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New suit claims high-speed-rail officials 'misled' public

Original post made on Mar 18, 2013

Just weeks after California's high-speed rail project withstood a court challenge from a group of Peninsula cities, the agency is facing another suit from project critics, who argue that the agency building the train system has misled the voters and is acting in violation of state law.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 18, 2013, 4:56 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

It's a very powerful lawsuit. Now all we need is a court (Judge Kenny) to uphold the laws of this state rather than bend them to suit the Governor and Legislature. The Courts have a reputation for siding with the government when it gets sued, as in this case. Judges are appointed (more or less) and therefore owe an allegiance to the political regime that put them in place.

What judge is willing to take a firm stand in upholding the law if it means that the State of California will lose $3.3billion of political pork?

Anyhow, this is a miracle I will pray for; that for once, Judge Michael Kenny takes a firm stand in his reading of the HSR legislation and acknowledges that the rail authority has indeed violated many of its requirements. By all legal rights, this project must be terminated.

And a deeply felt expression of gratitude for Mike Brady, WIlliam Grindley and Bill Warren for their efforts and courageous stand.

Posted by Lesman
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm

The CA HSR project is poised to be the largest govt sponsored fraud in the history of this state. Several hundred billion dollars of fraud for the train that has made up ridership numbers, a 'brochure' for a business plan, and zero private dollars backing it. Brought to us by the same engineering firm that organized the Big Dig swindle in Boston some years ago.

Unfortunately as Martin points out, there is the law, and there is politics. This thing is politically driven at this point. The electrification was little more than a bribe to keep Peninsula legislators lapping at, and supporting, the HSR project. It's has been, and continues to be about the money.

Posted by frivolous lawsuit
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Another frivolous lawsuit trying to waste taxpayer money with lawyers and delays. I hope the judge forces the plaintiffs to pay all the costs overruns associated with this frivolous lawsuits so that the taxpayers are not hurt.

Posted by Robert
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Lightweight electric trains will be quieter than the 90-plus diesel trains that currently thunder down the Caltrain corridor every weekday. Grade separation will ease traffic issues within Palo Alto and make it more difficult for high school students to commit suicide on the tracks. It seems like the NIMBYs think Palo Alto is perfect and any changes, even positive ones, will destroy their way of life. Get a grip. The train is here to stay. Next thing you know they'll be fighting cell phone towers. Oh, wait.

Posted by Follow the law
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

This lawsuit is anything but frivolous. Read it for yourself; all the documents are at Web Link

They are saying that when a bond is approved by the voters, the funds may be used only for the specific purpose which was described in the ballot information package. The bond funds are now being used for something other than what the voters approved – by a narrow margin, BTW.

You could argue that it's all more or less high-speed rail, what's the big deal. But the resulting laws from that bond approval spelled out exactly what the State would get with our money. This project that's going forward does not comply with those laws.

You could think of it as a consumer protection lawsuit.

You and I cannot selectively choose when to follow the law, avoiding inconvenient ones. The High Speed Rail Authority must live by the same standards.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

This is the correct lawsuit to pursue.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of HSR in general. I've been vocal about that the Peninsula route should parallel 101 and stop at SJC and SFO before downtown SF...mainly for ease of access (from the freeway) and plenty of established parking at the airports.

But no matter the route, the project simply does not pencil out as promised in the original bill. Even if adjust the original cost estimates to today's dollars, the project is still a huge loser in terms of money required to put it together and then run the darn thing.

Hopefully there will be an HSR program that will work --- but this one is not it.

Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 11:12 am

I don't why this article says this is a "new suit". The suit was first filed in Nov. 2011. What is new is the brief that was filed last Friday. According to the schedule set by the court, the Attorney General will file its brief in April and the case will go to trial on May 31.

What one should understand is that the project funding rests upon the appropriation bill SB-1029, that was passed last July 6, 2012.

This appropriation included at the last minute $1.1 billion to fund projects in the "bookends" This appropriation was passes illegally.

