Thursday, March 19, 2009

Palo Alto Planning Commissioners Debate HSR Options

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

It's good to see that despite the Palo Alto City Council's decision to do a 180 and cave to a small, unrepresentative group of NIMBYs, the city's planning commissioners are taking a more sensible approach to the question of how to build HSR through their city. I don't agree with all of their conclusions, but they seem to be offering the kind of constructive engagement that has been totally lacking from the city council:

Many in the city still support the train in concept but are grasping for ways to fit it into a narrow rail corridor that bisects quiet neighborhoods. The first paragraph of the city's draft letter asks that the study "provide a complete analysis of all linear rail corridor elevation options, including at-grade, elevated or depressed including open trench and tunneling."

It goes on, "All options, particularly the tunneling option, should be evaluated to the same level of detail as the elevated track proposal."

That doesn't mean the city considers a tunnel a miracle solution, however. Planning Commissioner Samir Tuma asked that city staff remove the clause "particularly the tunneling option," saying that it's not yet clear that would be the best alternative to raised tracks.

At this blog we've been quite willing to examine the tunnel concept, and Rafael will have more to say on that and other possible implementations of HSR in an upcoming post. But the tunnel should be evaluated on the same terms as the other options, and shouldn't be given any undue favoritism or shrift.

Most opposition to a tunnel so far has focused on the cost, which is presumed to be astronomical. But Commissioner Karen Holman agreed it may not be the answer even if the city can afford it. She said she often tells members of the public, "Don't fall in love with the below-grade scenario. There are all manner of potential impacts to that, and many are the same as above-grade."

Specifically, Holman said, construction of a tunnel or trench could disrupt the lives of those who live nearby and require the state to take people's property. Beyond that, it could pose problems related to underground water, including a toxic plume and an aquifer that serves as an emergency drinking-water supply.

Kudos to Karen Holman for this very sensible position. There are indeed lots of impacts to a tunnel, from the disruption of construction to unknown effects on hydrology to, of course, the enormous cost. The public should look at all of the options from a fully informed perspective, whereas some of the louder voices have already decided a tunnel is best without really looking at the details. This is especially ironic given that one of the main NIMBY arguments is that the CHSRA somehow did not properly inform Palo Alto residents about the project before the November vote. That charge has no validity, but it's not right for those NIMBYs to sell a tunnel as the solution to the HSR question without being able to offer the public any real information on what it would actually look like, how it would be implemented, and what the cost would be.

Given that, Commissioner Daniel Garber wondered if the city should ask for more study of keeping the tracks at ground level. That would likely require closure of several cross streets, however, a possibility other commissioners were not interested in considering.

The overriding sentiment was captured by Commissioner Arthur Keller near the end of the four-hour-long session. "There is no completely satisfactory solution to this," he said. "All of the alternatives will have drawbacks. The question is which of the drawbacks are better than others, which of the drawbacks we can live with. And the ones can we live with, the ones Caltrain can live with and the ones high-speed rail can live with might not all be the same."

Again this is a sensible point to make, even if I disagree with the framing of solutions as "drawbacks." Keller realizes that there is no magic bullet solution that will make everyone happy (and that is probably what he intended to say by using the term "drawbacks"), so the city ought to move ahead through an honest and realistic assessment of all the options without trying to prejudge the outcome.

Especially welcome is the planning commission's desire to ensure HSR gets built. That stands in clear contrast to the city council's flirtations with HSR denial. It would be ideal if the constructive attitude shown by the planning commission spreads to the city council, but it's probably going to take a push from Palo Alto residents who support HSR to ensure that happens.

PS: The BayRail Alliance is hosting a meeting tonight on the Transbay Terminal/DTX project, at the Panera Bread located just across from the 4th and King Caltrain station in San Francisco from 6 to 8:30 pm. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it up from Monterey for this meeting, but it promises to be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the project and where it stands.

60 comments:

jim said...

The best option is this. Run it from san jose to san francisco with no stops serving pa/mp/atherton or anywhere else) AND then BAN all residents and their descendants - of those cities from ever riding for all eternity.

Anonymous said...

I am very sympathetic to those worried about the disruption of neighborhoods in PA. The HSR could separate communities by disrupting traffic and pedestrian flow.

SF had the 101 divider (now torn down) and Oakland with the 880 (fell down). These obstructions were imposed on poor neighborhoods.

