Saturday, March 21, 2009

HSR Comes to Merced

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

Wednesday night's HSR scoping meeting in Merced brought out numerous supporters of a project that promises to bring dramatic improvements to a city that could use sustainable transportation and the jobs it would provide:

Community members at the session were interested in seeing the project get under way. On one comment board, the suggestion scrawled in red marker was simple: "Start digging now." Another person added: "Go for it -- and hire local consultants."

Jim Sutherland, a 63-year-old retired Merced resident said he was "100 percent behind the project."

He even said he would consider working part-time if the Castle maintenance hub goes from blueprint to bricks and mortar.

Now that's the spirit.

The meeting also produced some actual news, which I'm sure Rafael will be glad to hear:

Gary Kennerly, a project manager for the authority, also said the authority considered Castle Air Force Base its first choice for a major maintenance hub.

Still, "There is nothing in stone," he said. "(Castle) will be looked at, as will the other locations."

Other maintenance sites are being considered near Chowchilla and Madera.

"We have the lines already going into Castle," Atwater Councilman Joe Rivero said. "It is centrally located. It would be a good choice for us and a good choice for the system."

Note that this won't be the only maintenance hub for the system, but would be the prime hub for the Central Valley. Merced does strike me as the best choice, but it's worth doing the due diligence on Chowchilla and Madera as well.

One thing it's NOT worth doing the due diligence for is a station at Los Banos, which was specifically forbidden in AB 3034 and therefore in Prop 1A as well. That hasn't stopped some Merced County officials from hoping against reality that such a stop can be revived:

County supervisor Jerry O'Banion said he supported the project, but hoped a stop in Los Banos might be added before the plans become final.

O'Banion noted that much of the information at the meeting was still speculation.

"It is the future. It is not going to happen overnight," he said. "But if you don't start planning sometime, it will never occur."

While that's true in a general sense, it is NOT true of a Los Banos station. It will never happen and that's as it should be. I had the chance to drive through Los Banos two weekends ago on the way to and from Fresno. It's a fairly typical San Joaquin Valley town that had the misfortune to be exurbanized in the late and least sustainable phase of the great housing bubble. On the west edge of town are a couple shopping centers still half-built, with vacant storefronts and big-box stores that are likely having a difficult time remaining profitable. Several newer housing developments in and around town are half-finished with many foreclosed and empty homes. The central part of town is still nice, but future growth in the San Joaquin Valley ought to be channeled into the existing urban centers - Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield. Not to Los Banos.

Upcoming HSR scoping meetings:

• March 24: Visalia Convention Center, 303 E. Acequia Ave, Visalia
• March 25: Roosevelt Community Center, 901 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose
• March 25: Fresno Convention Center, 848 M Street, Fresno
• March 26: Rabobank Theater, 1001 Truxtun Ave, Bakersfield
• March 26: Hilton Garden Inn, Monterey Road and US 101, Gilroy

(I'm going to try and attend the Gilroy meeting, but my schedule for that day is still a bit up in the air.)


Spokker said...

Good. At least we'll have a 220 MPH train between Gilroy and Bakersfield ;)

Anonymous said...

All they have to do is get if from BFD to PSP and Im happy. I'd be down there every weekend. The people in the central valey are showing the old school california attitude of we can do it and lead the nation. It's the kind of innovative forward thinking that other areas used to be know for. Will wonders never cease.

Anonymous said...

Castle seems like a very good place as they have the space and endless way to capitalize on that space and a willing local population.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

I think they're looking at Merced-Bakersfield for the test track. Gilroy-Fresno will require tunnel construction and that takes a long time.

A maintenance facility at Castle Airport makes sense politically, because it would require a short section of the spur up to Sacramento to be constructed in phase I - a sign of good faith, if you will.

However, in the longer term, Castle Airport really ought to be leveraged for 24/7 commercial air service:

- heavy air freight
- high speed cargo
- a few passenger flights (budget airlines leveraging HSR as a connecting service for non-daily flights to Hawaii, Asia and Latin America)
- Russian Beriev-2000 amphibious firefighting jets that can quickly be deployed anywhere in the western US (twice the water hauled at twice the speed).

