Saturday, May 30, 2009

Better Modeling of the Above-Grade Peninsula Caltrain/HSR Project

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

One of the most unfortunate parts of the debate on the Caltrain/HSR project on the Peninsula is the lack of accurate information. NIMBYs and other project opponents have already convinced many people that an above-grade solution would be a sort of "Berlin Wall" through the city, and Jim McFall's video reinforces that errant conclusion. The problem is that McFall's video has been the only attempt to visualize what the corridor would look like with above-grade tracks.

Until now.

Mike, who brought us the point by point refutation of the notorious Cox-Vranich HSR denier report last year, is back to inject some sense and fact into the debate over HSR. He has put together a YouTube video of simulations of the Churchill Avenue crossing in Palo Alto - including the existing at-grade model, the proposed CHSRA above-grade solution, and the flawed McFall model. Mike added authentic sounds of the crossing - a recording of Caltrain crossing at-grade, and of the Acela. Here's the video:

You can see clearly that McFall's model is misleading on several counts. He has the dimensions all wrong - the structure is higher in McFall's model than is actually proposed, and the catenary poles are too densely packed together. More importantly, McFall's video doesn't include existing landscaping that would mitigate much of the visual impact of an above-grade solution. There are no trees in the McFall video, whereas Mike's video makes clear that trees are indeed part of the solution.

The results of misleading misinformation on the Caltrain/HSR project (such as the McFall video) could be seen in Atherton on Thursday night, where a crowd came to speak in favor of the city's avowed "tunnel or nothing" stance:

Duncan Jones, Atherton's public works director, laid out the town's case for both joining the lawsuit and still participating in the high-speed rail planning process. "We need to hedge our bets," he said.

Mr. Jones, a former rail consultant, said that the town's fallback position -- if the route doesn't change, put the high-speed trains in a tunnel, rather than on a raised berm -- isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.

The rail corridor in Atherton is lined by expensive homes, and widening it to accommodate high-speed rail would require purchasing swaths of private property.

"When (the authority) looks at all of the costs and impacts, they may find out that going underground may be cheaper," Mr. Jones said.

Jones's comments are barely credible. I cannot imagine that buying a few strips of backyard will cost a billion dollars - which would be the minimum estimate for tunneling through Atherton, even with a cut and cover model. The San Jose Mercury News article on the meeting noted that Hatch Mott MacDonald executives estimated a tunnel through Atherton would cost:

A tunnel on the Peninsula would likely follow the same model as the San Jose BART extension, Townsend said, because both areas have soft ground. A high-speed rail tunnel would likely cost somewhere between $100 million to $250 million per mile, compared to less than $100 million for an at-grade system, he said.

I have a difficult time imagining that the cost of eminent domain for a few backyards would be $100 million. I am also skeptical of the lowball cost of an HSR tunnel that Townsend offered, but even if these estimates are accurate, it represents a doubling of the cost of building on the Peninsula.

Such is the fact-free nature of the debate on the Peninsula, unfortunately. Let's hope Mike's more accurate animation gets spread far and wide, and that people on the Peninsula can actually make informed choices about the Caltrain/HSR project.


Aaron said...

I'm generally glad that videos are being put out there, and my knowledge of these things is basically zero, but I might recommend that he remove one of the trees just so people can see what the real height is. Having said that, he's correct to note that the structure will probably be blocked by trees, so maybe a "slide" with a tree removed and then the image as it is now would be appropriate.

Ze Ace said...

Awesome video, thanks Mike. Way better than the other one.

Anonymous said...

Never underestimate the power of lies, especially amongst wealthy entitled white people on the Peninsula who feel the government owes them a handout.

To hell with their lies and bullshit. They are all a pack of welfare queens living off of Bush's tax cuts and the low wages of their employees and their lies.

Anonymous said...

What about sound walls?

Would there be any?

How high would they be in relation to what is shown?

The noise is quieter, but presumably, there would be noise every 5 minutes - so sound walls might be needed.

political_i said...

Anon @ 10:59. Trains every 5 minutes might be what the future holds but not currently. Sound walls in an elevated alignment might be a better investment for the community versus trying to place the rails underground. A cut and cover tunnel would require more property being taken and disruption with current service. These unprofessional sketch ups are beginning to seep into the minds of the NIMBYs and there needs to be a response on what a grade separated corridor might ACTUALLY look like.

real picture said...

Well Mike can be almost as devious as Diridon and the Authority's board.

Here's a better view, of what Palo Alto and others will be facing, and this is only 2 tracks, we are talking 4 tracks for this project.

Photo Link

Brandon in California said...

At Thursday's public meeting in Atherton:

John Townsend, executive vice president of Hatch Mott MacDonald, said the tunnel would be much more expensive than bringing the trains above ground.

His international firm is also working on the Transbay Terminal and San Jose BART extension.

A tunnel on the Peninsula would likely follow the same model as the San Jose BART extension, Townsend said, because both areas have soft ground. A high-speed rail tunnel would likely cost somewhere between $100 million to $250 million per mile, compared to less than $100 million for an at-grade system, he said.
It's not clear if he meant for 1 bore, or a set of bores. Or, if that cost includes trackwork and all other infrastructure necessary to support rail operations. Of note is that Hatch Mott MacDermott constructs tunnels... and it behooves them to make a tunnel scenario look attractive so that they'd get teh work.

But, the current industry rule of thumb is somewhere around $500m per mile for a set of tunnels.

Bay Area Resident said...

First of all, there is no such thing as emminent domain for a BACKYARD. CHSRA buys the entire house, period, UNLESS the resident allows a partial taking, otherwise its CEQA lawsuit city with a ton of $$ tossed in for pain and suffering. So CHSRA better get that through their thick skulls sooner rather than later.

As far as emminent domain in Atherton, menlo etc- the best way to look at that is to use zillow or redfin. Taking an average block in Atherton on the tracks, I am choosing the block between Glenwood and Encinal. There are 13 houses on each side of the street so roughly 23 houses in that block which looks like an average block. Thats a fairly dense block for Atherton, so lets be conservative and chop that in half and say that Lets say 13 houses on average per block with a home price of $3 million each or approx $40 million in emminent domain costs PER BLOCK in Atherton. Lets start from Oak Grove at the start of Menlo Park and count up to 84 in Redwood City. You are roughly looking at 10 blocks, conservatively of housing that would need to be acquired. Some areas like Lindenwood have no formal blocks around the tracks but it backs up to 3 of their blocks in that neighborhood so I counted 3 blocks there. As you are moving North to Redwood City you have lower housing costs but again, I am being conservative in pricing Atherton RE at $3million a pop (many are more) and veering to the low side on density. That $400 million in emminent domain just for Atherton. GROW UP!

bossyman15 said...


whatever you say.

Anonymous said...

Who would pay that kind of money for an old tract house? The picture shown in the photo of an elevated structure is not what is being proposed.

Anonymous said...

@BAR - so what you're telling us is that the videos showing a house crammed against a wall are even MORE incorrect? CHSRA will have to buy entire lots with house included? And then what? Tear down the house and plant even more trees, masking the "wall" even more? Or sell the house, getting some of the "$400 million per block" in Atherton back?

