News

Guest opinion: Consider Option B for Menlo Park's grade separation project

 

By Marcy Abramowitz

Before the train leaves the station on the Menlo Park rail grade separation decision, the City Council will open up its options beyond the previously chosen Option A, a road underpass at Ravenswood Avenue, and Option C, three hybrid over/under crossings at Ravenswood, Oak Grove, and Glenwood avenues. The council's upcoming vote on Feb. 12, presumably for C, is in part a technicality to receive grant reimbursement for studies done to date. Let's get that done.

That vote is not the final say, however. This council, like the last, has expressed interest in exploring other options, including a tunnel or trench, as well as a fully elevated structure cutting north-south across the city.

While just about everyone can agree that putting the train below ground would be the ideal solution in terms of safety, aesthetics, and cross-town connectivity, the cost may be prohibitive. Like others, I hope that by working with neighboring communities we can find an innovative funding solution.

If the tracks must be elevated, there's far less consensus about how far up they should go. Despite some enthusiastic supporters, many, myself included, feel a fully elevated track would be inappropriate for Menlo Park. At a height of 50 feet, and running from south of Ravenswood to Encinal, this city-wide divider of track and catenary wires would be the tallest structure west of 101. Trains would be visible and audible from great distances, even without horns. Businesses and residents near the tracks would be moved literally into its shadows. It's no coincidence that so many cities across the U.S. are tearing down their elevated structures.

Fortunately, there is another viable choice that deserves serious consideration: the Menlo Park City Council's own Option B. Like Option C, Option B calls for hybrid over/under crossings at Ravenswood and Oak Grove, but it excludes Glenwood. In April 2017, the council voted to use limited funds to study Options A and C, reasoning that C would yield insights for B. Based on what we now know, B offers two big advantages over C:

● Significantly less cost and disruption. The city's vehicle crossing data shows that 75 percent of daily crossings take place at Ravenswood and Oak Grove, with just 13 percent at Glenwood. On a proportional basis, Option C's estimated $390 million, five-year construction plan across three crossings would cost 50 percent more and create 50 percent more headaches and disruption than Option B's two crossings, while providing limited additional benefit.

● Lower visible barrier. Option B's peak track height of 17 feet would be located (relatively) unobtrusively south of Ravenswood, roughly between the Arrillaga Recreation Center and the Big 5 retail store, and would come down to 6 feet by Oak Grove. By contrast, Option C's 10-foot berm would extend from Arrillaga/Big 5 all the way to Oak Grove before coming down to 5 feet at Glenwood, creating a significantly larger visual barrier on both sides.

Importantly, two grade-separated crossings are more than ample for Menlo Park's needs. Menlo Park's four crossings span only 0.6 miles in total, the highest density of rail crossings in any primarily residential area on the Peninsula. By comparison, Palo Alto averages a half-mile between crossings.

The choice of grade separation is likely to be the most consequential decision this council will make, since generations to come will live with the consequences. Hopefully, our council will choose an option that addresses necessary safety concerns, while also preserving as much of the character and sense of community that makes Menlo Park such a wonderful place to live. Option B deserves due consideration.

Marcy Abramowitz is a longtime resident of Menlo Park who follows train-related issues.

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Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Marcy: [Portion removed; argue your case but don't attack those who disagree with you.]

So here are some facts.

1. The fully elevated tracks between Ravenswood and Glenwood would be about 22 feet above grade - not the 50-feet that you IMPLY with your cleverly worded claIm:

"At a height of 50 feet, and running from south of Ravenswood to Encinal, this city-wide divider of track and catenary wires would be the tallest structure west of 101.".

2. Yes, there will be electrification poles that when added to the elevated platform would reach about 50 feet. BUT they are thin, silver and spaced up to 180 feet apart. I doubt many residents would consider this to be "the tallest structure west of 101. " That's a silly claim. (Note: there are existing BUILDINGS that are taller that 50 feet)

3. Given the existing screen of trees along the ROW and the fact that the number can be increased, no one will see the poles from their homes in residential and the presence of poles and electrification equipment in the train station area is NO BIG DEAL. By the way, there are already trees in this area and more can be planted if they add beauty.

