News

High-speed rail shifts focus back to the Bay Area

In launching environmental review, officials hope to placate critics on Peninsula, elsewhere

After gaining some momentum in the Central Valley, California's beleaguered high-speed rail project is now hoping for a fresh start – and a smoother journey – on the Peninsula.

The California High Speed Rail Authority, the state agency charged with building the controversial, $68-billion system, is now preparing to launch its environmental reviews for the two northern segments of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line. One stretches between San Francisco and San Jose and the other between San Jose and Merced.

The rail authority plans to complete the environmental analyses for the two segments by late 2017 and begin construction shortly thereafter. If all goes well, the new rail system will be in place by 2029.

To date, all has not gone well for the rail authority on the Peninsula, where the project remains a dicey and deeply polarizing proposition.

The Palo Alto City Council officially took a stance in 2011 opposing high-speed rail, and rail authority hearings have consistently attracted angry crowds of opposition. Atherton and Menlo Park have also been skeptical, with the latter taking part in several lawsuits against the rail authority.

Things have quieted down somewhat since 2010, when the rail authority decided to launch the system in Central Valley. Now, the conversation is starting up again and the rail authority is hoping to strike the right tone this time around.

The re-launch began Tuesday, with a community meeting in San Francisco. Some things have changed since 2009. No one, for example, is talking any more about building a four-track system with Caltrain on the outer tracks and high-speed rail on the inside — the preferred alternative five years ago.

The deeply unpopular plan to elevate the tracks is also off the table. Now, the only alternative being considered is the "blended" approach in which high-speed shares the rail corridor with Caltrain on existing tracks — a design championed by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Assemblyman Rich Gordon and then-state Sen. Joe Simitian. This proposal was also deemed palatable by local communities.

"Part of beginning this outreach is as much to talk about what this isn't as what it is," Ben Tripousis, who as the rail authority's Northern California Regional Director is overseeing the construction of the Peninsula segment, told the Weekly. "There's significant concern about the full build-out and what has gone before and it's not that. It's blended service on existing Caltrain tracks. It's about rail integration at its best."

At the Tuesday event, Tripousis was joined by more than a dozen members of the rail authority's staff and about 50 residents. Thea Selby, vice chair of the rail authority's board of directors, told the audience that the project faces challenges throughout the state, each unique to its region. But she said the authority feels "confident that this is going to happen." Just two years ago, she said, the rail authority had fewer than 20 staff members. Today, it has the authority to hire 219.

"It's a question I get asked the most: 'Is this going to happen? Is this really going to happen?' And the answer is, 'Yes! It's going to happen.' And with your input, it's going to happen the right way," said Selby, who joined the board in March 2014.

Yet the project continues to face a series of formidable challenges, including lawsuits and a budget shortfall in the tens of billions. Though the project's price tag dropped when the rail authority committed to a shared-tracks approach, it is still roughly twice the estimate in Proposition 1A, the successful 2008 measure that provided $9.95 billion for the new rail system and related improvements.

Lisa Marie Alley, the rail authority's deputy director for public affairs, told the Weekly that the goal of the meeting was mostly to remind residents that the project is still here. The rail authority hasn't held any meetings on the Peninsula in a while, she said, and it was time for an update.

While the project has been a tough sell on the Peninsula, rail officials on Tuesday pointed to signs of success elsewhere in the state. San Francisco is well on its way to building the new Transbay Center, which will serve as the northern terminus of the proposed line.

Construction in the Central Valley began last year. And on the Peninsula, Caltrain is now preparing to begin the long-awaited electrification of the rail corridor, a project that will both boost the capacity of the commuter service and set the stage for high-speed rail. The rail authority is providing $705 million for the Caltrain project.

Yet several steep obstacles remain, including funding. While Proposition 1A authorized the expenditure of $9.95 billion for the rail system, and related improvements, that amount falls far short of the project's cost.

James Janz, a former Atherton mayor who is a member of the grassroots group Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, said the uncertainty over the project's cost remains a concern.

"They say it will cost $68 billion," Janz told the Weekly after Tuesday's meeting. "Even if that's right, that's a bit of a shortfall."

