News

Editorial: Rolling over for BART

If it has any hope of getting north county voter support on new taxes, VTA needs to remedy funding inequities

Every time transportation sales-tax measures have appeared on Santa Clara County ballots since 1961, Palo Alto voters have joined with those in other cities to approve them, creating billions of dollars for county transit projects.

These measures have been essential to developing and maintaining the network of highways, expressways and a light rail system aimed at serving a growing valley. The region would have undoubtedly suffered serious economic consequences from a gridlocked transportation system without them.

But with each new effort to raise taxes, usually promoted by political and business interests centered in San Jose, the issue of regional equity becomes a bigger and bigger hot potato.

Most local voters don't realize that only a small fraction of the money generated through our sales tax payments finds its way to projects directly benefitting north county residents.

In fact, of the $4.6 billion in tax revenues collected through two sales tax measures since 2000, almost 80 percent has gone to solely to extending BART from Fremont to San Jose (and ultimately to Santa Clara.)

The current sales tax rate in Santa Clara County is now 8.75 percent, among the highest in California. Voter-approved measures passed in 2000 (half-cent) and 2008 (one-eighth cent) mean that 0.625 percent of all taxable purchases made in Santa Clara County go to transportation projects. While revenues from the half-cent tax passed in 2000 (and in effect until 2030) are not restricted, all of the funds generated by the 2008 tax are committed to BART operations and maintenance through its expiration in 2038.

A plan to put another transportation measure on the ballot was floated last year by the business-supported Silicon Valley Leadership Group but was put on hold after getting an icy reception. The Palo Alto City Council appropriately pressed for answers on the imbalance between BART funding and support for other important transit systems and projects, especially Caltrain, and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino was surprisingly unprepared for the push-back.

But with the tech-dominated Silicon Valley economy simmering along and roads again becoming clogged, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the county Valley Transportation Authority are figuring the time is right to bring a new tax measure forward in 2016.

In preparation for the inevitable questioning and skepticism from north and west county cities about the past funding inequities, VTA is asking all cities in the county to submit transportation projects and priorities so they can be reflected in an updated long range plan.

This is, of course, the sensible political move, but in order to ensure voter support from throughout the county, a new tax proposal will likely attempt to spread around transportation goodies rather than remedy the current funding inequities relating to the BART extension. And it is likely to suck continued large amounts for completion of the BART extension and connections with the airport and Caltrain.

On Monday, the Palo Alto City Council will consider how to influence this process to benefit north county, and the staff has prepared a laundry list of more than 50 projects it considers candidates for funding. These include everything from an expanded city shuttle system to improved bikeways, bike bridges and tunnels and upgrades to the 101/Embarcadero Road/Oregon Expressway interchange.

The elephant in the room, however, with a price tag of up to a billion dollars, is to eliminate some or all of the four at-grade crossings of the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto. Submerging the tracks under just the East Meadow and Charleston crossings would cut the costs almost in half, according to an analysis completed last year.

While these are staggering numbers, Santa Clara County should have a goal of eliminating all Caltrain grade crossings in order to maximize the effectiveness of both the growing and soon-to-be electrified Caltrain service and to ease cross-town traffic congestion caused by trains blocking passage.

Credit to county Supervisor Joe Simitian for asking staff to prepare the analysis of where transit tax monies have been spent and how much has been contributed by north county cities, in both tax payments and votes cast in support of past measures. It paints a stark picture of how north and west county residents have seen their sales tax dollars siphoned off for BART for the last 15 years.

Now is the time for some strong political pressure to ensure that any 2016 tax measure commits the county to significant funding for eliminating grade crossings and other north county projects. It may be a long time before we have more leverage than we do now, and the city should take full advantage.

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Comments

7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

Didn't Palo Alto just get $100 MILLION of county sales tax money for those new merging lanes on Hwy 101? Would you rather have more money for highways or for Caltrain? The problem is not just BART vs Caltrain; the largest portion of transit dollars goes to highways. Despite what some people will tell you, most highway funding comes from your sales taxes, not gas or car taxes. Tell your elected officials what your priorities are.


16 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:00 am

There has been no mention of the possibility of BART eventually connecting San Jose to Palo Alto. I would consider that a huge benefit. We would be able to go to the East Bay without driving. And if San Mateo County some day provides the funds to extends BART from Palo Alto to Milbrae we will finally have BART going around the Bay.

To complain about the allocation of the transportation sales taxes on BART reminds me of when Southern Californians complained about the funds spent on the new Bay Bridge.


8 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

There is no possibility of BART to Palo Alto.
Money will not be wasted duplicating Caltrain.

