News

Train hits unoccupied car at East Meadow Drive crossing in Palo Alto

No injuries reported; Caltrain service interrupted after car gets wedged under train

A northbound Caltrain train struck an unoccupied vehicle at the East Meadow Drive crossing in Palo Alto on Sunday night, crushing the car's front end, forcing the closure of the northbound track and stranding passengers inside the train for more than an hour. No one was reportedly injured.

According to Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackermann, there were more than 220 passengers onboard Northbound 449 when it collided with the vehicle at about 9:30 p.m.

Heather Kirske, a Redwood City resident who was in the front car of the train, said the impact felt as if "we hit some type of metal barrier, but not a wall." The train, she told the Weekly, did not slow down before the impact. Someone screamed "Hold on!" and passengers were shaken in their seats as the train hit the car and continued to push it along the tracks, making "horrible grinding sounds," Kirske wrote in an email.

She said the impact also caused sparks outside the train, which she saw out of her side window. She could also see the car, which at that point looked like "half car, half smooshed lump of metal." The back end of the car was completely intact, she said, while the front end was under the train. Even so, its front headlights were still visible, she said.

Kirske said she wasn't aware of any injuries on the train and could not imagine anything worse than minor whiplash. But the incident caused a scare.

"It was more of a traumatic event as the sound was incredibly loud and the scraping metal noises were horrifying, making us fear the train was going to de-rail," Kirske wrote.

Thirty minutes after the incident, emergency crews were at the scene determining whether the train could be moved, according to Caltrain. At about 10:20 p.m., Caltrain announced that a relief train was in route to pick up the passengers. The relief train reportedly arrived at about 10:45 p.m. and was scheduled to make all the regular stops, according to Caltrain.

The car was described by the authorities on the scene as "wedged beneath the train," Ackermann told the Weekly. While the northbound track remained closed, the southbound track was cleared for a single-tracking operation to allow other trains to proceed slowly through the incident scene, according to Caltrain.

Passengers boarding Caltrain at the downtown and California Avenue stations were advised to do so near the southbound tracks. The damaged train was removed off the main track and returned to the maintenance facility for repair, the agency announced.

According to Caltrain, the accident happened after the driver made a turn on to the tracks while following a GPS. She was reportedly following instructions to turn but turned onto the tracks instead of at the next street, Ackermann said.

"The vehicle then hi-railed onto the tracks and could not be turned off," Ackermann told the Weekly in an email.

As a result, the car ended up being parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the tracks, at the time it was struck. The driver managed to exit the vehicle before the train struck.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm

With all this new security, how is it a car got onto the tracks? Or is that why the accident wasn't worse (was the train able to slow)?


36 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm

When we were kids, we just put pennies on the tracks.


14 people like this
Posted by Park near Maclane
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2015 at 11:27 pm

From our backyard, we can still see the stopped train -- we felt for the passengers stuck inside for nearly 90 minutes until they could be boarded onto another train.

How frequently do you think such incidents might happen when high speed rail is going over those crossings?


11 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:04 am

I've always wondered how long it's legal to detain the passengers. Fortunately they have a restroom onboard, unlike BART trains. All the new fencing along the Caltrain tracks seems ill-advised regarding emergency access to and from a disabled train.


19 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 5:20 am

If you have the car then you know who the driver is - or who the car belongs to. That person should be identified and license removed.

All over the US you read about big rigs, cars that get stuck on the tracks and hit by trains. How stupid is that?

If that is a problem that occurs then why do people think that the HSR should go down the Caltrain tracks. It needs to be on an elevated track so that it has no interaction with cars at street level.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 7:46 am

The questions that I think need to be answered is whether the driver was an out of towner who was not familiar with the grade crossings and whether the driver was using navigational GPS or similar at the time?

If the driver was local I can't see how this could happen at this time on a Sunday evening.

I am pleased that nobody was hurt or worse.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:02 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"All the new fencing along the Caltrain tracks seems ill-advised regarding emergency access to and from a disabled train."

This is so true!

When the sound walls were built on 101 in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto the MPFPD insisted that there be locked doors every so many feet and each door had to include signage showing the direction and distance to the nearest fire hydrant. This has now become almost standard for new sound walls.

Why was this not done with the train fences?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:43 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:19 am

Thanks, Peter, for putting basic safety concerns into public view. There should be checklist on these major projects to make sure safety has not been overlooked. Our top public safety officials drill regularly and know the unintended consequences when safety is designed out of solutions.


