Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sustainable Menlo Park Speaker Series

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

By Bianca

On November 18, the non-profit group Sustainable Menlo Park hosted a presentation on the latest developments on high speed rail. Sustainable Menlo Park is officially "neutral" on the subject of High Speed Rail, but decided to host the event due to local interest in the subject. On the podium were Bruce Fukuji of Caltrain, John Litzinger of HNTB, and Greg Gleichman of AECOM. Turnout at the event was low; there was not a lot of publicity beforehand, and there were perhaps 30 people in attendance. Much of the information had been presented in prior events, but here are a few notes:

Bruce Fukuji made a presentation on Context Sensitive Solutions for the Peninsula. He began, however, by reminding everyone in the room of the big picture: the looming challenge of sustainability. California has led the nation on climate change targets, but meeting future emissions targets is going to be a challenge. He noted that 42% of carbon emissions in California are transportation-related. Even with improvements in fuel efficiency, an expanding population will result in an increase in vehicle miles traveled. Population growth will more than cancel out improvements in combustion-engine technology. It will be impossible to reach our emissions targets simply by relying on hybrids and increases in fuel efficiency. He used the following graph to illustrate the relationship between urban density and gasoline consumption:

Fukuji then went on to discuss the development of Context Sensitive Solutions as a reaction to the DAD model of planning (Design, Announce, Defend). He also explained the concept of "value engineering" and how there is a need to give the functional needs and the context needs equal weight.

The next speaker was John Litzinger from HNTB. He gave a detailed overview of the EIR process, and noted that the goal is to have a fully approved and final EIR at the end of 2011.
During the Q&A session, Litzinger commented that the engineering studies around crossing San Francisquito Creek may likely determine that a bored tunnel is the preferred alignment for engineering reasons; crossing the creek and the approach to El Palo Alto at grade or in a shallow trench is problematic. This may explain why CHSRA representatives at recent meetings have seemed open to tunneling through much of Menlo Park and Palo Alto; if CHSRA engineers conclude that the best way to cross San Francisquito is in a deep tunnel, it may be that Menlo Park and Palo Alto may get some of their tunnel without having to fight for it. I should clarify that this was not in any way an official announcement, just the musings of an engineer. The vast majority of questions from the audience related to tunnels. In some cases, audience members didn't really have questions, they just wanted to state their preference for a tunnel. None of them had any suggestions for how to pay for it.

The last question of the night had to do with subsidies. The questioner stated his premise that all High Speed Rail systems around the world are dependent on subsidies. Litzinger responded by distinguishing the costs of the building the initial infrastructure from the costs of maintenance and expansion. High Speed Rail, like every other form of transportation infrastructure, depends upon government subsidy for construction. After an adoption period to build ridership, all High Speed Rail systems cover their maintenance and expansion costs. Litzinger then noted that High Speed Rail is the opposite of freeways; both need subsidies for construction, but afterwards, High Speed Rail covers its own maintenance and expansion costs, whereas freeways don't charge anything to users and rely entirely on taxpayers forever.


Peter said...

I am all in favor of a tunnel, if it is financially feasible, and is technically preferable.

This is not be something that should be done simply because people don't like the idea of more trains going past their houses. That would happen anyway over time with upgrades to Caltrain.

This is something that should only be done if it makes sense beyond the fact people do not like it.

Anonymous said...

engineering studies around crossing San Francisquito Creek may likely determine that a bored tunnel is the preferred alignment

Crossing the San Francisquito sounds nearly as difficult as crossing the mighty Mississippi. The swift currents! The raging rapids! The undertow is just irresistible... must... build... tunnel

missiondweller said...

It would seem reasonable that the community could pay say one half of the difference between what the rest of the peninsula has and the cost of a bored tunnel. If I recall, Bianca thought it would be about 50% more than a trench or elevated ROW.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

thanks for the write-up. Considering trains have been crossing the San Francisquito Creek at grade for a hundred years, I'd take John Litzinger's comment regarding bored tunnels with a large grain of salt. Planning consultants have nothing to lose and everything to gain by driving project costs up.

