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High-speed rail: Palo Alto residents join revolt

Residents demand transparency, involvement

Click on pictures for larger images and captions.

It began with a series of casual chats between neighbors in the Southgate neighborhood before it spilled over to other parts of Palo Alto.

Gradually, the rumors became more troubling. Homes will be seized. Property values will plummet. The city will be divided by a 15-foot-high barrier -- a modern-day Berlin Wall -- running along the Caltrain tracks and scarring the neighborhoods in its path.

Ironically, some of the residents cast their votes for the very project they are now rallying against. In November, Palo Alto joined every other Peninsula city except Atherton in passing Proposition 1A, which authorizes a $9.95 billion bond to construct the nation's first high-speed rail system in California.

The 800-mile rail line would eventually stretch from San Francisco to San Diego, carrying commuters up and down the state at speeds reaching 220 mph and allowing residents to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 38 minutes, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with guiding the project to its conclusion.

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The rail would also run on grade-separated tracks, which means it would operate at a different elevation than other transportation paths, making collisions all but impossible.

But as residents who attended the rail authority's public scoping sessions in January repeatedly said when asked for their thoughts on the project: The devil's in the details. A fast, clean train line may be a worthy ideal, they say, but it becomes less worthy if the train is heading toward your backyard.

"The idea that high-speed rail will be going through densely populated cities is a significant issue," Palo Alto resident Mary Brodbeck told the City Council during a Feb. 9 meeting. "There is significant pent-up frustration in our community that we have not been heard on this issue."

At some point, between November and February, fears began to bubble up around Southgate as neighbors have come to a discomforting realization: The largest peacetime infrastructure project in the nation's history will likely rumble through their backyards, and there may be nothing they can do to stop it.

Though anxieties over the high-speed rail project have only recently begun to surface in Palo Alto, very little about the project is actually new. The rail authority, which consists of a nine-member board of directors and a few staff members, was created in 1996 and has been working with private engineering and environmental-consulting firms on the project for more than a decade.

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By the time California voters approved Proposition 1A -- giving it 53 percent of support statewide and 60 percent in Santa Clara County -- the authority had already released thousands of pages of information analyzing potential routes and funding sources.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and myriad state and local officials lobbied for Proposition 1A, touting the proposed high-speed rail line as the best way to mitigate the state's swelling congestion, reduce carbon emissions and bring the United States in line with other developed nations, most of whom built similar systems decades ago.

In Palo Alto, the City Council passed a resolution in October calling the high-speed rail a "proven technology" that would "provide a faster, far better environmental solution to the problem of moving our state's growing population from one part of the state to another."

Last July, the Authority chose the Pacheco Pass, which cuts over from the Central Valley to Santa Clara Valley, as the preferable route for the first planned installment of the rail line. Had the alternate, eastern Altamont Pass been selected, the rail line would have skipped the Peninsula in favor of connecting to San Francisco from the east.

Also, under a scheme proposed by the rail authority, one of the stations along the segment would be located in either Redwood City or Palo Alto. Though that decision is yet to be made, the proposed trains could zip through Palo Alto as early as 2015, reaching the speed of 125 mph.

Residents had a chance to learn about the projects at three scoping sessions the rail authority conducted in January. The meetings, held in San Carlos, San Francisco and Santa Clara and focusing on the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the line, were held precisely to inform the public about the project and to get feedback on what issues the agency should study in its environmental impact report.

But more than a few Palo Alto residents say they left these sessions unsatisfied. Agency officials lauded the benefits of the electrified steel-on-steel rail system and described the approval process, but strayed from answering specific questions about the track alignments and possible use of eminent domain to secure the needed right of way.

The real engineering work is just getting started, project engineer Timothy Cobb told the audience at the sessions, and will likely take at least a year and possibly more.

Among the larger-than-expected spillover crowd at the San Carlos scoping session was Tom D'Arezzo of Palo Alto. A resident of Mariposa Avenue, which runs parallel to Alma Street and the Caltrain tracks, D'Arezzo attended the first scoping session because he wanted to know how the train will affect his neighborhood in general and his property in particular. D'Arezzo said he was dumbfounded when he couldn't get clear answers to his questions about eminent domain, track alignments and other details close to his and his neighbors' hearts.

For D'Arezzo and his neighbors, the question isn't merely academic. If the rail ends up running along the Caltrain tracks, as planned, two new tracks would need to be installed, rail authority officials had said. But it wasn't clear to D'Arezzo or anyone else at the scoping meetings whether the authority would need to use eminent domain to acquire the land needed for the track expansions.

