Elevated? In a tunnel? Report to examine alternatives for high-speed rail


A report will be released Thursday analyzing alternative alignments for the San Jose-to-San Francisco segment of the proposed high-speed rail system.

Prepared by the staff of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the report will include the Menlo Park and Atherton parts of the route.

"This information should include much more detailed analyses of the pros and cons of the potential alignment alternative designs ('at grade,' elevated, and tunnel/trench) for the HSR tracks," said Menlo Park Councilman John Boyle in a Sunday e-mail.

The report will be presented at the authority's board meeting, starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 8, at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors' Chambers at 70 West Hedding St. in San Jose.

"We'll no doubt have follow-up forums and events held locally, but the first look at this information will be available to the public at this board meeting," Mr. Boyle said.

■ View the agenda for the board meeting.

■ View the report on the authority's Web site the morning of April 8.

■ Sign up for e-mail notifications from the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

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Posted by Gail Slocum
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Am I missing something here? Last week CalTrainannounced that it's about to go under, and will have to take drastic action VERY SOON including possibly cutting all weekend trains, as well as mid-day weekday (non-commute hours). I think I read that they need $11 million to fill budget shortfall and they receive NO tax dollars now.

Yet we REALLY need MORE such transit, NOW, and a cutback of what we have would be a travesty.

Meanwhile, High Speed Rail is spending tax dollars hand over fist (overall budget is in the $40 billion range) to study something that we may not see come to fruition during our lifetimes and appears to have a very precarious business model.

Couldn't the High Speed Rail folks spare just $11 million to ensure that CalTrain continues to provide the NEAR TERM congetions relief we need.

Gail Slocum
Former Mayor

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Ms. Slocum.........

Excuse me......are you thinking only about YOUR limited future or the future of the state/country/ and not just the area you formerly represented?
The future is HSR............or perhaps things like "End of Days", Armagedon, the Rapture, atomic warfare, earthquakes.
Airlines are all but gone, auto industry dead,highways decaying like bridges.
Why do so many people think HSR are loud and ugly?
I think some of the humors here are really that way.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Bardas
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

One would think it would be preferable to insure that local commuter rail service with a full and reasonable schedule to accomodate all passengers and bicycles was fiscally sound before we built a high speed rail service. Or shall we build it only to find empty tracks bisecting the Peninsula because voters rejected the tax subsidies and bond measures necessary for overpriced and underserved transit plans? Let's get Caltrain to be efficent before we start digging tunnels, building overpasses or taking land by eminent domain.

Like this comment
Posted by Lee Weaver
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 5, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Caltrains current woes are a glimpse into the future of high-speed rail- ridership fails to meet projections, ticket prices are hiked and service cut, more people quit riding, and the governing authority comes back, hat-in-hand, for some more subsidies to keep the trains running and generous pay packages in place.

Like this comment
Posted by Think
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I sure hope you were paying more attention when you were "former mayor."

You say CalTrain receives no tax dollars - I don't know where your info comes from (perhaps te leaves).

According to CalTrain documents on their site, only $48 million of the 2009 operating budget comes from "income" such as tickets and parking. The remainder is subsidized by our TAXES!

From CalTrain - Feb 2009 avg weekday ridership equals 20,000 commuters. 2009 annual operating budget $95 million or about $5,000 per commuter. Of that about half is CalTrain income and the other half is from taxes paid by the 3 million plus SF, SM and SC county non riders. So we're subsidizing these commuters about $2400 a year - each!. Oh yeah - operating budget does not include capital budget -CalTrain's 2009 capital budget was $150 million so add another $7500 per commuter for 2009, paid by our taxes. $200 million a year in tax money or $10,000 per commuter. All TAX money so 20,000 folks can play with their computers on the way to and from work.

Yep, what a bargain. Let's give that money to our local schools where it will do a hell of lot more good in the immediate and the long-term.

Don't you just love politicians who make up the numbers.

Like this comment
Posted by Gail Slocum
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Dear "Think"

Yes I did pay more attention to a wide range of issues when I was Mayor. Perhaps I read the news article too fast. Sounded to me like the State took away quite a bit of the gas tax money that CalTrain used to get and put them elsewhere. Specifically, I now understand from an informed neighbor that CalTrain was getting about $40 million from a combination of MTC, VTA and SamTrans. All those organizations have their major budget problems now, and they are going to cut their contributions to CalTrain, starting in the 2012 fiscal year (July 2011), by 70%, thus the $40 million will shrink to #12 million.

SO that gives more detail - but apparently my basic concept that CalTrain wasn't anywhere near as supported by tax dollars than other transit - mostly from Fares - will be and to a degree already is -- is basically true.

