High-speed trains could be headed this way


Imagine boarding a train in the Bay Area, and two and a half hours later, you're in downtown Los Angeles.

No flight delays, no turbulence, no lost baggage, no traffic jams, and no gas station bathrooms to worry about -- just a one-way ticket that costs about $55.

These are some of the promises of the California High-Speed Rail project, a proposed network of electric trains that would reach speeds up to 220 miles per hour, and connect San Francisco and Sacramento in the north to Los Angeles and San Diego in the south. The project would cost an estimated $42 billion.

This may be a dream come true for transit officials and travelers hoping to spend less time in airport security lines or driving on Interstate 5. But many residents of Menlo Park and Atherton — including most City Council members — say high-speed rail is a nightmare.

  • Read Rory Brown's cover story.

  • View video created by NC3D for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

  • Comments

    Like this comment
    Posted by Martin Engel
    a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
    on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Since the Almanac rail issue came out a week ago, it doesn’t cease to amaze me how little interest there has been in these articles and opinion pieces. There were four separate items, including the feature article in the prior issue and there are now three pieces, including the editorial, in the present issue, all of them about the high-speed train.

    Most articles trigger instant response, pro or con. But, the California high-speed train and the grade separations that will be built to carry these trains appear to be of little consequence to most of us personally. There have been zero comments. WOW!

    The fact is that when construction starts in Menlo Park and Atherton, we all will be stunned by the intrusiveness, the chaos and the destruction of our peace and tranquility. What will happen to the rail corridor and what will run on it will impose greater and more dramatic changes for our towns than anything we have ever previously experienced. Isn’t that worth some thought, criticism and debate?

    Most of those residents living and people working more than, say, a quarter of a mile either side of the tracks will think that none of this is of any consequence or concern to them.

    Boy, are they wrong.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Hitoshi Maruyama
    a resident of another community
    on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Dear People of California
    I am a naturalized Japanese and live in Seattle area. I am very familiar with high-speed train system.
    You will find that riding on a high-speed train is so comfortable and enjoyable.
    You don't need to pay any attentions to others Just sit on a seat and read a book, newspaper, magazine or watching beautiful California scenery along the rail tracks.
    If you are tired, even you can sleep.
    High-speed trains consume energy far less than the cars. One of Japanese Shinkansen
    models use only 1/12 of cars. Your system is reported about 1/5.
    Under ground oil resource is depleting at a rapid rate every day. I hope that the readers start thinking about the situation when gasoline price becomes $10/gal. It may come not not so long distant future because CEO of Shell Oil Company predicted in his new year message to his employees that after 2015, supply of 'easy-access-oil' will no longer keep up with demand. You believe or not, such time is coming sooner or later.
    After that oil price will steadily increase everyday.
    We need conserve oil to produce food and essential goods. It is only fuel to keep airplane flying.
    We should think about our future generations. We have to leave something tangible things such as this high-speed train system. I hope that it will be extended to boarder to Oregon as a part of the West Coast Corridor from the Canadian boarder to the Mexican boarder in future.
    We are good at leaving debts for future generation. We should change the habit.
    Hitoshi Maruyama, PhD
    P.S. Welcome your readers comments to

    Like this comment
    Posted by Oscar
    a resident of another community
    on Mar 5, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Martin Engel apparently thinks that Almanac readers should make statewide decisions based on their own narrow self-interest. If high-speed rail construcion means you will experience some noise for a year or two, you should vote against it regardless of the benefits it will bring to anyone else. Great job, Martin! This is really the kind of progressive thinking that will move our country forward and solve the problems we have brought on ourselves. We need a lot more of this short-sighted and selfish attitude to counter those with real vision.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Train Lover
    a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
    on Mar 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I agree with the gentleman from Japan. This would be a POSITIVE thing. The heavy deisel engines would be replaced by quiet electric powered trains. Less noise, less polution and most important...less traffic on the road. What a great way to travel as well.

    Like this comment
    Posted by whatever
    a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
    on Mar 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    hitoshi -- with all due respect, leaving debts for future generations is kind of a weak point of debate on this high speed rail issue.

    californians are being asked to vote on a $10B bond in november. that bond will be a debt paid by our kids and our kids' kids for years after you are long gone. ignore the fact that the state is in a financial state of emergency (a huge fact) and just look at the costs of the big dig, the chunnel and so on. huge overruns that saddled tax payers and their states with billions in debt. fix the environmental issues locally through town policy but don't be so arrogant as to ignore the fact that an entire generation of ex hippies have become yuppies who will suck dry every last dollar my generation and my kids' generation will need when they grow old.

    train lover, your short sided comments are just proof of the demise of my future. sure, you get a train and our carbon footprint is "maybe" reduced (count up the costs of construction et al) but i get a guaranteed burden that will last for generations.

    Like this comment
    Posted by train lover
    a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
    on Mar 7, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    To Whatever: You are one short sighted person. Look to the future to improve it. Yes, there will be a cost. There is a cost for everything! Good efficient less polluting speedy transportation is where the future is headed. Get real and get "on board"!!

    Like this comment
    Posted by Negative Impact
    a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
    on Mar 11, 2008 at 2:36 am

    Think deeply about this one. The business/ public interactive downtown vitality of Menlo Park is based greatly adjacent to or along the very narrow ECR/Caltrain corridor. This proposed construction and operation will permanently damage the vitality/desirability of the community as a whole. The construction will take years, not months. Traffic will be impacted from 280 to 101, ECR will come to a standstill throughout the day for years. Santa Cruz ave will be a parking lot during the daytime hours. Noise from very heavy equipment will be heard for years throughout the entire night throughout the community from Middlefield to Hobart. In the long term, our city will only gain noise from speeding trains that will not service Menlo Park, but will have divided our town in half both visually and psychologically with brooding urban/industrial scale structures. Lets not shoot ourselves in the foot in our attempt to improve the future. Pass the train to the East/North.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Ex-Bostonian
    a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
    on Mar 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Anyone who knew Boston in the last century and has seen (finally, after the time- and cost-overruns from h#$%ll) the results of "The Big Dig" can't help but wonder whether, possibly, such an audacious thing could be considered for the CalTrain corridor. Imagine a greenbelt and bicycle corridor all the way from San Francisco to San Jose. Yes, the costs would be enormous ... putting much of the track underground, including some stations, etc. But the reduction in noise, in traffic delays at every crossing, in disunity between the sides of every city on the corridor ... Wow. What a dream.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Martin Engel
    a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
    on Mar 12, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Yes, no name Ex-Bostonian, that's a swell idea and we could even have Parsons Brinckerhoff and/or Bechtel do the construction work. After all, they are responsible for the Boston Big Dig, your proposed role model for our Caltrain corridor. We should know that they took a $2 billion project and turned into a $15 billion nightmare. The two companies were fined over $400 million for their shenanigans, and PB has a history of waste, fraud and corruption.

    Why does that matter? Because they have been doing grade separation studies for Caltrain and may do the actual construction. Furthermore, they are the lead contractor for the California High Speed train. When you say, "the costs may be enormous," you have no idea! "Wow. What a dream" indeed. Here are some web sites for your entertainment. After reading these, you too may have some reservations about construction projects involving Caltrain and the California High Speed Train.

    Web Link

    Web Link

    Web Link

    Web Link

    Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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