4. Alternative B still divides the train station area between Ravenswood and Oak Grove with a solid berm.

You are welcome to challenge any of these facts.


38 people like this
Posted by Marcy Abramowitz
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 30, 2019 at 2:29 pm

Dana, I would hope that differences of opinion could be expressed here in a way that isn't mean-spirited or that undermines the sincerity or intention of another's view. My facts on the height of the proposed structures came directly from the City of Menlo Park. You have been clear that you are in favor of a fully elevated rail structure. I, and many others, have a different view. I think it is enough that we can agree to respectfully disagree.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2019 at 3:47 pm

[Post removed; healthy debate is fine, but don't accuse others of trying to be misleading.]


17 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:41 pm

It seems to me that Marcy did a pretty good job explaining what she thinks option B entails and why she's in favor of considering it. Her conclusion in the end was simply that we want the best for Menlo Park and we should consider this alternative option - if facts are misstated, then it's best to just call them out and not specifically label them as "fear-mongering" or using other words which don't really help. Anyways, given all the choices, my opinion an an MP resident is to choose the option which achieves the goal of reducing traffic and provides safety in the most economical way possible, and in the less disruptive way possible in terms of construction and such, and without compromising aesthetics much. I like the idea of limiting grade separation to Ravenswood and Oak Grove, as that's where most of the traffic is currently. In fact we should probably close off Glenwood and Encinal, so that the train can proceed along without railroad crossings to worry about - I'm sure the owners of the new townhomes being built in that area would appreciate that ;). Anyways, my 2 cents.


6 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 30, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Since my prior post was censored I will try again. You and I can differ in terms of preferences. But I disagree with your characterization of an FEGS. I encourage you to express your concerns about any of the alternatives directly to our city and I trust that our city and community would never approve any alternative that significantly harmed any neighborhood.


13 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 30, 2019 at 5:50 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

" In fact we should probably close off Glenwood and Encinal, so that the train can proceed along without railroad crossings to worry about "

That is an extremely bad idea. You will push all east/west traffic from Glenwood and Encinal onto Ravenswood. Ravenswood is bad enough without all the added traffic. We need grade separations at all three.


13 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 30, 2019 at 9:52 pm

Do Option A. Don't divide Menlo Park. keep business open, don't build ugly viaducts, don't tie up the middle of town for five years with all this messing around.

Build better crossing barriers like they have in Japan at the streets to solve the safety problem.

The bigger the dream, the more likely it won't happen.


14 people like this
Posted by Evan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 30, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Some strange claims in this post that confused me, like "It's no coincidence that so many cities across the U.S. are tearing down their elevated structures." What? You mean elevated highways, like in SF? Sure — agreed. But nearly exclusively, those that have come down (Embarcadero, Seattle, etc) are HUGE waterfront freeways that completely divided neighborhoods and encouraged a ton of automobile usage.

We're talking about building a much smaller viaduct that would serve an electrified railroad. That's pretty different, and something that could certainly be done without dividing the community. My own university had a very tall (like, actually 50 feet in the air, not 20 feet) elevated freight railroad that went through campus. You barely noticed it, and it actually made for some cool scenery.

Plus, electric, grade-separated trains will be SOOOOOO much quieter than the trains of today.


17 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Seeing the MP grade separation discussed again and again over the last few years (and decades!), it strikes me that the biggest blockers to progress are NOT the NIMBYs (Not In My BackYard), but rather the OMWies (Only My Way).

There appear to be 3 camps:

Camp #1: (OMW) trenching and/or tunneling or bust.

Camp #2: (OMW) fully grade separated viaduct or bust.

Camp #3: virtually anything but a fully grade separated viaduct.


Camps #1 and #2 are OMWies, and should be dismissed and ignored; they effectively do the same to everyone else, the difference is that anything but a viaduct|trench|tunnel are economically viable and likely have enough community buy-in to get support.