Which is it? You can't have both. Either your cost estimates are ridiculously inflated, or your theories on how the corridor will look are ridiculously wrong.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 10:13am -

sound walls near railroads are typically 8-12 feet tall, depending on the amount of noise shielding required. The lower number applies for elevated tracks near low-rise buildings.

There is no technical reason why sound walls should be implemented entirely in concrete. If the track bed consists of loose ballast, it makes sense to use concrete for the lower 4' or so. Everything above that can be made from suitably thick glass or double glazing. That might double the cost of the wall to ~$2 million/mile but it's peanuts compared to putting tracks underground. Note that sound walls double as fences.

@ political_i -

Caltrain runs 5 trains per hour during peak times on weekdays. That's 5 trains in each direction, ergo 10 trains per 60 minutes. Do the math, you're already at a train every 6 minutes on average today. Perhaps you're not aware of it because you've become accustomed to the bells and horns, but Caltrain alone is looking to double its train volume by 2025 - but only after grade separation, electrification and a switch to much lighter, more aerodynamic trains.

Add to that anywhere from 4-8 HSR trains per hour during peak periods by 2025, with capacity for even more. Again, that's each way.

Whichever way you turn it, you're going to have to implement full grade separation sometime in the next 20 years. With HSR, the state and federal government will pay for it. Otherwise, you will have to get it funded some other way.

As Clem explains in his post "The shape of Palo Alto" over on the Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog, there is no need for an elevated structure, let alone a solid embankment, all through that town. There are only four remaining grade crossings and Alma Street will almost certainly have to become an underpass.

That leaves two short embankment or viaduct sections, one for Churchill Ave and another for E Meadow + Charleston.

@ BAR -

a) there's only one m in eminent

b) eminent domain will only be exercised as a last resort, i.e. where the ROW is less than 75' wide, private negotiations did not lead to a regular sale and alternative implementation options involving track stacking are infeasible or too expensive.

The party exercising eminent domain on behalf of the PCJPB would be the transportation authority of the county in question, i.e. SF Muni, SMCTA or VTA.

Homeowners whose property abuts the railroad right of way or is located nearby have the right to sue for reverse condemnation in an effort to force the railroad to buy their entire property against its will.

The notion that the railroad would feel or be legally compelled to purchase entire blocks of land to either side of the existing tracks is fanciful, given that peninsula towns were planned and built around a somewhat busy railroad, complete with bells, horns and excessively heavy locomotives plus rolling stock with the aerodynamics of a barn.

HSR + Caltrain electrification + switch to lightweight EMUs + full grade separation + optional sound walls will eliminate grade crossing accidents and quite possibly also reduce the SEL (sound exposure level) relative to the status quo. This is doubly true relative to a no-build scenario combined with a doubling of Caltrain traffic alone by 2025.

Moreover, a word of caution. In theory at least, the railroad could also sue homeowners for reverse condemnation if their demands make it impossible for the railroad to fully utilize the land that it already owns and is supposed to use to provide a benefit to the general public. The value of a square foot of railroad ROW is much higher than that of any residential plot, because it is tied to revenue operations over many decades plus the cost of providing alternative transportation capacity.

In the particular case of the SF peninsula, such a turn of events appears very unlikely, but who knows.

BruceMcF said...

BAR: "You are roughly looking at 10 blocks, conservatively of housing that would need to be acquired."

This is silly. Where is the height profile of the Atherton section of the ROW that suggests that 10 blocks worth of elevation are required? Let alone 10 blocks where ROW is required outside the existing boundary?

Here are the Atherton ROW maps ... map 1 (pdf), map 2 (padf) ... give the locations on the map where there are 10 blocks of takings required in Atherton? Heck, there are only two roads that require a separation ... the only place that seems remotely plausible is the stretch between Ashfield Road and Maple and Maple Avenue.

$400m seems an awfully steep price tag to sort out new parking for the library.

Anonymous said...

I don't even see anthing on that map that shows anyones property line being crossed. Could someone point out the spot where the ROW crosses anyone property?

Anonymous said...

"---the only place that seems remotely plausible is the stretch between Ashfield Road and Maple and Maple Avenue." and actually if you look more closely on a google earth map even the stretch betweetn ashfield and maple doesn't encroach on any homes. it does appear to brush against a city of atherton building for storing equipment of some kind.

Anonymous said...

But looking at the stretch shown, the HSR row is entirely on railroad property and I do beleive that railroads generally do what they want on their property with no interest in what the neighbors think. historically anyway.

Anonymous said...

Something IS wrong with this elevated berm idea though - After following the the ROW Through Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, I find that there is no reason whatsoever to elevate this row. Lets look at this with some common sense...these are the facts as far as I can see with my own eyes.

1) The existing railroad property is wide enough through the entire stretch, for four tracks without taking any property.

2) Their is a lot of existing foliage which, although it will need to be trimmed back to the railroad property line inside the row, can still be left in place and augmented with addtional foliage and camouflaged sound absorbing wall material.

3) The cross streets, which are the supposed argument for for elevating the train... well, there are only a total of *ten* streets that currently cross the tracks that would need to become underpasses if we do this at grade. They are:

1) Fair Oaks
2) Watkins
3) Encinal
4) Glenwood
5) Oak Grove
6) Ravenswood
7) Palo alto Ave
8) Churchill
9) Meadow
10) Charleston

Now, of those ten streets that would need to be underpassed if we leave the train at the less intrusive grade level rather than the more obnoxious elevated solution, only five pose the problem of interfearing in any meaningful way with adjacent streets or private homes. (Encinal, Glenwood, Churchill, maybe Meadow, and Charleston.

Surely it makes more sense, and would be less expensive to engineer mitigation for these intersections than it would be to elevated the entire stretch. A grade level train is quieter, less obtrusive, and in the case of these particular neighborhoods which are already heavily foliaged, would be very easy to further foliate and sound absorb in a way that would actually make the row more attractive than it is now.

I am the only one who can plainly see this. I mean really - if we all take off our "have it my way" glasses and look at it. It works. It's cheaper, It's quieter and it looks better.

Now of course folks will jump in right away and say "you can't...blah blah blah here and you can't blah blah their" But actually, yes you can, and for less.

resident of MP said...

Well Jim, it is obvious you are no rail planning engineer. I'm not either, but at least I can see the obvious.

To take an example, look further at Ravenswood in Menlo Park. Leave the train at grade and sink the roads? Is that what you are suggesting?

Look a bit further west and you have El Camino. There is no way you can sink Ravenswood from El Camino to the tracks (4 wide mind you) and get the necessary clearance (16 feet I think) for the roadway.

In addition on the other side you have Alma even closer, which is the main artery to reach the Menlo Park City center. It also has commercial on the east side.

So I don't think you know anything about what needs or does not need to be done. Going a bit further north you get to Oak Grove, where the ROW is only 55 feet. MP is gong to let you destroy it whole commercial downtown, east of El Camino? Get real. BTW, land in the central part is around $6 million per acre. You are also looking a destruction of business enterprises. ROW acquisition will be a significant cost.

