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Push to improve Caltrain tests 'Palo Alto process'

Original post made on Aug 9, 2017

As Palo Alto moves ahead with plans to transform the rail corridor, city officials are struggling to reconcile two seemingly competing goals: catching up to other communities in a race for county funds and engaging in the type of prolonged deliberative process that has long been synonymous with City Hall culture.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 10:55 PM

Comments (46)

27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Does Palo Alto want grade separations or not. Many of the existing "stakeholder groups" do not and will do their best to stall and drive up the cost of the project. All of our friends in the city do want grade separations. How do we form our own stakeholder group with direct access to city leaders? Or do certain city residents have more privileges than others?


21 people like this
Posted by RP
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:17 am

I can see the desire for a stakeholder group, but the bottom line is that we all want below grade separation. Because of cost, it will likely be a trench over a tunnel. As the article stated, this has been discussed before. Let's figure out how to get it done. The impact will be lower noise, less traffic and minimal visual impacts. There's higher cost, but if we can do a $300 mil bond for schools, I'm sure we can come up with a way to help drive this effort.


21 people like this
Posted by Shades of the VTA Tax Shuttle
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:39 am

What a farce. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

This "process" reminds me of Mr. Mello's request for additional funds for the Palo Alto Shuttle AFTER the VTA informed us we won't be getting additional VTA service BECAUSE we already have shuttle service and the VTA wants to avoid duplicating services. Of course, this was AFTER the City urged us to approve the additional sales tax to get the VTA service and we dutifully voted accordingly.

Of course we're still stuck paying the increased sales tax for VTA services we don't get and will probably get stuck paying more for the PA Shuttle, too. Catch 22.


7 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 10, 2017 at 6:56 am

The process allows feedback from the community and ensures the net impact is positive. It's called a democracy. There should be no rush to get this done quickly, it needs to be done right.


13 people like this
Posted by True Residentialist
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2017 at 10:38 am

Get ready for more "paralysis by analysis" as Arthur Keller tees up his second bid for City Council.


6 people like this
Posted by Doris
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2017 at 10:48 am

We have a representative democracy. We elect officials to represent citizen interests. If the meetings are open and information is broadcast, I say let the city do it's job and make decisions about grade separation without a special committee. Concerned citizens can weigh in as desired.


7 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:29 am

To not have people that are actually effected by this have direct input would be a huge mistake. Yes, speed is critical, so form the stakeholder group quickly. That is all that is needed. It will then be much more effective and trusted by all in the long run.

Good decision by the 4 Commissioners. Thanks to those who spoke in support of this outcome.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:45 am

@anon - transportation issues affect the whole city. Some people may be more affected, but that doesn't mean that other should be shut out of the process. Elected officials should represent all of the people and do what is best for the city as a whole.


13 people like this
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

I don't see Mountain View and Sunnyvale being willing to wait for us to spin up a new advisory council and spend a couple of years talking about this. Deciding to have a leisurely planning process means deciding that the other Santa Clara County cities will solve their problems on their own and that Palo Alto's solution space will be restricted to whatever options are feasible a few years from now after everyone else's plans have been finalized.

It's pretty optimistic to assume that a trench for the 4 miles of track within Palo Alto city limits will still be a realistic possibility by that point.


39 people like this
Posted by watched on TV
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Michael Alcheck abuses his position as Chair. He dominates the discussion, makes a motion, preempting other commissioners. Very improper for a chair to do that.
He picks and picks and parses and complicates other members motions.

He worked really hard to prevent residents involvement. He speaks on and on, rambling through his thoughts, on and on. All in the interest of destroying someone else's position. Very improper. Fortunately he didn't succeed. Shame on Susan Monk for voting to exclude residents.

Thank you to Doria Summa and the others who voted to include residents.


11 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm

If we need to rush, then the clear expressed preference is for undergrounding the tracks. If it's going to cost more, then all the more reason to get on with securing the necessary funds.

"Residents have repeatedly voiced a preference for putting Caltrain in a trench or tunnel -- alternatives that are very likely to win the popularity contest once again."
Planning Director: "... there's been a lot of thought given to the corridor and a clear preference expressed in a number of forums about a below-grade solution...."


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:41 pm

A stake holder group should include people who use the Rail/Street intersections who are not Palo Alto Residents. There are many commuters who cross the tracks and certainly have a big stake in traffic delays and safety issues. They obviously have different interests than people who live close to the crossings.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Spending funds to improve crossing with tracks below grade improves infrastructure for everybody. It is a better that all the money being dumped into Buena Vista to subsidize just a few.

