News

Caltrain launches construction in Palo Alto

Work is part of agency's multiyear effort to electrify its fleet

Once completed, Caltrain's effort to electrify its rail system will allow the agency to run more -- and cleaner -- trains up and down the Peninsula.

But in the meantime, Palo Alto residents should brace for months of nighttime construction, disruptions in weekend service and the removal of dozens of trees near the railroad corridor.

The project has been in the works for about a year, though so far it has taken place mostly in the northern part of the Peninsula, between South San Francisco and Menlo Park, and in the southern part, between Santa Clara and San Jose. Now, Caltrain is kicking off work in the remaining two segments: San Francisco and north Santa Clara County.

On Tuesday, Caltrain officials hosted a community meeting in Palo Alto to update residents about the benefits and impacts of the electrification project, which aims to improve train performance, increase ridership capacity (and, hence, revenues) and replace the existing diesel fleet with cleaner and quieter trains powered by electricity.

But for many of the roughly 60 residents who attended the meeting at Lucie Stern Community Center, the biggest concerns pertained not to the immediate disruptions but the long-term one: the need to reconfigure the tracks at Palo Alto's four rail crossings to accommodate the expected increase in train service. The city is set to pick its preferred "grade separation" design for the four rail crossings by the end of this year, or early next year.

The $1.98-billion electrification project involves the installation of an overhead contact system (OCS) along the entire length of the 51-mile corridor, a system that will be supported by poles that will be placed roughly 180 feet apart, according to Greg Parks, Caltrain public-involvement manager. Caltrain plans to install about 3,000 poles along the corridor, including 196 in Palo Alto.

The poles and the wires won't be installed until the summer and fall of 2019, at which time Caltrain will also be installing a paralleling station (equipment that ensures that the correct level of voltage is distributed through the OCS) on its land just south of Page Mill Road. This summer, Caltrain will be testing soil conditions and potholing for utilities, a process that Parks said is the noisiest task on the agency's worklist (at 70 to 80 decibels, the acoustic levels are "between a garbage disposal and a vacuum cleaner," he said).

Some of the work will be done at night, between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., which Parks said is necessary to avoid disruptions to service.

Even with these measures, residents who like to catch the train to San Francisco on the weekend, should brace for some impacts starting this fall. Between Oct. 6 and March 17, Caltrain will suspend its weekend service between the Bayshore station in Brisbane and the two San Francisco stations at Fourth and 22nd streets. Bus shuttles will be provided during that time.

Caltrain also will be removing and pruning trees this fall, Parks said. The agency plans to remove 52 trees in Palo Alto on Caltrain's right-of-way, as well as an additional five on public property (no trees will be removed on private property). The agency plans to significantly prune 63 trees in Palo Alto (53 on Caltrain's land and 10 on other public property), and lightly prune (by less than 25 percent) another 357 trees.

To offset these impacts, Caltrain plans to plant 120 trees, Parks said. He also said the agency will try to minimize the impacts of construction by installing acoustic-barrier blankets and by positioning lights away from homes to avoid disturbing residents.

One disruption that could occur during the construction period is the closure -- full or partial -- of grade crossings, Parks said. The agency has no plans, however, to close any lanes on Alma Street, the busy artery that runs parallel to the tracks.

Residents had plenty of questions for Caltrain about the upcoming work. Several asked about tree removals and, in particular, the project's impact on El Palo Alto, the city's namesake redwood. Casey Fromson, legislative director for Caltrain, said the agency defers to cities to make determinations on which trees require extra protection. She also assured the audience that Caltrain is being "extra sensitive" about any potential pruning needed to El Palo Alto.

"We're working with the city, and maybe it's the city that needs to do the pruning, if it's needed," Fromson said.

While Caltrain officials focused on discussing electrification, the elephant in the room was grade separation -- a project that is now being evaluated by various cities all along the corridor, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Many wanted to know whether Caltrain's work on electrifying its fleet will preclude Palo Alto from pursuing grade-separation alternatives that include lowering the trains over surface roads, or vice versa.

