Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Context Sensitive Solutions?"

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

Back to the Peninsula this Saturday afternoon, where Palo Alto is working to find allies to demand a "tunnel or nothing" approach to HSR:

At the same time, city officials have been getting a plethora of free assistance from a group of city residents who, over the past few months, immersed themselves in rail-related issues. One of the group's leaders, Sara Armstrong, has been reaching out to neighborhoods both inside and outside Palo Alto to strengthen the citizen coalition. Residents Rita Wespi and Elizabeth Alexis have been tracking the web of rail-related bills passing through the state Capitol, while Nadia Naik has joined Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto in advocating a "context-sensitive solution" to the design of the new system.

We will be doing the same kind of work in tracking rail-related bills - if anyone wants to help, drop me an email (my last name at gmail).

But the part that really stood out to me, as you can tell by the title of the post, is Kishimoto's "context-sensitive solution." Just as with Redwood City and "stakeholders" how you actually define these terms matters a great deal. What is the "context" that Kishimoto describes? Is it a very narrow notion of context, including the 1/4 mile next to the Caltrain ROW? Or is it a holistic notion of context, including the community as a whole, the economic, environmental, and energy context? Do finances play a role? As the news this week shows, there isn't exactly a whole lot of money lying around to build a tunnel. Or are those things arbitrarily excluded from Kishimoto's notion of "context"?

The residents recently formed a new group -- Citizens Advocating Reasonable Rail Design -- which lobbies for more transparency for the $40 billion project and for the context-sensitive approach, which requires outreach to stakeholders before development of a transportation project and a focus on local context when designing the project.

So what looks to be the case here is "local context" which is probably defined as "whatever a small group of Palo Alto residents who bothered to organize the group want the HSR to look like." I would be pleasantly surprised if finances, job creation and ability of ALL residents to afford travel, impact on air quality and global warming, and on energy independence are included as part of the "local context." If those things are not included, then this "context-sensitive solution" will not be context-sensitive at all, and it certainly would not qualify as reasonable rail design.

Dominic Spaethling, project manager for the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the proposed line, said the rail authority and Caltrain are both sensitive to the concerns of the various communities. But he warned that cities could have different ideas for how to collaborate with the rail authority on design ideas.

"It's important to acknowledge the need for collaboration in design, but it's not a 'one size fits all' situation," Spaethling said. "Charrettes may be fine for Palo Alto, while other cities may have other approaches."

Which is a key point, since Palo Alto is trying to impose a solution on the CHSRA and Caltrain - and the whole of the state. And unfortunately, the city is still trying to undermine Caltrain service by demanding that the 101 corridor be studied:

On Monday, the City Council attempted to make this dialogue smoother by adopting a set of guiding principles for its newly established ad hoc committee. The committee, which includes Kishimoto and councilmen Pat Burt and John Barton, is authorized to speak on behalf of the full council on rail-related issues whenever the city's input is needed on short notice.

The principles proclaim the city's support for consideration of alternative alignments (other than the Caltrain right-of-way). They also call for a collaborative approach to urban design, more transparency in the design process and an economic study that would help determine which design alternatives are feasible.

Councilman Greg Schmid, who wanted the principles to explicitly state the city's concern about elevated trains, was the only council member who voted against adopting the principles (Barton and Vice Mayor Jack Morton were absent).

Hey Greg: if you're going to have a process where all implementations are fairly studied, you can't stack the deck by saying "we hate elevated trains." Of course, the rest of Palo Alto's work is merely an effort to stack the deck using more subtle means.

It's entirely possible that Kishimoto's efforts are well-intentioned and meant to get HSR built in a way that's acceptable to both Palo Alto and the state they are still a part of. But the way the efforts are set up and defined strike me as being too much of an effort to force CHSRA and Caltrain to accept a tunnel. And in the absence of a reasonable discussion of finances, it is difficult to take seriously those that demand a tunnel.


Morris Brown said...

The proposed charette/workshop is to take place in early October and specifically will have heavy emphasis on economics / finance.

In the meantime, the court hearing on the CEQA lawsuit will be heard this next Thursday in Sacramento. There is an array of court fillings and those interested can look at:

LinkYou enter 2008 for the yaar, and 80000022 as the case number, scroll to the bottom to see all the court filings.

jim said...

Palo who? Where's that?

Greg said...

if there's one word I hate in governmentspeak it's the term "Stakeholders." it has no intrinsic meaning anymore, it's usually used to define only some people's voices as mattering, and saying others do not.

Clearly the wealthy Peninsulans want to enforce an expensive, unworkable plan on HSR to try and kill it and are using narrow definitions of the public good to do so.

These are the people who killed BART in the 50s and 60s (and later begged for it to be extended ,at the expense of San Francisco, who's been subsidizing suburban expansion for decades) and now they want to screw over the state and possibly lose billions and keep us car and airline dependent.

The next time these privileged whiners demand more of my tax dollars to subsidize their schools and what not I'm voting a big ol' NO.

Morris Brown said...


I'm trying to learn Greg: Please explain to me how SF has been subsidizing suburban expansion for decades. I want to know.

And please tell me, how your tax dollars are being used unfairly to pay for school systems in the peninsula.

NONIMBYS said...