Tripousis said the rail authority will address the issue of funding next year, when it releases its updated business plan. In its prior iterations, the funding plan has relied heavily on private investment that has not materialized. Officials indicated Tuesday that this has not changed.

"The funding will come from most likely the private sector and potential state funding," Alley told the Weekly when asked about the funding shortfall. "What the ultimate price tag is – those details will still be worked out."

Another obstacle is political. Though the "blended" system has squelched long-held anxieties about elevated tracks and four-track designs, officials remain concerned about the rail authority's transparency and the project's compatibility with state law.

Councilman Pat Burt told the council on Aug. 31 that he and other members of a policy-working group were surprised to learn earlier in the month that the rail authority had already issued a request for information for an environmental analysis on the Peninsula segment (the board of directors authorized the request at its Aug. 4 meeting). The effort, Burt and other local officials in the group said, went ahead without prior notifications.

"It really doesn't mean the authority has the funding to go ahead, but it will make it an open issue on the Peninsula again," he said.

Burt said virtually all representatives expressed "concern over both the substance and the process by which it had been done."

"They're not being very transparent and that's one of the big pushes we made to the authority: to open up," Burt said.

Tripousis said one of the goals of the new outreach tour is to re-open the conversation and convince the communities throughout the state that the system is worth supporting.

"Our greatest goal in this effort is to ensure the high-speed rail project is actually an asset to each community and not an eyesore," Tripousis said.

Comments

47 people like this
Posted by "speed rails"
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:12 am

we have far more issues of far greater importance than some train that no one wants--instead of spending billions of dollars (a boon doggle at the very least), we should be spending that money on building new dams, desalination, and other methods of providing priceless water to our over-populated (poorly planned development growth) and NO WATER!! really, we need a train-- really??? what we need is more water sources--gov brown -wise-up!!


33 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Let's cut our losses and declare this boondoggle dead.


18 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:21 am

I would be happy with high-speed Caltrain from San Francisco to San Jose, then high-speed rail from San Jose to Los Angeles. Please don't stall Caltrain improvements because you don't like high-speed rail.


25 people like this
Posted by Not one opinion
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:39 am

speed rails - Your comment "no one wants" is unfounded! You don't speak for me! I'd love to see the high speed rail built and integrated into our city. We are sorely lacking in capable transportation options and this, from my perspective, would be a most welcome improvement!


8 people like this
Posted by Older Member
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:45 am

One goal I have had for a long time is to ride the Hi Speed Rail from San Francisco/San Jose to Los Angeles before I die. When I first set this goal it seemed possible, maybe even probable, now it does not look so promising. In 2029, i will be 88 years old! Maybe looking forward to this will help keep me alive.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:46 am

The objections have been noted, but the project is well on its way:

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@ Robert - No worries, just convert the building to low income housing. SF needs that more than commuters from Los Angeles.


14 people like this
Posted by Mary Tracy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm

The only thing you can get our righties enthused about spending money on is for military adventures in the Middle East. For the $3 Trillion we blew off on the Bush/Cheney wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have had HSR all across the United States.


8 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Mary Tracy: Why stop there? Why not build a Subway Across America? Oh right. There is that pesky thing about enormous cost, security and overall logistics.

Didn't The Simpsons make a song about something like this?

Search for Monorail The Simpsons on YouTube. Then, substitute "High Speed Rail" for "Monorail" and "California" for "Springfield."


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I think you'll find that both parties voted for those unfortunate outings...

Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Jason L. Tulock
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Do not trust High Speed Authority. They dance on a two headed pin.

On one hand, they placate the Peninsula with made up so called blended system that does not satisfy state law and they consider interim. On the other hand they say they can justify meeting state law by moving forward with the blended system because eventually they will do a full build out and meet state law. It is the ultimate word parsing hypocrisy. In other words, they are lying. Go to the California High Speed Rail Blog and all the advocates there fully admit that the full build out will be necessary for both capacity and to meet state law. It is not true no one is talking about a four track system on the contrary it is inevitable. They pulled a very successful political maneuver with the so called blended system and you all bought it.

Read this:

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2015 at 1:54 pm

At this point opponents look like children throwing a tantrum. Your property values don't override an already voted upon proposition that has billions of dollars in construction work currently under way.