The next day, D'Arezzo wrote a letter to his neighborhood group and launched a Yahoo message board to encourage people to become more engaged in this project. He also decided to attend the Feb. 2 City Council meeting to voice his concerns.

Other residents from Southgate and Charleston Meadows neighborhoods also stopped by City Hall to express frustration and, in some cases, opposition.

"I was still in the information-gathering, mode and I decided I needed to go to the next council meeting and speak," D'Arezzo said. "I was surprised when I got to the City Council meeting and saw that, independently, some people decided to show up as well."

On Feb. 8, he said, about 60 residents attended a community meeting focusing on high-speed rail. The meeting included a presentation by Councilman John Barton, who used a picture of the Berlin Wall to characterize the embankment the line would require if it were constructed above ground. D'Arezzo said Barton also advocated placing the line in an underground tunnel, an option that several residents have also lobbied for.

The next evening, most of the residents from that gathering showed up at the City Council meeting.

The council, for its part, has been asking its own questions about the project and its implications for Palo Alto's future. In December, the City Council directed city staff to examine the potential impacts of a high-speed rail station on Palo Alto.

In January, Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto attended the San Carlos scoping session and, like D'Arezzo, expressed a sense of frustration about the limited communication channel between the rail authority and the cities that would be impacted by the new rail line.

After the meeting, Kishimoto talked to leaders from other Peninsula cities and noticed they had similar concerns. The week after the San Carlos meeting, she helped assemble an ad hoc coalition of officials from all over the Peninsula -- including Mountain View, Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Burlingame. The group has met three times.

Kishimoto said members are now considering signing a Memorandum of Understanding, which would enable them to efficiently share information and negotiate with the rail authority.

"We represent a fairly diverse collection of cities, some of which are more enthusiastic about high-speed rail than others," Kishimoto said. "But we realized that we do have a lot of clear areas of common concern."

One of these, Kishimoto said, is the need for more time to identify issues the environmental impact report should cover.

On that ground, at least, the group appears to have already secured a victory. The rail authority had previously set March 6 as the deadline for submitting comments about the scope of the environmental study. In the last few weeks, residents and officials from other jurisdiction have argued that the March 6 deadline gives them insufficient time to make the necessary comments.

In mid-February, authority officials said the wish might be granted.

City leaders also urged the rail authority to give greater consideration to urban design in its environmental study, thereby making sure the rail line would integrate smoothly with the environment through which it would be stretching.

Kishimoto said the group also urged the authority to fully consider the tunneling option in its impact report and to integrate the high-speed rail system with Caltrain to reduce redundancy and limit the number of trips.

Palo Alto officials are next scheduled to discuss the rail project March 2 at 7 p.m. An hour before that, dozens of city residents are expected to march from Lytton Plaza to City Hall to demonstrate their reservations and frustrations.

Unfortunately for those wanting certainty now, some of the most pressing questions will not be answered for a year or more. Among them: Will there be tunnels or overhead tracks? Will Palo Alto get a station? Will properties be confiscated through the process of eminent domain?

In the meantime, the authority, for its part, will be asking its own questions, mostly about funding. The $9.95 billion bond passed by the voters authorizes $9 billion for high-speed rail construction and another $950 million for rail-related services such as shuttles and light rails connected to the system. The federal government is projected to provide $10 billion to $12 billion for the project, while another $7 billion or so would come from private investors.

But it's not yet clear what effect the economic recession will have on potential investors, which include Goldman Sachs and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, authority staff have stated.

On the other hand, the federal economic stimulus bill should spell some good news for the authority. On Feb. 17, President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion bill, which includes $8 billion for high-speed rail. California is expected to land at least $2 billion of that money.

At the same time, nothing is certain in a recession. Quentin Kopp, who chairs the rail authority's board of directors, said the agency is still waiting for the approved bonds from Proposition 1A to be sold. And the cost of postponement is steep. Kopp said each year of delay would add $2 billion to the project's $45 billion price tag.

"The design engineering phase will probably require approximately two years," Kopp said. "I'd like it to be speedier, but lack of money always delays a project. ... Until the treasurer decides the bonds can be sold, we're literally working on promise."

Meanwhile, the authority plans to continue its outreach process. On Feb. 26, agency officials plan to meet with Palo Alto residents at the Mitchell Park Community Center. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Updates will be posted on the city's website, which now has a section devoted to the high-speed rail project.

Timothy Cobb, the engineer in charge of the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment, also said agency officials will return to update residents on a quarterly basis, even though some of the most important questions won't be answered for some time.

Sara Armstrong, president of her neighborhood's Charleston Meadows Association, said she hopes future meetings will provide more specifics about the rail plan. Most of the answers the authority has been providing so far have been little more than marketing, Armstrong told the City Council.