Some will come back with it is a different bucket of money but it is still just setting priorities on the use of public funds.


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm

@Steve, excellent points about different stakeholder groups including those who live outside Palo Alto. But since the city can't even seem to notify consistently PA residents directly effected by various proposed changes happening on their street or in front of our homes, the likelihood of that happening are slim to none.


11 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Jonathan Brown: "If we need to rush, then the clear expressed preference is for undergrounding the tracks. If it's going to cost more, then all the more reason to get on with securing the necessary funds"

Amen.

Let's focus on how we can come up with ways to fund putting Caltrain underground rather than debate the design ad nauseam. This could be a game changer for the community of Palo Alto - in a very positive way. Even the cranks living on the other side of Middlefield will see the benefit - maybe even have people prefer Alma over Middlefield!


12 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm

What do you mean they are excluding residents? That is absurd. Palo Alto residents ARE the stakeholders. We have been talking about this for years and the consensus has been: PUT THE TRAIN IN A TRENCH. There is no other reasonable solution. Why do we have to keep thrashing through this decision over and over again?


4 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm

About 50 years ago Berkeley voters taxed themselves to assist BART in funding below grade through Berkeley. Even with VTA funding, Palo Alto residents interested in trenching Caltrain need to get going on a dedicated, local funding share that can be in place before any grade separation construction starts. Any local process that threatens to slow Electrification will obviously be unlikely to gain support from neighboring jurisdictions.

Good Luck! Mountain View already has concepts in place for both Castro and Rengstorff.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Government is going to fund this the same way they fund everything... taxes.

For what kind of tax, we should look to other modes of transportation for models.

The City of San Francisco has an airport tax that is charged to every traveler at SFO and they also charge the airlines landing fees. PAO and other local airports also charge landing fees. SFO has stiff fees for parking in their facilities and also charges taxis and shuttles fees to service the airport.

The City of San Francisco and other port cities also charge ships that use their port facilities all kinds of port fee, docking fees, and landing fees, etc.


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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

PA Grandma,

Since other local jurisdictions have helped to fund raising the tracks to improve street circulation, Palo Alto needs to be prepared to do something similar for a trench. It might take longer to raise the money than to complete any engineering design and approval process.


2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Stakeholder group may be synomous with Luddite.
These stakeholders must be screener for people who will act quickly to make this happen and forego the Palo Alto process.


8 people like this
Posted by Cash Cow
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:31 pm

If this is going to be funded by increased taxes, what type of say do we / will we have on the various alternatives before one is anything is decided?

What type of budget has been slated for all the consultants who will tell the city what it wants to hear?


10 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Good lord, they're going to p*ss away at least another 5 years debating this to death. There will be solar-powered flying carpets before Palo Alto has grade separation.

Here it is: Web Link

Take special note of the 2% trench solution. It IS grade separation at Charleston and Meadow and involves NO property taking. Trenching seems to be the most popular option. The engineering work is largely complete. You could start building it tomorrow but for the fact that there is no funding in place!

This engineering report has been sitting in the bowels of city hall for three years with no action being taken. Every Palo Alto resident needs to read it.

Churchill and Palo Alto Avenue remain problem cases to be sure.


4 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 10, 2017 at 6:00 pm

@ Leslie:

I hate to break it to you, but the HMM report is for planning and scoping purposes, it does not include sufficient construction detail to build anything. IF it had been received with consensus three years ago, AND a Citizen backed drive to arrange local funding had been started, we might be in a position to begin construction by 2020 when Electrification is scheduled to be complete. Once Electrification is complete, none of the cost estimates from 3 years ago will still be valid. Even at $2.5 Million or more each, many homes could be acquired to more fully lower streets, preserving Electrification, compared to the staging costs of all new Electrification in a locally funded trench. Just the excavation of the trench might cost at least as much as a San Antonio style grade separation structure. Such a structure could also be built with minimal disruption to Caltrain and the existing freight service. Trenching, not so much...


4 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Old Steve: I used the word "tomorrow" to make a point, not to be taken literally.

The bigger point is that CPA has been dragging its feet and stalling and sitting on its hands and watching the paint dry for years and years regarding grade sep. You can take that literally.