And a mixed rail concept on the peninsula sounds dangerous and slow. It's risking the safety of others so property owners can feel better about their already awesome investment.


17 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ P.A. Native: The "already voted upon proposition" was for $10 Billion -- most of which has already been spent. It wasn't for the $68-150 Billion that the HSR activists want to build a fast train from just south of Sacramento to north of Los Angeles with a short, slower connected artery in the peninsula.


10 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Nayeli, the "short, slower connected artery in the peninsula" was not proposed or wanted by HSR activists, that was pursued by Peninsula cities and politicians as a result of the "Berlin Walls" nonsense.


16 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:30 pm

PA Native,
"At this point opponents look like children throwing a tantrum. Your property values don't override an already voted upon proposition that has billions of dollars in construction work currently under way."

This "already voted upon proposition" made the following claims: 1) $40B total project cost with no State subsidies, 2) SF-LA trip in 2 hours and 40 minutes, 3) 120K riders per day. The current reality is: 1) project cost > $68B with no funding plan in place, 2) blended track plan makes 2:40 trip time an impossible goal, and 3) CSHRA acknowledgement that original ridership estimates were grossly overstated.

Before you launch into ad hominem attacks on those opposed to the project, please take a look at the facts.


13 people like this
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Oh please. The cost has gone up because the the whole project is mired in lawsuits from people living close to the tracks. The 150+ year old tracks they bought homes on. The blended tracks idea is the result of angry residents shouting down the idea of 4 tracks.

Robert also makes the good point of those who claim raised tracks would create a "Berlin Wall". That comparison at face value by itself is insulting. I see a lot of hyperbole in these stories. Use quotes all you want, but this has already been decided. At this point there are those who are on board and those that are standing in the way.


6 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm

PA Native,
"The cost has gone up because the the whole project is mired in lawsuits from people living close to the tracks."

$28B in lawsuits? As you would say, "Oh, please." How about some facts to back up your claim? I'll happily admit I'm wrong if you bring the proof.


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:56 pm

>The Palo Alto City Council officially took a stance in 2009 opposing high-speed rail,

Oh gimme a break, Gennady. You are an excellent reporter, in general, but you are now carrying water for our city council...which unanimously voted to SUPPORT prop. 1A. It was fully invested in the green scream hysteria about global warming (they still are). At least try to write a balanced article, with some penetration into the underlying premises.


4 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

What about the grade crossings?


8 people like this
Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:10 pm

gsheyner is a registered user.

Thanks, Craig.

The Palo Alto council did indeed vote to support Proposition 1A shortly before the November 2008 election. It began to turn against the project in 2009, when members learned about the proposed four-track alignment and proposed elevated tracks. In 2011, they voted to make opposition to high-speed rail the city's official stance (see link below):

Web Link

So, yes. The council vote to officially call for termination of the project didn't come until 2011. Sorry for the confusion.

-Gennady


19 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Anyone who believes the $68 billion estimate is living in a fool's paradise. $68 billion is the lowball figure fed to the public and doesn't take into account the inevitable "cost overruns" that accompany such a project. Case in point #1: the Bay Bridge. Case in point #2: Boston's Big Dig. Both projects cost roughly triple their lowball estimates.

It is worth noting that not one penny of private capital has gone into this project since prop 1A was passed almost seven years ago.


5 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Gennedy,
Could you post the budget line item that authorized the City to spend money on lawsuite opposing the HSR?
I've looked for it but can't find it.


24 people like this
Posted by Long time local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 5:31 pm

We have become such a hapless country. Even supposedly enlightened Palo Alto residents fight against high speed rail. Go to any other somewhat advanced country, and see transit at work, including high speed rail lines going through well-to-do towns that are doing just fine with this. When you come back to the US, you are ashamed of the state of affairs here. It is a third-world caliber embarrassment.

And puleeze, stop suggesting that people should get off Caltrain and board high speed rail in San Jose. This is such a terrible idea that would kill the line in itself. Look at SFO where you have to take not one, not two, but three trains to make it back to Palo Alto from the airport via transit. It is ludicrous.