Let me explain:

Prop 1A demands that any appropriation for construction must be preceded at last 90 days by a approved, by the Authority, funding plan.

The only funding plan ever approved by the Authority board was in Nov 2011. That funding plan has absolutely no request for any funds for the "blended" / "bookends".

In March of 2012, just 3 months before this appropriation bill was passed, Authority Chair Dan Richard in a public Senate committee meeting held in Mt. View, clearly stated they would not be requesting funding for the blended system in that fiscal year.

Yet less then 3 months later, the appropriation bill was passed (SB-1029) with a margin of only 1 vote in the State Senate.

It is clearly illegal, since no approved by the Authority funding plan was ever presented (and even to this day ever approved), that includes funding for the "blended plan".

So goes the way of the State Legislature, ignoring any legal constraints in the way of what the Governor wants.

So only challenges in the courts are the only way to halt this project, which has now morphed into nothing but a "make work" project and is certainly not building a High Speed Rail train.

Here we have the "father" of HSR in California, Judge Kopp, and the "mother" of HSR, current vice Chair Lynn Schenk both saying they can't support this project.

Posted by Oh, yes they did!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm

The HSR officials never made it known that the HSR would go down the peninsula next to Cal Train tracks until AFTER it went to the vote. They led everyone to believe it would go thru the Central Valley.

This state is near bankruptcy, and if Eminent Domain kicks in, and your house is in the way, they can take it and pay you zilch. They cannot afford to pay fair market value for all the homes they will have to bulldoze, so they will just take it and pay nothing. The new Eminent Domain says they can. Readers of the IBD and WSJ have read this in the last two years.

Posted by Mark Simon, Caltrain
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I must ask -- if the project as currently designed is illegal because the blended system is subverting the vote of the public for a high speed rail system, can we assume that if the project were for a full build-out, including four tracks the length of the Peninsula, that there would be no lawsuit?

Posted by @ Mark Simon
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

The voters agreed to HSR so long as the State wouldn't be on the hook for having to pay for it (since you may have heard, we're broke). Lawmakers touted the inordinate amount of safeguards put into the bill to be sure that CA wouldn't be left holding the bag. In fact, the entire project was touted as each section being built and operating so that the profits would pay for the next section - specifically, Sacramento and San Diego.

To your question, if a 4 track project that ran the length of the Peninsula, completed environmental review AND was actually fully funded - then although not everyone would like it - it would at least be within AB3034. So, no, there wouldn't be a lawsuit (at least not one based on 1A) - but there would likely still be environmental issues.

How is it that London to Paris via HSR only has 2 departures an hour at rush hour, but the CA HSR project described they needed 4 tracks because they wanted 12 departures an hour between SF and LA?!

Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Presuming that the posting from Mark Simon, is the same Mark Simon who is a spokesperson for CalTrain and SamTrans, your comment does not nearly address all of the issues involved here.

The desire of the Authority to still push 4 tracks through the Peninsula has certainly not disappeared. The best evidence of this is the refusal of the Authority to remove from the Program level EIR, the possibility that 4 tracks may be still be coming, despite efforts of Senator Simitian and other to get this possibility removed.

The bottom line is the desire of CalTrain to divert High Speed Rail funds from Prop 1A and use them to "modernize" its own system. This "modernization" not only includes electrification, but purchase of new rolling stock (called EMUs) and adding a positive train control system (CBOSS), which is incompatible with the system that will be employed on the HSR trainset. Both of these items are of no use to High Speed Rail, but solely benefit CalTrain, yet HSR funds will be used to fund them.

Having failed miserably for many many years to convince the public to fund such an expensive undertaking (total cost at over $1.4 billion ) CalTrain has taken the opportunity to take these funds, which were by the vote of the citizens of California when they passed Prop 1A, dedicated to funding a true High Speed Rail project. That is no longer the agenda of this new Authority board, which is determined to just build ordinary, not High Speed sections, and they are now in the process of funding non-HSR sections, such as the CalTrain corridor. The declaration of Judge Kopp and the refusal of Director Schenk to endorse this funding is pure evidence of what is taking place.

morris brown
menlo park

Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

"@Oh, yes they did!"

