Friday, April 10, 2009

Why We Call Them NIMBYs

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

"High-speed rail opponents hope to shed 'NIMBY' image" is the headline of a San Jose Mercury News article examining the attitudes of a handful of people along the Peninsula toward the HSR project, and their lobbying efforts up in Sacramento. I find it interesting that they realize "NIMBY" is something they don't want to be seen as, which suggests to me that we were on the right track after all in leveling that criticism at the folks who are demanding an expensive tunnel or a gutting of the proposed HSR system. Here's what Ben Fuller, a resident of east San Carlos who claims that the above-grade tracks have isolated his neighborhood, and Sara Armstrong of Palo Alto had to say:

Fuller and Armstrong said the consortium should also help dispel the NIMBY, or "not in my backyard", stereotype often tagged on homeowners who oppose high-speed rail. By working together as a regional group, they hope to prove that they represent the interests of many property homeowners in the region and not just their own backyards.

In fact, they said a better name might be YUMBY, or "Yes Under My Backyard," a reference to their preference for tunneling the train.

"We're not NIMBYs," Fuller said. "We care about what happens to communities throughout California."

Really? So do you support the Palo Alto city council's reckless demand that the CHSRA consider terminating HSR trains at San José, which throws the financial viability of the entire system into question? Do you believe that it's a tunnel or nothing? If so I would indeed say you're NIMBYs.

Why? Because in this instance, a NIMBY position is one that says the HSR system must be built according to the specifications of a few neighbors or shouldn't be built at all. THAT is a classically NIMBY position. If they do not reject an above-grade solution, then they're not NIMBYs. If they do reject it, then they are.

The key question underlying everything is this: Do you believe that your aesthetic preferences about how the train should be built in your neighborhood are more important than what is operationally or financially necessary? Then you're putting yourself above the needs of the state as a whole. Perhaps the term "NIMBY" doesn't quite capture what they are exactly saying, but the outcomes are the same: you think that the train should be built your way or not built at all.

I don't see how that is a defensible position. It is arrogant and self-interested, denying the very real need for HSR as part of the solution to the state's dire economic, energy, and environmental crises. Unfortunately these few people seem to have bent the ears of two Democratic legislators who ought to know better:

The groups have bypassed local officials and gone directly to their state representatives, having held meetings recently with state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos.

Ruskin said that after meeting with the group recently he called California High Speed Rail Authority officials into his Sacramento office and relayed the residents' concerns, including their preference for tunnels or some other non-bridge option.

"I share their concerns," Ruskin said. "I got the assurance from the high-speed rail people that there would be a below-grade (option studied) as part of the (planning) process.

"I really admire that they have become a part of the process and want their voices heard," he said.

If all Ruskin did was relay concerns, that's fine. But Ruskin has a higher duty - to ALL his constituents, and to the state as a whole - to ensure that HSR gets built on time and on budget. Ruskin has made a name for himself as a leader in environmental legislation. So one would assume that he will be supportive of the HSR project.

Especially when he and Sen. Simitian are facing a major budget crisis. The great unanswered question here is who will pay for the tunnel that pretty much the entire Peninsula wants. Tunnel proponents assume that either the state or the federal government will pay.

I am here to tell them that will not happen. There will be NO support at the state level to pay for a tunnel through these wealthy neighborhoods. None whatsoever. Anyone who thinks there will be is deluding themselves about fiscal and political realities in California.

There might be a possibility of getting federal money, but I believe this to be very, very small. Maybe a 10% chance. Consider that the Democrats who control Congress and President Obama are NOT going to see Peninsula voters as a particularly important constituency ahead of the 2010 and 2012 elections. Obama in particular needs to hold on to states he won that went for Bush in 2004 - Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada. You can bet he will find a way to direct a lot of federal infrastructure money there. If it comes down to paying for the Peninsula's tunnel or paying for a rail project in Virginia, or a bridge in Ohio, he will pick the latter. Peninsula residents have barely any leverage federally.

Ruskin and Simitian must know this. They must also know that the Peninsula's tax base is finite, and that in an era where core city services are imperiled, perhaps it might not be the best use of local tax dollars to buy a tunnel for a few people when libraries, schools, and hospitals are in need.

What's at the heart of the NIMBY and "tunnel or nothing" attitudes? A mistaken but powerful belief that anything that divides cities is inherently negative or destructive to neighborhoods and the city as a whole:

Greater East San Carlos group president Ben Fuller said his neighborhood feels isolated from the city's downtown because of the Holly Street grade separation along El Camino Real, built in the late 1990s. He added that nearby sidewalks have been narrowed, making it difficult to walk through the area, and that noise and vibrations near the tracks have increased since they were elevated.

"What they chose to do is literally just separate us from everybody else," Fuller said. "We just want to be part of 'The City of Good Living,' " he said, referring to the city's motto.

And while city officials say the majority of residents favor the Holly Street rail bridge — which has improved safety and traffic flow — the east neighborhood group says its special interests as direct neighbors of the rail line should be heard. The group has found friends in neighborhoods such as Felton Gables in Menlo Park and Charleston Meadows in Palo Alto, which also lie next to the tracks, and they hope that together their voices will be louder as a regional group.