Of course the locals in Menlo Park want bored tunnels. Their property values go up courtesy of state and federal taxpayers while other communities have to deal with the construction nuisance and tunnel boom at the tunnel portals.

Worse, giving one community a gold-plated solution that adds zero ridership will prompt environmental justice lawsuits from every other community that isn't offered the same deal. For that reason alone, it is imperative - pour encourager les autres - that CSS not degenerate into an orgy of spending other people's money.

If a community wants something substantially fancier than necessary, it needs to make a large inward investment. It can do so either by taxing itself or, by enabling the development of air rights or, by diverting state/federal infrastructure funds allocated for other projects in the same area (cp. BART in Berkeley).


As for road maintenance, there are vehicle license fees and gas taxes, i.e. indirect user fees, in addition to tolls on bridges, fees for parking on city streets etc. It's just that in California, they're not high enough to cover the full cost of driving, so transit funds get plundered to plug holes in the road budget.

Tornadoes28 said...

That graph is from 1980. They don't have anything more up to date?

Peter said...

I think that sustainability and the future increase in population is the pink elephant in the room that people (I'll even agree to call them deniers) are ignoring.

Too many people live solely in the here-and-now, and have no interest whatsoever in anything other than what is best for them at that particular moment.

Peter said...

To continue to deny it is willful ignorance. People should not be shielded or rewarded for such ignorance.

Joey said...

People are afraid of change. Unfortunately for them, change is coming, whether we do anything or not. Better to prepare for it now, than be left struggling in the future.

Loren said...

Even worse, that graph is linear-linear, which forces the points near the axes. It ought to be log-log.

It should be rather easy to collect population-density numbers from Wikipedia, though I can't say that about gasoline-consumption numbers.

HSRforCali said...

@ Joey

Haha! I'm sure Obama will make sure of that.

Spokker said...

Density? But... but my front lawn... :(

matt said...


Oh no! What will you pay immigrants to maintain now?

Joey said...

And where will all that wasted water go?

Anonymous said...

And how again does a long distance HSR take cars off the road when the lion's share of traffic congestion is primarily created through short distance commuting - AND - HSR ENCOURAGES more longer distance trips by providing accessibility way far out in otherwise unattractive places to live like Fresno? AND - HSR's plans are pretty much about having its way with freight ROW - which pushes more freight onto the highways?

Tell us your fairytale again, will you dad?

Joey said...

Where ... did you get the idea that using freight ROWs involved removing the existing freight tracks?

Spokker said...

"And how again does a long distance HSR take cars off the road when the lion's share of traffic congestion is primarily created through short distance commuting"

It doesn't. The CHSRA's own documents say that 6% or so of car trips will be diverted to HSR. This baby is going to be tackling short-haul air routes. There's also some induced ridership estimated.

However, I do think that if some kind of "commute zones" are implemented with special monthly fares for commuters in the LA area or the Bay Area it could be useful in attracting drivers to the train.

If the goal is profits, however, I doubt that will be done.

Alon Levy said...

Spokker, the planning documents say that a plurality of riders will be diverted from cars, rather than diverted from air or induced. Since car traffic outnumbers air traffic by about two orders of magnitude, this projection is consistent with the projection that a much higher percentage of air traffic than of car traffic will be diverted to HSR.

Spokker said...

Yeah, I'm stupid, but I think that person's point was that those trips aren't being diverted from say, Riverside, CA to Downtown Los Angeles. My point is that with commuter passes, they could be.

lyqwyd said...

Where does Litzinger get the idea that San Francisquito creek will require a tunnel? Clem's Blog indicates the creek can be crossed at grade.

Alon Levy said...

