News

Atherton to re-examine Caltrain stops in town

Introduction of new legislation delays decision on weekday train stops

Atherton Rail Committee members are backtracking on their recommendation to add service to the Atherton Caltrain station in light of the recent introduction of a state bill that could require new housing to be built along busier transit corridors.

During a joint study session between the Atherton City Council and the 10-member Rail Committee on Jan. 9, officials from both groups expressed concern that if Caltrain services in Atherton were expanded, the town could be on the hook to allow more housing near the station.

The concern: SB 50,

a bill introduced in December by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The bill would require cities to allow new apartment buildings in any place that is either: within a half-mile of a rail transit station, within a quarter-mile of a high-frequency bus stop or within a "job-rich" neighborhood.

The committee came up with its recommendations in the fall, asking the council to support expansion of train stops in Atherton. This is as Caltrain reviews and plans its service schedules as it prepares to electrify the rail service from around San Francisco down to San Jose.

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Caltrain suspended weekday stops in the town in 2005 due to low ridership. The train now stops at the Atherton station only on the weekends.

The council and the committee - which meets the first Tuesday of every other month to examine the impacts of rail service in town - discussed the various pros and cons of adding weekday Caltrain service stops in Atherton during the meeting. The town is examining the issue as Caltrain forecasts its future service up until 2040. Caltrain has final say on the schedule.

The committee had made the following recommendations before SB 50 was introduced:

• Caltrain must restore full weekday service.

• Caltrain must complete a capital project to remove the "hold out station" designation in town. Atherton's station has this designation because it has a center boarding platform only, meaning passengers can cross the tracks in multiple places to reach the center boarding platform. To change this, Caltrain would have to build separate platforms for northbound and southbound passengers and a fence separating the tracks.

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• Ensure that any long-term rail corridor plan limits the number of tracks to two through Atherton.

• Modernization of the rail system must minimize and fully mitigate any environmental impact to the town.

• The town should advocate designating the Watkins Avenue crossing a "quiet zone," adding quad gates at the crossing.

SB50 could force Atherton to allow new housing, and take on the growth from other nearby jurisdictions that have growing job markets and populations, council member Cary Wiest said at the meeting.

"They're already pushing off their traffic problems to us," he said. "Do we want Marsh Road to be the conduit to the Facebook campus? Do we want to be the station that's going to mitigate the growth of other decision-makers?"

"It (expanding Caltrain service in town) is a serious risk with the potential for state-driven housing mandates, which override local zoning," Vice Mayor Rick DeGolia said before council and committee members agreed that the committee should re-examine the issue at its February meeting. "It will come to bear where there are train stations... . I conclude the costs are greater than the benefits."

Caltrain has indicated that rather than adding an additional stop in the overall train schedule (adding time), it might eliminate a stop in either Redwood City or Menlo Park to accommodate an Atherton stop, according to a staff report. Caltrain "doesn't want to forego stops in Redwood City or Menlo Park to service the Atherton station," DeGolia said.

Everyone can agree that the public transit in the Bay Area "stinks," but Atherton would ultimately hurt the transit system by demanding a weekday stop in town since it would take away service from one of the more populated cities, said Wiest.

Others at the meeting showed support for expanding Caltrain service in town, including council member Elizabeth Lewis.

"With congestion increases over the last 12 years, people will ride the train rather than drive," she said. "You can't underestimate the level of service our station will garner."

Lewis wasn't keen on the suggestion of a Caltrain shuttle from the Atherton station to the Redwood City or Menlo Park stations, noting that most people don't want to have to take a shuttle to the train.

Rail Committee member Malcolm Dudley also wants more service at the Atherton station.

"It's important for the aging population to have the train," he said at the meeting. "We need transit; we have a serious problem with traffic and the answer is not just driving cars."

The council will vote on service recommendations from the committee in March, at the earliest, town officials said.

-

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Atherton to re-examine Caltrain stops in town

Introduction of new legislation delays decision on weekday train stops

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 3:25 pm

Atherton Rail Committee members are backtracking on their recommendation to add service to the Atherton Caltrain station in light of the recent introduction of a state bill that could require new housing to be built along busier transit corridors.

During a joint study session between the Atherton City Council and the 10-member Rail Committee on Jan. 9, officials from both groups expressed concern that if Caltrain services in Atherton were expanded, the town could be on the hook to allow more housing near the station.

The concern: SB 50,

a bill introduced in December by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The bill would require cities to allow new apartment buildings in any place that is either: within a half-mile of a rail transit station, within a quarter-mile of a high-frequency bus stop or within a "job-rich" neighborhood.

The committee came up with its recommendations in the fall, asking the council to support expansion of train stops in Atherton. This is as Caltrain reviews and plans its service schedules as it prepares to electrify the rail service from around San Francisco down to San Jose.

Caltrain suspended weekday stops in the town in 2005 due to low ridership. The train now stops at the Atherton station only on the weekends.