There are 2 bus services between Palo Alto/Stanford and the East Bay. Stanford has a service for its commuters and Dumbarton Express runs 2 lines for for the public.

You seem to be unaware of them. They connect efficiently to BART in Fremont and Union City, respectively.

Commuters to Palo Alto are often familiar with public transit, but many Palo Alto residents continue to show themselves as clueless.


3 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:23 am

I'm pro-BART but not to the near exclusion of other Santa Clara County transportation projects.


14 people like this
Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:24 am

Resident (whoever you are):

There is no question in my mind. I would rather have the money spent on CalTrain than on highways. You only need observe the packed trains to see that the demand is there. I think that we have already paved over more than enough of the Peninsula.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:38 am

"We would be able to go to the East Bay without driving."

You can do that now on the DB bus, which connects to BART. There's plenty of open seats.


"You only need observe the packed trains to see that the demand is there."

Same for 101, ECR, Alma, 280, etc., but much more so.


4 people like this
Posted by Cathy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:45 am

This editorial represents a 180 degree turn for the Weekly, which endorsed the BART tax in 2008 (Web Link) as well as the high-speed rail proposition. It only took a few months for Palo Altans to realize HSR was a big mistake. Now we're realizing BART is too.


4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:51 am

A lot of opinions are based on a person's age, gender and occupation. Younger people are more attuned to using public buses. But if you are working late buses are not particularly safe at night and are not as frequent. Also the gender of the person - young men are fairly safe at night - young women are not as safe at night in public bus world.

Sitting at a public bus stop is not the same as a BART station which has employees on the floor and trains. Bart and Caltrain I consider very safe - buses not safe at night.

Consider that a lot of people are commuting at night and need to have a level of confidence in their safety or they will not use a public bus.

Also - trains are more carbon free than buses.


3 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Every time I read these pages, people are crying about the lack of grade separation between Caltrain and the crossings at Charleston, Meadow, Churchill and Alma. Why does that never come up? Take Caltrain to San Carlos or drive your hulking SUV there. Look around and see how they've very nicely redone the crossings up there. That's where some of this money should be spent.

People forget that the Caltrain right-of-way is used by Union Pacific for freight, so there's your first complication.

Trains in a trench would be vastly expensive. You would have to completely re-engineer the existing crossings at Oregon, Embarcadero and University, as well as figure out how to cross the creek, what to do about the water table, and getting both Caltrain and U.P. freight in and out of the trenched section.


2 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm

We live in a car culture. Nothing will change that. However, Stuart has a point about crowded trains and Curmudgeon's point is well taken. We need more funding for both, but in the end the cars prevail.


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:43 pm

In San Mateo County a combination of county, state and federal funding has been used to eliminate some of the grade crossings:

Web Link

The most recent San Mateo County Transportation Plan allocates 15% of expenditures for Grade Separations over a 25 year period:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Correct Link for San Mateo County Expenditures on Grade Separations:

Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Hans Boehm
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Clearly neither Dumbarton Express nor Caltrain is anywhere near a replacement for BART. Dumbarton Express is primarily a commuter service. It doesn't run at night or on weekends, and much less frequently than BART the rest of the day. It's not something you can count on without careful planning. It's easy to get stuck if you don't. Which is just not acceptable for a real transit service. And I expect accounts for some of those open seats.

Caltrain is better, but has some of the same issues. Still there are times in the evening when the interval between trains is almost two hours. It's clearly still not usable without careful planning. A large fraction of the time fly into SFO, I can't use it because the arrival time is too late for reasonable service. (The often pessimal connections between BART and Caltrain don't help.)

BART is at least reasonably predictable and more frequent, though not exactly competitive with European services.


5 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Bringing BART to Palo Alto to serve a small number of riders in the off-peak hours is not a wise use of capital.


1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Larry Cohen seems to assume that there will be very few users of BART in Palo Alto or BART around the Bay. I am not sure where he gets that. There are thousands of cars coming into Palo Alto every weekday, almost all by solo drivers who work here. Who knows how many are from the East Bay.

Also, if there is reliable and good public transportation from the East Bay we might be able to reduce demand for housing in the peninsula. People can choose to live further away and in more affordable housing and still work in Silicon Valley.


3 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Caltrain is in place, is paid for, and the tracks are committed to freight at night. Bringing BART to Palo Alto on the Caltrain ROW is a bad idea. There is also HSR on the horizon.

The way to bring BART to the Palo Alto area is over the defunct Dumbarton railroad trestle, or extend Caltrain to the east bay via the trestle. Whatever happened to that plan? My recollection is that they looked into rehabilitating the railroad trestle and decided it was too expensive -- do I have that right?


