Bay Area looks to cash in on high-speed-rail funds | March 9, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 9, 2012

Bay Area looks to cash in on high-speed-rail funds

Despite concerns about rail system, cities and transportation agencies seek ways to benefit from project

by Gennady Sheyner

Peninsula cities and transportation officials see California's proposed high-speed rail system as both a looming threat and a golden opportunity — a project that could both burden the area with unwanted noise, new barriers and property seizures and provide it with the funds for long-coveted transportation improvement.

Both dynamics, the fear and the hope, are in play these days as Bay Area transportation agencies and cities are trying to reach a consensus on "early investment opportunities" that the rail project could bring to the region. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrain and cities between San Francisco and San Jose are now preparing a "memorandum of understanding" that would lay out the Bay Area's priorities when it comes to projects that could benefit from rail funds in the short term. The California High Speed Rail Authority is scheduled to consider the cities' input in early April.

Marian Lee, director of the Caltrain's modernization program, wrote in a recent report that the rail authority has reached out to Caltrain and other transportation agencies.

"The early investment projects would be those needed to modernize the Caltrain system and support the blended Caltrain and high-speed rail system," Lee wrote.

Seamus Murphy, Caltrain's manager of government affairs, said up to $1 billion in high-speed rail funds would be available for "early investment" improvements. Cities and transportation agencies would need to match some of this money with funding from other sources. The projects would be required to both benefit the $98.5 billion San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed-rail project, which California voters approved in 2008, and provide "independent utility" — that is, benefits that would be experienced even if the entire system isn't built.

At the top of Caltrain's wish list is its long-standing plan to electrify its corridor — an improvement that officials say would greatly boost the popular but cash-strapped agency's ridership and revenue figures. Caltrain currently doesn't have dedicated funding and relies heavily on contributions from the three agencies that comprise its board of directors — the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans).

At a March 1 meeting of Palo Alto City Council's Rail Committee, Murphy called electrification "critically important" for the agency's plan to close its structural deficit. The electrification project would also have a major impact on high-speed rail, which eventually would run along the Caltrain corridor. Prior to the entire line being completed, however, high-speed-rail passengers would disembark in San Jose and then have to transfer to Caltrain to reach San Francisco.

Murphy said Caltrain's diesel trains would not be able to support the influx of transferring riders, which he pegged at about 14,000 a day.

"Our ability to add service to support new passengers is very contained," Murphy said. "If we electrify the system, we would be able to accommodate those passengers who get off at San Jose."

Caltrain estimates the electrification of the corridor to cost about $785 million. Other priority projects on the agency's list include new electric trains ($440 million) and an advanced signal system ($231 million).

Murphy said a similar conversation about early investment opportunities is taking place in southern California, where seven transportation agencies have already signed a memorandum of understanding listing their preferences for these opportunities.

The conversation between Caltrain and the high-speed rail over early investment opportunities is taking place at a time when there are still disagreements between the two agencies over what the rail line would ultimately look like. Caltrain has embraced a proposal by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, to create a "blended system" in which Caltrain and high-speed rail share two tracks on the Peninsula.

Murphy said a recent study indicated that a blended design could work and that the shared tracks would accommodate up to 10 trains per hour (six Caltrain trains and four high-speed trains) in each direction if the system includes passing tracks or eight trains per hour (six Caltrain trains and two high-speed trains) if it does not.

But last month, the rail authority released a revised program Environmental Impact Report for the Bay Area-to-Central Valley segment of the line that focuses on the highly controversial four-track system — a design that according to the document could require Alma Street in Palo Alto to narrow.

On Feb. 15, the rail authority released a statement saying it is still considering the blended design and that its revised 2012 business plan will highlight this approach.

Palo Alto Councilman Pat Burt, who chairs the Peninsula Cities Consortium, said any agreement between cities, Caltrain and the rail authority over early-investment opportunities should include provisions explicitly calling for mitigation of project impacts (including noise, vibration and traffic) and stipulating that the rail authority's project-level Environmental Impact Report (which focuses on specific segments and includes more engineering details than the "program-level" EIR) focus on the blended option.