"My recommendation is, we need to do a lot more community outreach within Palo Alto," Armstrong said. "I think we should start within Palo Alto an effort to inform our citizens about what has actually gone on.

"How can we mitigate the negative impacts and focus on the positives that this high-speed rail would mean for the community?" she asked.

Rail authority seeks comments

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is seeking feedback from residents about what issues should be considered in its Environmental Impact Report. For information, visit www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov. Comments should be mailed by March 6 to: Mr. Dan Leavitt, deputy director, ATTN: San Francisco to San Jose HST Project, EIR/EIS, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L St., Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814

Related stories:

o Tunnels to be considered for high-speed rail

o Peninsula residents skeptical about high-speed rail

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High-speed rail: Palo Alto residents join revolt

Residents demand transparency, involvement

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Sun, Feb 22, 2009, 9:48 am

Click on pictures for larger images and captions.

It began with a series of casual chats between neighbors in the Southgate neighborhood before it spilled over to other parts of Palo Alto.

Gradually, the rumors became more troubling. Homes will be seized. Property values will plummet. The city will be divided by a 15-foot-high barrier -- a modern-day Berlin Wall -- running along the Caltrain tracks and scarring the neighborhoods in its path.

Ironically, some of the residents cast their votes for the very project they are now rallying against. In November, Palo Alto joined every other Peninsula city except Atherton in passing Proposition 1A, which authorizes a $9.95 billion bond to construct the nation's first high-speed rail system in California.

The 800-mile rail line would eventually stretch from San Francisco to San Diego, carrying commuters up and down the state at speeds reaching 220 mph and allowing residents to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 38 minutes, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with guiding the project to its conclusion.

The rail would also run on grade-separated tracks, which means it would operate at a different elevation than other transportation paths, making collisions all but impossible.

But as residents who attended the rail authority's public scoping sessions in January repeatedly said when asked for their thoughts on the project: The devil's in the details. A fast, clean train line may be a worthy ideal, they say, but it becomes less worthy if the train is heading toward your backyard.

"The idea that high-speed rail will be going through densely populated cities is a significant issue," Palo Alto resident Mary Brodbeck told the City Council during a Feb. 9 meeting. "There is significant pent-up frustration in our community that we have not been heard on this issue."

At some point, between November and February, fears began to bubble up around Southgate as neighbors have come to a discomforting realization: The largest peacetime infrastructure project in the nation's history will likely rumble through their backyards, and there may be nothing they can do to stop it.

Though anxieties over the high-speed rail project have only recently begun to surface in Palo Alto, very little about the project is actually new. The rail authority, which consists of a nine-member board of directors and a few staff members, was created in 1996 and has been working with private engineering and environmental-consulting firms on the project for more than a decade.

By the time California voters approved Proposition 1A -- giving it 53 percent of support statewide and 60 percent in Santa Clara County -- the authority had already released thousands of pages of information analyzing potential routes and funding sources.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and myriad state and local officials lobbied for Proposition 1A, touting the proposed high-speed rail line as the best way to mitigate the state's swelling congestion, reduce carbon emissions and bring the United States in line with other developed nations, most of whom built similar systems decades ago.

In Palo Alto, the City Council passed a resolution in October calling the high-speed rail a "proven technology" that would "provide a faster, far better environmental solution to the problem of moving our state's growing population from one part of the state to another."

Last July, the Authority chose the Pacheco Pass, which cuts over from the Central Valley to Santa Clara Valley, as the preferable route for the first planned installment of the rail line. Had the alternate, eastern Altamont Pass been selected, the rail line would have skipped the Peninsula in favor of connecting to San Francisco from the east.

Also, under a scheme proposed by the rail authority, one of the stations along the segment would be located in either Redwood City or Palo Alto. Though that decision is yet to be made, the proposed trains could zip through Palo Alto as early as 2015, reaching the speed of 125 mph.

Residents had a chance to learn about the projects at three scoping sessions the rail authority conducted in January. The meetings, held in San Carlos, San Francisco and Santa Clara and focusing on the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment of the line, were held precisely to inform the public about the project and to get feedback on what issues the agency should study in its environmental impact report.

But more than a few Palo Alto residents say they left these sessions unsatisfied. Agency officials lauded the benefits of the electrified steel-on-steel rail system and described the approval process, but strayed from answering specific questions about the track alignments and possible use of eminent domain to secure the needed right of way.

The real engineering work is just getting started, project engineer Timothy Cobb told the audience at the sessions, and will likely take at least a year and possibly more.