Fresno Yosemite already has a noise compatibility regulation and is far from the proposed HSR route.

Afaik, BNSF has been receptive to CHSRA in terms of ROW sharing while UPRR has not. South of Fresno, that meshes well with the plans CHSRA had anyhow, mostly because of access to the planned downtown station in Bakersfield.

However, in Fresno and north to central Stockton, the preferred route would be on or next to UPRR's ROW. If that proves impossible, the route through Fresno and up to Stockton will have to be changed. Only then would Castle Airport be on the main HSR line up to Sacramento.

Joe Rivero appears to have already jumped to that conclusion, but afaik CHSRA hasn't. The UPRR ROW is several miles from the former AFB - a spur across some fields wouldn't break the bank but it wouldn't be much use for high speed cargo or passengers looking to catch a flight. Dare to think bigger than just a maintenance yard, Joe!

Anonymous said...

right now don't the san joaquins go right by castle. I seem to remember seeing it.

Anonymous said...

rafael what do you think of my narrow trench solution for PA/MP drawn here:

it would only require digging a 25 foot wide trench next to existing cal train tracks, 2 tracks wide for hsr, then over the open trench place the concrete cross beams as in alameda corridor then lay the new caltrain tracks on those support at grade level with no change in grad crossings and ultimately only using 25 feet of row width and give 25 feet of with to a new bike trail.

Anonymous said...

BruceMcF said...

Jim's sketch (jpg)

NB. 25 ft for a bike trail could be split into 12 ft. for a paved transit cycle trail nearest the trains and 12 ft. filtered gravel recreational hike/bike trail, with fence between, getting the damn joggers and dog walkers out of the way of the morning cycle commute.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

may I humbly suggest you figure out how road vehicles would continue to cross the ROW before you stack tracks for the sake of a creating a new, super-wide bike path?

Full grade separation means Caltrain and UPRR in addition to HSR. Indeed, Caltrain is planning to run 10tph during weekday rush hours by 2025. That's a train passing in one direction or the other every three minutes or so.

There are major underpasses at University, Embarcadero and Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto. Track stacking would not only require destroying them but also re-introduce grade crossings with Caltrain/UPRR.

Plus, there are tons of grade crossings in Atherton, Menlo Park and several remain in both Palo Alto and Mountain View.

A trench at San Francisquito creek would quite possibly kill off El Palo Alto, in addition to posing an avoidable flooding risk.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Anonymous said...

well then what is the solution? I mean the berm is fine with me but can cahsr force it? they should

Anonymous said...

arent we talking about an incredibly short section of track anyway - what is it a couple miles or so? All this hullibaloo over a couple miles of berm. And these folks made it clear they don't want any solution. So the state will just have to take the row and build what they want.

Anonymous said...

I just don't get what the problem is if caltrain is planning to get rid of grade crossings anyway, put up catenaries anyway and run a higher level of trains per hour anyway, then what is the problem with throwing hsr into the mix. I swear these are the kind of people that just like to make a scene. They don't even know what they are against. They just want to be against something to be part of something.

Spokker said...

Off topic, but I recently sent a message to an employee of Parsons Brinckerhoff for their take on some of the claims that PB will over-design just to make a profit. That these companies are corrupt is a common thread of HSR opponents and some HSR supporters.

Warning, this is a little long. Here is my original message to him. His reply is after.

"There seems to be an emerging view even from supporters that your construction company is corrupt and that you are going to overbuild just to make a higher profit. It would be nice to see someone from a construction company weigh in and give the other side of the story.

Another blog said this:

'Construction companies that will build the HSR project stand to profit handsomely. They are where the money ultimately flows. Design engineering, construction, program management, most of the slices of the HSR budget will be sent to them at some point. Their interest is to make money. They make a lot of money by engineering complex infrastructure that involves lots of earth moving and concrete pouring. The more earth moving and concrete pouring, the greater the profit. There's nothing wrong with that so far.