The rail committee is scheduled to continue its discussion about early-investment opportunities on Thursday, March 15.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by no more freeways, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

We don't have the space or money to build new freeways on the peninsula. Even small tweaks to our existing freeways are exorbitantly expensive, like those $100 million merging lanes on the Palo Alto section of Hwy 101 (barely 1 mile). Mass transit takes up far less space than freeways. The people voted for HSR so just do it. Whining and stalling just wastes everyone's money.

Posted by Casey Jones, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

HSR - a nightmare for the taxpayer.

$800,000,000.00 and rising spent to date = not one INCH of track!

Outsource the build to either the Germans or the French. They know trains.

Then send all the lip flapping political types and blue ribbon commissions to Hawaii for the duration of the build and we the taxpayers would have a train and peace of mind.

We would be dollars ahead and not sinking in red.

Posted by A, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:34 am

To No More Freeways:

I agree with you in principle. But it is interesting you mentioned the 100 million figure for 1 mile of complex freeway construction. Did you know the current high speed rail is projected to cost 250 million for each and every mile from SF to LA even though most of this is rural?

Clearly some corrupt group is milking the system big time, and that is my chief objection.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ no more freeways:

The people did NOT vote for a $100+ Billion train that connects San Jose to L.A. And, of course, everyone knows that when all is said and done, a project in California would cost much more than the "estimate."

So, do NOT get on with it.

Posted by Revise Headline Please, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

Revise headline please for accuracy: High Speed Rail Engineer Consultant Groups, Public Relations Firms, Unions, Developers Look to Cash In On Bay Area

Subhead: Hapless Governor Fails to Stop Runaway Train

Posted by Robert, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

Apparently Pat Burt is still promoting a so-called "blended system." Let's be clear about something: Simitian's and Eshoo's euphemistic "blended system" does NOT mean high-speed rail from SD and LA to San Jose and then CalTrain to and from SF. No, it means HSR sharing the same tracks with CalTrain along the latter's Peninsula Right of Way. Lots of high-speed rail trains would still run frequently through Peninsula communities, above ground, probably on a "cheap" "aerial structure." Apart from the major financial albatross this project would hang around the necks of future generations of Californians, including my son's and his kids', this project would have serious negative impacts on the quality of life in many Peninsula cities: bifurcating a number of them, incremental noise, decreasing real estate values near the tracks, vibration, high walls, ugly graffiti, blocked views, significantly increased parking and traffic congestion in the cities where it stopped, property seizures, backyards rendered unusable, etc. All this to gain a lousy 3 to 5 minutes over the time that an electrified CalTrain would take to get from SJ to SF and vice versa (since HSR is limited to 125 mph on the Peninsula by law), and with no serious evidence that the utopian claimed ridership figures are anything but science fiction, and ticket prices that will deter use of this boondoggle by average people. INSANITY. If Jerry Brown gets his way and pushes this "Moonbeam" project through against the wishes of two thirds of the voters that now favor holding a new vote on whether to spend the much larger amount of public money on this endeavor than was claimed in the deceptive low-ball estimate given to voters, then it will be great news for Bechtel, the pricy consultants, and the construction unions that Brown wants to pay back for supporting him in the election, and bad news for the public purse and for public education that desperately needs the billions it will cost to construct this fiasco/boondoggle. (I predict a final construction cost of between $150 and $200 billion.)

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm

That final cost construction prediction must be in year 2000 dollars, and is still way low, or not counting paying back the bonds.

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm

There's nothing government agencies and organizations such as Caltrain or the Metropolitan Transportation Commission love more than to process funds. More is always better. It's the life-blood of these bureaucracies.

I've been saying for years that this railroad obsession, high-speed rail and Caltrain's lust for infrastructure upgrades, is not really about trains at all; it's about the money.