The link to the court has been posted before; the Lawsuit was heard yesterday, and posted on the site now is what the Judge requested be discussed. We understand that most likely a decision will be rendered in July.

Al2000 said...

I might be wrong, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Japanese Shinkansen has more space than usual between two sets of tracks. This allows them to have wider trains than elsewhere, allowing more room inside.

Shinkansen interior pictureI wonder if this is being factored into the 4 track idea?

This (if true), along with the tighter than allowed curves at the Transbay terminal would stop hinder California from buying off-the-shelf equipment from Japan would it not?

Anonymous said...

Ravenswood: There are no homes within striking distance of underpassing. There is commercial space but the commercial area can be reconfigured, lowering alma enough and adjusting commercial access in a way that creates an improved commercial intersection. it can be done. As for the slope down from El Camino there is plenty of room. This doesn't have to be an overblown underpass just a simple down and up with Alma adjusted on the east side and some reconfigured parking and retail. No one is trying "destroy" anything. Take a valium. And the ROW at Oak Grove is more than 55 feet. Some of the railroad property is likely being used by dirt and some parking but there is more then enough room for four tracks without touching anything. you may not like it but its either that or the obnoxious elevated thing, which if you would be a little more cooperative, you could get rid of in favor a this much more benign solution.

Anonymous said...

Why would we want asian trains? don't we already buy enough crap from asia? how bout we deal with our allies for a change instead of our enemies.

Anonymous said...

The row is 75ft all the way through there.

Resident of MP said...

Jim says:

"As for the slope down from El Camino there is plenty of room.

Well Jim, the intersection has been studied more than once; you simply don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Further, if you take the 5 more difficult intersections and mitigate them by raising the row at only those locations you get an even less drastic solution. take a look at the howard ave at old county road solution.,-122.249741&spn=0.000867,0.001742&t=h&z=20

Morris Brown said...

Lawsuit update 5/29/09

Posted by the Court:


No tentative ruling is issued.

Appearances are required. The parties shall be prepared to focus their arguments on the following issues:

1. The effect of Union Pacific's announcement of its unwillingness to allow use of its right-of-way.

2. Whether the biological impacts analyses for the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge and the Grasslands
Ecological Area were equal and impartial.

3. Whether visual and sound impacts on the Peninsula were adequately addressed.

4. Whether there was sufficient evidence and analysis of rural growth-inducing impacts.

5. Whether there was sufficient evidence and analysis of the alternative of a Dumbarton Bridge crossing of the San Francisco Bay.

The matter is argued and submitted.

The entire administrative record is admitted into evidence on motion of the plaintiffs and petitioners
without objection by the defendant and respondent.

MINUTE ORDER Date: 05/29/2009

Anonymous said...

Oak Grove and Ravenswood could be a half and half and there aren't any homes affected between the two.

Anonymous said...

Of course the most likely outcome will be that cahsr will build the thing exactly as planned and everyone will just wind up getting used to it. That's usually how it goes. And since it looks like there are already other underpass solutions being used in there it seems that residents have already set a precedent that they are an acceptable solution.

Anonymous said... this would look very nice in menlo park area - certainly an improvement to what's there now.

Anonymous said...

and here is nice one for those little neighborhood road underpasses like Fair Oaks and Watkins

mike said...

What about sound walls? I imagine it would be up to the individual cities to weigh the tradeoffs (virtual elimination of all significant noise vs. some additional aesthetic impact)

Here's a better view, of what Palo Alto and others will be facing Please, that's not at all what Palo Alto looks like, now or in the future. The point is not that the structure I inserted is any "prettier" than McFall's structure (other than being the correct height). The point is that it makes no sense to judge the structure in isolation. McFall's structure looks ugly because there is virtually nothing surrounding it. His model would still look ugly even if he removed the structure!

@BAR I have no idea what it is you're trying to say. Clem has already documented that no eminent domain is necessary in Atherton - the Caltrain corridor never gets narrower than 80 feet through the entire city. Total spending on eminent domain in Atherton need not exceed one penny for a surface or elevated alignment.

Anonymous said...


"Why would we want asian trains? don't we already buy enough crap from asia? how bout we deal with our allies for a change instead of our enemies."

Japan isn't an ally? News to me. Probably to the Pentagon too.

Al2000 said...


Last time I checked, Japan was THE major US ally in Asia, not to mention the pioneer of HSR.

Anonymous said...

perhaps, but their trains are ugly.

Anonymous said...

Why are we always thumbing our noses at our friends in Europe?

Anonymous said...

South City apparently wants to work with HSR-

South City Caltrain station pedestrian plan derailed
04/18/09 8:00 PM PDT
Step it up: Pedestrian access to the South San Francisco Caltrain station is limited. One approach is down a narrow, steep stairway from the Grant Avenue overpass. A $50 million plan for a new Caltrain station in this city that would be more accessible to pedestrians, particularly those coming from downtown, has been indefinitely delayed — despite the fact that the project is fully funded.On Wednesday, the South San Francisco City Council voted to put a hold on the project, which aimed to make accessible a train station that has been virtually unused because it is difficult to reach.
Belmont resident Jeff Barrett, who travels by train to South City for his work at an architecture firm, called it a "trek" to get to the station.
"At night, it’s definitely not a safe place to be," he added.
Two factors can be blamed for the delay, said Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn. Caltrain decided it would be better to wait and determine exactly how the state’s planned high speed rail project will be configured before starting to make any major changes to the landscape of tracks through the city. Additionally, despite years of negotiations, transportation officials remain at an impasse with Union Pacific for relocation of some of its train tracks, a needed component of the project.
Given those barriers, city officials felt it was best to hold off on the new train station, but with concerns that the delay could put at risk more than $50 million in funding pegged for the project: $30 million from the region’s Municipal Transportation Commission and another $20 from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. Another $5.5 million for a pedestrian underpass was to come from city coffers, said city Engineer Ray Razavi.
"It’s a risk," said Razavi. "But the whole concept is to do things once, rather than waste any taxpayer money." The South City Caltrain station is boxed in on one side by train tracks, which prevents pedestrians from approaching the station from the east. On the other side is Highway 101, which prevents pedestrians from the city’s downtown area from walking to the station, despite the fact that it is relatively nearby. The only two ways to approach the station by foot are by hiking up the Grant Avenue overpass and then descending a tight, steep stairway to the station, or by walking along an unfriendly freeway frontage road.
Shifting the station just a few hundred yards south so it sits under the freeway, along with the short pedestrian tunnel, would connect downtown and the eastern offices.
In theory the city could proceed with some parts of the project, such as the tunnel, but without a station to link it to, they would be building "a tunnel to nowhere," said Mayor Karyl Matsumoto.

Unknown said...

jim said... "3) The cross streets, which are the supposed argument for for elevating the train... well, there are only a total of *ten* streets that currently cross the tracks that would need to become underpasses if we do this at grade. They are:

1) Fair Oaks
2) Watkins
7) Palo alto Ave
8) Churchill
9) Meadow
10) Charleston

Now, of those ten streets that would need to be underpassed if we leave the train at the less intrusive grade level rather than the more obnoxious elevated solution, only five pose the problem of interfearing in any meaningful way with adjacent streets or private homes. (Encinal, Glenwood, Churchill, maybe Meadow, and Charleston.

