News

Reps: High-speed rail should merge with improved Caltrain system on Peninsula

Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon call on Rail Authority to 'rethink' plans for Peninsula

Saying that government funding for California's High-Speed Rail program will be "severely limited ... for the foreseeable future," local federal and state representatives are calling upon the California High-Speed Rail Authority to essentially link the high-speed rail route from Los Angeles with an improved and electrified Caltrain system running from San Jose to San Francisco.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and state Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, made their announcement this morning at the Menlo Park Caltrain station. The three legislators described the "blended" system of high-speed-rail and Caltrain as the best way to save money, protect Peninsula communities from unnecessary construction and to ensure the continued viability of Caltrain, which is facing a financial crisis.

Ms. Eshoo, Mr. Simitian and Mr. Gordon said California's high-speed-rail plans should include what they called a "21st Century Caltrain" -- a definition that includes electrification, positive train controls and new rolling stock.

Mr. Simitian called Monday's announcement a "first step in a new conversation" that aims to create what he calls "high-speed rail done right." The rail authority's failure to come up with a viable proposal for the voter-approved rail project has prompted the lawmakers to present their own vision for the project, he said.

Mr. Simitian pointed to a series of critical audits of the rail project, including ones from the Bureau of State Audits, the state Office of Inspector General, the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. These reports had found a series of flaws in the rail authority's business plan, ridership analyses and revenue projections.

"Frankly, a great many of our constituents are convinced that the High-Speed Rail Authority has already wandered so far afield that it is too late for a successful course correction," Mr. Simitian, Ms. Eshoo and Mr. Gordon wrote in the statement. "We hope the Authority can prove otherwise."

If high-speed rail isn't "done right," Simitian said, it simply won't get done at all.

The three agreed that any proposal for a new rail line should be "sensitive and responsive" to local concerns. Ms. Eshoo told the crowd at the Caltrain station that the rail authority has failed, thus far, to listen to the communities' concerns. Three of her constituent communities -- Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton -- are in the process of suing the rail authority over its environmental analysis.

"I really believe that they have squandered a great deal of goodwill on the Peninsula by not honoring our communities," Ms. Eshoo said. "Each community is unique, each community has its own history, each community has its own traditions and they're proud of it and they're entitled to this source of pride."

Among the most contentious proposals on the table is an alternative to run the new trains on elevated structure such as aerial viaducts. The three lawmakers called on the rail authority to scrap any proposal that includes an elevated structure on the Peninsula. They also affirmed their support for the new rail system running through the existing Caltrain corridor.

Most significantly, they called on the authority to abandon plans for a larger project, which would involve running the high-speed rail line alongside a modernized, electrified Caltrain system on the Peninsula. Instead, they urged the rail authority and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (which oversees Caltrain) to improve the existing system without building what they characterized as a "duplicate" one.

"Given the current financial straits at the federal and state level, amassing the funds to build this across California will take time," Mr. Gordon said. "In the interim, there will be funds spent on high-speed rail and I believe it's imperative for the High-Speed Rail Authority to guarantee that whatever funds are spent are spent in a way that enhance and upgrade our existing intercity and regionalized transportation systems in California.

"Where high-speed rail is built it needs to be able to connect and interface in a seamless fashion with local transit systems."

Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline said he was very pleased with the news. "Looks like we are more aligned with our state and federal representatives today than we have been for a long time."

— Jocelyn Dong, Gennady Sheyner, and Sandy Brundage

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Great (sarcastically) - we still get trains moving at high speeds 125mph with high noise levels. Unless every single crossing is eliminated we will be contending with continuous ear piercing train horns.

If the crossings are eliminated untold businesses and homes will still be lost and there will be years of dirt, noise and unbelievable traffic disruption. Numerous crossings will be eliminated thus producing major traffic forever on the streets where under/overpasses are made.

And we still get thirty plus foot power poles and lines stretching forever.

Don't forget folks - Gordon, Eshoo and Simitian love their jobs and they love the union support they get - that's the only reason they're trying for an alternative plan - union jobs. I'm a lifelong Democrat, but in this case the Dems are screwing us to get their votes.