2 people like this
Posted by Tired
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 31, 2019 at 5:37 pm

This constant debate is getting old and is indicative of the lack of progress in our city. Do /something/ and move on. Stop the debate!


1 person likes this
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 8:54 am

Today the Palo Alto Weekly editorial asks that a viaduct be considered (not necessarily chosen) for part of their city. Among the reasons given is the creation of open space below the raised structure. Without endorsing a viaduct, that benefit would be relevant to Menlo Park. A related benefit is that no Middle Avenue tunnel would be necessary, saving at least 10 million dollars. How did Menlo Patk understand and then factor these benefits into its decision to reject the viaduct option? These should be considered along with aesthetics. This has not been a transparent decision. Btw there is a BART viaduct in south Berkeley. It is not being torn down.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 9:54 am

peninsula resident: I encourage you to watch the videos of the Oct 2017, May 2018 and January 2019 City Council meetings. These are available on the Menlo Park city website. You will learn there FACTS about the organized residents who have vocally opposed ANY Menlo Park viaduct.

- At least 90% of the resident were made by one Menlo Park neighborhood (Felton Gables)
- They have insisted that no track elevation height along their boundary is acceptable to them
- They have claimed "no one" builds viaducts anymore and "everyone" is taking old ones down (Neither is true; viaducts are an essential component of urban/suburban passenger rail systems worldwide)
- A viaduct is by its nature an ugly structure that will create big noise problems (The former is false; the later is unproven, would be studied, and would - IF TRUE -prevent a viaduct from ever being built in Menlo Park)

So, your logic model and apparent conclusion do not work for me.

One neighborhood has constantly mischaracterized the viaduct option.

At first, because it feared one would be built near them (Note: this has never been proposed)

And now, it claims it is saving the entire city from such a "beast".

Please keep in mind that a viaduct need only run from Ravenswood to Oak Grove to protect and enhance the train station area, improve bike and pedestrian connectivity, and avoid month-long street and lane closures on Ravenswood during construction.


1 person likes this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2019 at 12:26 pm

I don't live in Menlo Park, so I don't really have a horse in the race. But I can't help but question whether this campaign for viaducts and berms is well thought out.


Questions below...

1:
"They have insisted that no track elevation height along their boundary is acceptable to them"

While I don't speak for FG, if I were in their shoes, my objection would include a very obvious issue: while building a berm|viaduct, WHERE DOES THE TRAIN GO?

Checking a map, there appear to be some places next to the ROW that currently have room for shoefly tracks, but some are more problematic. Do you concede there may be some property takings and massive tree removal as part of a shoefly configuration?

Also, IMHO the FG objections are fairly moot: even if FG agreed to an increase in elevation, Atherton won't; or at the very least they won't pay for one (and really, they can't: The town of Atherton is poorer than the City of EPA. True).


2:
"[Felton Gables claims] A viaduct is by its nature an ugly structure...(The former is false..."

Your claim is a...ahem...bold statement.

Please provide examples of not-ugly viaducts built in the bay area within the last 60 years.

If your response to this is to post links to bucolic pictures of trains running through the European countryside, you will have effectively proven FG's point: we don't build not-ugly viaducts.



To be clear, I actually think grade separation is necessary. But reading through the arguments it strikes me that the people campaigning for a particular approach have not fully vetted (and have not been transparent about) the impact of their potential solution.


1 person likes this
Posted by DANA HENDRICKSON
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 12:43 pm

PENINSULA RESIDENT:

1. All proposed grade separations require a shoofly. You can view the consultant presentations at there city website.

2. None of the proposed alternatives require grades to extend into Atherton.

3. I have never posted any pictures of viaducts. However, the FG residents have repeatedly referenced ones in the countryside and ancient ones in cities (Chicago EL) inTHEIR attempt to show that all viaducts are ugly or inappropriate for Menlo Park.