A "minimal elevated" ROW option would depress the roads as far as you can readily depress them, down to 20'. If they go 20', use a road underpass, rail at grade. If they don't go down that far, raise the rail until the top of the rail is 20' above the top of the road surface.

In the sample "minimal elevation" option for Palo Alto that that Clem put together at the Caltrain HSR compatibility blog (img), that is Alma as a full underpass, Churchill Ave. depressed 5ft for a 15ft elevated section of about half a mile, and Meadow Drive and Charlestown Road each depressed 13ft, so a 3/4 mile elevated section raised to a maximum of 7ft.

I'd expect something similar at Watkins and Fair Oaks.

Of course, the minimal elevation is not the only option that should be developed and presented. For instance, between those two streets ... that's Atherton station ... if that section could be elevated 10ft, that makes for convenient ground level access to ramps and stairs up onto the central island platform. Indeed, if the station parking was shifted to under the ROW, that would free the station parking near the library for infill development.

Anonymous said...

Bruce -yes exaclty that was what I was trying to say. Basically, we just have to use a combination of solutions and apply them accordingly, a little of this a little of that, and voila, no big whoop. these pics from san carlos for instance look just fine.,-122.267442&spn=0.000867,0.001742&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=37.514434,-122.267361&panoid=4IieVsoCkWOnJkVwbK60eA&cbp=12,155.5,,0,-2.62,-122.271872&spn=0.000867,0.001742&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=37.517062,-122.271797&panoid=7NuZ_eb9iMdkgot1hLdchg&cbp=12,22.49,,0,9.23

and this one at 42nd,-122.288872&spn=0.006934,0.013937&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=37.530308,-122.288951&panoid=LQfCvXWlMaar8Lfxr_wmtA&cbp=12,22.68,,0,-6.09

YESonHSR said...

Once AGAIN on the nimby paper(PALO Alto online) there is yet another article about why this is project is a "Boondoggle"!!!
As if its Oct2008 and we have not yet voted..That why videos and facts and drawings will prove theses are nothing but Nimby distored facts repeated over and over by the same group of people

Anonymous said...

Maybe they meant "DuneBuggy" I know a lot of people used to be against those tearing up the beach.

Anonymous said...


If you are going to talk about an article, at least give us the link

High Speed Rail: What a Boondoggle, Volume 1

Nice piece

Spokker said...

I'm looking forward to my trip to the Bay Area next Monday and Tuesday. I've taken Caltrain a few times but I will be checking out Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, and other stations for myself. I'm glad that Caltrain's round-trip ticket acts like a day pass to make it easier to do.

YESonHSR said...

YOUR more than capable of finding links to your nimby paper and other slanted info..since you do it all the time..Nice article? more self-centered nimby thinking and a little late..since we voted yes the bond

Anonymous said...

spokker be sure to bring some Nimbsecticide.

Anonymous said...

The shotgun marriage of the HSR and Caltrain will result in years of litigation, the outcome of which will ultimately not be positive for the HSR. The odds are very high that noise and vibration levels will be markedly worse than promised. Constant complaints from property owners will over time end with the HSR speeds being reduced to right about what they are today - 79 mph.

And the CHSRA will only have their own obstinacy and arrogance to blame. They could have chosen 101 and avoided all these inevitable conflicts. The residents are not going to learn to love the HSR; they are going to learn to hate it.

Anonymous said...

Mikes video is complete garbage. First of all, check out the horizon in all views - it looks blank - the point of the 'berlin wall' effect is that the horizon today is NOT blank. There are tangible visible neighborhoods (homes trees people) on both sides and to put a blank wall horizon makes the effect look neutral on either version. ITs not. With a wall - blank wall. With grade level tracks - neighborhood.

Second, Mike clearly doesn't have a clue about the neighborhood he's talking about. The neighborhood is in fact dense with homes, Paly high school, etc. So to make it look like the surrounding area is blank canvas except for one random home and sparse trees. Utterly false picture of this area.

Third, that absolutely is NOT what the train sounds like. That sound mike provides is what you'd hear if you laid your ear about an inch from the tracks. The neighborhoods sleep through the train noise - the noise is not this loud and its muffled by landscape.

All the surrounding landscape will have to be removed in any wall scenario because 4 wide tracks would be immediately up agains the edge of the row. There will be no room for sound muffling landscape.

Fourth, the video Mike put out is perspective from BLOCKS away, the video from the other guy is viewpoint standing agains the wall. If this video attempt to have any integrity it would show the same blank wall and absence of any landscaping against the ROW that the original had.

Additionally, any bell noise and diesel noise would be equally mitigated by electrified 2 track caltrain with grade separations. No need for HSR to be added to get those "improvements" (IF you consider the high pitched screech of the Acela an improvement - which it clearly is not.)

Be clear, this video is is PURE fantasy.

Spokker said...

"(IF you consider the high pitched screech of the Acela an improvement - which it clearly is not.)"

Caltrain will be going 110 MPH. Do you really think HSR at 150 MPH will be that much worse?

Anonymous said...

I'm working on my own video about a big scary nimby eating train that brings murder and mayhem to a village of keebler elves. It will show the true effect of high speed rail on small children, pets and the disabled and the subversive communist plot to turn californians into espresso sipping, wine drinking, cafe lingering bohemians... uh wait.... well I'll post it when I'm done. Luckily, according to "sharon" one of my sources in "midtown" the project is already dead but the voters are mounting an initiative campaign to "strangle it in its cradle" anyway.

Bay Area Resident said...

Morris Brown- How are the lawsuit supporters reading this news on the lawsuit? Good news, in that it was not a summary dismissal?

I am not familiar with the lawsuit but I have seen some of the train wonks here speculate it would be dismissed, and obviously it was not.

Devil's Advocate said...

The cost of tunnelling should be around $200 million/mile, based on current estimates of the cost of the HSR line Bologna-Florence, which was built almost entirely underground. The cost of that stretch (just completed and due to open in a few months) was 96 million Euro/km (approx. $200 M/mile). So far that stretch has been the most expensive of all european HSR projects. If somebody is telling here that the estimate for tunnelling through the Peninsula is $500 Million/mile, I suggest the CHSRA gives the contract to the same consortium that built that Italian line. Unless tunnels in California, being the Golden State, must be really made with gold!

Al2000 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al2000 said...

Japanese Shinkanen? Ugly? Well I guess beauty is in the eye the beholder, but I beg to differ!

Shinkansen 500 series - Very sleek
Shinkansen 700 - powerful look IMO
Besides, lets not forget that the Japanese have a lot of experience dealing with earthquakes, not unlike California.

Anonymous said...

Alex - I get your point - but really, those japanese trains are too over the top. The 500 with that pointy nose - tries to hard to be special. The 700 looks like a duck. I prefer the powerful yet classic understated elegance of the french design.

