News

Palo Alto blasts high-speed rail project for moving too fast

City Council urges more collaborative process for Peninsula segment of controversial rail line

With plans for California's high-speed rail system accelerating on the Peninsula, Palo Alto officials on Tuesday ramped up their opposition to a process that they argue is moving too fast and in the wrong direction.

In a special meeting devoted exclusively to transportation, the City Council criticized the California High Speed Rail Authority's recent decision to launch an environmental analysis for the Peninsula segment of the proposed rail line — a review that the state agency expects to conclude in 2017.

This schedule, the council argued, would unnecessarily expedite the planning process for the hugely controversial line, precluding any real collaboration between the state agency and the communities on the northern portion of the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line.

For the council, the discussion was the first full hearing on a project that galvanized a torrent of opposition in 2009, and that culminated in the council adopting a position of "no confidence" in the project and calling for its termination in 2011.

Back then, the proposed design for the rail system featured four tracks, with Caltrain on the two outside tracks and high-speed rail on the inside, running along a set of elevated tracks. Today, the design is a "blended" approach in which high-speed rail and Caltrain would share the same set of tracks.

Tuesday's conversation indicated that Palo Alto's apprehensions about the $68-billion rail project remain entrenched. To address these concerns, the council voted 7-0, with Councilwoman Liz Kniss absent and Councilman Eric Filseth recusing himself, to reconstitute its defunct Rail Committee and to lobby the rail authority to commit to "context sensitive solutions" (CSS), a process that involves extensive collaboration with community leaders and other stakeholders.

The council also agreed to pursue the same process in its own plans for the future of the Caltrain corridor.

Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the local watchdog group Californians Advocating for Responsible Rail Design, urged the council in her public comments to pursue the CSS process, which is commonly used in highway construction and which emphasizes continuing communication between stakeholders and a "shared vision."

"There's always time to do CSS if you want your project to get to the finish line especially when you deal with a situation like we have here, where there's a lot of complexity and where in order to make all the pieces fit together you may have to change the process," Alexis said.

The proposals to pursue CSS and to recreate the Rail Committee were made by Councilman Pat Burt, a former committee member and one of the founding members of the now-defunct Peninsula Cities Consortium, a coalition of elected officials from various Peninsula cities.

Both groups were dissolved two years ago as the rail authority shifted its plans from the Peninsula to the Central Valley. Now, Burt said, is the time to reconstitute the council's committee and to re-engage other cities.

"I think what they are planning to do is a prescription for failure," Burt said of the rail authority. "It is the sort of process that resulted in the horrendous backlash on the Peninsula previously.

"We need to recognize this is not a four-track system, it's a hybrid 'blended' system, so eventually the impacts aren't so great, but they are making the same process errors. An 18-month cycle time for this complex of an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) is not realistic."

His colleagues agreed and said they were surprised by the shift in the rail authority's plans. City Manager James Keene said he and city staff were shocked to see the rail project "back on the scene" on the Peninsula while the Central Valley segment remains far from completion.

Councilman Marc Berman agreed, saying, "It's baffling. It really does lead to a lot of distrust from our end, which was something that I thought they were trying to remedy after what happened previously."

The rail authority, which is charged with building the rail line, kicked off the environmental-analysis process last month with a series of community meetings throughout the region (though none in the Midpeninsula area).

At a meeting in San Francisco last month, the rail authority's Northern California Regional Director Ben Tripousis called the series of meetings the "beginning of the conversation" with the Peninsula communities and stressed that the goal is to make high-speed rail an asset, "not an eyesore," for the cities along the proposed line.

He also told the audience that as a safety measure the rail authority plans to install quad gates at each grade crossing to limit auto access. Eventually, Tripousis said, the agency plans to consider grade separation (an under- or overpass) for the rail line and to work with each community individually to discuss this long-term change.

In Palo Alto, however, grade separation remains a critical priority, whether or not the rail line actually gets built. With Caltrain now embarking on the long-awaited electrification of the rail corridor, a project that will increase the number trains, council members are advocating for a Caltrain trench and scouring for funding to make the project possible.

On Tuesday night, they discussed several sources of funding, including the transportation-sales tax that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority plans to put on the November 2016 ballot and various state grant programs that could partially fund the project.

Councilman Tom DuBois recommended talking to other cities, including Redwood City and Mountain View, about forming a joint effort to create a trench along the Caltrain corridor. He pointed to other examples in the state and across the country, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada, where tunnels and trenches were successfully built.

"I'd really like us to learn from examples of how other cities and areas pulled this thing off," DuBois said. "I think we really need to think big and consider all sources of funding (and) cobble everything together. Should we go for minor changes on Churchill? Sure. But I'd like to see us think big and really think about a Midpeninsula trench that could really impact a lot of people.

"It should be supported by our businesses, by Stanford," DuBois added. "It would really contribute to the vitality of Silicon Valley, which is a big part of the GDP (gross domestic product) of California, which is a big part of the GDP of the country."

According to the city's preliminary estimates, a trench for Caltrain would cost between $500 million and $1 billion in the southern half of the city alone. But given the rising demand for Caltrain and future rail improvements, the council agreed that grade separation should be pursued regardless of high-speed rail.

"The challenges remain whether they're coming or not," Burt said, referring to high-speed rail. "It really behooves us to re-engage on this and to begin trying to take the bull by the horns ourselves so that we really are moving as much as possible away from a reactive mode."

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:45 am

If they are going to build a trench Caltrain and CHSRA should set a condition that it needs to have 4 tracks. To go through the epic expense of building a trench or tunnel and not be able to accommodate a future expansion to 4 tracks would be seriously shortsighted.


92 people like this
Posted by midtownie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 2:07 am

Only in Palo Alto could a decades-long project be declared to be moving "too fast". I really wish the city council would wake up to the fact that many decades of poor transportation planning have created the current traffic headaches and actually make a plan that acknowledges future transportation needs.

This future includes high speed rail and that high speed rail will go through Palo Alto. Deal with this reality now and figure out how to make it work for us. It's poor planning like this that caused BART to not circle the bay when first built. Can you imagine how much money and commuter time would've been saved if we had BART around the bay from the get go?


25 people like this
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:33 am

Neil Shea is a registered user.

Caltrain Grade Separations and the County's likely 2016 sales tax were 2 of the 3 topics at the meeting, but Gennady's article and some of the Council's discussion focused on 'HSR is moving too fast'.

