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on Jun 19, 2007
Caltrain has no intention of electrifying the Dumbarton Corridor when they electrify the main line or, frankly, ever. The word coming from the project manager and other officials at Caltrain is that the projected ridership on the DRC line (through 2030) does not justify the expense of electrification. Given how inflated the projected ridership numbers are, it's doubtful that the line will ever have enough riders to justify the cost. So, electrification is a red herring. If heavy diesel goes in, that's what we'll have to live with for at least the next 20 or 30 years.
MP resident, Your claim that Caltrain has no intention of electrifying Dumbarton Corridor is alarming. I wouldn't want a diesel-spewing train thundering through my neighborhood forevermore either. But I'm also nervous when I seen/hear the phrase "the word coming from..." with no specific names of people to contact. Whom did you speak to about this?
What is the benefit for Menlo Park residents for 3 trains that come our direction in the morning and return to the east bay in the evening? It's not going both directions during the AM and PM commute hours.
Will it be built so trains could do that, at least at some point? I don't hear that this is the case. What's the story?
Response to Conflicted on this Issue: When Steve Minden (DRC project manager) and Howard Goode (CalTrain) were asked about electrification of the Dumbarton line, either when the main line is converted or at some point in the future, they replied that it wouldn't make sense given the current ridership projections.
Suggesting that residents don't have to worry about future freight traffic because there hasn't been much in the last 30 years is ignoring the fact that the bridge has been out of commission for at least that long. It's also ignoring recent studies that have shown a huge increase in import/export traffic in the Bay Area and the Port of Oakland reaching capacity.
See the fall, 2006 SFGate article:
And the Bureau of Transportation Statistics – Regional Trends:
There are plans to expand the Port of Oakland, but it's likely that even that won't be enough to meet increased demands. The Port of San Francisco and SFO then become the next most likely ports of entry/exit for freight. So, I'm not reassured by Mr. Lloyd's numbers - nor should anyone else be.
Nineteenth century solutions for twenty-first century commuters. What's wrong with this picture?
No one seems to be saying that the rail line will serve Menlo Park or the peninsula in any meaningful way. The message from those on high is that we need to incur some of the burden of easing the area transit problems even though this particular fix will not benefit us at all, and it seems it will help only a handful of commuters on the other side of the bay.
The question isn't whether this project makes sense as a salve for commute woes--it doesn't--but why it's remained on the table. I’ve heard rumors that the Dumbarton effort is being driven by industrial interests, who hope to use the line as a cheaper way to transport freight. They are presenting the revival of the rail as a commuter solution because they realize that reopening it for regular freight service would be politically unpalatable.
Instead of lecturing us on NIMBYism, maybe the Almanac should investigate these rumors to see if they have any substance. Or at least take a closer look at who stands to benefit from the Dumbarton rail.
Let's turn the question around. What is there to get excited about Dumbarton rail? I don't see anything, at least for Menlo Park.
Is this the most prudent use of transportation funds? What is the projected cost per rider compared to other modes that support transit both directions during the day (not just one direction)?
Thanks for the sources, MP resident. No wonder Mr. Lloyd's statement regarding electrification was so murkily worded ("... COULD be brought up to the electric motive power standard.").
Regarding No to Dumbarton Rail's comments, I take issue with the implication that the rail line won't serve Menlo or the peninsula in any "meaningful way." Getting vehicles off the road is environmentally critical, and those vehicles crossing from the East Bay to the peninsula via the Dumbarton Bridge are fouling our air and burdening our roadways. But I can't agree more that diesel engine trains are a 19th century solution to 21st century commuters. Electrification is the only responsible way to create new rail service in the 21st century.
If the goal is to get cars off the road (never mind that the bridge is one of the least congested spots in the area, as noted on the other thread) then why not use buses, as others have proposed? No need for additional infrastructure, no diesels plowing through backyards, much less cost/rider, flexible routing.
In reality, how many commuters are going to be lured out of their cars by this proposed train? How many are going to find that the limited schedule and terminus meets their needs? A few dozen? The proponents estimate that a few hundred people will take the train, but those numbers have little substantiation.
On the other hand, I hear there is at least one construction company in Redwood City that is working behind the scenes to get this train on the tracks. Lloyd's protestations aside, history is not always the best predictor of the future.
The problem is that Dumbarton/Caltrain (they’re the same thing!) can’t give us what we want and what we need. They’re in the rail business, not the transit business, their rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding. Here are the beginnings of two lists, what we don’t and what we do want. Feel free to add to these two lists. They should clarify the discussion.
What we don’t want:
•Difficult to get to
•Divisive infrastructure and architecture
•Conflicting, competing transit providers
•Single-thread, linear transit line only
•Intrusive, neighborhood-destructive, obtrusive (noise, vibration, etc.)
