is used.
Comments on BART is that it was built to prohibit any other type use - we should be prohibiting that type thinking - all transit should use uniform tracks and be able to accommodate all standard engines and cars. We cannot afford to isolate how each system is used in a growing economy.


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Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Electrifying Caltrain wouldn't preclude running diesel trains on the same line. There isn't any change to the track gauge or anything else, just adding the overhead wiring. Since Caltrain won't be electrified south of San Jose, the trains that go to Gilroy will still run the diesel service. Same for the UP freight trains.


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Posted by Joe Waterman
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm

"Joe - You are a hills NIMBY. I hate that term but..."

You are neverless lightning quick to use a term you profess to hate.

The fact is that I am recommending a practical route to an operational regional mass transit system on 280.

BART on the 280 ROW is a pipe dream. It would take years to build it even if the money was there, which it isn't and won't.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Tracks don't go to Carmel.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 11, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Folks- we are trying to build interconnecting systems. The more people that are here the more we need interconnecting systems. Population areas and resort destinations can and will benefit from update of existing and new rail systems. They are building new systems all over Europe - why not here.
There are existing spurs that are not being used that can be resurrected.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2015 at 4:25 am

Union Pacific freight on the Caltrain ROW isn't going away. Unlike Caltrain, U.P. makes a profit running freight on that line, and it was part of the deal when CalTrans took over the money-losing Southern Pacific commute operation in 1980.

When Amtrak came into existence in 1971 they shut down the Del Monte, your Palo Alto-to-Pacific Grove train. Amtrak also diverted the Daylight off the peninsula and ran it up the east bay to Oakland, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, etc. It used to end at 3rd & Townsend in the city and went no further.

Commuters take the train every weekday. Their ridership is much more regular than tourists and vacationers who are occasional travelers to Carmel, Disneyland, etc. Where do you think the money is? If they resurrected the Del Monte or had a Palo Alto-to-Carmel train it would likely lose money in a big way because the volume of ticket-buying passengers isn't there.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 12, 2015 at 9:42 am

The whole area from San Jose going south to Gilroy, Monterey, Salinas is a major growing area. It is big business. It is now converting to a grape/wine growing area. They are advertising a wine trail for the area. Beyond that a military base in Monterey is being converted into housing, as is the Carmel Valley corridor. You have colleges located in that area.

This area started, and is an agricultural growing area - as well as a major fishing area. Going on to San Luis Obispo is a CSU campus that is a major engineering school. Santa Maria is home to Vandenburg AFB.

There are a lot of existing spurs in this area. If the population cannot find housing on the peninsula then it will find housing going south. And major companies will have subsidiary locations in those areas.

California Government agencies are relocating their personnel and offices to lower cost areas so the newer, younger employees can have a residential area to live in.

The bay area is maxing out - large companies are setting up subsidiaries at lower cost locations all over California.

The bottom line is that as growth takes place there has to be a standard set of rails and operating guidelines so that the purchase, upkeep, and replacement of engines and cars is lower cost. We cannot have unique pieces all over that at this time are requiring replacement. The upkeep and replacement is a major funding issue.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

If the Dumbarton line can't be resurrected, I don't have much hope for anything else.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 12, 2015 at 10:25 am

The ACE train and Amtrak do not need the Dumbarton Bridge - they are crossing the bay at the bottom. Go hiking in Alviso - the train is going through that location. You can stand next to the tracks and wave as it goes by. It stops in Santa Clara near the Santa Clara Convention Center.

What train do you expect to go across the bridge? There is no Caltrain on the east bay - they have BART and ACE, Amtrak. Unless we have BART in RWC then what is the point? The only train that would go across is Amtrak and that is interchangeable with Caltrain.

Don't count that out - major growth at Facebook, etc is changing the whole landscape for that area.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm

"What train do you expect to go across the bridge?"

Trains, just like they used to. The ROW and raiks are in place. Direct service from the northern peninsula to the southern east bay would cut commute times and carbon pollution.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Dumbarton Rail First Phase -- Web Link

One current proposal to get the camel's nose under the tent.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2015 at 6:08 pm

"One current proposal to get the camel's nose under the tent."