Bianca, I'm skeptical about calling the idea of density Sustainable Menlo Park. At a population density of 6,000 per km^2, about the same as this of San Francisco today, you could house 4.5 million people in SF, SJ, Oakland, and Berkeley - close to two thirds of the 11-county Bay Area.

You could argue that a sustainable Menlo Park is one that doesn't exist, outside a small downtown surrounding the Caltrain station at a radius smaller than 1 km.

Less snarkily, high density in Menlo Park would require dramatic changes in zoning, which I don't think the city is willing to take. To achieve densities comparable to suburbs of more sustainable Asian cities, Menlo Park would have to start replacing its single-story houses on large lots either with apartment buildings of at least 3-4 floors or with single-story buildings on small lots. Even the second method can achieve about 6,000 people per km^2, six times as much as the current density in Menlo Park.

Bianca said...

Alon, the speaker making a case for density was not representing the organization hosting the event. The case for density is not specific to Menlo Park, but applicable throughout the state, as the population will increase by another 20 million or so, and the population of the Bay Area will increase by 2 to 3 million people in the next 20 years. The idea of density is relevant to the state as a whole, particularly in the context of High Speed Rail.

The debate about the future of Menlo Park and how it will address the idea of density is one that is currently being hotly debated here, and groups like Sustainable Menlo Park are participating in the discussion. I don't have any affiliation with Sustainable Menlo Park, I just attended the event.

As to the whole tunnel-under-the-creek debate, my sense is that they are trying to step very gingerly around El Palo Alto. It's true the current train bridge crosses at grade, and has for a very long time. It's not clear to me that today, given the very near proximity to El Palo Alto, a bridge would be built there now. There are engineering realities and then there are local perceptions, and I would imagine CHSRA doesn't want to be blamed for doing the thing that finally killed El Palo Alto. I'm not saying that's right; but if CHSRA is really going to implement a Context Sensitive Solution on the Peninsula, El Palo Alto is an important part of that context.

I'm not a huge advocate for tunnels; I think they are worrisome from a passenger safety aspect (think about evacuating a tunnel 100 feet underground) as well as a passenger enjoyment aspect (long tunnels are boring for the people inside the train) in addition to the question of cost. I'm just reporting what I heard last night.

Clem said...

Where does Litzinger get the idea that San Francisquito creek will require a tunnel? Clem's Blog indicates the creek can be crossed at grade.

You really think they read blogs, let alone take direction from them? Litzinger's the professional engineer here. I'm only... me.

my sense is that they are trying to step very gingerly around El Palo Alto.

That makes sense, especially after the recent tree-freakout on Cal Ave. Palo Alto is hyper-sensitive about its trees right now.

Andyduncan said...

I would tread very carefully around this. It's entirely possible that CHSRA's solution is to put their two tracks in a tunnel and leave caltrain and freight at grade, as was
proposed in one of the Anaheim-Fullerton alternatives. NIMBYs should be careful they don't end up with the worst of two worlds: expensive tunnels requiring large construction easements with at-grade rail in perpetuity because the HSR tunnels' vertical profile makes
future grade separations infeasible.

Reality Check said...

El Palo Alto used to endure smoke-belching, steam-engine-hauled, passenger and heavy freight trains from 1863 until SP ran the last steam-powered commuter train out of San Francisco on January 22, 1957.

Here's an 1864 etching showing a wood-burning steam locomotive passing by.

Here's a later shot showing the simple single-track bridge.

Here's yet a later shot showing the "new" double-track steel bridge (which is still in use today) with a steam train blowing smoke up into El Palo Alto.

With careful construction, there's no reason why 4-track electrified Caltrain+HSR could not pass by El Palo Alto at grade with even less impact than today's diesel exhaust-spewing trains impose.

Tunneling under San Francisquito Creek makes no sense -- unless you're a tunneling consultant or contractor ... or a HSR foe hoping to kill the project with gratuitous and pointlessly costly "mitigations" at every step of the way.

Reality Check said...