Unfortunately, those same companies are also in charge of designing all this infrastructure. The fox is guarding the hen house, but in proper industry lingo this is passed off as cost-saving "design-build-operate-maintain" and "turn-key solutions". The construction companies know that once HSR is far enough along, nothing will stop its completion, least of all running out of money. They have little interest in making HSR any faster or better or cheaper than absolutely necessary to maintain continued public funding of the project. The wisdom goes that among the three qualities, faster, better and cheaper, you can have any two. Locally, if the HSR design is left without strong oversight, the peninsula may get none of the three.

Look out for gold-plated solutions to simple problems, sold by throwing up a fog of expert-knows-best complexity.'

So I'm just wondering what your take on that is."

His reply:

"There is nothing whatsoever to be gained by trying to respond to this sort of stuff, at least by me. The general tone is that they are not going to believe anything that I would have to say, anyway.

Like a lot of things, there is just barely enough truth here to make the charges plausible. In my own opinion, we would have to go a long ways to be worse than Caltrans is in their highway designs. I do not think I have ever seen anywhere else the level of stuff I see here.

I will say this: As a company, Parsons Brinckerhoff is not a construction company. It has absolutely nothing to gain by gold plating the project or doing anything else that would make it more expensive than absolutely necessary to do the job. We are a planning, design, and to a lesser extent construction management company.

If you were to look at the details of the settlement on the Boston "Big Dig" (a boondoggle project that in my own opinion we should have never gotten near, but I had nothing to do with it at any point) there was no blame for the deficiencies in quality that came our way.

If you looked behind the face of these people coming up with these issues, you will probably find someone who wants to kill the rail line and this excuse or any other will do.

Note the "the peninsula" in the above. Makes me think this quotation comes from someone in Atherton or thereabouts that simply wants to kill the whole thing.

Someone has funded a very slick and reasonable sounding 300 plus page report mostly written by Wendell Cox and cohorts that frankly is full of downright false information on such things as run times, necessary average speed, just to name a couple of the obvious ones."

I just wanted to get another view. These companies take quite a beating sometimes. PB is often mentioned as the company responsible for the Big Dig fiasco and that their involvement in HSR will result in more of the same.

Anyway, take my meddling for what you will.

BruceMcF said...

jim said..."well then what is the solution? I mean the berm is fine with me but can cahsr force it? they should."

The "problem" is that there is a design process that includes community input, and while CA-HSR advocates were perhaps resting on their laurels a bit after the passage of Prop 1A, a portion of the highway construction / crude oil lobby was hard at work trying to work out how to hijack that community input phase for the next round of efforts to de-rail the process.

Add in the budget turmoil and inability of CAHSR to hire staff to be able to prepare an array of design options to present to local communities, and there was an immediate political opportunity there to exploit.

Anonymous said...

Jim, what Rafael may not have mentioned (not in the EIR, why would he know this afterall), is that trenching is going to be a complete no go in PA, perhaps MP and farther north as well, although I don't know their water situation...) In PA alone, there are at least 5 significant creeks above ground (not just sanfransiquito), and more completely underground that will end up precluding trenching. The 'storm drain' issue in PA goes WELL beyond occassional cleaning of one or two storm drains, as Rafael previously suggested. This is SFBay watershed, that means major water flow down hill from the foothills into the Bay for miles, that's over ground and underground shallow water flows. Treching will create concrete barriers underground (or overground) that would impeded waterflows to the bay. That's why Barton (PA City Council - HSR biggest fan by the way, recognized year+ ago that DEEP tunneling was going to the only way to get this thing done through the Peninsula. Hes been off on his own with his developer buddies studying the tunneling. And believe me, he's chomping at the bit for those air rights for dense housing development.

And - "berm" simply isn't feasible. It requires a slope of land (wider at the base), and therefore a heck of alot of land aquistion. Today the tracks run down the center of 75-100 ft ROW (on a small berm). Plenty of wide open space on either side of tracks within the current ROW. But with 4 tracks wide the tracks 'll run smack up agains the ROW boundary. That elminates any possibility of fitting a berm on the ROW without significantly expensive ED. (Just calling it like I see it, not claiming they have a birth right to expensive property.) Straight up walls are the only thing feasible (but then you're puttin 20 foot walls - glass or no glass)within spitting distance of schools, medical cetners, major traffic artery, etc.)

This is all available info in the Program EIR.

Anonymous said...

