Monday, March 2, 2009

Grade Separations Done Right

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

One of the core claims of the HSR deniers that are trying to kill the system on the Peninsula is that an above-grade set of rails will look like a freeway - like some sort of "Berlin Wall". Here's what one group of deniers claims will result in Menlo Park from above-grade HSR:



The only thing missing from this image is barbed wire, gun towers, and a GDR flag.

But how are grade separations for HSR trains in urban areas accomplished in Europe? A quick glance shows that the "omg Berlin Wall!" claims are nonsense and that elegant above-grade solutions that enhance the character of cities are possible.

Here's a train from Monterosso, Italy:



Notice the elegant use of archways to break up the elevated structure and to integrate with the surrounding landscape. This also offers many more opportunities to cross the ROW than even exist with the current at-grade Caltrain tracks.

Here's an image from Berlin. Notice the shops that have been integrated into the elevated structure:



And another image of ICE trains in Berlin:



To Britain now, with a Eurostar train at Lambeth Road in London:



This is obviously a much older elevated structure but it too uses the multiple archway concept to both provide separate tracks but also opens up the structure to light, pedestrians, and other methods of keeping a community together.

Too bad there's no examples on the Peninsula of how arches help make structures look better and more open. Oh, wait, what's this?



(Stanford University, for those of you who aren't aware.)

It is my sincere hope that the cities along the Caltrain/HSR route will consider suggesting these kinds of solutions to grade separating the tracks in their communities, and refuse to follow a small but loud group of anti-HSR forces in opposing one of the most important projects California has considered in decades.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and other cities should use European HSR systems as models for how to successfully implement improved passenger rail in their cities. It's not a choice between a "Berlin Wall" or a tunnel or nothing.

125 comments:

Will in SF said...

Alright, so clearly anyone who would produce a picture like that is being inflammatory and hyperbolic and not working in good faith. But it seems to me there could be a legitimate concern here that the spokespeople for the Berlin Wall argument aren't really representing, and the options in this piece don't really respond to, either.

What I think of when I hear people claim it will divide their town is the Central Freeway through Hayes Valley. That really did kind of divide and ruin the neighborhood. The elegant arches of Italy may be nicer than the mid-50s Caltrans chic of the Central Freeway, but the structure could have that same sort of dividing effect.

If I lived in Palo Alto, I'd want to know why elevated tracks aren't going to become the Central Freeway of my town. And I might be more convinced by something like the elevated BART tracks in El Cerrito.

Truth, Please said...

The only problem is that you persist in showing trains in town centers, down town centers, shopping centers, etc. You show places where there are high rises, parking structures, town squares, etc.

This simply and factually is not where you are proposing to run this line. Robert you really must get educated on this so you can at least argue from the position of truth.

You continue to peddle misinformation to your followers. There is a very small commercial area in Palo Alto near University (about 100 yards worth, if even that long. It runs parallel to the tracks no more than 2-3 blocks long,including the University crossing. You've shown a very lovely vision of what that small stretch might some day strive to be.

But the other 6 miles of town along the ROW is mainly small, very small, primarily single story residential, narrow, tree lined streets.

This is a view of the ROW taken from the BUSIEST street in Palo Alto (link below).

So, this is literally a view of the noisy smelly smoke belching trains you keep telling Palo Altan's are such a misery. (Can you see them?)

Please note that with the 4 track widening all these trees will have be removed (they encroach on the ROW), and replaced with a vertical wall 8, 10, 15, 20 feet? I wonder if the # of feet really worth arguing about. The concept is the same.

The train which today runs 50 feet behind this tree line, will run directly adjacent to the street atop the wall (with the high voltage electrical on top of that.)

Your argumentation is for TRUTH from the NIMBYs. In all fairness, can you offer any yourself?

Can you please show us some lovely photos of trains that run directly through suburban, single family residence, treelined, neighborhood front yard and back yards. Trains within about 20 feet of homes and schools.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=palo+alto,+ca&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=32.748002,55.546875&ie=UTF8&ll=37.434226,-122.149276&spn=0,359.999152&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=37.434175,-122.149196&panoid=JMoparVckO0Kfg8GIXG73A&cbp=12,285.5128207374104,,0,7.848101265822748

You seem to be either unaware of the area you're talking about here, or you seem to equally as unable to come to terms with the proposed HSR reality as these residents.

It seems like you continue to operate in disbelief of HSR's reality for these neighborhoods.

I have no problem with you continuing to argue for CHSR through this route, none at all.

But your argument, if you wish it to have any credibility, can not continue to be that this will be a lovely addition to these towns.

The only valid argument must be that you don't give a crap about the impact, it just needs to happen anyway for the Greater Good.

Truth please.

Truth, Please said...

That link doesn't work. I was trying to provide a view of the ROW from about the 1600 block of Alma in Palo Alto. Thats just south of Paly if anyone is interested in trying to take a look.

For whatever reason I can't get the link to work here. Its too bad because I'm sure that by not providing the link, that will definitely be an excuse for many reading this blog to continue to disregard the reality on the ground.

Alex said...

The problem is you are looking for a specific shot, but we are just using Google to search for pictures like everyone else. Just because something is hard to find on the internet, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

But look, regarding that first picture of Italy. That looked like a pretty upscale, wealthy, sub-urban area (ok, some lower rise residential buildings, but close enough).

As it happens, I have managed to find a picture of a Japaneseshinkansen line running through a Japanese residential suburb

Note the houses on either side of the track (just going out of frame on the right, and across on the other side). I know there are no green lawns and whatnot, but that doesn't exist in Japanese home, regardless of where they are. I think this is a good example, of a track running through a nice residential neighborhood.



If I had known 2 years ago when I was living in a Japanese suburb, that I was going to be asked to supply a picture like this, I would have driven a few miles to my local Shinkansen line to take a few pictures myself.

Anonymous said...

The HIGH SPEED RAIL:
LET'S DO IT RIGHT
folks should go to Berlin and see for themselves that the wall is no more (apart from a few selected places), and that the east-west elevated line does not have an appearance of a wall going east to west. :-)

However, as I said in the previous thread; I don't think a split grade solution is the right thing to do technically over short distances, and I don't like lines going through cities that are built on top of retained fills due to, as you say, visual clutter. In my opinion, either you go for a full aerial through city centres, or you build a tunnel. When the line passes through residential areas, one should keep the line at grade and build underpasses for road and pedestrian traffic where required.

rgds, Erik

Ed - Burbank said...

Would it be possible it go up the 101 freeway from SJ to SF?

Personally it think the current alignment is better.

Alex said...

On top of my previous picture, I found a google street view location.


google street view of Japan


Note the Shinkansen line on the right (built in the mid 60s BTW, so keep that in mind when looking at from a visual standpoint)

This is a very typical upper-middle-class Japanese suburb. Mostly single family homes - again no yards, but the Japanese almost never have yards, but just a little area they landscape. If you "walk" around, see the mix of older and new houses, see someone has a large garden on the right, right across from a pretty new house with a nice landscaped front "lawn". Keep walking "south" down that street, and you will see some more nice landscaped "lawns". (*sigh* I miss Japan!)

This isn't some poor run down area. This is a nice, Japanese single family area.

Yes. somehow they manage with the Shinkansen running through their neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Truth Please, the link works, it is just that a Google Street view takes a while to paint.

Owen E said...

This is the link that Truth,Please was trying to show.

I think the Shinkansen is a poor example of what elevated structures should look like through neighborhoods. It was mostly built in the 60s and 70s, and the Japanese less NIMBYism (except for noise! they make big deals about noise, hence the big noise walls) and can stomacy more utilitarian / no frills infrastructure than any other developed country in the world.

In short, I do not expect Palo Alto to be OK with something like that Shinkansen line.

BTW the commercial district near downtown Palo Alto is closer to 1 mile long, not 100 yards. Basically, 1 block north of Embarcadero to a couple blocks shy of El Palo Alto.

Kyle - Boston said...

I have to say, those are some great examples of HSR running on elevated tracks through Europe. It just shows how HSR can be nicely integrated into the community.

Anonymous said...

Here is another example in the santa clara area that was mentioned at the Santa Clara EIR meeting. Let me try this link. The address is 456 Fuller, San Jose CA street view if this link does not work. See that green patch there and park, across from the houses? Those are the train tracks. This has been circulating in all the scoping meetings. If you are going to rebutt this, you need some ammunition, not those pictures from Europe which have nothing to do with this. Just an observation.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=456+fuller,+san+jose+ca&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&ll=37.319475,-121.894319&spn=0.007133,0.021029&z=16&iwloc=addr&layer=c&cbll=37.317849,-121.894314&panoid=0LLlonpURQKZHhxIQvHfdA&cbp=12,182.678427545519,,0,5

Jim said...

I really like the archways designs and the ones with the shops built in. A combination of both could be used. The deniers of course will not like anything because their real goal is to stop the project not to find a solution.

Jarrett Mullen said...

Truth,

Palo Alto is a town center. In fact, it is a regional destination. Directly across the tracks is Stanford shopping center which has proposed additional infill development in the parking lots abutting El Camino Real. In addition, University Ave is much more that 100 yards of shops. Remember, there are several streets that branch out from University Ave containing additional shops, offices, and government buildings. This is not to mention Stanford University is relatively close to the downtown station and easily connected with the Marguerite shuttle. This is why Palo Alto is being considered for the mid-peninsula stop.