Question: Why are FG residents opposed ALLMenlo Park residents having a study performed that enables ALL residents to expire their INFORMED preferences?

"Please provide examples of not-ugly viaducts built in the bay area within the last 60 years."

This is a red herring. I'll let you do this research. A viaduct is simply a chain of train bridges and there are many I would find acceptable. So let our community decide.


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 12:49 pm

PENINSULA RESIDENT: (With My Typos corrected - I hope!)

1.ALL proposed grade separations require a shoofly. You can view the consultant presentations at there city website These have been available for over a year..

2. None of the proposed alternatives require grades to extend into Atherton. This has been a city requirement from day one.

3. I have never posted any pictures of viaducts. However, the FG residents have repeatedly referenced ones in the countryside and ancient ones in cities (Chicago EL) in THEIR attempt to show that all viaducts are ugly or inappropriate for Menlo Park.

Question: Why are FG residents opposed to ALL Menlo Park residents having a study performed that enables ALL residents the opportunity to express their INFORMED preferences?

"Please provide examples of not-ugly viaducts built in the bay area within the last 60 years."

This is a red herring. I'll let you do this research. A viaduct is simply a chain of train bridges and there are many I would find acceptable. So why not let our community decide? What are you afraid of?


11 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2019 at 4:13 pm

"ALL proposed grade separations require a shoofly."

Do you concede there may be some property takings and significant tree removal as part of a shoefly configuration?

(Note that provided the trees were replaced with semi-mature trees once the shoefly was removed, IMHO this would be an acceptable tradeoff. But the loss of trees should be transparent to the public, unlike what happened at 101/willow for example).


"Question: Why are FG residents opposed..."

You'd have to ask them.


'"Please provide examples of not-ugly viaducts built in the bay area within the last 60 years."

This is a red herring.'

Not true. A red herring is something that is or is intended to be misleading or distracting.

YOU stated that something 'is false', without backing up the claim. I asked for examples. That's not the least-bit misleading; I asked a question entirely relevant to your statement; that's the opposite of a red herring.


'I'll let you do this research.'

That's not how debate works. You made a statement of fact, without supporting it. You have the 'burden of proof'.

It's also worth pointing out that your burden of proof is relatively low; 1 or more photos of a viaduct built within the last 60 years that looks better than the viaducts used by Bart and the viaducts torn down by Oakland and SF should be achievable...assuming such a thing exists.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 7:41 pm

peninsula resident:

1. AECOM has shown EXACTLY how private property would be effected by Alternatives A, B and C. So look at the drawings. I expect the downtown viaduct would have little impact on private property because most is either owned by Caltrain or Menlo Park.

2. RE: tree loss, you can also see the location of the shoofly on the AECOM drawings. It's on the west side of the existing tracks and any removed trees will replaced.

3. RE: viaduct aesthetics, I have already shown you an approved Caltrain design for Broadway Burlingame. Also, I am not interested in debating the highly subjective topic of aesthetics of individual viaducts built anywhere with anyone. Our community will decide what it wants/does not want - not you or I. Any proposed design will need to be approved.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted to protect a few impatient drivers. Let Darwin handle the problem.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 3, 2019 at 10:17 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

The comment above was not posted by me.


13 people like this
Posted by 41 year MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 3, 2019 at 10:52 am

I find the continued fixation on the Felton Gables neighborhood tiresome and counter productive to any discussion of this issue. Can we please keep this discussion to the facts and to stop bad mouthing particular neighborhoods within our city. We all live in Menlo Park and are all entitled to opinions and to express those opinions. By calling out one particular neighborhood (as Mr. Hendrickson often does) is unnecessary and mean spirited and makes it seem more like a personal vendetta than an argument.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 4, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Of course it was posted by me! Someone is denying my posts. Sad.


8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 4, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Of course it was posted by me! Someone is denying my posts. Sad."

No it wasn't me. You'll note I'm a registered user and I have been using this handle for years on this forum. Please stop using it.