I would hope PA would focus on using HSR to help them build *more* pedestrian tunnels and overpasses to keep communities connected and walkable -- improve the connectivity over today's baseline that's more car centric.

Connecting these underpasses to bike paths and rethinking bus routes could make PA more walkable and thus desirable.

Bianca said...

Glad to see that some cooler heads are speaking up in Palo Alto.

I live in Menlo Park, and I am sympathetic to those worried about the changes that HSR may bring. I say "may" because when people talk about the current Caltrain line, they seem to believe that it doesn't disrupt traffic, hamper pedestrian flow, create noise, or look unsightly. Caltrain does all of these things right now. A grade-separated, electric-powered (and thus quieter) train line that connects to more of the state are all improvements over the status quo.

When I hear people complain about HSR dividing the community, I wonder where they really live, because if they live anywhere near the tracks, they would know better.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Bianca, that's absolutely right, and a good riposte to what anon wrote. This is not at all analogous to imposing freeways on neighborhoods - the rail corridor is already a kind of divider, and it was there before any of these cities existed. The rail line is why they were built in the first place.

Grade separations actually improve traffic and pedestrian flow - gated crossings do not accomplish either goal.

Eric said...

Are we positive though that it's really just a small group of NIMBYs in Palo Alto? Local politicians hear rantings from cranks all the time; it would surprise me if they got cold feet as quickly as they did unless they had good reason to believe there really was significant local opposition.

Eric said...

I've mentioned this before, but this reminds me a lot of the battle in Santa Barbara against Caltrans' mad scheme to build an elevated structure for the 101 freeway. After 20 years of insisting that a trench or at-grade alignment was simply impossible (faults, groundwater, the usual reasons), they finally capitulated and built a freeway at-grade with underpasses, and closed a few formerly through streets. And for the record, while Santa Barbara is of course majority white and affluent, the neighborhoods that would have been most affected are majority lower-income and brown.

I think PA is right to make their objections forcefully known, once state agencies propose a particular scheme, they tend to fall in love with it and give short shrift to alternatives. And the initial EIR is rife with absurdities, my favorite being the contention that trees will screen overhead structures (you know, the same trees that the EIR elsewhere states may have to be cut down to widen the ROW).

I'm glad the at-grade idea is at least being mooted as well, obviously street closures will be a contentious issue but at least people are talking about it.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

any info on where that toxic plume and the emergency aquifer are located exactly?

@ Bianca -

very good points, thank you. Leaving the tracks at grade everywhere in Palo Alto would require some cross roads to be closed or else converted to deep underpasses, possibly with the loss of their intersection with the frontage road (Alma St).

Palo Alto Ave in-between El Palo Alto and University will need to become a deep underpass in all realistic scenarios (except 4 bored tunnels deep under San Francisquito). There will be collateral implications for Palo Alto Ave east of Alma.

To protect the venerable tree's delicate root system, it might be wise to move the crossing point a little further south. The tracks will anyhow need to be moved a little west to ease the chicane imposed by the Alma St intrusion into the railroad ROW at University (the 100-year-old rail bridge across the San Francisquito needs to be replaced in any case).

Churchill and E Meadow are more sensitive to road underpass construction, because they are used intensively by K12 students on bicycles.

Perhaps surprisingly, the bigger headaches are actually at San Antonio (narrow ROW at overpass/station) and in Mountain View (VTA light rail). Both areas require some track stacking to accommodate platforms and/or facilitate grade separation.

@ Eric -

let's not go back to that whole white/brown well again. It doesn't much matter if it's accurate or not, we're trying to help folks in the mid-peninsula converge on a solution in a lot less than 20 years here. Let's focus on the technical/local environmental issues in the tricky Atherton-Mountain View stretch.

Car-less in San Diego said...

It's great to hear that the PA planning commission has decided to provide some constructive discussion in spite of what the City Council has gone on record with. Hopefully the Council is just beating their chests a bit to make their greatest concerns known.

In the mean time they know full well they are going to have to find a real way to get this thing built through their community. Engaging their commissioners is just the avenue for that and any fair minded person can see that the "drawbacks" are miniscule when compared to the benefits of having a complete HSR system.

from Santa Barbara said...

@ERIC

Wow!! Am I glad you brought up Santa Barbara.

Our gem of a city. What a disaster putting 101 through the City has been. It splits the City. It should have never been done. I can assure you if an earthquake would mean reconstruction, just like SF and the Embarbadero, it would never get approval for a rebuild. It should be demolished and the wonderful quality of life that existed before would be restored.