Caltrain 2025 - is that funded? who's funding it?

BruceMcF said...

"Today the tracks run down the center of 75-100 ft ROW (on a small berm). Plenty of wide open space on either side of tracks within the current ROW. But with 4 tracks wide the tracks 'll run smack up agains the ROW boundary."

Assuming crossings at grade and fill for full elevation ... half elevation is half the width of the berm from the trackbed ... with 60%+ of the ROW 100 ft. or wider ... and ...

"Straight up walls are the only thing feasible (but then you're puttin 20 foot walls ..."

... half-elevation is half height walls. For full elevation near a town center, a viaduct is a real option, especially if the lead-in is a split grade partial elevation ... it costs more, but it creates new ground level property and eliminates much of the pedestrian barrier of the present rail corridor. And a partial elevation as the existing corridor passes through a suburban area, rising to a viaduct through a town center, and then a partial elevation again when through the town center can tap the other benefit of half-elevation, which is that its half the length of gradient required to get from grade to the half elevation or from half elevation to full elevation.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

I don't think there's any need to trot out the asphalt lobby in the context of the peninsula, some of the residents there just don't want a retained fill embankment.

@ anon @ 11:18pm -

I used the USGS maps of the area to identify the creeks and Google Maps to identify the storm drains in the mid-peninsula. It's entirely possible that there are others, especially underground. Apparently, there's a toxic plume somewhere in Palo Alto and also a small aquifer that is reserved as an emergency water supply. I don't know where those are located exactly.

Trenching is definitely not without its problems and gravity-drained water conduits (creeks, storm drains, sewer mains) are arguably the biggest headache. There are ways to deal with that, but it is important to be very diligent. One large winter storm and suddenly you've got a lot of extra water that needs to flow into the bay or, local streets will be flooded. And whatever detour under the trench you put in needs to survive earthquakes.

However, the idea of running tunnel bores for 4 tracks from Atherton through Mountain View isn't realistic, either. Tunnels under just Palo Alto are not feasible.

That means you'd basically be building half a Channel Tunnel right there and air rights aren't going to be enough to fund it. Besides, if a 4.6m embankment is unacceptable, how will residents feel about dense 3-story office/commercial development along the Caltrain ROW?

I'd like to see more detail on the gravity-drained water conduits and other infrastructure already under the rails before I'd jump to the conclusion that tunneling is the cat's meow. Barton may be HSR's biggest fan, but he's obviously also in bed with one or more real estate developers, so I'd be somewhat sceptical of his motives.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...
"I don't think there's any need to trot out the asphalt lobby in the context of the peninsula, some of the residents there just don't want a retained fill embankment."

The argument does not support the conclusion ... if a full elevation retained fill embankment is the option that generates the strongest negative reaction, that'd be precisely the one to focus on when trying to mobilize opposition. And if it ended up being three miles of full elevation retained fill with a living wall installed somewhere in along the corridor, that's not an obstacle to using it as a poster child.

It would be quite hard to understand the "asphalt lobby" trotting out all of the other standard ploys and yet not trotting out that one.

If you mean to say don't let the likelihood that some parties are trying to stir up trouble be used as an excuse to ignore community concerns ... surely that goes without saying. Political polarization is the objective of the strategy, while the objective of people working against this strategy has to be to depolarize the situation.

Anonymous said...

The county should have stopped at the horse and buggy stage since everyone is so offended by progress. Would some one please explain to me how a wall next to a playing field or school affects a students ability to learn. Christ when I was kid they used to drive through town spraying DDT and we'd run through the fog it created and in the summer we swam in ag run off canals. But the kids in PA can't learn because there's a wall in the neighborhood? Its just such total BS.

Anonymous said...

Actually I like this structure. why not leave caltrain alone and just put this next to it. Simple, clean, effective, doesnt take up room.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

the retained fill embankment was selected in spring of 2007 so CHSRA could get a cost estimate for the mid-peninsula section, in the context of getting one for the whole route.

No need for conspiracy theories here, CHSRA's consultants picked that implementation option in order to keep the cost down. The real problem here is that city officials in Palo Alto did not respond to that information with a "No way, Jose" well before the election.

