Saturday, August 22, 2009

HSR Workshop in Palo Alto

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

by Rafael

just a quick reminder for SF peninsula residents who may not be aware of this yet: Palo Alto is hosting a public workshop on HSR implementation in the SF peninsula on behalf of the Peninsula Cities Consortium. This body also includes Menlo Park, Atherton, San Mateo and Belmont.

Among the topics that will be discussed are:

• What are the myths and realities about the Peninsula project?

• What are best practices from around the world?

• What have other cities experienced during construction of a major railroad in an urban setting?

• Why can’t it be tunneled all the way?

• What impact will eminent domain have on backyards and grade crossings?

Location: Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Street, Palo Alto
Date: Saturday, September 12
Time: 9am - 3:30pm
Admission: Free, but space is limited
Add'l info:, 650-323-5590

Parking: underneath City Hall and at Ramona between Hamilton and University.
Caltrain: University station, less than 10min walk away

Addendum: Independently, CHSRA will be hosting a regular project-level scoping workshop for University City in San Diego county. The format of the meeting will be a workshop or fair, with displays, staff on hand to answer questions, and handouts, but no scheduled presentations. From 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. the meeting will be tailored to public agencies, and from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. the meeting will be tailored to members of the public, although anyone can come and go at any time.

Location: University Town Center Forum Hall (4315 La Jolla Village Drive, in the northwest parking lot, above the Wells Fargo Bank)
Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Time: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.


Anonymous said...

i have to give credit to this blog for teaching me a new word.... charrette.

it has another meaning though, one for the nimby's to ponder...

"Historically, the term charrette also has been applied to the cart or tumbril used to carry the condemned to the guillotine. See: Trésor de la Langue Française informatisé. For example: Une charrette (...) traînait lentement à la guillotine un homme dont personne ne savait le nom (Anatole France, Les Dieux ont soif, 1912, p. 44) [trans: "a charrette slowly brought to the guillotine a man whose name nobody knew".

Robert Cruickshank said...

I'll be at the Palo Alto event. Looking forward to seeing what all they have to say.

Anonymous said...

I'll make the comment again-- apparently Robert decided to delete my first effort.

Perhaps this event will kill off the the CHSRA, not the NIMBYs

Anonymous said...

na, delete his comment again.

Anonymous said...

13-year-old girl dies on train tracks

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:47pm -

my sincere condolences to the family. It's tragic to read someone so young was so troubled.

To recap, here are the benefits of full grade separation:

- eliminates bells, horns and gates
- keeps cross traffic flowing regardless of rail traffic volume
- eliminates risk of grade crossing accidents
- eliminates opportunity for suicide on the tracks
- sharply reduces risk of disruption to rail services
- protects train drivers from psychological trauma.

Against that, the downsides:

- expensive
- potentially ugly (cheap elevated structures)
- potentially noisy (cheap elevated structures)
- loss of road topology (deep underpasses at frontage roads)
- construction nuisance
- potential eminent domain (temporary shoofly tracks)

Andre Peretti said...

In modern French the word "charrette" has another meaning. It is used for a project which is getting behind schedule and requires the whole team to pull very hard, like draft horses, to complete the job on time. So it means team work in an atmosphere of urgency, and the American use of the word seems to be derived from that.

looking on said...


On the downside, construction nuisance, according to Tony Daniels, that will last 6 to 8 years, not just 1 or 2. Businesses in downtown areas going out of business due to loss of customers during this period. (experience in areas like San Carlos where grade crossings lasting 2 to 3 years took place and elsewhere).

Loss of property values in residential area near the tracks. Who wants to live near an elevated 4 track system, with 200 trains a day going by.

Daniels made the big pitch this AM on CBS television, that all HSR trains in the world operate at a profit. Nonsense.

Look at the chaos with Eurostar right now.

Unknown said...

@andre yes and actually - and I don't know how accurate wiki is, but they describe it this way

Origins of the term "charrette"

Thought to originate from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 19th century, the word charrette is from the French for "cart" or "chariot." It was not unknown for student architects to continue working furiously, at the last minute, on the illustrations for their design presentations, even while riding in the school cart ("en charrette") through the streets of Paris en route to submit the projects to their professors.[1] Hence, the term metamorphosed into the current design-related usage in conjunction with working right up until a deadline"

This is why I find languate so interesting, its like a puzzle that, if you look back far enough, you find the answers to.. yo find al these connection that make sense... even with words whos current meanings don't seem, at first glance, to be related.

of course, this is with latin, now the other more third worl dlanguages, who knows what they are talking about, but im sure they have their own version of root word-modern word.

observer said...