Good for those in the Bay Area that are fighting to keep their quality of life. Don't give in to the rail zealots.

Eric said...

@from Santa Barbara

I think it was a reasonable compromise - the fact is that 101 is an arterial through route, it had to go through the city somewhere. People need transport, and until we all get our Jetsons hovercar (and a non-polluting version at that) transport routes will have to go somewhere.

And c'mon, are you seriously saying that those traffic lights on State, Santa Barbara, and Anacapa streets, where you had to wait, what was it, I'm trying to remember back to high school, like 5 minutes for the light to turn green (they actually had signs warning you to turn off your engine) - are you saying that didn't split the city? My point was that they dodged the bullet of having an elevated and retained monstrosity like Caltrans wanted to build.

@Rafael - that was exactly my point. It's nice that the PA planning commission is playing it cooler than the city council, but I hope CAHSR returns the favor and it doesn't take 20 years, given the muleheaded obstinacy that our dear state agencies tend to display once they've found an engineering solution they like. However, trenches and tunnels involve a lot of concrete, so there's definitely something for the state to like in all of this.

mike said...

Robert - I don't think that Anon's comment was unreasonable. Yes, it overstates matters to compare the railroad to 101 or 880, but the idea of using HSR to help build more pedestrian crossings and improve connectivity through the city seems like a very good one to me.

Eric said...

let's not go back to that whole white/brown well again.

Fair enough, but RC was the one who opened that can of worms a couple of posts ago. And the fact is, there's a variant of NIMBYism by or on behalf of poor people that masquerades as "Environmental Justice." That was one of the objections in CAHSR's report to the Altamont alignment, you'd have to build through low-income neighborhoods and this had "significant environmental justice impacts."

Now, of course it's reasonable that there should be some remedy to the historical pattern of "let's just build the rendering plant/sewage facility/refinery where the poor people live," but reversing the equation to "you're rich, so screw you" isn't the answer either.

Spokker said...

They aren't considering building HSR on the Peninsula for no reason, though. The right of way already exists. So even if it were a bad decision to make, there isn't a hint of, "You're right so screw you."

Look, the railroad is already there. It's unfortunate people live by it but does that mean you don't upgrade the railroad? Some say yes and others say no.

Peninsula Resident said...

Can anyone provide specific information about info sessions held on the Peninsula by CAHSRA? ie dates? times? locations? The only meetings I ever heard of were back in January 2009 - but what about around or before election time when the Pacheco pass was selected?!

Morris Brown said...

Ref: The Lowenthal committee meeting on Tuesday (3/27/09)

The California channel took down the video, but I got them to put it up under recent activity today.

So if you go to:

http://www.calchannel.com/

you will see a link to the video.

Those interested in the TBT, towards the end they show slides and a pretty long discussion of the terminal. I found it informative.

(the interface is strange -- you can pause, go forward etc., once you figure it out --- also the meeting doesn't start until about 11 minutes into the video.

Eric said...

@Spokker

The class resentment certainly exists in some of the posts and comments on this blog. And it's implicit in the "environmental justice" argument, which is mentioned numerous times in CHSRA's own reports - building the line through poor neighborhoods is inherently negative, whereas building it through wealthy neighborhoods is neutral, and therefore preferable. It sounds simplistic, but when you read the EIR that's what it boils down to, unless I'm missing something.

Also - arguments about the rail line already existing, is it really so shortsighted that the Peninsula communities never envisioned that their moderately utilized dead-end commuter branch line, which has NEVER in its century old history hosted more than a handful of long-distance passenger trains, even during the heyday of US passenger rail, would suddenly be transformed into a 4-track bullet train?

SF has always fancied itself as the Manhattan of the Bay Area, but the rest of the area scoffs at this, and with good reason.

Alon Levy said...

Eric, the environmental justice argument is a bit like affirmative action. It partly counteracts existing biases - in favor of white men in hiring, and against poor neighborhood in locating toxic waste. (Though there's some research showing that the causality is reversed: toxic waste reduces property values and induces white flight, so that the area becomes browner and poorer.) I don't think it's irrelevant to bring it up - especially not when it can be expected that rich areas, like PA, can help work with the HSRA to achieve a better solution in a way that poorer areas can't.

Spokker said...