Fromson assured them that it does not and that Caltrain could potentially modify the electric system to accommodate the new road and track alignments once they are constructed.

"When you think about it, it's not that big of a deal to move the poles and wires," Fromson said.

Not everyone was entirely satisfied with the focus of the meeting. Parag Patkar, who lives near the Charleston grade crossing, said that grade separation is "a far greater concern than the electrification of tracks."

"I'm not sure that Caltrain understands that fact," Patkar said. "I'm less concerned about the electrification of the tracks than the impact and consequences of it, which is grade separation."

When he asked who else feels that way, most of those in the room raised their hands.

Fromson said Caltrain would be happy to discuss grade separation at a future meeting. She noted that Caltrain has 42 at-grade crossings along its corridor that can potentially be separated.

"There are many cities that are thinking about this issue and working on what alternative makes the most sense for their city and what works for Caltrain," Fromson said. "It takes years to do that, just like it took 20 years to do the electrification project."

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Comments

60 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Sorry I could not make the meeting. I had a family funeral in the midwest, and did not get back until late last night.

Regarding the grade-separation discussion mentioned above, I propose that at least 50% of the public concern here is "horn noise", and not traffic. If this is the case, there are three other ways to solve the problem, than a lot of digging and cement:

1) Quiet zones: City officials are squeamish on this, but making all of Palo Alto a quiet zone is a) completely viable, and b) being looked at and implemented by other cities up and down the peninsula. We just need to step up to the plate, and make it happen. This would eliminate all unnecessary train horn noise in Palo Alto. Btw, in FRA terms, "necessary" means a sign of "imminent danger", aka a real emergency.

2) Better horns: With new train sets, we should also see new consumer/community conscious horns. The current Caltrain horns, are basic freight train horns, mounted on a commuter train. What we need, are horns that focus specifically on the track area, and do not broadcast into our neighborhoods, and do not penetrate our homes. No modern train set in the world, is as loud as our current Caltrain horns.

3) Following the rules: Over the years, Caltrain has produced oral and written comment about "following FRA guidelines", but: a) they have never been able to produce the specific FRA regulation number(s) that justify their horn blowing behavior (I have researched this extensively), and b) repeatedly, Caltrain engineers abuse horn usage, by creating their own personal tone sequences (7 - 9 blasts), announce departure of the train by horn, vs radio to the conductors, etc.

Bottom line, is there is a lot we can do right now, for little money, to solve the root cause of people requesting grade separations.

Martin


23 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 29, 2018 at 6:14 pm

People complain about the train horn noise, but the number of cars getting hit by trains has increased dramatically in recent years. I don't have a better solution to this problem, but quieting the horns does not sound like a good idea.


24 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2018 at 6:46 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Cars aren't getting hit due to the volume or lack of volume of the horns.


7 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2018 at 7:14 pm

@resident

Two requirements on Quiet Zones, are quad-gates and separated lanes, which help keep cars off the tracks. Coincidentally, both coming through the Cal High Speed Rail investment/improvements, but could be installed now.

In addition, we have PTC (positive train control) coming, and new trains sets that stop faster (have a shorter stopping distance). This means, trains will be warned in advance of a car stuck on the tracks, and a greater chance of stopping on time.

All of this, should add to fewer train-auto collisions.

Martin


15 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2018 at 7:44 pm

Fromson said:

"When you think about it, it's not that big of a deal to move the poles and wires"

Really?! If it is not a big deal to move the poles and wires why does it cost $1.98 billion to install them?


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2018 at 8:33 pm

Palo Alto's 196 poles out of 3000 looks more like a comparative bargain $130 million.


9 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2018 at 9:33 pm

Why does Caltrain get to remove these trees, many of which were around before railroad even existed, without any review from residents or from the city? Whether they are operating in their RoW or not, they must follow the laws of the city, and the laws are pretty clear that trees cannot be removed without extreme circumstances. What does the city arborist have to say on this matter?