With that said, I think there are ways to integrate HSR into this unique community even on an elevated alignment. Instead of demanding underground or nothing, some compromise among residents could go a long way. Clearly, the utilitarian structures from the Shinkansen are out and tunneling will create all sorts of conflicts.

Therefore, why not embrace a unique elevated design like the images posted by robert? In fact, the authority could hire local architects to design an elegant structure that embraces design elements of the community instead of dividing it. Instead of demanding a tunnel, demand excellent design on an elevated structure. For instance, the architects could use some of the beautiful design elements from Stanford and apply them to the elevated structure.

If the community is willing to compromise with the elevated alignment, I'm willing to bet the CHSRA will go out of its way to build a structure that doesn't resemble a drab freeway monolith.

David S said...

Just to set this up, I think the "a city torn apart by rail lines" argument is pretty disingenuous, given that the city was founded on the rail lines. The "tunnel or we'll block you" argument seems especially shallow to me.

However, I was in Berkeley the other night and its pretty clear that the decision to tunnel - even though they had to pay for it - was the right one to make. The difference between Oakland and Berkeley was striking.

As has been mentioned, none of those pictures from Japan are anywhere near acceptable to this area in California. Japanese sensibilities are very different, and you'd almost have to visit Japan to understand why those structures are ok for them. (When I visited Japan, I was personally shocked at how ugly some of the infrastructure - stations excepted - was)

And as been pointed out, you're talking about a 75' right of way that backs up to single story yards. It really doesn't further the discussion to dismiss the concerns of Palo Alto out of hand (although the decision to buy a two million eichler along an active railway does seem like quite a gamble to me). A tunnel or trench really probably is the best approach here, but the residents need to realize a significant portion of the cost will have to be covered locally.

I'm curious what the actual costs of a tunnel would be. Are we talking $500M or over $1B? Just how much value could be recovered from the air rights - $500M seems like a stretch to me, given that a lot of the space would probably go right to building roads.

Some of the rhetoric and claims I'm seeing are getting out of hand. Then there's the news today about botched (?) planning of the transbay terminal. The thing is, we can't spend $40+B and wind up with a compromised system or else rail in this state will never work.

Jim said...

This is about a ten foot berm. http://www.jnybny.com/100_0446.JPG

mike said...

Agreed that Anon @ 11:41 AM's picture is much more relevant to the residential Palo Alto neighborhoods. That is precisely the type of "Berlin Wall" that they might expect to get. Doesn't look a whole lot different from what's there today.

Jim said...

here's another example,
http://www.oaklandnet.com/cedahome_com/SiteData/cedahome/InetPub/wwwroot/main/images/1481.jpg

Jim said...

and another - looks very nice to me...
http://www.oaklandnet.com/cedahome_com/SiteData/cedahome/InetPub/wwwroot/main/images/1480.jpg

Spokker said...

Japan vs. Peninsula is a bad comparison to make.

However, I agree that many of the elevated structures in this blog post look BEAUTIFUL. I really love the first one from Italy. I would love to see that in my own backyard.

Kyle - Boston said...

One of the anon posters last week asked for a picture of HSR around nice suburban residential neighborhoods. Well, I did a little google search and have found a perfect representation of the Northeast Corridor, where the train runs at 150mph and is much quieter than the diesel commuter rail trains that run through there. Canton is a nice place and these houses definitely aren't slummy.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Sharon,+MA&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=31.977057,56.601563&ie=UTF8&ll=42.16423,-71.153727&spn=0.029201,0.055275&z=14&layer=c&cbll=42.1643,-71.153692&panoid=dc9s5v3JWFD_RbXYWcZa0Q&cbp=12,227.09475080446026,,0,0.5279503105590038

There are several houses down this street.

yeson1a said...

Wiil good post..I live by that Central Feeeway and now it is SO much better than before..and It does run thru neighborhoods and not downtown,just as the Caltrain line truth is taking about.it was built on the 1950s. We also had nimbys that tried to get it entirely closed but that was opposed by many in the city,then there was this tunnel talk..but rule out as way to expensive the outcome is very nice. and thats whats needed in these cities..working with CAHSR not just yelling

Kyle - Boston said...

The big walkway in the back is there because the track splits into two different lines at Canton. It probably would have been better if they ran walkways under the tracks to reach the other platforms.

yeson1a said...

About the comment of tunneling and selling overhead rights..Well this group wont go for that either.I have seen that posted somewhere.
No they want a park

Truth, Please said...

Owen, yes thats the link, a location very close to what I was hoping to show. I do appreciate your help in getting that posted.

Also note, that's not even the side of the tracks that people are up in arms about! Alma side (east of tracks which that link is showing) has at least Alma street as a buffer.

The other side of the tracks - many many homes will be within yards of the tracks. They are today with yards of the ROW, remember, the tracks run down the center of 75-100ft row. And the row and yards are lined with old trees. With HSR, the trains will be running up against the outer edges, and mostly the trees will be out.

I think you probably don't want Palo Altan's to get their eyes on those Japan links. Those are just short of their worst fears come to life.

Also, its true that PA downtown district is longer than 100 yards long, but not ~quite~ correct to say the PA commercial district starts at Embarcadero, all the way to El Palo Alto. The first small businesses start a couple blocks north of Embarcadero. But keep in mind profile here as well. That's not big time commercial, retail. Many of those buildings in the first couple blocks are historic one story buildings - some business running out of old historic houses! This is not a typical commercial city center. Its still dominated by SFR type construction until you get within about 1-2 blocks of univeristy. Then to the North of University - that also begins to quickly taper back in to residential type property, low rise, low profile, with a few businesses dotting Alma.

There's an issue of perspective that needs to be considered. This is by the way, the section proposed for the highest part of the wall in the Program EIR/EIS documents.

The link from Fuller... Wow, did you mean that was supposed to be supporting HSR or harming it? First, you'll notice not only the ROW right there is enormous, but also the distance from the street to the tracks is quite wide and opwn, and the track embankment is earthen.

I would say that if one could photoshop in a 20 foot wall on Fuller butting up against the street, that would be closer to what's being proposed in PA (although the yards in Palo Alto are also not nearly that deep.

And this is not an HSR shot anyway... I suspect you meant that this is circulating as an example of how this doesn't work for the cities north of San Jose??

By the way, those homes on Fuller are about 450K. Nice homes? Perhaps. They look nice enough. Larger, older established homes. Older SFR's, They look fine from the street view. But 450K? That's practically slum's in Peninsula home value terms. So they seem to be nice houses, why aren't they valued accordingly?
(one might ask)

I don't think CHSRA wants to find itself in the business of converting 50 mile swaths of $1-$2M properties into $500K properties!

Quite damaging to the property tax base! That kind of hit to property values turns vibrant Peninsula gold mine towns into welfare towns in short order.

don't forget Palo Alto is a Basic Aid school district. That means they are NOT funded from state per pupil handouts, they are funded directly from THEIR OWN property tax base.

And Gunn and Paly are in the top 10% of high schools across the country. This is just Palo Alto, there are many fine school districts, supported by property value up and down the peninsula.

Descrution of property values won't be good for business or schools and I certainly don't think you'll win over any Nimby's showing them depressed SJ properties or Japan innercities.

I still think we need to see some lovely examples of HSRs running through lovely (property tax lucrative) neighorhoods so that the Nimby's can understand the true vision here.

TomW said...

@'Truth, Please': You mention "smelly smoke belching trains". These trains will be electric, and thus will produce no smoke or smell.
Viaducts seem to beth way forward if you want something pretty, but pillars and beams provide a somewhat cheaper way of not dividing a community.

Jim said...

And what was the problem if any with keeping it "at grade" and just lowering the cross streets?

Alex said...

Regarding Japan, I believe the demand was for picture-proof in previous thread. Their challenge was was to show a HSR line running through a quiet suburban neighborhood"anywhere in the world!". "It doesn't exist" was the cry!.

Robert Cruickshank tried to meet this demand the best he could in this post. People said it wasn't suburban enough.

OK fine. So I posted two links from a what is clearly a Japanese suburban residential area. Challenge met! It clearly exists somewhere in the world.
Victory! :-)

Whether it is to "ugly" or not, well that is a different question.
I showed a HSR line running through a suburban area. I think it is unfair to say something like "that doesn't count, it's too ugly!". :-)

At least give me props for finding the pictures! :-)

Okay, now lets talk about the look. As someone said, Japanese are much more worried about noise. But in Europe, and shown by Roberts pictures, does have some nice looking track. There must be a happy medium.

Spokker said...

"And what was the problem if any with keeping it "at grade" and just lowering the cross streets?"

Yeah, this is something I've been wondering. I see a lot of grade seps where the street is lowered here in Orange County.

Clem said...

I'm curious what the actual costs of a tunnel would be. Are we talking $500M or over $1B?

The BART tunnel through San Jose, 5 miles of two-track bored tunnel with a few station boxes, was estimated at $3 billion, or $600M per mile.

yeson1a said...