"is it really so shortsighted that the Peninsula communities never envisioned that their moderately utilized dead-end commuter branch line, which has NEVER in its century old history hosted more than a handful of long-distance passenger trains, even during the heyday of US passenger rail, would suddenly be transformed into a 4-track bullet train?"

It's absolutely short-sighted.

I mean, where does it end? Is it so short sighted to not think that this dinky little dead-end railroad could have turned into this massive commuter operation with over 100 trains per day? You could also make that argument.

Alon Levy said...

Spokker, I don't know what "should've known" means. On Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, some business owners are complaining that the slow construction of the new subway line is interfering with their customer base. You could make a case that they should've known, too, because Second Avenue Subway has been in planning since 1929, and construction actually started in the 1970s. Fortunately they're not calling for ending the project, but they do have valid concerns.

And that's the most famous thing in New York that's never been built. Everyone taking the Lexington Line would know there was a need for a new relief line. The Peninsula had no such thing - HSR wasn't even proposed until the later 1990s. Before then, not only did nobody propose it, but also it would've been easier and more natural to get to San Francisco through Oakland, which was a more important destination than Silicon Valley.

jim said...

@eric "SF has always fancied itself as the Manhattan of the Bay Area, but the rest of the area scoffs at this, and with good reason" --Really? then they should stop flocking here by a few hundred thousand everyday and every friday and saturday night a clogging up our streets and sidewalks.

jim said...

Scoff indeed. jealous much?

jim said...

As for running trains through wealthy versus poor neighborhoods, guess what, put he tracks and station in east palo alto and let those folks reap the the huge economic benefits from the project, the tax revenues, the jobs, the infrastructure improvements etc and make sure there are no uncer passes in the "berlin wall" so that PA and MP can't get their hands on any of those benefits.

Spokker said...

"The Peninsula had no such thing - HSR wasn't even proposed until the later 1990s."

These arguments are only valid if you believe that HSR will be significantly more disruptive than Caltrain already is, and I don't think it will be.

There will be some pros and cons to people living in the area. Noise will probably not change, with some claiming electric trains at 125 MPH are quieter than diesel trains at 79 MPH. There's also grade separation and an end to loud horns. Clem has also demonstrated that few land takings will be needed to widen the ROW to four tracks.

Much of the valid concerns seem to be over visual intrusion and there I disagree. This is not a 12 lane highway being built through residential areas. There are ways to mitigate the visual impacts of HSR. It's up to Peninsula residents to work with the CAHSRA in order to make this the best looking HSR line in the world, and I don't mean tunneling.

jim said...

The more I look at the caltrain yards at fourth - The more i realize that the train station should remain there. There is so much room there. look at the arial google - theres room at both ends for 12 10 cars trains at each end. that could accommodate, hsr, caltrain and future amtrak trains. and it would be a straight shot for any future bay crossing. There could still be a train box in the TBT and Select rush hour hsr and caltrains could serve TBT and the rest could serve townsend where there would be room for parking for more leisure users.. So a train from LA to SF could be LA SF-mission bay or LA SF transbay just like some bart trains are SFO and some are MILLBRAE. I mean there is just a ton of room at that yard plus the air rights.

Alon Levy said...

These arguments are only valid if you believe that HSR will be significantly more disruptive than Caltrain already is, and I don't think it will be.

I don't think it will be, either, but those people do.

Resident said...

Environmental justice -interesting, because the planning and transportation commission added (among hundreds of other items for the scoping comments) that the impacts in Palo Alto will be concentrated mainly the lowest income housing (BMR housing specfiically) in Palo Alto (esp some newer down town dense housing that was built specifically for below market rate quotas. These are complexes that are built (or approved to be built shortly) exactly along Alma (or on the other side of tracks, on Park) in downtown areas - ideal right? Because its so close to commuter options?

But the commission pointed out that the detrimental effects of widened tracks (bringing the complexes that much closer to the moving trains, increase in speed, noise, frequency, traffic around stations, homes facing sound walls, etc., will concentrate on these low income neighbors - the quintisential 'environmental justice' problem of hitting the poorer people the hardest.

This is the problem with the 20,000foot view of impact analysis that they used for the Program EIR/EIS. (And the 20,000 foot view of racism/classism that Robert and company spew forth).

Never fear though, the next round EIR/EIS will be required to be way more (entirely) location/region/city/site specific, and that's where CHSRA will begin to find themselves up to their eyeballs in the realities of environmental impacts and mitigation costs.

