News

Atherton Caltrain station may close permanently

Council to discuss agency's proposal at Jan. 15 meeting

Caltrain is proposing to permanently close the Atherton train station, which currently operates only on weekends, according to a Jan. 8 letter written by Caltrain to the town of Atherton.

Caltrain officials are asking the town – which had most recently indicated it wants to expand service to weekdays – to provide official support for the proposal before closing the station, according to the letter.

The City Council will discuss the proposed closure at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. Other topics on the agenda include funding for the town's $31.6 million civic center project, evaluation of its fire services, and reviewing a policy for license plate readers in town.

Atherton officials have met with Caltrain several times over the last six to eight months as the rail service plans its train schedules in preparation of rail service electrification from San Francisco to San Jose, according to Atherton Mayor Rick DeGolia.

"In general, adding new service (or 'stops') to trains is a zero sum game – either requiring that a stop be re-allocated from elsewhere in the system or that the entire train be slowed by several minutes, degrading the railroad's ability to compete with auto travel in terms of travel times," said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett in the letter. "The lower density, residential character of the land uses around the Atherton station suggest that the station is unlikely to generate significant future ridership."

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Caltrain previously indicated it might eliminate a stop in either Redwood City or Menlo Park to accommodate an Atherton stop. It has the final say on the schedule.

The station, which is more than 100 years old, is a designated "hold out station" because it has a center boarding platform only, meaning passengers can cross the tracks in multiple places to reach the platform. To change this, Caltrain would have to build separate platforms for northbound and southbound passengers and a fence separating the tracks.

Caltrain suspended weekday stops in the town in 2005 due to low ridership.

"The Caltrain station has been an important asset to Atherton for nearly 150 years," DeGolia said in an email. "I know that the station would need to be significantly upgraded in order to bring back full weekday service. While closing the station, rather than doing those upgrades, may be a significant benefit to Caltrain, we have to see what benefits Caltrain is proposing to offset the loss of the station."

If the town and Caltrain can come to an agreement, Caltrain will begin a process of approximately five to six-months to identify potential impacts, obtain environmental clearance and develop a station closure resolution, according to the letter.

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To close the station, Caltrain said it would seek funding, between $7 million and $9 million, to construct a right-of-way fence separating the current station from the town's civic center; remove the existing center station platform and track crossings; remove ticket vending machines and bike lockers; and implement grade crossing safety improvements at Watkins Avenue.

The Wednesday night meeting will be in Holbrook-Palmer Park's Jennings Pavilion, 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.

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Atherton Caltrain station may close permanently

Council to discuss agency's proposal at Jan. 15 meeting

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 8:12 am

Caltrain is proposing to permanently close the Atherton train station, which currently operates only on weekends, according to a Jan. 8 letter written by Caltrain to the town of Atherton.

Caltrain officials are asking the town – which had most recently indicated it wants to expand service to weekdays – to provide official support for the proposal before closing the station, according to the letter.

The City Council will discuss the proposed closure at its meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. Other topics on the agenda include funding for the town's $31.6 million civic center project, evaluation of its fire services, and reviewing a policy for license plate readers in town.

Atherton officials have met with Caltrain several times over the last six to eight months as the rail service plans its train schedules in preparation of rail service electrification from San Francisco to San Jose, according to Atherton Mayor Rick DeGolia.

"In general, adding new service (or 'stops') to trains is a zero sum game – either requiring that a stop be re-allocated from elsewhere in the system or that the entire train be slowed by several minutes, degrading the railroad's ability to compete with auto travel in terms of travel times," said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett in the letter. "The lower density, residential character of the land uses around the Atherton station suggest that the station is unlikely to generate significant future ridership."

Caltrain previously indicated it might eliminate a stop in either Redwood City or Menlo Park to accommodate an Atherton stop. It has the final say on the schedule.