2 people like this
Posted by Susan Monk
a resident of University South
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:26 am

@watched on tv, it was a lengthy discussion so perhaps you dozed off when the Chair put himself on the same footing as the public speakers, who provided many insights, I might add. The entire PTC supports, enourages and appreciates community input. But if you can run the show better, we've got 2 openings coming up. You'll have to use your real name of course. Apply here
Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

PA, like other nearby communities, have not quite realized that the era of suburban, small, mostl independent communities along the penninsula is basically over. Corporate sprawl is increasingly squeezing out larger percentages of the populations and the idea of single family homes along old, tree lined streets - if they survive at all - is giving way to higher density. Big cities have historically pushed residential out to suburban rings (not without it's own problems), as the core becomes dominated by commerce. The problem with the pennisula is that the large investments needed to move the majority of workers in and out of the core each day hasn't been made and for most who commute, BART, Catrain, and the limited highway options fall far short. Still, towns like PA continue to believe they can manage expensive short term solutions to what is unquestionably, regional issues. Communities that can't maintain reasonable accomodations across the wage spectrum don't endure and long after the ad-gimmick tech companies fads fade, the ability of community to endure is crucial. Unfortunately, too many of the population are solely focused on short term advantage without much interest in long term planning.

Much higher density housing - as in ten plus stories - is needed but alone won't solve the problem without a serious new transit solution. One blogger on PA Online recently offered using the Caltrain land coupled with a new form of autonomous buses as a high speed alternative to a NYC or Washington DC style metro. This was a creative idea - if the penninsula can't commit to funding a next gen super-BART trenched through PA, perhaps there are other tech solutions.

Clearly, the one achilles heal in the extremely sucessful tech growth model has been housing and transportation. Nobody wants to go big on these because it's a huge challenge so just like the surge during the dot com, it goes largely unaddressed. PA, and others, engage in costly bandaid fixes which won't really solve anything. PA likes to think it can solve everything from climate, energy efficiency, social engineering all with a few costly consultants and the wisdom of the city council. It can't.

Two hundred billion will go into the high speed rail folly rather than far better investment in bay area transit. Electrification of Caltrain is so expensive and will hardly ease the problem. Undergrounding the corridor tracks would be an excellent place to start the bigger effort - other, big cities accept this scale of engineering as necessary. The Penninsula, now, is a big city and needs to think a bit larger than one or two intersections.


12 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Annette is a registered user.

No one can claim to be surprised by the issue as it is hardly new. Two neighboring cities have their RR act together (or at least more together) than we do. Time to giddyup, City Hall.


9 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm

"Two neighboring cities have their RR act together (or at least more together) than we do. Time to giddyup, City Hall."

I count four nearby cities: Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Carlos and Belmont.

I'll bang this drum again: the City of Palo Alto has had an engineering study, all bought and paid for, in its hands for three years. It was gathering dust in city hall until finally, after two and a half years, there was ONE (and only one) community meeting last May. Aside from that meeting, there was no action from city staff or the city council, just benign neglect.

At the one community meeting it was determined that safety, pedestrian and bike access and improved traffic flow were important. Really? It took several years and a community meeting to figure that out?

At the next meeting somebody needs to hold Hatch, Mott, MacDonald's feet to the fire. Why does their plan call for a several-square-block parcel of land, big enough for a shopping center, and the attendant taking of scores of homes, to grade separate ONE crossing? Why have other cities accomplished grade separation without leveling the surrounding terrain?

I fear Palo Alto is going to get stuck with a white elephant.


22 people like this
Posted by watched on TV
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm

@Susan Monk
When a citizen criticizes a public official, the proper response is not, you go and do it better. I am doing my job as an alert citizen. You should do your job and deal with the issue, not toss it back at me.

Mr. Alcheck seems to have no understanding of the role of a chairperson. It most certainly is NOT to "put himself on the same footing as the public speakers." I have chaired boards and made it my business to learn proper procedure.

Mr Alcheck uses his position to foster his pro-developer views. A chairperson is supposed to enable the members to express themselves, being fair to all members. The rules/guidelines are not complex, it appears he is just conducting a do-it-youself job. Using his position to force his personal interests (I believe he is a real estate lawyer) is highly improper.

He picked and picked at a motion made by a commissioner until it was barely understandable. I've only seen that done once as I've watched the Council, that was Greg Scharff not long ago, picking apart a colleague's motion he didn't want to come to a vote. He should have been censured by the Attorney.