With all due respect to your position of opposition, with which I wholeheartedly agree, the rail authority did make it clear in their program-level EIS/EIR, which they approved in the summer of 2008 that Caltrain's corridor was their preferred route. (I attended the Certification meeting in San Francisco.) At that meeting, the complaints were many and detailed, but completely ignored by the rail authority.

Indeed, PB, their prime contractor, provided the diagrams in the EIS//EIR illustrating how this four track arrangement would reside on a high, filled wall running down the Caltrain corridor. Hence, our frequent complaints about a "Berlin Wall" or a "great wall of China."

Caltrain had been anticipating the arrival of HSR for a very long time, as described in their strategic Plan build out. They already threatened to grade separate all the cross-streets for over a decade.

Most Californians and the press chose to ignore all this "NIMBY" noise we were making and even the rail authority members themselves were surprised that a majority of the voters in November of 2008 bought the snake oil described in Proposition 1A. To this day, I suspect that most Californians still don't know and/or don't care about how much this project is going to cost all of us. (A good pick-pocket is rarely detected!)

A few of us had already been complaining about this for some time prior to the elections, seeking to make public all the fraudulent claims and promises AB3034 and Proposition 1A presented to the voters. (Look up THE DUE DILIGENCE REPORT of Sept. 2008.<Web Link

By 2009, the word did finally get out that California was getting screwed by the CHSRA, created, I might add, by Quentin Kopp and Medhi Morshed, among others. Jerry Brown also had a big hand in the original conceptualization. At least Judge Kopp now sees the error of his ways.

I attended a meeting in Palo Alto in the Spring of 2009 where a room full of citizens were stunned by what the rail authority (and Dominic Spaethling) was presenting to them. "Why weren't we told of this?" they cried.

What can I say?

We tried to tell you so, including Morris Brown and Mike Brady.

Posted by TS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

What a confusing situation. I was on a committee for the HSR almost 20 years ago - have a lapel pin for the HSR. A bunch of people went to Europe and Japan to observe existing efforts and then the whole topic went away.
Now - not withstanding the circumstances at hand the reality is that we are in a 100 year flood zone and on a major earthquake fault. The peninsula has a large amount of acreage dedicated to county, state and trust land use - there is no open ended space for building a lot of housing. This area is not a good place geographically to sink a lot of money for complicated rail systems.

Many major government and private sector companies have already moved their IT efforts to the central valley - I include in that Vacaville and areas east. Franklin Funds has their computer IT facility in Rancho Cordova. State Compensation Insurance Fund (Workmen's Comp) has moved corporate eastward from downtown SF.
Other examples regarding general health of SF area is article in Chronicle that over 3,000 homes need to be upgraded for projected earthquake damage. We need to consider SF since the Transportation hub is at that location - the Transbay Terminal.
Meanwhile Developers want to build on the Redwood City Cargill Salt Flats which were underwater in December. Moffatt Field has toxic plumes the Navy is trying to clean up but new ones appear. Developers continually leverage the situation to their advantage.

We all love living here but the geography has limitations. The HSR should be following the Capital Corridor route for AMTRACK as there is already existing dedicated rails, depots, and rights of way. That is achievable. And yes there will be people in new housing that will use it if built. The Amtrack has a depot at Great America and San Jose so we have access through the existing system to build this.

Posted by Victor
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Hi Hope this legal action is successful. HSR is a financial swindling, it's always been about the money, nothing more.