Anonymous said...

vivela france

Alon Levy said...

DA: the tunnel in Italy was under open land, rather than in suburbia. We can expect tunneling through the Peninsula to cost more than the $200 million per mile of tunneling through unpopulated mountains, and less than the $800 million per mile of tunneling under a city.

Peter J said...

Hmm, it seems to me that if we are going to be talking about the negative impacts of grade separations, we should also talk about the negative bits of leaving it as it is

- Diesel noise/pollution. I suppose 190km/hr or 120mph operation produces noise, but compared to the loud diesel engines and the horns, it isn't so bad from the time I've spent near TGV lines compared to the Caltrain line

- Those damn bells & horns (I live very close to the Charleston crossing, and I can attest that it sucks at night)

- Danger of level crossings ( I would like to point out that I knew JP as well

Given this, the main downside we seem to be facing is aesthetic. A 75' wide way that is found on most of the peninsula really makes the whole eminent domain issue a moot point.
I suppose I have a hard time seeing why aesthetics seem to predominate over suicides

I also think those sketches aren't wholly accurate, since the existing foliage will need to be cut back to build the thing in the first place (the sound is a worthy addition).
Regardless, the point of contention is entirely aesthetic, and as much as it isn't productive to say so, that loud line was there before any homeowner was. Hence I also have a hard time seeing how property values will be severely impacted, seeing as existing prices already accommodate the presence of the line, as pretty as it currently is

My two cents

Peter J said...


I vote for Alstom/French trains. Americans are too big to fit into petit Japanese trains/their doors

political_i said...

@ rafael, I live in the Evergreen State, now down on the Penninsula with the NIMBYs. I am in support of full grade separation making a point if they're afraid of noise you could do noise proofing to the structure which would cost much less than a tunnel.

political_i said...

that now I meant to have it as not

swinghanger said...

@Peter J
Actually, the Japanese HS trains are bigger than either the French TGV or the German ICE.

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"I don't even see anthing on that map that shows anyones property line being crossed. Could someone point out the spot where the ROW crosses anyone property?Not individual property, but the bottom section in this map (pdf) is the famous 1/4 mile stretch where the ROW is only 60 feet wide.

What was the ROW narrowed down for, in this area where we are told that each square foot of land is so extremely valuable that it would be cheaper to tunnel through the whole region?


Drawn an imaginary line that continues the 85ft wide ROW immediately before Glenwood Ave. Every square foot of that margin next to the 60ft ROW ... parking.

That's what Menlo Park finds to be of critical importance.

And if the Caltrain/HSR corridor puts in a roughly 12ft viaduct here, with about 8ft depressed underpass for Glenwood, that means that Menlo Park can get more of what it thinks is important, which is to say, parking.

And at the same time, Menlo Park Station can have ramps and stairs up to a central island platform, with a maximum amount of walkable access to both the Alma Street and the El Camino Real sides of the ROW.

Of course, there will be the back ends of a lot of commercial properties oriented to El Camino Real that will have to be catered to. Because when you have something as beautiful as a parking lot to look at, you don't want to spoil that with an ugly, utilitarian viaduct.

It should be a pretty viaduct, suited to protecting the delicate sensibilities of the rear ends of strip malls.

無名 - wu ming said...

that's why they call it menlo park, bruce.

K.T. said...


Exterior and interior design of 500 series was done by a same company that did the design of Germany's ICE3.

Al2000 said...

At any rate the 500 series Shinkansen is a bit out of date now.

The 700 and the N700 (the newest shinkansen) look that way for a reason.

They are engineered to reduce wind resistance, and therefore be more energy efficient. It also reduces noise.

Japanese care a lot about noise, and have strict anti noise pollution laws.

Ok, I thought it looked like a duck at first to, but I got used to it, and it grew on me. What can I say?

K.T. said...


That design also accounts for "Tunnel Boom," since tunnel diameter used in Shinkansen is smaller than the ones used in TGV (or European Standard). And shinkansen goes through a lot of tunnel (66 between Tokyo and Osaka, 142 between Osaka and Hakata (sorry, I don't know about other lines))

The 700T series used in Taiwan High Speed Rail is a modified version of 700 series. Their front appearance is slightly different from the original 700 series, because their tunnel diameter was in European Standard (which gave more flexibility to the design to meet the noise standard).

I personally like the style of 500 better than 700, 700T, and N700. Although they all look much better than the caltrain, in my opinion.

I hope the EMU version of caltrain would look something like:

political_i said...

K.T. The Caltrain EMU will probably be a double deck. Now the single deck EMU I would love to see for trial services, maybe connect to Gillroy during the day with the smaller vehicles. Perhaps used for a Monterey or Salinas extension of Caltrain in the future.

Anonymous said...

@bruce -- son in other words the only propblem area is a block of parking, dirt and weeds. These folks are out of their minds.

Eric M said...

I still vote for the Siemans ICE 3 Velaro. I love the look to them and they are super nice to ride on. The TGV is also very nice, but maybe beacuse I am German, the ICE train holds a place in my heart. I have never been on a Japanese trainset.

NONIMBYS said...

BAR..nimby wonk..No this normal court hearings...Now go and present your work on the 4 and 5 star resturants that will be ruined

Peter J said...

Likewise, I've never been on a Japanese trainset either

Although I doubt the final choice will have much impact on the actual service. Establishing the separate lines is the challenge

As for the Caltrain EMU, there are so many choices on the market it's ridiculous. Caltrain can only go wrong if it foolishly chooses to buy electric locomotives instead of the multiple units (which I think could happen, sadly)

Anonymous said...

Caltrain could very well choose electric locomotives. i think they are considering it as an option due to the increased flexibility. Is there some reason that all the california rail agencies just agree on one rolling stock design and order them together.

Anonymous said...

viddoom train races ahead on evil plot to destroy town

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

that video is nicely done! Shame the irony will be lost on Palo Alto NIMBYs.

Peter J said...

My point with using multiple units over electric locomotives is because MUs have much higher acceleration, which is extraordinarily important for reducing travel times. Part of the benefit of electrification would be to reduce travel times, and it seems silly to fritter that benefit away by using slightly less expensive electric locomotives when the entire rolling stock fleet is due to be replaced anyway
(you can use the current gallery cars with electric locomotives, but since we're getting rid of them anyway, may as well pay to get something faster than pay to get the same thing)

Also, the video is well done, I agree

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Yes they are like to take it literally and say "see we told you." The thing is their arguments.... they go round and round, very much like arguing with the prop 8 folks too - first they say "reason A" then when pressed they say, well we don't mean that its just that "reason B" so when you say yes but what about this and then its " "what we really meant was "reason C" and when you finally corner them after popping all their balloons, the finally admit to being all about "no no a thousand times no" and all the previous reasons given were disingenuous which of course takes away any credibility they may have had. I mean for real, do they want it "done right" or is a "meritless boondoggle"

Anonymous said...

I guess I would question if the DMUs have enough seating capacity for a rush hour train. Maybe they have a combination. DMUs for locals and a handful of stand trains for rush hour express? I don't know. Rest assured that will all be decided in some back room.