I thought I read somewhere that leaving the railroad at grade would make the underpasses to deep and dark..Gees anyway I think this will be the final outcome as these people want no raised grade. They might even get some of the grade crossings left in, thou upgraded with high tech gates.

Truth said...

Jim, ten foot berm picture? First of all, once again. There's no room for a berm in palo Alto The ROW is only wide enough for the 4 tracks, and there are homes and roads directly (like literally) butting up against the 75 row. So there will be no berm. It will be a wall.

Secondly you provided a picture of a rural setting.

You really need to get with the program here. Take a look at the actual street view of what's being talked about forthis stretch.

Jarret - you are boiling the entire city of Palo Alto into a town center - and factually it is not. You're talking about the small section of town that is a town center, than would host a station - and that simply is NOT the entirety of the impact to the town. There are 26 square miles in Palo Alot, there are about 6-8 miles of neighborhoods directly adjacent to the ROW. the 'town center' you're talking about represents just a relatively few blocks of the whole. You simply can not understand the impacts if you continue to insist you are dealing with some kind of metroplitan town center area.

(FYI, I was referring origianlly to the lengh of the ROW that is adjacent to the University business district, which isn't more than a few blocks long, along the ROW.) I'm talking about portion of town that can appropriately accomodate and incorporate the impacts of the 4 wide tracks in a 'town center' scenario. Its quite minimal relateive to the whole lenght of town.

Tom W, I said 'smelly trains' comment facetiously, because many proponents suggest we'll be so much better off than we are today with the smelly deisels. The fact is this IS a 120 year old, 2 wide track, running a local and non-intrusive commuter line. The impact of the current trains is non-intrusive and in no way considered smelly, noisy, etc. I point that out because as you can see, the train impacts are mostly hidden today. With HSR, the camoflage would be completely stripped away.

Alex, I do give you props for trying. But it only just proves the harm that residents fear to their quality of life.

I keep seeing pictures that are either overly rural, or overly city center. The fact is you can keep trying but you won't be able to show nice neighborhoods with high speed trains running directly through them (as directly as is planned here), because neighborhoods quickly are no longer 'nice', or they are no longer residential when HSR's come through.

Denial INDEED runs rampant here, not with the ones who oppose the train, but from the ones who keep trying over and over again to claim this will be wonderful, beautiful upgrade to the community.

Its fine. Its NOT an updgrade, its a severe downgrade. Fine. Please still support HSR, but support it with that truth on your lips.

Your argument NEEDs to be that these towns and their characteristics are expendable.

mike said...

Question: why are we even assuming that Palo Alto needs raised tracks on retained fill?

If you look at the Caltrain ROW maps from Clem's blog, you will see that the ONLY grade crossing in Palo Alto with a constricted ROW is Churchill Ave. If you can take care of Churchill, then you can run all the way from University Ave to 1000' north of W Meadow Ave at grade (maybe with short sound walls and/or trees lining the edge of the ROW and abutting properties). As you approach W Meadow Ave, come up to maybe 8'-10' on unretained fill - the ROW is 95'-100' wide there. It will look similar to the picture that Anon @ 11:41 am posted. Cross W Meadow and W Charleston slightly above grade (i.e. the tracks come up a bit, the roads go down a bit.

As for Churchill, in principle it would be possible to depress it and go underneath the ROW. It would look not unlike Embarcadero Rd does just to the north. You would likely retain the 4-way stop at Emerson & Churchill and probably place traffic lights at Kellogg & Alma and Coleridge & Alma. The bike lanes on Churchill could be physically separated from the road to ensure the safety of bikers as they cross under the ROW. The only negative impact is that traffic patterns for local residents would change slightly (i.e., those living within a 2-3 block radius). It would be up to the city to weigh this cost against the benefit of having no retained fill in Palo Alto.

Truth, Please said...

Particularly for Robert who's rant is 'truth'

yeson1a said...

Well off topic..and Im sure Roberts next post is that CAHSR has stated that the SF Transbay design is too small and not workable in the long run!! just posted in SF Cronicle

mike said...

Truth: There are definitely solutions (such as the one I describe above) that would allow for Caltrain/HSR to run through Palo Alto only at grade and/or on berms (no tall walls holding up retained fill). It is up to Palo Alto whether they want to pursue this. I am sure CHSRA would be happy to discuss it.

Gamecoug said...

Have they said it's definitely going to be an elevated RoW here? Elevated is cheaper than trenching?

I think that the facts are these:
1. Greater Good: HSR has to happen in this location to be viable. HSR was approved by more than 2/3 of california voters. Advantage: HSR
2. Noise: elevated HSR & Caltrain running at 125mph is going to be a significant improvement over the current diesel trains. With no grade crossings, these trains won't blow any whistles while passing through town, which is a net of less noise than the current configuration. Adv.: HSR
3. Traffic: this configuration is a significant improvement over the previous situation, as grade separated trains will not stop traffic. Adv.: HSR
4. Air Quality: This has the potential to not only remove all the diesel locomotives currently plying the Caltrain route, but also potentially remove a significant number of cars from highway 101 (riders taking advantage of 30 minute travel times via HSR between SJ & SF), further improving the air quality. Adv.: HSR
5. Visual impact (should an elevated RoW be required): Many won't love the look of an elevated Right of Way. No matter how much they blend it into the current look of the town, an elevated HSR right of way will be a significant change to the look of downtown Palo Alto. Adv.: Status Quo

I don't know if I'm leaving anything else out. Climate Change and control of sprawl could also be lumped into the "Greater good" category.

I think if you give each of these items equal weighting, it's an easy decision. Even if visual impact is weighted doubly, it comes nowhere near tipping the scales against HSR.

Jim said...

TRUTHSAID-- okay well here is a very attractive 10 ft retaining wall.
http://www.extremehowto.com/xh/graphics/articles/art_60276_retwl1.jpg

Anonymous said...

@mike 12:19, that Santa Clara residential picture street view is the caltrain today, not after HSR. After HSR those people are going to get a berlin wall where the grass is, because the ROW is too narrow to support anything else. What needs to be put forth to these people is the most seethrough pillared structure possible, where it leaves the park INTACT. I don't know if there is such a thing, but thats what you need to show them, and that is not what has been posted thus far on this blog.
Here is the link again.
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=456+fuller,+san+jose+ca&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hl=en&layer=c&cbll=37.317849,-121.894314&panoid=0LLlonpURQKZHhxIQvHfdA&cbp=12,182.678427545519,,0,5&ll=37.319475,-121.894319&spn=0.007133,0.021029&z=16&iwloc=addr

Jim said...

Personally I'd rather see them keep it at current grade as it would probably save money. I don't think a lot of mmoney should be wasted trying to appease a handful of nimby's. At grade with underpasses for cross streets seems like the best solution.

stuck in the mud said...

OUCH!

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/02/BA1J166LH6.DTL&hw=transbay+terminal&sn=001&sc=1000

This article is chock full of bad news for CHSRA fast trackers.

"Three sets of engineers met and they concurred that the design for the station was inadequate and useless for high-speed rail," said Quentin Kopp, chairman of the High Speed Rail Authority.

“Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, testified before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission governing board last week that it would not withstand the test of time. "We have found out that the current design that was environmentally cleared gives us less than one-half of the capacity we'll need by 2030 to carry all the passengers," Morshed said. The High Speed Rail Authority now believes that the station would have to be able to handle 12 trains an hour, or one every five minutes. Under that scenario, eight to 10 tracks would be required, Alberti said. He said the Transbay team only learned of that three weeks ago.”

Well, we can hope Menlo Park lawyers and judges in Sacramento don't read the SF Chron

"that was environemntally cleared"

Now, that's a really uncomfortable statement right there.

Anonymous said...

@Gamecoug: I think you should drop the noise reduction argument, because it flies in the face of common sense. The reason it takes over an hour on Caltrain from San Francisco to the South Bay is because Caltrain slows to a crawl through every residential area it meanders through. This has been mandated by all these cities and is supported by the Caltrain riders, obviously, otherwise you would hear complaints about Caltrain speed. The Bullet trains are going to run about 20x more frequently than Caltrain and at full speed. This is not a noise reduction for Bullet. The sooner CAHSRA accepts the realities of the situation the sooner they can move forward and stop wasting time on this. I don't know what the solution is, but the old NIMBY argument will not work, because as Will in SF aptly stated, the Freeways in town myth put forth in the 50s has been debunked and this is that, all over again. I support Bullet trains but am exasperated at this route and the challenges it faces when there must have been other alternatives. This will never get out of court.

Kyle - Boston said...

I think it is pretty funny how the same person keeps changing his anonymous name and uses one registered name to make all of his comments.

David S said...

Personally I'd rather see them keep it at current grade as it would probably save money. I don't think a lot of mmoney should be wasted trying to appease a handful of nimby's. At grade with underpasses for cross streets seems like the best solution.

I'm as pro-HSR as they come, but I think that sentiment is somewhat unfair. Yes, the ROW was there first. However, just like Palo Alto must consider the benefit to the state, the state must consider keeping the disruptions to the communities as low as possible, and "leaving the land better than you found it"

Where that ends, for me, is when you start talking about massive improvements like tunnels or covered trenches. At that point the burden turns to the community to pay for such improvements.

Clem said...