Alon Levy said...

Resident, what you say doesn't square with the form of opposition to HSR in Palo Alto. Most of what we've heard so far represents upper-middle class suburban concerns: property values, schools, backyards, trees. Usually when the poor protest something, they talk about affordable housing instead. Where are they in the Palo Alto anti-HSR petition?

another resident said...

Quoted from resident says


Never fear though, the next round EIR/EIS will be required to be way more (entirely) location/region/city/site specific, and that's where CHSRA will begin to find themselves up to their eyeballs in the realities of environmental impacts and mitigation costs.



and this is where the project fails for certain and will have blown hundreds of millions.

Already resident groups are gathering together with legal advice and expert testimony.

The rail advocates here, who think the grand Authority can just bulldoze their way through community after community will be spending millions and millions, not on design, construction or ROW acquisition but on legal bills.

What a mess.

BruceMcF said...

"There could still be a train box in the TBT and Select rush hour hsr and caltrains could serve TBT and the rest could serve townsend where there would be room for parking for more leisure users."

4 Caltrain tph and 8 HSR tph would fit in the train box as it seems to be designed, perhaps with the addition of a 3-switch switchover near the trainbox end of the tunnel and another in the middle of the tunnel ... since Caltrain services would continue to be using the station at 4th, the answer might be to have the main HSR terminus at TBT and the main Caltrain terminus at 4th, with up to 4tph continuing to the TBT.

What CAHSRA needs to nail down is priority access to the middle four of the six platforms and priority access through to those platforms and to the tail tracks. If they can get that nailed down, they can let Caltrain sort out how to cope with the bottlenecks in capacity should the HSR start running toward the 8tph mark.

Spokker said...

"will be spending millions and millions, not on design, construction or ROW acquisition but on legal bills."

Not their fault. It's a necessary evil to get a vital transportation link in California built. It's unfortunate that it has to be that way, but if you can sue for other bullshit reasons in America, you might as well sue to stop badly needed transportation infrastructure because it might frighten your little ones at soccer practice.

Clem said...

the answer might be to have the main HSR terminus at TBT and the main Caltrain terminus at 4th

Ever heard of San Francisco's 1999 Proposition H ?

It's dismaying to see how the CHSRA's "requirements" were plucked out of thin air. It's equally dismaying to see Caltrain (for which the DTX was conceived) shoved aside in favor of HSR. Was the point of Prop H to spend $4 billion in order to have Caltrain terminate at 4th & King?

Resident said...

Levy. The poor are working. They're probably not wasting time on this blog. That doesn't mean they're not in existence.

Levy - you hit the nail on the head - it DOESN"T JIVE with the STEREOTYPES you've been fed. Mabye you should examine your assumptions and stereotypes, and perhaps teh motives of those who are feeding it to you.

By the way, are you asking for a financial statement from everyone who's commenting here, and everyone who's signing a petition? How do you know they're not there? Or here?

What, you think poor people aren't worried about their property values? their investment in their homes? their schools? Traffic in their neighborhoods? Noise?

Examine your assumptions and stereotypes.

jim said...

East Palo alto would probably welcome the train, the station and all the revenue it will bring.

Spokker said...

"Levy. The poor are working. They're probably not wasting time on this blog. That doesn't mean they're not in existence."

No, the poor waste their time on plenty of other things.

By the way, there are many working poor people who are in support of the train, including myself.

No, but I'm sure everybody who supported Prop 1A was a Rockefeller.

NO Nimbys said...

The HSR will put all the "poor" people like 'resident to work then!
must be hard support 600-700K homes on those "low wages" down there in Menlo and PA

Devil's Advocate said...

Caltrain track is already splitting the neighborhoods. Currently only some streets in the peninsula have grade crossings or overpasses. So how can HSR be any worse? An aerial structure nicely designed with several arches like a Roman acqueduct would provide a seamless flow between the two sides of the track and could even be pretty to look at. And the comparison with pre Loma Prieta aerial structures of 101 in SF or 880 in Oakland is improper. Those were much wider than the HSR aerial structure would be, and certainly they weren't designed with any aesthetical aim in mind. If one has to tunnel through the entire peninsula because of these NIMBYs, then it might indeed be cheaper and better to go up the East bay to downtown Oakland and let San Franciscans take BART to it. They do it now to go to OAK airport to catch Southwest to LA anyway!