We need high speed rail direct from SF to LA, no transfer in SJ. And, gasp, we will do just fine with it (including cost, all methods of transportation are subsidized in the US, not just rail).


12 people like this
Posted by Squash
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Squash high speed rail before it squashes the state budget and continues to enlarge the gargantuan national debt only to be derailed when it starts running in 2025 by terrorists.


13 people like this
Posted by JoeBloe
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

When I need to go between L.A. and S.F. in a hurry, I fly. Mission accomplished without spending tens of billions we don't have.


24 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Last time HSR came to town, they made it clear to all in their path: get the **** out of the way, and no, we could not care less about what ever it is you are concerned with. Rod Diridon demanded the assembled residents at council chambers some years ago to be overly polite to him, while he outlined the many ways HSR was going to negatively impact the Peninsula, and no, he really didn't care what anyone had to say.

So, HSR has a better PR agency these days, but the message has not changed much. The 'blended' Caltrain solution to mitigate HSR is a joke; HSR never signed on to the publicized alleged benefit of that agreement, only two tracks, and in fact kept the 4 track alignment in the 'deal', and basically yielded nothing. The giant HSR $1B bribe to Caltrain to electrify the rail corridor is their in on the Peninsula. Of course, the whole point of electrification is to get more, and faster trains on the tracks. NO part of that plan addresses increased gate down time and the resulting cross track congestion it will create as train traffic increases. HSR in fact made it clear that they see those problems something for local communities to deal with, it's NOT their problem.

It was a fraud, and still is a fraud. Beleaguered is being polite. Jerry will be out of office in 3 years, no Federal funding is on the horizon, no private pennies, let alone dollars, are falling from heaven. It's long past time to kill this project before it wastes more money in the next 3 years. A fraction of the HSR budget would go a very long way improving the existing, and remarkably well used, Amtrack service in the Central Valley, as a rail alternative. Try connecting Amtrack to LA and SF first, then see what ridership numbers have to say before building Jerry's fabled train to nowhere.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of College Terrace

on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


6 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 7:38 pm

@JoeBloe

"Mission accomplished without spending tens of billions we don't have."

Maybe you should, I don't know, think these things through before posting? But hey, if we don't have the money, it won't be built, problem solved.

See:

Web Link
Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by huh 2
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 8:13 pm

really-- maybe because so many people DONT want this stupid train to nowhere--it is time to give it up and spend the money on far more important issues. it has nothing to do with property values--it has to do with WASTING Billions of dollars!!!


4 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

If adding HSR to the existing rail corridor is a problem why not run it up the center of 101 or 280?


8 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 9, 2015 at 8:36 pm

>So, HSR has a better PR agency these days, but the message has not changed much.

Excellent post, Ben.


14 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Long time local - But why do we need HSR between LA and SF? Where is the need? Why is it worth 100 billion? It won't have enough capacity to make any difference to traffic in LA, on 5, on 101, or anywhere it matters. Spend 100 billion improving local transportation, and then there might be some value seen on the money spent.


9 people like this
Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Assuming the cost remains at 68 billion for 400 miles of track that works out to 170 million per mile!! By comparison the TGV in France cost an average of 24 million per mile even though the terain was more congested on the whole and not as flat. The conclusion of corruption is inescapable.


8 people like this
Posted by Long time local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:31 pm

@ Slow down

Why did other countries have some of the most successful HSR lines on this kind of route and distance? Because they did not listen to the nay-sayers and went ahead with it. If our population keeps growing as it has, the need will be even greater. A large chunk of airplane traffic at SFO is with SoCal.HSR will relieve congestion on the roads and in the air as people will switch to it once they understand how nice it is.

HSR per passenger will pollute much less than air or car traffic too. And lessen the noise burden on all of us.

Even Texas is going ahead with HSR, if I am not mistaken. Texas being intelligent than California...
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Long time local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:34 pm

@ A

As we know, the airline industry is white as snow. Why again did the United Airlines CEO resign just yesterday?


15 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Well also keep in mind that without any alternative an increase in air traffic is a given, an odd thing to advocate for considering the complaints about aircraft noise...


20 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Slow Down is right. There is no demonstrated need for HSR. There is no market data showing that California travelers would favor HSR over air or auto travel. The ridership projections were cooked up by a consultancy without doing actual market research and those numbers have been called into question.