Another question is why is Palo Alto moving so slowly on Grade Sep plans, given our safety issues, our traffic and problems getting across town, and the steady increase in use of Caltrain, especially with its electrification well underway.

It was similarly disappointing the detached-from-reality mismatch in the costs of alternatives versus funding options discussed. A 1/2 cent PA Sales Tax would raise $179m and that is not being pursued and we're out of time for 2016. Other programs can contribute $15m per crossing. The SC County tax may allocate $1B to Caltrain overall, and assuming the North County gets a big share, still its hard to imagine PA getting more than $400m of that.

Meanwhile just to separate Charleston & Meadow in the south part of town is $500m - $1B since we're only studying an expensive trench so far. Dubois pushes the idea of a trench from RWC to Mtn View, but it's gotta cost another couple $Billion to completely reconstruct the University, Embarcadero and Page Mill undercrossings.

So overall it's silly season, and it seems our leaders are wasting their breath complaining about HSR rather than engaging with the County on this tax and getting grade seps built in the city.


8 people like this
Posted by Lee
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 4:19 am

Yup...half trench and four tracks would be best. Then y'all could cover it when more funds were available, put Alma on top of it...free up real estate along the tracks for hundreds of desperately needed downtown parking spaces and low cost housing at the stretch near page mill by taking existing Alma down to two lanes. And the line ofvsites would not change. Now you have six lanes of traffic, no elevated tracks and a quiet train / rail muffled by the half tranch. Solves all your problems and the real estate of the NIMBYS goes up. Some nice landscaping from the architectural board and proper planning to pursue the is needed at P.A. City Hall to coordinate the effort. With a strip of hugely valuable real estate opening up by eliminating two lanes you could create safe grade crossings all along the way and plant some redwood, safe bike and pedestrian paths and some small Mom and Pops retails. Seems like griping only gets people all fired up. I say...fire em and get someone who will create a real solution this High Speed Rail offers before it is cemented into a so called blended solution. Midtownie is right. Had you not fought BART many years ago we would not be getting into this discussion. It is time to realize for a green city to put the green lines in. You NIMBYS bought near the tracks and will rail at suing the Authority on the EIR. They own the right of way and with all that monies ? Y'all are out spent and out lawyered...sort of speak. Personally, I can't wait to see it go in. With a half trillion in wins...we never lose. Gates, Trump, Zuck...etc. don't even compare to my privately held dot com. Railroader wins again ! It is time to link Silicon Valley with Hollywood and make California a contender in GDP again. We thank our Governors Brown and Schwarzenegger, the Latino community and the voters of California for all the rock solid support. City Hall "You have no authority...none" ☆K Entertainment Web Link


77 people like this
Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 6:37 am

Brian Guth-Pasta is a registered user.

This project is NOT moving along too fast. Palo Alto needs to realize this.
Trench the project and have four tracks.


61 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 14, 2015 at 8:44 am

Expediting a process is good. People are suffering now! ...and this schedule hardly seems fast. Maybe this forces Palo Alto to actually do something at more than glacial speed. Trench the tracks, and get it done now!


7 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 14, 2015 at 8:54 am

Will someone please walk us through the logistics of trenching or other grade separation process while still maintaining an operating railroad service? Any construction project like this will mean years of disruption.


2 people like this
Posted by T. R. Hickey
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:24 am

For WilliamR, the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in Washington DC is currently a good example of how add grade separated tracks to an operating railroad in a dense urban community, albeit this case involving adding tracks to an existing single-track tunnel (see Web Link)


27 people like this
Posted by get it done
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:44 am

People complain that this project is taking forever and cost is increasing. Now they try to speed it up and save taxpayer money, then people complain again. Is say, just get it done already.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2015 at 9:59 am

In case anyone missed it, there were four separate rail incidents yesterday within a few hours of each other to four different Bay Area transportation authorities.

We desperately need to move towards a safer and more practical method of public transportation. One authority overseeing all would be a good start. Getting elevated or tunneled tracks that can't be trespassed as well as getting rid of grade crossings is another. It seems passengers don't know that they should not be standing too close to approaching trains, particularly those that are not going to stop, at stations.

However, Palo Alto is not an island in this and should not be discussing this as if we are. This is a regional problem, not a Palo Alto problem. Nothing should be done without considerations of what is going on in Mountain View, Menlo Park and basically all along the Peninsula. A piecemeal approach is not going to work.

We can't have a roller coaster rail project, in all definitions of the word.


10 people like this
Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:24 am

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

@Neil Shea: It was similarly disappointing the detached-from-reality mismatch in
the costs of alternatives versus funding options discussed. A 1/2 cent PA Sales
Tax would raise $179m and that is not being pursued and we're out of time for
2016. Other programs can contribute $15m per crossing. The SC County tax may
allocate $1B to Caltrain overall, and assuming the North County gets a big share,
still its hard to imagine PA getting more than $400m of that.
So overall it's silly season, and it seems our leaders are wasting their breath
complaining about HSR rather than engaging with the County on this tax and
getting grade seps built in the city.

A sales tax would raise $360M - $420M, not $179M – that was an error corrected during the meeting last night. This is a complex, large project not easily reduced to an online posting. As I stated last night this is a long term investment that needs to valued over 50 – 100 years and measured by the impact it will have on the quality of life to all those that live and work in the mid-peninsula region.

For those interested in the details, the meeting will be posted here soon
Web Link

While I respect Mr Shea’s calls for frugality, it is easy to take pot shots at any large public works project. It’s much harder to get it done, but large projects do happen and we need to work to make this happen. I believe it is critical infrastructure for the long term and I am willing to personally dedicate a lot of my time to this issue, including reaching out to elected officials in the other cities to build a coalition. We have an incredibly knowledgeable and talented community and I’m interested in hearing from anyone with ideas or willingness to contribute their efforts to accomplish a mid-peninsula trench. Please contact me at tomforcouncil AT gmail.com


14 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:25 am

Good morning! I was the first public speaker last night, and in 2009 started the "blended" conversation (9/12/09, Cubberley Center HSR workshop), which has now been incorporated into the Caltrain and CHSR plans. I still believe the blended approach is the right approach, and believe that the combination of PTC (positive train control) and quad-gates will reduce traffic congestion and train-to-auto collisions.

With that said, "if and when": a) HSR ever comes to the peninsula, b) it reaches the proposed 20 (HSR + Caltrain) trains per hour, and c) Palo Alto pursues an "underground" approach, then I propose that: 1) Palo joins with Menlo Park and Atherton, to underground the train as one project. (Council members added Redwood City and Mountain View to the list), and 2) that the underground project be cost out as a 2-track system, and then offer HSR a 4-track option, if they agree to split the costs of the underground project.