First, it's pretty amusing that even though the Holly Street rail bridge has improved conditions in the city, a few people are convinced it is somehow a negative. Fuller hasn't explained how literal separation means that East San Carlos is somehow not a part of the rest of the city. Are they being deliberately denied city services? Are they being denied business and jobs? Are they being denied representation? Fuller assumes that we should take his claims at face value, but to be honest, I'm not seeing anything here that makes me feel for his position.

I'm no stranger to this issue. I grew up in a city in Orange County - Tustin - divided in two by Interstate 5.

View Tustin divided in a larger map

The area to the south of the 5, which has no name but is sometimes known as South Tustin, sometimes seems separate from the rest of the city. But in practice the freeway isn't that much of a barrier. We learned to adapt to it. If you have friends south of the freeway, as I did, or if your church was south of the freeway, as ours was, you just drove under the overpass. Sometimes we walked to a friend's house south of the freeway from our high school, just north of the freeway. No big deal. Even when the freeway was widened in 1992 and the structure made wider and taller, you didn't let it change your habits.

I currently live in a city divided into four parts by various natural and man-made features. Monterey has at least four distinct neighborhoods:

View Monterey divided in a larger map

I live in New Monterey, the neighborhood that runs uphill from Cannery Row (signified by the blue pin). We're wedged between Pacific Grove and the Presidio of Monterey, which cuts us off from the rest of Monterey. Ours is a very distinct neighborhood, but it is vibrant and thriving. Sure, it can be inconvenient to get downtown on days where there's lots of tourist traffic, but we manage. Our neighborhood doesn't suffer because of it.

Lake El Estero is another divider in Monterey, separating the older downtown (dating to 1770, signified by the red pin) and the neighborhood immediately to the east. And that in turn is separated by Highway 1, a freeway built through town in the 1960s. North Monterey is the neighborhood beyond Highway 1 (green pin), and that is indeed cut off from the rest of Monterey, and generally neglected by city government.

But is that a causal factor? North Monterey and New Monterey are physically separated from the city center. But whereas New Monterey is vibrant with thriving businesses and a high perception of quality of life, North Monterey has none of these things. I wouldn't ascribe that to the freeway, however. The problems are based in class and bad urban design. North Monterey, located just across Laguna Grande from Seaside, is a diverse low-income community built in the 1950s and 1960s. There's no real community center, and North Fremont Boulevard is full of strip malls and doesn't serve as the thriving commercial center Lighthouse Avenue is here in New Monterey. City government apparently hasn't done much to try and apply better urban design principles to North Monterey and it doesn't have a whole lot in the way of city services.

That was the case prior to the freeway, and persists not because of the freeway, but because the small population of North Monterey is generally disempowered anyway because of size, lack of an economic base (New Monterey has Cannery Row), and lower income. Monterey can and should devote more attention to this neighborhood, but the freeway doesn't make that impossible.

If you look at most cities in California, America, or the world, you'll see they're divided by any number of features, natural and man-made. Every city has neighborhoods, and in every city there is political jockeying among them for resources, tax dollars, services, and jobs.

Especially on the Peninsula, where a rail corridor has divided cities for a century and a half. I'm sure that if those tracks weren't already there, and Caltrain proposed to build them, Menlo Park and Palo Alto and every other city would flip out and raise all kinds of objections. Yet now they defend the existing tracks - because they found a way to keep their cities together in spite of - and perhaps because of - the tracks.

This notion that an above-grade structure that can be built elegantly is some kind of city-killer is totally absurd, especially when there's already a rail corridor there. Cities and neighborhoods can and should work to ensure that these structures, as with a creek or a university or a large park, do not prevent different neighborhoods from getting different treatment. Nor should they prevent the different neighborhoods from being effectively integrated - otherwise there would be four Montereys, two Tustins, a hundred Los Angeleses, and so on.

If "omg you're going to divide our city!!!" is all that these Peninsula residents have...then I see absolutely no reason to let their objections shape HSR implementation policy. They can find ways to manage, as numerous other cities have. If this was a totally new ROW, or if a large number of homes were to be demolished, then they might have a point. But it isn't. They have successfully managed the existing rail corridor. They can do so with an above-grade solution. The only thing holding them back is their own preconceived 20th century automobile-centric notions of what a good city or neighborhood is like. If they want to pay for that preconceived notion, well, it's their money. But if they think the rest of us will pay for it, they are not in touch with reality.


Spokker said...

I've always felt that NIMBYs were people who wanted to experience the benefits of a project but none of the costs. The progressive Bay Area is all for mass transit, mobility, and the environment as long as all that crap is somewhere else.

Fire up the Range Rover, little Joshua needs to go to soccer practice.

Tony D. said...

I said it once and I'll say it again: Tunnel, or trench, HSR and upgraded Caltrain in those communities that continue to fight HSR/the vast majority of voters. In exchange, no Caltrain stations in those communities and lumbering freight tracks can remain at-grade, the way they like it. Money is saved by leaving the freight tracks at-grade and by not having to rebuild Caltrain stations in those communities.

Morris Brown said...

Well Robert has reached a new low in credibility and knowledge with this rant. Also I think a new high is length of this post.

It certainly won't be Robert who will determine how the project will be built and how it will affect the communities through which it passes. Thank heavens in California we have a legal system and CEQA.