The council and the committee - which meets the first Tuesday of every other month to examine the impacts of rail service in town - discussed the various pros and cons of adding weekday Caltrain service stops in Atherton during the meeting. The town is examining the issue as Caltrain forecasts its future service up until 2040. Caltrain has final say on the schedule.

The committee had made the following recommendations before SB 50 was introduced:

• Caltrain must restore full weekday service.

• Caltrain must complete a capital project to remove the "hold out station" designation in town. Atherton's station has this designation because it has a center boarding platform only, meaning passengers can cross the tracks in multiple places to reach the center boarding platform. To change this, Caltrain would have to build separate platforms for northbound and southbound passengers and a fence separating the tracks.

• Ensure that any long-term rail corridor plan limits the number of tracks to two through Atherton.

• Modernization of the rail system must minimize and fully mitigate any environmental impact to the town.

• The town should advocate designating the Watkins Avenue crossing a "quiet zone," adding quad gates at the crossing.

SB50 could force Atherton to allow new housing, and take on the growth from other nearby jurisdictions that have growing job markets and populations, council member Cary Wiest said at the meeting.

"They're already pushing off their traffic problems to us," he said. "Do we want Marsh Road to be the conduit to the Facebook campus? Do we want to be the station that's going to mitigate the growth of other decision-makers?"

"It (expanding Caltrain service in town) is a serious risk with the potential for state-driven housing mandates, which override local zoning," Vice Mayor Rick DeGolia said before council and committee members agreed that the committee should re-examine the issue at its February meeting. "It will come to bear where there are train stations... . I conclude the costs are greater than the benefits."

Caltrain has indicated that rather than adding an additional stop in the overall train schedule (adding time), it might eliminate a stop in either Redwood City or Menlo Park to accommodate an Atherton stop, according to a staff report. Caltrain "doesn't want to forego stops in Redwood City or Menlo Park to service the Atherton station," DeGolia said.

Everyone can agree that the public transit in the Bay Area "stinks," but Atherton would ultimately hurt the transit system by demanding a weekday stop in town since it would take away service from one of the more populated cities, said Wiest.

Others at the meeting showed support for expanding Caltrain service in town, including council member Elizabeth Lewis.

"With congestion increases over the last 12 years, people will ride the train rather than drive," she said. "You can't underestimate the level of service our station will garner."

Lewis wasn't keen on the suggestion of a Caltrain shuttle from the Atherton station to the Redwood City or Menlo Park stations, noting that most people don't want to have to take a shuttle to the train.

Rail Committee member Malcolm Dudley also wants more service at the Atherton station.

"It's important for the aging population to have the train," he said at the meeting. "We need transit; we have a serious problem with traffic and the answer is not just driving cars."

The council will vote on service recommendations from the committee in March, at the earliest, town officials said.

-

Comments

Caltrain Stupidity
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm
Caltrain Stupidity, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm
14 people like this

The Atherton Caltrain stop is a useless waste of space. Bulldoze it and stop wasting money. The elderly of Atherton are not taking Caltrain and never will take Caltrain.


Repeal the Law
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:22 am
Repeal the Law, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:22 am
5 people like this

I'm sure the motivation behind these new State housing laws are coming from a good place and that the proponents are truly trying to solve real problems. However, they are creating many unintended problems. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I do not support the State allowing unimpeded high density development all in the name of "low income housing" even in the cases where the Town planners and the Town citizens are vehemently against it? Are we truly powerless to decide the fate of our town?

It's time to either repeal these laws (like accessory dwelling units) or introduce new limits to prevent developers from steam rolling over strong opposition.

If the laws can't be changed that I encourage Town officials from exploring new and inventive ways to make development so difficult that it is practically impossibly to approve such developments.



Robert
another community
on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:29 pm
Robert, another community
on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:29 pm
10 people like this

Atherton: We want full-service rail and Caltrain to fix our station.

CA govt: OK, then you have to build apartment buildings.

Atherton: Nopenopenopenopenope. We gone.


Robert Cronin
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:13 pm
Robert Cronin, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:13 pm
8 people like this

Atherton once more confirms its reputation as arrogant and self-centered.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:21 pm
9 people like this

"Atherton once more confirms its reputation as arrogant and self-centered."

Just reflection of the majority of people that live there.


East Bay Ride or Die
another community
on Jan 17, 2019 at 10:47 pm
East Bay Ride or Die, another community
on Jan 17, 2019 at 10:47 pm
Like this comment

Why not just bulldoze all of Atherton and be done with it?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 1:28 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jan 18, 2019 at 1:28 am
3 people like this

Do not confuse the fine residents of Atherton with the actions of their appointed representatives.


A
another community
on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:12 am
A, another community
on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:12 am
7 people like this

Some Atherton residents want other people to pay $250 billion to move their station 60 feet underground. Difficult to justify that expense to service such a sparse population.


Stephen Inoue
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 8, 2019 at 8:04 am
Stephen Inoue, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 8, 2019 at 8:04 am
Like this comment

Atherton should look to add a fenced bike trail along the track from Menlo Park to Redwood City where residents could easily get to a station with weekday service.


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