Anonymous said...

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09317.pdf?source=ra

Fibutake said...

Larry Page is tearing down more homes than HSR will in Palo Alto.

http://www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/story.php?story_id=10632

Spokker said...

SNCF very interested in operating a high speed rail line in the US.

Haha the United States can't get off their asses fast enough to get HSR up and running so France is going to do it themselves. God, I love France.

Alon Levy said...

It's not the stereotypes I've been fed. I've read what the people who oppose these development projects in New York say themselves. There's a lot of resentment toward megaprojects in Harlem. People here don't ever invoke property values; in Upper Manhattan, home ownership is in the single digits. Nor do they rant about noise, or infrastructure. Instead, they talk about affordable housing, which is a real problem if you're poor and living in an expensive region. And they talk about how slumlords exploit immigrants with poor English skills. They're often allied with outer borough NIMBYs who share their opposition to Bloomberg-style urban renewal, but their concerns are entirely different.

Conversely, let's look at what Palo Altans here say against HSR. They never mention any issue with poverty or discrimination. Instead, they let everyone know that Palo Alto is a rich city that can gather "legal advice and expert testimony," that it's more important than Visalia, that its top-100 school is too important, that it has the power to sue the project to oblivion. You're speaking power to truth, and then wondering why everyone else hates you.

I'm not interested in getting income statements from people here. People make what they make. But I'll bet you even money that the median household income among the people who signed the anti-HSR petition is over $200,000 a year. If you're willing to go down to $150,000, the median for Palo Alto families, I'll give you 2-to-1 odds.

BruceMcF said...

Clem said...
"Ever heard of San Francisco's 1999 Proposition H?"

No, but if its the one that includes: "A world-class regional transit station, connecting Caltrain, MUNI, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, and other intercity bus lines with high-speed rail should be located within easy walking distance of downtown and should have a direct connection to BART and MUNI Metro;"

... it seems that it requires a design for the TBT train box which is capable of serving as the main northern terminus of both Caltrain and HSR. Since there's no clear indication this describes the design that SF is trying to organize applying for federal funds to build ... let alone, as Jarrett Mullin suggests in the "LAO and Sen Lowenthal" comment thread, "For instance, Amtrak wishes to provide additional SF-LA service via the coast. It would be excellent to have this service terminate at Transbay. In addition, Monterrey will likely get regional rail service in the future, and Transbay would be the ideal terminus." If 12 trains per hour maxes out the 2003 design, additional services would seem to be untenable.

"It's dismaying to see how the CHSRA's "requirements" were plucked out of thin air."

While they say they have engineers saying its unworkable, there's the question of what operational assumptions the engineers are making, which is to say whether the question posed involved 12 trains per hour and 1 hour platform dwell times.

On the other hand, even on more modest assumptions, there's the problem of making two platforms in a terminal platform serve as the main northern Caltrain terminus.

And the decision to design the TBT train box without taking seriously the full scope of the 1999 Proposition H language was not CAHSRA's decision.

"It's equally dismaying to see Caltrain (for which the DTX was conceived) shoved aside in favor of HSR."

Yes, that is the problem in a nutshell. The 1999 Prop H language was more ambitious than that, but the train box seems like it was basically designed for Caltrain alone, and despite some criticism at the time, its with the passage of Prop 1A converting a hypothetical HSR line to a likely HSR line that the underdesign comes to a head.

"Was the point of Prop H to spend $4 billion in order to have Caltrain terminate at 4th & King?

If the train-box is not funded, that is precisely what the point of Prop H would be.

SFGate.com 2 March 2009: "As it stands, the first phase of the project would be built without a "train box," the skeleton of the underground train station. The idea is to build it later, when funding becomes available. But building the train box in the first phase could shave an estimated $100 million off the $490 million cost."

There was an mandate in the Australian Constitution to build a rail line from South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory, as part of the handover of the territory from South Australia to the Australian Commonwealth ... but without funding and without a deadline, that rail line was built after the centennial of the Constitution.

And of course, if your concern is with the needs of Caltrain, it bears remembering that its not just CAHSRA that says there's problem with the designs: "The problems aren't insurmountable, said Michael Scanlon, executive director of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which operates Caltrain. But, he said, they require additional engineering work.

"The current alignment and design is fatally flawed," Scanlon told the Metropolitan Transportation Commission governing board last week.
"

Bay Area Resident said...

