Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reminder: Menlo Park HSR Town Hall Tonight at 7

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

In case you'd forgotten:

High Speed Rail Town Hall Meeting
Wednesday August 26th at 7:00 PM
Menlo Park City Council Chambers
701 Laurel Street

On Wednesday, August 26th, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo will host a Town Hall Meeting to discuss High Speed Rail. Experts from the High Speed Rail Authority and Caltrain will make presentations and answer questions.

In November, 2008, Californians passed Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century. How this will impact local communities has been the subject of considerable debate.

The meeting will be held at the Menlo Park City Council Chambers from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

If constituents are not able to attend, they can watch the Town Hall Meeting live via webcast at They can also submit questions for the panelists through This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The location is wheelchair accessible and parking is available. For more information, constituents can visit Rep. Eshoo’s website at or call her District Office at (650) 323-2984 or (408) 245-2339.

I'll be there. Will you?

I'll also be providing updates via this blog's twitter feed @cahsr.


Rafael said...

If you get a chance, you should ask them how many HSR + Caltrain trains per hour CHSRA expects will be possible now that TJPA has requested ARRA funds based on its trainbox + throat + DTX tunnel design.

That in turn will determine if four tracks all the way is strictly necessary or, if sections with just two or three would be feasible with an integrated timetable (Caltrain + HSR + UPRR). In particular, AB3034 does not require that HSR express trains run during Caltrain's rush hour. It just says that 2h42m for SF to LA must be possible.

Related questions:

- plans for WiFi on board?
- plans for bi-level HSR trainsets rated at 186mph or more to reduce tph pressure?
- ROW status between San Jose and Gilroy?
- planned speed south of San Jose?
- plans to keep baby bullets vs. replacing them with Caltrain-branded true bullets + cross-platform transfers to locals?

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brandon in San Diego said...

No, whether or not the TBT can process the necessary amount of trains does not provide permission/endorsement, or whatnot to under-design other arts of the system.

IMO, a track and integrated schedule, as you suggest, would also not be practical.... it may provide a solution on Day #1 of service; however, creates a significant parameter in teh future when consider alternative service options. It's DOA.

Anonymous said...

Carpetbagging, Robert?

looking on said...

There is a major concern that both sides on the health care issue are gong to try and crack into this meeting.

MP residents have been getting phone calls asking them to get their very early so that they can get a seat and speak to the health care issue. This was supposed to be a HSR meeting. Move has been doing much phoning on this urging people to go and talk on health care. At least one other grup as well.

Eshoo has decided to control tightly the questions, which must be submitted in writing.

As example is on the MP City's e-mail site, is a letter titled

Health Care Town Hall tomorrow., in which the writer whats to know how to get to the City's council chambers.

Eric said...

I don't think that the trainbox will dictate how many trains or tracks will be on the peninsula. Don't forget that there will also be trains terminating at the current caltrain depot.

Eric said...

And how about asking if caltrain plans to buy electric trainsets with the same boarding height as CAHSRA. Would make the peninsula design and trainbox that much easier if they were.

Anonymous said...

Carpetbagging, Robert?

Robert's running for office? Outside California? Interesting.

Another Jim said...

I intend to be there. Sound like this may be an epic freak show. Can't wait.

Rafael said...

@ Jack -

sorry, you're not allowed to use this blog to advertise entirely unrelated commercial web sites. I deleted your comment.

Reality Check said...

Uh-oh, a potentially NIMBY movement may be germinating in Redwood City. Appears to be headed up by Jerry Pierce (husband of ex-mayor and councilwoman Barbara Pierce).

The group is called Citizens to Protect Redwood City

They're planning a September 9th "HSR Workshop"for Redwood City residents.

One of their members, James Jonas, is pushing a bi-level open-roofed tunnel concept he calls HatTrench.

jim said...

I actually like the HAT trench Idea to the extent that it looks like something that can be prefabbed and set in place. Rather than building a tradition trench with all the concrete and such, or constructing a berm, walls, and so forth. would it not be fast and easy to lower 100 ft sections of prefab tube into a rough cut.

the tube sections can arrive by water and be taken to the site by flatbed rail to be lowered by cranes in an assembly line style similar to the bay bridge project, and original bart tube.

Rubber Toe said...