Typical politicians wasting tax money on a boondoggle that's been shown to be useless with plenty of false figures to get our vote.

Spend the money on our schools and colleges - that will go much further in producing permanent jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Project Thor sm
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm

"HSR's terminus should be San Francisco."

Amen, brother.

And BART should ring the whole freakin' Bay!!!!

Do it right. Do it now. That's the American way. Why do these haters think American is the land of "No, can't do it, not us!"?

A recession is the best time to do it. Again, that's the American way. Proven in the great depression. Watch as other countries take the austerity tactic and struggle with their unemployment and continued recession for years longer than "America, the Builder"!


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Project Thor sm
"And BART should ring the whole freakin' Bay!!!!"
Right, and then we can get rid of CalTrain and HSR since there would be no need for them.


Like this comment
Posted by B SImpson.
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 18, 2011 at 3:34 pm

BART is what makes sense.


Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I ride BART into the City (from Millbrae) fairly frequently. It makes sense to have BART coming down the Peninsula. It is underground in most (not all) locations from Millbrae into the City. If BART circled the Bay, it would reduce the number of single occupant vehicles on the freeways. It would certainly give commuters more so many more options. I think this is a good time to reevaluate keeping Caltrain.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Maybe a question to ask would be what makes the most sense for the people in this area -- HSR or an area mass transit?

Either will take years to complete, run over budget and be under used.

If the Bay Area had been serious about mass transit, they would have worked out a plan years ago instead of having multiple systems -- BART, Caltrain and Light Rail. Don't even get me started on HSR -- it will have to be subsidized because it will never pay for itself.

While either idea may be good, one has to ask, is this really money well spent? But alas, we will still be debating the question for years to come......



Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm

From the article... "Mr. Simitian pointed to a series of critical audits of the rail project, including ones from the Bureau of State Audits, the state Office of Inspector General, the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. These reports had found a series of flaws in the rail authority's business plan, ridership analyses and revenue projections."

HSR projections were flawed? Shocking.

I guess we'll just have to put up with those $39 flights that leave every 15 minutes and arrive at far more convenient locations than downtown rail stations. And, they are run by private businesses...


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

"If the Bay Area had been serious about mass transit, they would have worked out a plan years ago instead of having multiple systems -- BART, Caltrain and Light Rail"

San Mateo County dropped the ball decades ago by not having BART in the beginning; refused to authorize a temporary half cent sales tax, back in '62, if I recall.

Penny wise...


Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm

This morning at 10:30, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Joe Simitian and Rich Gordon made an announcement about high-speed rail on the Bay Area Peninsula.

Here's the good news. They did not announce additional funding for the CHSRA from the returned Florida ARRA Stimulus funds. We have yet to hear about that one way or the other. I hope I'm wrong, but I expect about $800 million more to come from the Florida funds to this useless project in the Central Valley.

Eshoo was overheard to say that regardless of whatever the rail authority does, she will continue to work to bring federal HSR funding into California. The three elected officials are all Democrats. Eshoo's statement is a fundamental Democratic Party principle. Bring federal funding into California. Once that position is cast in stone, it doesn't matter what else is said about HSR. The Rail Authority will continue to do what it damn pleases. Their next business plan, whenever they complete it, will be yet another iteration of the nonsense they have been spewing from the beginning. They have no incentive to "do it right."

That means, all this talk at this so-important gathering this morning was merely political appeasement for the discontent of the voters. Practically speaking it's meaningless. Their "basic parameters"as they put it, are wishful nonsense. Like the CHSRA Board itself, these politicians are not railroad engineers or designers; they can't mandate one option over others without a realistic engineering context.

We've said this dozens of times. This project cannot be done right. The federal funding the Democrats insist upon will cost California dearly; many billions more than the awards of these federal awards are worth. They will cost the taxpayers forever if the train ever gets completed. It's a very bad bargain. So long as Eshoo, Simitian and Gordon insist on HSR being "done right," they will continue to bring this terrible project upon the state along with it's horrendous debt burden. They know it's a terrible project. They could say NO. But, "follow the money!" is the overriding demand.