To Robert, you insist that electrified caltrain will be quiet and safe. The trains may be quieter, but lets look at the facts, not the myths you spin. The primary goal of electrified caltrain is to get more trains on the Peninsula corridor. The secondary goal of electrified caltrain is a modern train control system to permit more trains on the limited tracks and allow them to pass each other when necessary. There are NO plans and NO money for ANY grade separations along the caltrain corridor, none. If you have documents to the contrary, please share them. When caltrain is electrified, there will be more faster trains on the tracks. With no new grade separations, there will be more train horn noise at each crossing, more crossing gate down time, more cross track congestion, and w/o the grade separations, unfortunately, more deaths on the tracks. If real concern about pedestrian and auto safety make me a nimby, so be it.

Posted by Brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:22 am

The solution to this lawsuit is simple. The CHSRA and Caltrain just need to clarify that the Blended Bottleneck Solution will only be temporary and promise to secure land and right of way for a full 4-track grade separated system from SF to San Jose to be built in the future.

Now that it sounds like the anti-HSR people including their lawyers and the city's of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton are insisting on 4-track elevated structures through their city's I am sure the CHSRA will be more than happy to fulfill that request! However, sorry for them the CHSRA listened to their original complaints and decided to start construction in the central valley first. Looks like they all had a change of heart and want the construction to start in their own "backyards" ASAP. I guess the lesson here for this silly lawsuit is "you snooze, you lose!".

to TS,

I don't get what you are saying by suggesting HSR should follow Amtrak's Capital Corridor route because there is "already existing dedicated rails, depots and rights of way". Are you serious in saying that? Have you never seen the Caltrain right of way?

If you haven't I can assure you there are in fact existing dedicated rails, depots and rights of way along the Caltrain right of way! The Caltrain right of way has been in use for about 150 years and was completed before the transcontinental railway. The ROW is actually pretty wide and there are already 4-track sections at Bayshore, Redwood City and Sunnyvale. In the 1920's there were plans to electrify, 4-track and grade separate the entire ROW from SF to San Jose but the great depression hit and they only got as far as building the additional tunnel bores in SF. None of these were a far-fetched ideas back then and they shouldn't be now. For the most part Caltrain provides an ideal straight shot route from San Jose to San Francisco.

Furthermore, have you seen the right of way Amtrak uses for the Capital Corridor? Do you realize it's single track between Santa Clara and Milpitas and in Fremont it has two very sharp curves requiring it to slow down to about 10 mph? That's not going to help in achieving 2:40 trip times from SF to LA. Also, those tracks are owned by the Union Pacific RR so Amtrak, Caltrans or CHSRA has no say in what to do with them. How to get the train from Oakland to SF would be the final challenge. A new transbay tunnel will not be cheap.

to Crescent Park Dad,

why would you advocate for routing HSR down the 101? What synergy would Caltrain and HSR be able to share? What sort of shared capacity and how would that be beneficial to passengers of either system? So suppose you get off HSR in Redwood City at a station in the middle of the 101 and want to get to the California Avenue station? You would have to take another bus to the Redwood City Caltrain Station and wait for a local Caltrain to take you to California Avenue. What could of taken no longer than 10 to 15 minutes through cross platform transfer now takes more like 45 minutes or worse. Not a smart way to make transit more attractive, get people out of their cars and try to do something about global warming!

Here's another crazy suggestion. How about putting both Caltrain and HSR where the 101 is now and putting the 101 along the Caltrain ROW? Just do a nice clean switch. If we take the combined ROW width from Caltrain and Alma / Central Expressway we might have just enough. Think about how lovely that would be! You could drive from downtown Palo Alto to the downtowns of Mountain View or Redwood City in no time flat! No need to waste time on surface streets. The perfect way to demonstrate we've all learned nothing since the 1950's!

Posted by TS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:01 am

Response - no one is questioning the beauty of the current Cal Trans corridor - I ride it. Redwood City has the perfect model of integration into the city. The question on the table is the amount of housing that needs to be co-located to the transit corridor. Housing is going up as we speak in relation to the current corridor.
If you ride it you know that. Once the current housing projects are finished there is no going back to move the exisitng corridor off the exisitng framework. The question on the table is the projection of population in the next 20 years and where companies are going to locate for jobs. The peninsula and SF have geographic limitations which will cost more to overcome. Moving the HSR to a more central CA location can mitigate the costs of the overall system. And you are not limited to geographic limitations - you can read the Chronicle today on a lengthy article regarding toxic Superfund problems that are in Mountain View - co-located to the current transit corrider. Connecting the dots here is more than looking at ALMA Street and the PENINSULA. You have to look at what is best for the state, end to end.