Having talked with a number of our State legislators, none of them took this unbelievable attitude. In point of fact they all stated the project must be done right and I was told on several occasion that being a NIMBY should not deter anyone in stating their views.

In point of fact, I feel Fuller and his group make a big mistake by trying so hard to avoid being labeled as NIMBYs. They have valid arguments every right to have their say.

Believe me, the financial viability of the project has many more problems than just tunneling on the Peninsula. Financially the project is a joke.

The only way they could build build this project on the cost estimates they threw out last year would be to import a couple hundred thousand workers from the far east, pay them 2 dollars a day, house them in tent camps. That's not gong to happen and they are not going to be able to build the first segment of the project for less than 2 to 3 times their original projections.

Both Ruskin and Simitian were co-sponsors of AB-3034. I doubt that either of them is going to go against the Democratic party mantra about this project and start opposing it. The best than that can be obtained is to have them make sure the project is "done right". "Done right" doesn't mean destroying whole communities and their quality of life.

Brandon in California said...

NIMBY's lack credibility because they are 'me' type people... voicing their 'no' positions because a project affects themself or property... with no regard for project benefits to the whole. Essentially, everyone and everything be damned lest a project affects them.

YIMBY's are project proponents.

I don't feel groups supporting a particular EIS/EIR alternative because it has fewer impacts than other alternatives and trying to relable themselves as YIMBY's are actually YIMBY's. They are obfuscating things to appear unbiased... when in fact they are not.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Morris, how exactly do you plan to pay for a tunnel? I am doubtful either Ruskin or Simitian offered their own solutions to this. You know as well as I do that the money to pay for a tunnel doesn't exist. It's incumbent upon you, as it is for all tunnel supporters, to identify a funding source.

Some have done so, such as the Palo Alto group proposing selling development rights to the land above the tunnel. What of Menlo Park? What of Atherton?

As to the rest of my post, it is long, but it sets out some key points I will be coming back to with some frequency. They are:

1. Tunnel-or-nothing is NIMBYism under a different name

2. Tunnel proponents are obligated to identify a credible funding source, and state/federal contributions are highly unlikely to be a part of it

3. Negative impacts on neighborhoods and cities must be demonstrated and not asserted.

4. A physical structure does not alone produce negative impacts - physical structures are inanimate objects imbued with meaning by human beings. Most cities have to face the issue of features that divide its landscape, as I chronicled in this post. HSR above grade is not an onerous imposition that cannot be mitigated.

Ari said...

There are certainly certain grade separations which divide communities, and certainly those which do not. It seems to hinge, amongst many other things, as to whether the grade separation follows an existing separation. The highways built in, generally, the 1950s, are one of the best examples.

Such roads were generally built to follow the paths of least resistance. These generally were either existing rights-of-way (railroads), underutilised commercial/industrial areas or, far too often, low-to-moderate income minority neighborhoods.

When a freeway paralleled an existing ROW, it often had a smaller effect than when it sliced through an existing neighborhood. First of all, land takings were generally smaller, although certainly still often significant. Secondly, the nearby residents were used to the barrier and often noise, so the new source of barrier and noise didn't add too much to the din. The real atrocities of inner-city planning came when freeways took miles of blocks of established housing, put a noisy freeway in a trench, and displaced whole communities, throwing neighbourhoods for several blocks in any direction.

Now, of course, in the case of the PCJPB ROW on which HSR would run, there is an existing right-of-way with frequent and noisy rail service, and land takings would be very minimal. I'd surmise that there would be few major changes with grade separations, other than, perhaps, fewer grade crossings.

NIMLT said...

Me thinks the HSR Poseur doth protest too much. Robert, that little Merc piece hit you where it hurts eh?

What you failed to point out is what the article pointed out, which is precisely that the opposition is spreading well beyond a few NIMBYs" who are going to get screwed. We've now got on record opposition from Willow Glen to San Carlos, with San Mateo's city council who is unanimously in great favor of HSR. Tunneled. (Which I thought was a super funny development reported on this week by the way.)

Go ahead Robert, keep ranting and raving about the NIMBY's who are ruining everything! , Meanwhile the rational folk are saying, (have been saying from the beginning) what the hell are they thinking - you don't put high speed rail lines through the middle of suburban neighborhoods - they belong on freeway corridors and in open space. They enter big cities briefly at station stops, they move underground when the they intersect population centers. It rational, its , and you Robert are the only one stark raving off his rocker about WAY NO HOW - because guess what - you know damn well that CHSRA botched this thing with their ridiculously wrong route decisions, their ridiculously wrong preliminary design ideas (in program EIR), and their resultant ridiculously lowballed costs, which now will never ever in a million years be feasible. Unless you can somehow convince about 20 communities up and down the Peninsula to allow themselves to be completely trashed. No, Robert, its you who's completely wrong. The sooner you start helping CHSRA right its wrongs, and get realistic about either how this MUST be done right, or find a different route they can actually afford, the sooner you MIGHT (maybe) be able to help salvage the concept at all. You're right about one thing - doing it right WILL be death knell to the project, as its been so arrogantly and incompetently put forth CHSRA so far. The longer you lay on the ground throwing tantrums over how DARE they require this to be done right - the longer you prolong the inevitable. Its just that simple.

NIMLT said...