These arguments are only valid if you believe that HSR will be significantly more disruptive than Caltrain already is, and I don't think it will be.


Spokker you are the most incredible BSer, you deserve a prize! As we have stated repeatedly and the thousands of residents on the peninsula are well aware, HSR is going to have one train every 8 minutes (every 3 minutes if you include the Caltrains also), where today caltrain runs once every half hour through the day. Caltrain has "rail quiet zones" through these residential towns where speeds are maintained at 35mph. The current Caltrain is non invasive and residents know it, meanwhile you bloviating train wonks are claiming stuff that aint so, which is why nobody agrees with you.

The Environmental Justice issues are about to raise their ugly heads on the downtown San Jose portion of the train, where CHSRA conveniently dropped all the noise impacts from high/med to LOW based on the fact that HSRs have no horns (where today Caltrains have horns- in the non quiet zones that is)- that particular designation is floating like a lead balloon. the program level EIR basically states that all environmental impacts are "low" on residential areas where the Caltrain ROW currently exists and there are no emminent domain plans. HAHAHA!

Eric said...

An aerial structure nicely designed with several arches like a Roman acqueduct would provide a seamless flow between the two sides of the track and could even be pretty to look at.

This keeps coming up. Can someone please point to where CAHSR has proposed such a thing? Ever? They are proposing a retained embankment, which is a completely different, and considerably less expensive, animal.

What you're proposing is quite expensive to build, and might compare in cost to a trench. Not to mention no matter how much it's prettied up, it's still gonna loom over these relatively low-rise peninsula neighborhoods.

Spokker said...

"Caltrain has "rail quiet zones" through these residential towns where speeds are maintained at 35mph."

I could not find anything that supports this statement. All I found were proposals to cease some or all train horn blasts in what the FRA calls Quiet Zones. It says nothing about reduced speed.

I did find this interesting article about the demand for FRA Quiet Zones in Oceanside, CA in 2007.

This really illustrates how common this, "Move next to the noisy train tracks, then complain" movement is. Some comments are really informative as well and I'm glad to see all the hate toward the NIMBYs in Oceanside.

"First, the railroad was built in 1880 when there was no town named Oceanside; just a place called San Luis Rey (about 4-5 miles from the ocean). The populace started their migration to the west and developers came because of the railroad. The name "Ocean Side" came along about 1882. The town grew and became incorporated in 1888 due in large part because of the railroad. Second, horns are used to warn people of the danger of a train coming into their area. You may be safely tucked into your bed at night but there are others going to work, enjoying nightlife, etc. These people deserve to be warned of an oncoming train. Third, if you think an engineer from Los Angeles, Barstow, or other parts unknown have the time or inclination to blow their horns just to bother you in your townhouse when they are directly below said horn, you are one self-centered ignoramus. Any engineer with any time in the cab has had his or her share of death and near misses. Quiet Zones will end up quieting many human beings."

Whoever said this said it well.

Bay Area Resident said...

Resident, the real environmental justice issues are in San Jose- but I am not sure the impact on the Peninsula route, since the San Jose issues are below Diridon, this is where the train goes through some predominantly spanish speaking emerging neighborhoods around Diridon station and elsewhere, and (drum roll) the CSHRA had exactly ZERO outreach meetings in SPANISH for these impoverished communities! Caltrain does not go through the higher end areas of Almaden Valley or the better parts of Willow Glen.

Bay Area Resident said...

Spokker,
I could not find anything that supports this statement.

Well maybe thats because you don't live here, which explains your offbase evaluations of the case for HSR on the peninsula.
http://www.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/CommitteeAgenda/BBT/100206/BBT100206_02.pdf

Bay Area Resident said...

jim, you don't understand. Palo Alto has more JOBS than residents, and then theres that little school there. CHSRA only hurts themselves by not stopping in Palo Alto, the residents there don't care. CHSRA needs Palo Alto as a destination not as a starting point.

Spokker said...

"Well maybe thats because you don't live here, which explains your offbase evaluations of the case for HSR on the peninsula.
http://www.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/CommitteeAgenda/BBT/100206/BBT100206_02.pdf"

Yes, that document indeed talks about Quiet Zones, but that refers to horn blasts.

BruceMcF said...

From the post: "An aerial structure nicely designed with several arches like a Roman acqueduct would provide a seamless flow between the two sides of the track and could even be pretty to look at."