The station, which is more than 100 years old, is a designated "hold out station" because it has a center boarding platform only, meaning passengers can cross the tracks in multiple places to reach the platform. To change this, Caltrain would have to build separate platforms for northbound and southbound passengers and a fence separating the tracks.

Caltrain suspended weekday stops in the town in 2005 due to low ridership.

"The Caltrain station has been an important asset to Atherton for nearly 150 years," DeGolia said in an email. "I know that the station would need to be significantly upgraded in order to bring back full weekday service. While closing the station, rather than doing those upgrades, may be a significant benefit to Caltrain, we have to see what benefits Caltrain is proposing to offset the loss of the station."

If the town and Caltrain can come to an agreement, Caltrain will begin a process of approximately five to six-months to identify potential impacts, obtain environmental clearance and develop a station closure resolution, according to the letter.

To close the station, Caltrain said it would seek funding, between $7 million and $9 million, to construct a right-of-way fence separating the current station from the town's civic center; remove the existing center station platform and track crossings; remove ticket vending machines and bike lockers; and implement grade crossing safety improvements at Watkins Avenue.

The Wednesday night meeting will be in Holbrook-Palmer Park's Jennings Pavilion, 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.

Comments

resident
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 14, 2020 at 8:20 am
resident, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 14, 2020 at 8:20 am
20 people like this

Atherton should sell the land to a housing developer. We need more housing. Use the money to provide bus service from other Caltrain stations to destinations in Atherton.


MP Resident
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:35 am
MP Resident, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:35 am
27 people like this

Given how antagonistic Atherton has been to Caltrain electrification, they do not deserve train service.


whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:52 am
whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 9:52 am
8 people like this

MP Resident
Right, and use coal and wood burning engines thru Atherton. That'll teach those NIMBYs.


fiscal equity
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:19 am
fiscal equity, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:19 am
7 people like this

Now the Town Council will play it's fiscal equity card and demand that Caltrain give the Town all of taxes paid by Atherton residents to Caltrain.


Brian
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:50 am
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:50 am
14 people like this

Did Atherton even want the train station? This will actually be a benefit to the town, if the senate bill that takes planning control away from cities for areas near transit corridors ever passes Atherton would not be affected. Without a train station they would not be on a transit corridor and would not be forced to add high density housing. It really would be a win for Atherton, and of course since the tracks go through the town they would still be able to sue to block electrification.


long time resident
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:35 pm
long time resident, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:35 pm
6 people like this

Despite comments above, this action fully illustrates the corrupt nature of Caltrain.

Caltrain promised better service as a key stone to spend over $2 billions for electrification; what we now see is the opposite.

Way behind schedule with their plans and obnoxious cost over runs on the CBOSS (Positive Train Control, no one should be complimenting Caltrain.




Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:17 pm
6 people like this

Whether or not Atherton has a train station, it is still a "jobs rich area," so many of the high density provisions of SB50 will still apply.


MEMBERONE
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm
MEMBERONE, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm
6 people like this

MP Resident: Really???
"Given how antagonistic Atherton has been to Caltrain electrification, THEY do not deserve train service."

You don't seriously think that only Athertonians use the station ?


Brian
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:52 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:52 pm
12 people like this

Joseph,

Atherton itself is not job rich, infact I don't believe there are any businesses in Atherton at all. If SB50, or whatever they call it when they attempt to bring it back from the dead, tries to make Atherton add high density housing and takes planning control away from the town I would see a lawsuit, a very well funded one, appear almost immediately. I would hope Menlo Park and other communities join in.


Also on the peninsula
another community
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm
Also on the peninsula, another community
on Jan 14, 2020 at 1:57 pm
10 people like this

Re: Resident, etc.
Peninsula roads are congested enough. Without additional viable public transit and alternative transit options for residents, we've reached a saturation point. Removing a train station stop and replacing it with housing -- without an option for nearby public transit -- exacerbates the issue further. What Caltrain *really* needs is a massive expansion that would allow for more trains to travel concurrently, making the train a more viable option at any time of day whether you're looking to get from San Francisco to San Jose ASAP or just hop a couple towns down for dinner. Along with that, we need expanded bus services that makes it easy to get to and from the train station without a car, too. In that world, it makes sense for the Atherton station to be updated and functional, but in its and Caltrain's current state, it's better off eliminated from the schedule -- the Menlo station is like, a mile or two away and accommodated by many trains.