If this goes anything like the Transit Coalition meeting we had last night in LA, expect the assembled crowd to basically start shouting down the CHSRA staff present, asking why Mehdi doesn't immediately resign, and why we are building a system that runs 220MPH when 120 would be fine.

Good luck.


Bianca said...

I was at the HSR presentation the the Menlo Park city council held about a year ago, well before the vote. The folks who live near the ROW had turned out in force and were pretty hostile. I can hope that things will be civil tonight, but I won't be shocked if there are a lot of people consumed with FUD there.

Rafael said...

@ Brandon, Eric -

just to avoid misunderstandings: one of the biggest bones of contention on the SF peninsula is the plan to expand the Caltrain corridor from two to four tracks all the way.

Any discussion of the vertical alignment for the tracks ought to be preceded by a clarification regarding the number of tracks needed. As long as Caltrain, CHSRA and UPRR were planning future services independently of one another, they tried to stay out of each others' hair by assuming dedicated HSR tracks.

Conveniently, that also allows HSR and UPRR trains to avoid ever sharing track, thus minimizing related regulatory and infrastructure maintenance overhead issues.

Even if it were limited to just in a few particularly difficult sections (e.g. 4th & King to Bayshore, downtown San Mateo, Atherton/Menlo Park/Palo Alto), a decision to make do with less than four tracks would have significant impacts on both passenger and freight services.

All I'm asking for is that CHSRA, Caltrain and UPRR analyze and articulate those impacts so the trade-offs can be assessed:

- How would HSR ridership forecasts change if rush hour service in the SF peninsula were limited to a smaller number of longer, bi-level trains running at reduced average speed north of San Jose? How would they change if HSR tph were limited to say, 6 in he peninsula and any above that number required to operate between San Jose and SoCal only?

- What would happen to Caltrain ridership if it had to operate leapfrog locals instead of regular ones in order to raise its average speeds? Could Caltrain's new EMU's and/or the tracks near stations be designed to achieve exceptional acceleration for such leapfrog locals to avoid slowing down HSR trains on the same tracks any more than absolutely necessary?

- Could UPRR and its peninsula customers live with reduced axle load limits in the peninsula? How much revenue, how many jobs would be at stake if they could not? Would it really cost more to compensate the parties affected than to grade separate the corridor such that it can keep supporting a very low volume of heavy freight?

These questions are not trivial, but IMHO they deserve to be asked and answered. So far, I don't get the impression that CHSRA, Caltrain and UPRR planners plus FRA and CPUC have ever sat down in a room and so much as thought through any scenario involving anything less than four tracks in every location south of 4th & King.

Assertions based on long-term ridership forecasts, historical service patterns, legal rights and the expectation that FRA/CPUC rules are cast in stone need to be scrutinized. If they hold up, there will be consensus among the rail planners/operators and regulators that quad tracks really are needed. If they don't, perhaps a lot of time, money and grief can be saved.

Until everyone - including, ultimately, SF peninsula cities - is on the same page regarding the required track count in each location, the whole discussion of elevated vs. vitrine vs. tunnel tracks will remain deadlocked. that can't be in anyone's interest.

AndyDuncan said...

@Jim: I'm not sure how much the half-covered trench is going to save you over a traditional trench. You still need to clear ROW the full width of the "trennel" plus whatever construction leeway you need on either side. Plus, there's nothing saying you couldn't also bring in pre-formed trench sections the same way. There's nothing inherently preferable here from a construction standpoint over a rectangular trench. In fact a rectangular stacked-train configuration could be skinnier than an equivalent round trennel. Also, the preformed sections would need to be thicker than an equivalent rectangular trench as the top portions need to support not just the load of keeping the surrounding earth back, but also the load of whatever goes on top of them and their own cantilevered weight.

And then you get back to that whole argument about why not just trench AND cover if you're going to bother with the trench at all.

I'm glad to see people thinking about ways around this. I'm especially glad to see a video talking about how great downtown Redwood City is because you can take the train to it.

jim said...

well anyway, id rather see RWC get the station than PA. and RWC could come up with a great above ground development plan similar to the one proposed for PA in and earlier post.

RWC woud be far more likely to embrace the economic benefits of HSR the spoiled little ingrates of PA.

I truly hope the train winds up blowing through Pa with out a stop, leaving them without the economic benefit, and without the access.