7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 4, 2019 at 11:05 pm

So after all of this back and for and all of these mini-term papers written for their own sake, what does Caltrain want to do? Surely they already know the scope of their options and could fess up.

I suspect that they play this rope-a-dope game with every community, letting everyone debate until they're blue in the face. And then come out with a plan/report that supports an option they were going to build all along.


7 people like this
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 9, 2019 at 2:54 pm

It is so unfortunate that bad information still circulates about the options For Menlo Park’s CalTrain grade separations. Marci Abromowitz repeats the fiction that the Fully Elevated scheme (over downtown only) wold be “at 50 feet ... the tallest structure west of 101”. As is clear in the staff reports, the track elevation will top out (downtown only) at 20’ up - leaving 15’ clear underneath for vehicles - including fire trucks - to pass easily below at existing grade. (The track elevation is essentially unchanged at Felton Gables and at Linfield Oaks.)

Importantly, the 15’ clearance allows full access to pedestrian, bikes and vehicles throughout downtown, where currently we have iron fencing, roaring trains and only three portals to cross. Additionally, the properties and walkways - civic and private - can remain undisturbed, particularly at intersections.

The boogieman of 50’ was invented by former councilman Rich Cline to argue for the “deep dip” option A. This is by adding in the height of the new power poles - spaced as far or farther than telephone poles - to the height of the “structure”.

Back on Earth, the option of a fully elevated (through downtown) rail is not perfect - no solution is. But it has the least down sides, and many people now think the best up slides. At this point, readers need to view the options themselves on the project website.


3 people like this
Posted by Clarification Please
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 9, 2019 at 5:22 pm

I spent some time on the Menlo Park city website, however it's unclear to me whether the proposed study of the cost to implement a tunnel option for the train has been, or will be, completed. Can someone please clarify?

Despite back of the napkin estimates that are extremely large, it seems that if any towns/cities can do this, it should be ours - with the most expensive real estate in the country AND the highest valued companies in the world in our backyard.

If Boston can do this, surely we can!

Build the tunnel, reclaim the land, make something great!

If not possible, don't disturb all 3 intersections, go with 2 - Ravenswood and Oak Grove, for reasons others have identified above.


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 11:28 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Clarification Please: Caltrain — not the city of Menlo Park — owns and controls their railroad right of way. Further, Caltrain/UPRR opposes tunneling. Building underground (or below-grade) stations is very costly and putting diesel locomotive-hauled freights with thousands of gallons of flammable diesel fuel and possibly hazmat cargoes into tunnels with people who are there to catch a train is highly undesirable (unpleasant) and costly due to the life-safety issues (emergency exits, diesel exhaust venting, fire suppression, etc.). The station platform(s) must be wheelchair accessible (which implies elevators or escalators or lengthy ramps) and it and the tunnel must be equipped with fail-safe pumping systems (with automatic backup diesel generators) to keep them from flooding and shutting down the railroad during heavy rains, water main or fire hydrant breaks, creek floods, etc. Caltrain & UP would surely require the city to indemnify them from any of the increased ongoing risks & costs of operating and maintaining a tunnel and station in Menlo Park, including the pumping systems and their operation and upkeep.

Various parts of the "Ohlone Greenway" along and under El Cerrito's BART viaduct are good local examples of what those areas near both single-family and multi-unit housing can look like and be used for: Web Link

Note also that Honolulu is presently building a 20-mile rail transit system (HART) which is entirely elevated (i.e. viaduct).

In Menlo Park's case, most of the right of way is already so well screened, particularly north or south of downtown, that very few homes and/or living units can even see more than a few small slivers of it — if that. You can probably count the homes and apartments with unobstructed views of more than one or two train-car lengths at a time on your hands! The actual (vs. imagined or feared) visual impact on homes of a ~20-foot-tall viaduct across only the downtown area would, therefore, be fairly minimal ... and limited only to those few dwellings that are both adjacent to the right of way and have no trees, shrubs, fences or other buildings or foliage already screening substantially most of their view of the right of way. The temporary shoofly would run along the west (El Camino) side of the existing tracks, and would and should, of course, be replanted with screening trees and shrubs when construction is complete.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 11, 2019 at 2:01 pm

I have to disagree with several of the statements in this opinion piece. I personally think a fully elevated trackway would have many advantages and scarcely any downside other than the cost (and of course, all of the options are expensive).