The reason it takes over an hour on Caltrain from San Francisco to the South Bay is because Caltrain slows to a crawl through every residential area it meanders through.

Nonsense. The train slows to a crawl not to please neighbors, but in order to stop at stations. The Caltrain baby bullet has the same exact top speed (79 mph), but runs much faster trips solely because it makes fewer stops.

Three sets of engineers met and they concurred that the design for the station was inadequate and useless for high-speed rail

What took them so long to finally wake up and smell the coffee?

mike said...

The Bullet trains are going to run about 20x more frequently than Caltrain and at full speed.

Wow. Caltrain has about 100 trains per day, so you are claiming that CHSRA will run 2,000 trains per day up and down the Peninsula. With the ability to carry 800+ people per train, total ridership just to SF will approach 1.6 million. Incredible!

Of course, there are only 800,000 people living in SF (reaching a peak of around 1 million during the daytime as people commute in). So pretty much every single resident of SF and every single visitor is going to ride HSR every single day. Unbelievable!

Forget 14-16 tracks at Transbay Terminal. Sounds like they're going to need at least 200!

Alon Levy said...

I think the Shinkansen is a poor example of what elevated structures should look like through neighborhoods. It was mostly built in the 60s and 70s, and the Japanese less NIMBYism (except for noise! they make big deals about noise, hence the big noise walls) and can stomacy more utilitarian / no frills infrastructure than any other developed country in the world.

The lack of NIMBYism in Japan means that the people didn't have the power to protest. However, if the Shinkansen had blighted a neighborhood, then people who could afford to leave would've done so, so the blighted areas would've become poor. This hasn't happened.

I would also contest your notion that Japanese people are willing to accept utilitarian designs and government mandates more than other peoples. Japan underwent the 1960s just like every other developed country. When the government wanted to clear some suburban land in Chiba to build Narita Airport, the outcry was so huge that at one point, left-wing activists threatened to firebomb the new house of every resident who agreed to relocate. Nor is Japan less prone to regional politics - right now prefectures on the Chuo Line are trying to get JR-Central to build the Chuo Shinkansen through their cities, rather than in a straight line.

Satya said...

I am a long time reader - first time commenter from Sacramento.

Is there any other option for HSR in peninsula other than Cal-Train ROW?
How about a non-stop from San Jose to San Francisco along 280-380 and then joining Cal-Train ROW. This will eliminate the need for many grade crossings.

Passengers going to Mid Peninsula cities can get down at San Jose and take Cal-Train, VTA or BART in the future.

Gamecoug said...

@anonymous at 1:54: As clem said, they aren't slowing down. And the noise generated by the diesel trains isn't due to speed (aerodynamic noise doesn't overtake mechanical noise until you hit a speed unachieved by current Caltrain Diesels). The noise generated by the current Caltrain version is mainly generated by the FRA requirement that they blow their whistle excessively at every grade crossing.

Also, the bullet train isn't going full speed through Palo Alto. Plan is for it to run at 125 MPH (slightly more than half speed) between SJ and SF. As was noted in other posts on this blog (by smarter people than me), aerodynamic noise increases by the cube of velocity, meaning at 125 mph the train will put out less than 1/5th (if my math is right) of the aerodynamic noise of a bullet train at top speed.

yeson1a said...

Mud.. dont get excited ..The TBT design will be redone or trains in the begining will stop at 4th and Townsend...HSR will still get built and come up Caltrain tracks .

Clem said...

How about a non-stop from San Jose to San Francisco along 280-380 and then joining Cal-Train ROW.

That option was eliminated in the certified regional EIR/EIS.

Besides, would we not create a similar NIMBY problem with Los Altos Hills and Woodside, instead of Palo Alto and Atherton?

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed that no one wants to talk about the real news for CHSRA today (which is NOT Palo Alto), but is rather SFTT basically falling apart before our very eyes.

Could it be that they were right? This peninsula Caltrain route is nothing but life-sucking quicksand that will devour anything in its path?

(Instead of 280, I've been wondering why they don't reconsider the 101 median, from SJ to Millbrae, since it basically stops in all the same cities, and still gets HSR to the same enpoints). Certainly would be much less nimby whining down 101.

Eric said...

Where that ends, for me, is when you start talking about massive improvements like tunnels or covered trenches. At that point the burden turns to the community to pay for such improvements.

Ugh, this comes up every time. Honestly, could someone point me somewhere, anywhere, that any of the peninsula cities have flatly said they wouldn't contribute to building tunnels or trenches?

For that matter, any reliable estimates as to the cost difference? You've got to move earth and pour concreted whether you build a raised embankment, at-grade with underpasses, or in a trench or tunnel. Then of course there is a big cost difference between cut-and-cover tunnelling (which is practical along most of the caltrain route), and deep bore tunnelling, and each method has different potential impacts on property. Now, it's pretty obvious tunnelling costs more, but how much more, in this specific case? Sure you can throw out estimates that "in general tunnelling costs such and such multiplier" vs. surface lines, but every case is different.

Now, I imagine when push comes to shove, if PA decides they really want their tunnel, they'll probably try to weasel out of paying for it; it's human nature to try to get things for free. But why are so many commenters screaming about it when there's not even any estimate of what they might actually be asked to pay FOR?

I say do some preliminary engineering, find out what this is really going to cost. The you can fight about who is going to pay for it.

timote said...

Satya-

Yes, there are other options which is what the Palo Alto NIMBY's want. Specifically, they want the Pacheco pass to be scrapped in favor of the Altamont. The effect of this would be a couple-fold:

(1) for the Palo Alto NIMBY people, all their prayers would be answered (technically they'd just move the issue to somebody else's backyard) because the train would come over the Dumbarton bridge area, through portions of Menlo Park and up the peninsula. These ROW has lower valued homes near it, as a general rule, than Palo Alto, Atherton, etc. This would allow them to have access to the HSR (presumably at a RWC station), keep their Caltrain baby bullets, and minimize their ROW expansion. Of course, it just becomes the problem of Union City, Pleasanton, Livermore, etc., but those cities are less wealthy than Palo Alto so they don't matter, right? (sarcasm)

2. San Jose gets cut out. Either they'd need to build a secondary line in the East Bay or San Jose is out in the cold, both of which San Jose would be unhappy about. The extra line would be expensive to keep San Jose moderately happy, but they still would be upset cause they'd only get a portion of the trains - most would likely bypass SJ and go to SF.

There are other impacts such as longer LA-SFO (con) and better commuting options (pro) to the Altamont alignment.

As for I-280, I don't know much but I will say this: all-new ROW's are difficult and expensive. Basically, how do you get out to the 280 through San Jose and Sunnyvale built-up areas? Then, how do you get back to the Caltrain corridor? 380 is pretty far north - you've missed the Millbrae station by a good bit at that point, so to get a decent SFO connection you'll need an all-new ROW through RWC or Burlingame or such, which is expensive.

I don't think anything is seriously considering a 280 solution - what they really really want is the Altamont decision reopened.

timote said...

Anon -

"Could it be that they were right? This peninsula Caltrain route is nothing but life-sucking quicksand that will devour anything in its path?"

This is a monumental mis-reading of the news. First off what does this have to do with the Caltrain route? Is your claim that not going to SF at all is the solution? Cause that's throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I read this as the CAHSR authority saying that the current design isn't grand enough for their expected needs 20 years from now. If they are correct, that means that HSR was a tremendous success and the Caltrain route was the right answer. If they are wrong, well I'd rather we actually think about what our infrastructure can handle and make rational decisions than underbuild and be stuck in the future.

This is good news IMHO.

David Snyder said...

Eric:

I have definitely seen comments by PA residents that go both ways. They range from "Of course we'll pick up the incremental costs" to "the state must underground or we'll sue the project into oblivion." I haven't seen much in terms of official statements, but I certainly wasn't trying to imply that *everyone* is demanding the state pick up the tab.

My point is that, rather than threatening to squash the project, the cities along the way should be investigating the costs of under-grounding and how to pay them. This is, of course, assuming their ultimate goal is to underground (as opposed to just using the idea of a tunnel to kill the project)

Our points seem pretty similar: if these communities are serious about under-grounding, then they need to get some reliable estimates out there. If such studies are underway, then that fact needs to be communicated to residents.

Fred Martin said...

So the three engineering teams are just now realizing that the proposed and "environmentally cleared" Transbay Terminal design is too small??? This doesn't restore any confidence in the technical competence involved here. Disturbing.

I think Central Subway interests will seek to kill the Transbay Terminal, so they can justify their project's connection to Fourth and Townsend. Kopp has hinted at abandoning the Transbay extension, and he stiff-armed the Transbay Terminal back during the planning of the BART-SFO fiasco.

The Caltrain corridor is obviously where HSR trains should go to access SF, and the Transbay extension should not be so difficult in competent hands.

Eric said...

David - yeah I wasn't trying to specifically pick on your post.

I just think that the question of "who's going to pay for it?" is kind of irrelevant if you haven't answered "what exactly is it and how much will it cost?"

In the PA city council memo, one of the recommendations is that PA retain a consultant knowledgeable about rail construction - I assume part of that person's job would be to help figure this out. But it's a bit silly to expect PA to have already conducted detailed engineering studies of something that until 4 months ago was basically a pipe dream. Besides, most of the engineering should be done by CHSRA.