Posted by TS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Part of the rational for the HSR funding supplement on the CAL TRAN corridor was due to the cost of running the system - a loss on the books. I will take the position that those statistics were pre-AT&T Park and the development of the SOMA area. Take the train today on game days and it is standing room only. People were writing in that they could not work on their computers due to the lack of seats. Look at the statisitcs today and my bet is you are running in the positive. Or - you are turning the positive cash flow into major upgrades of the depots and safety features that are being implemented to the system end-to-end. You can see the improvements that are going in - it is now a sunk cost and you cannot tear it out. And you cannot tear out all of the new housing that is going in along the corridor. Current development is outpacing many of the original arguments used to confuse this project back when.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Respectfully, here are my reasons for 101 route:

Easiest access for *all* Bay Area residents and visitors. No driving on 2-lane roads, horrible traffic jams, gridlock in towns/cities that are already over-subscribed with traffic. Fly in from Europe or Asia, hop the HSR...or vice versa. Take HSR from the Central Valley and you're on a SFO flight to Hawai'i...

Utilize existing road infrastructure (high-volume road capacity, parking, transit hubs) that can accommodate thousands of users everyday. You don't need to build anything new here.

Access to CalTrain from SFO already exists via the Millbrae & BART stations (I use it to go to and from here & SFO). HSR stopping at SFO would have the same access. Yes - it could be improved - and no doubt that would happen with the promise of increase in usage.

Access for SJC to BART construction is underway - connections to CalTrain can easily be implemented as well. The closest CalTrain station is the Santa Clara station on the opposite side of the airport from the terminals - it takes less than 10 minutes by bus to get there...the SJC long-term parking buses almost go that far as it is. If necessary, you can build a dedicated people mover on airport property (no land grabbing required) and it will take less time.

No more lawsuits from towns and residents along the CalTrain route.

Eliminates another lawsuit: where CalTrain is trying to illegally grab state funds for it's own electrification dreams.

Eliminates lengthy and costly eminent domain battles that will pop up everywhere along the Peninsula as the time draws near.

101 route allows the state to utilize land it already owns. Far less private property involved. You run an elevated line along the 101 (which is essentially what they prefer to do along the CalTrain corridor anyway).

Eliminates tons of traffic woes if HSR is built "inland" and commuters have to drive through towns (e.g., University Avenue) by the thousands to access HSR.

Eliminates HSR requirement for the mid-Peninsula station-stop-city to build (and self-fund) a 3000 car (minimum size) garage if it chooses to host HSR station.

Currently, HSR is only planning one stop between downtown San Jose and downtown San Francisco --- so the HSR/CalTrain confluence is kind of a joke as it stands. Further, it is a serious potential ridership and revenue oversight to not consider the potential number of HSR users that can be gained by connecting with two of the busiest airports in the USA (SFO = 7th; SJC = 44th).

The 101/SFO/SJC route provides far more potential for integration of long-distance travelers to the Bay Area. The ease of access for all Bay Area residents would be exponentially easier. The connections to CalTrain would go from 3 (downtown SF, downtown SJ, some city on Peninsula) to 5 (eliminate Peninsula, add both airports) --- a much better solution for the greater good.

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Confirming Martin Engel's response to "Oh, yes they did"

At presentations on HSR that I attended in the mid-2000s (at least 2), the plan presented was additional tracks along the Caltrain line. Residents raised questions about the number of homes that would be taken to make room for the tracks and for grade-separation. Ditto for impact on Alma. And answers to audience questions about ridership projections strongly indicated that they had no factual basis. At these presentations there was at least one of the PA Council members who advocated supporting Prop 1A. And it had decent coverage in the MercNews in the years leading up to the election. The local political+press establishment chose to ignore the troubling details, and instead chose to be PC.