7 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

The big costs for electrification are the train sets, and the electrical power infrastructure. The timelines for electrification and grade separation are not directly linked, except that there may be an increased train frequency with electrification, and that motivates grade separation. They are being planned completely separately and independently. There is no important cost savings possible.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 29, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Thank you for the cost clarification, Robert. $660K per pole seemed a little high if nothing else were included. While we're being quantitative, 51 miles divided by 180 feet between poles, comes to 1500 poles, so I guess the poles come in pairs to equal 3000 of them. That paralleling station "just south of Page Mill Road" must be pretty small. Not much open area remains after all the recent building development right there. I assume our town electrical substation at Matadero Creek is not involved.

During Caltrain's October-March weekend service disruption, I'll probably transfer to BART at Millbrae for my occasional weekend forays into San Francisco rather than gamble on a bus bridge. Resorting to my personal vehicle is not a viable option up there during the holiday season.


12 people like this
Posted by Professorville Resident
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:15 am

@Martin

Almost all of the folks I speak with around here are worried about traffic.
Horn noise has been brought up exactly zero times, including at the rail committee meetings.

I strongly disagree that what people are worried about is horn noise, though it is also a valid concern.


4 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2018 at 7:56 am

@Professorville Resident

Thanks for your comment. The horn noise issue is relative to how close your home is to the tracks.


7 people like this
Posted by Pro Cyclist
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2018 at 7:59 am

Not worried at all.
Very happy about this.
It will only get better now that they are fixing it.


4 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 9:13 am

"Two requirements on Quiet Zones, are quad-gates and separated lanes, which help keep cars off the tracks...both coming through the Cal High Speed Rail investment/improvements,"

1: Yes, you need SSMs (Supplemental Safety Measures, like quad-gates) to be able to declare a Quiet Zone, per FRA regulations. And SSMs are proven, by FRA research, to be safer crossings than crossings with standard gates+train-horn.

2: Regarding HSR investment: sadly you are no longer accurate. CAHSR has no intention of funding quad-gates along the Caltrain ROW. Instead, they plan on running their trains under the 110MPH threshold that requires quad-gates.


2 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 30, 2018 at 10:06 am

How does the "paralleling station" south of Page Mill Road affect the potential to lower the tracks south of Page Mill Road to go under Meadow and Charleston? Did anyone ask this question at the meeting?


Like this comment
Posted by RAJ
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 30, 2018 at 10:23 am

@martin Thanks for sharing information about Quiet zone. I am not familiar with it. Can you share more information about it? Perhaps links to resources. Also, you say that for quiet zone, we need quad gates and separate lanes. When you say separate lanes, are you talking about grade separation?


1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 30, 2018 at 11:09 am

On train horns!

Would it be possible to put horns at the intersections instead of the trains. The horns wouldn't need to be as loud.


7 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:16 pm

"When you think about it, it's not that big of a deal to move the poles and wires," Fromson said.

What an incredible B.S. comment! It is VERY expensive to move poles once you've built them, greatly increasing the cost of moving the tracks for grade separations, including any needed shoe-fly's which would now need to be electrified.

This cost should all be born onto Palo Alto, who's foot dragging on grade seps due to its unicorn dreams of a financially-infeasible trench/tunnel have pooched the ability to actually do grade separations. Palo Alto, you ain't that special!


8 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:34 pm

@Martin

Wow. So much incorrect.

"No modern train set in the world, is as loud as our current Caltrain horns."
Caltrain horns are quite muted. They even moved them under the frame. Your statement is just wrong.

"City officials are squeamish on this"
Understandably. The City is responsible for legal actions once a quiet zone is established. With the ongoing accidents and deaths at Palo Alto grade crossings, many of which could not have been avoided by quiet zone installations, the City could be at tremendous financial risk.

"I propose that at least 50% of the public concern here is "horn noise", and not traffic. If this is the case, there are three other ways to solve the problem" -- but the 'problem' is not what people are bothered by, it's the inherent danger of at-grade crossings. So leaving them in place and quieting train horns doesn't solve the real problem.