Also, some people seem to think that it's bad faith on Palo Alto's part to not immediately tell CHSRA, "Sure, we'll cover every dime expended on tunnelling over and above your cost estimate of the raised embankment (which of course you now have every incentive to lowball)." Sorry, but if PA residents were that naive and poor at negotiating, well, they probably wouldn't be wealthy enough to live in PA.

Anonymous said...

What is the HSR Deniers BS, this is not the holocaust.

It is unfair to tar Peninsula communities as against HSR. They are against the current proposal which seems bent on building the a 50 mile replica of the Embarcardero freeway across the center 14 towns. People along the Peninsula would like to see HSR integrated into their towns in a way that minimizes the impact in a reasonable way. This is not too much to ask for.

BruceMcF said...

"However, as I said in the previous thread; I don't think a split grade solution is the right thing to do technically over short distances, and I don't like lines going through cities that are built on top of retained fills due to, as you say, visual clutter."

It does depend on the way that the space at ground level is being used ... a 2nd floor viaduct would open up pedestrian and cycle routes compared to either a raised embankment or the existing rail corridor, but it is easier to put cycle and pedestrian subways through while constructing a raised embankment of even 5 feet than to put cycle and pedestrian subways through underneath tracks at grade.

mike said...

Anonymous at 2:47 pm:

There are several problems with 101, the biggest being that there simply isn't room for much of the length. E.g., there is no room in the median from East Palo Alto to San Carlos. Even if the train will be elevated, you still need someplace to put the support pillars.

50 miles of aerial is also going to be much more expensive than 50 miles of at grade/berm. It's even more expensive when you consider that you'd still have to pay $1+ billion to electrify Caltrain (but I guess Palo Alto loves the noisy diesels, so maybe we should just leave it diesel?)

Maybe they should put it up for a vote: 101 vs. Caltrain corridor, with an explicit note that choosing the 101 corridor will mean narrowing 101 to 6 lanes in many locations. Then all the Peninsula city councils between South SF and Santa Clara can vote on it, and the votes can be weighted by city population. Then no one will be able to truthfully claim that the will of the people did not prevail!

mike said...

They are against the current proposal which seems bent on building the a 50 mile replica of the Embarcardero freeway across the center 14 towns.

Good thing no such proposal exists! That might be the silliest thing I've seen the NIMBYs claim yet. You really don't remember the Embarcadero Freeway, do you?

People along the Peninsula would like to see HSR integrated into their towns in a way that minimizes the impact in a reasonable way.

And that's exactly what is happening. If Palo Alto wants, there is clearly a solution that requires no big retaining walls (at grade from downtown PA to E Meadow, and then a low berm from E Meadow to the city limits). All you need to do is drop the absurd hyperbole and engage in a reasonable conversation.

BruceMcF said...

@ Jim ... "And what was the problem if any with keeping it "at grade" and just lowering the cross streets?

Note that if the track is at grade, then there is support structure underneath, so the clearance is actually lower than grade ... the cross streets have to clear at the edge of the support structure, and they are coming from grade at the closest intersection. That can make for quite a steep underpass.

Classic split grade puts the roads underneath in shallower underpasses and the track through at less than full elevation to split the difference.

A viaduct through town high enough for the existing tracks to continue in use can be appealing from a project management basis, since it minimizes disruption to both streets and the existing rail line.

In terms of obstacles to pedestrian access interfering with walkable development crossing the railway tracks ... the "wrong side of the tracks" phenomenon ... the worst is an at-grade alignment, the second worst is a trench with lower rise pedestrian and cycle bridges, the middle are raised berm or wall with pedestrian/cycle subways, and the the best are either viaduct or subway.

LadyD said...

Clem and anonymous 2:47,

My interest is HSR getting built;;; somewhere. But I worked on the Peninsula in the 1990's. When 1A passed, and I found out they planned to construct this on the CalTrain route I was shocked. I have taken that train many times. It is perceived more like a STREETCAR or a Cable CAR than a train to the people that live in Silicon Valley. Pictures posted here indicate that also. Building HSR on any other freeway corridor on the peninsula is not going to generate Nimbyism, because 101 and 280 are huge thoroughfares, not perceived as streetcars.

Anonymous is correct;;;
Could it be that they were right? This peninsula Caltrain route is nothing but life-sucking quicksand that will devour anything in its path?

These peninsula people will fight you, and it isn't just one town;;; it is the entire region. I don't want my tax dollars to waste time with this, the plan to use Cal Train ROW won't work. Move along, use the freeways and lets move on, PLEASE!!

As to the SFTT, can someone point out the specific issue here? Why wasn't this noticed earlier on;;;

Anonymous said...

Don't call everyone who questions this NIMBY'S. You assume too much and you are wrong.

I live in the East Bay and still think the idea of a train track 50 feet above the ground is a bad idea. That 50 foot number came from the CAHSR website. So that is about the height of um the Embarcadero Freeway and yes I do remember it.

BBinnsandiego said...

"People along the Peninsula would like to see HSR integrated into their towns in a way that minimizes the impact in a reasonable way. This is not too much to ask for."

I couldn't agree more. That's why I'm so confused by all the hyped-up rhetoric that's appeared on this blog lately.

There's been no decision, let alone engineering or renderings, of anything yet. Why doesn't everybody just cool it until we see what's actually proposed.

(Robert, thanks for the photo of the arcade at Stanford. My great-grandfather built it. Mr. Stanford was so impressed with the result that he gave my great-grandfather his gold pocket watch as a bonus. There's no reason that the design and construction of this project can't leave as beautiful a legacy for Palo Alto.)

Anonymous said...

On a side not the neighborhoods that border a rail line are not full of wealthy people even in Palo Alto. The Ventura and Chaleston neighborhoods Ventura are actually have a lot of blue collar retirees. THese are people lucky enough to buy in 30 + years ago. These are modest 1100 -1500 sq foot homes 2-3 bedroom 1-2 bath homes and not mansions.

Anonymous said...

I read this as the CAHSR authority saying that the current design isn't grand enough for their expected needs 20 years from now. If they are correct, that means that HSR was a tremendous success

Or that the HSR ridership estimates are grossly bloated to make the numbers work. You decide.

Anonymous said...

BBinnsandiego

The issue is trust. People feel that the HSR board is not being honest with them.

The original proposal said nothing about using the CalTrain corridor. Yet suddenly it is planned route and the footprint is going to expand from 2-4 tracks. Many homes will need to be sacrificed to make way for this along with the following historical buildings:

Hotel St. Mathew, Diridon Station, Santa Clara
Depot, Irving Murray School, Burlingame Railroad Station, Menlo Park Railroad
Station, Redwood City Historic Commercial Buildings, Morse House, Hostess
House, Rincon Annex, Lathrop House, San Mateo County Courthouse, Ramona
Street Architectural District, Barron-Latham-Hopkins Gate Lodge, Watkins House,
Professorville Historic District, Santa Clara Verein, U.S. Postal Main Office-San
Mateo, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Fraternal Hall Building, U.S.
Customhouse, APOLLO (Storeship), New Sequoia Theater Building, Sequoia
Union High School, Matson Building and Annex, University African Methodist
Episcopal Zion Church, Palo Alto Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, Martin
Building, National Bank of San Mateo

This is something of a surprise would not sit well with anyone.

Anonymous said...

The Bart tunnel at $600 million / mile is only 2 tracks.

This will be 4 tracks, requiring 2 tunnels == 1.2 billion / mile.

As Joe Vranich said, the work of the CHSRA is the worst he has ever seen on HSR.

The meeting in Palo Alto tonight should be interesting.

Don't have a heart attack Robert -- just keep writing longer and longer articles.

Anonymous said...

yeson1A and Timote - oh I get it! So you're saying its a good thing that Kopp is trying set up SFTT in a bad light because (?) I guess he's intentionally trying to disparage it - (?) Maybe to get SFTT out of his hair and off the HSR plate - so it won't be able to suck up funding, mabye he doesn't want it using up all the federal Stimulus transportation funds or getting their grubby little mits on the HSR funds? Or maybe he's trying to set it up to keep it out of the measure 1A pie?

but then.. I'm confused by this:

"2704.04. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this
chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station..."

so. ok ok, maybe you're saying CHSRA didn't want those stinkin measure 1A funds anyway? or?? I don't get it. HOw is it good news again?

Anonymous said...

Yeah via Altamont pass.

Owen E said...

mike:

There are several problems with 101,

Thanks for your analysis of an alternate corridor.

If Atherton wins a judgement in court (lord forbid) then a viaduct alignment along the 101 from SJ to Millbrae (removing one traffic lane in each direction) might actually be worth considering, as a less expensive alternative to tunneling. Clearly superior to the 280 option.

Something else to consider about the 101 alignment, though, is, how about the curvature? How fast could trains travel on that alignment? Looking at Google maps, its curves seem to be somewhat sharper than Caltrain, but I don't really know by how much, and I also don't know if there is some way to take advantage of the 101 ROW's width to further minimize the curvature. This might be a non-starter if getting speeds up to 125mph would require a bunch of property takings to smooth out the curves.

Rafael said...