The state of California is in debt to the tune of almost 1/2 trillion dollars, with the second-lowest credit rating of the 50 states -- not a good financial backdrop against which to build a high-speed train.

Here come the HSR shills.


9 people like this
Posted by Long time local
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Yep, the way things are going there will not be any more HSR in this area than there is BART here. In the 70s, peninsula towns did not want BART and manage to scuttle its coming here. Now they do not want HSR in the area. History is repeating itself.


Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Thanks Craig, much appreciated.


10 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Long time local: "Even Texas is going ahead with HSR, if I am not mistaken. Texas being intelligent than California..."

You're right Texas is smarter than California, because Texas HSR is PRIVATELY FUNDED.

Now that rail will likely require TSA-style security in the wake of what just happened in Europe, the time savings touted by HSR advocates goes away (just like every other claim they've made)


15 people like this
Posted by speed railer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm

WE ALL NEED WATER!!! spend the money where the need is. NO ONE NEEDS THE HSR!! Can it. where are the decision makers? oh that is right--reaching for their fat wallets to make them fatter. plain and simple--that is what the HSR is about.


11 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Long time local - I'd like to see a more substantive case than we should do it because France or Spain did it. 100 billion to reduce airplane noise is not smart when the FAA could simply redirect the planes a few miles and few thousand feet instead. 100 billion to reduce congestion on 5 doesn't sound very compelling either. Yes, HSR is "nice" but not worth the cost, or even a 10th the cost.


8 people like this
Posted by For What
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 9, 2015 at 11:39 pm

Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by OnTrack
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:08 am

I live not far from the train track. I still fully support high speed train project. If residents of 50 years ago had the foresight to invest in all sort of trains and public transportation systems, we would not be sitting in the traffic jams of 101, 280 and 880. A delay today will cost us double tomorrow. As a model, the inter-connected train network in most European and Asian countries have become indispensable part of the commuters in these countries. These system work! Period!


11 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:30 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@OnTrack - How do you think a handful of trains a day from Los Angeles will reduce traffic on 101/280/880? HSR will have zero impact on local traffic, it isn't commuter rail. If anything it will make things worse by blocking local streets more often. Worse, this boondoggle comes at the cost of less money for real local improvements to rail/roads/buses.


8 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 5:36 am

The Stanford Daily article linked to by "For What" is worthwhile reading and gives us an idea why private capital has not gone near HSR in the seven years since prop 1A was passed. Note that in the article, written in 2010, the estimated cost was $43 billion. In the five years since, it has doubled and now stands at $86 billion. Double or triple that figure to account for the inevitable cost overruns and we're looking at $172 to $258 billion, or a quarter-trillion dollars. Merely keeping up with Europe and Japan does not justify that kind of fiscal recklessness.

"Enthoven dismisses the California High Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA) proposed ridership figure of 39 million by 2030 as 'pure fantasy'. For comparison, he points to the Northeast Corridor’s Acela train, which runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. and served only 3 million passengers in 2009."

Web Link

Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

I would take HSR over a plane in a heartbeat to SoCal. If you experienced the convenience of an HSR system (that was able to go at high speed *cough cough*), then you would support this project.

Yes, it is expensive, but so was the Interstate Highway system. Can you imagine this country without Interstate Highway system? How are we to have a future if we don't invest in it?


12 people like this
Posted by Mathew
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 10, 2015 at 9:26 am

Build it.

California depends on infrastructure.


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Patrick: "f you experienced the convenience of an HSR system (that was able to go at high speed *cough cough*), then you would support this project."

Not so convenient after that ISIS crazy on the Thayls train in Europe. Bet on TSA-style security on HSR rail everywhere soon.


6 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Patrick - "If you experienced the convenience of an HSR system [..] then you would support this project."

Uhm, no? We enjoyed the HSR trip from Madrid to Sevilla earlier this summer, and it means nothing to whether HSR rail is appropriate between LA and SF.

The debate isn't whether it is nice, it is whether it is worth 100 billion for a marginal improvement over existing options that does nothing to address our real issues, which local congestion and commuting.