It is the mark of manhood that government agencies are successful in obtaining millions and billions of tax dollars and spending them on crony corporations, contractors and consultants, and the buying of flashy new hardware. And politicians these days will translate any funding into "jobs."

"Re-elect me because look, I've brought all these dollars/jobs into my/your district."

The growing awareness that future high-speed rail funding is in serious doubt has energized this scramble to grab what available funds can be clutched at before it's all committed.

What we have been watching is the desperate seeking of political, earmarked pork. And, this is an election year. Everything -- EVERYTHIING -- is politics. All these railroad related shenanigans are merely the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Posted by Shut-HSR-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm

> We don't have the space or money to build new
> freeways on the peninsula

Who says? And who says that we can't accommodate additional traffic on the current right-of-ways with appropriate enlargements at choke points?

CalTrans says that the Highway 101 system can handle the load to 2030. There is only so much room for housing, etc. on the peninsula, short of building 100 story skyscrapers to put people.

Let's build decent models of the current highway system before throwing away the hundreds of billions that the HSR will cost over the coming decades.

Posted by Max , a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

California doesn't have the money to do this = not going to happen. Apparently math is hard.

Posted by Morris Brown, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm

This all revolves around Dan Richard, the new Chair of the High Speed Rail Authority trying to secure enough votes to pass the funding for the $6 billion project / segment called the ICS in the Central Valley.

That segment really makes no sense but it has secured $3.3 billion in matching funds from the Federal Government, and with matching funds from the Prop 1A bonds, that construction is on a full rush to get started later this year. This is all in face of the facts that environmental work has not been completed; that this segment will not be usable for HSR, since no electrical power and other needed components which are needed for HSR are added. Such additions can't be built until later (when presently non-existent funds somehow become available. Any further Federal funding has been cut off as the Federal Government has learned what a boondoggle this project really is.

Nevertheless, the Authority with full support of Governor Brown, who sees this as a project for which he will be remembered long after he is is gone from the scene.

To this end, the Authority doing whatever it can to get the legislature to fund the ICS is bribing the legislators from the high population centers, here in the north and also down south in the LA area.

The bribe consists of stealing away about $1 billion from Prop 1A funds for the north and $1 billion for the south. Legislators are being pressured to approve this funding since they always have to be re-elected, and securing money for local districts is always very popular.

All of this is illegal under the Prop 1A, but our legislature and certainly the Authority are prepared to just ignore the law and pass out the funds. Government at it worst.

Posted by dave, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Where are the private investment funds the original bond issued said would be part of the original financing? They don't exist because private industry knows a losing proposition when it sees one.

Governor Brown's legacy will be the tremendous tax burden place upon future generations when the money losing line is built. Heavy subsidies for this albatross will be needed as is done in Japan, France and other countries.

I haven't looked at other country's HSR results recently, but when I did 2 years ago, none was profitable except one in Britain which had been turned over to a private corporation.

Posted by Thetruth, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Looks like all the "old whinney regulars" are still harping about anything moving forward outside of tearing Caltrain up so they get a park instead of a railroad that they of course moved next to of there own free will

Posted by The CAHSRA lied in November 2008, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm

This is simple, really. And, my statement cannot be refuted by anyone supporting the HSR project/boondoggle/train to nowhere.

Simple: the CA voters in 11/08 did not approve the "current" and morphed project, so legally/ethically/morally, the "new" bait and switch HSR project must be killed.

Voters in 11/08 approved a $33 billion dollar HSR project, legally promised to only cost $33 billion, with California liable for only $9 billion, and feds/private investors/cities on the hook for anything else - this was legally promised to voters as a one-time, single expenditure of $9 billion in bonds not a "pay as you go" project or blank check from the General fund, and the $33 billion was legally promised to include construction costs for San Diego and Sacramento. But, the new "bait and switch" HSR project is estimated by the CAHSRA between $98.7 - 117.8 billion ("current" estimate) and it does not include San Diego or Sacramento construction costs, and there is no funding coming from anyone else except $3 billion from federal government and $ZERO from private investors.