See here (2D: Plans and Profiles + Cross sections: 1: Caltrain).

Note that Japanese planners went even further, deliberately underestimating the cost of the first shinkansen line in the hope that the electorate would eat the cost escalations ("in for a penny, in for a pound") and eventually come to see the investment as very worthwhile in spite of that. And, lo and behold, the ruse worked for them.

Then again, Japan had and has a very different political culture than California. If the failure to speak up was a deliberate ploy, it was a high-risk gambit.

Anonymous said...

Its nice to see people eager and excited about the start of HSR and I hope the main train base is built at Castle and the CAHSR choice of ROW is the BNSF. I know that there are many people looking forward to HSR in Palo and the other Midcities, its just that a few loud mouths (all 3 of them) have made it a media event.Look even here in this thread..and thats what they want.. keep it in the spotlight.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

the height of the wall is an aesthetic issue, but the impact on the school would come from noise. Palo Altans pay for their schools themselves rather than letting the state do it.

That gives them control over how the schools are run. High academic achievement levels translate to desirable real estate in the schools' catchment area. In other words, Palo Alto schools - especially Paly High - add at least $100k to value of every house in the whole town. That makes them extremely high-value properties and any proposal that someone fears might have a negative impact on academic performance immediately raises red flags.

The reason we're between a rock and a hard place now is that Palo Alto city officials didn't pipe up when they were informed about the plan to implement HSR as a retained fill embankment right next to Paly High, well before the election.

That said:

It is of course the town's decision to reject state money and pay for the schools out of local property taxes.

It was also the town's decision to build the school right next to an active railroad with horn blaring and bells ringing at the nearby Churchill Ave grade crossing - in addition to noise from road traffic.

It was the town's decision to expose generations of students to toxic exhaust fumes from diesel locomotives and motor vehicles on busy El Camino Real and Embarcadero Road.

And it is also the town's decision to keep the school right there rather than relocate it well away from the train tracks. For the children, you see.

No, Palo Altans would rather hold the whole state to ransom by forcing CHSRA to study a four-bore tunnel alignment just so some local developers get a chance to cash in on the air rights above.

Bay Area Resident said...

joke of the day- San Jose is now considering THREE TRACKS to go through the windy south of Diridon area because the only way to straighten the tracks within the ROW is to cut down the number of tracks. The other option, taking houses is problematic from an environmental justice perspective south of Diridon. What will 3 tracks in that area do to this system? Incredible. The other related proposal is trenching into Diridon, coming in from an elevated track above 280.

Bay Area Resident said...

its just that a few loud mouths (all 3 of them) have made it a media event.

Simitian has heard from thousands of people which is why his tone has changed. Don't kid yourself. And if Palo Alto changes the composition of HSR in some way, every other city from San Mateo to San Jose will demand the same considerations. Some areas like San Jose will fall under environmental justice legislation as legally requiring the same treatment Palo Alto gets. Simitian is backing away from this hot potato, that is obvious in his tone. Of course all of this was predictable from day one.

Anonymous said...

They aren't "children for god's sake they're teenagers and they more noise and impact the environment more than any train with their foul language and their graffiti and their drunk driving, precious things indeed. I went to school on an air force base during vietnam and had b52s cs and supersonic jets flying low over the school all day long everyday, and it didn't affect my ability to learn. If you are going to argue against the train, at least be honest about not wanting it because you are too special, spoiled and stuck up to have in your neighborhood and quit using the lame "what about the children argument".

Bay Area Resident said...

Heres another school on the tracks, Bellarmine in San Jose. Unfortunately G maps doesn't street view exactly where the tracks bifurcate the field on Bellarmine, so I can't post that. But here, you get the idea. Right next door.,-121.918309&spn=0.007131,0.021029&z=16&iwloc=addr&layer=c&cbll=37.344017,-121.918328&panoid=Nqch0jv-TmP7E9eB-OF59g&cbp=12,133.88700357770531,,0,5

Unknown said...

noise and impact the environment more than any train with their foul language and their graffiti and their drunk driving

Get off my lawn you little rascals!!

Anonymous said...

@Ben exaclty.