The three electeds dramatically "call upon the HSR Authority. . . for a blended system." Nothing new about that. It's what's been in the works from the beginning. Given Caltrain's current situation, you have to wonder what that actually means.

They don't want an elevated viaduct. While that's good, do they understand why a viaduct was been proposed in the first place? Do they not understand what the alternatives will involve? For example, grade separations.

For trains to go 125 mph, the projected speed of the HSR on the Caltrain corridor, all grade crossings must be separated. Without elevated viaducts, it means lowering the cross-streets beneath the at-grade tracks and that will cost far more than the continuous elevated viaduct beneath which all grade crossings can be left untouched. Between Atherton and Palo Alto alone there are ten such grade crossings, each having to dip down 20 feet beneath the tracks. Given the costs, wanting HSR on the Caltrain corridor equals an elevated viaduct.

Apparently, during this morning's presentation, the officials indicated that they wanted only the current two tracks on the corridor. That makes no sense whatsoever. HSR, Caltrain and Union Pacific on the same two tracks, not grade separated? While theoretically possible, that's practically unrealistic and most unlikely.

These discussion points are internally contradictory. Embedded within them is the fantasy that Caltrain commuter service will be upgraded (electrified, EMUs), while at the same time running a daily HSR service on those same two tracks. It should be clear that real high-speed rail requires its own set of dedicated tracks that are unsuitable for any other use due to their far greater technical precision. That's why -- if HSR is to be deployed on this corridor at all, it must be expanded to four tracks for both passenger services. Then, it's either a full bore tunnel or an elevated viaduct. Remember, the train can't go up and down like a roller-coaster, regardless of what each town wants.

Calling for a "blended" system on two tracks is like seeking to mix oil and water. At the same time, demanding rail designs, alignments and routes without a consideration of all the consequences, no matter how ardently proposed, will be ignored by the CHSRA and Roelof Van Ark. The Rail Authority will continue to pursue it's path of "value engineering," a euphemism for "on the cheap."

These advocacy statements, while sounding beneficial to Peninsula residents and businesses, have no mandatory or obligatory force. The Rail Authority is free to ignore them. It's all political show-business.


Like this comment
Posted by poster
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2011 at 11:23 am

Here is a link to a thread on an earlier story: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Martin Engel is spot on!


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm

"Eshoo's statement is a fundamental Democratic Party principle. Bring federal funding into California."

Presented like that is a bad thing, or even a unique action. Did you really mean it that way?

The red/welfare states are far ahead of California in the race for federal dollars, getting a much higher percentage back from the feds for every dollar sent in.

For example, CA is in the bottom ten on return for every dollar sent in, getting only 78 cents back.

The tops, per dollar?

New Mexico $2.03
Mississippi $2.02
Alaska $1.84
Louisiana $1.78
West Virginia $1.76
North Dakota $1.68
Alabama $1.66
South Dakota $1.53
Kentucky $1.51
Virginia $1.51
Montana $1.47
Hawaii $1.44
Maine $1.41
Arkansas $1.41
Oklahoma $1.36
South Carolina $1.35
Missouri $1.32

There's a lot of red state welfare going on!

I'd say that the welfare states need to back off and send some of our money back to California! We can start with infrastructure in our great state.

Get to work, Anna!


Like this comment
Posted by not BART
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Caltrain is far superior to BART for Menlo Park, and I've ridden both systems many years. Caltrain has a more straight line into downtown SF, it is faster door to door than BART, and one can both eat and sit to work on the train. Not on BART.
However, Caltrain service has been cut to our town in recent years and we can't assume it will get better. In fact, our station - and all the much vaunted transit oriented development - likely will become obsolete unless a commitment is made to keeping and improving it.
BTW - If BART can go underground, why can't any other train?
An investment in the long-term future makes sense, and for peninsula cities, a greatly improved Caltrain is the clear winner.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2011 at 5:21 pm

"BTW - If BART can go underground, why can't any other train?"