"have never been able to produce the specific FRA regulation number(s) that justify their horn blowing behavior" - they don't have to, or want to. Creating a quiet zone is on the City. That's the law. Railroads in general don't want them but have to cave to FRA regs.

"Caltrain engineers abuse horn usage, by creating their own personal tone sequences (7 - 9 blasts), announce departure of the train by horn . . .

Engineers do have their own styles. Not illegal, though on this I agree with you but for the opposite reason, they often don't blow their horns in the proper sequence, or long enough, for the situation. More significantly, it is federal law to blow two long blasts when departing a station or starting to move from a stop, and that is NOT covered by quiet zones. Such horn blasts will continue and there is nothing you can do to stop that.

"In addition, we have PTC (positive train control) coming, and new trains sets that stop faster (have a shorter stopping distance). -- "True, but not significantly different. Stopping distance at 79mph is still significant and won't matter in most cases.

"This means, trains will be warned in advance of a car stuck on the tracks" -- Not true. Not even remotely true. False, actually.



6 people like this
Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:38 pm

The reality is no one is going to hold up this process while Palo Alto messes around with demanding the impossible, a multi billion dollar trench that's never going to happen. The other cities are all elevating the tracks while we refuse to do so because we want an alternative that is never going to happen.

The big compromise would be to elevate the tracks and then build a sound wall next to them. This would be too ugly to even think about. So we do nothing and now the cost of implementing the elevated tracks that are the only realistic alternative is about to get more expensive. The perfect is the enemy of the good.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:46 pm

DTNResident - nailed it! On all levels!

Most of the noise from trains is from the rails, therefore, a berm with a curve just above rail level will block the most noise. Soundwalls actually echo the noise back over the tracks in the opposite direction -- a terrible idea.


1 person likes this
Posted by Greg
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:18 pm

"...The other cities are all elevating the tracks..."

At the last community meeting we heard that Mountain View plans to build a hybrid crossing (trains go up, cars go down) at Rengstorff, and to close the grade crossing at Castro Street.

I haven't heard what solutions Menlo Park and Sunnyvale are proposing.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:36 pm

@Greg

"I haven't heard what solutions Menlo Park and Sunnyvale are proposing."

True, mostly central San Mateo County cities are elevating. A bit less of a problem politically as less residential along the tracks.

Menlo has a shortsighted plan to close some of their crossings and put in underpass, but leave others at grade, making changing the others at a point in the future even more expensive. True on Mt. View. Not sure about Sunnyvale -- have heard little.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm

How do electric trains run when an earthquake takes out electric power, as happened in 1989? How will they deal with the stalled electric trains clogging the tracks?


5 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm

"This cost should all be borne by Palo Alto, whose foot dragging on grade seps due to its unicorn dreams of a financially-infeasible trench/tunnel have pooched the ability to actually do grade separations. Palo Alto, you ain't that special!"

Exactly right. No way is Caltrain going to pay twice to electrify Palo Alto, once before grade sep and again after. The second pass at electrfification after grade sep WILL be borne by Palo Alto.

The Electrification Express has arrived and Palo Alto is far from ready for it. P.A. is little closer to grade separation than it was in 1968 when I was a student at Jordan. We know that citizens hate elevated rail and a tunnel/trench is fraught with engineering problems, but that's about it.

Coffee klatsches at Mitchell Park every few months aren't planning for grade separation, sorry. CPA has been dragging its rear end for way too long and now is in no way prepared for electrification.

Other cities have had grade sep. for years (San Carlos) and electrification will be done once, entirely at Caltrain's expense.

Palo Alto will have electrification done once on the ROW as it exists now at Caltrain's expense. It will then need to have electrification done all over again at CPA's expense, to electrify whatever trench, tunnel, viaduct, hybrid crossings, etc Palo Alto finally settles on. Electrification will be done twice in Palo Alto, the first time at Caltrain's expense and the second time at CPA's expense when the ROW has changed. Factor that into the cost of your unicorn tunnel.

I have to give a special shout-out to Gennady Sheyner for his thorough and reliable ongoing coverage of this story. Yes, the readers do notice!