So I wonder how many jobs could be created if they put this facility in Merced. A lot I'm sure, and they will be good paying union jobs. Something a place like merced could really use. I hope they get it. It's a nice little town and they could do a lot with this type of stimulus.

Anonymous said...

"No need for conspiracy theories here, CHSRA's consultants picked that implementation option in order to keep the cost down."

True enough. Never attribute to malice, that which can be adquately explained by stupidity. No one put their calculators aside long enough to say - gee we're talking about running through 50 miles of neighborhoods - some very expensive, some very depressed already, school yards, parks, medical centers, and several small city's econoimically crucial down town areas. We WON'T get away with this for cheap, no matter how CHEAP I can draw it up on paper.

Nor did they consider even vaguely that the scale of a 4track 125+ train running through backyards and school yards on elevated walls - gee that is FAR out of proportion for anything they currently have, and will not be acceptable. Not even for a second did they try to apply logic or good judgement, they only tried to see what they could sneak through the process.

"The real problem here is that city officials in Palo Alto did not respond to that information with a "No way, Jose" well before the election." Uhm, No, the REAL problem here is that CHSRA grossly miscalculated by burying the relevent information in appendecies to 1200 page documents and didn't bother to go engage forthecomingly and proactively the effected communities with the full picture. Instead they DECIDED, to just passively and quietly throw it over the fence, hoping against all logic, that the communities would kind of stay asleep until the first jack hammers came in. And now that the cat is out of the bag, they are paying for that miscalculation. THAT's the real problem here.

LIke maybe I'll just throw this dog poop, and this used motor oil, over my fence into my neighbors backyard in the middle of the night, and maybe (if i'm lucky) he won't find it. And if he doesn't and his kid steps in it, or his garden gets poisoned or whatever, well, that's his fault!

However, if he'd like to PAY ME not to throw the crap over his fence, then maybe I can come up with some alternatives that won't blight him. But you know, that's all going to cost him a pretty penny. Thats HIS problem, not mine.

Rafael said...

@ Resident -

the real issue here is that planning officials in Palo Alto didn't do the research that voters pay them to do. This is only the biggest ever infrastructure project in state history running right through your downtown.

I don't expect every resident to wade through reams of documentation, but I do expect local planning professionals to do just that. Worst case, they should have hired an independent consultant to spend a couple of weeks digging up the information that pertains specifically to that city. And don't even try to tell me Palo Alto couldn't afford that.

If officials didn't do the legwork, shame on them. The documentation was published and CHSRA available for consultations. If they were aware of the retained fill embankment concept and failed to speak up, even more shame on them. They have much better knowledge of what local residents will and will not accept than CHSRA can reasonably be expected to have. It's their job to raise a red flag if one needs to be raised.

Officials in Atherton and Menlo Park did speak up. Perhaps not forcefully enough, but at least they did their job. Don't blame CHSRA for the failures of elected officials in your city. The authority is a bunch of bureaucrats, not a for-profit corporation with a sophisticated marketing organization. It should come as no surprise that their material, however well intentioned, takes some effort to process.

Spokker said...

Would this map have been helpful? It existed before the election.

Bay Area Resident said...

Spokker, I would ask if that map were available before the vote, then WHY the deliberate vagueness of prop 1A, which said something like, -we want to investigate all these options for high speed rail including ALTAMONT?- Why not just say, the plan is chosen here is the map oh and by the way if your town is GREEN OR PURPLE be prepared for major disruptions thanks very much. Why not just say that? Well because, simply if they had said that it wouldn't have passed, you see.
Notice Simitians tentative tone? This HSR goose is cooked.
Habitat for Humanity has recently rebuilt some homes near the tracks in San Jose too!

Rafael said...

@ BAR -

oh come on. The only reason Altamont was still in AB3034 at all is because it was the only way to secure enough Republican votes for the 2/3 majority in both houses required to even get it onto the ballot.

You're acting as if CHSRA wrote prop 1A all by itself in a vacuum. It wasn't their choice to word the proposition vaguely, it was your elected officials'.

Stop blaming everyone but yourself for not knowing what you were voting on. Your city failed to do the research or hire an independent analyst to do it for you. There were people who vigorously opposed prop 1A, but a majority of voters decided to approve it anyhow.