In my prior posting, I goofed up the link to the photo of the steam-hauled freight train crossing the "new" double-track steel bridge (still in use today) blowing smoke up into El Palo Alto's branches. So here it is again ... enjoy!

Alon Levy said...

Bianca, the Bay Area could add 3 million people, or for that matter 10 million, if towns like Menlo Park accepted high densities. But the key word here is "high" - we're not talking a few more duplexes by waiver, but a change from the current paradigm of creating artificial housing shortages to increase property values.

Ironically, the Bay Area's population has increased faster since the housing crash than during the housing bubble. Now that housing is more affordable, more people can live in the region, and fewer need to move to Stockton and commute.

Adirondacker12800 said...

at-grade rail in perpetuity because the HSR tunnels' vertical profile makes future grade separations infeasible.

Pshaw, it depends on how much money they want to spend in 2075.

Anonymous said...

anona said: - HSR ENCOURAGES more longer distance trips by providing accessibility way far out in otherwise unattractive places to live like Fresno?

This is the kind of stuck up bias you get from people in places like the peninsula, places that aren't really much to write home about, but which desperately want to be.

IVe been to fresno and there are many attrative things about it. I don't care for the effect on my hay fever and asthma, but I know folks there, and they love it just fine. Thats why its growing already without HSR.

unattractive. please. I've been to menlo park. lol

Loren said...

I measured the data points with an image editor and created a log-log plot of them. It was easy to see that the points cluster around a straight line.

then fitted a power-law curve to them. I found:

Exponent: -0.96837

Correlation factor (R): 0.83458

The cities came in three main groups:

US ones
(next to each other)
Australian ones
(a sizable gap)
European ones

I'm willing to e-mail my measured numbers as a spreadsheet file.

Anonymous said...

Now even Gilroy want a trench or tunnel.

When Gilroy finally realizes they will get neither and will have this train coming through town at 200 MPH (not sure how that is going to work on a curve), with noise volumes in the range of that of a jet taking off (I'm sure Rafael will be able to tell them how to muffle the sound), they won't be happy campers.

I don't know how much political clout they still have down there, but in years past, they were able to keep 101 from bypassing the city for many many years.

Joey said...

A jet taking off! Ha! You've never even seen a high speed train, have you...

Anonymous said...


You comment that the peninsula should worry about CalTrain being left at grade with the UPRR while CHSRA bores a tunnell has no merit in political reality.

Why do you think CalTrain is allowing the project on the ROW? Because they get electrification and grade separations. without those items, they don't get use of the corridor.

Anonymous said...

The best irony of all will be the trainfoamers relegated to hundreds of miles of tunnels, in the boring dark - like little mole rats.

Its OBVIOUS why everyone on this blog is so vehemently opposed to tunneling - and it certainly isn't the incremental cost because that'll be on tax payer dime, and what do the fanatics care about that? No, the real reason is pure aesthetic for train riders. Imagine that... aesthetics as an issue.

Anonymous said...

@anon 7:57AM

Thanks for bringing this out in the open -- yea for sure the HSR fanatics won't be too happy about spending 1/2 the trip in a hole.

Even Rafael who dreams of typing away on his laptop as he spends his travel time on the wonderful train, must object to looking out a window and seeing nothing but a wall.

Peter said...

Who cares about the view? I rode underground subways for 13 years.

It's EXPENSIVE to tunnel. THAT'S why it's only done when it makes technical and financial sense.

Peter said...

Have you ever travelled by train before? Especially on Caltrain?

Mostly the view is of the backs of warehouses, roads, or industrial parks. And that's true of most other rail systems, too.

Who cares about the view.

Anonymous said...

A jet taking off! Ha! You've never even seen a high speed train, have you...

Sounds like you've only "heard" them on youtube.

Anonymous said...