Eric said...
"This keeps coming up. Can someone please point to where CAHSR has proposed such a thing? Ever? They are proposing a retained embankment, which is a completely different, and considerably less expensive, animal."

Not really too clued into the process, are we Eric? There is no final design proposal on the table. Its at the stage before that, where the communities have an opportunity to provide their input and try to hammer out the design that in their view represents the best result in terms of positive amenity and incremental cost.

The reason this kind of design keeps getting raised is that other communities in other countries with similar concerns were able, at a similar point in the design process, to gain that type of structure.

And definitely, for town centers in towns that do not want the multi-year disruption of the town center from tunneling, the likely need for a substantial local contribution for those communities that choose tunneling, and yet want to reduce the existing pedestrian barrier effects of the Caltrain right of way, its a design option that merits consideration.

As is in suburban areas where there may be a desire to retain existing cul-de-sacs split grade embanked or where the ROW is more narrow a walled fill (preferably with a green wall (image)).

Stepping back, by and large the Planning Commissioners request for all options to be considered is a quite sensible one at this stage in the design process.

jim said...

@spokker I love the french as well. They know how to get things done. They have great style and design and use better technology. America is so over. Its embarrassing. The baby boom generation is the worst ever. They will be gone soon though.

jim said...

the "move next to the noisy train tracks then complain" folks are just like what we had in the city when people bought "loftS" south of market then complained about the nightclubs. More american self centered stupidity. Its rampant. I hate uppity white folks. and I'm white. Damn Stupidity in abundance.

jim said...

@Bay rea resident. CAHSR does not need a stop in PA. PA thinks WAY to highly of itself. I live in San Francisco, you know, the only real city in the bay area, and believe me, no one around here even mentions palo alto. HSR just has to find a way to get through there with the least amount of BS from the folks who live there thats all. need PA? thats laughable.

Spokker said...

Jim is the best poster in the world.

Alon Levy said...

BAR, a lot of cities in Silicon Valley have more jobs than employed residents: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Redwood City (link). San Jose actually has fewer jobs than residents, while Santa Clara has far more.

I suspect PA is a better station location than RC, mostly because of Stanford. Students are often early adopters of mass transit; universities also generate a lot of travel, with conferences and with students going back to their parents' homes. But it's not precise, and if it turns out RC offers a better station, or PA does not support a station in its city, then I won't shed too many tears.

Eric said...

Not really too clued into the process, are we Eric?

Cute. There is a proposed design. Read the EIR. Of course CAHSR is going to hide behind the classic "Well this isn't a final design" dodge. Look at their statements. You think because it's a project we support state bureaucrats are suddenly going to stop acting like state bureaucrats?

Eric said...

I live in San Francisco, you know, the only real city in the bay area, and believe me, no one around here even mentions palo alto.

I recognized your fine San Francisco whine. Try moving to Southern California from SF; I did and it's fantastic to be around people who don't spend their whole time alternately complaining about everything, and arguing that their provincial little city is the center of the universe.

jim said...

Redwood city is more blue collar and I'd prefer the station be there.
@eric I'm very fond of socal, but it doesn't change the fact that wihout san francisco, the bay area would just be another san deigo. pleasant but dull.

jim said...

I say give them what they want and fun it up 101 nonstop. buil the y shaped arial support structures, use third rail power and run it non stop at 125 from diridon to tbt and you'll shave off even more time. construction could be done by closing only one lane a section at a time of the 101. and precast sections could be assembled quickly. When Im going to a show I don't want to stop in PA on my way to hollywood anyway.

BruceMcF said...

Eric said..."Cute. There is a proposed design. Read the EIR."

There has to be a preliminary design to do an overall EIR. There's no point in doing the final design for each leg of the corridor until the project gets the go ahead.

And the "its not a final design" is not a dodge. If the communities along the corridor engage in the design process, they have a substantial opportunity to affect the final design.

Of course, obstructionists will want to polarize the situation, and will want to cut down the range of options considered, to avoid workable compromises emerging.

Obviously, if it comes down to the CAHSRA pushing for the most convenient option from its perspective and obstructionists pushing for the option that makes it least likely that the project will proceed, that increases the likelihood that the preliminary design will be the final design.

However, the position of the PA planning commissioners to push for development of a full range of options is the responsible way to proceed.

Bay Area Resident said...

Does anybody have a graphic of CHSRA's concept of an embankment and cut/fill through residential areas? I can't find anything on the site