Among the larger-than-expected spillover crowd at the San Carlos scoping session was Tom D'Arezzo of Palo Alto. A resident of Mariposa Avenue, which runs parallel to Alma Street and the Caltrain tracks, D'Arezzo attended the first scoping session because he wanted to know how the train will affect his neighborhood in general and his property in particular. D'Arezzo said he was dumbfounded when he couldn't get clear answers to his questions about eminent domain, track alignments and other details close to his and his neighbors' hearts.

For D'Arezzo and his neighbors, the question isn't merely academic. If the rail ends up running along the Caltrain tracks, as planned, two new tracks would need to be installed, rail authority officials had said. But it wasn't clear to D'Arezzo or anyone else at the scoping meetings whether the authority would need to use eminent domain to acquire the land needed for the track expansions.

The next day, D'Arezzo wrote a letter to his neighborhood group and launched a Yahoo message board to encourage people to become more engaged in this project. He also decided to attend the Feb. 2 City Council meeting to voice his concerns.

Other residents from Southgate and Charleston Meadows neighborhoods also stopped by City Hall to express frustration and, in some cases, opposition.

"I was still in the information-gathering, mode and I decided I needed to go to the next council meeting and speak," D'Arezzo said. "I was surprised when I got to the City Council meeting and saw that, independently, some people decided to show up as well."

On Feb. 8, he said, about 60 residents attended a community meeting focusing on high-speed rail. The meeting included a presentation by Councilman John Barton, who used a picture of the Berlin Wall to characterize the embankment the line would require if it were constructed above ground. D'Arezzo said Barton also advocated placing the line in an underground tunnel, an option that several residents have also lobbied for.

The next evening, most of the residents from that gathering showed up at the City Council meeting.

The council, for its part, has been asking its own questions about the project and its implications for Palo Alto's future. In December, the City Council directed city staff to examine the potential impacts of a high-speed rail station on Palo Alto.

In January, Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto attended the San Carlos scoping session and, like D'Arezzo, expressed a sense of frustration about the limited communication channel between the rail authority and the cities that would be impacted by the new rail line.

After the meeting, Kishimoto talked to leaders from other Peninsula cities and noticed they had similar concerns. The week after the San Carlos meeting, she helped assemble an ad hoc coalition of officials from all over the Peninsula -- including Mountain View, Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Burlingame. The group has met three times.

Kishimoto said members are now considering signing a Memorandum of Understanding, which would enable them to efficiently share information and negotiate with the rail authority.

"We represent a fairly diverse collection of cities, some of which are more enthusiastic about high-speed rail than others," Kishimoto said. "But we realized that we do have a lot of clear areas of common concern."

One of these, Kishimoto said, is the need for more time to identify issues the environmental impact report should cover.

On that ground, at least, the group appears to have already secured a victory. The rail authority had previously set March 6 as the deadline for submitting comments about the scope of the environmental study. In the last few weeks, residents and officials from other jurisdiction have argued that the March 6 deadline gives them insufficient time to make the necessary comments.

In mid-February, authority officials said the wish might be granted.

City leaders also urged the rail authority to give greater consideration to urban design in its environmental study, thereby making sure the rail line would integrate smoothly with the environment through which it would be stretching.

Kishimoto said the group also urged the authority to fully consider the tunneling option in its impact report and to integrate the high-speed rail system with Caltrain to reduce redundancy and limit the number of trips.

Palo Alto officials are next scheduled to discuss the rail project March 2 at 7 p.m. An hour before that, dozens of city residents are expected to march from Lytton Plaza to City Hall to demonstrate their reservations and frustrations.

Unfortunately for those wanting certainty now, some of the most pressing questions will not be answered for a year or more. Among them: Will there be tunnels or overhead tracks? Will Palo Alto get a station? Will properties be confiscated through the process of eminent domain?

In the meantime, the authority, for its part, will be asking its own questions, mostly about funding. The $9.95 billion bond passed by the voters authorizes $9 billion for high-speed rail construction and another $950 million for rail-related services such as shuttles and light rails connected to the system. The federal government is projected to provide $10 billion to $12 billion for the project, while another $7 billion or so would come from private investors.

But it's not yet clear what effect the economic recession will have on potential investors, which include Goldman Sachs and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, authority staff have stated.

On the other hand, the federal economic stimulus bill should spell some good news for the authority. On Feb. 17, President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion bill, which includes $8 billion for high-speed rail. California is expected to land at least $2 billion of that money.

At the same time, nothing is certain in a recession. Quentin Kopp, who chairs the rail authority's board of directors, said the agency is still waiting for the approved bonds from Proposition 1A to be sold. And the cost of postponement is steep. Kopp said each year of delay would add $2 billion to the project's $45 billion price tag.