I didn't doze off but I did give up after a while, the chair often doesn't speak into the microphone and becomes inaudible which is also unprofessional behavior.

I am disappointed that you voted to exclude public participation.


21 people like this
Posted by Bill Ross
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2017 at 3:03 pm

There are more than two issues. First, I and others raised very specific issues at the Community Meeting where an expensive consultant stated "we will look into that and get back to you please give us your contact information." The issues raised were specific and directly relevant to at-grade and seperated grade crossings such as: has the owner of the involved rail lines and lessees of the lines been determined and contacted; why there was a lack of awareness of the current processing and substantive approval standards of the Public Utilities Commission; lack of knowledge of the proposed right-of-way of High Speed Rail and the absence of knowledge of the actual cost of seperated grade crossings? Equally disturbing is the lack of City Staff effort to get commitments for the funding for seperated grade crossings whether from County or State funding sources. To date there has been NO RESPOSE from the consultant leading to the conclusion that the meeting was nothing more than a check the box action by City Staff. There are numerous examples upon which both the Staff and the Consultant could have draw to be more informative about legal restrictions and the actual cost---whether there are proceedings before the Surface Transportation Board (a federal agency administering rail use of rail lines), the experience of SMART with both types of crossings: the experience of the City of Merced in securing funding for a seperated grade crossing to reference just a few. There should be immediate direction by the Council to pursue all available funding sources including part of the City's legistative package in Sacramento. Should there be review by a select committee? Absolutely provided that it actually has a composition that is knowledgeable and willing to act quickly. The lack of real accomplishments on this issue to date is all the more disturbing given the level of compensation of City Staff in comparison to that of other cities that have accomplished much more with apparently more skilled and knowledgeable staff costing substantially less. We have continually been told that we are paying more for the City Manager and Staff because we are getting more. The facts set forth above establish otherwise.


7 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Bill Ross: is Mott, MacDonald the consultant to which you refer? I have serious doubts about their competence, having seen the designs they have submitted. Apparently they have done work for VTA in the past. Their proposed designs for a single grade separation, involving the taking of dozens of homes in a radius of several blocks, is just astounding. Palo Alto is going to get stuck with a white elephant.

I watched the video of the May meeting again. Josh Mello seemed knowledgeable but the rest were clueless about train horns and quiet zones. It is my understanding that the FRA requires trains to sound their horns as they approach an at-grade crossing. If the crossings are grade separated the trains and cars would no longer cross paths and there would be no requirement for the trains to sound their horns on approach, at least that's how I understand it.


20 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Thanks to the PTC majority for supporting a process that will support better analysis of alternatives and a design with broader community support. This will be the most complex, contentious and expensive project in Palo Alto history, even exceeding the Oregon Expressway project. The idea that it can be rammed through and not use the "best process" is miss-guided and based on over confidence, to put it kindly.
I also agree with posters' concerns over how Chair Alcheck conducted the meeting. I spent over 20 years as a neighborhood leader attending the PTC, as a PTC member, and on the city council. The responsibility of the chair is to attempt to conduct an orderly and productive meeting in ways that are productive while treating colleagues fairly and impartially, as well as valuing the contributions of the public.
I don't say it lightly that I have never seen a PTC meeting where the chair functioned in a manner as reckless, heavy handed and flat-out clueless. He used the chair's control to insist that he could present his motion first. He then spent extensive time improperly trying to obstruct Lauing's motion from being seconded and then prohibited the maker from being able to speak to his motion immediately after it was finally allowed to be seconded. He tried to make an improper amendment to Lauing's motion that was actually an effort to substitute his own initial motion. Incredibly, he ordered that dissenting views would only be heard after the vote, undermining Robert's Rules and the basic value of open democratic debate. Throughout, he abused the chair's position by dominating discussion and cut-off commissioners who advocated positions differing from his.
This is more than a small breakdown in the functioning of one of our key commissions. The council, staff and commissioners need to help assure that our local democratic institutions are protected, are fair and function well.


9 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2017 at 4:02 pm

" Josh Mello seemed knowledgeable but the rest were clueless about train horns and quiet zones. "

Interesting. Maybe now we know why we made no progress on grade separation. Someone seems to have been more focused on littering our streets with incomprehensible bike lanes and traffic calming do-das instead of pushing the ball forward on grade separation.

There you go.