Well 2 of these people are the main NIMBY leaders period. One of them organized that silly parade with all the kids in it..SO that shows you just about where all the ideas will be centered around. They also have made very clear in there numerous post on that little
paper AND here how they feel and what they demaned for this project
like tunnel or nothing,moving to 101 or stoppiong in SanJose all NO GO opitions...right "Oberver and Resident and PA Marcher"

jim said...

I vote no on all school funding.

jim said...

San Mateo county received free BART service for 20 years or so without even having paid a dime.

jim said...

SAn mateo County now has 6 bart stations and three bart lines inspite of not having paid into the system for the first two decades of operation while western san francisco has no bart service and has been paying for nearly 40 years.

Alon Levy said...

Silicon Valley is the only place on Earth apart from maybe MIT where people use the term "context sensitive" in ordinary conversation.

Anonymous said...

Morris - take the amount of dollars that SF has paid into the BART system. Now compare that total on a per capita basis to the other counties. Now compare the total trackage length in each county as well as the total number of stations in each county to those numbers. You'll find your answers.

Anonymous said...

Move the HSR to the 101 corridor and let Caltrain take care of itself. It will be ok. Its only natural enemy is BART, which has for years tried to usurp it. Does the Peninsula really want Indian broad gauge? I doubt it. If they do, I guess that's their choice. Eventually Caltrain will be electrified on its own.

Beside as the old commercial went, two is better than one. The Peninsula could use two ROW's. Moreover raising all those overpasses on 101 would not be for naught. It would be possible to add elevated freeway lanes as well as the elevated HSR. Better to add to the capacity of an existing freeway than to force traffic onto surface streets or build another new freeway altogether. These roads occupy a huge amount of acreage, which is government owned and therefore taken off the tax rolls. So it is important to derive the most utility out of them and the HSR is a totally appropriate use.

Clem said...

let Caltrain take care of itself. It will be ok. Its only natural enemy is BART, which has for years tried to usurp it ...

One of the funny little gotchas if BART is built down the peninsula is that grade separations will be required. The Berlin Wall is not just an HSR issue... there will be increasing pressure to develop the underused peninsula corridor, HSR or not.

Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop using the pretentious word "charette" as a fancy word for design workshop.

jim said...

charette - sounds like some kind of hors d'oeuvre. "The amuse bouche consisted of braised charrette with medallions of pork. It bought the meal together in a melange of contextual sensitivity that one could only expect to find west of the El Camino!"

Aaron said...

The concept of context-sensitive solutions kind of makes sense - afterall, you probably wouldn't want to run BART on a low bridge over the Bay, and you probably wouldn't want to spend a ton of money on a suburban tunnel when you already have a huge rail ROW...

Er, wait a minute. Right. Apparently I got the context wrong. Context = What we want out of it.

Anonymous said...

There are only four grade crossings in Palo Alto! As the most recent post on Clem's blog shows, fairly short stretches of embankment, mostly less than 7ft high, would be sufficient to get over all of them. If even short embankments are unacceptable, wouldn't it be easier to just lower the streets further? Why are we even talking about a tunnel?

We can at least hope that as residents "immerse themselves in rail-related issues", those outside the two short affected sections will pipe down.

BruceMcF said...

Further to what Anony-mouse said at 2:56am (I am guessing this is someone different than some previous anony-mice ... but without a pseudonym, its impossible to know) ...

Adding a 10foot viaduct through PA station would in fact reduce the barrier, allowing ground floor buildings, plaza, sidewalks and cycleway to be added to the corridor, allowing for much easier cross platform access, and allowing for much better local transit connections.

The risk of demonizing elevations is that where it is preferable to elevate the track but possible to leave the track at ground level, demonizing elevation will leave Palo Alto with a second-best alternative.

Morris Brown said...

I don't see any enthusiasm for having BART coming down the peninsula. And if it were to gain support, it would generate same kind of response. "Do it right or don't do it"

Now having lived here for over 40 years, I think I understand that BART does not extend further south than the airport/Millbrae.

So if you are going to talk about SF subsidizing suburbia, then you are talking only about any communities lying north of that line, and certainly not Burlingame, San Mateo,Belmont, San Carlos, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto etc. further south.

BART to the airport is very much relatively new and to date has proven to be a disaster in terms of major costs over-runs and current ridership. The current ridership is not even in the ballpark of what was projected. Of course we all know this was a Kopp driven project.

If anything, suburbia has subsidized SF immensely by being major patrons of that cash cow, the SF airport, from which the City get a nice revenue stream.

Anon256 said...

Palo Alto evidently likes their divided community; why should the rest of the state pay for a longer embankment for PA's ungrateful benefit? There is no sense spending money to force convenience on them. Communities along the right of way should even be offered the option of simply closing grade crossings, if they find that more palatable than the proposed grade separation. If people want to vote to inconvenience themselves, and save the state money by doing so, then by all means we should let them.

NONIMBYS said...

Well just reading that little NIMBY
rag with its comments shows what self-centered things they really are.WE have are cars..We have planes ..Have everyone get off and change to Caltrain in San Jose..ON and comments says this blog is making them out to be Nimbys...YOU ARE we have nothing to do with that!!

Bay Area Resident said...