"The design engineering phase will probably require approximately two years," Kopp said. "I'd like it to be speedier, but lack of money always delays a project. ... Until the treasurer decides the bonds can be sold, we're literally working on promise."

Meanwhile, the authority plans to continue its outreach process. On Feb. 26, agency officials plan to meet with Palo Alto residents at the Mitchell Park Community Center. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Updates will be posted on the city's website, which now has a section devoted to the high-speed rail project.

Timothy Cobb, the engineer in charge of the San Francisco-to-San Jose segment, also said agency officials will return to update residents on a quarterly basis, even though some of the most important questions won't be answered for some time.

Sara Armstrong, president of her neighborhood's Charleston Meadows Association, said she hopes future meetings will provide more specifics about the rail plan. Most of the answers the authority has been providing so far have been little more than marketing, Armstrong told the City Council.

"My recommendation is, we need to do a lot more community outreach within Palo Alto," Armstrong said. "I think we should start within Palo Alto an effort to inform our citizens about what has actually gone on.

"How can we mitigate the negative impacts and focus on the positives that this high-speed rail would mean for the community?" she asked.

Rail authority seeks comments

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is seeking feedback from residents about what issues should be considered in its Environmental Impact Report. For information, visit www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov. Comments should be mailed by March 6 to: Mr. Dan Leavitt, deputy director, ATTN: San Francisco to San Jose HST Project, EIR/EIS, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 925 L St., Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814

Related stories:

o Tunnels to be considered for high-speed rail

o Peninsula residents skeptical about high-speed rail

Comments

Martin Engel
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 22, 2009 at 10:34 am
Martin Engel, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 22, 2009 at 10:34 am

It's time for residents of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto to get involved and engaged. As we have pointed out in the past, the rail corridor is not the private possession of Caltrain, it is public property, owned by us and administered by the Joint Powers Board.

The debate is heating up. More residents and more cities are discovering, many to their horror, what is in store for them when construction begins on the rail corridor. The current “default” plans include a raised “retained fill” wall that is over 20 ft. high holding the four tracks, with catenary towers on top. It will be at least 75ft. wide, and probably wider. Street crossings will be cut through this barrier wall, perhaps dipping down enough to provide 17 ft. of overhead clearance. There are six of these crossings in Atherton/Menlo Park and four in Palo Alto.


The recent history of the CHSRA is somewhat less than sterling. We need to know who we are dealing with. The Lowenthal-headed Transportation and Housing Committee of the State Legislature issued a highly critical report last summer, chastising the rail authority for it’s insufficient and unreliable information as it packaged itself for the Proposition 1A bond issue ballot.

The authority was charged with issuing a valid and up to date business plan by September and failed to do so until four days after the election. The authorizing legislation also required the authority to establish a peer review panel to review the business plan and produce and analysis. The due date for that panel and its work has not been done and is way past due.

A CEQA lawsuit was filed prior to the elections last November with Atherton and Menlo Park, along with an environmental organization and two-rail advocacy organization as plaintiffs. The suit claims, correctly I believe, that the EIS/EIRS is fatally deficient in certifying the route from San Jose to Gilroy on the unavailable ROW belonging to Union Pacific. That suit will be heard in May.

Last October, the Reason Foundation published an enormous, highly technical and detailed report, “A Due Diligence Report,” challenging all of the rail authority’s claims, projections and promises. It confirmed what a very few of us have been saying for several years, that what the rail authority has been producing is information about as reliable as a late night TV infomercial.

Last month, the Legislative Analyst’s Office in Sacramento published a 2009-2010 Analysis, including that of the high-speed rail authority, with devastating criticism of their many failings and the need for extensive Legislative intervention to rectify those failings.

What’s my point? The high-speed rail authority has been less than honest or candid. So? There is as yet the unrecognized reality that the positions of the cities on the Peninsula, who are about to be adversely affected, have an inherent adversarial relationship with the high-speed rail authority. Their and our agendas diverge and conflict. That’s what all these blogs have been all about. The current lawsuit is one instantiation of this fact.

The purpose of the emerging coalition of cities, a process that has been admirably driven by Yoriko Kishimoto, is to have all of us who will be adversely affected, be able to speak to the rail authority with one voice and to have that voice heard, respected and responded to.