1. An elevated trackway would open up the ROW for use a a greenway for bike-ped transportation and neighborhood green space, as seen in Berkeley and other communities.

2. It would enable the reconnection of multiple cross streets, reducing traffic congestion at the existing crossings, and making for a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.

3. Electric trains on an elevated track could hardly be any noisier than diesel trains on a grade level track. I suspect they would be quieter. Not to mention that there would no longer be a reason to blast the horn at crossings, which is the biggest source of noise.

4. There are already mature trees on both sides of the ROW in most locations, so the raised trackway would not be particularly prominent, or cast any more shade than already exists.

On point that I think needs to be considered is that there should be a regional consensus on the track configuration. Otherwise we run the risk of creating a "roller coaster railroad" that is elevated in some communities and below grade in others. Considering the small footprint of some of the jurisdictions along the line, this could become an impediment to the implementation of high speed rail.


20 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2019 at 2:56 pm

"Various parts of the "Ohlone Greenway" along and under El Cerrito's BART viaduct are good local examples of what those areas near both single-family and multi-unit housing can look like and be used for"

Comparing the Caltrain ROW with the Ohlone Greenway is deeply flawed.

1: The Ohlone Greenway was repurposed from defunct railroad & transit right-of-ways (The 'Key System' public transit and the 'California and Nevada Railroad'). Caltrain is in no way similar: it's an ACTIVE public transit system with an ACTIVELY used ROW.

It's likely a LOT easier to repurpose land when the parties that previously controlled the land are not interested in using said land. Caltrain/JPB, on the other hand, would no doubt protect its interests...particularly financial...in very expensive land it controls and could potentially repurpose for its own interests.

2: the 'greening' of the Ohlone Greenway was paid for by the federal government. Do you propose that the Feds would do the same for a greenway under a Caltrain viaduct?


I get that you're trying to illustrate the *potential* for repurposing the land under a viaduct. But the reality is that your example overlooks important issues that make that repurposing far, far less likely than it was in the 50s and 60s, with land that was in some sections abandoned.


3 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2019 at 6:08 pm

Again... the proposed viaduct would extend at most BETWEEN Ravenswood and Glenwood. The rest of the elevated and graduated grades to the north and south would be built on berms for cost reasons. So there is no space underneath these two lengths of track.

That said, it MIGHT be possible to run a multi-user path along the berms but the viability of doing this given the limited width of the Caltrain ROW would need to be studied. It's pure speculation at this point.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@peninsula resident ... you claim comparing the Ohlone Greenway — a physically very similar railroad right of way where tracks which once used to be at ground level are now elevated above it on a viaduct through neighborhoods — is “deeply flawed” ... but then utterly fail to make a sensible case for why.

The Caltrain ROW is owned by a public agency. If tracks are elevated over our street crossings on a viaduct, leaving a wide swath of vacant (track-free) open space beneath, it is a simple and undeniable fact that there exists excellent potential to do similar good-looking, community-serving things here as along the Ohlone Greenway. The details as to who might pay for paths and landscaping along a future Menlo Park greenway is both TBD and immaterial right now. The key point is that a viaduct is the only feasible and possibly affordable grade sep design that allows for that while obviating the need to permanently lower Ravenswood, Oak Grove, Glenwood and nearby intersecting streets like Alma, Merrill and Garwood (and relocate all the utilities thereunder) and equip them with failsafe pumping infrastructure at the city’s perpetual operating & maintenance expense.

Sorry, but “proof by assertion” isn’t compelling ... and it never was.


6 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 9:26 am

'but “proof by assertion” isn’t compelling'

You are misinterpreting "proof by assertion."