LOL. First of all posters, many school districts on the peninsula are self funded, Palo Alto is one. Repeat NONE of your tax dollars go to pay for Palo Alto schools. Otoh Palo Alto taxes may in fact be used to fund the school district where **you** live (unless it is one of these self funded districts) so you whiners have things exactly backward.
You are going to continue to look silly until you lose the "a few number of people on the tracks" chant. The entire peninsula is alarmed.
As to BART, it is planned for San Jose, but unlike HSR, BART from day one accurately reflected the costs to underground the route.

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

you're right about the issue of who pays for the schools.

Regarding BART, perhaps not so much. Cost estimates for the extension to Santa Clara have risen astronomically. VTA even had to ask voters to approve an additional 1/8 percent hike in SC county sales tax on top of the 1/2 percent voters had already approved in 2000. Federal cost-benefit checks for transit programs had to be waived to make this particular BART project eligible for any federal subsidies possible at all.

Moreover, the fact that BART will usurp the WPML right of way south of Niles with broad gauge tracks was a major reason why CHSRA was created to replace the old Intercity High-Speed Rail Commission. Its cardinal sin had been to prefer a route via Altamont pass. Not only would that have put SJ Diridon on a spur, but the most sensible route would have competed with the BART extension for the ROW between Niles and hwy 262 (in the late '90s, the median there was still available).

Those calling for a "context sensitive" solution for HSR along the peninsula are really just saying NIMBY because they are unwilling to contribute appropriately toward the massive incremental cost of four bored underground tracks under numerous gravity-drained water conduits.

San Jose Diridon ├╝ber alles!

BruceMcF said...

Anon256 said...
"Palo Alto evidently likes their divided community; why should the rest of the state pay for a longer embankment for PA's ungrateful benefit?"

We have no idea what "Palo Alto" actually prefers, in any rational pragmatic sense.

There is no indication, for example, that it is at all widely understood that the "Berlin Wall" being discussed could well involve 3 1/4 miles of track at grade, 1/2 mile of elevation above 7 feet, and 3/4 mile of elevation up to 7 feet.

And, of course, no way that it can be widely understood without that actual option on the table.

So the C-HSRA should develop and display multiple Palo Alto plans. One should include maximizing the amount of track that remains at grade. One should include maximizing the improved accessibility across the rail corridor.

As long as all of the options are workable, and Palo Alto has to pay for the incremental extra cost of trenching and tunneling if they choose it, then whatever Palo Alto decides with respect to the preferred solution is fine.

jim said...

These folks like to claim that the whole peninsula is "alarmed" what they really mean is a handful of spoiled uppity white folks is alarmed. The majority of working class people know they will benefit as always, by increased public transportation of any kind and that is exactly what alarms the uppity white folks. Brown people loitering around their lily white neighborhood waiting for a train.

Daniel Jacobson said...

If South Bay residents should be questioning a project, it's Bart to San Jose and not CAHSR. Considering the outrageous ridership projections (Montague with as many riders as Embarcadero Station?), and cost of 7 billion dollars (9 if you factor in SFO extension cost overruns), Bart to SJ will bankrupt South Bay transit, just as it did to San Mateo County. Caltrain could provide better service at a fraction of the cost:

jim said...

Yeah BART is pretty expensive and it should have been done per the original plan back in the 50s but that said - It does make sense to have the bar areas largest transit agency - BAY AREA rapid transit - connect all three major cities in the bay area.

Alon Levy said...

Jim: in terms of ridership, the largest agency in the Bay Area is Muni Metro. BART is just glorified commuter rail. If BART wants to be a decent transit agency, it should serve more neighborhoods in San Francisco, not random suburbs in the East Bay.

Fred Martin said...

The BART-to-San Jose project and CHSRA's Pacheco alignment are intimately related, and they have to be understood together. This is the real context! Altamont is a vastly better routing for HSR (I love the claim that the Gilroy stop is going to attract all these tourist riders headed to Monterey Bay!), and the Altamont alignment negates the need for the $7.5 billion (will eventually top $10-12 billion easily) BART-SJ super-boondoggle. MTC and the SJ boosters defy basic logic in their worship of this patently stupid project that will assuredly bankrupt VTA. How is this good for San Jose???

Altamont saves money, and you can still have the Altamont route with or without the Dumbarton Bridge. Of course, the Dumbarton Bridge rail crossing makes enormous sense connecting the East Bay and inner Central Valley to the 'real' Silicon Valley. This is what the real Silicon Valley "Leadership" should be pursuing.

Bay Area Resident said...

Fred Martin, I live in the south bay and we are facing the same amt of impact as many peninsula cities, with some of the towns down here, so I am an ally to the peninsula. But one place where we differ from the peninsula position is in this Altamont obsession. The bay area leadership group lobbied for Pacheco because the 1999 Altamont option had San Jose as a spoke which was directly connected only to Oakland- everywhere else required a transfer, and the peninsula coverage only began north of Redwood City. That doesn't do Silicon Valley any good and the only other option was Pacheco, which directly connects Merced, Gilrow etc to San Jose and up to the peninsula. Pacheco was the preferred solution for Silicon valley business and there you are. Hearing the peninsula complain about Altamont, NOW, is a waste of everybody's time. SVLG does not want Altamont, it does not serve their needs, PERIOD. The Peninsula is splitting the message that everyone else wants to give to the HSR (which is to build on freeways, or underground it), by wasting time with Altamont. Sorry but it has to be said. The south bay is not going to join with the mid pen consortiums on lobbying for Altamont, BECAUSE WE KNOW WE CAN'T WIN. Why you don't know that- I have no idea.