Rafael, basically you're a liar - in no way shape or form does HSR eliminate the possibility of suicide on the tracks. In the real world, kids dying on train tracks has NOTHING TO DO WITH GRADE CROSSINGs.

These aren't accidents or confusion about how fast the train is coming at the crossings. These are kids stepping intentionally on the tracks from any point they can get entry. And can just as easily be at a station. Easy access a plenty. HSR certainly has not one single benefit in the prevention of teen suicide.

In fact, doubling down on the frequency and speed of the trains appears to be the polar opposite of what's needed here. Either trains go in completely sequestered underground tunnels, or this ROW should be shut down to trains - Those are the only two ways to 'eliminate opportunity for suicide on the tracks'.

Wonder how many questions they'll field on the issue of suicide at the upcoming meetings... I wouldn't be surprised if that new grass roots effort on the behalf of ending train suicides of our teens will be on the horizon in the near future.

What kind of iron clad protections will HSR provide the community, especially where thousands of school age kids are crossing daily and the train runs through the backyards of multiple schools? You can be sure that will provide endless years of litigation fodder.

Its ironic that troubled teens who certainly couldn't care less about HSR politics, just may be the ultimate demise of HSR's scummy plans - because unless the trains are underground in protected tunnels, aint nothing stopping kids from hopping on the tracks anywhere they damn well please - HSR is going to be just as susceptible as Caltrain (with much bigger operational and financial impact for shutdowns)

This however isn't stopping the low lifer HSR fanatics are scumily using teen suicide to claim riteousness.

Unknown said...

@Observer, I think it's best to let you argue with yourself:

Either trains go in completely sequestered underground tunnels, or this ROW should be shut down to trains - Those are the only two ways to 'eliminate opportunity for suicide on the tracks'.

These are kids stepping intentionally on the tracks from any point they can get entry. And can just as easily be at a station.

How does a tunnel solve the station problem?

You're willing to state that running more trains will increase suicides, presumably by making it easier to throw oneself in front of a train, but then you say that things that make it more difficult, like fences or grade separation, won't have any affect because these individuals are too determined to be dissuaded.

Anonymous said...

The suicide argument is bogus and erroneously singles out Caltrain. The Golden Gate Bridge is the area's worst suicide magnet. The GGB Directors should have been compelled to erect fences years ago but they remain complacent, indifferent, inert on the issue.

Most all pedestrian deaths, suicidal or non, are caused by automobiles. Extrapolating from your Caltrain-hsr aerial argument all major pedestrain crossings should have overpasses. In reality there are hardly any pedestrain bridges, even those streets are much more dangerous than rr grade crossings.

Bianca said...

@observer: Actually, there are a number of things that could be done to reduce pedestrian fatalities on the tracks.

First and foremost, the local media needs to really think about the Werther Effect. There is a fair amount of evidence that reporting on suicides increases the likelihood of copycats.

Second, there is evidence that increasing barriers to access does indeed make a difference. This study followed up on people who had been prevented from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and the findings were very compelling: "after 26-plus years the vast majority of GGB suicide attempters (about 94%) are still alive or have died from natural causes."

There is a lot of evidence that many suicide attempts arise from moments of crisis meeting an opportunity. The harder it is to access that opportunity, the less likely it is that the crisis will end in tragedy. That applies both to Caltrain and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Eliminating open grade crossings where pedestrians have access to the tracks between stations is a no-brainer with regards to suicide prevention. There are ways to limit access to the tracks from within stations. If our communities are concerned about preventing suicides, there are lots of design aspects that can be implemented to address that.

I'm not saying that grade separations will prevent all suicides on the tracks. But it will prevent a lot of them, and that's reason enough to do it.

Bay Area Resident said...

Seems like the train supporters are stressing out at the relentless hammering CHSRA is taking from the bay area. Chill out, dudes. You KNEW the job was dangerous when you took it- in picking the Caltrain ROW.