Both of these are "economy of scale" measures, and provide leverage in negotiation with CHSR.

In addition, I am not a fan of "trenching", and would propose tunneling instead. This is a 20-year plan, that if HSR overwhelms the peninsula, the financial/political machine is already in place, to "tunnel underneath" the existing tracks, and do a switchover when complete. As mentioned, this is a multi-city regional project, not a single city endeavor.

Martin


4 people like this
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:57 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Thanks Tom for weighing in.

I agree these issues are complicated and do not have any advice re last night except that I hope the city pursues the CalTrain expansion with vigor and follows last night's discussion with a real plan to cost share for grade separation including consideration of a value capture approach as well as a local tax.

But I mainly posted to say thanks for engaging and clarifying issue.


23 people like this
Posted by 10 years is not fast
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:57 am

Get on board or get left behind. This needs to happen ASAP and this action makes it clear it will move forward regardless of any obstruction from PA's NIMBY's. Let's cooperate and find a solution now!


7 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:10 am

Let's get going on four tracks NOW!


2 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:20 am

Caltrain currently has 3-4 tracks for passing in certain areas.

A blended system can start running without 4 tracks along the whole line. There are many areas, including South Palo Alto, that will be easier to expand to 4 tracks than in North Palo Alto.

Running the equivalent of baby bullet trains in non-rush hours will not require much expansion. The challenge will be to run more baby bullets during rush hours and allowing for trains that make fewer stops between SJ and SF than the current 5-7.


26 people like this
Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:21 am

To midtownie, "Bart around the Bay" is quite different from HSR-- please don't confuse the two. HSR is the biggest boondoggle in California's history, serving only to provide massive salaries to those involved in perpetuating this horror on the State. It's poorly conceived, has major issues for both planning and construction, and will destroy Palo Alto property values cutting through the heart of the city. Guarantee a decade of construction noise, dust, and disruption to commute corridors. I wish Calif. legislators would wake up and call a halt to this monstrosity before it goes any further, but I suppose too many people are now making money off of it, including politicians.

Indeed, let's spend the same amount of money in putting BART around the Bay, and expanding/improving CalTrain services. Money much better spent, without the boondoggle factor...


10 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

It seems Palo Alto councilmembers and the NIMBYs they speak for are still in the "slow it down so we have more time and opportunities to kill it" mode.

Trenching/tunneling is the most unrealistic and unaffordable while making for the biggest most godawful construction and operational mess possible.

The blended approach really just boils down to running more trains (albeit much quieter state-of-the-art electric ones) on the same tracks with soon-to-be electrified Caltrain -- which will also be running quieter state-of-the-art EMUs.

Palo Alto needs give up on this temper-tantrum tempest-in-a-teapot obstructionism and get going on sensible split-level (tracks go up a bit, roads dip down a bit) grade separations ASAP. They'll work beautifully and will eliminate horn-blowing and accidental grade-crossing deaths.

Unfortunately, as many recent BART and Caltrain suicides show, as long as there are open station platforms, you cannot eliminate intentional deaths.


4 people like this
Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

fast track it ;-)


15 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

@Lee "Had you not fought BART many years ago"

Are you sure Palo Alto fought Bart? It was San Mateo County that voted to block Bart coming down the peninsula, not Santa Clara. Do you have the Santa Clara break-down of vote count by city to show how Palo Alto voted?

I would be most interested to see those numbers since when transportation is being discussed on this forum there are repeated comments about "NIMBY" Palo Alto voting to blocking Bart.


8 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Why the system will not work without grade separation. What happens when you run a train at 69 mph through a crowd of 50,000 commuters? Check out results from yesterday!


9 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Also, does anyone know why Eric Filseth excused himself? What conflict of interest does Eric Filseth have with HSR? Or because he lives sufficiently close to the train tracks to be adversely affected?


49 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

California's HSR is...

...unneeded.
...unnecessary.
...unsafe (well, less safe).
...unsustainable (fiscally speaking).


5 people like this
Posted by One Rule: Train Wins
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Amazing..........What part doesn't seem to make sense to everyone?
- They compromised and are focusing on using the existing tracks.
- CalTrain is electrifying it's trains.

Thus, for those "Angry residents" whose properties back up to the current train tracks:

- The Trains ALREADY RUN BY JUST PAST YOUR CURRENT FENCE, HAVE FOR SOME TIME NOW did it cross your minds to ask what that sound was once an hour or more when you were touring the house with the real estate agent? Btw, don't buy a house under the landing flight path for SJC, that one will really throw you! Especially when you complain to the City Council that those darn planes make too much noise.

- Electric Trains are actually, wait for it, wait for it...SIGNIFICANTLY QUIETER AND GENERATE MUCH LESS POLUTION AS THEY DRIVE BY YOUR BACKYARD.

Okay, so the issue must be the current smashup derby that folks are playing at railroad crossings. Those darn things need to be grade seperated or else more people will continue to have this collision problem. HUH? Throughout the rest of this country and other far flung lands, most people understand one simple rule, TRAIN WINS! Thus, YOU NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER TRY TO PROCEED ACROSS ANY RAILROAD TRACK UNLESS YOU CLEARLY SEE THERE IS ROOM FOR YOUR CAR ON THE OTHER SIDE! IF NOT, I HATE TO STATE THE OBVIOUS, DARWINISM IN PRACTICE?

I am compassionate about the affects of these collisions on peoples lives via injury and delays to transit. Grade separation can eliminate them, yes, but so can just using common sense. TRAIN WINS! In the mid west, many crossings don't even need gates, the little blinky lights work well enough for people to decide to not cross because a train is on it's way with just the blink of a few lights. Why can't we get that here? TRAIN WINS! NEVER CROSS A SET OF TRACKS UNLESS YOUR CAR CLEARLY FITS ON THE OTHER SIDE! DOESN'T MATTER IF A FIRETRUCK STOPPED TRAFFIC ON THE OTHER SIDE, THERE WAS A FENDER BENDER, THE LIGHTS CHANGED TOO EARLY, DON'T CROSS UNTIL THERE IS ROOM ON THE OTHER SIDE? Duh.

- Have you ever heard the peninsula City Councils state the good things about an alternative mode of transportation between SoCal and NorCal being established? It is forcing CalTrain to electrify, all good things, ever hear those?