No one cares about the view. I know Im always on the subway and there's no view there either. In fact, I doubt anyone cares if certain towns want a tunnel, so long as those people pay the additional cost, knock yourselves out.
So what if its dark when you're in the disco.

dave said...

anon 7:57 & 8:06

That's the dumbest thing I've heard in a while from you anons.

Everyone here is opposed to tunnels because they are expensive. Sure the view is great but if you think that we are going to build state of the art train system and tunnel it on the peninsula the whole way just so you nimby's can be satisfied, your nuts.

One more thing, who are these mysterious taxpayers who you claim will pay for this tunnel because you say we don't care? Oh yeah, it's us. Most of us here are actually Californians. This isn't a blog from the East Coast advocating expensive solutions to someone else's state all for fun and games.

dave said...

anon 6:07

Actually Gilroy wants a Trench. They have been told that a Tunnel is out of the question. They all have the right idea to put the station downtown as opposed to the mall on the east of 101. Almost all council members support the project minus one who sounds cuckoo with his ramblings of nonesense.

If an aerial can be chosen with noise mitigation, I think they would agree to it. They are siding with trenching because the main concern is noise not visual.

lyqwyd said...


well, you've finally lost your last marble, you are now talking to yourself. You should really seek psychiatric help.

Peter said...

@ lyqwyd

He lost that last marble a long time ago. He doesn't even remember his name.

lyqwyd said...


I was more wondering if Litzinger provided any support for his claim.

While I understand treading lightly around the tree, I don't see why doing construction today would be any worse than it was 100 or 50 years ago when the tree was in much worse condition.

His claim may be true, but without him providing any supporting evidence I find it suspect.

Peter said...

@ lyqwyd

Just reading Bianca's post, it appears he mused that studies MIGHT show it would be easier to tunnel under El Palo Alto.
He didn't say anything definite.

Bianca said...


I think describing it as a "claim" is putting it perhaps too strongly. I'd characterize it more as "thinking out loud." Let me put it this way: crossing a naturalized creek in a shallow trench doesn't make sense, does it? I live about a quarter mile from the creek, and we are technically still inside the flood plain. The creek has flooded quite spectacularly within living memory; I don't think that saying "a shallow trench across a naturalized creek is not a good idea" requires any more support than simple common sense. And as for crossing at grade, again I point to El Palo Alto as the likely source of concern. When the existing bridge across San Francisquito Creek was constructed, I doubt much thought went into potential impacts on the tree. That will not be the case this time around.

Anonymous said...

Rafael's the one who brought it up...

"I'm not a huge advocate for tunnels; ... as well as a passenger enjoyment aspect (long tunnels are boring for the people inside the train)..."

And that's a recurring theme you can find on other train lover blogs - don't tunnel, it ruins the passenger experience.

Maybe you should ask him who cares about the views? I know I couldn't care LESS about the view from the train.

Anonymous said...

Theres The Tree, there's the endangered creek, there's the watershed impact, there's the indian burial ground, there's just a whole lotta lawsuit fodder at that tiny little slice of heavean.

lyqwyd said...


Don't forget the alien first contact site and the portal directly to heaven. We certainly don't want aliens and angels joining in on the lawsuits.

Peter said...

Regarding the view

I think that that is an issue that you will find a fair amount of disagreement over. Some people take a romantic view of, well, the view.

Others, who use trains more for their practical purposes, most likely don't care what the view is, as long as the train gets them to their destination quickly and comfortably.

I'm not sure what the percentage of each is, but you can't claim that all "foamers" hate the idea of tunnels because it spoils their view.

PhotogEric said...

Peter said...
...People should not be shielded or rewarded for such ignorance.

Welcome to the 21st century!!!

Peter said...

And we have to avoid the curse that comes from building on the indian burial ground.

lyqwyd said...


Definitely agree a trench would make no sense at that location, and I'm not opposed to a tunnel to protect the tree, I'm just not convinced that it's necessary.

I notice that a guy from HNTB, a firm who stands to make money from a tunnel, going out and saying that a tunnel is necessary to save the tree. If it was able to survive construction in a less healthy state, why can't it do so today in a healthier state? (rhetorical question).