David S said...

I'm sorry, Fred, please enlighten me as to where the "real" Silicon Valley is. I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life but apparently I am ignorant as to this location.

Fred Martin said...

Is Silicon Valley in Warm Springs, Berryessa, Milpitas, Diridon Station???? I don't think so...

If anyplace can call itself the 'heart' of Silicon Valley, it's Palo Alto.

Alon Levy said...

Palo Alto wouldn't get service via Altamont.

NONIMBYS said...

WHAT is wrong with you Fucking IDOTS in PA? A HSR station and one of the worlds 1ST class Universty/Hospitals and you dont want A HSR station because it upsets your little life

NONIMBYS said...

BAR..U need drop kicked

Fred Martin said...

Palo Alto wouldn't get service via Altamont.This is the flaw of tunnel-vision thinking about HSR: it's not all-or-nothing. You've got to think about the network effect of different types of rail and transit services. This is supposed to be a system after all, not some magic carpet that you are either on or off. In the metro areas, HSR should behave as a form of fast, premium transit, integrated with other forms of transit that will be essential to support the longer-distance services.

With the Altamont-Dumbarton HSR alignment, I would expect that Caltrain would still be electrified between Redwood City and San Jose. A person could still easily get on at the Palo Alto Caltrain station for a quick jaunt to the Redwood City station to catch the fast HSR service to southern California OR Sacramento. The Palo Altan could still catch Caltrain down to Gilroy and hopefully Salinas and Monterey too.

Service to Sacramento is the crucial thing, because that is a very important market for the Bay Area, including San Jose. The Pacheco routing destroys this market pair. The assumption that San Jose "only gets a spur line" with Altamont routing is also seriously flawed and misleading. With Altamont, San Jose gets good HSR service to BOTH SoCal and Sacramento. It's Pacheco that hobbles San Jose by separating it from the East Bay, Sacramento, and the growing regions of the upper San Joaquin Valley. The BART-to-SJ project will probably completely bankrupt itself somewhere around Berryessa, never to reach San Jose.

Furthermore, HSR can still follow the old Southern Pacific transcontinental route before the Dumbarton Bridge was built by going from San Francisco to San Jose and then through the Altamont Pass. It worked well for decades of proven rail service, but it would be nice to have the option of the Dumbarton bay crossing to connect the jobs of Silicon Valley with the more affordable housing of the East Bay and beyond. San Jose fears it is being bypassed, but it's not. If San Jose thinks it is so important, higher levels of service will justify themselves, but currently the Palo Alto Caltrain station has considerably more riders than the Diridon station.

Now, why has there never been a rail line whatsoever across the Pacheco Pass??? Many railroad companies in the past considered a line, but they all found the engineering through the mountains to be too expensive, especially with cheaper alternatives like the Altamont Pass. CHSRA might have to learn this the hard way, but for the public's sake, let's hope they don't waste billions re-learning the lessons of history. This is why expertise and wisdom do still matter, not hack politicians and ignorant boosters.

jim said...

in other news - Im wathing the sf planning commish right now and the TBT folks are proposing the addition assessments that will be needed - a sort of mello roos - on the development, in roder to pay for things that are currently not including in the financing of the TBT - those items include widening sidewalks, a pedestrian connector tunnel, the train box, and downtown extension among other things.

jim said...

now they are talking about proposed "in lieu of" fees of $500-750 per sq ft. and suggesting that all building developed in the plan area have a coordinated public space rather than each building having its own atrium or space. Hmm the things you learn... I watch the sfgtv channel a lot. This city has some cojones when it comes to dealing with developers. Not shy about gettin' the cash.

jim said...

Ah I see, in addition to these "mello roos" fees to pay for things such as the extension, train box and pedestrian tunnel, the developer is proposing they be able to pay "in lieu of " fees rather than use something called TDR. and apparently this TDR thing has been used for a couple decades and has the public trust as it pertains to preservation and design, and there is a question as to whether paying cash, and ditching the tdr thing, will sit well with the general san francisco public. he he, why do I think I know the answer to that. Watching how it all works really is interesting. Can you imagine how much of this has to go on to get hsr built! It's either going to be interesting or give all of us a stroke.

Bay Area Resident said...

The problem is SVLG does not consider Sacramento to be that important hub that apparently some here feel that it is. My personal opinion based on all I have read is that SVLG views one portion of the route as critical, that is San Jose->Palo Alto, with the Palo Alto hub to SF as #2. The key drivers for this are large companies Cisco, Google, HP, Adbe who want to be able to move to their companies and to airports nearby locally, and then from there, transport out to the exurbs where the execs of these companies want their workers to live. The small startups in Palo Alto are not as adamant as the big companies, it is the big guys who want HSR due to the cost of living argument mentioned before.

Look, if it were up to us in the south bay we would dump the whole project too because at least as many neighborhoods are going to get ruined here as everywhere else. But to take a position that goes against Cisco and Google in this town is naive. If we could all unite with a "Freeway or tunnel" pov we might get somewhere. Or if we just had another set of routes to choose from instead of just altamont vs pacheco. But with just those 2, Altamont is a non starter.