So, because the project that was legally promised to voters in 11/08 is admittedly not being planned nor built anymore by the CAHSRA, it can't be built. End of story. If you object to that simple statement, then you are biased and not reasonable, and are simply one of those "the ends justifies the means" type of person - which means you have no morals, no moral compass, no sense of fairness, and will say anything/do anything to get your way. If HSR proponents were intellectually honest, they would demand that this current HSR project be killed, and the "new" bait and switch project put to a vote before the CA voters, to see if they believe a blank check of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars is more important than K-12 children, seniors, mentally ill, or other General Fund needs, like parks, water infrastructure, etc.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:35 am

@ "Thetruth": your argument is as deficient as your spelling.

Posted by stanhutchings, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

I asked Joe Simitian and Rich Gordon the following:
"Would you consider sponsoring a No Train Please (i.e. no to High Speed Rail) signing event at your office? There is info at Web Link if you are interested. While people are signing the petition, you could chat with them and determine the general public opinion of the HSR. Personally, I consider it an unaffordable boondoggle that will waste billions of California's tax dollars on a train that is fatally revenue and destination-impaired (it doesn't start or arrive at most places Californians need it to, so will not attract sufficient riders to pay its way)."

I urge all of you who oppose the HSR to send a similar request to your representatives in Sacramento, and perhaps include your US senators and representatives.

Posted by thetruth, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

@ Robert..your rude arrogant comment is a statment of just what you are probally like to be around...enjoy yourself

Posted by Spelling counts, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm

"thetruth": Your name suggests that YOU are the arrogant one.
And you have so many misspellings and punctuation errors, they are "probally" hard for Robert or anyone else to ignore.

Posted by stewart, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm

considering that the bond measure that was supposed to fund the first 1/10th (likely much less) of the HSR project is the source of these magical dollars, this money grab is most likely illegal. the voter approved bond issue says nothing about funding the myriad of projects that state and local politicians are making a**es of themselves trying to word smith justifications as to why their projects are some how supposed to be funded by the HSR bonds. That Simitian, Gordon, and pretty much all of Sacramento does not seem to care how they get this money, nor do any of them care to consider how the money grab will be paid for to fund Jerry Browns giant monument of policy failure, otherwise known as his legacy project. The HSR project was NEVER about mass transit, the need for mass transit, jobs, or anything, it was, and still is about ripping off tax payers to pay for politically motivated pork spending. I challenge our pathetic 'leadership' in Sacramento to prove otherwise with facts, not the drivel spewed from the HSR Authroity. This is a truly pathetic, and costly situation for California residents. This money grab will be paid for by less funding for schools, real infrastructure that benefits everyone, and numerous other projects. It is projected that HSR will, at a minimum, cost this state close to $1B each year to service the debt caused by this project, and will buren tax payers for decades to come. So Joe, is this High Speed Rail done right?

Posted by For HSR, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Here we have mostly the vocal opponents of HSR, mainly people who bought houses near the tracks, knowing what they were doing, but wanting a good deal, and who now don't want to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

So, here I am, one of the many people who support HSR.

Please build it! We want it! And please have an HSR station in Palo Alto, or nearby.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm

The fact that Simitian doesn't come right out and oppose the spending the of the bond money because it doesn't meet the conditions stated in the ballot measure approving the bond tells us alot about Simitian's ethics. The bond that was approved was only to be spent on a High Speed Rail running from Sacramento to San Diego, costing no more than $33 billion, and none of the $10 billion in bond money was to spent until the other $23 billion was committed to by the federal government & private investors. All of these conditions are not met.

The politicians, including Simitian, who are trying to spend the bond money on these pork barrel projects to benefit special interests are saddling the state with debt service payments that will take more away from education & social services.

Do not vote for Simitian in any election.