I'm fairly certain that some time in the future somebody is going to use that quote as if it is fact as a means to try and force a tunnel. Kinda like that whole "Berlin Wall" thing. One person says it, and suddenly it's an incontrovertible truth.

Anonymous said...

The solution to the Peninsula problem is to relocate to the 101 corridor. The traffic is getting so bad that the freeway should be double-decked anyway. Raise the overpasses and you can accommodate hsr.

Bianca said...

Wow, Anonymous @9:57 am, you totally fail at reading comprehension, and you take the cherry-picking prize. You quoted my words and attributed them to Rafael, and you omitted what I think is the most important concern about tunnels. My words, in their entirety, are copied below:

I'm not a huge advocate for tunnels; I think they are worrisome from a passenger safety aspect (think about evacuating a tunnel 100 feet underground) as well as a passenger enjoyment aspect (long tunnels are boring for the people inside the train) in addition to the question of cost.

It might be convenient for your argument to eliminate the stated concern for human life, but it's not accurate, or honest.

lyqwyd said...


that article only points out why we should keep HSR on the Caltrain ROW.

There are just as many NIMBY's in Livermore & Pleasanton as there are on the peninsula.

Morris Brown said...

Since this is just a bit off track, I was not going to bring it up, but the group that sponsored this "event" was Sustainable Menlo Park.

That group was founded and funded by the Bohannon Development Co. It was founded as part of a PR effort to promote an office / hotel project in the Menlo Park M-2 light industrial area. They have hired and are paying a former Mayor of MP, Chuck Kinney and hold "events" every now and then to promote "goodwill" in the community.

The Bohannon family is a very wealthy and powerful group on the Peninsula. The own the Hillsdale shopping center among their many assets. They own these 15 areas in MP where the current project is to build a hotel, sports club and 700,000 sq. ft. of office. ( a total of about 1.8 million sq. feet with the needed parking structures).

In addition they own another 50 acres in this area and they are seeking to transform the nature of the whole M-2 area. (to those living in SF or higher density areas, this may not seem like a big deal -- but to Menlo Park your talking about almost a 10% increase in jobs and needed housing)

I am not a welcome voice in the Bohannon led circles, because of my opposition to their project, which most likely will lead to a referendum, if and when it is approved.

What is ironic, is that the Bohannon group was a major reason why BART never came down the peninsula as was the original plan in the 60's and 70's. The Bohannon group opposed BART because they feared loss of business at the Hillsdale shopping center.

Robert if this history is not of interest, delete this.

Peter said...

@ Morris Brown

I think it is interesting. It's always important to know the history and financial backing of the group you're dealing with (i.e. Heritage Foundation, Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association, etc).

It's interesting that their focus has changed now. Maybe HSR will bring them more business now?

Anonymous said...

how would HSR bring menlo park more business, when all it will do is whiz by? (and ruin their 'views'. There's no station located in MP.

lyqwyd said...

@Morris Brown

While we disagree on many things, I always feel bringing more information to the table is a beneficial action.

Thank you for the post.

Regarding a 10% increase in population, MP would have to increase it's population nearly 6 times to approach SF densities (and that's average density of the entire city, which is far lower than the densities in the core areas of SF). Perhaps you mean just a small area would see increased density?

AndyDuncan said...

There's no station located in MP.

If only there were another mode of transportation co-located with the HSR trains. They could have intermodal stations at certain points along the line. You could get on at your local station, and if you're going far, transfer to an express a few stops away. It could be a train. Run a bunch of them every hour, it could even double as a commuter line for people on the peninsula. The local would provide catchment area for the express, and the express would make the local stations more valuable to everyone near there.

Since it's in California, I think they should call it "California Train", or maybe just "Cal Train"

lyqwyd said...


oops, looks like I misread your post, I thought you were saying it would increase MP densities to those of SF, but you were just addressing those of us who live in densities like that. Disregard the second part of my comment above.