And factually speaking, its the project, not the victimized communities, which is required to put in place appropriate mitigations for its impacts. Noise, aesthetic, community separation, economic loss, damage to natural and historic resources - all these, and more, are relevent impacts that must be mitigated by law. I'm sorry, but its CHSR, not the victims, who are going to have fund doing it right. If CHSRA geniuses can't figure out how to engineer or fund a tunnel - then they're barking up the wrong real estate. I'd recommend checking about 2-50 miles east.

Anonymous said...

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. --Spock

Dr. Andrew W. MacDonald said...


You are right that this project should be done correctly. I think everyone would rather see the project have the full support of Peninsula communities because of elegant solutions tailored to each city's need.

HOWEVER, people rightly ridicule your group because:

1) You overstate your claims:
a) There will be no significant impact on historical buildings; Clem and others have pointed out that the amount of takings required to build HSR is tiny
b) There will be no significant impact on natural resources. I mean really. Almost all the track will be on an already existing rail corridor - how does that damage natural resources? In fact, because the line will be electrified, the air quality along the corridor should improve greatly
c) There will be no significant increase in noise. With the end of at grade crossings, it will eliminate the FRA-required 100 dB horn blowing that goes on throughout the day in residential communities. While faster trains make more noise, this is easily mitigated.
d) Economic loss. This is the most preposterous yet. HSR will allow more actual connectivity within communities by eliminating at grade crossings. Not to mention the economic boon of faster Caltrain commutes and access to HSR that can take you to the state's most populated areas in a matter of a couple of hours.

So what you've got left is community separation and aesthetics. That leads to:

2. Most people, when the primary concern would be aesthetics and community divide, would probably want to take a look at their options, which will be fleshed out in the analysis of alternatives, before going the route of full-throated opposition. That's not to say that residents shouldn't be engaged and looking to work with the program to find acceptable alternatives of course.


In the end, NIMBYs have a bad name because they'll use any argument they can think of to try and get the project from being built in their area. The goal for them is to kill the project, not to get adequate mitigation. They'll throw up as many roadblocks and things that need to be mitigated as possible in the hope of not getting the project built. They'll also make ridiculous claims about the amount of change and damage the project will cause, again, to try and get the project killed. And they will accuse anyone on the project of "dealing in bad faith" because they had the temerity to propose something. It's almost a persecution complex. Ultimately, it's a fundamentally dishonest stance to take.

I know there are a lot of people in Palo Alto that are genuinely concerned and are honest brokers here, so I'm not including them. But from what you've written, you sound like a classic NIMBY. No amount of mitigation will ever satisfy you - you just want it dead. That's not working in good faith.

BruceMcF said...

A bridge in Ohio? The entire funding request for getting the Triple-C funded is $250m. For the $b's needed to dig the Suburban Subway, the whole Ohio Hub could be built in one project, 110mph at launch.

And an earmark to build a "Suburban Subway for Silicon Valley" ... that's David Letterman and Jay Leno territory.

BruceMcF said...

NIMLT said...
"And factually speaking, its the project, not the victimized communities, which is required to put in place appropriate mitigations for its impacts. Noise, aesthetic, community separation, economic loss, damage to natural and historic resources ..."

Community separation: no build scenario, increasing Caltrain service on the line following electrification, impact, increased community separation. Build scenario, grade separations, impact, reduced community separation.

A community pushing for an even better impact would push for additional pedestrian/cycle access that is presently blocked.

Noise: No build option, loud horns at each grade crossing, diesel trains. Build option, electric trains operating at higher speed.

A community pushing for an even better impact will push for additional sound mitigation in the build option.

Economic loss. No build option, the transport options remain the same, increasingly congested if there is population growth in the region and the state. Build option, new regional and inter-regional transport capacity is available.

A community pushing to maximize its economic benefit would be fighting to have the HSR station, or failing that to host a Caltrain Express station for best connection to the Peninsula HSR station.

Damage to historic and natural resources. No build option: continued emissions damage. Build option: emissions damage reduced, no other impact.

It really is a list of benefits to the area on the build option side, versus the aesthetics of the build option on the other. For each Pensinula town as a whole, as opposed to specific properties adjacent to the line, its a net win even with an ugly build option, but that's no reason for giving up the fight to make the build option as aesthetically inoffensive as possible.

Rafael said...

Perhaps it would be useful to inject some facts into this discussion. As Clem pointed out in his Focus on San Carlos, that particular community was fully grade separated in the 1990s, but the effort did not anticipate quad tracking of the alignment. That means slightly elevated additional bridges will be needed to either side to maintain vertical clearances for the road underpasses.

Here are Google Street View images of the four grade separations in San Carlos, from north to south:

1. road underpass at Holly Street

2. bike/pedestrian underpass at Arroyo Ave

3. road underpass at Brittan Ave

4. road underpass at Howard Ave

As you can see, the rails run on an embankment and the underpasses feature mostly traffic lanes and narrow sidewalks.

Objectively, the town is no more bisected by the railroad tracks than it was before. Indeed, the grade separations have made it a lot easier and safer to cross the ROW. And the sidewalks were narrowed because hardly anyone used them anyhow: you have to cross El Camino Real, the Caltrain ROW and Old County Road to get from one side to the other, a 200 ft divide.