4 people like this
Posted by Heather
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

I was a passenger on the train.

The other passengers and I would also like some more answers, especially regarding why the car was on the tracks. The train did not slow down before impact. Someone yelled out "HOLD ON!" and in the next two seconds we had hit the car. Sparks everywhere on impact and as the train began braking, driving the car beneath the train. I was sitting in the VERY front seats of the train. Through the front window you could see the pinned car. Through my side window, you could see the headlights (still lit!) sticking out from under the train.


1 person likes this
Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

Hi Heather,

Thanks for sharing your observations.

I'd love to hear more about your experience on the train last night. If you're up for sharing more, can you please give me a call at (650) 223-6513 or shoot me an email at gsheyner@paweekly.com?

Many thanks.

Gennady Sheyner


5 people like this
Posted by white male Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:59 am

white male Palo Altan is a registered user.

How can you say the car was near the crossing when it was obviously on the crossing.


6 people like this
Posted by Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:06 am

Heather and her companions are darn lucky that lead train car didn't derail, resulting in the whole train being jacknifed by the heavy trailing locomotive. It is recklessly unstable to have a heavy locomotive pushing lightweight passenger cars.


1 person likes this
Posted by j francisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:10 am

MY SELF i kind of like passing through san carlos any more its so easy to get around .go under the rail road tracks the landscaping is not all that bad. if your at home depow the train noise is not that bad. no horns blowing just motor noise of the engine and the wheel s running on the tracks. last about 2mins. an its gone.when they make it elect. all you will hear are the wheels. go to portland or. they kill people all the time because they cannot hear the elect. street cars an walk out in fronte of them. so put the trains up above much cheeper an thats the way this hole area seems to be run an get it over with. talk talk talk an nothing eve gets done.an probable never will. been here sents85 an nothing ever happens just talk an more talk. an the cost go up up up. jdf


15 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:13 am

"It is recklessly unstable to have a heavy locomotive pushing lightweight passenger cars."

Well its also pretty irresponsible to have one of the most heavily utilized rail corridors in the country not be grade separated, but I suppose aesthetics is more important than safety...


9 people like this
Posted by Jules Robbie
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

I realize it's next to impossible to fix now because of expense and disruption, but ALL train tracks should be elevated or underground. Between the safety issues, traffic snarls and unbelievable noise pollution, it is completely ridiculous to have so many crossings. Also agree that the idea of high speed rail on these tracks is a bad idea if "low-speed" causes all these problems.


13 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:24 am

I am commenting on poster number 1's question.
A few months ago in the evening (shortly after 9pm), I was at the Meadow crossing headed towards Alma / Middlefield from El Camino Way. A car in the lane to my right made a right hand turn onto the train tracks and got stuck. The crossing guard seemed to not notice or want to notice (my opinion). I was the first car at the red light before the tracks. I yelled to the guard that there was a car on the tracks, but he appeared to not hear me screaming. I partially got out of my car and kept yelling to him. He finally got up and headed over to help.
It appeared that the people were not familiar with this area and simply made a wrong turn.
I have lived here almost 60 years and have now seen this happen three times over the past year.

I was also driving down Alma last night, and saw that something had happened again near that crossing, but it was in a different area of track.

When I was growing up here, not too many things happened on the tracks because the trains went much slower. Us kids could easily get out of the way of train because it went so slow between stops, but not anymore.

Next life I am not living in Palo Alto, and not living near train tracks, or a creek.


11 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:41 am

They cannot do anything about the lameness of many drivers around here: I have been at Churchill where not just one but TWO (one in each lane) cars stopped on the track. One car can go between Alma and the track then the next car in line needs to wait behind the track. DUH. I've have been that first car many times, where that second car advances onto the track and then the third car advances to where the second car belongs. The second car is then pinned in. I just kept hoping the train wouldn't come and keeping my eye out for where I could go to get out of the way if the bells did start ringing so these people could somehow get out of the way (oncoming traffic is better than a big train as their option I guess?) Darwin's law says one of these people is going to get hit one of these days. This is not a case where the light suddenly changes. There is only so much government can do to protect people from their own stupidity.


3 people like this
Posted by Heather
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:43 am

I am actually assuming that the "wrong turn" scenario is the correct one. The headlights were on, and we hit the car head-on. It was poised like it was playing chicken with the train.