Anonymous said...

Andy - very clever idea, and since such connectivity is so useful, let say - its already there, so lets not duplicate the infrastructure and resources required to double-train the Peninsula. Terminate in SJ, and all the Peninsula riders can conveniently (and full of joy) hop on the Cal Train to catch HSR in San Jose.

Anonymous said...

so lets not duplicate the infrastructure and resources required to double-train the Peninsula.

interesting idea... we could simplify it a little further and only have one operator, CAHSR, on the peninsula. no need for quad-tracking and making allowances for caltrain equipment and platform variances. every other hsr train could stop at transbay, sfo, mountain view, san jose. former caltrain riders can take the bus (brimming with joy) to the nearest hsr station.

the disused caltrain stations could become theme restaurants or railroad museums.

Alon Levy said...


how would HSR bring menlo park more business, when all it will do is whiz by? (and ruin their 'views'. There's no station located in MP.

HSR will bring more passengers to the Peninsula. If MP develops itself as an important destination, you'll start seeing people hop on HSR to SJ or RWC and then take Caltrain from there to MP. If CAHSR does the right thing and moves the Peninsula station to PA, then the distance from MP to the station will drop to about 2 km, less than the distance from just about any New York or Philadelphia landmark to the respective Amtrak stations.

dave said...

anon 12:07

Maybe you can help Caltrain pay for all of its Required upgrades such as Grade Seperation, Electrification, PTC, New Rolling Stock. Go ahead, pull out your checkbook and write a check out to Caltrain so they won't need Federal and Prop bond money from HSR.

dave said...

O/T - The Metro Rail in L.A just opened the Gold Line Extension on Nov, 15 2009. Hopefully we can see more of these projects started. Especially in cities with proposed HSR stations.

Metro Official Dedication Ceremony Video

Jack in MP said...

God forbid Morris that people in Menlo Park might be able to work in their own town, and not have to commute to silicon valley for work. Not everyone has the luxury of being a retired curmudgeon.

Or do you want your kids working for Keplers at $6.99 an hour for the rest of their lives?

morris brown said...

Perhaps of interest.

From the upcoming Authority board meeting of Dec 3rd., I note item 3.

3. Rescission of Resolution Certifying Program EIR, Bay Area to Central Valley The board will discuss and take action on a resolution rescinding its approvals and certification of the Bay Area to Central Valley Environmental Impact Report.


Peter said...

@ Morris Brown

As required by court order. I don't think they could have rescinded the EIR without doing it by public meeting, as per the Brown Act. (I could be wrong, I'm only vaguely acquainted with the Act)

Joey said...

Sounds like you've only "heard" them on youtube.

"Sounds" wrong, in that case. I've ridden both the Eurostar and the Shinkansen. It's you who is relying on youtube and superstition. I'll admit, I riding the train itself doesn't give a perfect idea of what external noise levels are like (though on the Shinkansen they pass trains through stations all day at near full speeds, so I got a decent taste of it. And it's not that bad. Especially not at 125 mph.

Rafael said...

@ Bianca -

thank you for clarifying who brought up the issue of the view. I couldn't recall when I was supposed to have made that comment.

Your point about safety is well taken. By definition, tunnels are enclosed, confined spaces with a limited number of emergency exits. Earthquakes, fires, medical and sabotage/terrorist scenarios all have to be considered, even if they are very unlikely. For example, electrical fires on trains are extremely rare, especially compared to to risks posed by flammable cargo on freight trains, accidents in road tunnels etc. But still, the risk is not zero, it has happened before.

Another safety factor that is often overlooked is that of drivers suffering "tunnel vision", and I'm not being metaphorical here. Zooming through very long tunnels at high speed can temporarily impair peripheral vision and affect depth perception. The driver cabs windows on Eurostar trains are narrower than those on on other HSR trains to minimize the risk. Candidate drivers are also screened to weed out those who are more susceptible to the condition. Fortunately, shorter tunnels don't seem to cause as many problems.