@ stuck in the mud, Clem -

I just did the math on the trainbox at SFTT. The year 2030 objective of 12 tph (one every 5 minutes in both directions) is extremely aggressive and would require extraordinary measures - but it's not fundamentally impossible.

Assuming that 4 platform and 2 tail tracks (with a narrow level boarding service platform in-between) would be reserved for HSR, the schedule would require trains to be turned around in 30 minutes, regardless of length.

That means 9 minutes to alight, 1 to move on to a tail track, 9 to clean/provision there, 1 to move back to a platform, 9 minutes to board and 1 to clear the platform for the next arrival. Note there is zero slack in that schedule.

Provided the traffic along the aisles in the cars is one-way and passengers waiting to board are kept off the platforms until shortly before their train comes back from the cleaners, rapid alighting should be feasible.

Light cleaning/provisioning in just 9 minutes would require 4 staff per train car (6 for bi-level cars). Thorough scrubbing would have to be done at the southern end of the line, where turnaround could be a more conventional 60 minutes.

At 16 cars max per train and 16 hours of operations (2 shifts) and 8 on break at any given time, that adds up to 400 cleaning/provisioning staff on the payroll just in SF. A small army, to be sure.

However, if all of those trains were full-length and bi-level EMUs (~1200 seats each), with an average seat utilization capacity of ~85% on a busy travel weekend, that would add up to approx. 390,000 passenger trips on one day - the equivalent of almost 1700 fully booked Boeing 737s @ 230 seats each. I'm not sure HSR can really attract that many riders, even on Thanksgiving in 2030.

Boarding would have to be managed via mandatory reservations, ordered queuing on the platforms and one-way traffic along the aisles inside the cars to avoid traffic jams (everyone arrives at their row at almost the same time). Even with this level of flow discipline - something passengers would have to get used to - getting 60+ persons to board each of 16 cars on a single train in just 9 minutes is a seriously ambitious target.

However, the above assumes a very bad case, i.e. that 85% of seats will already be occupied when the train leaves SFTT. In the year 2030 Thanksgiving Day scenario described above, it would be perfectly reasonable to have some fraction of HSR trains turn around in either San Jose or else SF 4th & King to reduce tph demand at SFTT.

If you apply the usual turnaround procedure for e.g. an Amtrak train, SFTT would indeed max out at around 6tph for HSR. However, if you can somehow get that turnaround time down to 30 minutes, as many as 12tph would be possible. In practice, you'd figure out a way to keep it to 9-10tph to allow for buffers.

The Japanese do manage to run their trains for hundreds of miles to within seconds of their timetable, but getting many thousands of passengers to all march to a rapid beat is quite another matter.

BruceMcF said...

"The original proposal said nothing about using the CalTrain corridor. Yet suddenly it is planned route and the footprint is going to expand from 2-4 tracks."

Suddenly as in sometime before 2007? The Caltrain alignment is mentioned in the November 2007 Bay Area to Central Valley: Staff Recommentations Preferred Alternative (pdf). In the pdf of the powerpoint presentation, slide 18 summarizing the reasons for the staff preference for Pacheco Pas option lists:

{Top right box}: Pacheco Pass: Fully Utilizes and Improves Caltrain Corridor

{Bottom left box}:
* 4 tracks
* Grade separations
* Noise reduction

Hell, I heard of the HSR on the Caltrain Corridor before I knew where in the hell the Caltrain corridor was.

Rw said...

Would a loop track instead of a tail facilitate a better buffer for the preparations of the trains? It would seem that after emptying the train at the station they could move it to the current caltrains yard for cleaning, and roll a prepared train ready to load 10 minutes later?

Spokker said...

"Hell, I heard of the HSR on the Caltrain Corridor before I knew where in the hell the Caltrain corridor was."

Same here. I learned what Caltrain was when I first started reading about high speed rail in California. The peninsula was always on the table as a possible HSR route.

When the damn decision was finally made it was all over the bay area newspapers. This was before the vote by the way.

Spokker said...

In fact, HSR was part of the reason why I went to the peninsula in the first place to ride Caltrain and see the route for myself.

Anonymous said...

I was the one that posted the Fuller link earlier today. That is meant as an argument AGAINST HSR, and color copies of that image are being circulated at HSR scoping sessions. I am surprised anyone could even think of that link as supporting HSR. After HSR, that street and anything above it will be blighted.

Anonymous said...

Well Spokker, if your assumption is that peninsula residents were damn well aware that 6 lanes of railway were going to be constructed on top of 15' concrete walls on the caltrain tracks going through every downtown, get ready for the surprise of your life when this thing goes down in flames.

Spokker said...

1) I looked at the Fuller link and I can't even see the damn train tracks through the trees.

2) It's not six lanes of railway.

Eric said...

@Spokker - I believe the idea is that the Fuller picture is the before shot. If you add tracks, those trees are gonna go, and those houses are looking directly at 4 railroad tracks.

I live in SoCal now but I grew up in the Bay Area, and there's quite a bit of truth to what several commenters have said. The Caltrain corridor is a weird anomaly in US urban development where a lot of desirable property is located bang up against the tracks. This is actually a rare and desirable thing, a busy commuter and freight line which is not only accepted but even liked by its affluent neighbors.

Inevitably, though, that means that changes to the corridor are going to be more sensitive than your typical rail line running through run-down industrial areas.

On a practical level I'd really like to see a responsible estimate of the cost differential of running a 4-track trench vs. a 4-track retained embankment through the corridor. For reference, the trench along the Alameda corridor is 16 km long, 33 feet deep, triple tracked, and it's been constructed to allow for maximum height freight traffic as well as possible future overhead catenary operation. It's got about 200 road crossings.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Whoever said that the way a community looks in 2009 is the way it ought to look for all time? Go back to 1959 and the railroad ROW through the area would look somewhat different than it does today. Go back to 1909 and it would look extremely different.

That's not to say that any change is good or that it should be done without any community input. But communities DO change. All the time.

And they're going to change regardless of whether HSR is built along the Caltrain corridor or not. The Peninsula is going to be screwed, as will the rest of California, when the age of cheap oil comes to an end. HSR is a way for them to actually preserve something of their current community feel, although people who believe that it should be forever 2009 will not agree.

Robert Cruickshank said...

As to the train box at Transbay Terminal, realize that if the CHSRA was the evil organization some paranoid types claim it to be, it would have never said a thing about the train box issue. They could have easily kept quiet about it and let someone else deal with the problem 20 years down the line.

But they didn't. They did the right thing and pointed out the problem now, before final decisions were made. I should think that ought to be commended.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The notion that HSR's impact on the Caltrain corridor is some sort of "surprise!" is not credible and I thank folks like Bruce McF for pointing that out. There was ample explanation of this going back several years.

Anonymous said...

Spokker,
I looked at the Fuller link and I can't even see the damn train tracks through the trees.

Eyep, and thats the point. Here is the google maps image of the area, and you can see how wide the rail corridor is. The answer is, not very. It backs up to the backyard of Jerome. This is all dense residental now. To make matters worse this is a curvy portion of track. I wonder what their plan is for that. Certainly not an ideal place for a long range transportation corridor, anybody can see that.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=456+fuller+ave+san+jose+ca&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&split=0&gl=us&ei=o8KsSdKaIZmktQOVgtHJBA&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=title

BruceMcF said...

@ Rw ... actually, you could bring one train in with pax, unload it, take it to the tail, bring an empty and cleaned train behind it, load it with pax and go, bring in one train with pax, unload it, take it out empty, bring the cleaned train from the tail. That would require a double movement for each second train, so 18 train movements per hour for 12 pax train per hour, or IOW 3 minute headways.

Spokker said...

It looks wide enough for four tracks and new trees.

A certain percentage of the budget for new Metro Rail lines in Los Angeles is dedicated to aesthetics and artwork at the stations. I think HSR should have a similar bucket of funds to beautify the route, and not just at the stations. Landscaping, architectural details and other mitigation features can reduce the impacts of HSR on the peninsula.

Anonymous said...

a viaduct alignment along the 101 from SJ to Millbrae (removing one traffic lane in each direction) might actually be worth considering, as a less expensive alternative to tunneling. Clearly superior to the 280 option.

I can't believe I am actually reading this.

BruceMcF said...

... and, btw, yes, a loop is better. Or twin tails ... I've gotten off a nearly packed Sydney City-Rail V-set at the end of its run, bi-level 8-car set holding around a thousand, and trains empty pretty fast ... its not like you have to stay in your seat until the thing gets to the "gate". 4 tails at 12 tph would give 19 minutes to clean each train, rather than 9.

Jarrett Mullen said...

The freeway alignments are terrible and belong in the trash heap. With HSR, the Peninsula and South Bay have the opportunity to transform Caltrain into a true rapid transit corridor with safe, frequent, and speedy service.

If the freeway alignment is chosen, Caltrain will still need to be upgraded with grade separations, additional passing sidings, and overhead wire. Why pay twice for two different alignments when the same goal can be accomplished in one? This is not to mention one of the CHSR main goals was to locate stations in city centers to support transit oriented development. With a 280 or 101 alignment, the mid-peninsula stop will be located far away from pedestrian-friendly environments.