While I think that the lawsuit should be a slam-dunk on the current HSR plan not meeting the criteria of Prop 1A, I think that the State has a very strong counter-argument that, given extensive history, that it was unreasonable to believe that the voters actually believed the State would honor the terms of the Proposition.

Posted by TS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

What a lot of opinions but facts are:
1. The state capital is Sacramento and the biggest city Los Angeles which has the most advanced main station and subway system. That is the main line for this effort which will be a central CA effort.
2. This system has to be finished and proofed out prior to any offshoots to SF or SJ - depending on available funds.
3. CAL TRANS is progrssing with it's capital upgrades with the system as is - it is a good working system. The rail system also supports the regular AMTRACK freight system. There is much housing development on this corridor which was approved by the cities and state. It will not be disturbed.
4. BART is extending to the central valley to connect up and is a working system. We should be pushing for BART to come down HWY 280 to close the peninsula connection.
5.The state is not going to disrupt exisitng systems that are working well - not in their best interests. HWY 101 is the main line for big rigs which are excluded from other routes so that is not going to be disturbed - except for PG&E gas replacement.
All the state has to do is produce a working HSR line to say they did it - everything else is frosting on the cake.
All things considered - current tax burden, etc., there is a limitation on the possible outcomes.

Posted by Jason Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Here we have the "father" of HSR in California, Judge Kopp, and the "mother" of HSR, current vice Chair Lynn Schenk . . .

I would not like to see the resulting offspring of the father and mother above named. Ug!

Jay Tulock, Vacaville

Posted by Robert
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Victor, the HSR plan originally called for an elevated 4-track structure that would eliminate all grade crossings. It seems that the NIMBYs desire grade crossings, which has resulted in the current "blended" system.

Also, I'd much prefer additional trains to more cars on the road and planes in the sky. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Thank God that finally our politicians have the future of our state in mind, despite what a lot of the commenters here have to say about it. I highly suspect they are the same ones who in the 70s and 80s basically screwed the next generation in the state.

Posted by Brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 21, 2013 at 12:52 am

Crescent Park Dad,

There are more reasons why Caltrain and HSR should share a single 4 track ROW that just to allow HSR passengers to transfer to Caltrain and vice versa. So what if Redwood City would be the only station between Millbrae and San Jose where those transfers would take place? There are many other drawbacks to separating the ROW's.

Your suggestion that HSR be built along the 101 between Millbrae and San Jose would make those additional 2 tracks of no benefit to Caltrain in operating the faster and more frequent service everyone using Caltrain is desperately waiting for. Putting those 2 additional tracks along the 101 does nothing to help an express pass a local for an express that needs to make any station stops between Millbrae and San Jose.

Caltrain's current schedule is analogous to a Slinky with periods of relatively frequent service followed by periods of infrequent service. The 2-track system is the cause of all that. It's nothing close to the seamless system of express and local service you get with 4-track systems like the NYC Subway in Manhattan. Despite how "wonderful" we all think BART is it actually suffers from being a slow all stops local service for such long routes.

Even with the addition of HSR a 4-track Caltrain would be able to both meet and exceed the service levels of BART. That could never happen if the extra 2 tracks were along the 101. No additional station stops would benefit from express or skip stop service.

Station stops currently served by Baby Bullets or Limiteds would not see improved service levels either. Between Millbrae and San Jose that would include San Mateo, Hillsdale, San Carlos, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. No service improvements for those.

With a 2-track system Caltrain cannot increase express service without cutting back on local service or increase local service without cutting back on express service. A 4-track system at least enables everyone boarding a local train to immediately transfer to an express that will pass the local at the next transfer station down the line. There is no reason why anyone should be stuck on a local for 90 minutes between San Jose and SF.

Posted by Brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:16 am


I think you meant to say 'Union Pacific' freight system.