Rallies, marches and meetings are great for building the grass roots support that this emerging coalition will need. It should be clear that we must stand united, even if each town’s particular needs diverge with those of others, otherwise we will not be heard. The rail authority is not interested in our concerns, their rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

We must make the effort to have them become interested. One way is for Palo Alto to file an amicus curiae brief in support of the current plaintiffs. That will strengthen the lawsuit and the hands of those in Palo Alto who share the same concerns as those of Menlo Park and Atherton. Ideally our neighboring cities would all do the same as active participation in “leveling the playing field.” I believe the lawsuit gives us leverage in our anticipated negotiations with the rail authority.

All this is, of course, up to you and your ability to persuade your elected officials.

I posted a similar comment in the Palo Alto Online version of this Almanac Town Square.


Jake Brake
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm
Jake Brake, Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm

We already voted in favor of HSR. HSR is good for California and will be good for us. Temporary inconveniences are necessary and worth it.


skeptic
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm
skeptic, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Those are pretty sweeping statements, Mr. Brake. Want to provide any substantiation? [portion deleted]


you all know better
another community
on Feb 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm
you all know better, another community
on Feb 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Trying again to stir up trouble?? deal with it you all moved next to a railroad.


Andrew Bogan
another community
on Feb 22, 2009 at 7:41 pm
Andrew Bogan, another community
on Feb 22, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Obstructionist NIMBYism is most unhelpful at this point in HSR's long history. California needs high speed rail to remain competitive (Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan, much of the European Union, and the Boston to DC corridor on the East Coast already have high speed rail). California voted for High Speed Rail and the Peninsula voted >60% in favor of it, despite the cost. We should all stop whinging and try to use our collective voices to explore the best available options for HSR along the Caltrain right of way. For example:

Is it possible to raise enough money to pay for extensive tunneling underground through Peninsula cities? It might be, but tunnels are typically 3-5 times more expensive than above ground rail construction and our communities may not be able to raise the necessary funds.

What is the best alternative if tunneling is impractical due to funding limitations or engineering challenges?

How can we get the project completed as quickly as possible to minimize the disruptions to neighbors as well as to and Caltrain service? Nobody wants 30 years of construction and massive cost overruns.

What is the best location for a mid-Peninsula station? Palo Alto is an obvious choice with its university, tech businesses & venture capitalists, and shopping centers, but Redwood City is lobbying hard since they recognize the huge economic benefits of having a HSR station in their city.

Let's move this conversation in a productive direction to help design the best possible High Speed rail network for California. This project is more important than anyone's backyard. (And, yes, I live a few blocks from the tracks, too, in Palo Alto.)


Michael
another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 7:38 am
Michael, another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

Andrew,

Thank you for you comments. I agree. If NIYBYism kills HSR on the Peninsula, it will choke us in more traffic.

Unfortunately, my city of Burlingame is joining the NIYBY group of cities.


common sense
Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 23, 2009 at 8:34 am
common sense, Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 23, 2009 at 8:34 am

HSR will add to traffic on the peninsula! We need to create local transit systems first or we will have the world's worst traffic snarls. If you look at other areas with high-speed rail, you will realize that all have solid local transit. It's an essential component for success.

However, given that HSR is about political jockeying for power and not about helping alleviate traffic problems for the common folk, it's no surprise that they have chosen to ignore the obvious. We, the voters and residents, need to make sure their political greed does not destroy the peninsula.

It's not about NIMBYism. It's about holding our public servants accountable for spending our money properly. We already have trains running up and down the peninsula. Adding more trains to that same route isn't going to help us at all.


All for HSR
another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm
All for HSR, another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I agree with Jake Brake and Michael.

On another note, adding more trains (cal train and HSR) along the caltrain corridor will help increase train ridership. I've often considered taking Caltrain to an evening SF event, but decided to drive since Caltrain service is so infrequent in the late evenings.

Belmont and San Carlos elevated their tracks. The construction process was difficult, but not the end of the world. And no one here is saying, aw, gee, we shouldn't have done it, what a horrible thing. The reality is the crossings are safer for cars, kids, the elderly, and those of us distracted by cell phones.

The process might not be perfect, but investing in this HSR infrastructure is much needed.


truth
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm
truth, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Why does this exchange always go down the same path? Two extreme positions without any room for dialogue.

Stop the train is a bad plan. HSR up your kaboose is equally lame.

How about a discussion about bringing HSR but with communities in mind? That is what Yoriko and folks have been saying.

Black and white arguments are just so "society 1.0" stuff...evolve people...


common sense
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm
common sense, Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

When the residents of other communities start weighing in, it's a sign that the thread has been hijacked by HSR backers. I've seen it over and over again on this board. Since HSR isn't going to stop in Menlo Park or Atherton, it's not going to make local travel easier for residents. But if there truly is demand for late trains to and from San Francisco, then Caltrain is already operating -- why not work through them to add capacity?