Rafael said...

@ Reality Check, jim -

the HAT trench idea looks clever in that it minimizes width via track stacking, reduces noise via the curved walls, permits diesel train operation, allows for graceful road overpasses and facilitates large curve radii for pipes diverting gravity-drained conduits under the structure.

What's missing is information on just how deep the structure is supposed to be buried underground. That, more than anything, will determine if it's any more feasible than a conventional rectangular trench, which would certainly be easier to construct. It might also permit temporary shoofly tracks to remain within the Caltrain ROW. That doesn't seem possible with a large circular cross-section.

As for track stacking, it's not something you'd want to do for 50 miles. Elevation transitions require run length and complicate the separation of cross roads.

Nevertheless, there may be some locations where stacking may be worth considering, e.g. in downtown San Mateo or in Menlo Park. Instead of digging really deep to bury all tracks, those in one direction could be underground and those in the other elevated, leaving grade level for cross roads.

Again, though, it's really important to reach consensus on the number of tracks need before developing any concept involving tunnels or trenches in great detail. The incremental cost per track is simply much higher than for any above-ground concept.

Putting a face to the name said...

@ Robert - If we are at the event - how can we identify you?

Will you be sitting in Mehdi's lap?

Or will you have pom poms so we can ID you as the guy who will cheer for the project no matter what the leaders say or do?

Through the lies, and the land speculation deals and pre-determined alignments - there's Robert! -

Rah Rah HSR

jim said...


well I think its pretty wel established that it will be 4 tracks

Now stacking, in certain areas may well make sense in that you can have the temp shoofly tracks to one side while diggin down maybe 40 feet, and putting hsr on the bottom two tracks and caltrain and UP on the top 2 (for ventelation)

on another note - dear people of LA, please get the red line up to BUR so I don't have to take metrolink all the way to laus, then redline back up to hollywood.
please hurry up and get that purple line out to sta ma. what gives?

and be sure to take the green line from lax to the artic station in ANA.

and please get metro ling out to palm springs.
then remove the shoofly tracks and use the leftover space for bike trails.

jim said...

@putting lies and land specualtion? In california? please say it isn't so.

get over it.

Peter said...

The HAT trench as shown on the website looks a little oversimplified. There's no infrastructure for overhead wiring or anything. It looks like they're showing BART-like subway trains to make the design smaller. If you add wiring it will be WAY taller.

Terminology side-question: Is all overhead wiring called catenary?

AndyDuncan said...

on another note - dear people of LA, please get the red line up to BUR so I don't have to take metrolink all the way to laus, then redline back up to hollywood.

Working on that.

please hurry up and get that purple line out to sta ma. what gives?
People on the east side think that light rail makes a good regional rail technology and want us to put their projects ahead of projects like the purple line that, while expensive, still offer higher ridership miles per dollar spent.

and be sure to take the green line from lax to the artic station in ANA.
LAX connection is happening, though who knows what form it will take. Previous plans called for hooking into the people mover, but now the people mover is supposedly cancelled, so who knows where the lines will go to. There's also the Crenshaw line and Harbor Corridor line under consideration to hit LAX. I'm rooting for the Harbor Corridor to be run as an EMU service connecting DT Long Beach to LAX to LAUS, but it's still early in planning.

Green line to Arctic is never going to happen. It's looking like we're not even going to get the green line to connect to the Norwalk Metrolink station. At least not for many, many years.

and please get metro ling out to palm springs.
then remove the shoofly tracks and use the leftover space for bike trails.

Meh. Quite a low priority. If Palm Springs is ever connected to anything, it will probably be via some far, far off HSR connection to Phoenix.

K.T. said...

Tunnel cross-sectional area required for high-speed rail is 64m^2 for Japanese system and 90m^2 for European system.

Assuming that bottom half of the circular structure will be used for high-speed rail, required diameter will be 42 ft (for Japanese std) or 50 ft (for European std). Since my estimated does not include thickness of the structures, actual diameter of the circular structure will have to be slightly greater.

NONIMBYS said...

All the nimbys will be easily found
They will be loud rude and demanding people..much like the health care town halls..

jim said...

and please get metro ling out to palm springs.
then remove the shoofly tracks and use the leftover space for bike trails.

that post was a mistake - somehow i pasted part of another post. together with the palm springs comment.

jim said...