4 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm

"Dumbarton Rail is an east-west transbay commuter rail corridor that would rehabilitate the old rail trestle just to the south of and parallel to the Dumbarton Bridge. Twelve daily trains would link the Caltrain corridor on the Peninsula to southern Alameda County, serving four stations: Willow Road in Menlo Park, Willow Street in Newark, Fremont Centerville Station, and a planned intermodal station in Union City. Dumbarton Rail would connect various regional rail operators that are currently disconnected: Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, Altamont Commuter Express, and BART. It would also take pressure off of BART’s heavily traveled Transbay Tube, by providing a second transbay rail connection. However, MTC transferred $91 million of Regional Measure 2 funds from Dumbarton Rail in order to close the funding gap for BART to Warm Springs. Replacement funding for Dumbarton is only expected to materialize between 2019 and 2027, thus indefinitely postponing this project. A lawsuit was filed challenging the defunding of Dumbarton Rail, but then later dropped. BART has since moved forward with the Warm Springs extension."

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Would there be any benefit in running light rail (basically streetcars) between Redwood Junction and Willow Road along the Dumbarton ROW? Would it serve enough passenger traffic to be worthwhile? You have Facebook on one end and Caltrain on the other. You could put up some catenary and buy some rolling stock, build a couple of stations and have it going in well under two years. It could turn north on Willow Road right to Facebook's front door, loop around on Hacker Way and then back the other way. It wouldn't get people across the bay but it would make use of tracks which are currently being used for nothing. The question is whether there is a "there" there to serve.


16 people like this
Posted by Bigger Plans for the sheep
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

The real "elephant in the room" is the lack of any reference to the VTA's plan to reserve lanes on El Camino for its to-be-purchased (express) buses only. The editorial is silent on the issue. The Palo Alto City Council expressed concerns about the plan but is now working on how the city can get a piece of the sales tax increase the VTA plans for the 2016 ballot. The VTA's buses-only plan is designed to further clog the roadway and "get people out of their cars." Maybe the south county politicians that control the VTA Board will temporarily exempt Palo Alto from the bus lanes as part of a ruse. But Palo Alto would be next. There are bigger plans in play. One is the Grand Boulevard Initiative. It contemplates eliminating personal vehicles on El Camino (except perhaps vehicles operated by public transit agencies). A bigger plan still is One Bay Area which envisions new development and mass transit limited to existing transportation corridors. California has nine such regional plans formulated at the direction of state legislation passed when the national economy tanked in 2008. And there are national and multi-national plans not reported in main-stream newspapers. Vested interests will likely attack this post as unworthy of attention. But just don't pretend you were not warned Palo Alto.


5 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Thank you, Bigger Plans for the sheep. I am with you on this, it is a huge concern. You are pointing out the reality of what politicians are forcing on us. The idiotic bus down El Camino Real is going to be a costly fiasco.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 7:47 pm

I like the idea of building a subway underneath El Camino Real.


Like this comment
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 8:11 pm

[Post removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Bart always has been, is, and probably always be a black hole for tax dollars. That the Silicon Valley Leadership Group somehow managed to direct most of the last ballot measure revenues to BART is a mystery to me. Who put them in charge? Recall that that BART extension to SFO ultimately cost about $1.6B, about $600M of that I believe was raided from local tax revenues. I also believe that the guy running CAHSR was in charge of that bloated project. Enough of BART.

I do support grade separations along the Caltrain corridor. I support the added cost of trenching because once the tracks are in the trench, I believe most, if not all of the train problems will literally be out of sight, out of mind.

Barring guarantees of where new tax dollars will be spent, I'll vote no. Let the Silicon Valley Leadership Group have bake sales to fund their egos


6 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Here's a novel idea: eliminate Caltrain. Use the right-of-way to connect BART between Millbrae and Santa Clara. Forget high speed rail from San Jose to San Francisco -- just board the BART in San Jose to circle the lower bay.


3 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:07 pm

easong: It has been stated more than once in this thread that the Caltrain ROW is used for Union Pacific freight at night, so your idea to eliminate Caltrain and repurpose the right-of-way is D.O.A. U.P. makes money on those freight trains so they're not going away. In addition, why tear up 50 miles of functioning railroad only to spend billions more to extend BART? The Caltrain route is bought and paid for. Actually, if you're going to tear up Caltrain you'd have to extend BART from S.F. all the way to Gilroy, the stretch now served by Caltrain.

Ben: trenching the trains is a great idea if you can come up with the many billions of dollars it would cost, and solve all of the technical issues (water table). One benefit of putting the trains in a trench is that HSR would be in that same trench and not cut a wide swath down Alma street.