Although the concerns about visual blight are totally valid, the alignment belongs off freeways for the sake of TOD and Caltrain improvements.

Anonymous said...

Jerrett, while your comments are valid you are missing the fact that in town/commute transportation should have different corridors. Caltrain is planning on upgrading and that is fine; they are a good neighbor. High speed rail shouldn't go along the same corridor as the commute vehicles anymore than we should make every residential street a freeway.

Jarrett Mullen said...

Bruce,

I like the idea of the loop for Transbay. I believe the DTX documents published by Caltrain examined a loop and stub tail tracks. This report also touched on the idea for a future transbay tube extending from the terminal. If the tube is ever built, the Transbay Terminal would likely be overwhelmed with additional trains.

Eric said...

Caltrain is planning on upgrading and that is fine; they are a good neighbor.

CHSRA can't get on board with Caltrain fast enough. Caltrain knows what the peninsula will and will not accept, and they know how to sell projects to peninsula residents, and they do it honestly. They're a trusted voice and a trusted brand.

Jarrett Mullen said...

10:33PM:

Why shouldn't the trains go along the same corridor?

Both commuter trains and HSR will operate at the same maximum speed, use similar lightweight electric equipment, and the same track infrastructure. Shared stations can facilitate easy transfers from HSR to local Caltrain service to help passengers get to their destinations.

I also disagree that Caltrain corridor is exclusive to local service or a "residential street." Although Caltrain provides a high level of local service, the many Express and Limited trains serve a more regional market while still serving pedestrian friendly town centers.

Caltrain can still be seen as a residential street, but expanded express service is needed to compete with freeways and become a more viable transportation option. To realize this, Caltrain requires a high level of local service and express service. HSR will only enhance the potential for better Caltrain service, higher ridership, and shorter travel times.

Now, if HSR/Caltrain must run in a tunnel through certain areas to realize a shared alignment, then that's what should happen. However, I think a thorough analysis, not outright rejection, of the elevated/retained fill option is required.

Spokker said...

YOU

HAVE

GOT

TO

BE

KIDDING

ME.

"The number of trains that would come through the area during peak hours -- as many as one train every three minutes -- would make it impossible for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to cross the tracks during those times, protestors said."

This is officially a circus.

I apologize for the formatting of this post, but these lies really need to be addressed and ridiculed for the trash they are. Uninformed people sitting on the fence can be influenced by these blatant mistruths.

This was said at a march. People actually went outside in broad daylight and announced this stuff to anyone who would listen.

Wow, just wow.

Eric said...

Whoever said that the way a community looks in 2009 is the way it ought to look for all time?

It could look better. Even Atherton's hyperventilation admits that a rail line in a trench could actually improve what they've got now.

You're gonna build a freeway, you've got little choice but to demolish a vast swath of property and landscape. With an electrified rail line, you've got lots of options.

Spokker said...

I mean, they call the CHSRA corrupt. They tell you not to trust the high speed rail authority and developers. But my God, look at the lies they are spreading. It's insane.

The tactics of the protesters at today's march are astonishingly unethical and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Eric said...

I apologize for the formatting of this post, but these lies really need to be addressed and ridiculed for the trash they are.

(Caltrain proposed tph + HSR tph)/60 minutes.

What's trash here? Time, we've had that since the big bang and it seems to work more or less consistently. Addition and division? Those seem to be pretty axiomatic.

Spokker said...

"...would make it impossible for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to cross the tracks during those times, protestors said."

"would make it impossible for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to cross the tracks"

"to cross the tracks"

Sorry for not making it clear enough earlier.

Eric said...

@Spokker - they could have been reading Rafael's perennial posts on how to maybe deliver cheap HSR by totally half-assing everything. He keeps bringing up grade crossings.

But, if not, I see your point.

Spokker said...

NIMBY: There will be so many electric trains on the peninsula that we won't be able to cross the tracks!

CAHSRA Rep.: To help placate fears that residents won't be able to cross the tracks we are planning to install signs on each railroad overpass that reads, "Go under, stupid."

NIMBY: THE SIGNS ARE GOING TO CHANGE OUR WAY OF LIFE.

CAHSRA Rep.: *shoots self*

Spokker said...

Eric, I'm pretty sure the protesters are well-versed in all things rafael and were sure to read up on his volumes of HSR related postings.

They are trying to use two diametrically opposed situations to instill fear in area residents. First, they complain about 20 foot high grade separations. But then they complain that nobody will be able to cross the tracks because there will be so many trains per hour.

Wait, which is it? Those two statements were said at the same protest.

Spokker said...

It's an HSR Berlin Wall, except, you know, that nobody could freely cross under the Berlin Wall at a whim.

Perfect analogy. *rolls eyes*

Eric said...

Spokker, I kid, I kid.

What's real though is that on the peninsula people know Caltrain. They trust Caltrain. They even like Caltrain. CHSRA needs to step back and let Caltrain work this stuff out.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Robert,
"As to the train box at Transbay Terminal, realize that if the CHSRA was the evil organization some paranoid types claim it to be, it would have never said a thing about the train box issue. They could have easily kept quiet about it and let someone else deal with the problem 20 years down the line.

But they didn't. They did the right thing and pointed out the problem now, before final decisions were made. I should think that ought to be commended."


I had the same exact thought. Mehidi Morshedi should be applauded for comming out with this information.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Robert,
"The notion that HSR's impact on the Caltrain corridor is some sort of "surprise!" is not credible and I thank folks like Bruce McF for pointing that out. There was ample explanation of this going back several years."

In addition to that, a few years ago the CHSRA asked local jurisdictions to reflect the HSR system into the local planing documents and review.

Spokker said...

The Transbay Terminal is a strange beast. I mean, it can be an HSR station, but it isn't necessarily an HSR station. Anyway, that's how I understood it. Would my assessment be correct?

In any case, goddamn, I can't wait until the focus gets to Orange County. I'll be honest I'm sick of all this peninsula bullshit :)

Brandon in San Diego said...

The Transbay Terminal dilemma does not suprise me.

For one, a fellow who's name escapes me right now, posted many failings of many of the alternatives vetted for the terminal. Initially I was skeptical b/c on first blush he seemd like a ranting troll.. thus he lacked credibility. However, after following his rants and looking at the detailed and seemingly engineered docs he posted to the web illustrating the options... his comments seemed to have a bit more merit. He tried to make clear for all that would listen that the Transbay Terminal was underdesignd.... I think mostly having to do with platform curves and lengths, inadequacy of tail tracks, etc.

This was 2-3 years ago.

Here's his site:

http://www.sonic.net/~mly/

Secondly, I've tried to engineer myself how the proposed system will carry all the riders that CHSRA says will use the system. The work behind the numbers aside, the large number of riders anticipated to use a set of train trips... and only 28 stations... tells me that CHSRA needs to plan on very heavy loads.... speaking to robust station facilities and longer trains and quite possibly double decked trains.

As much as I want to support planning efforts for the CHSRA, I should be dumbfounded that the Transbay Terminal capacity issue ONLY surfaced 3 weeks ago by hired engineers and the Authority!!!!

Gianny said...

You are right Spokker. I visit this blog daily, but it should be rename just for the Peninsula.
I would love to see more on the other 95% of the rail.
Are there any plans to remodel Union Station into something like Transbay Terminal?

Any news in regards to the solar farm on Palmdale Airport and how it might affect HSR?

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

thx for hanging in there, I've been meaning to address the ROW issues in the Inland Empire-San Diego spur and LA-Anaheim-Irvine for some time now and have done the research.

It's just that we have a lot of activity around HSR in the peninsula right now. Of course, it doesn't help that CHSRA decided to pick right now to throw a spanner in SFTT works.

My guess is that they've been complaining about throughput and parking capacity behind the scenes for quite a while now, but things have come to a head because TJPA intends to request stimulus funds out of the $8 billion reserved for HSR, rather than the state block grants.

TomW said...

Elevated high-ish speed (125mph electric trains) in a suburban setting: http://www.durham-ppe.co.uk/Viaduct.jpg
(Durham, on the East coast Main Line in the UK. Has around ten trains an hour, not all of which stop here)

A Realist said...

Spokker,

NIMBY: There will be so many electric trains on the peninsula that we won't be able to cross the tracks!

CAHSRA Rep.: To help placate fears that residents won't be able to cross the tracks we are planning to install signs on each railroad overpass that reads, "Go under, stupid."


Make up your mind. Are these elevated, grade separated or not? If they are elevated and grade separated we get a Berlin wall. And please quit posting pictures of cavernous valleys with bridges as grade separators, this is a VALLEY, that is flat, hence the name, Silicon VALLEY. If these are not elevated and they run on ground level, there certainly is no crossing the tracks and danger abounds.

Your attitude of "you people are stupid" will not repair this PR mess.

rw said...

This is a link to an interesting article concerning the engineering issues (Esp. noise) of a Hong Kong Rail Viaduct.

http://www.arup.com/_assets/_download/7D33E385-F1C1-0F8B-AE09695D3D074B1E.pdf

Anonymous said...

I got an idea. How about put HSR right through Monterey (in Robert's backyard -- no, his actual backyard). If he likes it so much, why not have it there?

A Realist said...