1 person likes this
Posted by Charli
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm

I want to know how the driver got out of the car. I’ve been stuck on the tracks. You know, just spacing off and realizing I shouldn’t have driven so far forward, because now I’m on the tracks sandwiched between two cars…praying to God a train doesn’t come. I know that if one did I would freeze - deer in headlights. Sport a full on panic attack and die.

Whoever got out of that car before it was hit is like superman or wonder woman. Maybe courageous people pulled him/her out of the car. I want to know the heroic story.


Like this comment
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:12 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mischief
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

[Portion removed.] Opportune photo by Heather, thanks, sorry you were late getting home, but a good story to tell. Before the top of the photo was cropped, there was chain link fence visible that was probably the Barron Creek crossing, 1250 feet north of East Meadow. (There was also a potentially confusing reflection of the Caltrain interior with bicycles.)


1 person likes this
Posted by Pedant
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm

The crossing is at West Meadow, not East Meadow, Alma is the dividing line.

Elevated tracks like I'm San Carlos would be a huge improvement - aesthetically, safety, and traffic flow.


Like this comment
Posted by Odo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Pedant
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:07 pm

@Odo - I'd say about once a week a see someone going the wrong way on one way streets in Palo Alto, mostly Homer, sometimes Channing. Would not surprise me at all if the car accidentally turned into the tracks and panicked or got stuck.


3 people like this
Posted by Mischief
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Wow, what's with the heavy editing? Lots of speculation about the cause on this thread, and there was nothing inappropriate in Roger's, musical's, or my posts.


1 person likes this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:26 pm

All our grade crossing problems can be solved inexpensively by requiring trains to stop at all grade crossings. Think about it.


2 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Roger Overnaut - stop at every crossing? you're kidding right??? Just learn to drive people. There is never a good reason to stop on the track. It is probably the same people who cause gridlock on El Camino at Page Mill/Oregon and Embarcadero. They turn left when there is no room for them to get all the way through the intersection and then they are stuck in the intersection with nowhere to go when their light is red. Just inconsiderate? Never learned to drive?


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"we may edit, remove or lock content you post on PaloAltoOnline.com at our sole discretion for any reason, even if not specifically addressed in this Terms of Use."

And asking why something has been deleted will yield this result:
"Challenging the editing decisions of our moderators and asking for which TOS you have violated is going to accelerate the point at which your comments will be restricted. We provide this forum, and we get to decide who and what we'll allow."


3 people like this
Posted by Scared
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:00 pm

AKA "censorship"...


1 person likes this
Posted by Rose A
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Rose A is a registered user.

I'm glad that no one was killed. I would like to know how the car got on the tracks. Was the driver distracted? Sound insulation on newer cars is quite efficient. Was it deliberately left on the tracks? If so, I hope that the driver gets (and accepts) the help they need. I'm glad that the driver got out of the car.

I'm beginning to agree to the need to elevate the tracks. It seems like the frequency of these incidents (involving cars) are increasing.


2 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm

"Roger Overnaut - stop at every crossing? you're kidding right???"

I am totally serious. Giving trains the absolute right of way is a holdover from when the railroad robber barons owned the state legislatures, trains ran infrequently, and crossing traffic consisted of an occasional slow wagon. Things are much different today, and we have to rethink.

What is the cost of that nineteenth-century mandate? Lives lost, property damaged, andsystem disruptions. What is the benefit? A few minutes off commute times (when the trains haven't hit anything). Seems to me the costs far outweigh the benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm

@Roger Overnaut

You may be serious but that's a terrible idea. I'd bet dollars to donuts that you've never actually commuted on Caltrain.


1 person likes this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

"@Roger Overnaut

You may be serious but that's a terrible idea. I'd bet dollars to donuts that you've never actually commuted on Caltrain."

Progress is not guaranteed to be painless. Caltrain passengers would have to exchange their privileged right of way status for the safety of the groundlings. I just don't think it's morally justified to jeopardize person A's life for person B's convenience.

I have commuted on Caltrain many years, thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Sometimes speculation can interfere with an active legal investigation. Might be reasons to tread carefully before the full story is divulged.

@Pedant, I always thought historically the tracks, not Alma, divided East from West, but after looking at the streetsigns, you may be correct. (Oddly East California Avenue is called North California Avenue.) Regarding wrong-way cars on one-way streets, High Street downtown gets its fair share.