San Jose has already successfully moved part of the HSR route to the freeway to avoid an in town route (not exactly sure where). The reason they are making progress is because they dumped this blue sky altamont approach- they knew they couldn't win. Perhaps the peninsula should take a card from the San Jose playbook.

Anon256 said...

@BAR: Whether HSR runs via Pacheco, Altamont, freeways, or not at all, Caltrain will in due course need to be grade separated. The corridor merits a level of frequency that simply is not compatible with grade crossings. You may as well let HSR pay for it.

As far as I know the only place in San Jose where HSR will follow a freeway is along CA-87, near Tamien, because the Caltrain ROW already follows the freeway there.

real history said...

@Bay area resident

Your posting on why the routing is what it is today, Pacheco and not Altamont is just not factual.

Until Diridon and Kopp got control of the board, Altamont was the preferred route. San Jose, through Diridon, opposed any route that would not put them on the main line, thus Altamont was not acceptable. San Jose said either Pacheco or we will oppose the whole project. San Jose, made some land use decisions based on this fabulous $2 billion train station that would be Diridon's monument to himself.

Kopp made a strategic gigantic error by caving in to San Jose. Now they have the opposition of the UPRR, which is very strong basis for overturning the EIR.

All of this is going to stall the project for years and years. the Authority will be absorbed by this fall into a new State structure, most likely under CalTrans. CalTrans under its present administration has been using Context Sensitive solutions, thus the link to this topic.

Anonymous said...

Rather than spending billions to extend BART from Fremont to San Jose via the emptiest part of the bay area, why doesn't San Jose fulfill its longing for BART by running it down the Caltrain ROW, replacing local Caltrain service? HSR will already be paying for full grade separations and rebuilding of track and stations along this route, so the extra cost should be tiny by BART's standards (or perhaps BART/VTA could help cover the cost of grade separations). HSR and express Caltrain service could then get by with just two tracks (and a few passing sidings), with cross-platform transfers to BART at Millbrae, Palo Alto, San Jose, and maybe Redwood City or Mountain View. This would solve the capacity problems with the Transbay Terminal and provide peninsula commuters with direct access to far more destinations in SF and beyond. BART-to-Berryessa would then be unnecessary.

Bay Area Resident said...

Look, the point is that a group of San Jose residents tried to petition the Silicon Valley Leadership group to change their position on this route, and they said NO GO for exactly the reasons I specified. Maybe the SVLG was not aware of Altamont when Altamont was the preferred route, hard to say. But the peninsulas demonizing of the CITY OF SAN JOSE as the only driver for Pacheco is flat out wrong! The problem is Google, Adobe, Hewlett Packard, Cisco and every other silicon valley company south of Redwood city which is MOST of them. And you are trying to fight with that elephant when you dwell on Altamont. Saying Palo Alto is the center of Silicon Valley, talk about missing the point! This train is perceived as a value for large companies, which of THOSE are in Palo Alto? Only the ones who are 50+ years old. All the new growth companies are more south due to land costs. Their HQs might be on the peninsula but not the STAFF which is how the SVLG views this train.
Like I said, San Jose Willow Glen area has already successfully moved the train to the freeways- why? Because they didn't waste time on some pipe dream of Altamont. You could have spent the same amount of effort and perhaps had the same effect.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous, I could be mistaken but I believe that the 3D map of the HSR route from the CHSRA site shows the portion of the route north of Diridon as tunnel, would that not be the BART tunnel they would be using? Unfortunately I can't find that map anymore. It was the map with the different colors for type of route, purple for birm, green for embankment etc. The small section north of Diridon was the only red on the map apart from SF, which was tunnel. I assumed it was the Bart tunnel because I can see no need for HSR to tunnel there. So, to your point, the lines between Bart and Caltrain may be blurring.

Bay Area Resident said...

Anon256, yes I believe that Tamien 87 area is where they are reworking the route. The Dept of Transportation is taking the HSR from the Caltrain ROW there, which went through a residential neighborhood, to the freeways to the north. This is all heresay at this point, but obviously the residents that live THERE know how to play the game.

Bay Area Resident said...

real history- we will hear about the lawsuit soon enough and that will be that. Unless the lawsuit overturns the Pacheco Route, it will be impossible to reroute this to Altamont because:
1. The Feds will give $4 billion to California BECAUSE they have a voter approved EIR which specifies Pacheco, and an SF to LA route, emphasis on SF.
2. Caltrans will be salivating over the 4 billion dollars from (1) above.
3. Caltrans and the state of CA will be able to hire thousands of people immediately with this HSR money from (1) above and getting people back to work is every CA politicians #1 priority right now.

So, in closing its a few peninsula towns vs 1-3 above, who is going to win?

You think caltrans leadership of HSR means the state of CA is going to throw away the fed $$ bonanza?

Wow Palo Alto found something called "context sensitive bla bla" that Caltrans is supposed to use while planning, so what, there are billions of dollars on the table and you guys are like a little mouse in a room full of elephants.

Had Obama NOT specified HSR as a priority and thrown money at it, and had prop 1A NOT passed with an EIR that specified SF to LA with Pacheco with an SF to LA trip as the KEY CRITERIA for the route (meaning they have to build the whole thing), which in will result in CA usurping a trainload of free money, well then, Palo Alto might have had a chance at overturning this in favor of Altamont. But with these 2 things above as true, sorry there is no way.