Posted by Spelling counts, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Or for Mr. Lets Make a Deal with the Devil:
>Apparently Pat Burt is still promoting a so-called "blended system." <

Posted by Shut-HSR-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

California (as a State) has failed to manage just about every “big ticket” capital project that it has undertaken, other than those run by Caltrans, and the building of the dams in the 40s/50s. The latest catastrophe is a $2B mess that has been orchestrated by the California Courts system—

Court Spending Bill Could Impact $2B Computer System
Web Link

In the past two years, the 10News I-Team uncovered court spending that included $100 to change a light bulb and $460 to fix a squeaky door inside courthouses.

"It is a failed institution," local Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher said from the Assembly floor, speaking of the AOC last month.
The idea that the HSRA will not end up blowing tens of billions of dollars on expenditures that are not audited, other than by the random newspaper, is highly likely. There is effectively no audit function associated with government spending. And the thought that the Legislature will be able to control the spending on this Courts project, or the HSR, at some time in the future—is ludicrous. The democratic process is too corruptible—particularly with so much union/construction industry money flowing around.

The only logical thing to do is shut this down before it becomes an infinite black hole of public subsidy.

Posted by Train Lover, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Notwithstanding all the noise that NIMBY opponents are making over this project, the fact is that San Mateo County voters approved high speed rail by OVER 60%. The fact is that the People of California WANT this project and as soon as possible! Anyone who doubts the urgent need for HSR in California only needs to look at the facts.

Meanwhile, quite a number of the Peninsula opponents have been shameless and extremely irresponsible by spreading endless misinformation in their attacks, all the while claiming that everyone else is lying. Further analysis shows that the most vocal and active opponents own property or live near the route. Never mind that maps show that most of the route along the Peninsula is on existing rights-of-way, and that the blended option will increase use of existing tracks and facilities. Not much will change, in the end. The NIMBYists just don't want the project, period. And as is the case every time a development project is proposed anywhere, psychotic NIMBY fears about change will continue to keep otherwise respectful and civil members of the community lying and misrepresenting the facts, all in a quest to keep the train away from their neighborhood.

It is tyrranical and an injustice for the small number of loud, financially well-to-do Peninsula NIMBYs to block progress for the entire population of California. BUILD THE TRAIN ASAP!!

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm

YES to the Train! I'm also tired of reading the hostile nonsense about this essential project.
We voted to build the project. I heard the same opposition to BART in the East Bay years ago.

Our government decision making goes by majority rule, and it even applies here on the Peninsula. Yet some loud local factions don't respect the majority and want to undo a fair election. And, it's disturbing to see the local newspapers and their websites stir the pot for their own financial purposes.

I, and the 60% majority who voted for this rail project. want the train project built AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It will it be a huge enhancement for transportation and the economy.

Posted by Democracy-Fails-Sometimes, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

> We voted to build the project.

Well, yes, but what exactly did we vote for?

Web Link)

Prop. 1A
Ballot Results:

Yes: 6.8M|52%
No: 6.01M|47%

Total Population: 33+M

So, at best, 6.8M out of 33+M voted for this project--which comes to maybe a little less than 20%. Hardly a overwhelming mandate.

> I heard the same opposition to BART in the East Bay years ago.

That's true. And all of the objections about it's not be financially viable have come true. This system only operates because a hefty transfer of funds from the public--which does not use BART. The subsidies for the HSR will be tens of times greater than BART.

This is one of these occasions that there should have been a second vote built into the proposition, so that when the truth about the project emerged from the initial planning stages, we could have a chance to reject our first impressions. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way.

Posted by RocknTrainGang, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

As much as is possible in urban locals, just build it underground except at stations...and they will come and ride. You will never see or hear them whishing down Alma. Spend more money...hell, with the price of real estate...think of the savings! Nice parks with trees on chasing dogs in dog courts etc. Get a bore machine and start trenching...tunnelling and we will have a system that rivals the best of 'em. Put people to work! $ 300 billion... for chicken feed? No it.

