Time for Menlo Park to reject outright High Speed Rail --- it is never going to be done right. Menlo Park, posted by Morris Brown, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm
The present position of Menlo Park stating that Menlo Park is in favor of High Speed Rail "done right" should be revisited and changed.
Palo Alto and Atherton in particular are quite clear they reject High Speed Rail and Menlo Park should do likewise.
See the comments made by Palo Alto Mayor Yeh at the Simitian HSR committee meeting last Tuesday 3/13/2012. (they are copied in text format below. His comments can be viewed at:
(copy of Palo Mayor Yiaway Yeh public comment remarks 3/13/2012 at the hearing on HSR in Mt. View)
Text Box: March 13, 2012 Talk Time - 1 Minute, 55 Seconds
Senators Simitian, Lowenthal, and DeSaulnier
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on this important subject:
First, I would like to publicly reiterate that as of December 19, 2011 the Palo Alto City Council has taken the position that California HSR should be terminated because the current project is far too expensive, is not what the voters approved in 2008, and its Business Plan is fatally flawed and not credible.
However, if the State should move forward with the HSR project, and a Blended System design for the San Francisco to San Jose segment, the City of Palo Alto requests the following actions occur
One, it is imperative that the California Attorney General's Office give it's opinion on the legality of a Blended System relative to Prop. 1A as soon as possible and make that decision public.
So long as there is a cloud of uncertainty regarding the legality of a Blended System hanging over the project, progressing on alternatives that might be acceptable to the Peninsula is not possible in any meaningful way.
Next, any reference to a four-track system being constructed between San Francisco and San Jose must be eliminated from all CHSRA environmental documents. This is an alignment that is uniformly opposed and even as a mere plan has significant negative impacts on neighborhoods bordering the Caltrain right of way.
Finally, it needs to be understood that the City of Palo Alto's willingness to CONSIDER a Blended System on the Peninsula is NOT an endorsement of it. Discussion of a Blended System is rather a starting point for dialogue on how a system could possibly be designed that our community could support; however reluctantly.
Many serious and material problems -- such as traffic delays caused by increased crossing gate down times -- need to be resolved before our City could agree to any design alternative, including a Blended System.
The City of Palo Alto expects that resolving these types of issues will include working with local officials directly, not just regional agencies such as the MTC. The City of Palo Alto understands the role that the MTC plays in distributing regional funding but the reality of the situation is that the MTC lacks both the ability to speak on behalf of our residents and the local knowledge that our Councilmembers posses.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:58 pm
Good luck getting that to happen. Kelly Ferguson and Kirsten Kieth are beholden to labor unions. They'll never say anything against HSR because organized labor wants it. That's why Sacramento keeps pushing it even though it is clear we can NEVER afford it. Payback to their labor masters.
Posted by reality, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:03 am
Menlo Voter, are you joking? Kelly Furgusson has been elected twice with labor endorsements and financial support, and wrote the ballot statement against Measure L. On the other hand, Kirsten Keith supported Measure L when she ran, and has never been endorsed by, or taken money from, Unions. In the upcoming supervisor Race, Shelly Masur is the candidate that accepted the endorsement and support of the unions. Web Link
Posted by looking on, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:16 am
While it is certianly true the Fergusson is aboslutly beholden to the unions, Keith is certianly beholden to the developer interests. Has she ever voted agasint any kind of development project?
Look at who is leading her fund raising campaign --- none other then David Bohannon who I guess is re-paying her for her strong support of his Gateway project. She is really the most ambitious, self-promoting council person in Menlo Park, even rising above Fergusson in that regard.
Posted by Tim Wulff, a resident of another community, on Mar 16, 2012 at 9:30 am
If I may, I'd like to place a slightly different perspective on the strategy of labor over the HSR issue.
I speculate that they have made the decision to charge into the machine guns of public opinion on this one because they view this issue as related to the union benefits/negotiation-structure/pension issue. I can only guess that they are planning on a long term war against the public and somehow, even though HSR is clearly a failed issue, they are hurling themselves on their swords. As noted above, devotee/contribution recipients are dutifully finding whatever specious justification they can to continue this fiscally irrational process. Why?