2 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Joe Blow:

Yes, grade separations along the Caltrain corridor are expensive, and trenching will cost more. For comparison, BART is expecting $4B to connect their proposed Alum Rock station with the Diridon station, $4B Web Link. BART is a sink hole for tax dollars. If electrifying Caltrain has a $1.5B tab, imagine how many conventional grade separations or miles of trench $4B would pay for. Enough tax dollars thrown at BART. Let SVLG come up with the money for their excessively funded project.


6 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:45 pm

Those figures are all lowball figures, before the inevitable "cost overruns" that can treble or even quadruple the "estimated" lowball figures that are fed to the public.

$4 billion to extend BART to Diridon station. I'll be I know who's behind that.


2 people like this
Posted by Dragonfly
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2015 at 10:24 am

Caltrain was an absolute mistake, but it's one we have to live with. The BART extensions must be fulfilled by whatever means, or risk isolation in the South Bay. Caltrain, even when electrified, can never replicate BART's frequency and they're basically even with speed, although BART starts up quicker.

The electrification is going to be way more than 1 billion, the tracks would be replaced and infrastructure changed. If BART replaced Caltrain, the expensive aspect would be station construction since Caltrain puts no effort into their stations for density aspects like BART.

BART is superior to Caltrain, but unfortunately we have transit agencies competing as if they're private companies or something. The only thing BART funding, over other agency's funding fuels is grudges between the bureaucracies that run them. People tend to forget that transit is a public service.


3 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:44 am

We need some form of public transportation that runs frequently and 7 days a week around a circle, going from San Jose to SF on both sides of the Bay. It doesn't have to be BART. It can be Caltrain, or anything else that works.

Those of you who keep on talking about connecting from Caltrain to BART or taking the Dumbarton Express bus clearly haven't been frequent users of these services. They are not designed to connect together. After evening rush hour Caltrain runs once an hour and on the weekends it is even less frequent. If you are connecting from SFO BART to Caltrain you often have to wait for an hour to catch the southbound Caltrain. The Dumbarton Express bus runs only M-F. The last westbound bus leaves Union City at 7:00 pm. The last eastbound bus leaves Stanford shortly after 8:00 pm. Our two kids went to UC Berkeley and Cal State Hayward. We have first hand learned how difficult it can be to get to the other side of the bay without a car.

We use public transportation in just about any other country we travel to. When we come back we often wait for a good 15 or 20 minutes to take BART to Milbrae where we park our car. The contrast is often quite shocking, airport trains in Europe seem to be running every couple of minutes and I was not going to mention how ancient, dilapidated and depressing the BART cars look.


Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:56 am

Bringing BART down the peninsula all the way to Gilroy would involve spending billions and billions of dollars at a time when the state of California is mired in debt, just to get people from here to there a few minutes faster. Money was already spent on the baby bullet project which is a success. It would be extremely wasteful to throw all of that away and throw even more billions at the peninsula passenger service just to get people to San Francisco 10 minutes sooner. The right-of-way might have to be widened to accomodate BART with its wider track gauge. Would you rather take a chunk out of Alma street or the Paly campus?

Dragonfly: I hope you're aware that Caltrain wasn't built just a few years ago. A few minutes on Wikipedia will familiarize you with the history.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:02 pm

"Would you rather take a chunk out of Alma street or the Paly campus?"

Neither. Tunnel 50 feet under El Camino. The right of way is wide, straight, and already owned by the state. Plenty of room for Caltrain, BART, HSR, and whatever other transit pipe dream comes along. All we need is money.


2 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:14 pm

"The electrification is going to be way more than 1 billion, the tracks would be replaced and infrastructure changed."

There is no need for this push for electrification. Diesel locomotives have always been propelled by high-torque electric motors. Their acceleration is presently constrained by the surge capacity of the diesel-driven generator. All they need to overcome that is rechargeable onboard electric storage like batteries or suoercapacitors.

Why is nobody doing this in the USA? Step up, Silicon Valley.

Granted, it lacks the thrill of viewing overhead wires and their poles, but progress demands sacrifices.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm

There is no need for Caltrain electrification and there is no need to bring HSR (if it is built) up the peninsula with a redundant rail service (Caltrain) already in place.

Curmudgeon: Everyone knows money grows on trees in Silicon Valley. Wonder why El Palo Alto is so tall? That's all money growing on it.


8 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm

We do not need to electrify Caltrain. If we get the newest engines form Amtrak they are energy efficient. I like the engines - trains are very cool.
We do not need it to be electrified for the SF Traffic Center.