3 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 4:28 pm

"How do electric trains run when an earthquake takes out electric power, as happened in 1989?"

First they have to examine the condition of the tracks with a microscope (figuratively speaking) to make sure the ROW is passable and there is no damage to the tracks that could cause a derailment.

"How will they deal with the stalled electric trains clogging the tracks?"

They will either wait until electrical service is restored or they will have U.P. tow them using diesel locomotives.

It's good that somebody is thinking of contingency plans in a worst-case scenario. I hope Caltrain is thinking about these things.

"What could go wrong?"


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 6:05 pm

"This means, trains will be warned in advance of a car stuck on the tracks"

So what? They won't necessarily be able to stop in time.

In Sunnyvale, Mathilda Ave. goes over the tracks which are at grade, not unlike San Antonio but without the cloverleaves.

"The other cities are all elevating the tracks while we refuse to do so because we want an alternative that is never going to happen.

"Mountain View plans to build a hybrid crossing (trains go up, cars go down)"

Not only is Mountain View ahead of us, but they will have an easier time financing their project because they're not trying to build a multibillion-dollar, pie-in-the-sky, flood-prone, unicorn tunnel. Elevated tracks are "too ugly" for Palo Alto.

Suck it up, Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2018 at 6:54 pm

@relentlesscactus, I am not sure of your motivation, but you seem to be arguing corrective actions we can take now, "vs" work completed 10 years from now. Quiet Zones, better horns and enforcing the rules, does not prevent the city from taking long term actions toward traffic flow. What it does do, is give us immediate relief from noise pollution, and improved safety at our crossings.

Why argue against that? Its not one or the other.


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Caltrain is an obsolete technology on deaths doorstep. Sinking money into grade separation is throwing good money after bad. The ONLY reason Caltrain is doing the electrification is because the federal government is paying for it.

Palo Alto should spend as little as possible on grade separation. Caltrain will die with the hippie generation and the City of Palo Alto will end up looking like the smartest guys in the room.


4 people like this
Posted by opinion
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm

From reading this it sounds like most of palo alto residents are too elitist. If they dont want to comply with grade separation. Just close call the stations in the city, and have the train baypass them completely. Problem solved.

User "Ahem" is asking for trains to be gone completely.


5 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 9:18 pm

Sure, wave a magic wand and eliminate Caltrain. What's another 30,000 cars on our already-congested freeways?


10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 9:08 am

@Opinion,

I am not "calling" for an end to Caltrain. What I am saying is an obsolete technology like Caltrain cannot survive the economic cycle, changing demographics, and the onslaught from emerging highly networked transportation technologies.

Caltrain is one of the pillars supporting the hippie generation's utopian dream. Generation Z has their own utopian dream and they won't need Caltrain to realize that dream.

It seems cruel to destroy the property and lives of so many people in Palo Alto in the Quixotic pursuit of a dream that will never be realized.


8 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Ahem is one of those people (Elon Musk and many other technologists among them) who think a geometry problem can be solved with technology.

Caltrain solves a geometry problem, which consists of transporting a lot of people per square meter per second per joule. It will conceivably grow to the capacity of an 8-lane freeway from about 3 lanes today. BART under the Bay is what, 12 or 16 lanes?

City buses solve the same problem. People per square meter per second per joule.

Self-driving cars and Hyperloops are marvelous technologies but they don’t solve the basic geometry problem. They use too many square meters and seconds and joules to be of any use in dense areas where space and time and energy are at a premium. Moving single people in 2000 kg pods stuck in gridlocked traffic, even if chauffeured by a computer, is not a solution.

If you think of transportation as a circulatory system, BART, Caltrain and other mass transit will always be the aorta, and will only be enhanced (not displaced) by capillary technologies like the self-driving car.

Geometry cannot be solved with technology!


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:17 pm

>> Posted by Ahem, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> I am not "calling" for an end to Caltrain. What I am saying is an obsolete technology like Caltrain

You keep saying that repeatedly, but, you don't provide proof.