Anonymous said...

I wish caltrain would, in conjunction with hsr and electrification, simply go to all hi level platforms and use a nice looking electric dmu like this. I prefer this EL style car to those double end round nosed things.

Peter J said...

High level platforms are better in a large number of regards, but since the caltrain corridor is also a freight corridor, the three freight trains that pass through there every day dictate that there must be low platforms (so people hanging off the side of freight trains aren't hit by the platforms)

Also, a multiple unit (in our case, it would be electric) is just a type of motive system whereby the motive power is located in the passenger carriages instead of a locomotive, the seating capacity is independent. I'd guess Caltrain would go ahead and buy something akin to the EMUs they use on SNCF's commuter lines and the RER lines in Île de France, which are double-decked & feature low platform boarding

Anonymous said...

like this

Alon Levy said...

Jim: the train in the last pic looks like an EMU - it has a pantograph for drawing power from the catenary.

Peter J: Caltrain might be able to get a waiver for that, too, since it's already seeking one for the crash safety requirement. Either way, at SF and SJ the platforms will be level. They can also be level at stations where the ROW is very wide, since there Caltrain can build five or six tracks, separating freight, commuter rail, and HSR; this is complex and expensive, but may be worth doing at major stations, particularly those that HSR will stop at. Ideally, the new Caltrain EMUs should have the same boarding height as HSR so that they can share platforms at SF and SJ...

Bianca said...

It's great to see alternatives presented to the "Gloom and Doom" models presented by the anti-HSR crowd. Good work, Mike!

Getting more, different models out there helps dilute the "OMG Berlin Wall!" impact of McFall's video.

Brandon in California said...

That's a good vid! I love it.

Keep 'em coming, they are telling.

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"I guess I would question if the DMUs have enough seating capacity for a rush hour train."

Why would they be diesels?

Its true that the DMU's that I am familiar with are single decks, to give space for the motor below, but all the DMUs I am familiar with are motor/trailer configuration, so even if the motor section is single deck, the trailer section could be double deck ... and if it was metro seating in the single deck car and the bottom of the double deck car, and four across seating in the top of the double deck car, that would be substantial crush capacity per car.

And in any respect, Caltrain would be silly to have catenaries and buy DMU's ... they'd be EMU's, where there is no problem with double decking the motor car of the pair as well.

Adirondacker said...

..dictate that there must be low platforms ..

They seem to do it here.

I thought maybe that was just an anomaly left over from the Pennsylvania RR. Nope. looks like they do it on the what was the DL&W.

They even do it on what was the Lehigh Valley, in a station that was completed in 2003..

I thought it may must those crazy New Jerseyans. Nah, they in do it NY too. And not just in Westchester but out on Long Island too.Outside of metro NY high platforms aren't very common so I stopped looking after I found videos of freight moving through NJ Transit, Metro North and LIRR stations.

There are solutions other than low platforms.

..Caltrain can build five or six tracks..

So that three freight trains a day can pass through? If UP can't cope with using the tracks off hours they can build the fifth track. There's never going to be enough freight traffic to justify a sixth track.

Alon Levy said...

With FSSF, you can get away with five tracks; this forces you to have two island platforms at the stations, instead of one island platform. With SFFS even that is impossible.

Peter J said...


I remember reading about it as a California regulation dating from the forties, but in all honesty I was being sarcastic in how smart commuter rail operations (high platforms) would be categorically rejected because of three daily freight trains

Not much you can do about that though, it's much better to have the freight trains than equivalent freight trucks anyhow

I'm still curious as to the true motive behind the peninsula critics. Why exactly are they criticizing the project? It would be of use to find out,

Is it because of worrying that the aesthetics of the project will lower property values? I really can't think of any other rational argument. Or is it just pure opposition to trains? Opposition to public works in their neighborhoods?


Al2000 said...


for me the 500, since it is basically a tube, felt more confined inside than anything else.

Alon Levy said...

Peter J: NIMBYism stems from risk-averse behavior. A homeowner doesn't know the effect that a project will have on his area's desirability and its property values. The current situation is good enough for him in most cases; the future could be even better, but it could also destroy the value of his home, which is his main asset. This was explored in a paper by William Fischel, who proposes insurance against property value declines as a solution.

Fischel glosses over some issues, such as why NIMBYism exists in areas like Harlem, whose home ownership is under 10%, or why suburban NIMBYism is strongest among people who are quite rich and have many assets other than their home. But the idea of NIMBYism as risk aversion is a good place to start. For example, people who have lived in a community for many years would not want it to become worse off even if they would not lose value personally. Communities are very risk-averse, far more than individuals.

Brandon in California said...

The negative aspect of tunnels... extends beyond cost.

Riders on a train in a tunnel... not very interesting for those riders.

I see riders as being stakeholders. I'd like to see a discussion for designing a system that works for riders and not for making costly compromises for accomodating local interests.

Whether it is on the peninsula or elsewhere in the state, riders have eyes and need to look and explore out windows. They cannot do that from tunnels, or below grade in a trench.

That is one of the things that make HSR so intriguing. Not only the speed and ease of getting from point A to point B, but how it's done... and celebrating the majestic view that is this state.

Is the peninsula stretch and South Bay worth looking at? In a sense, that is what local NIMBY interests would have you believe; that views of their bergs and surroundings are of no value to riders. But, whom are they to say so?

During design phases of many highway systems, designers incorporated views into alignment choices.. allowing motorists to absorb and enjoy far off views. Mountain ranges and peaks are good examples. In San Diego, SR 163 through Balboa Park was designed by a landscape architect. I am sure there are many other good examples.

California High Speed Rail riders should not be subjected to undergound tubes and vaults, as peninsula NIMBY's are proposing. They suggest through their words that riders are not valued and should be forced; however temporary, into something akin to WWII era boxcars used to send those that were Jewish off to concentration camps.

Let them out... free them. Tunnels are not fair when not critically needed.

Anonymous said...

Brandon, that was pretty much the most useless comment I've seen re:HSR. See out of a window? Wah.

Brandon in California said...

har har har

Tony D. said...

Morris Brown 4:17,

Thankfully, in the real world of Bay Area news (SF, SJ) and even online, I am not reading anything on the frivolous lawsuit. Goes to show you how seriously the "Big Dogs" are taking this piece of crap litigation.

You would be hearing loud and clear from SF/SJ pols, Sac, and the greater Bay media if this crap had any chance of altering HSR on the Peninsula/into the Bay Area.

Seriously, wasn't 10 years of studying/re-studying of Bay Area HSR routing enough for you people? Oh well, go ahead and file all you want.

Morris Brown said...

@Tony D.

Take a look at the June Agenda for the Authority's board meeting --- Item 1. Into closed session to discuss the lawsuit.

How long ago was it that Kopp stated they hadn't even discussed the lawsuit.

Spokker said...

re:HSR. My property values!

Anonymous said...