The requirement for electrification is merely to add jobs and spend money. It is benefiting certain contractors - no measureable benefit to the passenger.

If HSR ever occurs - which it won't because Jerry Brown will be out of office - then this is all a giant waste of money and a fiscal disaster.


8 people like this
Posted by Maybe it's me, but....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 5:48 pm

I have always hated riding on BART. We lived in Fremont far too long, and often had to take it.

The cars were filthy, littered, and a couple of these cars had a diluted urine odor.

There were some scary passengers-- one guy had a visible scabbard with a huge hunting knife in it, and he sat down next to my then- five year old son!

For some reason, I always got motion sickness when riding BART. Even when I didn't try to read or look out the window. I was told this was due to the speed, but the TGV in France and the Shinkansen in Japan didn't make me nauseous and dizzy--I could look out the window at scenery, sleep, or read without problem.


5 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Dragonfly: What BART system are you talking about? BART is a turd of a mass transit system. It's obscenely expensive to build because it's track is an odd gage and requires custom built cars. It may have the dubious distinction of being the most expensive rail/mass transit system in the world to build and operate anywhere in the world. It's management is a huge bloated over paid morass. There are no express trains on BART. BART isn't especially fast, and Just about every day on the news, there is news regarding how much BART is delayed that day. Caltrain isn't perfect, but it isn't a regular feature on the daily traffic report about how slow it is.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2015 at 6:04 am

@Maybe it's me -- BART gets me a little woozy sometimes also, which I attribute to the acceleration/deceleration rate at the frequent stops. I'm hoping an electrified Caltrain won't do the same. Probably impossible anyway, due to the limited traction of an engine at one end of a heavy train. BART has an electric motor on every axle of the entire consist. But @Commentator could well know something that I don't. (Admittedly I've never seen a diesel spin its wheels like a steam locomotive can.) Then again, maybe it's the tighter curves of BART that induce nausea.

Nobody has mentioned the BART sound level, particularly on curves in the underground portions where the screech of the wheels can be ear-splitting.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

The whole conversation on BART started a number of years ago when the plan was to circle the bay. We all voted for that to happen. We all voted to pay in some tax increase to make that happen.

For any number of reasons a small number of people were allowed to influence that not happening. As time goes on the locations for all of the possible routes are converted to buildings.

I want to see BART on the west side of the city - Foothill to 280 area since many major corporations in our area are situated in that vicinity - Stanford Research Park. VA Hospital, SU west side of campus, SLAC, Tesla, SAP, etc.

The connection on that side can go to the Apple location in Cupertino and eventually join up to complete the circle of the bay.

People like BART - they would rather take BART than a car. If you are going to the CITY - SF parking up there is very expensive - better to take BART or Caltrain. The two systems are serving different locations and purposes. Parking at either BART or Caltrain is difficult - many have to drive their cars to the closest depot.

Some people argue that it is financially impossible - however the two are different organizations which different funding.
It can be done.


1 person likes this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2015 at 11:53 am

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

As I understand it, the Caltrain electrification plan is a fraud. It is actually a plan to electrify the ROW for HSR, to be paid for with HSR funds. The problem is, Caltrain would require a fleet of all-new electric locomotives, presumably to be paid for with HSR funds. That is not what California voters approved in 2008 and therein lies the fraud. Funds would have to be diverted from HSR to purchase this fleet of new electric locomotives for Caltrain. Prop 1A made no provision for Caltrain -- none. Caltrain electrification is also a bagatelle to curry favor on the peninsula for HSR. California taxpayers are being fleeced by the weasels behind HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 16, 2015 at 1:11 pm

"Admittedly I've never seen a diesel spin its wheels like a steam locomotive can."

Spinning wheels on the track is a very bad practice. It grinds circular depressions into the track (track burns) that can damage the wheels of subsequent trains. Steam locomotives could be very ticklish to get moving; the engineer had to manipulate the throttle and johnson bar just right together for the track conditions and boiler pressure. Diesel-electrics are much better controlled, but they can be induced to burn the track.

Adding a heavy battery or supercapacitor bank to the locomotive would improve its traction and acceleration capability. For locomotives, heavy is good.


Like this comment
Posted by Clyde
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

"I want to see BART on the west side of the city - Foothill to 280 area..."

Nice idea, but where's a practical ROW?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Everyone knows that electrification for HSR is a fraud. This is discussed in the papers - SFC. If everyone knows it is a fraud then why is it allowed to continue?