1 person likes this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

One more thing: when the trains stop at all grade crossings, why not install boarding platforms there? That would make commuting by train more convenient and boost ridership. Everybody wins, right?


2 people like this
Posted by Jill Knuth
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:44 pm

It's clear from the article that the driver of the car mis-interpreted GPS directions. It was dark and she may have been unfamilier with the crossing. This has happened before. A quick fix would be to paint a broad red and white stripe (like those on the crossing gates) on either side of the crossing as an additional way to visually alert drievers not to turn there.


Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm

This is another example of why Positive Train Control (PTC) needs to be installed on Caltrain trains as soon as possible. The following is an overview from the FCC--

Web Link

As long as 2010, Caltrain was talking about PTC:
Web Link

To avoid collisions, Caltrain will use an enhanced signal system that includes federally mandated Positive Train Control. The signal system is designed to prevent trains from colliding with each other, with other vehicles or with fixed objects.

But Caltrain seems to have linked PTC to its electrification project. It’s difficult to understand why Caltrain has not been more interested in public safety by not pressing forward with PTC.

Also missing from this article is what consequences there are for drivers who abandon their cars on a Caltrain track that is subsequently struck by a train. Certainly this driver should be responsible for all of the costs associated with such an incident.


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Caltrain had a green light and Meadow had a red light. @Roger, wouldn't your logic extend to all roadway intersections? I agree that doing away with green lights would reduce the severity of collisions, assuming everybody obeys stopsigns.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mischief
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

This article keeps getting updated even though there is no "updated" record at the top. Now there is new information that a "she" driver turned on to the tracks accidentally.

It would be good if the new edits were called out...


3 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Similar to what has been posted above, I too have been a driver approaching the tracks (eastbound either on Meadow or Charleston, I forget which crossing it was), relatively recently, when a driver went ahead too far and was on the tracks.

In the case I observed, an adult professional looking bicyclist went right up to the driver of the car on the tracks -- right away, I was impressed! -- and yelled and banged on the window to get the driver's attention. Then the bicyclist directed the driver to make a right turn on Alma to get out of there. Confused, the driver started slowly backing up at an angle but then managed to do what the cyclist advised, apparently without further interaction. I am grateful a train didn't come by right about then...

There was a train "guard" nearby who did noting to intervene. Since he was right there, perhaps this should be part of his duties in addition to looking out for persons going onto the tracks.

Some of us drivers are extremely familiar with the level crossings and very attentive about our location, but it is clear many are either unfamiliar with such crossings or distracted by GPS use or cellphone use, perhaps...


5 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:28 pm

What a traumatic experience for those on the train until they found out that there was no one in the car.


7 people like this
Posted by Transit Agency Turf Wars don't serve citizens
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:34 pm

As the number of trains and volume of bike, pedestrian, auto, and transit traffic increases, grade separation becomes increasingly important--for both operations and safety.

HSRA needs to listen to our communities and give serious study to the problems that train preemption creates. They have refused to give serious study to these impacts because they don't want to spend the money necessary to really make the trains work in context of the whole transportation network. Remember your commitment to context sensitive solutions, HSRA?

Let's divert the money that VTA proposes pouring into BRT to Caltrain ROW grade separation instead. Together with HSR funds, that would get us closer to a transit solution that actually works for Peninsula communities.

The transit authorities need to break down their silos and work in cooperation to serve Peninsula communities' needs instead of protecting their budgets and bureaucratic turf.


10 people like this
Posted by Belmont resident
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Two words: Grade separation.

Years ago, two bit towns like Belmont, San Carlos, and San Mateo got their collective acts together and built grade separation.

I do not understand why rich go-go cities like Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park apparently cannot and will not build grade separation for tracks in their respective cities.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.


This is what I posted earlier on another thread:

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
"One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

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

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

Do it once and do it right.


1 person likes this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Peter,
Yes, putting the train underground would be ideal, but who would pay the very high price for this? Caltrain certainly doesn't have that kind of money. Elevating the tracks would be almost as good, accomplishing most of the goals for a fraction of the cost, but Palo Alto City Council has ruled that out. I personally think they should have a design contest, like they did for the ped/bike bridge over 101, for an elevated train. There is no reason it needs to be ugly.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" but who would pay the very high price for this? "

The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm

"The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital."

It could... but not in the near term; and given the areas' history of litigation and stalling even the most necessary of projects, I don't think any entity would wanting to put a huge sum of money into that potential can of worms.