The real objection here is twofold:

a) the solid embankment is a visual and therefore psychological barrier. Emotionally, it reinforces the sense of division that had already existed prior to grade separation.

b) the implementation of the embankment and underpasses was bare-bones, utilitarian but with only minimal attempts at making them look nice. Again, an emotional aversion.

Conclusion: rational arguments aren't in doubt here, it's all about the emotional reaction, because perception is reality. It has a significant impact on real estate values.

No-one in San Carlos laments no longer having to wait at grade crossings. No-one pines for the old the bells and horns. No-one is eager to see another horrific accident involving a car or truck.

Similarly, no-one in Palo Alto is arguing that grade separation would make the crossings any less safe. The issue is that one specific type of grade separation, the retained fill embankment, has a very industrial look and feel. It's not architecture, it looks and feels cheap.

An elevated solution featuring graceful arches, white instead of grey surfaces, a tiled floor with some large potted plants, some water features, perhaps some cafes etc. is not just visually lighter, it also creates bike/pedestrian space and just generally ritzier. Not as ritzy as a quad track tunnel, but then it's not as if Caltrain and UPRR are boosting the value of nearby real estate today. You can ask for the moon, but that doesn't mean you're going to get it.

Like it or not, CHSRA will need to spend more in areas where the real estate is more expensive, otherwise it will face a slew of reverse condemnation suits. How much more is subject to negotiation, I think it's entirely reasonable for cities to chip in if there is a functional/perceived gain beyond grade separation for them.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "As you can see, the rails run on an embankment and the underpasses feature mostly traffic lanes and narrow sidewalks.

Objectively, the town is no more bisected by the railroad tracks than it was before.

As a cycle commuter, I can't say without experience whether I'd rather ride El Camino Real or Old County Road, but whichever it is, if its on the "wrong" side of the tracks, using an underpass to get back and forth to the better one is a pain, since they channel traffic, drivers get stupid when there is concrete in their peripheral vision, and narrow sidewalks under underpasses are useless because they collect all the debris swept off the road surface by the cars.

But for that, the amenity is dedicated non-motor vehicle underpasses, wide enough to seperate cycle and foot traffic.

Now that is something that local communities should be badgering and complaining and whining to CHSRA to include as part of the ROW upgrade.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

agreed, more and separate bike/ped underpasses would be welcome. Of course, if you build a low viaduct instead of a retained fill embankment, bikes and pedestrians can use the shaded space underneath the tracks and avoid the frontage roads - a "paseo ferrocarril", if you will.

Nice in winter when it rains, nice it summer when it's 90+ degrees out in the sun.

Anonymous said...

A handful of citizens expressing concern over HSR at scoping meetings does not equate to widespread opposition of the project. Don't loose site of the fact that a vast majority of state and Bay Area citizens still support HSR. Nice attempt at spin there buddy!

Bay Area Resident said...

Burlingame demanding a tunnel now. So, its official the entire bay area stretch from San Jose to Burlingame is demanding a tunnel. Well golly nobody saw that coming now did they?

Why, oh why can't these people just see that Caltrain already divides their neighborhoods DAMMIT! Why can't they see that? Just because Caltrain runs a schedule of about 6 trains per day on weekends going 35mph, vs HSRs 18 trains per hour going 125mph?

Bay Area Resident said...

Anonymous, sorry but there is widespread opposition to this on the peninsula and south bay which is why the mercury news has an entire dedicated section now to the "CONTROVERSIAL PROJECT" of HSR and an article every day. Emphasis: CONTROVERSIAL, meaning widespread opposition.

Bay Area Resident said...

You know as well as I do that the money to pay for a tunnel doesn't exist. It's incumbent upon you, as it is for all tunnel supporters, to identify a funding source.

Umm no. the program EIR contained a bunch of whacked out assumptions like no noise impacts to homes/businesses that were over 100 ft away from the ROW. The opposition obviously knows how to play this game, and in the neighborhood-led scoping comments that I saw, there were carefully worded questions such as 1)evaluate the impacts to 80 year old homes 200 ft away, 300 ft away, 400 ft away, 500 ft away, etc. Will foundations be damaged in areas featuring liquefaction due to construction. What about plaster, etc.

these questions are intended to force emminent domain payouts in vast excess to what CHSRA is planning for now. And by law, CHSRA will have to pay for those impacts. The entire problem with this project from DAY ONE is that CHSRA has a plan for this but does not want to pay the true costs and instead is thrusting those costs onto homeowners and cities, or trying to. Based on the scoping comments I saw they will not be successful.

Bay Area Resident said...

Andrew McDonald,

There will be no significant impact on historical buildings; Clem and others have pointed out that the amount of takings required to build HSR is tiny

Right. Of course, due to the expense of bay area real estate CHSRA would like to take as little as possible. But that has nothing to do with what the **REALISTIC** impacts are from this train. CHSRA has claimed in its program level EIR that 1)there will be no noise impacts over 100 ft from the ROW, 2) that the caltrain corridor is an existing major transportation corridor and therefore, HSR impacts will either improve or maintain those corridors and 3) noise mitigations have been lowered ONE FULL PERCENTAGE POINT from high to medium or medium to low due to the lack of HORNS used by HST.