I'm done, I just don't get the fuss, tunnel it cool, raise it, cool, get the current drivers to never ever park on the tracks. They all work.


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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.


37 people like this
Posted by There, there
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2015 at 2:23 pm

I can't wait for electrified trains. The pollution from Alma and the diesel train have made me quite ill.

We are nearly two blocks from the tracks, and yet the current trains' noise and pollution are significant.

When we moved here in the mid-90s the train didn't run every hour--or even every two hours. Ridership was low; the train ran once or twice on the weekends between SJ and SF.

I'd love to move; but losing 30% of the profit to state and federal taxes makes it impossible to buy down a new mortgage enough.

So, we are stuck here waiting for newer, cleaner, quieter trains!


4 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Excited to see this moving forward—"too fast!"—"too slow!" These are symptoms of desperately needed progress—replacing dangerous, noisy 19th century road level tracks with a safe, fast 21st century trench.

Tom DuBois and Stephen Levy seem to be on top of key aspects.

If Palo Alto cannot get adequate help ($$$$) to finance a "perfect" 4-track (or whatever) trench, then go with whatever quick and dirty trench PA can afford and let the HSRA et al. finance future improvements.


12 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:41 pm

While suicides on the tracks are obviously tragic, and grade separations won't provide a completely effective solution to preventing them (I don't think anyone has argued that they will), we should not forget that the combination of suicidal people and grade crossings in the area present a very real danger to Caltrain passengers:

Web Link

Its sheer luck that we haven't had an incident like this in the area, and I hope it doesn't take one before we get serious about protecting both passengers as well as pedestrians and drivers. If it does, those people who have and continue to try and hold up the process will have blood on their hands.


6 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Our current system is 19th century, we need to bring it into the 20th at least. Grade separations should have been in place at least 50 years ago. Let's get on with it now, no more talking, just do it.
High speed rail is great. I have ridden it in Europe and can not understand why our rail system is so antiquated. It is no noisier than what we have now and smells much better.
Since too many people keep thinking that the train will stop for them because they are so important and entitled, we must separate grade crossings--now.
Forget about a tunnel up the Bay. The train can be put at a slightly higher level and cars go beneath it as has been done further north on the Penninaula.
Just do it. No more talking it to death.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2015 at 5:04 pm

A twin 50-ft bore tunnel at least 100 ft below the surface would accommodate all our N-S transit and utility needs very nicely. With luck, HSR will have acquired a ROW south of SJ by the time it is ready.


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2015 at 5:17 pm

"If it does, those people who have and continue to try and hold up the process will have blood on their hands."

The blood will be on the hands of the Caltrain officials who run the trains with a lightweight passenger car in front and the heavy locomotive pushing at the rear. It is a classically unstable configuration. Add resistance at the front and everything in between jackknifes. The LA tragedy occurred in exactly this manner, and it was only by pure incredible luck that our recent identical Meadow collision didn't turn out similarly.

If Caltrain ever gets serious about safety, it will uncouple the locomotive that brought each train to the end of the line and couple a locomotive to the opposite end for the return trip. Until then, take the bus when going north.


17 people like this
Posted by Jim Fehrle
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm

BART history from Wikipedia: "In addition to San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Marin County were initially intended to be part of the system. Santa Clara County Supervisors opted out in 1957, preferring instead to build expressways, and in 1961 San Mateo County supervisors voted to leave BART, saying their voters would be paying taxes to carry mainly Santa Clara County residents.[19]"


38 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 15, 2015 at 2:10 am

No high speed rail. Period.

It will destroy our beloved communities.

Respectfully


6 people like this
Posted by Keith Powley
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:05 am

If the City of Palo Alto and their city council are prepared to add $500M - $1 Billion dollars in local funding to pay for this this "important" upgrade, then I say go right ahead. If the city council are not willing to pay for their trench then they should pipe down and support the congestion relief that this project will bring to the peninsula.


30 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 9:30 am

Check out the SJM 10/15/15 - "Race for the Hyperloop". It is all coming together in LA for this high technology effort that is ready to be tested.
We keep trudging along with older technology when better technology is coming along to replace it.

Given the time line for the HSR to prove it works in the valley you could shoot that directly up to Sacramento to the state capital. But Mr. Brown will not be around by the time that happens.

If the hyperloop works then it would operate on an elevated track. Like Disneyland which has the elevated cards that circle the facility.

There are better answers out there.


6 people like this
Posted by Greg M. Bell
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2015 at 9:36 am

In 2008 Proposition 1A (or the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act) was voted into law. Seven years later, it's hard to believe in 2015 we are moving too slowly. Minimal construction has begun in the central valley on this 20+ year project. How can we build it faster?

Greg M. Bell
30kdesign.com


22 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

@ GM Bell: Is that a serious question?

Let's start with the actual costs exceeding the allowed budget by almost double. Then let's discuss how the CHSRA pulled a bait and switch on the route it planned to use entering the SF Bay Area and now going through the SF Peninsula. Then the authority has to trim back its plans to terminate at Disneyland, er... I mean Anaheim. Then there's the issue of CalTrain sneaking in and trying to use state funds to electrify their line. And it goes on and on from there.


25 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

Oh let's not forget that CHSRA's budget depends heavily upon private investors. Of which there are none. Which, at a minimum, is very telling.


3 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm

resident 1,

If the Hyperloop is seriously "all coming together" does that mean you are looking forward to something running through your backyard that looks like the Alaska pipeline on steroids? Likely 4 times as large as that.

How will the Hyperloop speed up one's typical 15 to 30 mile commute up and down the peninsula?

Caltrain can load and unload 300+ people in a matter of minutes. The Hyperloop could theoretically load and unload about 30 people every 30 seconds provided there are massive stations and staging facilities to make that precise orchestration work.

How much of an advancement is the Hyperloop if it takes you as long or longer to go from point A to B as conventional transit due to it's inherent low capacity design?

Also, don't believe everything you read in the SJ Mercury News and don't take corporate press releases as gospel either. There is no lack of puff pieces about the Hyperloop and Dirk Ahlborn is not too shy to admit he will say or do whatever it takes to attract even more VC funding.

There was actually a recent piece on Marketplace suggesting the Hyperloop may be a sign of a bubble.


2 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

How can you claim the CHSRA pulled a bait and switch when the SF to San Jose routing down the peninsula was defined in the wording of Proposition 1A?