Apologies for not having all the details initially though. By not posting anonymously, I received a lot more information today off line from an informed neighbor. But those of you who post on Town Square anonymously and then snipe at people makes folks less likely to try to engage in dialogue because they don't want to be attacked. For shame. That doesn't build the kind of community I think we all would prefer...

However I do have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion that we should "give the [CalTrain "tax"] money to the schools." While I am a huge supporter of the schools (and implore one and all to vote YES on Measure C -- the fact is that we have significant congestion and greenhouse gas emission problems for which the number one cause is single occupant vehicle. And we KNOW we need transit as the solution - NOW. So, no, CalTrain is not perfect, but it's THERE. And it take single occupant cars off the road and has effectively done so for many decades. To have a significant cutback in it now would be worse than just sad.

My main point stands -- it seems really pathetic that CalTrain's operating budget is struggling so badly and will have to drastically cut drastically its services if conditions don't change while so much is going to something whose alleged benefits are so very far out into the future. I now understand that what I suspected is true -- High SPeed Rail bond funding is supposed to be only for High SPeed Rail, and in fact only for infrastructure (not high speed rail operations if and when it comes to pass). Sadly, it cannot be used for local commuter service that currently serves this very corridor.

Thank you for reminding me that the CalTrain deficit is for operating the train, as opposed to doing capital work on improving infrastructure. Apparently CalTrain has available about 600 Million of their own funds, but that money may only be used for operating the train and may not be used for operating it.

As my informed neighbor friend said "It's crazy, but it's how the game is played." Amen - now what constructive approaches are there to DO something about saving CalTrain? I am interested in sincere and respectful dialogue...

Gail Slocum

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Posted by Think
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Dear Former Mayor
My comment was sincere and respectful. A "former mayor" needs to show a little more respect to the community by getting her facts straight especially if signing "former mayor" is supposed to give the impression that you are all knowing and we are just the common folk.

As to your statement that there are no tax dollars going to CalTrain is "basically true" is ludicrous - how can you equate a nearly 50% subsidy as no taxes.

Additionally as a "former mayor" you should realize that a $2500 annual subsidy to each of 20,000 commuters for CalTrain operations plus an additional $7,500 to each for capital is not a responsible and equitable use of our tax dollars.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Eng
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:44 am

It's time to shut down Caltrain and convert to the Freeway. Not spend Tax on public transit! We should spend more money on highway to support oil company. Removal of train will avoid any density housing. We are not European or Asian. Try to maintain the American quality of living.

Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

Martin, its comments like those in your last post that caused me to choose the name under which I post.

Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm

By the way, this is a terrific blog on some of the real life issues with Caltrain / High Speed Rail. Much better quality information than I've seen anywhere else.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2010 at 7:07 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

I agree with WhoRUpeople precisely.
You seem to live as though the ALMANAC "community" is going to live in a glass dome protected world all its own......WRONG.
As for the remark Martin Eng made, he is SO right...this is NOT Europe of Asia. They have social concerns outside of garden parties and banking.

Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 7, 2010 at 8:41 am

It seems as if there are (at least) two areas of concern -- financial, can we afford this; and second, will it be useful both now and in the future. On the financial side, given the effectiveness of how the state manages money and projects, it will undoubtedly be over budget and delayed. Secondly, by the time the project could be completed following court battles and delays, it will be so over budget that it will need to be subsidized and cost too much to make its operation feasible and practical.

While mass transit and public transportation are fine ideas, realization seems to dictate that they work better in some places than others. For the public transportation in our area, they will always only have limited success. I don't really see HSR being practical; in this case the financial cons greatly outweigh the pros. In a state that really should be bankrupt, why are we spending more money that will take us further into debt?

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 7, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I have to agree with Gail Slocum (Like Haleys's comet this phenomenon occurs once every 76 years). We need to kill the HSR and plow the money into regional transit all over California including CalTrain. Her critics are focusing on the subsidy which was not her main point. The key point of her argument was that HSR is way too expensive and how Caltrain is funded won't alter that fact.

HSR will cost a fortune to build which we can not afford in these dire economic times. Then we have the O&M. Caltrain is comparatively small in its operating costs compared to what HSR will burn. The HSR O&M burn rate will probably be 2 orders of magnitude greater than Caltrain. Then we having staggering income losses because the projected HSR ridership numbers were vastly inflated.

When liberals and conservatives can agree that HSR is a boondoggle that California can not afford then the legislature should take notice and cancel this ill-advised project before it becomes an economic albatross around our necks.

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

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