Noticed in the paper that Jerry Brown could be floated as an alternative candidate for President. Jerry better consider that and remove the "fraud alert" issues now.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Thanks @Commentator. Not to get too technical here, but my point was if a diesel-electric (or any locomotive) already has enough oomph to spin the wheels (which I know is counterproductive), then the only way to get better acceleration is to increase the steel-on-steel coefficient of static friction. More power does nothing, right? Yes, more weight on the driving wheels helps, but now there is increased mass to accelerate. I've heard that BART can accelerate about 3 mph per second. I'm just wondering how fast it is possible to accelerate 300 tons of Caltrain by pushing or pulling from one end using only four powered axles. Certainly the electrification advocates have identified the degree of improvement. Time for me to revisit the HSR Compatibility blog.


Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2015 at 10:25 am

I will "roll-over" for BART any day in the week. Drive up to Daly City - the parking lot is FULL. All of the parking lots are FULL. They are full because a large number of Santa Clara, east bay residents, are using BART to get up to the city. Parking in the city is prohibitive. Many companies provide BART tickets to their employees just so they do not bring their cars in to the city - the companies do not have parking space.

Many companies in the south bay provide lite rail tokens to their employees because they do not have adequate parking space.

Land is valuable - providing parking spaces is a huge cost due to lack of good use of the properties.

If you go up and take the BART from Daly City you can see that the space required is not that great - only the stations occupy space. - the rail portion is minimal. Running along 280 with a diversion down to Foothill will take you in proximity to most major employment locations.


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:40 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Want to go to/from the East Bay?
Look at the DB Schedule.

PEAK direction hours only.

Bringing a Bart spur across the Dunbarton, not down the Peninsula, makes more sense. Cover a transit path that does not offer FREQUENT service.


Like this comment
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm

"Not to get too technical here, but my point was if a diesel-electric ... already has enough oomph to spin the wheels ..., then the only way to get better acceleration is to increase the steel-on-steel coefficient of static friction. More power does nothing, right?"

It depends on what you're trying to do. A powerful locomotive can always be made to burn track if you rule of thumb is heavy locomotive, lightweight rolling stock.


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Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Let's try that again.

"Not to get too technical here, but my point was if a diesel-electric ... already has enough oomph to spin the wheels ..., then the only way to get better acceleration is to increase the steel-on-steel coefficient of static friction. More power does nothing, right?"

It depends on what you're trying to do. A powerful locomotive can always be made to burn track if you couple on enough mass or try to pull too steep a grade. The rule of thumb is heavy locomotive, lightweight rolling stock.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Sorry, moot point. Caltrain plans to scrap all their rolling stock and purchase all-new Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains, not just replace current engines.


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Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

"Sorry, moot point. Caltrain plans to scrap all their rolling stock and purchase all-new Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains..."

Figures. Always the most expensive and most wasteful option.

OK, if they gotta have their new electric train, why not generate the juice onboard in a special generator car? GE claims 60% efficiency with its newest multi-megawatt-class turboalternators. That's much better than the grid. GE also makes locomotives, so who better to implement, if a customer turns up (are you reading this, Caltrain?).

That option is far more consonant with the Silicon Valley Mystique than the 19-th century catenary feed so near and dear to Caltrain's heart.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

"Caltrain plans to scrap all their rolling stock and purchase all-new Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains, not just replace current engines."

Is this going to be paid for with HSR funds as part of "Caltrain electrification"? There was no provision for Caltrain in Prop. 1A. California voters never approved replacement of the entire Caltrain fleet with HSR money.

Resident 1: Where do you need to go in S.F. that Caltrain and Muni won't get you there? There are other ways to get to the city besides BART.

I've heard your pitch for a Stanford-to-Apple express many times.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 17, 2015 at 8:51 pm

The missing link from Caltrain to Moscone or Market Street will be addressed by the new Central Subway, scheduled for service in 2019. I usually walk it in 15 or 20 minutes, and have been watching construction progress up Fourth Street. When raining, it's a short hop on the number 30-Stockton bus across the street, with headways ranging from 3 minutes at rush hour to 20 minutes in the late evening.

Someday maybe we'll see the Downtown Rail Extension (DTX) to the new Transbay Terminal. Construction at that site is impressive, including new skyscrapers. Glad it's not in my backyard. Sounds like some Palo Alto groups would be ecstatic to see similar development on University Avenue.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 17, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Larry - Caltrain ends in the vicinity of AT&T Park. BART goes through the Mission, Civic Center, down Market, across the bay to the east bay cities. It is already there. If you ride either of these systems to the city and across the bay you know the difference. Why do you ask?

If you are watching the city council meeting right now they are discussing transportation and one of the main crunches is the 85 / 280 transition. Cupertino is looking at major difficulties coming up with the Apple facility - if people here work there then they need a good way to get there - it is not by car. And a bus is on the same road as a car. BART is not competing with cars on the road.