Having to get the deisel exhaust out of the tunnel comes to mind.


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 19, 2011 at 5:27 pm

"Having to get the deisel exhaust out of the tunnel comes to mind."

Which way does the exhaust blow from an electric train running south, as the great north wind blows?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Well Alfred, not BART wasn't asking about "electric" trains, they were asking about "any other train." Undergrounding diesel trains doesn't work.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Walker
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2011 at 8:35 am

Criss Cross.

You kill the electrification of Caltrain and I will kill HSR.


Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Re: Caltrain and BART. You don’t have to choose between them. BART exists around the Bay, except for the Peninsula. Caltrain exists on the Peninsula. They could both be folded under one administrative umbrella.

If necessary, the Caltrain trains can be painted gray with the BART logo on them.

A suggestion made to me by Malcolm Dudley of Atherton is that both rail agencies can be folded within the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board, which is chartered under the State. Therefore their operating subsidy funding is far more secure than the vagaries of local funding.

What about the two different technologies? Not a problem. No need to convert the one to the other. All that is necessary is for the two major transit terminals to accommodate both rail systems, one in Milbrae, the other in San Jose, with both rail systems closely coordinated, making transfers a short, easy few steps. And voila, we have a commuter rail around the Bay.

Within this framework, it’s not necessary for expensive electrification of Caltrain (which we will now call the BART commuter train). They gradually begin to can use Diesel/electric hybrid multiple units; that is, independently powered passenger rail cars that are far more suitable for regional passenger service and far more flexible for scheduling. These cars are super fuel efficient and far less expensive to operate and maintain.

One thing to remember about the Caltrain corridor, and it never comes up in any conversations, is Union Pacific’s absolute rights to access the corridor under its current configuration. UP has the legal authority to reject any Caltrain/CHSRA plans that fail to meet its criteria.

The most important point to remember is that Caltrain is not a Peninsula problem; it’s a Bay Area problem and must be integrated into a Bay Area urban and regional public mass transit system. Throwing electrification or more money at these guys will solve nothing!

For more fun and frolic about high-speed rail and Caltrain, see:
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm

This isn't really such a complex issue.

We don't have enough money to pay teachers, fire fighters or police. We certainly don't have enough to pay for a really fast train.

HSR will be among the early victims on every politician's list of cuts.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

We should kill HSR. We can't afford it. It will make the "big dig" seem like a most frugal expenditure

The public was duped with inflated ridership numbers and lowball procurement and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs. For instance how can Gilroy attract more ridership than Baltimore? How can HSR make money when the Washington D.C. New York Amtrak corridor with the highest population density in the United States is losing money? The answer is it can’t and HSR will be an albatross around the necks of every California resident unless we kill it soon.

You always get the most bang for the buck from intra-city transit. That is because far more people go to work than go on trips and the population density of the San Francisco Bay area is far greater than the HSR corridor.

However the main benefit is keeping traffic off the highways. 101 is at saturation level and can not take any more. If CalTrain goes belly up we will see the worst traffic nightmares beyond anyone’s imagination.

We should forget HSR and switch over to Diesel/Electric Hybrid Multiple Units for CalTrain. Martin Engel showed me the error of my ways with regard to electrification. With Diesel/Electric Hybrid Multiple Units you do not have any disruption of local traffic by putting up a highly expensive, unsightly, and disruptive to the community electrical infrastructure. You also only pay for the power you use. The CalTrain subsidy is well worth it in terms of time saved for commuters, carbon footprint reduction, and commuter stress reduction. It is the right thing to do and it is the smart thing to do.


Like this comment
Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:47 am

Hank:

On the other thread you started (Obama’s Medicare "hypocrisy") there's a few questions for you. They're waiting for you; you are posting in other threads and you seem to be ignoring your own thread.

Help the guy out, go visit YOUR thread and dialog with Mr Norte.

re: your comment above about carbon footprint - glad to see you on the Climate Change bandwagon!


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

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