When the CHSRA made the announcement confirming the Pacheco Pass routing they actually meant what they said. It's not like they just accidentally said 'Pacheco' instead of 'Altamont'. Look back at the voter guides for Proposition 1A and you will see that distinction was well understood.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Because what they said in public statements is that their preference was for the Altamont route. This all changed when Quinton Kopp and his Caltrain cronies inserted themselves with their plan to take state money and use it for Caltrain electrification.


1 person likes this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm

The idea that Palo Alto in isolation can even have such a discussion seems strange. It's decades past due for a regional transit district, taxing jurisdiction, and voting district. Or possibly doing it on a county basis.

One reason for these problems is the US practice of subsidizing cars and suburbanization. A fairly high regional motor fuel tax to support this kind of project would be appropriate. Technology is close to being available that would instead permit actual mileage taxing including time of day. There is a danger in Palo Alto, etc, that transit use be associated with Trickle Down Poverty policies and heavy residential segregation by income.

The increase in project costs from making it a 20-25 year project through the Palo Alto Process, as Palo Alto proposes, would possibly eliminate it which may be the idea. But before that could happen PA would likely lose the ability to have much effect. In proposing to kill the project, PA is trying to punch above its weight.

This subject has been discussed for years now. So why does it start at the beginning every time? Well, because it's intended to smother the project not develop it.

ps - I'm not a fan of the HSR project, actually. If SF and LA were 200 miles apart it would be fine even if the original proposed electric HS technology is obsolescent. But instead they are 400 miles apart and need faster technology. It's too bad the Hyperloop idea is unlikely to be developed and used/proven on a smaller system in time for this project.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

I can't confirm whether or not your claim about Quentin Kopp is true or just another one of the many conspiracy theories concerning HSR but the fact of the matter is that Pacheco Pass was officially confirmed by the CHSRA in December, 2007. The voting for Proposition 1A was about a year later in November, 2008. That's not exactly a "bait and switch".


4 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

" Have you ever heard the peninsula City Councils state the good things about an alternative mode of transportation"

Compared to what? We have hourly flights from SFO/OAK/SJC to LAX/ONT/BUR/SNA (not to mention Surf Air). The fact that these plans are small narrow bodies and regional jets shows that we are meeting demand with air right now. If there are more people that want to go between Northern and Southern California, then they can up gauge the plane. It's not as if they're flying 747s between SFO and LAX on a regular basis right now.

Why should the State of California pony up $80B+ for something that doesn't meet market demand? Oh right, because it's government, which acts like a drunken monopolist with cash to burn. This is a boondoggle for firms, companies and unions used to spending your hard earned tax dollars to build something with the quality of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

maguro_01,

Sounds like you have a perfect understanding of the City of Palo Alto's motivations.

The great irony is how much the City of Palo likes to claim it's support for Caltrain when in reality the improvements Caltrain needs are basically the same as needed for HSR.

What Palo Alto really means to say is they support Caltrain 'as-is' (slow belching diesels and all). They don't support what it needs to be in order to become a more effective part of the peninsula's transportation infrastructure.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 4:07 pm

PAmoderate,

Aircraft size has nothing to do with the issue you are talking about. The reason 737's are used instead of 747's on short trips is that the time it takes to load and unload a 747 (or A380) on short trips like that would be longer than the flight itself and not provide the same convenience in terms of frequency of service. If the service is not frequent people won't use it and likewise that makes it uneconomical for such a large plane. Yes, I know I am at risk of sounding like Captain Obvious here.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm

I can tell that SBR has a vested interest in the HSR. From where I am sitting that system has been subjected to more press manipulation than anything out there except the twin tunnels - another Brown boondoggle.

As to the hyperloop if it works it can go on elevated track next to 101.
You all will note that the BART is on an elevated track to go to the Oakland Airport so elevated tracks are done all of the time. And the best thing about elevated tracks is that they ride over the traffic and do not interfere with the street traffic. An alternative would be next to 280.

As to the esthetics - by the time "they" get through with the Caltrain right of way with it's electric high wires it will be so ugly. Look at downtown SF and the overhead wires - unbelievably ugly. In this stage of technological development why are we subjected to this.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Here's the sensible deal. Close the Churchill grade crossing; it's redundant with the Embarcadero gradesep. Likewise Charleston which redundants San Antonio.

Then lift the tracks and lower the road at Meadow, widen the Embarcadero Xing, and we're done at a capcost we're probably willing to pay.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 15, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Alternative: Instead of gradeseparating Meadow, establish a station there at which all trains stop, which would also promote rail transit in South PA.


3 people like this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 5:12 pm

@ Curmudgeon--

Would you be willing to amend your plan to include bike/pedestrian tunnels at Charleston and Churchill, to handle the school traffic, even if you cut off vehicle access?


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Posted by Resident (extreme power gaiden edition)
a resident of Woodside
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 7:16 pm

I love it when people in Woodside provide direction to people who live on the valley floor. You live in a bubble. People on the valley floor will deal with the results of the upgrades - not the people in Woodside. We have to cross the heavy burdened streets - not you. Sorry - the people on the valley floor are here to stay and we will provide opinions on the strange assumptions of people who do not have to live with the results.

How about Woodside - do you need some low cost housing for the homeless? Do you need some low cost housing for the techies? Do you need more airplanes coming in over your head at a low altitude? Are there wires crossing the streets of Woodside? Do you have buses and electrical trains riding through town? I don't think so. If you do not have the problem then don't try and bully the people who do own the problem.


21 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2015 at 8:21 pm

CA HSR is a fraud, period. Jerry set it up during his first term as governor. In the decades since the HSR Authority was formed it has cost tax payers probably 10's of millions of dollars for a pencil pushing nothing to show for it bureaucracy. They still have attracted $0 in the private financing they assured voters would be amount to 10's of billions of dollars, $0. Once Jerry mandates that 'investors' will be guaranteed a return on investment, again at tax payers expense, the 'investors' will come in droves, who wouldn't jump at the opportunity for a guaranteed lucrative return on an investment.

The CA HSR is a scheme by which $100 billion tax dollars are fed to CA's big labor unions over several decades. In return, the unions keep democrats campaign coffers full, and of course, the tax payer gets the bill. Note that getting people from A to B is not, never was, never will be the reason for HSR to exist. The absurd made up ridership 'estimates' from the HSR folks is some testament to that inconvenient truth about this project.

Those who post here believing that HSR will somehow alleviate SF Bay area traffic are deluding themselves. A heads up.. this is not a local mass transit solution. Caltrain is, Muni is, VTA tries to be, etc. CA HSR is not a solution to Bay area congestion.