11 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

HSR is too expensive. It will never come close to breaking even. It will always have to be subsidized by the taxpayers. And, as pointed out above, the heavy reliance on private investment (which has not appeared) proves that HSR is a gigantic financial sink hole with no way out.


7 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm

>the heavy reliance on private investment (which has not appeared) proves that HSR is a gigantic financial sink hole with no way out.

Thanks, CPD, for that succinct truth. This turkey doesn't pencil on many levels, but the bait and switch about financing is near the top of the list.


5 people like this
Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Crescent Park Dad and others: It's really worth reading the full document. The executive summary is but a few pages and details the deception and shenanigans behind HSR. Little has changed in the five years since it was written except for the "blended approach" and doubling of the projected cost from $43 to $86 billion.

No prudent financial manager would go near CA HSR after reading it, which explains the lack of hoped-for private capital seven years after prop 1A was passed. Wall Street chewed up and spit out CA HSR years ago.

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Sep 10, 2015 at 12:38 pm

HSR is simply a way to funnel taxpayer money to politically connected constituencies such as labor unions, consultants, and developers. How fast or how many trains run really doesn't matter, as long as the taxpayer money keeps flowing.

Whether or not the project is a good value for the average Californian is about the last thing anyone involved cares about.


5 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

The HSR is 20th Century; we are in the 21st Century, and should be thinking about using technology to improve transportation for EVERY Californian, not just a few who want to get from LA to Sacramento or SF. 100 Billion of Californians' money spent for a few lucky riders is ridiculous.
A much better plan would be to use the money in conjunctions with Google, Stanford, Toyota, Tesla, UC, and some other high tech companies to create the infrastructure for millions of non-polluting autonomous vehicles and smart roads. These vehicles, in multiple configurations, would transport people from POINT TO POINT, not station to station. They would be non-polluting (even less than the HSR if done right with solar power recharging). They would use the highway system ALREADY IN PLACE, with some upgrading to become "smart". Instead of drivers, trucks and buses would be computer controlled (no more big rigs cutting off vehicles on I-5) from pick-up to off-load. Unions probably hate this idea, but for the rest of us, it would mean hands off transportation - no stress or road rage, and free to talk, read, phone, browse, text, shave, apply makeup, etc.
I don't need an expensive system that I might use once or twice a decade; I need a system to take me to and from local destinations, especially when I can no longer drive safely. I would expect the auto industry to embrace the autonomous vehicle market as soon as the laws are changed to remove their liability. The insurance industry will be horrified that premiums might become no-fault and very low due to the safety of a system done correctly and continually improved. Computers are much easier to teach than people!
We have the technology, what we need is to think to the future, not the past. Scrap the HSR and develop an autonomous vehicle system to truly improve transportation for EVERYONE in the coming decades!


2 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 10, 2015 at 2:44 pm

>We have the technology, what we need is to think to the future, not the past. Scrap the HSR and develop an autonomous vehicle system to truly improve transportation for EVERYONE in the coming decades!

@stanhutchings: Sounds like a decent idea to me, at least as a first look.


8 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 10, 2015 at 5:53 pm

This futuristic techno-utopia is all well and fine and should be developed entirely by the private sector. NOT ONE PENNY of taxpayer money should go into it, other than the construction of public roads which accomodate the technology. With the state almost half a trillion in debt, we don't have $100 billion to spend on a train that serves a small fraction of the population.

The state and the city of Palo Alto should be thinking about desalination plants. This won't be California's last drought, I guarantee it.


3 people like this
Posted by OnTrack
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2015 at 10:00 pm

@Slow Down: Clearly a single (high speed) train track will not solve all the traffic problems in our highways. But the key is to start designing and building many forms of interconnected rail and public transportation grid. The plan must be supported from all directions as the high speed train is part of this larger solution. One immediate impact of a high speed train on local traffic would be to enable people to live in lower density and cheaper cities far from Bay Area and use high speed train to commute to Bay Area. I have heard that this is exactly one usage model of high speed trains in Europe and Japan.