Hey does anybody know when the San Jose - Merced scoping analysis is due?

Rafael said...

@ observer -

all I said is full grade separation eliminates the opportunity to commit suicide - in the context of cross roads, if that wasn't clear. In theory, a person could indeed throw themselves onto the tracks at a station, but I'm not aware of such an event on any HSR system anywhere in the world over the past 40 years.

Speed, btw, has nothing to do with it. A train will kill a person who has lain down on the tracks as surely at 20mph as at 220mph. The only way to prevent the incident is to keep that person off the tracks.

What I didn't say is that grade separation eliminates suicides per se. Sadly, there will always be some who will seek out ways to shuffle off this mortal coil well before their time. It's just that innocent railroad engineers and administrators don't want to have any part of that, any more than e.g. bridge operators do.

You might want to measure the tone of your replies. Truthiness doesn't become anyone.

K.T. said...


I was able to find couple of Japanese newspaper articles stating suicide attempts at Shinkansen stations. The type of platform screen doors commonly used in Shinkansen stations are up to height of the waist, therefore it does not have a strong prevention against the suicide attempts at the station platform.

The type of platform-screen doors shown in wiki article, which is mostly taller than our height, should have strong prevention against the suicide attempts at stations.

Also, common type of shinkansen suicides that I have heard is to drop themselves from the running train by misusing the emergency door openers.

dave said...

No HSR = Suicides at: grade crossings, unfenced area's and stations.

HSR Buiilt = Suicides at stations only.

Simple as that! Choose one!

Anonymous said...


no access to tracks at grade so they go to the station? so get of the train and what, they go to el camino and use a bus? gg bridge? their parents medicine cabinet?

Id like to know if there's a study that shows the suicide rate of poor kids to those of middle class kids. I'm sure the poor neighborhoods have a much lower rate.

Further, even if complete grade separation didn't reduce suicide it would still reduce death over all... or don't people involved in accidents count?

observer said...

I dont' know - why didn't they use bus, gg bridge or parents medicine cabinet in the first place??? Apparently because trains are a more attractive nuisance to children. Lets solve one problem at at time shall we? Right now, our problem is trains running above ground through populated suburbs - and that's a practice that's going to stop. I'm sure our politician will agree as soon as they're suitably apprised.

Brandon in California said...

Well, it is terrible when someone feels so distraut over life that tehy consider suicide. It's unfortunate that some choose to do so by getting in the way of an oncoming train.

That said, if someone is intent on commtting suicide... they'll find a way.

But, if that person is in some sort of grey area about choosing, I can see how making fewer easy choices to commit themselves to the act would reduce the occurence.

Grade separations can and will reduce the rate of suicides by train. I believe that is a no-brainer.

An additional no-brainer... other incidents involving trains... such as auto versus train at grade crossings. And, fewer/no train horn blasts.

Brandon in California said...

I look forward to the San Diego scoping meeting. It's on my calendar.

Unknown said...

Right now, our problem is trains running above ground through populated suburbs - and that's a practice that's going to stop.

It's official, Observer is a proponent of aerial viaducts!

mike said...

There's no question that grade separation would prevent a large suicides. Yes, there would still be station access, but apparently that doesn't matter very much, particularly if the new equipment uses raised platforms (so it's not trivially easy to just step from the platform onto the tracks).

For proof, just look at BART. It passes through communities with similar demographics to Palo Alto (e.g., Orinda, Lafayette, etc.), but AFAIK there are no incidents of Orinda or Lafayette teens using BART to commit suicide. There's easy station access there, no question...but it just doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

BART is not exempt from suicides.

An aerial ROW would still require razor wire to try to keep out trespassers. It would be a magnet for taggers.

The suicidially depressed will sadly find another "final destination" All Caltrain is doing is accumulating hostility with their overdone horns and demands for elevateds. I suspect that a number of Peninsula residents now wish they had gone for BART. PA et al would have gotten their subway and the hsr forced to 101.

lyqwyd said...

hmm... BART doesn't have razorwire, and somehow the tracks are not swarmed by trespassers.

Taggers can easily be discouraged by quickly painting over any tagging.

Bianca said...

Interesting. It was down to one ticket left for the teach-in, and then they just added 50 more tickets.

So if you thought you were out of luck, you aren't.

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