4 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 5:14 pm

"Yes, putting the train underground would be ideal, but who would pay the very high price for this? Caltrain certainly doesn't have that kind of money. Elevating the tracks would be almost as good,..."

Both are very expensive outlays for very little gain. Their entire benefit consists of cutting train travel times by a few minutes. That's ten$ to hundred$ of million$ per minute of unquantifiable value.

On the other hand, stopping the trains at each grade crossing, as cars do at intersections, provides the equivalent safety at no monetary outlay, and it could be implemented in a month with a simple JPB directive.

Next build boarding platforms with ticket machines at each of these new stops. The added convenience factor will boost the user base and increase revenue.


2 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2015 at 5:35 pm

A trench? Palo Alto has costed out a trench at over $1B:

Web Link

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

With Caltrain’s tracks running some 77 miles—it would appear that the cost of undergrounding any length of this railway would run into many, many, billions of dollars.

Are those proposing this idea fully appraised of its likely cost?


Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Caltrain has some 40 at-grade crossings along the peninsula. Eliminating all of them is not going to happen any time soon, and even slowing down the train (which at full speed takes about 1/2 mile to stop in an emergency) near crossings would make it impractically slow.

Instead we should focus on the busiest/worst intersections. Some of them are poorly designed and confusing (weird lanes, unclear signs) even to locals. The problem remains getting someone to pay for it.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:43 pm

This Caltrain only took a 1/4 mile to stop.


6 people like this
Posted by Mischief
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 9:57 pm

I often don't agree with Peter Carpenter, but his idea has some merit. With the price of land on the peninsula, under-grounding the train and doing something useful with the surface area above makes sense. I'm sure there would be a way to generate the funding from developers with a contract as to when and what they could build. Hopefully the space could include a pedestrian walking mall and some park space.

We just need someone to champion the idea and lead the effort.


4 people like this
Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Where was the guard?


5 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm

Roger O. What a great plan!! Why stop with railroad crossings? There are far more accidents at intersections, and much worse at lights, than at 4-way stops. So at El Camino and Page Mill, when the light is green, first stop to check, then go through. You can never be sure that someone won't drive in front of you! Think of all the carnage that could be avoided. Heck, just skip the traffic light, lets's go 4-way stop everywhere! Safer !! Every collision would be low speed! Let's start at Bryant/Oregon, OK? I'm sick of waiting for all that Oregon traffic. Stop signs uber alles!


1 person likes this
Posted by Mischief
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:52 pm

@Misha: Great question! I would hope the guards are at least equipped with radios/phones that can directly connect with Caltrain staff when they see a hazard on the tracks. Actually, I bet they are not. That would make way too much sense. I bet we are paying for a mere human presence to make us all feel like that will prevent a tragedy.

City of Palo Alto / Caltrain: Are you providing a means for the track guards to alert approaching trains of an imminent emergency? If not, you are idiots. Are the track guards being trained at all? If not, you are idiots.

@Robert Neff: I don't agree with Roger's suggestion, but there's no need to be obnoxious about it.


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:15 am

The stopping trains at intersections idea is nonsensical and worth no further discussion. This is federal law, and doing so (I can't believe I am even going here) would kill ridership. Not going to happen.

The undergrounding of Caltrain is elitist plack-trap. There isn't enough local or regional money to fund this, and there is nothing about Palo Alto that makes it so special that the state or feds would give it such a huge chunk or transit money for non-transit purposes (we don't WANT an elevated train!!!). Billions are not going to come for that.

Caltrain is willing to work with Palo Alto on a sane grade separation plan, and that involves doing what cities did to the north. Yes, it's tighter here, but it is doable, and can be done with available funding sources. Palo Alto is nice, but it's not special.

These crossings are unsafe, and they must be eliminated. Pie-in-the-sky undergrounding thinking only puts off the inevitable by decades, and more cars will be trapped and sometimes people will die.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Don't let short term thinking stop doing something that will be transformative.

Putting the trains underground and using the vacated surface space for much needed high density housing and pedestrian and bikeways would be expensive but it solves a number of critical problems.

We need a vision and leadership, not short term defeatist thinking


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Posted by Deckard
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:31 am

@ the driver of wrecked car: "Wake Up -Time to Drive!" -Blade Runner


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:49 am

> Putting the trains underground and using the vacated surface space for much
> needed high density housing and pedestrian and bikeways would be expensive
> but it solves a number of critical problems.