As for passenger enjoyment, spending some fraction of an HSR journey underground is par for the course. A number of rail lines in the Alps are almost entirely underground. The planned Chuo shinkansen line (maglev) will also run in tunnels for much of the route. Those suffering from cuniculuphobia - I think that's the word for "fear of tunnels" - may want to stick with driving and flying.

Alon Levy said...

In the Alps, the road alternatives have long tunnels, too. The alternatives there are taking a fast train through a long base tunnel, taking a slow train through a shorter tunnel, driving on a highway in a tunnel, and driving on winding two-lane roads above ground but with a top speed of about 40 km/h. The last option is nice if you want to see scenery, but not if you're trying to get from place to place.

Eric said...

Earthquakes, fires, medical and sabotage/terrorist scenarios all have to be considered, even if they are very unlikely.

Regarding earthquakes - we're talking tunnels here, not coal mines. A properly constructed tunnel can handle a huge earthquake - even one that would level many above-ground structures. Seismologists have said that the subway is pretty much the safest place to be in Los Angeles when the next Big One hits.

As far as access for other types of emergencies, we're not talking about alpine base tunnels here, it's possible to provide numerous access points.

It's true that some people just don't like going into tunnels - I know more than one Londoner who favors the bus instead of the tube for this reason - yet it can't be anywhere near the number of people who are terrified of flying, yet the airline industry has done ok over the years.

I think the reason costs haven't been a big part of these meetings is nobody knows what those costs are yet, since these tunnels haven't been designed yet. And no, back-of-the-envelope educated guesses by bloggers don't count. And if you don't even know the costs, arguing about who is going to pay for things is fairly silly.

Joey said...

It's fair to say, though, that a tunnel will be reasonably more expensive than most other options (this has been true in the past too - just look at the Berkeley BART tunnel vs the original areal option).

Anonymous said...

ITs not a matter of the tunnel hold up to an earthquake, tunnels usually do. it crossing a moving faultline. The ground is moving in opposite directions, continually moving the tunnel out of alignment. On the surface its easy to re align things, but as the tunnel cracks and the rail move, how do you fix that underground?
per usgs:

"Surveying shows a drift at the rate of as much as 2 inches per year."

Eric said...

It's fair to say, though, that a tunnel will be reasonably more expensive than most other options.

I'd be very surprised if it wasn't. I'm not saying tunnel or nothing - I don't live on the Peninsula now but I grew up there so I'm quite familiar with it and I don't think that a well-designed elevated line is quite the visual disaster that it's opponents claim. However, I do think that a tunnel is the best solution if it's designed right and if a funding solution can be found that's workable for all parties, so I'm glad CHSRA is considering it and I'm curious to see what they come up with.

What I find silly is the implication from some commenters that Palo Alto, et. al., are somehow acting in bad faith by proposing a tunnel and not volunteering to pay for it. It's not like Berkeley decided to pay for their BART tunnel because they felt it was the Right Thing to Do; they only raised taxes for it after cost estimates were in place and it became clear that there would be no other funding available. It's only rational to expect the Peninsula cities to do the same.

"Surveying shows a drift at the rate of as much as 2 inches per year."

Which faultline crosses the Caltrain ROW and has that amount of movement? Not saying you're wrong, I'm curious though because I've never heard this. Not sure how you run a tunnel through a faultline - the Japanese seem to have it figured out though.

Anonymous said...

oh i was referring to the grapevine

K.T. said...

Eric, All Abroad,

There seems to be no active faults crossing Caltrain Tracks between SF and SJ.

FYI, there are 12 tunnels crossing active faults in Shinkansen (it could be more if there are undiscovered faults). However, none of the active faults that Shinkansen tunnel is crossing have drift rates comparable to San Andreas (source-wikipedia).