There are people there from other cities who are talking about the overall problems of the county.
BART not circling the bay is a major foul-up for the county and general bay area. We voted for and paid taxes for that and let a few people ruin it.


1 person likes this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

1) Denver RTD has the same track gauge that heavy rail has. Just add catenaries.

2) the promised BART AROUND THE BAY WAS IN THE 1970S! As I understand it, MENLO PARK RESIDENTS HAD THE MONEY THAT TALKED when SP was considering dropping PASSENGER SERVICE as freight service is and always had been much more profitable ( that is proven when AMTRAK was created to move people all over the U.S. ) which got CALTRAIN into the people moving business.

3) RTD Light rail consists are VERY QUIET compared to the Bay Area Rusty Tracks. I am familiar with both BART and RTD trains. BART had so many computer problems, the trains got special " scrapers " put on the wheels to make contact better.

4 ) In the " outside of Denver " portion of RTD, no level crossings are allowed. That means dipping under or flying over road crossings. The logical extention of the VTA would handle the Caltrain ROW in the same manner, like RTD and BNSF does now. The level crossings that VTAhas should have never happen. The VTA Managers should have been fired long ago.

5) The original plan was TO GET RID OF THE PASSENGER SYSTEM ON SP AND TURN OVER THE ROW TO BART. THAT WAS WHAT WE WERE TOLD BACK IN THE SEVENTIES!
But Menlo Park had a NIMBY attitude and money talked. Much like Golden, CO has been about extending C-470 into its ring road.

VTA should have not been built the way it was.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Menlo Park is in San Mateo County. We are now extending BART through Santa Clara County so we could bring it up to Palo Alto. Then people who commute can get to/from Palo Alto to the rest of the county. We could bring it up so people who work at Stanford Research Park, SU west side of campus, VA hospital (government help with funding?) Apple can get to work without a car.
Eventually San Mateo will extend it down but that is on their nickel.

I vote we bring BART up to Palo Alto vs a bunch of buses. Buses are on the road and compete with cars. BART is not competing with cars or buses for space on the road.


1 person likes this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2015 at 7:23 pm


BART is an Antiquated Indian Broad gauge system plagued by problems that were never solved when Bectel Corp handed over the keys. They use a nonstandard wheel design that even toy trains do not use. The wheel design leads to rail corrugation that causes the loud howling noise that everyone associates with BART, it also leads to increased rail wear, causing to BART to replace rail more than any other rail system in the world.

BART is very costly to build and maintain everything on the entire system is non standard and not practiced on any other railway.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Any late word on when BART plans to open Warm Springs? I presume sometime next year. I guess Irvington was bypassed. Milpitas and Berryessa I wouldn't expect before 2020. As far as I know, Phase 2 to the Santa Clara Caltrain station is still just on paper. Maybe 2030. No bets, I might not be around to collect.


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Posted by Reedman
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2015 at 9:40 am

1. San Mateo County ruined their chance to have rational BART. The insanity of running BART to SFO, the insanity of the San Bruno/Millbrae "Y" connections, and the insanity of the SFO surcharge all killed what would be considered by people with a brain (i.e. people outside of the MTC and BART) to be good transportation planning. Extending the SFO rental car shuttle about half-a-mile to San Bruno would have fixed all the insanity.
2. Because of BART's insanity, High Speed Rail (HSR) is now in charge of the Peninsula. Caltrain, because it controls the right-of-way, is now able to implement the worlds most expensive rail electrification program, knowing that it has all of California HSR held hostage.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Good comment on the history of BART. Bad technology, bad planning, and a political environment that overrides technical common sense.

Fast forward to the HSR people who are using dated technology. I really think the purpose of HSR is to take old family farm property with a low tax assessment by eminent domain. Translate that to electrification of Caltrain - more land taken by eminent domain for what will be an ugly, ugly set-up.
A political set-up overrides technical common sense.

100 years ago I attended some HSR meetings in Santa Clara and all the people wanted to do was go to Europe for "fact-finding" - on your tax payer dollars. Good intentions up front - but after the fact not a peep - mission accomplished - free trips to Europe to ride trains.

We should be using the newer technology suggested by Tesla / E. Musk people and run the whole operation up the 101 right of way. However it has to go to the SF Transportation center which could also be termed as aging technology. Again - politics overrides direction of good planning.

Comments on BART vs Caltrain - ever go up on big game day at AT&T Park?
Caltrain going up and worse coming home is filled with game day enthusiast falling all over their coolers and "stuff".