7 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm

It occurs to me that the PA process will result in a bunch of political theatre leading to the inevitable 'a camel is a horse designed by committee' results. A recent example is the anaerobic digestion plant at our Baylands, a complete fiasco...but a ton of public input. Pat Burt was in power throughout that process, btw, and he got it wrong. This grade separation discussion and final decision will end up the same way, imo. We will lose out on the money, endlessly argue, point fingers and get left with choices that are hugely more costly than originally possible.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

Sunnyvale is starting to look at Mary Ave. They have a lot more land to work with, but have offered many more options, including half-up, half-down ones. There is a lot of work to be done in Palo Alto.
Sunnyvale's information is here: Web Link
Options here: Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

"It occurs to me that the PA process will result in a bunch of political theatre leading to the inevitable 'a camel is a horse designed by committee' results."

That's what I'm afraid of too.

Even with partial up / down, homes would still need to be taken at some of the crossings. People seem to like pretending our layout is the same as San Carlos, but it's not.

And to take fewer homes, we'll end up closing Churchill and Palo Alto Avenue, driving an order of magnitude more traffic to other N/S crossings, including Middlefield, Cowper Louis and Greer. Just because you live further away from the tracks, the way things are going , you will suffer just as much as people living closer to the tracks with a suboptimal grade separation. Speed bumps won't matter when cars are bumper to bumper.

And with the closing of two east/west crossings, let's talk about shoving even more cars onto Oregon Expressway and University. And Santa Clara County will get an excuse to really make Oregon Expressway like the Lawrence Expressway or San Tomas Expressway.

Right down the middle of Palo Alto.

Think about that. People who are experts say that it only takes a few incremental cars to cause traffic. It will only take a handful of cars that would have taken Alma to jam things up. Think Middlefield is bad today? It will get even worse with what we're heading towards.

At the rate we're going, we're going to end up with a solution that will haunt Palo Alto for the next 150 years.

Grade separation is coming. Electrification is coming. It really is the bottom of the 9th to get this done, and done right. Otherwise it will be imposed on us. And we will hate the results.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:47 pm

@Me 2, good points.

Insert my usual comment about how cars backing up in front of Jordan on Middlefield are getting stuck in the middle of Oregon NOW, a problem that will get worse, yet Mr. Mello's proposed "solution" to this is to get the county to change the light timing on Oregon.

And the "monitoring" goes on.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Personally I think this has to be done with electrification so we have to get our acts together.

Charleston, Meadow and Alma are crossings that have to be kept functioning as efficiently as possible. Churchill could possibly be closed provided a couple of things are put in place. The first would have to be a pedestrian/bike tunnel with perhaps a garage/parking lot for some of the Paly people to park with permits and then they could walk to campus. The second would be to open the Alma/Sand Hill connector so that Sand Hill, Stanford SC and some of Stanford campus traffic would have a better run (the traffic that now uses Churchill as a connector).

Charleston, Meadow and Alma are integral to traffic flow and they need to remain particularly to take extra traffic if Churchill is closed.

I would also like to see more parking options east of the tracks at Cal Ave. If there were better parking options, Caltrain passengers and Cal Ave workers and shoppers could use the tunnel rather than have to cross the tracks at one of the crossing places.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2017 at 2:22 pm

"The second would be to open the Alma/Sand Hill connector so that Sand Hill, Stanford SC and some of Stanford campus traffic would have a better run (the traffic that now uses Churchill as a connector)."

That's the Palo Alto Ave. crossing. That will be closed with the existing separation proposals because it cannot be grade separated in just Palo Alto. That connector will never exist unless we trench/tunnel AND get Menlo Park to also trench/tunnel.

That's what I mean - there are a lot of downstream traffic impacts throughout Palo Alto if we continue on this path of inaction. We'll get a half-baked approach that will degrade the Palo Alto experience not only along the tracks but also in the neighborhoods impacted by an increased number of cars on N/S thoroughfares like Middlefield. Those neighborhoods will experience increased traffic because of the required closures.

This is our destiny unless we make a citywide effort to change it.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Mr. Mello's proposed "solution" to this is to get the county to change the light timing on Oregon."

Might as well get used to that perennial jam on Oregon. Mr. Mello is not going to give up his pretty Jordan bottleneck with all those nice shiny posts.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2017 at 11:48 pm

"Even with partial up / down, homes would still need to be taken at some of the crossings."