EMU I said DMU I meant EMU I wasn't paying attention. My point was only that aesthetically I prefer trains that look like trains or trains that look like regular old school subway trains. I don't prefer the the two ended round nosed podlike things. But I rarely use caltrain anyway. ( just like I prefer BARTS C flat front C cars to the original A cars) anyway who cares. I also prefer single level trains to double deck

Anonymous said...

Earlier I meant to say that all ca rail agencies *Should* agree on a standard rail car design. so that the cars can be ordered by the state, in bulk and distributed as needed, and re distributed as needed between agencies. Metrolink, Caltrain, ACE, Coaster, and Amtrak California, should all be using the same standardized trainsets. I think one reason caltrain is considering electric locos and new rolling stock is so the equipment can be shared ( agencies often share for certain reasons) with a new dumbarton service as well as cc and ace. I don't know, it does kinda make sense. I know CC is borrowing some caltrain cars for something.

Anonymous said...

SFFSwhyI was thinking about this at work tonight. Why the SFFS option is better. caltrain will have low level platforms. and they are accessed from the parking lot, station etc directly. keeping hsr in the middle allows for complete fencing off of the center tracks from the public the entire length between hsr stations. Thats the most important reason because I can tell you, some fool is gonna get on those tracks otherwise and the first time it happens there will be an outcry to slow the train down. ( remember this is california and fast trains kill dolphins.) Then at the HSR.CT combo stations, how do we settle the hieght difference? well, as seen in my drawing the platforms that are centered between the sets of CT-HSR track can be one platform with two levels - with steps and decorative ADA ramp up. All platforms also connected by traditional overhead walkways.

Anonymous said...

here's my bi level shared hsr caltrain platform its a matter of a simple ramp.

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"EMU I said DMU I meant EMU I wasn't paying attention. My point was only that aesthetically I prefer trains that look like trains or trains that look like regular old school subway trains. I don't prefer the the two ended round nosed podlike things."

So you mean these (img) are out?

How much it pays to invest in the aerodynamics of the nose depends on how fast they are going to be going.

But for EMU's, there's no issue of capacity ... for the same length of the consist, and the same seat layout, they have more capacity, since all cars have seating.

Devil's Advocate said...

My question is: if NIMBYs in PA don't want the HSR above grade through their city, why can't PA be bypassed? The HSR from SJ could go north along the Amtrak line parallel to Lafayette street. Then just north of 237 the tracks could be laid along the water, and once near CA-84 near the Dunbarton bdg. connect back to Redwood City using the ROW of the dismissed line that comes from across the burned bridge. I think there is room for two tracks between University Ave. and the Caltrain line in RC.

Devil's Advocate said...

Con't. THe hypothesis of my previous post would require a tight curve (maybe 4 km radius) near Palo Alto airport, but it would be viable. The other alternative is to run the HSR along the water all the way to Brisbane, but that would be problematic because yu'd need a high bridge to permit ships underneath near Redwood City port. In addition you'd have to forgo a station at Millbrae/SFO. Unless you merge the along the water HSR back inland just south of SFO (but I don't know how viable that would be). In any case there is hope even without Palo Alto in the picture. you'd just have to make do without a station near Stanford.

Anonymous said...

And you'd have to invest in an entirely new corridor, rather than use an EXISTING RAIL CORRIDOR THAT IS MORE THAN 120 YEARS OLD.

Anything but the Caltrain corridor to even be considered is sheer lunacy. You think NIMBY's wouldn't appear for building a brand new rail corridor through wetlands and Bay frontage areas? Hell, I might even be one myself. Rail belongs in established rail corridors, unless there are none. We clearly have one on the peninsula, which for the VAST majority of its length doesn't even require any widening.

Devil's Advocate said...

Anonymus: Maybe some enviromentalists would appear to oppose an HSR through the wetlands between SJ and the Dunbarton bridge, however there could be mitigations to the impact. That area of the bay is also mainly industrial with two airports (Moffett field and PA airports) therefore I don't think that many would complain about the disappearance of their bay frontage view from their backyard. The fact is that PA nimbys are very powerful. I don't know if they can stop the project altogether, but if they can the alternative is there. I wouldn't consider two tracks to be too disruptive for wetlands. The tracks there could be built at grade (not on a concrete viaduct) and as close as possible to the mainland along the industrial/business park areas and the two above mentioned airports. wetlands can also be built or extended a little away on the Fremont side to offset the impact.

mike said...

@Anonymous (5/30 8:31 pm) I am quite familiar with the Churchill Ave grade crossing...apparently more familiar than you are regarding some aspects. Your concerns are understandable but ultimately unfounded.

1) The real horizon in this area is dominated by the tops of trees. This is true now and it will be true if a 15' elevated structure is built. Don't take my word for it - check it out here. The only reason that it isn't totally obvious in the video mock up is that I simply do not have time to insert all of the trees that actually exist.

2) The recordings (both Caltrain and Acela) are taken near track side. If you aren't particularly bothered by the Caltrain noise right now, that's terrific! It means you won't even notice the HSR noise at all, even if no sound wall is installed.

3) The perspective of the video is approximately 220 ft (one short block) from the Caltrain ROW. If it were "blocks away" from the Caltrain ROW, obviously you would be able to see multiple blocks in the video. You do not.

Bianca said...

anonymous 5/30 8:31 said:

The neighborhoods sleep through the train noise -

Speak for yourself. When we lived a few blocks away, between Bryant and Waverly, we heard all the trains, Caltrain in the day and those freight trains every night. The horn and the train both. We never did get used to them. Now we live nearly 1/2 mile from the tracks, and we still hear both the freight trains and the daytime Caltrains, but not as loud.

If you are lucky enough to live near the tracks and be able to sleep through the trains now, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

But after living near the tracks, after having been stopped at a grade crossing with a train passing, and after having been in a train station in Japan with a Shinkansen blowing through the station without slowing down, the audio in Mike's video sounds right on target to me.

Bay Area Resident said...

Devils Advocate, thank you for applying some reason to the issue of route for HSR, other than running it right through the most desirable residential real estate in the nation. The evaluation of alternative lines for HSR that did not bisect every bedroom community on the peninsula was an absolute requirement for this project -anyone can see that- and yet Kopp and Diridon tried to pull a fast one without the public noticing. Heh. The alternative of a 237 alignment or a new ROW along the marshlands (not sure how feasible that is) is the ONLY solution that would have worked here, obviously.

I think the train wonks were expecting a dismissal of the lawsuit. The fact that they are asking for arguments about the evaluation of the impact to peninsula says it all. Dang, I think that lawsuit might actually succeed!

Bay Area Resident said...

Well gosh Bianca, those train horns are a real nuisance, agreed, except they don't run every 8 minutes now do they?

Anonymous said...

In the morning and evening there are times when there are 9 trains an hour currently passing through (4 going one way, 5 going the other).

BAR, did you flunk math in school? Because 60/9 is quite a bit lower than 8.

Bianca said...

BAR, I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at. Are we re-hashing the Caltrain schedule again? Or are you implying that HSR will be more frequent, and thus the horns would be worse then? Since I'm not sure where you were going, let me cover both points.