"proof by assertion": an informal fallacy in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction.


1: You have been unable to refute/contradict my prior statement in any way.

2: I stated my point of view once, and backed it up with historically accurate facts.


It's quite clear you didn't read what I wrote; it would be helpful if you actually read what I posted before replying to it. I clearing posted "proof by facts"...observe:

Fact: "The Ohlone Greenway was repurposed from *defunct* [emphasis mine] railroad & transit right-of-ways (The 'Key System' public transit and the 'California and Nevada Railroad')"

[sources:
* Key system usage of ROW discontinued in 1958: Web Link
* Bart construction began in 1964: Web Link
* History of Ohlone Greenway: Web Link
]



"The details as to who might pay for paths and landscaping along a future Menlo Park greenway is...immaterial"

Wait...so...you're touting the advantages of a viaduct by it potentially creating a greenway, while simultaneously stating funding it is 'immaterial'.

Do you always undermine your own debating points?


The creation of a viaduct does not wave Caltrain/JPB's rights to the land. Yes, of course there's the *potential* for a greenway (which isn't in any of the projected MP plans, btw), but you're doing excessive handwaving over the fact that Caltrain/JPB management will still own the land and will not have any incentive to just hand over this valuable property. That is a crucial difference between the Caltrain ROW and the old Key System ROW that you used for comparison. THAT is the flaw in your thinking that I'm pointing out.


In this viaduct+greenway plan of yours, do you have ideas on how to financially incentivize Caltrain/JPB to repurpose this land into a greenway?


Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@peninsula resident: Your statements about the Ohlone Greenway’s history and funding – regardless of whether true or not – do not, do not in any way bolster your (still) unsupported claim that any comparison regarding examples for possibilities is “deeply flawed.” Simple.

The JPB, a poilitically aware and persuadable body of local appointed and elected officials, need only be persuaded to allow (or not oppose) permitting an revocable long-term easement and/or lease (e.g for a token $1 per annum) and/or some other agreement for the use of their land (newly-vacated of tracks, trains and related infrastucture) for other community-serving uses. As long as their rights and ownership are,preserved and are indeminified and not unwillingly burdened by or subject to any costs, why should they object?

There are gobs of grants and groups that could support and assist with such a greenway ... and its not like paths and landscaping are particularly expensive or anything.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 2:07 pm

'your (still) unsupported claim that any comparison regarding examples for possibilities is “deeply flawed.”'

This statement is a strawman.

I never claimed that any comparison was 'deeply flawed.'

Strawman: an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument.

You are misrepresenting my point. Don't act all hurt just because I found a flaw in your comparison. Grow up.


"$1 per annum"

Ohhh, what a deal! I'm sure Caltrain will jump all over that.

I welcome you (and those that agree with you) try leasing it for $1...I really do. Just don't be shocked in Caltrain/JPB thinks they can get more than that.

(which of course all of this assumes that a viaduct through the entirety of MP is even listed as one of the options being proposed...which it's not).


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@peninsula resident, so if we agree that my comparison isn’t “deeply flawed”, then what, exactly, is your point?

Heh. Are you genuinely (not feigning) unaware that it’s not uncommon for leases between public or governing (i.e. not for profit) public-serving agencies to be arranged for insignificant/nominal sums (e.g. $1 per annum), particlarly in furtherance and facillitation of some greater public purpose. Very common. In fact, I’m almost JPB already has already entered into some of these ...


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 6:39 pm

Oh Gawd. Let's try this...

'your (still) unsupported claim that any comparison regarding examples for possibilities is “deeply flawed.”'

This statement is a strawman.

I never claimed that ANY comparison was 'deeply flawed'; just the comparison you made. An idea that is flawed does not guarantee failure, it means in this case your comparison was not well vetted.

Clearly you don't agree. Whatever.

But what we can agree on is that you made a strawman ;) Naughty, naughty.


2 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Oh, and...

