Atherton: Caltrain will soon cut trees to install electric wires

Caltrain plans to remove 18 trees, prune 214, in Atherton

Atherton residents whose properties border the train tracks will soon be hearing from Caltrain as the utility begins to prune and remove trees to make way for the wires that will power its electric trains.

Caltrain will take out 18 trees in Atherton as it makes room to install the wires, Caltrain officials told the Atherton City Council on July 19.

Sixteen of the trees are in the Caltrain right-of-way and two are on public property.

Caltrain's Stacey Cook said that by 2021, when Caltrain has electrified the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, it will be able to increase the number of daily train trips in each direction to 114 from 92.

"We have committed to restore weekday service to (the) Atherton and Broadway stations," she said.

The trains will reach speeds up to 79 miles per hour and Caltrain will be able to increase the number of trains it runs by five to six an hour in each direction, she said. There will be more stops, but reduced travel time, she added. Other trains, including freight trains, will continue to run on the tracks.

The number of trees Caltrain will need to remove throughout the corridor has been reduced dramatically from the original estimates, Caltrain consultant Rich Walter said. The draft environmental report said 2,220 trees would be removed with another 3,616 to be pruned. Current plans are for 516 trees to be cut and 2,547 to be pruned.

Caltrain plans to prune 214 trees in Atherton, with 63 of them having more than 25 percent of their growth removed. Caltrain will replace any tree that is removed or pruned more than 25 percent, totaling 26 trees in the Caltrain right-of-way, 11 on public property and 45 on private property.

After overhead poles are installed, the trees will be replaced with 15-gallon trees. Caltrain will maintain them for at least five years, replacing any that die, Mr. Walter said.

Property owners will be able to decide if they want replacement trees and what type they want, but natives will be planted in the Caltrain right-of-way, Mr. Walter said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis asked if residents could ask to have a tree that was to be severely pruned replaced instead. "That wouldn't be considered unreasonable," Ms. Cook said.

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6 people like this
Posted by Happy to see progress
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 26, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Glad to read that the electrification project is progressing and that the impact to trees is minimal. This is much better that I was anticipating. I'm looking forward to restored service to Atherton and, most of all, the quieter trains.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Get it done already. More stalling just increases car traffic along the peninsula and jacks up our taxes.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bill Wohler
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 26, 2017 at 8:27 pm

Bill Wohler is a registered user.

I'd encourage all readers to encourage Caltrain to eliminate all of the invasive weed trees (Ailanthus, or Chinese sumac) that have taken over the Caltrain right of way while they are at it. Those of you who have spent years trying to eliminate it from your property know what I'm talking about.

21 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Nothing betrays the caltrain militants true agenda like their lust to cut down trees to "save the planet".

How many years of operation will it take to make up for the release of the carbon sequestered in over a thousand mature trees? How much will global (and local) warming be increased by the loss of their shade and respiration?

Caltrain could have been electrified with modern battery technology for a fraction of the cost of the electrification boondoggle... and the trees could have been saved for posterity. Future generation will now have an obscured view of an un-landscaped and poorly maintained strip of land filled with prison camp inspired industrial architecture stretching from San Francisco to San Jose.

Caltrain, a utopian vision inspired by the DMV. The state run high-rise housing project model applied to transportation.

8 people like this
Posted by My2Cents
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 4, 2017 at 11:37 pm

I'm not an engineer, but electrification with overhead wires sounds kind of kludgy. Too bad Caltrain didn't hook up with Elon Musk and get some of that modern battery technology Ahem was talking about.

4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:38 am

Overhead cables because batteries are not there yet for the tonnage of a train (and who want's to be stuck on Caltrain when they run out of charge!). A third rail would work, but there's a Southern Pacific freight ROW which isn't compatible.

So let's get this going! No more griping and questions! Planet in jeopardy because the trees are being trimmed? Dig up your lawn and plant trees instead.

6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2017 at 12:34 am

[Part removed.] ... clean hybrid locomotives with batteries to store energy for acceleration are a decades old proven technology and pure battery powered passenger trains are already operating in England and are set to begin operating in Auckland Australia in 2019.

"Look no Pantograph! Battery powered Class 379 IP-EMU" Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 9:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Given both the total length of the peninsula service and the distance between stops there is no reason that EMU's could not be very successfully use on this right of way with the EMUs topping up at each stop.

Battery electric multiple unit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Railcar no. 517 008 of the German national railway, DB
A battery electric multiple unit, battery electric railcar or accumulator railcar is an electrically driven multiple unit or railcar whose energy is derived from rechargeable batteries that drive its traction motors.
The main advantage of these vehicles is their clean, quiet operation. They do not use fossil fuels like coal or diesel fuel, emit no exhaust gases and do not require the railway to have expensive infrastructure like electric ground rails or overhead catenary. On the down side is the weight of the batteries, which raises the vehicle weight, and their range before recharging of between 300 and 600 kilometres. Currently, battery electric units have a higher purchase price and running cost than petrol or diesel railcars, needing one or more charging stations along the routes they operate.
Battery technology has greatly improved over the past 20 years broadening the scope of use of battery trains, moving away from limited niche applications. Despite higher purchase and running costs, on certain railway lines battery trains are economically viable as the very high cost and maintenance of full line electrification is eliminated. From March 2014 passenger battery trains have been in operation in Japan on a number of lines. Britain successfully trialled fare paying passenger hybrid overhead wire/lithium battery trains in January and February 2015.

Web Link

Note - "They do not use fossil fuels like coal or diesel fuel, emit no exhaust gases and do not require the railway to have expensive infrastructure like electric ground rails or overhead catenary."

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 10:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What did the Town of Atherton not use its limited resources to push for battery EMUs rather than the fruitless and costly opposition to electrification?

6 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2017 at 10:57 am

Battery powered trains are also quieter than trains powered by an overhead catenary.

The electrical puck-up dragging on the overhead wires creates a lot of noise and stimulates noisy vibrations in the wires and their support structure. The pantograph mechanism on top of the train also creates a lot of aerodynamic noise at higher speeds.

Residents are going to be shocked by the amount of noise these "quiet" electric trains produce.

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