Perhaps, because there is a bigger fight around the corner (note San Jose and San Diego Elections) on pensions, benefits and the whole issue of how government compensation is decided without the direct consent of the voters - the taxed entity- ahem...fundamental constitutional issue much?
Could this be a strategy of a very large scale war of attrition? Lose a huge fight and try to tire the people out?
Wallets can be energizing though, and people get aggravated when they realize they've been manipulated out of their legal rights.
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Welcome to the shark tank. There's some red meat dangling. What does all this mean? As currently constituted, we are indeed, "on the menu" as Pat Burt said at Simitian's meeting.
We will be the victims insofar as we are in the way of these power plays now taking place.
Repeat after me: This is not about the train; it's about the money.
Money is power. Politics is the means for controlling money, which is power. High-speed rail is the label that is being put on this deadly game. From here on in, we need to keep our eye on the ball, so to speak. We should not be distracted with alignments or routing issues. This is not about trains or electrification. This is all and only about the getting control of funds.
What can we do?
We need to go "viral" with our position: see below. We need to use Twitter and Facebook and all the other social networks to our advantage.
We need to organize into one large group that agrees on fundamental principles. Yes, that will be hard, very hard. But we have no other option.
We must ALL agree:
1. There must be no high-speed rail on the Caltrain corridor. Not now. Not ever.
2. There must be no electrification or "blended" plan on the corridor. Not now. Not ever.
3. There must be a separation of the agenda of Caltrain from the agenda of High-Speed Rail. They must be uncoupled. This is the non-negotiable condition under which we agree to work with Caltrain and its problems.
4. At last, after nearly four years, we must all stand together as one. There can be no "doing it right" option. There can be no accommodation with Caltrain or the rail authority That's playing their game into their hands.
5. We must become far more confrontational and determined. We must stop believing that we are successfully negotiating. We are not.
6. Many towns and cities are making definitive statements about rejecting high-speed rail. We must not be behind this curve. We should be ahead of it and indeed lead it.
7. We will not be given a seat at the table. We must seize it by being determined, organized and in much larger numbers than now.
We will not be able to "negotiate" this away. Not with Simitian, not with anyone.
We must all understand that what is unfolding is an "eat or be eaten" scenario.
We can, by force of will, become a political power and player in this ruthless game. But, we must first be determined and stop our disagreements about this or that detail of train business. It's irrelevant.
It should be clear by now that what is being shoved down our collective throats is nothing like what the voters supported in 2008. They promised us X if we supported their plan, and now they are doing a "bait-and-switch" and making us accept something we never agreed to.
We must all, together, oppose this desperate scramble for control of dollars to be wasted on frivolous and unnecessary construction in the Central Valley and high-speed
rail-anticipating upgrades in our two population centers.
Posted by Sir Topham Hatt, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm
We should link up with the Greek government and see how they are funding their high speed rail project. High speed rail is the toast of Europe, and the Greeks doubtlessly have found a clever way to fund this "investment".
Posted by doing it right, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Looking at the long term, I submit that doing it right means undergrounding the train, with or without HSR. Sure, it's expensive, but undergrounding is what Europe's cities did in their urban centers and affluent suburbs. The air space above is extremely valuable and could support fabulous renewal of our towns. Undergrounding is safer and would greatly ease car traffic and help make it easier to get around in other ways.
Anything but undergrounding is wrong and should be opposed vehemently by everyone.
Posted by Kay Djordjevich, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm
I think I must have misunderstood the Blended plan??
This is a stopgap plan to use Caltrain tracks, knowing that at a later date the intention is to build on the peninsula the new high-speed rail track. Excuse me, but I find this absurd. Have I missed something? If there is a high speed train on the tracks, any track, any contact with the public must be absolutely avoided. Would they not have to build “grade crossings” at every street crossing the tracks?