Posted by For HSR, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

All modes of transportation are subsidized in California. This includes roads and air traffic. So, subsidizing mass transit in the form and trains seems logical to me as well.

Posted by Train Lover, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Warning! The above comments prove that it is highly risky to rely on sources cited by project opponents!

The 2008 Official Voter Guide for Prop 1A stated that a project estimate cost at $45 Billion, NOT $33 Billion as was cited above. See for yourself: go to the official California Secretary of State webpage at the following link and click on "English Supplemental" on the left side of the page and open the .pdf document.

Web Link

The Ballotpedia entry is like Wikipedia entries on politically controversial matters -- it has obviously been abused and skewed towards project opponents!

Posted by WillamT, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I guess Train Lover missed the part where the HSR Authority advertized a $98B 'new and better cost', and kept the additional $100B (plus or minus) in operating costs over the next few decades under wraps because the state is not supposed to subsidize this project at all, besides the approximately $10B bond sale. Does a $200B train sound even better than a $45B train? Your post make as much sense as the HSR Authority... unless you work for them, in which case, you post makes perfect sense!

Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Three things:

1. We don't want it.

2. We don't need it.

3. We cant afford it..

Get over it.

Posted by ODB, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2012 at 7:40 am

It looks like the HSR shills are back.

Need to go from the bay area to southern California? Air travel is faster and auto travel is cheaper. Neither option requires $100 billion in new construction, or more realistically, $200 billion when the inevitable cost overruns are taken into account. Please remind me why we need HSR more than we need police officers, firefighters, teachers and upkeep of existing infrastructure.

Posted by Democracy-Sometimes-Fails, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

> All modes of transportation are subsidized in California.

While true, how is it subsidized? Transportation is subsidized via the 40%-50% government consumption of the GDP. The contribution to the GDP by surface transportation is quite significant. In fact, it would not be hard to suggest that without our “subsidized” surface roads, the US would be little more than a 3rd World economy. The contribution to the economy of trains is questionable, at best. And local use of trains is clearly a black hole for public money.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2012 at 10:07 am

ODB -- I resent being called a "shill" because I don't agree with your position. Name-calling is out of line. It makes your position appear defensive and selfish.

I support HSR, and there is a majority out there who also support it and voted for it. We want it, We need it, We can afford it -- whereas our ability to afford more freeways is impossible (landwise or fuelwise), and the transportation system has to change.

Posted by no name calling, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

Don't like namecalling? Then how about dropping the NIMBY label, once and for all. I don't live close to the train, and I voted against 1A because it seemed like an obscene amount of money for 19th century technology. Trains represent everything we don't want in this century, huge and inflexible. Moreover, because HSR ticket prices are always higher than prices of competing transportation modes (regular train, bus, plane, car), if the train were built, HSR would be used only by the wealthy. Is that what we want in this state?

If you look at the proposed HSR route in the southern part of the state, you see that there are some odd curves. Why? The reason is that friends of the CHSRA own land in those remote areas, and they are expecting to make money off HSR.

HSR is a boondoggle and a scam.

Posted by Plannerism, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

These arguments by Palo Alto residents are arrogant to to say the least. PA has gained a reputation in the Bay Area as anti-everything. One suspects it's a suburban stronghold of right-wing conspiracy theorists.
HSR needs its own tracks, completely grade-separated, and independent of Caltrain. It also needs to run at 200+ MPH wherever it is possible (including the penninsula), because it could then shave 60-70% of the current SF to SJ time.
Have Palo Altans considered the reduction in noisy, polluting airport approached that interrupt those backyard BBQs? How about newer, quieter Caltrain? And the span of time you'll actually HEAR a train that travels at 200MPH?
I hope HSR chooses Redwood City for their Penninsula stop. RC has smarter city planning policy and a more comprehensive understanding of housing and transportation.
Palo Alto seems to be full of self-proclaimed environmentalists who object to density, transit, and drive SUVs.