If all 77 miles of Caltrain were undergrounded, it's hard to see how the cost would not be somewhere in the $80B range, once all of the stations were rebuilt for access to the underground trench.

The HSR is supposed to cost about $100B--which will service millions over people (over time). Spending billions for 30k-40K people who make up the core user group of this train makes no sense at all--no matter what problems some people think trenching will solve.

Positive Train Control will solve virtually of the train-strikes-car problems at the cost of mere millions, not billions. Cameras, with vision systems monitoring the tracks, will provide early warning for situations when people are on the track.

Grade separations, at/about $75M per instance, would add to public safety without our seeing billions added to the capital expenditures for this low-capacity rail carrier.


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Posted by speed railer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

wayne martin-- yes, millions?? of riders on hsr--are you kidding? how about hundreds, if that. and, all those people wont have an WATER-unless we take that money and put into new water resources infrastructure--who cares if you can take a speed rail to LA or not--if you have no water you have no water-- we ALL NEED WATER TO DRINK. we don't all need to get to LA in 3 hours rather than 5 hours-- for hundreds of billions of dollars, is it that important to save two hours. slow down, enjoy the ride, and be able to drink water--if California has no water there won't be ANY riders on the hsr.


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Posted by Paly Native
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:14 am

The four at-grade railroad crossings could have been grade separated decades ago at a very modest cost. It's so simple, any first-year engineering student could design it. No pie-in-the-sky multi-billion dollar trench, no creeks to cross and no water-table issues requiring 24-hour pumping. It's a trivially simple engineering task. This accident would never have happened and train vs auto accidents would be things of the past.

Palo Alto should have been thinking about a municipal desalination plant when California first started having droughts 40 years ago. Instead, your city leaders are focused on fiber to the home and a new-library boondoggle instead of more meaningful infrastructure issues. Who remembers the long-defunct Cable CoOp?

Clearly, Palo Alto government is rife with ineptitude.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

> millions?? of riders on hsr--are you kidding?

The ridership for the HSR has been whittled down considerably. There are over 30M visitors to CA yearly. Hard to believe that the HSR will not be heavily used by European/Asians used to riding trains in their countries. 100K riders a year comes to a million riders in ten years. It's hard to believe that the HSR will not carry more than 100K riders a year--so a million riders will be served every few years, at least.

That would be a oood thing if the train were self-supporting, but it's clear that it will not be. It's clear that it will be subsidized by the American, and California, taxpayers--not paid for by the riders.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm

SFO's passenger volume is a million a week.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

"That would be a oood thing if the train were self-supporting, but it's clear that it will not be. It's clear that it will be subsidized by the American, and California, taxpayers--not paid for by the riders."

Every form of transportation is subsidized by taxpayers, inducing walking down the sidewalk.

In that vein, we should consider te possibility that Caltrain is a luxury we can't (won't) afford. It occupies valuable land, its toll at grade crossings is unacceptable, and a tax measure to raise or tunnel it will never pass.

So pack the track and start building more software mills.


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Posted by Larry Cohn
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 8:10 pm

No legitimate market research has ever been conducted to arrive at a realistic ridership projection for CA HSR. How many Californians would favor HSR over air and auto travel? This question has never been posed to the traveling public. The ridership projections put forth by CA HSRA were cooked up by a company called Cambridge Systematics and were basically conjured out of thin air. They are mere shots in the dark.

$100 billion in construction costs and ongoing taxpayer subsidies of millions more for decades to come is way too risky a gamble of taxpayer money at a time when the state is almost half a trillion dollars in debt.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

"Every form of transportation is subsidized by taxpayers, inducing walking down the sidewalk."

It was meant to read: Every form of transportation is subsidized by taxpayers, INCLUDING walking down the sidewalk. Apologies.


3 people like this
Posted by Odo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

I suggest a memorial plaque be emblazoned on the crossing track to commemorate Brain Dead Drivers everywhere who got their drivers license at 7-11.


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Posted by Geraldine
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm

I want to know where this woman got her box of Cracker Jacks with the license enclosed...............I thought they quit giving out special prizes years ago~


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2015 at 12:28 am

Statistically I'd think even the best drivers are likely to make a mistake one time in a million trips. That's six nines of infallibility. So given a million drivers on Bay Area roads every day, even at the top of their game somebody's going to mess up.


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

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