I will submit to you, that each of these claims above made by CHSRA is inherently false as it pertains to the peninsula or south bay. I will be willing to give CHSRA the benefit of the doubt, because the program level EIR is not specific to these neighborhoods. But once the project EIRs are released, we'd better start seeing realistic IMPACTS for any structure within 600 feet of the right of way - these would be HIGH IMPACTS and if not eligible for a taking, will need to represent significant compensation for current property owners, or else get ready for lawsuit-a-palooza.

mike said...

No worries, the good people of Menlo Park like dividing barriers in their communities. That's why they are fighting to rip out the only dedicated bike/ped crossing over 101 in the entire city:

Clearly the problem with grade separations is that they improve access across the rail corridor. That's a very bad might give "undesirable" people easier access to your neighborhood!

Just eliminate the close the streets altogether and they should go for it (or at least, whichever side of the tracks has a higher average income will go for it).

mike said...

@BAR - I'm still waiting for you to take me up on my bet about clocking Caltrains with a radar gun. Come on, stop posting complete bull**it that you don't dare stand behind in real life.

Bianca said...

BayAreaResident: Caltrain runs a schedule of about 6 trains per day on weekends going 35mph

We have gone over this before. Caltrain runs 32 trains per day on Saturdays, and 28 trains per day on Sundays. And, although you insist they run at 35mph, in the reality-based world they run at 79mph. This is in addition to the 100+ trains that run every day Monday through Friday. And that's just Caltrain, I'm not including the freight service that UPRR runs in the wee hours.

You can keep repeating that very few trains run on those tracks, but that isn't the case. Continuing to insist otherwise will prompt me to suggest that instead of "NIMBY" we instead use the term "flat-earther."

Anonymous said...

First of all, Burlingame isn't demanding tunneling, its their recommendation to the CHSRA. Second, you know damn well the press likes to blow news out of proportion. In your/the press' world, 50 people protesting out of 58,000 equates to "widespread opposition.". Boy pal, you need help!

Dr. Andrew W. MacDonald said...


Ugh. I remember when I lived on Placitas Avenue in the unincorporated area just north of Menlo Park. My roommates and I used to let many of the immigrant and mostly Mexican labor pass through the property on their bicycles to get to their jobs.

That is, until the neighbors freaked out and demanded that we not allow those 'criminals' access to Menlo Park and Atherton. One of the neighbors actually, in the middle of the night, came and nailed the gate door shut that let them through.

Don't tell me that NIMBY opposition in these areas isn't at least, in part, about the 'undesireables'.

Bay Area Resident said...

Andrew McDonald, is the opposition to this train in the Spanish speaking areas of San Jose also about the "undesirables"?

Face it, there is not one community in Northern Ca where there isn't significant local opposition to this train except San Francisco (where there is yet another controversy LOL), despite the fact that CHSR claims every community impacted will by the HST will either be IMPROVED or maintained by grade separations and lack of horns. haha. I guess the residents aren't as thrilled with the horn removal as CHSR is.

Bay Area Resident said...

Here's the schedule. Every half hour during the day and every hour in the evening. Every hour or every 2 hours on weekends.

From wikipedia the entire line is 49.1 mi from 4th and king to Tamien in San Jose.

The faster express trains could overtake slower local trains at the two locations where bypass tracks were installed. As a result, the travel time between San Francisco and San Jose for the express service is 57 minutes, a savings of 33 minutes compared to the 1 hour and 30 minutes for the local service.

57 minutes for a 49.1 distance service, at PEAK speeds according to wikipedia, where there are only 3 stops outside of Tamien and SF.

Please, stop the charade that this train barrels through all the neighborhoods at 79mph. Nobody is buying it, the facts don't bear it out, and it is just folly.

BruceMcF said...

Bay Area Resident said...
"57 minutes for a 49.1 distance service, at PEAK speeds according to wikipedia, where there are only 3 stops outside of Tamien and SF.

Please, stop the charade that this train barrels through all the neighborhoods at 79mph. Nobody is buying it, the facts don't bear it out, and it is just folly.

57 minutes ... why, that's just about an hour. And 49.1 miles ... real close to 50 miles.

zOMG, that's 50mph!!! Not 79mph!!! average!!!

Is the strategy now to try to confuse people by waiting until a newer post is put up, in hope nobody who knows better sees what was posted and responds?

A 50mph AVERAGE proves one thing beyond doubt ... that the train spends a substantial amount of time running substantially faster than 50mph, because it moves 0mph at stops, and is faced with various speed limits along the route.

And, yes, the way that the "Baby Bullet cut half an hour off the previous schedule was by Caltrain putting in improved signaling and bypass tracks at a couple of local stations so that the Baby Bullet could pass locals, and then establishing an express that can at 79mph for longer intervals on its route.

Because someone who understands what AVERAGE means will know that achieving an AVERAGE speed means the time spent below that average has to be balanced by time spent above that average.

Now, unless you are arguing that the Caltrain Baby Bullets go from 4th and King to SFO/Millbrea at 79mph all the way in order to let it can run slow through the Peninsula, your own numbers show that your argument is nonsense.

And, really, whether you have been misled or are trying to deliberately mislead is neither here nor there ... you are without a doubt incorrect.

K.T. said...