You should be working on aligning to 101 in PA just like San Jose did. Or pray for a lawsuit victory.

Note that I am not a train supporter. But the naivete of Palo Alto is starting to grate on me.

Anonymous said...

Those in the South Bay who are opposed to an elevated along the Caltrain corridor should unify on the 101 alternative.

The tunneling idea is dumb - prohibitively expensive and elitist as only the wealthiest towns will enjoy them and it introduces the problem of portals and transitions.

If CHSRA is going to blow big bucks on tunnels let them mine the grapevine. There have two moderate temblors in SoCal in recent weeks - maybe there will be a shaker in the Tehachapis that will bring attention to the fact that it is no safer a route than the grapevine.

looking on said...

@anonymous 8:49

Please understand that BART runs on a totally incompatible set of tracks. what you are suggesting would take 3 sets of tracks minimum, one set for BART, on set for CalTrain/UPRR freight, one set for HSR.

Now if you say, ok we don't need CalTrain, you still need three sets of tracks, because UPRR still needs a set for its freight operations.

jim said...

How is that everyone thinks they are going make all these major changes to a project - altamont - 101- grapevine - etc when the project has already been designed and approved by californians the way it is?

Clem said...

Those in the South Bay who are opposed to an elevated along the Caltrain corridor should unify on the 101 alternative. ...

First, nobody is proposing an elevated along the Caltrain corridor. What is being proposed is localized grade separations, some of which may be elevated.

Second, the 101 alternative was considered and dismissed in the program EIR/EIS. Routing HSR up the 101 corridor is no more likely than switching to Altamont; once the lawsuit is resolved (and I fear it will be a summary dismissal) it will no longer be possible to overturn the decisions made in a signed, sealed and delivered EIR/EIS.

Bay Area Resident said...

I found the google map. Check out the portion north of Diridon there. Its red meaning tunnel. Isn't that the BART tunnel? Why would HSR build a tunnel there.

Clem said...

@BAR, that is not the BART tunnel; that runs south of and roughly parallel to the Caltrain tracks. This HSR tunnel is a useless albatross to preserve maximal right of way for BART in the Newhall yard area and through the incoventiently located Caltrain maintenance facility. There are far better ways to configure this area that will be covered in my blog someday.

Anon256 said...

@BAR: Caltrain _already_ follows CA-87 near Tamien. The proposed route (as shown on the map you link) still follows the Caltrain ROW, from 4th and King all the way to Gilroy. CHSRA has not budged at all about the route.

And yes, the tunnel under Caltrain CEMOF is madness.

Anonymous said...

@looking on: UPRR runs about two freight trains a day on the peninsula corridor. They need a single track at most, but could almost certainly be bought off with a small fraction of the billions saved by not building BART to Berryessa. However HSR is built, keeping the peninsula corridor open for freight makes little sense from a cost/benefit perspective.

jim said...

UP isn't going to give up anything you can count on that. But what is the deal with that tunnel section north of san jose? a tunnel through what looks like an industrial area and rail yard? hello waste of money. Get rid of that tunnel and move it to PA for the same cost and be done with it.

jim said...

PAING FOR THE RAIL PORTION-Developers who construct skyscrapers and other buildings near the new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco will have to pay up to $850 million in extra fees over a 20-year period, according to a city proposal announced Thursday.
The area will allow for towers taller than what is permitted downtown - including one building that could be up to 1,000 feet tall. But developers will have to pay new fees that haven't been charged elsewhere in the city, planner Joshua Switzky told the Planning Commission. The surcharges of up to $35 a square foot would be in addition to a package of downtown-only fees for things such as public transit, affordable housing and wastewater treatment. The long-awaited plan aims to shift the focus of downtown office development to near the terminal at First and Mission streets, where public transit is abundant and used by a high percentage of workers.Condo development was all the rage downtown during the city's most recent building boom because it fetched the highest prices, but city officials say San Francisco rapidly is running out of room to accommodate new jobs. Planners contend that the extra fees are necessary to help build the new multibillion bus-and-rail hub that could also be a stop for high-speed trains from Los Angeles.
The money would also pay for open space and other infrastructure. "There already are downtown fees, but this will be a new district with new needs and we also are trying to help fund part of the new (Transbay) transit center," Switzky said.Developers with projects pending near the transit area said that the fees were particularly high give the current poor economic climate. They noted that previous downturns halted office development for years.
"The city should be making every possible effort to encourage new construction," said Oz Erickson, a developer with a seven-story apartment building planned in nearby Rincon Hill. "This (transit district) plan was not ill-conceived, but right now it can't be done."The fees would be applied to all new developments, not just skyscrapers. One fee would apply to entire projects; others would be assessed if a project exceeds a certain size. Some fees would come in the form of additional property and transfer taxes. Given the city's lengthy planning and approval process, it is unlikely that any developer would obtain permission to build before 2011.
Based on regional job-growth projections, planners believe office buildings should make up 70 percent of the new development in the Transbay area. While city zoning rules permit housing in almost all neighborhoods, office development is limited to downtown a handful of other areas.The new transit district is one of the few places left with room to accommodate new office construction. "We don't want the next housing boom to wipe out the rest of the available office space potential," Switzky said.
The rebuilt Transbay Terminal is scheduled to open for bus service in 2014. The overall budget for that phase of the project is $1.2 billion. The second phase of the project, in theory, brings Caltrain commuter service and a high-speed rail line to the terminal by 2018. Only $1 billion in funding is identified for what now is estimated to cost $2.9 billion.