4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 10, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@OnTrack - Los Angeles isn't a cheap suburb of San Francisco, so if you want commuter rail, then advocate commuter rail, not a $100 billion dollar vanity project. It not only doesn't achieve what you want, it prevents it by sucking up all the available funds. A typical 2 hour Tokyo commute might put you in a city like Numazu, which is about as far away from Tokyo as Gilroy is from San Francisco.


2 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2015 at 10:39 am

Gennedy,
Are you going to answer my post?


4 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 11, 2015 at 11:24 am

senor blogger,
My suggestion: if you want someone who doesn't know you to do research for you, you should probably use the word "please" and also spell their name correctly.


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Posted by Mr Doakes
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

senor blogger:

Gennady is a reporter, not a personal research service, and may be too busy covering stories to go line by line through the Palo Alto city budget to find the information you asked for. If you just have to know, have you considered doing the research yourself?


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2015 at 2:19 pm

I thought Menlo Park paid for that lawsuit many years ago. Are we starting a new lawsuit? In any case, our City Attorney's Office is a line item in the budget, for 12 full-time-equivalent salaries. If a consultant is hired, it always seems to be somewhere in the City Council consent calendar.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Atherton has sued/will be suing over Caltrain electrification. Menlo Park has dropped a contemplated lawsuit.

Web Link


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2015 at 11:09 pm

The remaining three Community Open House Meetings are in San Jose (Sep15), Morgan Hill (Sep23), and Burlingame (Oct7). None on the mid-peninsula.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 12, 2015 at 11:15 pm

From where I am sitting the purpose of HSR is to take valuable farm property by eminent domain that has been in the ownership of families for a long time - therefore low tax assessed value - force them out - and then lease the land for big bucks to companies that will be on the side of the tracks.
Before you dig up the peninsula let the HSR get built and working in the valley and at least prove that the "people in charge" have a clue as to how to make this work.


1 person likes this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2015 at 10:39 am

Did any body ever stop to think what HSR is really about?

Selling cheap land to build homes in the valley for the displaced working class of the Bay Area quickly comes to mind. Feinstein, Boxer, and Costa have already cut the water possibly in an attempt to bankrupt the farmers into selling their land, some have owned for generations.
Once HSR and is built droves will board the train in the early hours of the morning in far off places like Fresno and Bakersfield to get to work in the Bay Area. And no need to worry about getting water to all those people, Jerry will build the Delta tunnels to bring water to the masses.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Everyone talks about HSR like it is going to stop and pick everyone up wherever they are. It has a defined purpose to get from point A to point B
in a specific period of time. In order to do that then it is not going to stop. It is suppose to go to the San Francisco Transit Center in a defined period of time.

Remember that this is being built by the state and the state is dictating where it will go and where it will stop. The state is not thinking about every city that thinks the train should stop at their place. Gov Brown has to meet some type of goal and the goal will drive this operation - not everyone who wants it to stop.


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Posted by late to the game
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Is the HSR supposed to stop in Palo Alto? San Jose?


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2015 at 9:56 pm

San Jose, yes. Palo Alto, no. There may be another station on the peninsula; I'm not sure where.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2015 at 10:01 pm

4 bedroom/2 bath houses in central Fresno are going for under $100K.

If the commute to San Jose drops to 1 hour, or downtown S.F. in 1.5 hours,
imagine the consequences. Of course won't happen for 12 years minimum.

Here's a straw-man HSR schedule I just made up.
Add a couple minutes to each segment to be more realistic.

Fresno -- depart 7:00 a.m.
.. 113 miles at 200 mph, 34 minutes
Gilroy -- arrive 7:34, depart 7:35
... 30 miles at 200 mph, 9 minutes
San Jose - arrive 7:44, depart 7:46
... 33 miles at 110 mph, 18 minutes
Millbrae - arrive 8:04, depart 8:06
... 15 miles at 110 mph, 8 minutes
San Francisco - arrive 8:14 a.m.

Oh, the one-way fare is estimated to be $75 (current dollars).
That's $3000 per month for daily commuting, unless there's some discount.