I don't have a problem with BART - it is a method of transportation which if stuck on 101 in a car is preferable - looking for a parking garage in SF that is not full? Good luck. Having a car in the city is hard work. It is the BART stations which need more work to remove the urine - they need more transportation police in those facilities.

More buses on El Camino are just competing with cars on El Camino - it still is a disaster. We need to be getting both off the street. Buses wait at the signal on Webster and Lytton - now that is a toxic mix of exhaust on a hot day.


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 19, 2015 at 10:56 am

Where does fixing the El Camino/Embarcadero light rank in the city's priorities?

How many people actually use the city's shuttles? I'd like to see real figures on that.

We've already spent $53,000,000 on bike bridges, bike paths/markings and bike lanes. How about making things a bit easier for those of us who have no choice except to drive as we run our daily errands?

I'm not convinced I'll support a sales tax increase for things like a bus lane on El Camino.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2015 at 1:54 pm

I've seen too many posts about how bad BART hardware is (tracks and rolling stock). There are too many engineering and technical problems with it. It would be insanity to perpetuate that technology any further.

I've made this point a thousand times: HSR, if built, should stop at San Jose and go no further. Let the passengers transfer to Caltrain at San Jose rather than face the myriad problems associated with bringing HSR up the peninsula. HSR has no business being on the peninsula. Those HSR trains will be nigh empty anyway.

Bringing BART to Palo Alto may fulfill some people's dream of a Stanford-to-Apple express but it would be bad engineering.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Whether you like BART or you don't the fact is that it is in existence and a huge number of people use it. It provides great benefit.
The fact that some don't like it is not going to change the fact the it is there and the state is going to make sure that it is working and expanding it's reach. There is a huge infrastructure in place today for that system.
So make it work for us - don't thumb your nose at a system that is providing such a huge benefit. You don't see that benefit here but if you ride it up to the city it is packed with people that are glad it is there.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2015 at 6:18 pm

"the state is going to make sure that it is working and expanding it's reach."

BART is operated by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, not by the State of California.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 19, 2015 at 8:05 pm

If you are trying to tell me that the BARTD gets no funding from the state then I am not buying it. It goes out to Pittsburg, it crosses a number of counties. The state has a vested interest in making sure that it keeps moving out to connect the area going eastward. It reduces traffic going to the east bay. It creates great value.


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Posted by Dragonfly
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:59 pm

ODB, even though this is pretty late, I'm well aware that Caltrain predates BART. Who cares though, the San Jose-San Francisco commuter service that existed back then, basically picking up a few people from their farms to go into the city is nothing compared to a subway system around the bay.

I think you might've misunderstood, BART should NOT replace Caltrain. Simply that Caltrain doesn't try and expand where BART should be. BART is an expensive system due to its own failure of not having enough inner-city coverage. For some reason, even though ridership density is near the big cities (San Franciscans and Oaklanders love BART), BARTD is persistent in "suburban expansion", but after San Jose is finished, it appears as though BART is considering a 2nd Transbay Tube/Geary Line. After BARTD revealed the "BART Metro Project", it became clear they realized their own failures. BART is not expensive because of the gauge, not exclusively, it's mainly because their 430,000 weekday ridership should be double, and would be if BART built more lines in Oakland, SF and dense areas rather than trying to serve Millbrae or Dublin/Pleasanton. Caltrain is just too infrequent and idiotically running on the same grade with freight to be of any use for high-speed.

This is why people (idiotically) talk of BART replacing Caltrain and ringing around the Bay, because it works, its fast, and its frequent. Nobody ever suggested "hey, why don't we expand Caltrain through SF into the East Bay". Might as well expand the Cable Car system to Oakland in that case.


4 people like this
Posted by dandelion
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

There is a lot of ignorance on this thread. First, electrified Caltrain will use EMUs, i.e. every car is powered (like BART). It will start and stop just as fast as BART, yet will have a faster top speed than BART (100 mph vs 80 mph). Diesel trains cannot compete because they are much too heavy - laws of physics, you know. Diesels are also filthy and loud.

Having Caltrain start and stop faster will result in more frequent service at more stations. The current plan is for a train every 10 minutes at peak, with more possible. Currently BART from Millbrae leaves every 15 minutes at peak, i.e. it is less frequent than the planned Caltrain service. Also, Caltrain has passing tracks, unlike BART, which allows for skip-stop service, and Caltrain takes a more direct route to downtown SF. Thus Caltrain is faster to SF than BART even now.

It will cost $1.5 billion to electrify Caltrain. It will cost $10+ billion to extend BART all the way down the Peninsula. Electrifying Caltrain gives us the fastest, most frequent service for orders of magnitude less cost. Not a hard call.


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

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