Dan S said...

jim said:
Ah I see, in addition to these "mello roos" fees to pay for things such as the extension, train box and pedestrian tunnel...
What's this "pedestrian tunnel" you speak of?

Anon256 said...
Palo Alto evidently likes their divided community; why should the rest of the state pay for a longer embankment for PA's ungrateful benefit?
As someone born and raised on the Peninsula, who might even call PA and MP his old "stomping grounds," I would sure like to see the most beautiful rail corridor in the world appear here to complement what we call the most beautiful freeway in the world (280). But I sure don't think you have to tunnel it away to achieve that. I really hope PA gets out of its own way in time to advocate a nice-looking corridor here... I do think there's a legitimate case to be made to spend some extra dollars just to "pretty" the darn thing up.

But the two sides are just positioning forces for a full-scale war instead of exchanging niceties as a prelude to good-natured negotiations, which is pretty frustrating for me to see.

jim also said:
But what is the deal with that tunnel section north of san jose? ... Get rid of that tunnel and move it to PA for the same cost and be done with it.
Hah! :-) That might be an interesting angle for PA to take! Of course, what about Menlo Park and Burlingame and San Mateo and ... But at least it's a pretty legitimate opening argument for a negotiation, instead of a take-it-or-leave-it, my-way-or-the-highway type approach. (Hmm, "my-way-or-the-highway" really does kindof sum up the Peninsula objections to HSR, doesn't it?)

My question -- we all basically agree that the federal pot of money that is being offered to California is really too much for our state politicians to pass up, right? I mean, the corridors are picked, the environmental docs are prepared, the basic specs for the project are probably not going to change for that simple reason. So why aren't more local politicians working to maximize their gains from this state of affairs, rather than trying to fight it, in what most certainly is just a wasted effort? Are the penninsula cities going to waste all their resources trying to get some traction on the tunnelling idea, and blow their opportunities to enact more feasable appearance-mitigating upgrades? One side or the other is mis-judging the certainty of this situation, I would say...

Alexander said...

I don't know what is the big deal about elevated tracks. Take a look at the elevated bart tracks in Walnut Creek and Concord, these are rich communities, and the bart tracks look very nice and you can barely hear them.

jim said...

Alon Levy said...
Jim: in terms of ridership, the largest agency in the Bay Area is Muni Metro. BART is just glorified commuter rail. If BART wants to be a decent transit agency, it should serve more neighborhoods in San Francisco, not random suburbs in the East Bay."

We already have muni in SF and clearly the point of BARTs design was Bay Area not SF rapid transit... so It only makes sense to have BART serve the three major cities and their suburbs as originally designed. Including as much of the original eastbay plan as possible. Had it been done earlier we'd already have service to hilltop, antioch livermore san jose as well as sunol grade and 680 between walnut creek and pleasanton.

jim said...

@DAN i beleive they were refering to a pedestrian tunnel from bart to train box. If I hear something different Ill post it here right away.

jim said...

they are referring to funding this currently unfunded optional part of the plan :
5. Update on Study of BART/MUNI Metro Pedestrian Connection – Guy Hollins

Guy Hollins briefly reviewed the background of the BART/MUNI Metro Pedestrian
Connection and reminded us that this is a “design option” and not funded in either Phase
1 or Phase 2 of the TJPA plan. He reviewed the information concerning the four (4)
alignment alternatives and the results of the Ridership Study. There was a discussion
regarding the Ridership Study figures and it was determined that the count was for one
way (not round trip) travel from the Transit Center to BART. The costs and evaluation
criteria of the four alternatives was discussed. Correction: Subsequent review of the
Ridership Study indicated that the number of potential users of the connection did
consider both inbound and outbound passengers.

Adrian Brandt asked if the cost includes the moving sidewalks and Guy replied that they
are included.

Michael Kiesling asked if Life Safety issues had been taken into consideration and Guy
replied yes they have.

Guy advised that a meeting is being set up with SFMTA, the San Francisco Planning
Department and BART and plan to submit their final recommendations to the TJPA
Board of Directors in February.

Michael Kiesling asked if they have met with BART yet. Guy replied, “Yes” and Bob
Beck commented that BART has been very positive.

Adrienne Heim asked if the tunnel would be closed at any time of the day. Guy indicated
that this issue is under discussion.

Peter Hartman asked about security and Guy said that the operations aspect has not
been addressed yet and that the issue of security concerns everyone. They do feel that
if it is built, there will be activity that will help with security.

Adrian Brandt asked why the Ecker Alternative received a ‘+’ or positive rating and
Fremont Alternative received an ‘O’ or neutral rating on the Evaluation Matrix. Guy
explained that the proposed property for the Ecker alternative runs on property of a third
party developer who “may” pick up some or all of the cost. Bob Beck advised that this is
a “cost saving assumption” and this assumption is being revisited.