Posted by RGORDON, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

HSR will happen.Just after Obama is re-elected.

Posted by Googler, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

Hey, did any of you HSR objectors consider that NOT building HSR will be more expensive than building it? What do you think it would cost to add lanes to highways 5 and 99 between the Bay Area and LA? How about adding runways and terminals to every busy California airport? Will you want to drive to Southern California on gridlocked freeways paying $10/ gallon for gas?
Senate Bill 375 makes legal demands that the state plan future transportation expansion in ways that will meet tough greenhouse gas reduction targets, and we aren't going to do that by adding lanes, runways, and building sprawl suburbs. The only way it will happen is by building an network of well-integrated statewide and interregional transit, and it needs to connect at downtown transportation hubs, not far-flung airports.
Consider the amount of pavement it takes to move people in cars vs. the same number of people in trains.
This project is essential to this vision. I hope that Palo Alto residents get on board before the train leaves the station.

Posted by no name calling, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2012 at 11:46 am

I drove to LA last weekend. It's a trip my family makes every year or so. The problems are never on 5 or 99; you run into gridlock only in LA and SF.

HSR will do nothing to alleviate gridlock!

Our transit problems in this state are primarily local, not intrastate. Let's put some resources there before we start building high $$$ Disney rides for the rich.

Posted by Loquatia, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

How is a train that would get from the Bay Area to LA for less than the cost of flying a ride for the rich? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that driving is a ride for the rich. Higher costs all around: high price of owning and storing personal vehicles, rising fuel costs, environmental degradation, collision danger, oil wars, huge heat-concentrating parking lots, bicycle and pedestrian deaths, sprawling suburbs, etc.

Local transport systems are being updated constantly. The Baby Bullett and electrification of Caltrain is a good example, or check out the express buses on San Pablo in the east bay. One of the problems that local, on road public transportion encounters is getting stuck in the traffic that drivers are causing.

A good percentage of the gridlock you encounter in the cities is from intercity trips (SF to LA), or long suburban trips (SF to San Jose, or LA to Orange County, for example) that could be much safer and faster on HSR.

We have been subsidizing driving for too long, and it's made a big mess of California cities. We need to start spending on solutions, not making the problems worse.

Posted by Back to the ballot box, please., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

I don't live anywhere near the tracks. I ride Caltrain. I now oppose HSR, though I foolishly voted for it and now wish I could take that back. I have read most of the environmental review documents. What a ridiculous, convoluted mess.

HSRA has been irresponsible, deliberately vague (and sometimes downright dishonest) about budget projections and their real intent with regard to engineering mitigations for traffic and environmental impacts on communities they will push through. I no longer trust that they have the ability to design and manage a project that will serve the community. I trust them to continue spending money and protecting their consultant jobs for as long as our elected officials keep the money pipeline open.

Put it back on the ballot. The project and budgets have changed so much that it would be a betrayal of public trust not to bring it back to the voters.

Posted by Show-Me-The-Cities, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

> We have been subsidizing driving for too long,

And that subsidy (such that it is) has been the backbone of the economy that has brought prosperity to all of us.

> and it's made a big mess of California cities

Really? Who says? And why "proof" do you offer?

Let's start with some examples of cities where there are no cars, and where people have the save income levels, personal freedom, and general lifestyle ..

Posted by Loquatia, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Why don't we start, show-me, by offering to make it easy for you to drive everywhere by making your quiet, residential street into a freeway on-ramp that will feed traffic on to the new Middlefield Expressway. Are you, as a (presumed) PA resident ready to agree to any new road project that would facilitate economic stimulus by routing trucks through your front yard?
One need to look no further than almost any European city. Take Paris: There are cars and car-free spaces, frequent high-speed rail service, regular speed rail service, subways, scads of bicycles, and, one would offer, a fairly strong economy. San Francisco neighborhoods that have removed freeways have become much more financially viable. Who hasn't noticed the turnabout on the Embarcadero since the freeway was removed?

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