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Posted by midtownie
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Referring to my earlier posting:
The reason I bring up BART is that it's clear now that it would be fantastic to have a "BART around the Bay" system in place now, and that it would have cost much less to build when BART was originally built. However, dues to bad planning and lack of foresight, Palo Alto (and the rest of the peninsula) only has Caltrain as regional rail.

I'm suggesting that we learn from the mid-century mistakes and build HSR quickly and in the right way.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 8:55 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:09 pm

CA HSR is a fraud, period.

Has anybody really stopped and wondered why CA HSR is so slow? The Chinese and Japanese are already running passenger rail at 2-3x the speed of CA HSR.

The reason CA HSR is so slow, is because the whole CA HSR infrastructure is designed for freight trains. The CA HSR is just a big taxpayer funded gift to Buffet and Gates who own west coast freight haulers Burlington Northern (BNSF) and Canadian National Railroad (CN).

By the time this boondoggle is finished, we will all be riding self-driving cars between SF and LA in half the door-to-door time, and for half the cost of a CA HSR ticket.

If CA HSR is ever finished, it will probably never carry a single paying passenger, and the center of Palo Alto will become an area blighted by non-stop freight trains, thundering through Palo Alto on taxpayer funded grade separations.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Ahem,

That's a ridiculous claim, period.

And for what reason would you expect to see more freight trains barreling through Palo Alto other than the trickle we have today?

You must be assuming San Francisco is planning to build a new intermodal shipping facility to compete with the Port of Oakland. I find that extremely unlikely.

And for the record California HSR will not be slow for conventional steel rail systems. It will actually be among the fastest in the world for such systems. It won't be as fast as maglev but factors other than maximum speed are important to a systems design as well.

Connectivity and adaptability to existing infrastructure are also important and that's something conventional rail can offer that maglev can't.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Yeah - maglev on a raised platform that will not interact with street traffic. We can go for that.

One of the biggest drawbacks of HSR is that it will be competing with Caltrain for time on the tracks which will bring traffic to a standstill. It is already at a standstill on the main thoroughfares crossing the city.

As to HSR being the fastest in the world that is total hyperbole. Is there a logical, engineering reason why that would be so?

And why do we need connectivity and adaptability? If the train is stopping to pick everyone up then the purpose of the train to go between LA and SF will not be met - the promised time period. And what is it adapting to? Once it is in it will own the platform it is on and have no need to be adaptable. Everything else will have to adapt to it.


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Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Southbayresident,

"Connectivity" and "adaptability" are code words for freight. Connectivity to what? Adaptability to what? Connectivity and adaptability to freight cars and diesel locomotives.

Why "conventional steel rails"? Why don't the Chinese and Japanese use "conventional steel rails" for their HSR? Could it be that they actually designed their HSR for high speed passenger service, and not freight?

CA HSR is a freight system masquerading as a high speed passenger system to trick the passenger-rail buffs into funding this multi-billion dollar gift to the freight haulers.

And yes, the City of San Francisco would love to get a piece of Oakland's port action, and if it means running diesel freight trains through Palo Alto all night long... too bad.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2015 at 12:44 am

resident 1,

It's fantastic to hear you are 100% onboard for large overhead aerials for 300 mph maglevs passing through town. Can you guarantee you won't try to halt the maglev project based on fears of electromagnetic radiation?

If you don't understand the connectivity argument and how parallel express and local services can be optimally integrated to work in unison I don't have time to explain the logic to you.

For a simple example look at the operating patterns of New York City's 4-track subway lines. Notice the efficiency and flexibility provided by the integrated express and local service. Locating that express line somewhere that cannot possibly share a station or platform with a local line is useless.

In case you didn't get the idea the point is to optimize the utilization of infrastructure, not create unnecessary redundancy. Caltrain needs 4 tracks anyways. There is no reason HSR cannot share it's express tracks.

You claim I must have a vested interest in HSR. Well of course I do - I use Caltrain on a daily basis. I know what patterns work and don't and how the HSR investment will improve my everyday commute.

I could propose narrowing the 101 to half it's width with half the lanes and dismiss any objection you may have as simply being due to you being a "Car Loyalist" with a vested interest in Tesla or General Motors. Based on your type of argument I wouldn't have to give any consideration as to how such a change would impact your daily life. I could simply dismiss all your arguments as suspect and "evidence of bias".


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2015 at 1:26 am

Ahem,

Do you actually have any familiarity with Japanese or Chinese HSR? If you did it would be obvious to you that the vast majority of both those systems use conventional steel wheel on rail systems.

China's sole high speed maglev line is basically a short demonstration project that took advantage of funding from the German government eager to find an export market for their technology. All subsequent expansions of the network have been conventional steel wheel on rail. Their reasons included the significantly lower cost of conventional rail allowing the network to expand quicker and further. Also for certain city pairs / distances maglev does not provide a significant time saving advantage.

Japan is developing it's own maglev (still just a short test line) because the roughly parallel Shinkansen HSR is already maxed out in capacity and cannot handle future projected traffic demands. Japan will not be universally replacing it's steel wheel / rail HSR systems with maglev. The existing steel wheeled Shinkansen service is likely to remain even as the maglev (called the "Linear") is put into service many years from now.

Just as with China in Japan new steel wheeled HSR systems may even be built after their maglev is put into service. They are 2 different technologies with their own advantages / disadvantages and it's foolish to claim they always have to be staged in opposition to each other.


13 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2015 at 8:08 am

The next big debates now and coming up are the coal trains that will end up in the Oakland port thanks to Gov Brown's business partner and the oil trains that will come down through Alviso, next to Levi Stadium, through San Jose and travel down through to Central California. This is the type of oil that is highly inflammable. That train is going through the same transfer areas as proposed for HSR.

Where is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group on this issue. It is in their face. HSR will be using some of the same infrastructure as the competing rail interests.

Coal manifests itself in so many ways - they were trying to train that through Idaho and float it down the Columbia River on barges to port out of the Portland, Oregon area. The Chinese owned the company that would mine the coal and an Australian company would own the barges going down the Columbia River. The US and local companies would derive little benefit from that whole operation, and end up in catastrophes on the river that would interfere with the fisheries. Lots of law suits on that issue. You can check that one out on Google.