Evan
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 2:05 pm
Evan, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 2:05 pm
5 people like this

We're investing billions of dollars in Caltrain. Caltrain service should be reserved for cities that have dedicated significant jobs and/or housing density near their Caltrain stations, enabling people to walk to/from the stations. That's how we reduce congestion and emissions here on the Peninsula.

Cities like Atherton, that do the opposite, should get Caltrain service. Shut it down.


Frank Quinn
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 2:11 pm
Frank Quinn, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 2:11 pm
7 people like this

Wait. They'd have to close Redwood City or Menlo Park? That's beyond insanity.


MP Resident
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 3:20 pm
MP Resident, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 3:20 pm
8 people like this

Re Also on the peninsula - What you are describing is the original 4-track plan (for Caltrain + HSR) through the Peninsula. Atherton was instrumental in shutting that down too.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 14, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 14, 2020 at 3:25 pm
4 people like this

The "jobs rich area" classification applies to most of the Bay Area, so Atherton and friends can look forward to some huge density increases if SB50 goes through.


Useless Train Stop
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 14, 2020 at 4:33 pm
Useless Train Stop, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 14, 2020 at 4:33 pm
12 people like this

This train stop is useless and helps no one. Seriously, it doesn't stop on Mon-Fri. With UBER/Lyft, most people are just going to Menlo Park or RWC stations so they can catch express trains anyways. Just kill this station and shut it down. If funds can be reaped to help fund the debacle that is the overbudget new civic center then I call that a win. I really can't believe DeGolia is advocating to keep the station but perhaps it's just a negotiating tactic. Make it sound like we really really really want the station just to maximize any kind of compensation/payout.


Mike
Atherton: other
on Jan 14, 2020 at 5:25 pm
Mike, Atherton: other
on Jan 14, 2020 at 5:25 pm
12 people like this

I commend the Town Council for moving forward with this negotiation with Caltrain to close the station. Caltrain is never going to fund the improvements necessary to change the hold-out station status. Best to get whatever the Town can, and allow Caltrain to utilize the train schedule that makes the most sense for the entire Peninsula.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:20 pm
10 people like this

Negotiating with the Atherton Town Council is like negotiating with the Duchy of Grand Fenwick remembering the the Q Bomb is a powerless dud.


SB 50 observer
Atherton: other
on Jan 15, 2020 at 8:50 am
SB 50 observer, Atherton: other
on Jan 15, 2020 at 8:50 am
4 people like this

@Joseph

The SB 50 density increase is up to four dwelling units with limited demolition allowed (no more than 25%) in a jobs-rich area. An existing structure has to be converted into four units and no more than 15% interior square feet added.

It's a modest increase to 4 from 3 when you consider that ADUs and junior ADUs are already allowed by right on single family lots.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:28 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:28 pm
8 people like this

If we added 20-30 low income homes to Atherton we might possibly recruit 4 or 5 talented citizens who would be willing to run for Town Council - that would be revolutionary.

Just imagine the fresh perspectives that would bring to the ossified Town Council.


peninsula resident
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jan 16, 2020 at 10:16 am
peninsula resident, Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jan 16, 2020 at 10:16 am
30 people like this

"Just imagine the fresh perspectives that would bring to the ossified Town Council."

Good point! After all, fresh perspectives have worked out very well for the ossified Fire board.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 16, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 16, 2020 at 2:19 pm
5 people like this

"fresh perspectives have worked out very well for the ossified Fire board."

I agree. Jim McLaughlin has brought new and valuable perspective to the Fire Board.


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