What you are saying is true, if you are only looking at northbound or southbound. If you sum up the number of trains in both northbound and southbound, the total train number in Saturday and Sunday will be same as what Bianca said; 32 for Saturday and 28 for Sunday.

As for the speed issue, here is my analysis, with following as the source:

Following are the assumptions:
-Trainset I used for this analysis is Baby Bullet#305, Northbound Weekday Service (this one is one with fewest stop between SF and SJ Diridon)
-Although train will be spending some time at the station, I did not considered that time for determining the train's average speed between the stations.

SJ Diridon to Mountain View -Postmile 47.5 to 36.1
-5:45am to 5:57am
-11.4 miles in 12 min, average speed is 57 mph

Mountain View to Palo Alto
-Postmile 36.1 to 30.1
-5:57am to 6:05am
-6.0 miles in 8 min, average speed is 45 mph

Palo Alto to Hillsdale
-Postmile 30.1 to 20.3
-6:05am to 6:16am
-9.8 miles in 11 min, average speed is 53.5 mph

Hillsdale to Milbrae
-Postmile 20.3 to 13.7
-6:16am to 6:24am
-6.6 miles in 8 min, average speed is 49.5 mph

Milbrae to SF
-Postmile 13.7 to 0.2
-6:24am to 6:42am
-13.5 miles in 18 min, average speed is 45 mph

Overall average from SJ Diridon to SF:
-47.3 miles in 57 min, average speed is 49.8 mph.

This calcultion is for baby bullet between SF and SJ Diridon, but same procedure can be used to determine the train's average speed between two adjacent stations with the weekend schedule.

Acceleration and Deceleration values of current Caltrain Train sets are 1.6mph/sec and 1.8mph/sec, respectively, according to the pdf document I linked above. This value seems to be the catalog spec, or the maximum acceleration/deceleration possible, so I did not use this value to determine the peak velocity between stations using acceleration>coast>deceleration model. However, the average speed between SF and SJ dirion includes acceleration, deceleration, and stop at the stations, which will be lower than the average velocity. Therefore, when train is on coast, it should be traveling much faster than the average velocity.

I agree that baby bullet is not traveling 79mph from the beginning to the end. However, when the train is on coast, it should be traveling with the speed closer to 79mph than 49.6 mph. FYI, Japanese shinkansen can accelerate up to 300 km/hr, but the average operating speed between Tokyo Station and Hakata Station is still around 230km/hr.

This argument would make more sense if we are talking about specific neighborhood. That way, we should be able to estimate existing Caltrain/Baby Bullet's speed in that location, and use High Speed Rail's speed (max. 125mph) in comparison.

I think I wrote this in the old comment, but I will write it one more time...When talking about speed of the train, there are at least 5 different kinds, so we better not get confused by comparing one with the other, which is completely different.

1. Maximum Operating Speed
2. Maximum Train Speed
3. Operating Average Velocity
4. Speed at the specific location
5. Design Maximum Speed which track can handle

For noise mitigation and other mitigation measures, CAHRA should use #4 as the comparison between pre- and post-project condition in their updated EIR/EIS.

crzwdjk said...

I've said it several times before, and I'll say it again: why exactly is HSRA focusing on the Peninsula part of the route? It's probably the least important part of the line. LA-Bakersfield should be the first priority, because it's both difficult technically, and a major missing link. Leave the Bay Area alone for a while, quietly give Caltrain some money for electrification and maybe a few minor improvements, and wait until the rest of the HSR network is almost done to start building on the Peninsula. Since the tracks are there, and after Caltrain electrification, there might even be some spare capacity, it's not even necessary to finish the Peninsula line for the start of service. They can time construction of the various improvements to coincide with the ramping up of the HSR service.

Bay Area Resident said...

BruceMcF, I am not claiming that Caltrain NEVER runs 79mph. I believe it does- on the stretch past Santa Clara before Sunnyvale, and the portion north of San Bruno, for two. Those are areas where there are no homes. I know for a fact these towns have negotiated with Caltrain to lower the rate the trains go through the towns, but this apparently is not documented. In Burlingame it is about 40mph, and in San Jose it is 35mph. Caltrain does not slow to this speed for long distances but it does go slowly through the same towns that are complaining about HSR today. It is not in Caltrains best interest to publish these speeds because it would discourage baby bullet ridership because it is slower than cars and because it will give the anti-HSR people another bone to pick. But anybody that lives in these towns KNOWS the trains slow down, and that is one of the reasons for all the hysteria about HSR on the peninsula, especially since CHSR is claiming 125mph trains as an *improvement* in the areas.

Brandon in California said...

I do not know for certain; however, suspect the answer involves a critical timeline path... whereas the phases/steps/stages envisioned to consume the greatest amount of time and effort recieve the needed attention in priority order.

An additional consideration cold be political influence or the CHSRA Board telling staff what to do first.

Eitehr way, I believe the CHSRA has correctly focused on the peninsula region first because it likely will involve more planning, design, and construction efforts relative to other regions. It does not matter if those considerations are correct or not at this point... and the order of plannign phases do not mean the construction efforts will occur int he same order too.

BruceMcF said...

"But anybody that lives in these towns KNOWS the trains slow down"

Of course they slow down at various points in the Peninsula, there are level crossings ... and not quad gated level crossings either.