So we are looking at the same type problem here. If Oakland starts to focus on coal that is shipped to China then it is conceivable that SF would also want to have some portion of the shipping action - in this case the cruise lines for now in the gentrified area and freight in the lower basin. Redwood City has dredged their port and have the company that breaks down metal (autos) and ships to China. That is where there are fires on a regular basis. The impact on the bay due to coal and oil could be very big.

The whole impetus now is to increase the amount of goods transferred by rail instead of trucks. The goal is to reduce the amount of trucking since it eats up the roadways and uses a lot of gasoline. It makes sense that the peninsula tracks would be used to increase transfer of goods by train vs trucks - that is where the planning is going.

So you have HSR, Caltrain, and fright all competing for time and space on those rails. And I don't think you can trench it since some of the fright is volatile.

And HSR going to LA cannot travel on the same lines as freight since those are trains with over 100 cars crossing the grape vine. They will have to tunnel through the mountains to create a different path to LA. That requires a huge amount of money.

So where is the money coming from? They are taking farm land held in families for a long time that has a low tax assessment by eminent domain. Low payout to farm family - lease back land at high rate. One of the main stops was in central valley is a city that was on the ballot for an Indian casino. Some machinations concerning transfer of land for this purpose. Do you suppose that this is part of the private funding? The measure did not pass.

I am a fourth generation Californian and have background on state development on water, oil and rail. I was on the HSR beginning meetings 100 years ago. That is when the higher ups went to Europe and Japan on tax payer money to check out what was going on in the rest of the world. Then everything came to a dead halt.

If this had proceeded at that time there was the available property to allocate to the project in a reasonable fashion. But now there is a lot of other competition for the roads and rails. All of the available property has been built on.

Yes - maglev is the latest technology and if push comes to shove it could operate on an elevated track above the existing tracks. AMTRACK has the latest in engines which are energy and fuel efficient and would be the best alternative to electrification. Electricity is generated by petroleum driven turbines so electricity comes with a price. You can forget water driver turbines for now.

It is a total grid problem as to how you move people and goods. You cannot isolate HSR and its issues without addressing the total grid - it is already on the table.


17 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:18 am

For business planning purposes you have Windows of Opportunity; and Overcome by Events - OBE.

In the case of HSR you have missed your Window of Opportunity (high enthusiasm, less population, less growth in commercial and residential building) you are now OBE - Overcome by Events - increase in population(density) and growth in commercial and residential growth.

The intent is to go horizontal but reality says you have to go vertical.


5 people like this
Posted by a question
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 16, 2015 at 9:53 am

Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:21 am
"To midtownie, "Bart around the Bay" is quite different from HSR-- please don't confuse the two. HSR is the biggest boondoggle in California's history, serving only to provide massive salaries to those involved in perpetuating this horror on the State. It's poorly conceived, has major issues ..."

Just a question: how many of you voted for Governor Brown and Pres. Obama, both of whom are major proponents of HSR, and do you ever notice how even now newspapers do not criticize either of these career politicians despite the massive debts they are leaving us along with questionable projects like HSR......?


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2015 at 10:50 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

southbayresident sex "Aircraft size has nothing to do with the issue you are talking about. The reason 737's are used instead of 747's on short trips is that the time it takes to load and unload a 747 (or A380) on short trips like that would be longer than the flight itself and not provide the same convenience in terms of frequency of service. "

Utter nonsense. If there's demand, they'll up gauge the plane. Just look at the 747-400Ds that seat over 500 passengers(!) doing short hops in Japan (United's 747-400s seat only 374 passengers).

Yes, even Japan, the land of HSR, uses big, high-capacity planes on short hops. Imagine that.

There's a lot of capacity headroom in the sky already. HSR is a waste of money and resources.


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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2015 at 10:50 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

*sez :-)


15 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 16, 2015 at 11:21 am

The San Francisco Chronicle is now digging in on Gov. Brown. They did a write-up on the Port Of Oakland and the coal debacle. Gov. Brown is a business partner of the individual who stated no coal in the port - and now they are involved in a law suit concerning coal in the port.

The SFC is also digging in now because he did not sign some important bills to create some homeless housing in San Francisco. The SFC is digging into all sorts of improprieties. HSR is ranking up there in slight of hand efforts.

When all is said and done HSR is about a state wide system that is got it's terminus in San Francisco. Do not think we are driving this train.

The removal of Redevelopment State Funds affects everyone who is trying to upgrade sections of their cities. That had an adverse effect on the city of Oakland and other cites which needed some help.

Sorry - not a fan. And the Vice Governor is pushing for the pot industry. Just what we need right now with no water and our Central Valley farmers in trouble.

Comment on Woodside - many small communities along the 280 corridor do not want BART, or any other major transportation effort. They prefer to keep it all on the 101 side of the peninsula.


12 people like this
Posted by Deutscherin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2015 at 12:04 pm

When I lived in Germany in the early to mid-nineties, all the talk in Munich was about the coming mag-lev.

But it never happened.

Now I read about China having it-- what in the world happened?


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm

"@ Curmudgeon--Would you be willing to amend your plan to include bike/pedestrian tunnels at Charleston and Churchill, to handle the school traffic, even if you cut off vehicle access?"

Super idea!


"When I lived in Germany in the early to mid-nineties, all the talk in Munich was about the coming mag-lev. But it never happened. Now I read about China having it-- what in the world happened?"

Talk is easy. Engineering prototype maglevs have been demonstrated since the seventies. They have big cost, practicality, and safety issues. Like, what happens if the power supply fails or a superconducting electromagnet quenches, and the train suddenly delevitates at hundreds of MPH? Still unsolved to contemporary safety standards.

China took a great leap forward in its recent infrastructure exhuberance. The world watches.


4 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

What happened with maglev is that it falls into the "gee whiz it works" type of solution in search of a problem.

Without going into detail, maglev's disadvantages (high cost, poor flexibility/adaptability) outweigh its advantages (acceleration, top speed, steeper grade capability).

Conventional HSR continues to be refined and much better hits the "sweet spot" in terms of value (speed and flexibility for cost) over maglev.


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2015 at 9:04 am

The SJM has excellent articles 10/17/15 concerning HSR - "Vague answers roll at High-Speed hearing"; and "Private firms question high-speed funding". Both are in the Local Section. These are important articles discussing the twists and turns here.