Between 7:00am and 9:00am Caltrain runs through the Palo Alto station weekday mornings as follows:

then a through train doesn't stop
then a through train doesn't stop


then a through train doesn't stop
then a through train doesn't stop

When you add up the Northbound and the Southbound trains, that is 8-10 trains an hour. Perhaps not precisely every eight minutes. Eight trains an hour would average out to one train every 7.5 minutes.

But if you were implying that the train horns would somehow be worse with HSR running more frequently, let me remind you that with grade separations there would be no more horns as trains approached Churchill or Meadow or Charleston.

Anonymous said...

@bruce-subway trains. I don't prefer the the two ended round nosed podlike things."

So you mean these (img) are out?

Well those aren't bad actually.

Anonymous said...

@Devils "The fact is that PA nimbys are very powerful"

I was having a bad morning - woke up late - but that made my day. lol. Now I have a joke to tell at work.

Anonymous said...

@BAR " other than running it right through the most desirable residential real estate in the nation."

LOL hehehehe Now I have two jokes to tell at work today. HEHE thanks for starting my day off with a laugh.

hehe lol.

BruceMcF said...

Devil's Advocate said...
"My question is: if NIMBYs in PA don't want the HSR above grade through their city, why can't PA be bypassed?"

No real reason to. If Palo Alto refuses to participate in the design of the three grade separations in their town, then an infill wall 20' high over the roads at grade would fit entirely inside the ROW in Palo Alto and not require any cooperation in terms of depressing the road.

Putting Alma through in a full underpass and going over Churchill and Meadow Drive/Charlestown Road, as described by Clem at the Caltrain HSR compatibility blog would be a superior outcome to that, but arriving at the best possible outcome for Palo Alto requires Palo Alto to participate in the design process in good faith.

Adirondacker said...

not require any cooperation in terms of depressing the road.

Why bother? Stringing catenary over the existing two tracks doesn't require any cooperation either. They don't want a reasonable solution, let them have the existing grade crossings, with the gates closed most of the time during rush hour.

NONIMBYS said...

The PaloAlto "Citizen" adovocates are nothing less than the lead Nimbys...Dont look for any real soultions from these people..just build it...they moved next to railroad and its not going to kill them or there little town to have upgraded railroad tracks..I agree leave it at grade and install gates
they can wait.

K.T. said...


upgrading from level crossing to grade separation will also eliminate noise from the level crossing signal, in addition to the horn from the train.

Anonymous said...

@Adirondacker: Then somebody parks or stalls their car on the tracks. Even if the signaling system is good enough to stop the train and avoid massive human cost and damage, the network still suffers from being completely out of service until the obstruction is cleared. At any rate, the FRA almost certainly wouldn't allow it; there's going to be enough trouble getting FRA to permit a sane HSR line without grade crossings.

The true no-build option is to just close the grade crossings permanently, and let PA/Atherton/MP residents drive around via one of the existing underpasses.

BruceMcF said...

@ Adirondacker ... there's substantial regulatory risk with that strategy.

One place where that might be pursued is Menlo Park, where the ROW narrows down to 60'. One way to cope with that is to stack the HSR as an elevated line and the local pair of tracks below at grade.

That would also make for a certain kind of consistency ... if Menlo Park is so attached to the parking lots on the fringe of the line, and so horrified by the prospect of parking underneath the SCARY TRAIN that they refuse to budge on widening the ROW from 60' to 75'-85', then turning the streets crossing the line in Menlo Park into parking lots would give them more of what they think they so desperately need.

Adirondacker said...

there's substantial regulatory risk with that strategy.

There certainly is, they aren't going to it pick as an alternative.

Some time soon there will be studies of alternatives for specific locations. Even though no one is going to build ( or not build it in this case ) they are going to study the no build alternative. It's going to be rejected because it doesn't meet program objectives, one of which is running at speeds in excess of 79 MPH where possible. Existing grade crossings limit trains to 79 MPH.. One of the alternatives they study will be tunnels. It does meet program objectives but is too expensive to use unless it's the only option, so on the Peninsula, tunneling will be rejected. They'll study closing the grade crossings. That would meet program objectives of speeds in excess of 79 MPH but would create problems with air quality objectives and traffic congestion. So they settle on something rational like low viaducts. The lawsuits start. It delays everything.

In the meanwhile rational people up and down the line north and south of Palo Alto build the reasonable alternative. They spend their time and energy debating landscaping...

Ten years from now everything is finished expect for the five miles north and the five miles south of the Palo Alto station. Commuter railroads all along the eastern seaboard have been busy using all this new rail money to electrify lines. Lots of locomotives including dual mode ones that have been used in metro NY are available cheap. HSR decides to terminate service in San Jose and have every body change to a Caltrain super express that gets to San Francisco in 50 minutes instead of 30. Adds an hour to the SF-LA trip but that's still faster than flying. They buy a bunch of gently used dual mode locomotives and cars to run express trains.

The towns sue. The judge more or less says "Too bad, you had ten years to come to reasonable compromises but instead you have been suing over the historical significance of the parking lot across the street from the Menlo Park 7-11 and the delicate sensibilites of dumpsters in back of strip malls that are along the ROW. Railroads run trains. Caltrain can run three expresses an hour in addition to what they normally run."

So instead of having a nice grade separated electric railway they have what they have now. Diesel trains lumbering through blaring their horns while passing the crossing gates that are clanging bells. They get no sympathy from Santa Clara and San Bruno where those diesel trains switch to electricity and speed through at 110 over the grade separations.

They get no sympathy from the people who live 5 blocks from the line because at this point all the lawsuits have done for them is increase their taxes. ( The lawyers hired for the lawsuits are going to want to get paid.. ) and tie up traffic.

The people in these towns who aren't paying much attention now are gonna figure things out in the next year or so. They are going to be less than enthusiastic about lawsuits when they hear it's going to raise their taxes and all it is going to do is delay things for a decade.

BruceMcF said...

@ Adirondacker ...

...and its not even clear that it would come to that. There are, after all, build options that stay entirely within the ROW, and if options with lower environmental impacts and lower impacts on adjoining property values are blocked by the refusal of towns to participate in a constructive way in the process, those same towns will have very little legal standing to sue to prevent the upgrade entirely within the corridor.

Definitely, an ugly utilitarian two track viaduct 20 ft above the existing track is an option for each and every existing grade separation. CHSRA is required to go through a process that offers the towns the opportunity to get better than that if they wish, but what CHSRA has to engage in is a good faith effort ... if the Peninsula towns refuse, that is an available option.

There is the outside chance that they can get court judgements on procedural grounds, but that then only requires that the procedures be redone correctly. It never takes the above off the table as an option.

And given the commercial benefit to the HSR line of running through to SF, the cost/benefit of the above against no-build yields the above as what will be built.

Except in towns that abandon obstructionism and adopt a constructive approach.

That is the self-fulfilling prophecy. Those towns that act like the upgrade of the corridor can be done in a win-win way will get a win-win result, those towns that act like the upgrade is win-lose will get a win-lose result ... and most likely be on the losing side.

So the above is the less likely option, where they "win" in a win-lose contest ... and of course, end up as substantial losers.