There is an unfolding and horrifying story coming out of Palo Alto that directly impacts not only the high speed rail project, but the whole community. In the last two months two students at Gunn High School have committed suicide by throwing themselves in front of passing Caltrains. Last night passersby helped stop a third student from doing the same:
The 17-year-old boy, a student at Gunn High School, apparently walked to the East Meadow Drive crossing at about 7:45 p.m. Thursday and was contemplating suicide when he his mother came on the scene, police Agent Dan Ryan said. The motorist saw the mother pleading with her son and stopped to help, as did a Palo Alto police officer, Ryan said.
Police called Caltrain dispatchers, and an approaching northbound train was stopped in Mountain View, Ryan said.
It's difficult for transit infrastructure to be designed in a way that can stop someone truly determined to kill themselves from doing so, as the Golden Gate Bridge and BART have discovered. That being said, this rash of suicides reminds us of the inherently dangerous nature of grade crossings where fast, heavy trains are operating. (Light rails and streetcars have potential issues - but then so does any other vehicle operated on the roads.)
This is particularly the case on the Caltrain corridor, where people are routinely hit or killed along the at-grade tracks, despite an intensive public education campaign by Caltrain.
So why are Palo Alto NIMBYs fighting to preserve such a deadly situation? I have less objection to those supporting a tunnel - they're being unrealistic, but aren't calling for the preservation of a clear untenable situation. For those who argue from a "tunnel or nothing" position, or who claim that the status quo should be preserved, I'd like to hear their thoughts on why the deadly corridor isn't worth doing something about.
Obviously grade separations on the Caltrain corridor aren't a cure for teen suicide, nor are they going to ensure that there is never a deadly accident of any kind ever again in Palo Alto. But shouldn't the death toll be as much a part of the conversation, if not moreso, than a bunch of people whining about property values?