Amtrak is a passenger railroad and does not carry freight.

Posted by anecdote annie
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm

HSR people lied to us all to get their way, they got it This state is too poor to pay fair market value for the homes it will need to commandeer, so a lot of people on the Peninsula are going to be out a lot of money. And there is naught they can do about it.

Posted by Brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm

anecdote annie,

The state isn't too poor to "commandeer" people's houses (if that's even required). However the state is too poor to build a 4-track tunnel through Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton as those cities kept stubbornly demanding.

When you weigh in the total costs I am sure the state would be willing to pay well over fair market value for any properties if that would spare them the need to spend billions of dollars on a tunnel. In comparison the cost of purchasing those properties or "buying out the opposition" would be like chump change to the state.

If Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton really wanted that tunnel [a tunnel not otherwise justified for engineering reasons or to protect critical natural habitat or cultural resources] then they should of started pooling their resources 4 years ago to create a fund to pay for it themselves.

The state could credit the 3 cities for the cost of a 4-track elevated structure and then they could each levy a tax to make up the difference over time. It would be similar to the way Berkeley taxed itself to pay for putting BART underground by itself. Palo Alto should try to learn something from Berkeley; act like a responsible citizen and stop holding the rest of the state hostage asking for handouts and special privileges!

Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2013 at 11:19 pm

There is no reason whatsoever to have redundant rail service on the peninsula. HSR, if built, should go no further north than San Jose or Santa Clara. If your destination is north of San Jose or Santa Clara, take CalTrain. You'll have to make a connection but that would be a minor inconvenience compared to the cost of building HSR up the peninsula with its attendant costs, eminent domain seizures, displacement of homeowners and general disruption.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:43 am

Part of the issue here is that the CalTrain promoters (e.g., Q Kopp, etc.), assumed that they could use state HSR funds to improve CTrain. The recent call out on the electrification project is an example of how this is an illegal expenditure; the bond money is only for HSR, not local projects.

The point here is that HSR was never positioned to the state voters that part of its expenses would be for upgrading CTrain and/or making it easier for Peninsula or South Bay residents to do their local commutes. As much as that may make sense to some, the monies are for HSR - for the benefit of going from NorCal to SoCal.

I don't know the answer - what is more expensive, building the 4 track system up the CTrain corridor or building a 2 track system up 101? I could very well be wrong, but I would guess 2 tracks on state land up 101 would cost the state taxpayers less money.

Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

High speed is not going to be high speed.

It will take at least 4 hours to get to LA. The vote was for less than 3 hours.

The cost will be over $100 billion. Vote was for $10 billion.

The vote was for private financing. None forthcoming.

The scam continues and any one who supports this is a scammer.

Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I think Kopp was out of the picture, i.e. off the HSR board, when they came up with this "bookends" scheme which includes Caltrain electrification.

Posted by Brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 23, 2013 at 2:36 am

For most of the Caltrain line it is plenty wide to handle 4 tracks. In some areas of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale it could easily handle 6 tracks (or more) if that was even required.

However this is not about putting as many tracks in regardless of need. It just happens to be that the number 4 is a sort of magic number in the design of effective railway systems.

4 is indeed so much better than 2! If this is a mystery to anyone just imagine those 4 tracks were highway lanes instead (2 in each direction). How many times have you been driving on a 2 lane highway (1 lane each direction) and you need to pass an extremely slow or broken down car in front of you? Your only option is to risk you life and try to pass on the opposite side besides just being late and dealing with the consequences.

Now imagine there are 2 lanes in each direction. You don't have to confront that dilemma. Traffic moves much more easily and safely. If additional capacity is required more lanes can be added but the addition of those lanes will only be a marginal improvement above the initial threshold of going from 2 to 4 lanes.

Those same rules hold true for railroads. If the only highway connecting San Francisco was 2 lanes we would call that ridiculous and demand 4 lanes minimum. Lucky for us we got (2) 8 lane highways now so none of us has to try to argue this laborious case. There are plenty good reasons why the Southern Pacific was trying to 4-track the peninsula commute line back in the 1920's.