If you favor Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs), well, the train already left the station. There is now too much office space here and on the way to be serviced by SOVs alone. To meet current demand, we would need another large freeway into Palo Alto in addition to the 2 we have. Add the office space in the pipeline for downtown, the research park, and the Stanford campus. Unless you want Palo Alto to nothing more than a large freeway interchange with adjacent office space, it is too late for SOVs.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North

>> How do electric trains run when an earthquake takes out electric power, as happened in 1989?

Very good question. I hope they have a good plan. I have to note that they sure didn't have a very good plan to deal with cars in 1989. Hopefully, that will be better when The Big One hits, also.

>> How will they deal with the stalled electric trains clogging the tracks?

If you mean with power on, that should be easy. Bypass that section of track, bring in another engine. If you mean when power fails-- some systems have enough battery onboard to move slowly to the next station. Or, they may depend on some backup diesel engines. I haven't read their plan, but, I'm sure they have a plan.

In any case, these are all questions worth asking. Perhaps some reader has a pointer to an online location for the plan details.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2018 at 2:04 pm

BART is electric and they did fine after the 1989 earthquake; a lot better than cars that could no longer use damaged freeways and bridges


Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Not so easy. After an earthquake the tracks must first be carefully inspected for damage so there won't be a derailment.

If the tracks are in good shape then it would be easy to tow the trains with U.P. diesel locomotives.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2018 at 6:44 pm

@Martin - Why argue against that?

I have never met anyone who wants quiet zones for safety. They want quiet zones to end blowing of train horns. If they wanted safety, they'd spend the money on the improvements and keep the train horns. No matter what, horns are a safety device that can help prevent collision with a car, truck, bike or pedestrian, and there have been deaths in quiet zones that likely would have been prevented by a horn.

There is no reason taxpayers should pay to end the blowing of train horns for those that made the mistake of buying their house too close to the railroad tracks for their own comfort. I live next to the railroad in a town with over 60 trains a day, and the horn is blown next to my house, roughly 70' away. I find the sound soothing, and I sleep right through it. I grew up in Palo Alto, the horns were louder then, and I never heard anyone complain about the horns.

Of course there are people who don't like railroad noise. Then move away from the railroad. There have been trains in Palo Alto for 150 years, so they didn't suddenly appear. The horns have always blown. Choose your living space carefully, and don't make everyone else pay for your mistakes.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Establishing quiet zones doesn't cost money.

That said, if you're so sensitive to train noise either take a home-equity loan on your multimillion-dollar Palo Alto property and get some soundproofing for your house, or move further away from the trains such as Sharon Heights or Woodside.


4 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:23 am

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:48 am

"Establishing quiet zones doesn't cost money."

What in H**L does that mean?

Quiet zones are extremely expensive, and the cost is born by the community. In addition, liability from any accidents are also transferred to the community.

Why ODB would you make such a statement?


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:50 am

@Ahem

I don't even know how to answer that, except to say from your posts in toto, your view of life and the world is so far afield from my view, that it would be a wonder if you and I could have an in-person conversation without a moral and spiritual translator present in the room.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:53 am

@ODB

Also, running with UP freight locomotives after an earthquake is not so easy. There would be no trainline communication, no power for ventilation, wifi and lighting and probably toilet, very poor acceleration, and there might not be any available.


3 people like this
Posted by JR McDugan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 1, 2018 at 9:58 am

JR McDugan is a registered user.

There is absolutely no need for train horns now that there are gates, bells, and whistles at every train crossing. A driver or pedestrian crossing the tracks will encounter the gates coming down LONG before the train horn is sounded. Train horns do nothing to prevent accidents from cars on the tracks, drivers already know a train arrival is imminent from the crossing indicator.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 1, 2018 at 10:17 am

I was in RWC last night at the Sequoia Station when a bullet train went through - did not stop. Unbelievable how fast that was. If any one was in the way then there would be no stopping that train. So how is a bullet train going to handle going over tunnels and other diversions that people keep throwing out there. Think about sheer speed and power. That is my concern.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 10:20 am

@Clem,

Your Taylorism is just as obsolete as your Caltrain.