NONIMBYS said...
All the nimbys will be easily found
They will be loud rude and demanding people..much like the health care town halls..

these folks, all of whom are suppose to be mature adults, amaze me with their 1st grade playground antics.
maybe its true that when you get old you start to regress.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

an overhead catenary system is conceptually similar to a suspension bridge in that a load-bearing wire holds the one that makes contact with the train's pantograph level. Various designs for the webbing have proven successful.

The load-bearing wire is tensioned using weights and pulleys. The word "catenary" refers to the mathematical name of the curve a heavy, slender wire will naturally assume when it is pulled taut. In engineering terminology, "overhead catenary" refers narrowly to the power lines used for railway systems.

Note that the OCS on an HSR line is arranged in a precise zig-zag pattern to avoid placing excessive thermal and mechanical load on a single point on the pantograph. The set of traction motors on e.g. a fully equipped Alstom AGV is rated at 12,000kW (16,000hp) mechanical power. Even at 25kV electrical tension, that translates to well over 500A of current (there are losses in the transformer, power electronics and motors). If the contact point on the pantograph were constant, it would heat up very quickly. Before long, the wire would cut through it like a saw.

The whole OCS system vibrates for a while after a train has passed by, which can cause problems at high speed if more than one pantograph is deployed on a single train. Ice accumulation and high winds can also cause vibration problems. Any type of fouling will cause arcing, but that also removes the contamination.

When there's limited headroom, e.g. in tunnels, overhead conductor rails can be used instead. Typically, an aluminum or copper alloy/composite construction is used. Speed is limited to "just" 140mph because the conductor rail doesn't zig-zag, so per-mile wear and tear on the pantograph is higher. The only reason such systems can be used at all is that the contact zone is larger and the electrified rail also an excellent conductor of heat.

Note that tunnels excavated using TBMs usually provide enough headroom for attaching a regular OCS directly to the ceiling.

Anonymous said...

Altamont lives!!!

Morris Brown said...

The judge has issued a ruling on the lawsuit filed by Menlo Park, Atherton, PCL et. al.

The ruling is favorable to the plaintiffs. A press release is being prepared, but from what little I know now, 4 points winning issues for the plaintiffs.

- inadequate project description
- inadequate analysis of land use issues
- finding of mitigation of vibration impacts not supported
- failure to recirculate after UP announced that its right-of-way couldn't be used

My understanding is all project level EIR work in the Bay Area must stop until a new program level EIR is circulated and certified.

Again I'm not an attorney.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 2:38pm -

no it doesn't, except as an unfunded separate project to beef up the southern portion of the Capitol Corridor plus ACE and, to include Modesto.

SMCTA still has hopes for rehabilitating the 100-year old single-track Dumbarton rail bridge, but that won't happen until it's given back the funding it "borrowed" from the BART extension to Warm Springs to pay for fancy tunnels in the one to SFO.

For full-fat HSR service, the northern end of the starter line would have to be split, reducing service frequency to both SF and SJ, at least until ridership levels are high enough.

Any new bridge across Dumbarton would have to be tall enough to preserve the shipping lane. An immersion tunnel would also work. Both would stir up a lot of bay mud during construction. The mud is still contaminated with methyl mercury from the Gold Rush era, any concentration jump in the water column could spell disaster for the ecosystem of the nearby wildlife refuge, which includes the habitat of at least one endangered species (Saltmarsh Harvest Mouse).

Getting through Union City would also require tunnels, since UPRR isn't going to sell any of its ROW between Newark and Niles. More tunnels would be needed to get to Pleasanton.

Perhaps the biggest issue, though, is that there no longer is any viable ROW for dedicated HSR tracks between Union City and San Jose Diridon in the East Bay. VTA purchased the WPML between Niles and east San Jose for the BART extension to Santa Clara, which county voters approved yet again last November. Track stacking on top of BART and/or UPRR's adjacent Milpitas line or else, I-880, would be very expensive and also very ugly. There's also the problem of the nearby and very much active Hayward fault.

That means switching from Pacheco to Altamont would mean splitting the HSR starter line on the peninsula, i.e. full grade separation and (probably) quad tracks for the Caltrain Corridor between Redwood City and San Jose Diridon.