I do not understand the people who are talking to a 4-rail plan. Go up to Redwood City to the Sequoia Station. Directly on one side of the rails is the shopping center which includes a huge, state of the art Safeway, CVS, other shops. Directly on the other side of the tracks is a beautiful new office building under construction directly next to the tracks. Go across the street and you have new apartments in construction directly next to the tracks. These buildings are in excess of 4 stories. If Redwood City is in construction mode for new buildings directly next to the tracks then you all better figure out that you do not have the space for four tracks. I am sure that the buildings in process are in support of the requirements to build for the number of jobs. They have a goal mandated by the state and are making their goal.

Then you can go down to Mountain View. As part of the transit station they have the lite-rail system - a different set of tracks. I am sure that MV is in construction mode to meet state requirements to add transportation and housing to meet state goals.

I am glad that Mr. Stephen Levy has posted on this thread as he is the person that has been beating everybody up to meet state goals for adding housing on transit routes. Okay - so that is what come cities are doing and now HSR suggests that a 4 track system is desirable. No - Mr. Levy did not come up with the 4 track system - but he part of the confusion factor as to how the state meets it goals. The counties and cities approved the new buildings so who is talking to who?

The State of California just can't get it together - a bunch of organizations all involved in the transportation business with conflicting goals.

Some people above are talking only to the space available in Palo Alto but the system is a multi-county system from Gilroy / Santa Clara; through San Mateo; through San Francisco County. You have to address the whole system in total. You can't break it down city by city, or city location by city location.


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

Don't forget the coal trains and the oil trains.
Discussion of the coal trains from Utah - we are talking 100 car trains - where is it crossing the grid to get here? The papers only report the end destination - Oakland. It has to cross California on an existing right-of-way - does the intersect with HSR in the valley?

The oil trains - up to 100 cars on the train crossing through the main San Jose transportation grid which also services HSR in it's transition path to San Jose. I can see Super Bowl Sunday with the stadium jam packed and the 100 car train running along side - what a picture that is. This is highly volatile oil that is exploding all over the country. Will not take much to torch that train.

Are the coal and oil trains dictated by the federal government or state government? What is binding us to this collision course. Who is looking at the grid in total to see that all of these conflicting programs that have been funded to specific state organizations do not result in a cohesive end result.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm

PAmoderate,

Yes I was aware of the 747's used for short haul trips in Japan however that anomaly has been studied and concluded to be an "Only in Japan" scenario otherwise known as the "Galapagos Effect". Those 747's which I believe are now all retired were specifically designed for that service and required among other things special cooling fans to keep the brakes from overheating after such frequent use. I am guessing the 777's replacing require similar design modifications.

In the 70's PSA placed an order for L1011's for SF to LA service but I don't think they were ever delivered or put into service. They were even supposed to have a lower level coctail lounge in lieu of what would be required for baggage on a long haul flight.

If you feel strongly that Southwest should operate wide body jets on short haul flights to eliminate the so called "scourge of HSR" why don't you propose it to them? I am sure they would be happy to consider your suggestion.

While you are at it you might as well give them your suggestions for providing cost effective service to Fresno, Bakersfield and other CV cities while at the same time weaning themselves of the massive federal subsidies they and other airlines are already receiving to serve those markets like that.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2015 at 10:14 pm

A number of airlines fly to Fresno. Fresno is a government location for a number of agencies. You send your tax payments to them. It also the gateway to national forests. United is using the SkyWest smaller plane. Based on the price of the tickets they are not getting federal subsidies for those flights.



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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2015 at 2:33 am

resident 1,

(you said) "As to HSR being the fastest in the world that is total hyperbole."

Not hyperbole at all. Since I was specifically referring to conventional rail please go ahead and update this wiki page and indicate which conventional rail (steel wheels on steel rail) HSR system currently operates faster than the CHSRA's anticipated 220 mph top design speed. Scroll down to the last table.

Web Link

Remember: this is concerning conventional rail in regular operation, not maglevs or speed trial tests.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 18, 2015 at 7:01 am

I do not pretend to be an expert on high speed rail - I just pick up what the experts report in published papers. As to Wiki it is open to update by anyone with an agenda or cause.

On to the switch on planning process - previously going to Burbank - suggest that they have no money or support to get the train through the Tehachapi's.
They cannot use existing tracks because the freight with 100 car trains are on those tracks - which even side-rails passenger trains. They have to build a tunnel which appears to have little support.

Has the city of Burbank / LA decided that they really don't need HSR at this juncture? Having been in that area recently the whole freeway system is being re-engineered - you can only tear up so much land at any point in time.
They also have a very fast Metro system, as well as great subway. Have they decided that they really don't need this?

Right now this is all about electrification of Caltrain - not HSR. Except is "they" expect to generate funding now by taking land by eminent domain. More smoke and mirrors and a Ponzi scheme approach to funding.


3 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2015 at 10:03 am

As other posters have suggested, simply raise the tracks by 7 1/2 feet and depress the roadway by 7 1/2 feet, and you have 15 feet of clearance, enough for a proper grade separation. This is called a "hybrid" grade separation. It has been done in other cities with the exact same configuration: a main thoroughfare parallel to train tracks and a cross street which needs to be grade separated.

The city of Palo Alto commissioned a study which did not entertain this very simple option. It is feared that Palo Alto may thoroughly botch the task of grade separation by using a consultant who did not examine this option. The study envisioned trenching the trains only as far north as Matadero creek. The other options in the study were prohibitively expensive, involving large numbers of property takings.

Trenching the trains north of Matadero creek would be dreadfully expensive due to the need to completely rebuild the already-grade-separated crossings at Page Mill, Embarcadero and University.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

Before everyone goes off half cocked we should get an update on what progress is taking place in Fresno. Did they run out of funding for this section of the project? If the start of the section is not going well and you have no progress then what is the point of this?

And why is Palo Alto suppose to be the water boy for this effort? San Jose is the major city in Santa Clara County and is the transition point for the train to start the ride up to San Francisco. Did anyone forget those two major cities who have the main funding and elected, seated governments?

Palo Alto should consider that it does not have an elected full time mayor or full time city council. Why the compulsion to call attention always to itself? The surrounding cities are moving ahead with their projects on building and construction. At the rate they are going PA is the only city that is not moving ahead with city related construction projects.

So happy that it is continually trying to be in the news. So now we have a commercial air force over our heads on a continual basis. So much for the cry for attention.

And is SU going to gibe up any land for this? You need to define that before anyone starts this project.

I wish PA would get out of it's own way. Take care of the unfinished business that is now on the plate - the creek situation - which could then have an adverse on any transportation efforts. Take care of what needs to done in the 26 square miles and keep yourself out of the news and water boy efforts.


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