Support for Caltrain's obsolete transportation technology is strongest among those who are only able to see the world through the lens of the obsolete industrial age thought of Malthus, Marx, and Taylor.


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:29 am

"Train horns do nothing to prevent accidents from cars on the tracks"

Statistics prove otherwise. Thus the need for increased safety measures to bring a crossing into compliance as per FRA guidelines, so that in theory the crossing is statistically as safe or safer. Whatever you may think about horns doesn't matter, it ain't gonna get any less regulated than what we have now. And as I stated before, I do not agree with the concept of quiet zones.


1 person likes this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:31 am

"So how is a bullet train going to handle going over tunnels and other diversions that people keep throwing out there."

I don't understand the question.


4 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2018 at 11:32 am

"Support for Caltrain's obsolete transportation technology"

Putting in a modifier does not make it so. Your argument is empty.


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2018 at 1:28 pm

"Your Taylorism is just as obsolete as your Caltrain.

Support for Caltrain's obsolete transportation technology is strongest among those who are only able to see the world through the lens of the obsolete industrial age thought of Malthus, Marx, and Taylor."

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 1, 2018 at 2:28 pm

@relentlesscactus ... a resident of another community

"I live next to the railroad in a town with over 60 trains a day"

If you don't actually live in Palo Alto, why are you commenting on Palo Alto issues? In addition, most of your comments are inflammatory. Are you simply muckraking, to start arguments?

Knowing this, its only fair to dismiss all your arguments.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 1, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Posted by Ahem, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> obsolete as your Caltrain.

>> Support for Caltrain's obsolete transportation technology

You continue to repeat this claim without evidence.

"Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur."

In the meantime, someone else posted a link to this interesting compendium:

Web Link

(The author lives in Sunnyvale if I'm not mistaken.)


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2018 at 2:16 am

"If you don't actually live in Palo Alto, why are you commenting on Palo Alto issues?"

I grew up in Palo Alto and own property in Palo Alto, so I am taxed in Palo Alto. More to the point, this is a railroad safety issue that is a core interest of mine. Thus, why I am commenting.

"In addition, most of your comments are inflammatory."

How so? Because I disagree with your view and am correcting factual errors?

"Are you simply muckraking, to start arguments?"

No.

"Knowing this, its only fair to dismiss all your arguments."

You may dismiss my arguments, that doesn't make them wrong, nor does it mean everyone will dismiss my arguments. Dismiss away, good sir.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 3, 2018 at 7:38 am

I am laughing at the comments on Caltrain being an old technology. Problem here is that it works. All it needs is a new engine, as Amtrak is hyping in it's ads. Does anyone read a newspaper here? Problems with the electrical train in San Jose - letters on the editors on that issue and low ridership. Crashes with cars, slow. Any "new" solution that other areas are using have major problems. All of that "new" technology out there still has issues which people are complaining about added to financial issues. And now you want to tear out trees and add wires on top - isn't SF the city a thing of beauty with all of the wires above the street? What ever you want to say about the current Caltrain system is partly regional. I was looking at the system portion in San Mateo County and the tracks are on an elevated section with great stations. The San Carlos station is currently closed off for upgrade. San Mateo County has it all worked out with underpasses for cars and other underpasses for bikes and walkers. It is Santa Clara County which is negligent on modernizing the system with better stations and underpasses. And the end destination in SF in the new transportation center only accommodates busses and will not be available for electrical trains for many years. As to electrical you can also look at BART which chose to use rail and systems which are not consistent with US rail service and the problems that are occurring on that system. This is really about financial interests and award of contracts for the change in the system. Question is why San Mateo County has this worked out and Santa Clara county keeps hindering progress and mucking this up.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm

The rail ROW is being electrified primarily for the HSR "blended approach". Any benefit to Caltrain is ancillary.

Caltrain owns the stations as well as the rest of the rail infrastructure, not the cities or counties.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Relentless, there is no evidence train horn blowing has any significant safety benefit at gated urban crossings such as on the Caltrain line. With CWT (Constant Warning Time) "predictors", the crossing protection (gates, bells, a dozen or so flashing red lights on the crossbucks and arms and gantries) typically activates within 30 seconds or less of the train's arrival at the crossing. So there is certainty of imminent train arrival at the crossing.