To build them only for one set of tracks, and then later redo each crossing to accommodate the eventual plan of a second set is a no-brainer! So the destruction of existing businesses, structures, etc. at each crossing would be the same even if high-speed rail could use the old Caltrain tracks, which seems unlikely to me.
As for the double set of tracks eventually planned...
I wonder if the high-speed rail enthusiasts factored in the COST of taking down thousands of old growth trees, probably including the old Palo Alto redwood grove along the tracks. (I remember what it cost to take out a single Monterey pine on our property a few years ago!) And the cost of the certain demolition of many long-established businesses, office buildings, maybe the Stanford Park Hotel, apartment houses, railway stations along the Peninsula, reimbursement to the owners and communities affected, not to mention private homes which will be lost!
Did they ever decide if they would build the new tracks on the East or West side of the Caltrain tracks?
And how to manage the redirection of traffic now using the major arteries affected – Alma Street and the Central Expressway.
Posted by Frump, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm
Mr. Engel, All,
There are a bunch of us who have an opposing opinion and do want to go forward with HSR, with attendant costs and changes it might mean to our community.[Portion removed; be respectful of other posters.]
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm
I hope you don't mind paying an insane amount of taxes as that is what you will be doing if HSR is built. Unless, of course, you make less than $40k annually and don't pay any taxes. HSR was sold on LIES and will not do anything they said it would do.
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Mar 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm
Dear Mr. Frump,
I understand and respect your interest in having a high-speed rail. Presumably this is the train promised by Proposition 1A, for which you doubtlessly voted.
Unfortunately for you and your colleagues who wish for this train, it will not happen. There are several reasons for this. The first is the cost. It would be the most expensive mega-infrastructure project in the history of the United States. And the United States doesn't have the money. Therefore, when the government says to build this train, it's an "unfunded mandate."
We have been told, most recently, that the development cost from SF to LA will be as much as $117 billion. In fact, that is not a correct figure since it omits numerous other costs that should also be included. As has been documented by Prof. Flyvbjerg of Oxford, pre-construction estimates invariably become far higher during construction, and certainly higher than initially projected.
Therefore, Mr. Frump, you have to ask where those funds will come from. It goes without saying that building and operating this train will not be free. And if it is ever built, the ticket costs will knock your socks off. You can determine this yourself right now by Googling ticket costs for HSR around the world. It will be a train only for the rich. Are your rich, Mr. Frump?
But, none of that will happen, and your state government knows that. This is why the current plans in Sacramento are undergoing such rapid and radical changes. Since the rail authority and our Governor (and Democratic Legislators) understand that there will be no future funding, they are scrambling to spread the available funds around, so that no one will be left out. They will be "buying votes." That means that there will be some funds for electrification for Caltrain and more for rail upgrades in the Los Angeles area. And, they will build some tracks between Merced and Fresno which high-speed rail can't use, and Amtrak doesn't want to use. That doesn't sound like the high-speed rail that you want to go forward with, is it?
So, Mr. Frump, it is not clear what you want and what you mean when you say you "do want to go forward with HSR."
Regardless of what I and "all" want, what you are going to get out of all this is Caltrain electrification with all the accompanying 'fun', and probably less than 100 miles of useless track in the Central Valley. Is that what you have in mind?
Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2012 at 10:32 am
EVEN WITH ALL THE WEALTH AND POWER IN THIS AREA, NOT MANY real PEOPLE
OF THE AREA USE THIS SITE AND ARE NOT VOCAL LIKE THE "REGULARS' WHO ARE JUST SO MUCH LIKE A CONSERVATIVE ROMNEY, WHO DOES NOT DO ANYTHING TO EXPLAIN HIS PLANS. HSR IS NOT FOR JUST A FEW. IT IS FOR THOUSANDS OF JOBS AND WILL MAKE A FUTURE FOR NOT JUST CALIFORNIA, BUT THE COUNTRY.
THE MAIN PERSON WHO HAS MADE CHANGE IN OUR WORLD SINCE 9/11 WAS A LOCAL WHO YOU ALL FOUGHT, AND STEVE JOBS (NOT A COLLEGE GRAD) BUILT A COMPANY WHICH IS NOW THE MOST VALUABLE ON EARTH.