Altamont would make it easier to meet the SF-LA non-stop line haul time target of 2h42m set in AB3034. Service between the Bay Area and Sacramento would be vastly improved. However, it would be nigh-on impossible to meet the one for San Jose-LA (2h10m).

See this MAP for details. The section through Union City permits an intermodal station with BART but the hwy 84 median and Decoto Rd were not previously studied in the context of the Bay Area to Central Valey EIR/EIS.

lyqwyd said...


Bummer, how about a link? Thanks.

Morris Brown said...

the full ruing by the Sacramento court on the lawsuit is not posted on their website.

Go to:

and fill in

2008 as the year

and 80000022

as the case # and you will get to a whole list of material. The top listing 8/26/09 2:11 PM is the ruling.

AndyDuncan said...

My understanding is all project level EIR work in the Bay Area must stop until a new program level EIR is circulated and certified.

So they have to stop the more detailed EIR so they can do a more detailed EIR?

Morris Brown said...


I meant to say is now posted and not not posted....

Robert Cruickshank said...

Face to a name, I'll be the one in a GDR uniform chanting "Berlin Wall forever!"

I'm actually already here. Stunning how much the existing tracks already divide the city. You'd think a traffic choked town like this would welcome grade separations.

Morris, I'll wait to see the decision for myself. But we all know this will get litigated until one side finally quits.

Bay Area Resident said...

ROFL this lawsuit news has to be a blow to the Diridon centered special interest group also known as the CHSRA.

again, ROFL

Bay Area Resident said...

AndyDuncan, what they have to do is go back and research other alignments. The detailed work they are doing now is ONLY for Pacheco. Now they have to go back and revisit Altamont and every other option. They are sunk.

straight_Report said...

The official ruling is posted:

go to

case number 80000022 - make sure to select 2008

Robert Cruickshank said...

The ruling is also uploaded as a Scribd embed, included on the new blog post on this subject.

lyqwyd said...

I'm not a lawyer, so my understanding after reading the result could be totally off base, but as far as I understand the court rejected the following arguments by the plaintiff:

- failed to use train splitting
- failed to adequately describe costs
- Pacheco doesn't result in more "recreational ridership"
- inadequate biological impacts along Pacheco alignment
- inadequate study of growth inducing impacts
- inadequate study of noise impacts along Peninsula
- inadequate study of visual impacts
- inadequate study of tree impacts
- that CHSRA was predisposed to Pacheco
- that Dumbarton rail bridge was a viable alternative and not properly addressed in EIR
- inadequate description of construction challenges of Altamont
- CHSRA inappropriately excluded 101 & 280
- CHSRA failed to properly respond to Menlo Park's letter

To reiterate, the plaintiff claims CHSRA failed to do the above properly, and those claims were rejected by the court, in my mind meaning the above items were all completed according to law.
it also rejected Palo Alto's amicus brief.

Plaintiff was granted a "writ of mandate", which seems to me to require CHSRA needs to correct the items pointed out above by Morris, but again, I'm not a lawyer.

It's not clear to me what, if any, needs to be halted by CHSRA, but it certainly does not seem to mean a new EIR needs to be done, or that the alignment needs to be re-evaluated. I could be entirely wrong, so I will wait for some of the more lawyerly readers to chime in.

AndyDuncan said...

@lyqwyd: IANAL but that was my take as well. The two issues the court agreed with the petitioners were that

1: They didn't account for UPRR's statement expressing their "unwillingness to share their tracks with high speed vehicles" between San Jose and Gilroy.

2: They had contradictory statements in their own documents about vibration mitigation, in one place saying it is "uncertain whether the reduced vibration levels will be below a significant impact" and then punting the question to the project level EIR, and then in the CEQA saying that the mitigation "will reduce this impact to a less-than significant level".

Certainly a setback, but hardly a ruling for Altamont. The vibration impact contradictions would be relevant with any alignment and the UPRR issue could be solved with a signed agreement.

The fact that the court ruled that the higher Pacheco ridership numbers were indeed correct, that the Dunbarton rail bridge was not a viable option, that the authority was not biased towards pacheco, that the 101 and 280 were rightfully excluded, that the biological, growth, noise, visual, and tree impacts were properly considered, can hardly be taken as saying "they have to study the other alignments".

It's still going down the caltrain corridor. Sorry guys.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.