Jim Lazarus asked how the BART/MUNI Metro Pedestrian Tunnel would be financed.
Bob answered that there may be certain funding sources that that the tunnel would be
eligible for and also that some funding programs might be interested in funding this
portion. Adrian Brandt commented that the funds for moving pedestrians may be
another angle due to the proposed “moving pedestrian walkways” in the tunnel.

Bob Beck announced that the TJPA Board of Directors Meeting for December has been
cancelled and that the next scheduled meeting is on January 17, 2008

Anonymous said...

If the Peninsula towns allow the CHSRA to build along the Caltrain ROW they will certainly end up with an atrocity and they will have no one to blame but themselves. The ChSRA cannot be trusted - the only thing that can be trusted is a monstrosity similar to BART in Daly City will be built , except multiplied by a factor of 2 due to 4 tracks.

If the "stakeholders" are smart they will demand the HSR be moved to 101 where Bechtel can pour all the concrete it wants.

Bay Area Resident said...

Alexander, the issue with elevated tracks for HSR is frequency of trains compared to a branch line for BART (concord trains run every 20-30 minutes most of the time while HSR is every 8 minutes) and speed equating to a huge roar. The whole argument that Bart in Concord is some sort of improvement to houses built there right on the tracks is really silly, but even so, HSR roaring by is an entirely different matter.

I agree with Anonymous, above. Peninsula: take a lesson from San Jose. It is obvious that San Jose is full of Berkeley "corrupt from within" types, whereas the Peninsula is trying to use the conventional approach of dealing with legislators on this, hahaha. Accept that they are going to ram this train down the peninsula. Forget Altamont unless the bizarre happens and Atherton wins the lawsuit. Move the train to 101 just like San Jose did. Problem solved! And most of all quit whining!

jim said...

BArt runs every 5 minutes on the concord line during a typical weekday - in each direction.

Martin said...

Where is everyone getting the idea that CAHSR is going to be on the 101 through SJ?

Anonymous said...

@Martin: BAR made it up.

Bay Area Resident said...

HSR is aligning on the freeways going into Diridon. Those are not 101, it is 87 and 280 in that particular location. I meant that PA should try to align to a freeway which in their case is 101, but in SJ it is 87 and 280. And NO, Caltrain does not run along 280 today. This is a route change to avoid the neighborhood. Don't believe me? call em up.

Dan S said...

Bay Area Resident said...
...and speed equating to a huge roar.

When I lived in downtown Palo Alto, I was 7 streets away from the tracks, and I could hear the whistle from the trains quite well. The one from the freight trains in the middle of the night was particularly annoying! But of course they come randomly from the daytime Caltrain trains also. When the tracks get grade separated, it will be a very nice benefit that these whistles won't have to be blown anymore.

But speaking about noise, do we have any quantifiable reason to believe that an electric 125 mph train will be louder or quieter than a 50 mph diesel train? I tried a web search for some backing data but only got scientific articles that were impenetrable by my small brain.


Thanks for the info on the ped tunnel, that was the first I had heard of it. I was thinking to myself that if they build an "inter-modal" hub downtown and don't connect to Muni and BART that they are a bunch of maroons! But I was prepared to accept it anyway!

On the topic of bringing more modes to the Transbay Transit Center, I saw this article recently that claimed that light rail was even planned to connect there. Anyone heard of this before? What's that about?

K.T. said...

Dan S,

When you type "caltrain noise db" using Google or other search engine, it will give links to the city/county documents and reports that show noise levels near caltrain track. That's the current noise level at the caltrain corridor. In general, noise level at the existing Caltrain corridor is high-60's or above.

I'm not finding good source on noise standards for existing high-speed rails. I would look for the videos uploaded in youtube, which should give an idea of the high-speed rail noise, which is completely different from Caltrain, BART, or VTA light rail noises.

I used to live in Palo Alto, couple blocks away from the Caltrain track, before going to the college. From my experience, Caltrain noise I heard inside my room came mostly from the horn. Other sounds from the train were insignificant for me.

-101 has the floodplain issue, in addition to all the problems that using the Caltrain corridor has. For Palo Alto, any modifications in US 101 would trigger the residents who experienced the 1998 flood event.

Train Frequency
-When we are talking about the train frequency, we should indicate whether we are referring to:

-Weekday peak hour (or rush hour)
-Weekday off-peak
-Holiday/Special Schedule.

Pleasant Hill Station to MacArthur Station line is 7-10 tph during rush hour, 4 tph during weekday off-peak, and 3 tph during weekend.

BTW, does CAHSR always running 6-8 tph between SF and LA? I thought that during off-peak hours and weekends, it would be more like 3-4 tph.

jim said...

dan said -jim thanks for the info on the ped tunnel, that was the first I had heard of it. I was thinking to myself that if they build an "inter-modal" hub downtown and don't connect to Muni and BART that they are a bunch of maroons! But I was prepared to accept it anyway!
On the topic of bringing more modes to the Transbay Transit Center, I saw this article recently that claimed that light rail was even planned to connect there. Anyone heard of this before? What's that about?
First , here we call them macaroons but the result is the same. As for the light rail to TBT. Maybe in Star Trek the Generation. As for now there are no plans for light rail expansion other than the T-Line central subway which will miss the tbt by two blocks. i think the author of the article was just a little carried away. Buses yes, electric trolley buses yes, Streetcars - no plans LRV no plans.

Rob Dawg said...

What happened to some of the posts?