And anyone looking at a map of the alignment knows that they slow down in much of San Jose and much of San Francisco, because of the curves.

Its just that they speed up again when they can. They cannot possibly be slowing down for the long stretches when passing by one after another Peninsula town, as you argue that they do, and still have a total trip speed of 50mph.

50mph is 62.5% of their maximum speed ... where an hour and a half to go 50 miles is 33mph. To raise the average trip speed from by 17mph, without any higher top speed, they have to go faster than the locals are going when the locals are going under 50mph.

And of course the locals go slow more often than the Baby Bullets ... that's the difference between the two ... the places with lots of local stations, the locals have to keep stopping, and they cannot get up to a high rate of speed, while the Express services can raise their speed over 50mph.

As far as the idea that Caltrain is trying to trick people into thinking that the train is faster than it is ... that is quite mad. Forget the March Hare and the April Fool, that is Mad Hatter Mad.

You can only attract sustained ridership based on the trips you actually provide. Its not possible to gain sustained ridership growth by conning people into thinking you can get them from point A to point B faster than you actually can.

crzwdjk said...

Brandon: I personally think that they've been focusing on the Peninsula because that's an area with representation on the HSRA board (in the form of Kopp and Diridon). Likewise, there's a guy on the board from Anaheim, which is why Anaheim is now in the first phase, and why they've been talking about building the "commuter" parts, meaning SF-SJ and LA-Anaheim, first.

As for engineering challenges... well, on the one hand, there's a 150 mile line, about half of which goes through mountains, and crosses a major earthquake fault along the way. On the other hand... there's an existing railroad line, which will soon be electrified, and which already even has some passing tracks. Consider what happens if they fail: on the Peninsula, HSR trains will have to run at 90 instead of 125, and maybe they'll have somewhat constrained capacity. On LA-Bakersfield, you'd have a shiny new HSR line running at 220 mph through the Central Valley, depositing you at Bakersfield... where you have to transfer to a bus that will slowly crawl up I-5 mixed in with the rest of the traffic.

Bay Area Resident: maybe the train slowed to 35 at Burlingame because of the holdout rule? The way the platforms used to be arranged, if one train was stopped at Burlingame, no trains could pass in the other direction, so opposing trains would slow down and wait for the train to depart.

BruceMcF said...

arcady said... "I've said it several times before, and I'll say it again: why exactly is HSRA focusing on the Peninsula part of the route?"

They need to have some part of the network running running, before they can start issuing revenue bonds. Under the Business Plan, Prop 1A and Federal funding will be supplemented by private participation, but if they get close enough, and are in a position to issue revenue bonds, then shortfall on that side would not be fatal.

Of course, they need EIR/EIS process finished for any section of the route that they would be issuing revenue bonds for.

So there's no reason to delay the EIR/EIS process.

At the same time, the Caltrain corridor has a strong case for general Federal matching funds in its own right, and any section they can get Federal funding at an 80:20 match puts the project finances cuts the total private participation or revenue bonding they would need for Stage 1.

AFAICT, the Peninsula and LA to Anaheim are the two longest sections that could be shared with regional rail services.

They also put pressure on the FRA to make regulatory decisions on mixed traffic sooner rather than later, and firm regulatory decisions reduce uncertainty so reduce the financing cost, whether private or revenue bonds.

If they are caught short on up front financing for all of Stage 1, they can decide which of the two long tunnels to complete and get a section up and running through the CV to one of the ends, which would nail down the basis for revenue bonds.

But in any event, they'd want to have the two end points that have a chance at Federal matching funds on a free standing basis to be cleared through EIR/EIS as soon as possible ... its good for the financing all around, both in terms of reducing outstanding regulatory risk and in terms of the percentage of the route miles already completed when going to the market for either private participation or for revenue bonding.

On the tunneling, its a lot easier to cope with surprises in the construction of a tunnel with access to additional finance than it is to cope with a shortfall in finance with access to additional tunnel construction.

crzwdjk said...

The only case where the order in which things are built matters for funding is when there's a chance that there won't be enough funding to build everything. And if that's the case, it's pretty clear that you want to spend your money on building the most profitable subset of the line. SF-SJ and LA-Anaheim are, taken alone, clearly not those parts. How do we know this? Well, Caltrain and Metrolink don't make money, and running HSR trains would only provide a fairly small time savings. Maybe they'd get 70% revenue recovery instead of 50, but definitely not enough to put it over the top. So where else should we look? Natural bottlenecks are a very good place to make money from transportation: it's no coincidence that BART's most popular line runs through the mountains and across the bay. There are two major mountain passes on the HSR route: Pacheco and Tehachapi. Tehachapi has several advantages over Pacheco: it's closer to the end of the line, and that end is the LA end. LA is a considerably bigger metropolitan region than the Bay Area, and Union Station has more and better onward connections than both Transbay and San Jose put together. From Union Station, you can go to Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire. Furthermore, completing LA-Bakersfield allows for an all-rail route between LA and the Bay Area, with the San Joaquins providing service to Oakland in 6 hours and Sacramento in 5 hours. The relatively low-risk and NIMBY-free extension to Fresno would cut another hour and 20 minutes off the above times, and link LA directly to another sizable regional center. And who knows, maybe that would give them enough revenue to sell more revenue bonds.