HE DID THIS IN SPITE OF THE CRITICS WHO ARE REALLY LIKE A GROUP FROM A SECRET SOCIETY WHO ALL STICK TO THE SAME ISSUE. NO HSR!
IT WILL HAPPEN JUST AS SURE AS MOST OF YOU ARE SPEAKING OF YOURSELVES WHO LOVE CALTRAIN AND NON GROWTH.
PLEASE STOP THINKING YOU ARE SPECIAL. THERE ARE A LOT OF RICH PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS FOR THIS PENINSULA. THE RICHEST PERSON BEING A WOMAN AND SHE ALSO IS PRO HSR.
[Portion removed. Please don't attack other posters.]
Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm
Thank you, Mr. R. Gordon of another community. You offer interesting insights.
I was employed by Steve Jobs for seven years and even so fail to see any connections between objecting to or praising high-speed rail. The term for that is: non-sequitur.
About being special or thinking being special? Also a non-sequitur. Irrelevant to this discussion.
Unless you can provide a plausible explanation about where at least $117 billion will come from to pay for the construction of this high-speed rail, this project remains a childhood dream of electric trains for Christmas.
I won't get into the disastrous consequences to the people who put food on your table, Mr. Gordon.
And the rich/poor issue is straightforward. HSR is not public mass transit. As you can easily discern by checking on Google, HSR tickets are the most costly of any train tickets.
Can those be afforded by most Americans? I think not.
One more point. I, for one, don't love Caltrain. However, I do believe that the Peninsula and the Bay Area need efficient and convenient public mass transit, including commuter rail all the way around the Bay. What is currently going on with the manipulation of too few dollars will have no impact on that problem.
One more other point. This issue is not about me and it is not about you. It is about the citizens of California, who are about to get taken for the ride of their lives, and not in a good way!
Posted by Judy in M. P. , a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm
I seldom read these comments because many are so intense and narrowly focused. But today is a favorite subject. I remember when a citiy on the peninsula blocked BART. Now we all have to change between CalTrain and BART at Milpitas, why I tend to drive to/from the city. I hope we don't make that mistake again.
We've all traveled in cities in Europe and some of us have lived there extended periods. We know the pleasure, in most cases, of convenient travel, both long and short distances, for millions of travelers.
This seems a curiously consistent group of commenters. So I add one here from one of the "other" positions .... to provide fresh juice for the assaults? HA! :-) Have a brew and let the games continue.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm
the problem with HSR here in California vs Europe is manyfold. Number one is that we do not have the population densities along the corridors to support it. Add to that it will cost FAR more than advertised when they lied to the voters to pass it, the ticket prices will be far more than advertised when they lied to voters to pass it, it will not be self supporting as they lied to the voters to get it passed and the final point we simply DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY. We can't afford to properly fund our schools and we should fund this boondoggle? This project if it gets built will saddle our children, grand children and great grandchildren, ad infinitum with the huge cost to support this thing. For what? So the politicians can pay back their union masters? I think not. This thing needs to die if for no other reason it was sold to the voters on a pack of lies. My recolection is BART was sold with real numbers. Maybe that's why it failed with voters.
Posted by looking on, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm
1.BART failed on the Peninsula, because it didn't seem fair to burden Peninsula citizens with the ever so much more expensive cost of building BART through the urban areas of SF and Oakland/Berkeley compared (at that time) with the relatively low cost, to build through the much less dense Peninsula.
2. Then there was the very strong opposition from the Bohannon family, which felt BART would do harm to their financial interests in the Hillsdale shoping center and they certainly had a major influence to defeating BART from coming here.
Posted by Al Neiman, a resident of the Portola Valley: Ladera neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:15 pm
The Caltrain corridor can be electrified from San Francisco to San Jose AS IS, for about 600 million ie, no new grade separations or tunnel mods. The 5 new locomotives can be kept for the San Jose-Gilroy run and rest sold on the used equipment market. The internet is full of references to back up this figure.