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CalTrain MOU is a disaster

Original post made by morris brown, Menlo Park: Park Forest, on May 8, 2012

On Thursday the CalTrain board approved a MOU with High Speed Rail Authority, which CalTrain is celebrating as being the salvation of CalTrain, since it will provide funding for electrification of their tracks.

What a deal! One really wonders if this board, which literally rubber-stamps everything that comes before them, ever exercises any thought on the actions they take.

This MOU replaces the original agreement between the Authority and CalTrain. That agreement would have funded not only electrification, but full grade separations of the line. Under that agreement, CalTrain would not be sharing its tracks with the Authority, but the Authority would have its own dedicated tracks and CalTrain would have its own tracks. Not anymore.

Now, CalTrain must allot time slots on its tracks to the Authority, reducing the number of trains and therefore the service that CalTrain will be able to provide to its commuters. It will prove to be an un-workable arrangement for both parties.

The original full 4 track deal was not acceptable to the communities along the Peninsula. This new arrangement is not be acceptable either. Passing tracks along about one-fourth of the 50 miles from SF to San Jose will be needed, and are not going to be acceptable to whatever communities they run through. San Mateo is already asking for some kind of grade separations, and there is no funding for those or other grade separation anywhere else either.

The fact of the matter is that High Speed Rail does not belong on the CalTrain corridor at all. It should have never been approved in the first place and it should never have been again approved last Thursday.

Comments (11)

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Posted by Dr Doodle
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Well yeah, but the safe bet is that high speed rail trains never actually run on Caltrain tracks. Right? There won't be any HSR trains in California until at least an additional $30 billion falls out of the sky and gets spent to connect the Central Valley to LA. Which is going to happen by ... oh, I don't know, let's say .... NEVER. And even $30 billion doesn't connect to San Jose, so even if there are HSR trains in California, it will take yet ANOTHER $30 billion or so to connect them to San Jose and up to SF.

So no HSR trains mucking up our tracks, but we DO get the tracks electrified courtesy of the MOU. Quieter and faster trains, and no more diesel pollution. What's not to like?

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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Doodle is spot on.

And if HSR does come through, most of us having this argument will be long gone. Let the children of the future deal with that problem while giving them the one gift we can give them now (meaning 8 years from now, of course...)

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Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm

@ Dr. Doodle and @ John Murphy

If your comments are indeed the truth, and HSR doesn't come, and I admit that is a good possibility, then funding from Prop 1A funds could not be more illegal. Prop 1A funding from $9 billion of bonds is absolutely to be used for HSR and not for a commuter train like, CalTrain.

It could not be more fraudulent to use these funds in this manner, and that surely is a possibility.

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Posted by Dr Doodle
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm

@Morris Brown, you're probably right that someone who doesn't want to see Caltrain get electrified could challenge the use of Prop 1A money for this purpose. Are you that person? What do you have against Caltrain?

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm

"What do you have against Caltrain?" I'm so glad you asked.

1. Mismanagement
2. Huge, inappropriate salaries
3. Unaccountable and lacking oversight (Yes, it's not their fault.)
4. Fixated on hardware and rolling stock. Not the appropriate business model.
5. Not integrated into Bay Area commuter and transit network.

Yes, the Peninsula should have an efficient commuter rail service that focuses on public mass transit as its mission. Furthermore, it should be integrated into the other transit operator services, such as BART, ACE and the Capital Corridor. The secret of effective transit in a wide-spread population base is seamless, multi-modal, connectivity. Without solving the first-and-last-mile problem, Caltrain fails to address its core problems.

Caltrain should have been tending to seeking permanent, preferably state subsidies for its operation. Instead, they focused on their infrastructure bells and whistles and will continue to whine about annual "fiscal emergencies" until hell freezes over.

Management of Caltrain should be taken out of the hands of Caltrain executives. The JPB should be dissolved for the useless, rubber-stamp, bureaucracy that it is. The transit rail operator should be Bay Area wide, even with mixed rail technologies. That is, BART should connect efficiently with the Peninsula commuter rail and with the Amtrak services out of San Jose, perhaps -- I say perhaps -- under the management umbrella of state-based Capital Corridor JPB with state assured funding.

Caltrain persists in operating with the wrong business model. It believes that they are in the railroad business rather than the public mass transit business. Electrification won't change that. They have no oversight and are not accountable to anyone, including we the taxpayers that keep them in business. They have an overpaid management team and there are too many on the payroll. They prefer the glamour of capital development projects, rather than hunkering down to solve their annual budget crises, which never go away.

Even as their ridership does increase, it is still a miniscule fraction of the transiting population. And that can only be fixed with superior connectivity; making transit more efficient, effective and convenient than driving.

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Posted by Hummer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Just adding auxillary lanes onto 101 between Palo Alto and Menlo Park costs 50M$/mile. HSR and CalTrain is a bargain in comparison.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm


$50 million a mile? Care to back that up with a link substantiating it?

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Posted by Hummer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Don't believe me ? Read the VTA fact sheet. 3.2 miles for a little under 150M$. And we're not really even getting a full new lane - just an exit lane really. I expect a few overruns. Does include some nice benefits like a new ADA-compliant pedestrian crossing. Expanding existing highways in urban areas is definitely pricey. The new 85/101 junction in Mt. View cost about 200M$ for about 1 1/2 miles worth of work.

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Posted by Hummer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Sorry Menlo Voter - here's the link

Web Link

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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm

Doesn't it feel surrealistic when our government makes these outrageous 'predictions' about HSR? The Legislative Analysts Office recently came out with a paper showing us how little honest thought has gone into this thing. My mouth is agape.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 9, 2012 at 8:09 am


according to your fact sheet it is a $72 million project. Work includes 3.2 miles in both directions plus other associated work. Even if you ignore the cost of the associated work and apply the $72 million only to the lane work, which is 6.4 miles total you get $11.25 million per mile not $50 million.

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