You have no basis for that claim because it hasn't been studied. Mott, MacDonald studied lowering Alma but not elevating the tracks. So stop posting lies and baseless claims, and fear mongering, please.

"Churchill could possibly be closed"

These nonsensical calls to close crossings will only increase congestion and gridlock. Is that what you want? Just leave it as is. The gates will be down a few minutes per hour during rush hour. Deal with it.

One person pisses and moans about gridlock on Oregon and the next person wants to close crossings, adding to the gridlock on Oregon.

"That [Palo Alto Ave.] will be closed with the existing separation proposals because it cannot be grade separated in just Palo Alto. That connector will never exist unless we trench/tunnel AND get Menlo Park to also trench/tunnel."

Another baseless claim which hasn't been studied by a qualified engineering firm. Not only would you have to get Menlo Park/San Mateo County to trench (and fund) their side, you would also have the non-trivial challenge of crossing the creek and getting the trains back to grade for the Palo Alto station, all within a few hundred feet. AFAIK Palo Alto Avenue hasn't even been studied.

"I would also like to see more parking options east of the tracks at Cal Ave."

Where are you going to put those parking options? Bowden Park?

City officials are talking about crossings at Everett and Loma Verde. Are they out of their minds? They're having enough trouble grade separating the existing crossings.


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2017 at 9:54 am

Leslie, let's get to brass tacks. How high do you think the city residents would accept lifting the tracks? You'all get zero support from the residents closer to the tracks for that solution.

Zero.

What you advocating is essentially gridlock, which will result in the scenario above. Inaction. And that will result in the closure of Churchill and Palo Alto Ave. because all crossings will be grade separated - or closed.

I don't think you realize how much Caltrain wants to increase service with electrification. And there's nothing we can do about that.


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Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 17, 2017 at 11:50 am

The need to acquire residential properties for any grade separation alternative does not necessarily mean the project gets wider. It could just mean the new street grade precludes access from the street to the property. Given the cost factors involved in trenching the rail corridor, acquiring property at fair market value is still the most cost effective solution. Therefore, if community consensus truly forms around trenching, raising local money quickly will become THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Without local money, the City has almost no jurisdiction over the actions of the Caltrain JPB, or the funding decisions of the VTA with respect to county-wide revenues. Come on PA, time to put up or shut up!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

@ Leslie

I respect your input in all this and have backed you up before.

Please do not use my comments as negatives typical of Palo Alto. What I said about the possibility of closing Churchill was throwing out a thought process, not that I advocated closing it. I think you yourself have already stated on occasions that Churchill was a different situation than the other crossings. I was trying to think outside the box by somehow looking at making the need to cross there less necessary by providing parking east of Alma for Paly traffic. Is it ideal? No, of course not. The same about providing parking east of California isn't ideal, but it is something to consider. The park is small and does have some parking spaces. At present I know some of the parking there is taken by people wanting to access Caltrain later in the day or Cal Ave for lunch. If some extra parking could be found there through innovative thinking, it would alleviate the need for some traffic to cross the tracks. That was my thinking anyway.

We have a very difficult situation. I think any solution to any grade separation is going to be far from ideal. I think looking at some possible innovations that could help alleviate the need for traffic to cross the tracks is worth putting into the mix.

Another big thing that would help would be Cubberley being reopened as a high school. At present approximately half our high school students have to cross those tracks twice each day. I know traffic around town is so much easier when school is out. I can't help asking myself how both Charleston and Meadow would look if we had a high school east of the tracks.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Resident:

The idea of closing the crossings has come up several times in recent weeks. I have spent a great deal of time explaining in this space why it's an impractical idea, or questioning the benefits of the idea.

I don't mean to single you out, but it doesn't advance the discussion when people bring up ideas they haven't thought out, or are impractical or infeasible or prohibitively expensive, such as a hyperloop. Grade separation is a very complicated problem in Palo Alto, with many gotchas waiting to get you.

I'm sorry if you took my comments the wrong way.

Now city officials want to get 200 citizens involved instead of the original committee of 10. If 10 goofy ideas are good, 200 must be better.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2017 at 4:06 pm

"Given the cost factors involved in trenching the rail corridor, acquiring property at fair market value is still the most cost effective solution."

I don't know how you arrived at this conclusion, but with homes in P.A. going for over $2 million, even if it were cost effective it would almost certainly be D.O.A. pilitically.


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

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