Letter: Train noise disruptive for library users | October 3, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



Viewpoint - October 3, 2012

Letter: Train noise disruptive for library users

Atherton residents who live within a few hundred yards of the Caltrain tracks, who visit the town offices or use the tennis courts, know that the noise created by the current diesel commuter trains is annoying, disruptive and distracting. Electrification will mean quieter rolling stock, but the trains will be just as noisy at advertised high speeds The website at tinyurl.com/noise03 cites stringent limits recommended by the World Health Organization on noise levels for classrooms (akin to libraries) due to external sources. No on F group's implied preference to locate a replacement library at the town center within 100 yards of the Caltrain right of way appears to overlook this recommendation. And why do that when we have the option of putting the new library in the park?

We build up tolerance for discomforts like train noise, telling ourselves that the effect is indeed tolerable and at any rate inevitable. Yet the present situation is different. We need not accept the train noise and disruption in our new library. We need not build a fortress library with double- or triple-glazed windows with views of the parking lot and the tracks. We can put the library in a quiet, green place, distant from whatever future commuter rail holds for our community.

I invite open-minded residents who are tempted to vote against locating the library in the park to attend a weekday Caltrain crossing of Fair Oaks Avenue. Wait a few minutes for another to come in the other direction. Then you may agree it doesn't make sense to put a library at the town center.

Karen Moore

Parkwood Drive, Atherton


Posted by Perserve Our Park, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm

The Train does not stop in Atherton during the week. It stops in Menlo Park 21 times between 10am and 5pm- most used library hours. How many minutes of noise can that be? 10 minutes a day? 15 minutes a day?

If someone wants to read a book in the park, all they have to do is sit on a bench under a tree. Does a 13,000 square foot facility have to be built in the park to enjoy reading among its trees. Why not just open the Park Pavilion during the week and see the turn out?

There is a web site www.saveourpark.info which gives a complete picture of what is going on and reasons not to built a 13,000 square foot county library in Atherton's only park.

A major reason is that the Redwood City and Menlo Park libraries are not used to capacity. Building a third county library so close to those two is not needed.

The train and the Menlo Performing Arts Center MA-PAC make great case histrories. The Train no longer stops in Atherton during the week and the MA- PAC sits empty most of the time. There is not enough demand.

There is no need to build a white elephant in Holbrook Palmer Park. There has been no meaningful demand from residents to spend $8M to build this library.

What many residents have proposed is to remodel and expand the existing library and give some of the money to our schools.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

The library could be totally rebuilt, expanded and completely sound proofed at its present location for much less than the $8 million that is burning a hole in some council members pockets.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm

If you want even more sound proofing then individual rooms can be built within a sound proofed library. The Huntington Public Library has these:

"Quiet Study Rooms
The Central library offers small sound-proof rooms to our users. These rooms accommodate from 1-3 people and are rented on a first-come, first-served basis. The rooms are available for $2.00 per hour, payable in advance. Users must be at least 18 years old unless accompanied by an adult."

Posted by can't hear you, a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Spending $8,000,000 on a new building and soundproofing I guarantee you will not hear a thing.

Posted by Perserve Our Park, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 3, 2012 at 6:15 am

I followed Ms. Moore's suggestion and listened to the trains. A train passed in less than 10 seconds. From 10am- 5pm, three trains an hour pass. Is 30 seconds per hour really a big issue?

Those in favor of moving the library to the park do not provide any details on the usage of the library. Such as how long the someone stays at the library? How many people a day use the library? How many of those are from Atherton? What is the capacity of the new library? Why the county will not put in any funds to build the library even though more than half the people that use the library are from outside Atherton?

Posted by Perserve Our Park, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

Ms. Moore referenced the World Health Organization's stringent noise levels for classrooms in her letter regarding train noise and a web site. I was not able to locate the web site, but did locate an article by the World Health Organization on the possible impacts of high levels of classroom noise for 6 hours per day.

Perhaps she can post the link and cite the code for the violation from the train. If such a violation is happening.

Anyone in the library for 2 hours would be exposed to less than 60 seconds of train noise.

What about children in Atherton homes that are as close to the train as the library? They are exposed to far more seconds of train noise daily.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

Sound walls, sound proof building design and landscaping. You aren't the only place with a train line running by schools, libraries, etc.

Posted by Perserve Our Park, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Ms. Moore writes the the No on the F (library in the park) wants to relocate the library to withing 100 years of the Caltrain station. the No on F Group has a web site www.saveourpark.info. Is there any mention that moving the library to within 100 years of a Caltrain station is the better solution that she can point to?

No on F believes there is no justification to build a 13,000 square foot library in the park.

Posted by Commissario, a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Ms. Moore's specious argument cites a report about high speed rail and equates the Atherton Library to a classroom, which is completely illogical.

Lets examine the facts. Classrooms have 25-40 students for roughly 6 hours; how often are there even 20 people in the Atherton library at one time? Maybe if all the librarians are included, but otherwise? How many customers spend the equivalent of a 6 hour school day in the Atherton library?

And then the issue of how often this noise level reaches a disruptive level - or if it even does - must be calculated. Nowhere in the voluminous Atherton Library Needs Assessment can I find any mention of disruptive train noise. I don't need to stand at the Fair Oaks crossing; I've been in the library when a train passes and it lasts less than 20 seconds. The noise level in the library does not impair my ability to concentrate during these 20 seconds. The Caltrain schedule shows this occurs twice per hour during most of the time when the library is open, more frequently during the late afternoon rush hour. So Ms. Moore's justification for locating a huge, yet almost certain to be underused, library in Atherton's only park is approximately 40 seconds of train noise every hour during the majority of the day.

Ms. Moore also rues the possibility of a fortress-like library at the current site utilizing double or triple glazed windows. I would hope that this would be mandatory in any new structure (especially a government building), not only for its noise reducing ability but the tremendous energy savings that this type of glass offers. And what exactly will a 13,000 plus square foot monolith smack dab in the middle of Holbrook-Palmer Park look like - a cabin in the woods? I suspect most open-minded Atherton residents will consider Ms. Moore's contribution to this debate and hopefully vote No on F.