HSR on the peninsula is dead! ~$100 billion saved. (and if you include Sac and SD, likely almost double that).

Thank you, Governor Newsom. You've already outperformed your predecessor.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@peninsula resident ... “not well vetted”? Changing the subject to HSR ... slinking off with no real or useful point (or even suggestion) of substance! Nothing but niggling and pedantic and distracting sophistry! Those things in small doses are OK ... if leavened with at least *some* substantive furtherance of the discussion of the issue or problem at hand. What do you advocate, and why is it better than the alternatives?


As far as I can tell, Newsom’s HSR announcement changes little or nothing with respect to Menlo Park vs. the 2018 HSRA business plan. Or am I missing something ... and if so, what?


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2019 at 9:28 am

"Changing the subject to HSR"

Ahem, I responded to your previous post with entirely relevant points. You may disagree, but that is in no way 'changing' the subject.

You posted a strawman and got caught. Just own it and move on.

BTW, if you wish to have a discussion about HSR, I'm happy to do so. But first, confess to your strawman.


10 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2019 at 12:19 pm

"What do you advocate [for grade separation in MP], and why is it better than the alternatives?"

* while IMHO a full-length-of-MP viaduct is the least appealing of the options (for all the reasons previous posters have cited), I believe all of the most commonly discussed options *can* work, provided the issues with each are addressed.

The most commonly discussed options are (note that this is a list of *discussed* options, which may not be the same as what is currently under consideration with the MP city council):

1: tunnel
2: trench
3: full-height berm
4: hybrid berm+underpass
5: full-height viaduct (<---you appear to be the only one campaigning for this option, btw. I welcome evidence to the contrary)
6: berm+viaduct (full-height viaduct at the station, berm elsewhere)
7: underpass (usually discussed for grade separating only Ravenswood)

While a tunnel or trench is the most appealing, as a practical matter nobody has proposed a viable way of funding the high cost of such solutions, and the peninsula appears to not have the political gravitas to get the kind of funding SF can pull together (for example: their 2.2+ billion broken and unused transbay transit center, with its underground train station).

Personally, I find 'hybrid berm+underpass' a reasonable compromise, as it partially mitigates the concerns about visual blight, and as a practical matter some sections of the ROW in MP are already on a berm. Also, from prior posts on this matter, this approach (along with a full-height San Carlos style berm) have historically been considered the most cost-effective solutions to grade separation.

However, unlike you I'm not married to one particular solution as the only viable option; the key is to pick one, know its issues and mitigate them enough to mitigate community concerns.


By the way, IMHO your advocacy is part of the problem here. Too many people...like you...imply that only 1 particular grade separation strategy is superior. This constant advocacy and unwillingness to compromise and unwillingness of the MP Council to commit to a decision has left this area in a constant state of indecision and a constant state of non-resolution. And we all suffer because of it.

The council needs to make a decision, commit to identifying a funding plan, mitigate whatever issues come with the grade-separation-of-choice, and GET IT DONE.

And to those who think only 1 solution is viable...they can just go pound sand.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2019 at 5:26 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

@peninsula resident: I just now saw your reply ... so apologies for my delayed response.

I’ve never heard anyone seriouly claim only one design is viable! So that might be a strawman of your own. ;-)

Of course a hybrid like Alt C can work ... but given all the tradeoffs and opportunities, I’ve been saying a fully (or nearly so) elevated viaduct across downtown appears best, if designed with care and if we can eventually(*) get it paid for. Lots of people agree, and that’s why council has wisely asked that it also be studied (it hasn’t yet). Since Atherton – and, at least for now, a plurality of Felton Gables – opposes any track elevation, the tracks must be sloped back down to ground level north of downtown or Glenwood, and certainly by the Atherton city limit before Watkins.

(*) All Caltrain grade sep projects, once chosen, have (and likely will continue to) take a long time to fund. For example, Burlingame has settled on a single hybrid grade sep at Broadway and is now just in an indeterminate years-long waiting phase to fund its estimated quarter-billion dollar cost.


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