Even "beautiful pastoral" England, the country that invented the railroad has been knitted together by a network of 4-track railways since the age of steam. The English discovered the magic of 4 tracks at the dawn of the world's first railways but it seems to be just a recent discovery here in Silicon Valley.

Obviously I get the impression most anti-HSR-zealots on the peninsula do not actually use Caltrain or any form of public transit in general (riding the occasional Caltrain to a Giants games does not count). They see no problem in making suggestions for infrastructure design and service patterns (like terminating HSR in San Jose) that would seriously impair service and ridership potential.

If the system fails it doesn't concern them since they don't use mass transit and never plan to. You have the most dis-interested parties making the most import decisions and you wonder why everything turns out so bad!

Even if no HSR on the peninsula, the 4-tracking of Caltrain should be be pursued regardless. Since the Caltrain ROW can already accommodate 4 tracks along most of the line I do not see how it could possibly be cheaper to instead add 2-tracks along the 101 and build a completely separate parallel railway ROW.

The 101 does not have large enough medians to accommodate supports for elevated HSR structures. Politically it would be practically impossible to remove lanes from the 101 (think of how much they are spending now just to squeeze some auxiliary lanes in).

If proposed to expand the current width limits of the 101 imagine how expensive that would be (not to mention the lawsuits from affected property owners). Considering Palo Alto made enough of a stink about CHSRA's proposal to remove one lane of traffic from a short segment of Alma imagine the hell to pay if proposed to remove a lane of traffic in each direction from the 101 between SF and San Jose.

"Oh for the love of God! How could they imagine removing one lane of traffic from Alma? Good heavens, that's about 3 miles! The end times must be near!"

Posted by TS
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Darrell Steinberg is the CA Senate leader and represents Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, and Oak Grove. He is the person who presented the EBAG in 2008. He is the person in the SF Chronicle pictures with Jerry Brown promoting the HSR and the Water Infrastrucutre change. Go to his web page. The LA Times loves him. Obviously the LA Times has more extensive reporting state-wide on what is going on than in SF, Palo Alto, or the regional groups. Assume he is the CEO who is leading this project and related projects for CA. The problem we have is Regional Planning which narrrows the focus, see Chronicle 03/23/12, versus a picture of what is happening statewide. There is only a limited amount of money and right now you cannot see what is happening outside of the immediate area. Then you can look in the Chronicle which came 03/22 and look at the extensive project at Bay Meadows, San Mateo which features the CALTRANS as a selling point. This is a huge foldout, huge project.
From where I am sitting you have a great CALTRANS system now which is being upgraded for newer safety features. You have a great BART System which is extending its services and upgrading on a regular basis. You can get some additional funds for newer engines and safety features. But at the state level the HSR is a Sacramento to La through Fresno project. There are a lot of government agencies in Fresno. Any Tunnels that will be dug are through the Tehachapi Mountains in parallel to Interstate 5.
Rather than imagining look at what is there now - the framework is there and working - no one is going to tear apart the framework that is there now at the state level of funding. The regional group may be playing you and leading you down the rabbit trail.

Posted by San Jose resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm

A bunch of rich NIMBY's with too much money, connections and time cares more about a little activity in their neighborhood and ignores benefits HSR can bring to CA. If you have time attend the meetings and bring any objections before hand. Its because of such useless lawsuites the project overruns happen. I voted for the HSR and still strongly support it.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm

On the whole, there is nothing wrong with the concept of HSR.

The problem is the cost to build and the cost to run it. It is going to be far more expensive to build than originally thought. There are no "private investors" as originally proposed - essentially because the project does not pencil out.

And just about everyone with a brain agrees that the predicted ridership numbers are so far-fetched, that we cannot trust the projected income; which means that the someone would have to come up with a huge supplemental revenue stream to make it work...i.e., the California taxpayer.

No one wants that, NIMBY or otherwise.

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