As for the handful of new homes that Habitat for Humanity just completed in San Jose (and those planned): a 2-minute check with Google maps reveals that none of those for which an address is provided is within 500ft of the preferred route for HSR.

Your newfound concern for those less fortunate than yourself is touching. Enjoy the foie gras from your freshly cooked goose.

Anonymous said...

Below market rate housing along the tracks...

The map wasn't useful because how would the average person have known to go look for it in the first place? HOw would they have known it was there? And, I clicked in to it several times and never did get to a level that showed particulars for a region. My system pretty slow - you think that's pretty common? BTW, expecting people to be sophisticated enough to go research particulars online (on an English only website BTW), that ALONE brings up some pretty interest social justice issues.

You HANDED us a link - Average person that bothered to even try to do their own research, went to CHSR website saw a bunch of glossy market presentations about the 'benefits' and maybe took the time to watch a few animated videos (none of which even remotely relevent to Peninsula bts). How many clicks would they go through to get to that map?

And the question - is the map useful? Its a question that's already been answered! Apparentley is was not useful at all, huh? Because otherwise why would everyone be so surprised?

Anonymous said...


You write

"No need for conspiracy theories here, CHSRA's consultants picked that implementation option in order to keep the cost down. The real problem here is that city officials in Palo Alto did not respond to that information with a "No way, Jose" well before the election."

Well Menlo Park and Atherton certainly did speak up. I guess we weren't large enough to get their attention, in fact, they seemed to have lost MP's objection letter.

Actually Diridon did seem to be aware of opposition. In a local newspaper article when asked about local opposition he just replied

"They will be over ridden.

It is so interesting to see a completely different attitude from Morshed as expressed at the Senate hearing last week when he said

we have to get along with the locals -- otherwise the project will be torpedoed

The toxic plume mentioned by one of the speakers at the Palo Alto meeting last weekend was news to me, but the problem with underground waterways certainly was not.

Menlo Park paid out $1 million in damages to homeowners when San Francisquito creek overflowed its banks in 1998. The City was found liable (well the City decided not to take its chances in court) and paid the out the funds.

It was terribly embarrassing since due to an oversight, the City's liability insurance did not cover such an event, and the money came from our General fund. (was considered to be a 100 year event)(Palo Alto had the needed insurance).

The Saga of San Francisquito Creek

(page 129)

I would just say the Menlo Park is very very flood wary, even though most of the damage occurred in Palo Alto.

Anonymous said...


I take issue with your statement:

"oh come on. The only reason Altamont was still in AB3034 at all is because it was the only way to secure enough Republican votes for the 2/3 majority in both houses required to even get it onto the ballot."

For one thing, Prop 1 would have been on the ballot in any case without AB-3034. That would have cost the Authority support from the Sierra club because of the Los Banos station, and from other groups for lots of other reasons dealing with oversight etc.

At one point the Authority was pushing (at least telling a few of us) that they were going to build both routes (Altamont and Pacheco).They were just doing whatever would grease the way for passage of the bond funds. We will make everybody happy.

Until Lowenthal's committee meeting last summer there was virtually no opposition to AB-3034. The opposition only took place when the legislature itself finally started to wake up and say something other than "we need this train", case closed.

Now you still have Merced people talking about getting back the Los Banos station. AD-3034 is a paper tiger it seems; already violated on so many fronts.

It to me is un-believable that Kopp will say, " we don't need to go the the TBT.

Isn't that what is required in AB-3034?

Spokker said...

"The map wasn't useful because how would the average person have known to go look for it in the first place?"

Upon reading Prop 1A in their voter information guide, a person's brain might say, "Hmmm, I need more information on this." If they were intelligent enough, they may think to search for "California High Speed Rail" on Google, a popular search engine on the Internet. The first result would be the California High Speed Rail Authority's official web site.

Now, what is the most important thing this person would want to know? They would want to know where the train is going to travel to. From there an intelligent person might click on "Routes". An interactive map will load.

If this person needs even more information they would click on "High-Speed Rail on Google Earth" and "Map And Route Resources" where they would discover even more information about the route.