Anonymous 11:36, thats a great idea. Why don't we just run these trains right through pebble beach, after all High Speed Rail corridors actually IMPROVE every historic destination where they are built according to this blog. No need to waste these on freeways and established transportation corridors. I say put these right on Spyglass Hill, then run the tracks through all the residential areas there, through Carmel, Clint Eastwoods house, Doris Day's house etc.

Spokker said...

"Make up your mind. Are these elevated, grade separated or not?"

It was always meant to be grade separated. Somehow the opposition can't even research the most basic facts about this project.

"If these are not elevated and they run on ground level, there certainly is no crossing the tracks and danger abounds."

At-grade doesn't mean there will be crossings. Roads can also be lowered to go under the right of way.

"No need to waste these on freeways and established transportation corridors."

The Caltrain ROW is an established transportation corridor.

"How about put HSR right through Monterey (in Robert's backyard -- no, his actual backyard)."

If the ridership is there or the alignment made sense, hell yeah.

"I say put these right on Spyglass Hill, then run the tracks through all the residential areas there, through Carmel, Clint Eastwoods house, Doris Day's house etc."

Again, if the ridership was there or the alignment made sense, I would be 100% for it.

timote said...

Rafael et al-

Are four tracks really really required or is this mostly an FRA thing with mixing the freight traffic.

That is, could we get away with two tracks for the foreseeable future? I'm just trying to think about the issues of these peninsula NIMBY's and whether they are largely a result of lame policy or real technical issues.

So here is my question:
If we built two new lines that were completely elevated structures like the Hong Kong viaduct (link in one of these comments), and these lines were shared Caltrain and HSR, would that significantly limit the lifespan of the solution? Are we building instant legacy, or is that a reasonable option? The issue then becomes one of freight, I guess we could leave the existing tracks for that. Of course, it would still need to address issues with the height of stations.

The reason I ask is that from that Hong Kong link, it appears on first blush that you can make an attractive elevated structure with decent soundproofing that would limit/eliminate the expansion of the ROW. Not sure of the expense of this solution in comparison to berm, at grade, trench, etc., just trying to think about solutions here.

Anonymous @ 5:12 pm:

"I live in the East Bay and still think the idea of a train track 50 feet above the ground is a bad idea. That 50 foot number came from the CAHSR website."

Link?

mike said...

OwenE - I seriously doubt that Atherton will win a court judgement to force the rail line onto the 101 median. It doesn't make any sense, and it won't even come close to passing a cost-benefit test. I'd think the likelihood of moving the alignment to Altamont is higher than the likelihood of moving it to 101. Of course, if BART runs down the East Bay to San Jose, then there's no guarantee that HSR wouldn't just use Caltrain tracks to access San Jose Diridon anyway. Oops!

BruceMcF said...

A Realist: "Make up your mind. Are these elevated, grade separated or not? If they are elevated and grade separated we get a Berlin wall. And please quit posting pictures of cavernous valleys with bridges as grade separators, this is a VALLEY, that is flat, hence the name, Silicon VALLEY."

In reality, those are not bridges, they are viaducts. You can put a viaduct along level terrain ... indeed, in a lot of ways its easier to put a viaduct along level terrain, since you can use a simple, attractive, repeated arch support structure.

Rafael said...

@ timote -

FRA rules on mixed traffic are a big part of the equation, but so is capacity. Caltrain is a commuter rail service. It wants signaling upgrades for 90mph top speed and line electrification for the added acceleration that electric motors can deliver. That combo would get its local trains from SF to SJ 10 minutes faster.

The baby bullet service would be upgraded as well. Caltrain expects to triple its ridership by 2025, with 10tph.

Combining local service that frequently slows down and speeds up to no more than 90mph with express trains at 125mph on the same tracks doesn't work well enough for either. The HSR starter line needs to run 4-6tph right off the bat to start building sufficient ridership and turn an operating profit that then funds the phase II spurs. The HSR line also needs to have enough ultimate capacity to avoid having to upgrade after just a decade or so.

A two-track alignment with four tracks just at all the Caltrain stations and wherever the ROW is wide enough to add bypass tracks would reduce the up-front construction cost a bit, especially if the alignment is kept at grade. If the hoped-for ridership materializes, the alignment could then be fully grade separated and upgraded to a full four tracks in stages.

The problem with that approach is that continual tinkering with an active line is always disruptive and ultimately more expensive than if you invest more up front. A great deal depends on how much faith you have in the accuracy of Caltrain's and CHSRA's ridership projections, given that they are hardly impartial observers.

This conflict is especially acute for fundamental grade separation decisions: the more over- and underpasses are added to an at-grade alignment, the harder/more expensive it becomes to elevate or lower long sections of the alignment later on.

Peninsula cities essentially failed to preserve the option of one day substantially expanding train service while orchards turned into Silicon Valley. Their zoning laws permitted low-rise residential housing to directly abut a narrow railroad ROW. Absent any high-rise zones, property values everywhere went through the roof, including even those abutting the railroad.

Now, an effort reversing decades of benign but foolish neglect of the railroad ROW is proving to be very painful for all concerned. Failing to protect options for future expansion of a transportation artery is usually a costly mistake - that's why new freeways are always built with generous medians.

It certainly doesn't help that e.g. the city of Palo Alto was asleep at the wheel even as Mountain View and others took notice, got informed and engaged in the process.

I just hope those demanding tunnels through suburbia or even massive route changes realize that sinking the HSR project will lock California into a car + plane transportation culture forever. And as California goes, so goes (most) of the nation.

That upshot of that would be massively greater costs in the future, because the regional and long-distance transportation capacity required to support population and economic growth could only come from even more freeways and airport runways.

When - not if - the oil runs out, a lack of efficient modes of transport based on domestic (preferably renewable) sources of primary energy will lead to more war. Not with potentates running producer nations, but with other consumer nations in Europe and Asia.

And all that because some homeowners in the San Francisco peninsula bought property right next to an active passenger rail line? After Iraq, this really is a case of shooting yourself in the foot and then reloading quickly. But I forget: Americans don't pay for their wars, their children and grandchildren do. They can't be bothered to connect the dots.

Hoorah for more guns! Boo for infrastructure! Who needs that, anyhow? Send the Marines!

Spokker said...

The neglect of our railroads and the rise of the personal automobile is really hurting us right now, as rafael states. I wonder if when they were tearing up railroads and building right up next to two and one track right of ways, if were ever thought, "Hey, do you think we might need these railroads again someday?"

"No," another person might have replied, "In California, the car is king!"

However, I doubt the question was ever asked.

timote said...

Rafael-

Thanks for the response, I really appreciate it. So (to summarize, let me know if this is inaccurate) you believe that a 2-track solution is feasible but not advised even right off the bat, that the speed delta - especially between Caltrain local service and HSR - would cause operational issues pretty fast.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading some back and forth about the whole thing and, as always, the only people who think others should sacrifice are the ones who don't have to sacrifice themselves. The only ones who think people should not use the NIMBY argument are the ones who's back yards are not affected.

timote said...

"The only ones who think people should not use the NIMBY argument are the ones who's back yards are not affected."

A fair critique, but for the record a couple thoughts:

1. Most of the people on this blog that have a problem with the NIMBY argument wouldn't mind having the train in their backyard, myself included. This is probably a result of being transit/train fans, but nonetheless it is true. Personally I cannot afford peninsula prices ;-)

2. There is a small subset of people that are interested enough in HSR to be advocates/posting on this blog. The number of them that live on this route directly is very small, despite point 1, just cause the number of people that directly live on that ROW as a percentage of the whole population is small. Most of us live some distance away in a bell curve distribution. The NIMBY crowd, on the other hand, has a direct relationship to the area in hand for obvious reasons. So it will always look like outsiders telling the people on the line what to do. This is just the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

I think the only "solution" is for both sides to be as rational and open to alternate ideas as possible. I truly believe that there is space for compromise in this - that between the width of the ROW already, the noise of the existing trains (I work near the Belmont station area, so I have no illusions as to the existing trains), the benefits to the line that may not occur without HSR (electrification, grade separation, etc.) - that there is enough space for a solution. That is, I think that if CAHSR is rational and the residents are rational (neither is guaranteed, unfortunately) that in the end the properties even immediately adjacent will not be materially affected by the changes. There will be some benefits (less noise per train, less interruption on the streets, etc.) and some detriments (more quantity of trains, more visual intrusions in some areas). Overall, I think there is space for both sides to be satisfied.

Karen said...

Hey, I'm new to the blog so take it easy. My understanding is that the Caltrain tracks on the Peninsula are actually owned by Amtrak and/ok freight lines and that any HSR proposal needs to allow for 2 additional freight gauge tracks. So 2 freight, and 4 Caltrain/HSR means 6 to me. How am I wrong?

Also, Caltrain as a responsible neighbor is kind of laughable to those of us up against the tracks here. Based on my experience with them recently regarding a proposed and long-planned project to raise grades in San Mateo as part of a the ancient bridge replacement project, communications with community is poor, and planning is feckless. It took a very late stage neighborhood meeting to remind Caltrain that spend $$ now on grade change in the face of HSR was maybe not such a good idea. There were a number of other substantive issues they had not addressed and they had to fold and tell us they'd get back to us in a few more years.