Now compared to a road-road intersection, with only a red traffic light quietly signaling traffic (bikes, peds, cars, trucks, buses, etc.) to stop and wait for cross traffic to barrel through an intersection, even without the train horns, railroad crossings comparatively have an already extraordinary level of warning, including the physically-lowered crossing gate arm.

If mindless FRA-mandated horn 4x blowing were really so important to safety, then why not mandate that every motor vehicle be fitted with a 95-110db train horn (or comparable) and that these must, under penalty of law, be blown 4x "for safety" before passing through any traffic light protected intersection? Makes sense, right? After all, road-road intersections ONLY (gasp) have quiet little red traffic signals ... no crossbucks, no lowered gate arms adorned with reflective tape and flashing red lights, no bells!!

Think of it! Every road-road intersection is essentially a horn "quiet zone" ... (gasp!) where horns are only used when and if NECESSARY in the judgment of the driver. Hmmm, sounds (pun intended) just like a train horn quiet zone.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:19 pm

A flaw in Reality Check's rhetoric: all cars must stop at a crossing when they are presented with a red light.

Trains are never presented with a red light at a crossing and always have the right of way.

That said, I agree with his point that there is ample warning of an approaching train at grade crossings and all of this horn blowing amounts to overkill.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 3, 2018 at 2:46 pm

At some point you will all have to recognize that HSR is not going to happen. The whole point is to take agricultural land that has been in family hands for ages and has a low tax base. The government wants your land also and puts all type organizations in place to do that - ABAG being one of those. We did not vote for those people and do not know who they are - we do know who in this town is their spokesperson. HSR does not pencil out and cannot get over the mountains and a tunnel will be too expensive. And LA has moved on with their projects that do not include tearing out existing new efforts for HSR. In any case those rails need to also support regular freight trains. Using HSR as an excuse for electrifying the system is an excuse to shut down discourse on the subject. Better use of the money and time is to create an elevated berm with underpasses for autos and people. Drive up to Belmont - you can see how this all looks. The obvious answer is in front of your eyes. And get a new locomotive - an Amtrak one. The transportation activities in the south bay are continuing with their financial and management issues. That will go on for another ten years.


2 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Electrification has little to do with HSR and has been in Caltrain’s long range modernization plan for a quarter century. It makes perfect technological sense. Clean, fast, quiet... even better than a Tesla (if you will allow me a brief reference to horseless carriage technology) because you don’t lug around thousands of pounds of energy storage in the vehicle.

It’s so amusing to read people debating the merits of electrification AFTER the new electric trains have started to pop out of the factory!
Web Link


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Clem: Read a little, learn a lot.

"Proposals for electrifying the line began as early as 1992, when the California Department of Transportation conducted an early feasibility study.

***For two decades, the project lay dormant due to lack of funding until Caltrain agreed to share its tracks with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), which was looking for a route for the constitutionally-mandated San Jose—San Francisco segment.***

The Authority agreed to partially fund the electrification project in exchange for rights to share the track."

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2018 at 5:57 pm

@ODB you wrote this: “Any benefit to Caltrain is ancillary.”

The benefit of electrification is not ancillary; it is foundational. It enables growing Caltrain from its current meager packed-to-the-rafters capacity (equivalent to almost 3 lanes of freeway) to double or triple that figure, with faster trips. Your insinuation that Caltrain wouldn’t have needed the “ancillary” benefit of electrification had HSR not come along is flat out incorrect.


4 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2018 at 12:39 pm

why not mandate that every motor vehicle be fitted with a 95-110db train horn (or comparable) and that these must, under penalty of law, be blown 4x "for safety" before passing through any traffic light protected intersection? Makes sense, right?

Nope. I'm not going to bother.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Significant changes in Menlo Park. The block next to the station has empty buildings. San Carlos stations is also wrapped in construction fencing.


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

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