Palo Alto has decided it's time they did their own HSR planning:
Not trusting the California High Speed Rail Authority to look out for locals' best interests, Palo Alto will spend $70,000 to arm itself with expertise on high-speed rail design options.
The city council voted 7-0 on Monday to hire engineering consultants and hold an informational symposium and a separate design workshop on plans for the Peninsula portion of the planned Los Angeles-to-San Francisco rail line.
Many in Palo Alto and neighboring cities are pushing for the trains to run underground while fearing that the rail authority will instead run them above-ground to save money.
I'm with Rafael on this - I don't see an inherent problem here. If Palo Alto wants to spend $70,000 to learn that a tunnel is going to be extremely costly, or that sending trains down the 101 or 280 corridors is practically and financially unworkable, fine with me.
I'm also pleased to see that Palo Alto plans some public design workshop meetings:
The symposium will come first. On Sept. 12, the city will sponsor an all-day "teach-in" to educate the public on "urban design and planning concepts" related to railroad design. The $5,000 event may be funded partly by Caltrain, Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie said.
The city is hoping Caltrain will also chip in for a $15,000, two-day design workshop on Oct. 3-4. The charrette, open to the public, will include brainstorming sessions, briefings from design professionals and presentations of conceptual plans from "a team of national experts," according to a city staff report.
I'll post more details about the September 12 meeting as I get them. Ironically I was going to be in the area that day anyway, so I should be able to attend the "teach-in." I hope that Palo Alto plays it straight and offers a truly informative discussion of design and planning concepts. In fact, an honest discussion of urban design concepts would make it clear that urban passenger rail and transit-oriented development are essential to a high quality of life for a 21st century city.
The charrette, long discussed, should also be a very interesting and hopefully valuable event. More details on that one too as I get them.
Ultimately anything that increases public knowledge of HSR principles, design, and operation - so long as it's presented in an unbiased way - is an extremely valuable thing to do.