2 people like this
Posted by speed railer
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2015 at 9:08 am

infrastructure we are all for. yes, very important. but really, what California needs is many more water sources--like new dams and reservoirs and desalination plants. we don't need a speed rail to LA or anywhere else. a total waste of time, money, and resources. our money and decision makers need to start making wise decisions about the future of California. we don't need novelty makers and thrill seekers-- we need WATER!! more and more building without any thought of where our future water need is coming from. WE NEED WATER!!! California is DRY--it is going to get much worse if we don't come to some real solutions about a real problem. speed rail is NOT on the list of importance or need. WE NEED WATER!!!


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:21 am

"Oh, the one-way fare is estimated to be $75 (current dollars).
That's $3000 per month for daily commuting, unless there's some discount."

What is the source of your estimated $75 one-way fare? You're making an awfully big assumption to think the fare won't be higher when the system is finally built.

Caltrain is $13.25 one way between Gilroy and S.F. $26.50 x 22 work days per month = $583 vs your hypothetical $3,300 at 22 work days per month. Your esitmated HSR cost is more than five times that of Caltrain.

You're also assuming the departure and arrival times will be conducive to this hypothetical Fresno-S.F. communte. HSR is not being designed as and is not intended to be a commuter rail service.

Given the recent heat wave, you'd have a hard time convincing me to live in Fresno if I worked in S.F.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:06 pm

@Larry, Wikipedia Calif HSR article says S.F.-San Jose $22, San Jose-Merced $54 (2013 dollars) and gave some reference to an official HSR business plan. I did not investigate further. Whatever the amount, it would discourage such commutes. Regarding the timetable, if HSR runs even as infrequently as once an hour, there will always be a suitable train to work into a commuter's schedule. My exercise was thinking about early investment in Fresno real estate, prompted by some of the posts above. I'll pass.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 9:53 pm

We have a separate thread on this system about a train hitting a car on the tracks at East Meadow. That is not a unique situation - there are reports across the nation about big rigs that sit on the tracks and get hit by trains. And local / state reports about trains that hit cars on the tracks.

Why any one thinks that the HSR should run on the same tracks as the Caltrain are crazy. If HSR is on the peninsula than it needs to be on a raised track that is above the automobile roadway.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:30 pm

... or sunk below the roadways, or in a bored tunnel, or the current grade crossing roadways need to be sunk, or raised, or closed, or ...


4 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 15, 2015 at 8:25 am

The gullibility of people who support this is frightening! It's not only going to cost a 100 Billion to build this boondoggle, it's going to cost 20 billion a year to run it (service the tracks and trains, salaried positions, benefits, etc.). And where is this magical money going to come from? We have no water, our schools are some of the worst in the country, and companies are moving out of CA. Wrong project at the wrong time.
BTW--has anyone done the calculation of how much water it will take to construct this monstrosity (you need water for concrete folks)?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:17 am

Given the number of problems that the State of California is now experiencing the funds required for HSR should be directed to the horrendous problems of fire and water shortage. And by water shortage I do not mean twin tunnels to shove water to Southern California. Note that SOCAL is getting more rain than Northern California at this time. Maybe they should shove the water north to us.

Now the Governor of California is telling the world that we will have more people arriving from Central America because of climate change. Maybe they should stop cutting down the trees in South and Central America - trees draw rain.

Maybe we should be using the HSR funds to stabilize the California fire damaged areas that will suffer more when El Nino comes - no trees or vegetation to hold the water in place. When the rains come then you will see this whole place turn into a mud bath.

HSR is irrelevant and the technology is old - it is being surpassed by better technology. Why does California keep making bad decisions on how to run the state. We keep voting for people who have pet projects sunk in old technology, or a Lt. Gov who is in rapture of the pot industry - another bad decision as to how we manage what is grown in our state - drugs or food.
If all of the people from Central America are coming then we need food - not drugs.


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Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 16, 2015 at 2:45 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 16, 2015 at 9:55 pm

The title of this article may be misleading. Drumming up business? If the HSR needs to start in Central Valley then they are going to be in a world of hurt when El Nino comes. They have fewer crops now so less to hold the water. We need to hold off on great HSR schemes until the central valley portion proves itself and it actually works. By the time they spend money for the train cars and engines they are not going to have any money left for the projects that we want on the peninsula.

Everyone needs to get real here and look at the finances of this whole effort. It is a pyramid scheme and money laundering scheme.


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

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