Okay, let's say a person read the ballot measure for the first time and felt no need to acquire more detailed information and decided to vote yes. That implies that the person does not care about any potential impacts to neighborhoods and wants high speed trains anyway. That implies that the idea was so good to this person that they didn't become skeptical and voted yes anyway.

I'm sure there were many others who read the ballot measure for the first time and thought, "I don't need anymore information. I think high speed rail is a bad idea no matter what."

Either way, the state has spoken.

"How many clicks would they go through to get to that map?"


Even on the interactive map it's pretty obvious the thing is going to be going up the peninsula. A Redwood City/Palo Alto stop is listed.

It should be noted that the current web site has not changed in any significant way since the election.

"My system pretty slow - you think that's pretty common?"

Libraries have free to use computers with ample horsepower to display Google Maps and Flash content.

"BTW, expecting people to be sophisticated enough to go research particulars online (on an English only website BTW), that ALONE brings up some pretty interest social justice issues."

Ask the state to fund the CHSRA to a level where they can translate their web site and all the environmental documents into eight languages then.

"Because otherwise why would everyone be so surprised?"

Everyone is not surprised, a vocal minority is. I would not be surprised if many in this minority is feigning ignorance now just because Prop 1A passed ("Have mercy on us! We didn't know!"). And the City Council is caving in to them.

"Now you still have Merced people talking about getting back the Los Banos station."

Just because they are asking for it doesn't mean they are going to get it.

Spokker said...

Another point:

From the main page of the CAHSRA's web site you could have clicked on "Train Route Decisions" under FAQs (Internet colloquial for "Frequently Asked Questions").

The third paragraph includes, "The Pacheco Pass alternative serving San Francisco and San Jose termini has the least potential environmental impacts overall while providing direct high-speed train service to downtown San Francisco, SFO, and the San Francisco Peninsula (Caltrain Corridor)"

Emphasis mine.

Unfortunately I cannot check if this language existed before the election (I think it did), but the CHSRA has blocked the Internet Archive from archiving its web site. I think that makes them look bad even though I think they have nothing to hide.

Either way, this information could have come elsewhere, including those individuals who opposed the project before and leading up to the election. The seventh result for "California high speed rail" is:

"Why the California High-Speed Rail plan is fundamentally flawed ...
- 5 visits - Mar 7
Note from Eric Eldon: I wrote a rather positive article this week on the proposed $10 billion California High-Speed Rail ... - 85k - Cached - Similar pages -"

and I think it was in the same range before the election. This project was debated and debated. Apparently, even the opposition's charge that there was a lack of information didn't seem to bother voters.

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't those smart people with those top notch schools on palo alto find the map? I'm just a dumb lazy union guy with a high school education and I knew where the train was gonna go the whole time and I don't even live along the route. The map was all over the internet. Just shows how our of touch those folks are if you ask me.

Rafael said...

@ yeson1a -

language please. No need for expletives on this blog.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

creeks - both above and below ground - storm drains and any sewer mains already under the tracks would definitely be headaches in trench design and construction.

No insurance company would cover the cities for flood risks unless it was convinced the engineering solutions for re-routing the water above or below any trench for trains were adequate. Doable, but not trivial.

However, bored tunnels would also have to deal with the local hydrology. You don't want to trigger any subsidence events during construction.

As for prop 1A, my understanding is that a 2/3 majority in both houses + the Governor's signature was needed to get it onto the ballot. In theory, that could have been done through a motion separate from AB3034 but legislators preferred to put the proposition on a more solid legal footing.

And yes, I'm quite aware of the timely opposition to CHSRA plans by city officials Menlo Park and Atherton. My point related specifically to the absence of a red flag from Palo Alto, because some residents there are now claiming CHSRA pulled a fast one on them.

Anonymous said...


in response to you:

As for prop 1A, my understanding is that a 2/3 majority in both houses + the Governor's signature was needed to get it onto the ballot."

Yes AB-3034 needed the 2/3 votes. My point was without AB-3034 there would have still have been a Prop 1, the carry over from the legislation 2 years earlier, that delayed putting the measure on the ballot in 2006. It would have taken a 2/3 vote to remove that old ballot proposal, which never happened, but it was replaced by the passage of AB-3034.