In Belmont and San Carlos, the areas east of the tracks are almost 100% commercial/industrial. The train tracks do not run through residential areas. That's a huge difference, and if you "other community" posters had ever been to this area, you might understand that. And those track elevations are hideous. They're okay, just okay, for industrial areas, but not for a downtown or residential neighborhood.


NOCommonsense
Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm
NOCommonsense, Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

No everyone moved next to these tracks..ITS was clear when you bought your property...and in any other area this would no BIG DEAL.


sally
another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm
sally, another community
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I think I just want to oppose the rail because the supporters like the one above seem like such jerks. I just read this article and you guys seem so arrogant and mean in your comments.


NOSAlly
Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm
NOSAlly, Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Try and think...Why would someone buy a house next to busy railroad tracks and then scream about how there being abused? Thats what wrong with this ..AND dont call people jerks..you are the rude one.


common sense
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm
common sense, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I don't live anywhere near the tracks, but it's still MY money the government is wasting. It's real easy to throw around the NIMBY label, especially when it means that the perpetrators of this boondoggle can ignore serious questions. Frankly, I don't think high speed rail should be in ANYONE's backyard, but should be routed along 5.


mymoneyto
Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm
mymoneyto, Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm

ITS MY Money too!! And if you think it a boodoggle so be it..It was passed by the voters that are forward thinking..if the Neo-cons would
be upset by its passage all the better


Dan Connelly
another community
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:30 am
Dan Connelly, another community
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:30 am

Transportation infrastructure is alway balances local good to global good. Look at the masssive would on the land, on communities, on people's daily lives which are 280 and 101. It's hard to imagine anything uglier, fouler, or more destructive. Or look at airports. Planes scream overhead, breaking the peace. The roads for miles around become clogged with airport traffic. Thousands of acres of land are destroyed to make room for runways, terminals, and parking lots. And this analysis hasn't even addressed other environmental impacts.

Investment in rail is far preferable. There will always be property owners who suffer in any community development decision. That's true for everything, even something as benign as a park or a library or a school. But we are not a unbound community of individual domains. We are a balance between the rights of individuals and the needs of the community as a whole. Along the way, we all sacrifice our individual desires for the good of the group in many ways, none of which on its own appears fair.

I love a quote that a transfer to local rail will cost "only 40 minutes". Imagine holding up car traffic on 101 in San Jose for 40 minutes, and see if people don't mind.

High Speed rail is one step in breaking the broken paradigm of one car, one person. It's time we got our heads out of the caccoon woven by profit-driven Detroit in the last century. Apologies to those who have to listen to trains pass by. I listen to cars on 101 every second from my home in San Francisco.


common sense
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:29 am
common sense, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:29 am

Anyone else tired of these "residents of other communities" telling us that we're wrong?

Here's an excellent post from the PA Townforum, a different perspective from anything I've seen on this board.

Posted by PokerDad, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, 33 minutes ago

I love the idea of high speed trains, and I would probably use it.



But voted against this thing. It was an obvious boondoggle, well-underfunded. At the time it never seemed imaginable that someone would actually put a 130Mph train through neighborhoods, next to parks and schools. Had that been on the bond measure, it would have died a horrible death. The high speed trains in France and Japan operate at LOW speed in populated areas. They know these things are LOUD. I have been on the Shinkansen and high speed trains in Europe. There is a BIG difference between living next to a 50Mph commuter train on the Caltrain corridor vs. one of these monsters. They look cool, sleek, modern, and move fast. Fast == LOUD. Nobody should have to be subjected to this. I suggest you listen to one yourself.


As for the comments that the Majority benefit should outweigh the losses of a minority, I think that concept disappeard in the 60's. If the high speed train destroys property value, the HSR should pay for it. NOT just the eminant domain property taken for space usage, but the degradation of neighboring properties as well.

I have no problem with the majority will, but the majority must compensate the people affected. Period.


Money is the problem. The state doesn't want to pay the real impact.

The real issue here is that the HSR is trying to cut corners on this project to control budget, and push the environmental costs onto local governments, communities, and individual homeowners. That is not fair. If they really want a high speed train, then the state should pay to do this in a low impact way. Any other proposal is simply theft and destruction.

Other questions:

6.5M voters said yes. Ridership estimates: 117M. How does this work? I suspect the ridership is estimated by the same crooks who estimated the SJ Light-Rail fiasco.


Finally, what is wrong with running this along the bay from SF to SJ. The ACE train does this, and it is a straight, clean shot, you can run 200mph out there and nobody will care. Land is cheap, and I doubt the salt marsh will care at all. Why was this shot down?


common sense
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:38 am
common sense, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

>>>Transportation infrastructure is alway balances local good to global good. <<<
19th century thinking. Our future will not focus on heavy vehicles that travel on permanent tracks but rather on modular, energy efficient vehicles with flexible routing.