Looks more like a stalking horse on a mission to kill the Dumbarton rail idea forever. Politically, there is only one chance to make this work. One glitch and it's dead for all time.

A reliable, on-time, comfortable rail service from the East Bay to Facebook and points north is an almost sure winner. What's the corresponding demand from the north peninsula to Facebook?

The killer in the bus-rail amalgam is the erratic connection timing due to creeping traffic on the bridge, which is a big factor keeping those buses at a fraction of their capacity.

A scripted failure if I ever saw one.

Side fact: I believe the last rail passenger to cross the Dumbarton rail bridge was Gov. Jerry Brown during his first term, riding a demonstration train to promote Dumbarton rail service. Want another ticket, Sir?


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm

I do not believe that HSR will come up the peninsula - it will come into the bay area via the Altamont Pass - ACE already has the tracks to get it over the mountain. If it came over from Los Banos to San Jose they would have to lay new tracks.
Getting HSR over the Tehachapi's and over the mountains into the peninsula is going to be too expensive.
Given that scenario there is no point in electrifying Caltrain. It was stated in the papers that the technology is old. Why is Jerry Brown stuck on old technology? He was not in the SMART classes in college.

I have seen write-ups on the Dumbarton train - don't discount the Zukerburg or Google teams - they have facilities in the east bay. They get things done. They have incentive to make the train happen. I think they are going to get the ferry to go to the Redwood City Port. The port is being dredged now.

As to ACE - many people ride ACE in to the Santa Clara Convention Center stop- there is a parking lot where they keep their "San Jose" cars. That is very common.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 12, 2015 at 7:45 pm

ACE calls it the Great America Station, and it's a 5 minute walk to Levi's Stadium.
Special trains are scheduled for every 49ers home game, plus Super Bowl.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm

No matter what you "believe", the decision was made several years ago to bring HSR through the Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and up to San Jose where it would come up the peninsula IN TANDEM WITH Caltrain to San Francisco where it would dead end, just like the S.P. Daylight train I described. It can't go over or under the bay and on to, say, Sacramento.

The first question to be asked is why we need two rail services on the peninsula. The answer is, we don't. The HSR traveler could transfer to Caltrain at San Jose and continue on to the city. It will add a few minutes to the trip but compare that to the disruption and expense of all the eminent-domain takings required to build an HSR ROW.

I'm getting tired of repeating this: Caltrain electrification is a ploy of dubious legality to get peninsula cities to think HSR is a good idea because there is something in it for them.

Has anyone seen a proposed timetable for the new, electrified Caltrain showing the increased train frequency due to electrification? I thought not. I invite anyone who has seen such a timetable to post it for all to see.

The speed limit for all trains, passenger and freight, is 79 mph on the Caltrain ROW. To increase the frequency of trains you would have to shorten the length of the trip, i.e. run the trains faster or eliminate stops or both. The current technology is more than capable of running at 79 mph (viz. baby bullets). So where is the big "win" with Caltrain electrification?


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2015 at 11:15 am

"Has anyone seen a proposed timetable for the new, electrified Caltrain showing the increased train frequency due to electrification? I thought not. I invite anyone who has seen such a timetable to post it for all to see."

Web Link

Unfortunately this document is a bit dated, and doesn't reflect the huge growth in ridership over the past couple years.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Caltrain applied to be exempt in response to a CEQA lawsuit filed by the Town of Atherton. The Federal Surface Transportation Board ruling found that Caltrain was not exempt from CEQA, but also contradicted the main claim of Atherton's lawsuit.

Atherton alleged that Caltrain electrification violated CEQA because the electric line would eventually be used by the High Speed Rail service, and therefore the Environmental Impact Report for electrification needed to cover the entire of the High Speed Rail project. However, the STB ruled that Caltrain is a local mass transportation service, and is therefore required to comply with CEQA, rather than being governed by a different set of Federal environmental laws.



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