>>>Planes scream overhead, breaking the peace. The roads for miles around become clogged with airport traffic.<<<
Such drama! Fact is that HSR, even at the inflated ridership numbers they project, would barely make a dent in air traffic. There would still be plenty of demand for SF-LA flights, and flights elsewhere would be unaffected.

>>> Along the way, we all sacrifice our individual desires for the good of the group in many ways, none of which on its own appears fair.<<<
Read Poker Dad's post. Some people are being asked to sacrifice way more than others. Everyone who is adversely affected by this boondoggle needs to be compensated, and there is simply no money for that. Stealing from people is theft, public good or no public good.

>>>It's time we got our heads out of the caccoon woven by profit-driven Detroit in the last century<<<
And instead allow decisions to be driven by politicians like Diridon, Kopp, and Newsom? No thanks, I prefer the free market process. And the free market says thumbs down to this one.





more sense
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm
more sense, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I don't live near the tracks, either, and I oppose hsr now because it is not at all the most needed transit solution for the problems we have in the bay area.
As Common Sense pointed out, we have rail already. We don't have an effective public transit system to get around to places the rail line doesn't take us. Sorry folks, but claims of NIMBYism are just convenient for you to denigrate the opinions of others. HSR is far down the list of solutions we need, and we DO need to set priorities when money is as tight as it is.


palo alto voted YES
another community
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm
palo alto voted YES, another community
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm

And we that voted Yes are tired of you people acting like your the only opinion thats right for this area.Its time for HSR in this nation and California is to lead ..if you want to stay in 1960 or are 70years old and dont care about the future your wrong.


2MuchMoney
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 26, 2009 at 5:39 am
2MuchMoney, Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 26, 2009 at 5:39 am

Mr. Brake of P.V.:
I intend to build a "Hooters" restaurant in the area of Alpine and Portola Road. I am sure that I won't have to deal with your "NIMBY
attitude" on this great addition to your town.


Another pissed off bay arean
another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:59 am
Another pissed off bay arean, another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:59 am

Hey SPOCK, or whatever moniker you are using now, quit trolling on every anti-HSR bay area block and acting like you are an actual RESIDENT of PA, Menlo, Atherton etc. that supports this claptrap. We will shut this train down unless they put it underground, relocate to 101 or move it to altamont. Period.


WillowGlen resident
another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:02 am
WillowGlen resident, another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:02 am

The san jose airport is barely hanging on right now and this train threatens it even more. We would all prefer an airport to this train. If this train takes any ridership from airports and SJ airport is threatened, Silicon Valley companies will file a petition and kill this train.


WillowGlen resident
another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:05 am
WillowGlen resident, another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

common sense, HSR does run through Willow Glen residential which is the best part of San Jose, so there are other residential areas this is plowing through besides Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Also Burlingame is "commercial", but the train goes right through the TOWN where all the 4 star restaurants are. This thing will ruin the town of Burlingame with a 15 ft concrete wall right through the center of it. Not to mention the leveling of the historic train station.


WillowGlen resident
another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:11 am
WillowGlen resident, another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:11 am

This "deal with it you live next to a railroad" is the favorite byline of HSR supporters who obviously come from LOS ANGELES and have no idea that the old slow Caltrain goes straight through every quaint small town on the peninsula.

My guess as to how this happened: the San Jose chamber of commerce lobbied the bought and paid for Kopp and Diridon, and they folded, and the HSR commission has NO IDEA that the pacheco route plows through expensive bedroom community central. these LA residents assume that every house next to train tracks is a 200K shack, they missed the fact that Atherton houses "on the tracks" are $6 million dollar abodes for the Venture Capital community.

HSR BSers: how about DRIVING AROUND the caltrain tracks and seeing for yourself what you are displacing. If you think the wealthiest residents of the bay area are going to allow this to destroy their quality of life you are sadly mistaken.

Additionally, San Jose has some historic districts (designated historic) like Palm Haven which can sue for environmental impact.


Glen
another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Glen, another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm

NO we live here just like you and I live in Millbrae so stop speading
false statements and personal opinions..No one is LA cares about what is going here with HSR..AND I know what Menlo Park..PA look like


Caballo de Ferro
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm
Caballo de Ferro, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm

So nice of PA residents to finally wake up and smell the diesel fumes.


Name hidden
Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 24, 2017 at 10:10 pm
Name hidden, Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 24, 2017 at 10:10 pm

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