•Single rail provider instead of integrated transit service
•Lies, distortions, exaggerations and marketing hype
What we do want:
•As fast or faster than driving (door to door)
•Attractive, pleasant, comfortable, clean passenger vehicles
•Safe, ease of use for moms and strollers, elderly
•As close to door-to-door as possible
•Multi-modal with easy and rapid connectivity
•Easier and less expensive from point A to point B than our car
•To be attracted, not nagged out of our cars
•Highly networked/distributed, web-based, collaborative urban transit
•Urban transit as a public service utility, publicly governed and accountable
• Systemic 21st century technologies, not 19th century obsolescence
•Independent, objective, truthful, reliable data and information
I don't think that Arthur Lloyd's point about the transfer being an impediment convey the entire picture. If people from the East Bay are commuting to jobs on the Peninsula via public transit, they will probably have an employer shuttle like the ones that Oracle and Google run around the Peninsula that will pick them up at the nearest train stop, and Redwood City is probably a reasonable place to do so.
What about transfers on the other side? On the other side of the Bay, the most reasonable thing to do would be to have BART run the trains, so you can pick up riders from a lot more areas. I'm sure the cost would be higher initially, but you will end up with a more unified transit system for the area, and plus address the legitimate concerns of residents if BART were running over the Dumbarton rail bridge rather than heavy rail.
WOW. So many substantive and interesting comments to respond to. I think the residents of Menlo Park seem to have put a lot more thought and creativity into this project than CalTrain has. Thank you to Not Dumb, Martin, & Eric for your insightful comments.
I'd just like to put a reality check on CalTrain's commuter projections because I am indeed baffled. If you were an East Bay resident, and a young or middle-aged parent (the most likely commuters to the Peninsula - how many minors or seniors will be regularly riding the Dumabrton??) with a job on the Peninsula, how likely are you to take a train to commute that only gives you 6 departure options and 6 return options? And if you get a call from your child's school that he/she is sick and needs to be picked-up right away, what do you do? How about if they get injured? Or maybe there is an emergency at your house or you need to go to one of many of your or your kids' Dr. appts. in the middle of the day? Or better yet, you don't feel well and need to go home or you finish a big project and want to go home early for a change? You have absolutely no options. I don't live in the East Bay, but as a working parent of young children, I wouldn't take that train if I did. It's just not practical and thus not attractive.
these are all great logical, reasoned arguments, but one must understand the political power matrix to appreciate where the power centers exist that are pushing this scenario. Spieker Properties has been buying up all the apts. in the rail corridor.
Former M.P. mayor Steve Schmidt and his push for the Dumb(sic) Rail extension gets prominent play in the Almanac.
Why? He was recruited by Gail Slocum, former MP mayor, staff atty. at PG&E (electrify Caltrain?), recruiter of Mayor Kelly Fergusson, and now a SMCo. Planning Commissioner, career politician.
Schmidt was M.P. rep. on the JPA, (Caltrain,Samtrans)
Almanac publisher Tom Gibboney, Pulitzer Prize winner as small town Alaska editor on Alaska Pipeline construction corruption, gets a Knight fellowship at Stanford, and ends up assuming control of the Almanac. Paradigm shift to Menlo Atherton. Big time new buddy of Steve Schmidt. Almanac archives confirm Schmidt's getting big time press since he left office. Schmidt lost earlier residentialist supporters in Linfield Oaks as he pushed the ill fated bike tunnel under tracks, needing Stanford easement (they own all the car dealer sites on ECR, think weeds!)
His last Hurrah!, Dec. 2004, Schmidt pushes Sand Hill extension, without mitigation for West Menlo residential streets, now inundated with speeding, cut through traffic because of over signalization of Sand Hill (try driving from Safeway to 280 on Sand Hill, then time it going up MIddle and Oak in Menlo Park). Santa Cruz AVe. is still a nightmare, no compensating signalization to offset the over=signaled Sand Hill. Palo Alto is fully protected, no Alma connection, No. PA traffic protection measures, 2 lanes from El Camino to Arboretum, West Menlo gets worse, Thanks, Steve Schmidt! You could have assumed that a 3-2 MP council vote approving Sand Hill widening while in your last month on the city council would beg the question of why you capitulated to Stanford (just look at the development in the Sand Hill corridor, Stanford got a blank check, thanks Steve!)
So, now you late comers understand the political/media matrix. These so=called Menlo "residentialists" are deadly serious about protecting their own "turf" but could care less about ours. Just do your research and you will understand how they have orchestrated this.
Don't expect the Almanac to change.
Tune it - please calm down and refrain from labeling people so disparagingly. Isn't it possible to support or oppose a particular position without assuming that those who disagree with you in one instance will always disagree with you?
I'm probably considered a "residentialist" because I care deeply about the quality of life for us residents of Menlo Park and our families. However, I have often disagreed with Schmidt, and I agree with you on several of your points. Wouldn't it be more productive to try to persuade others of your position's merits rather than point fingers and concoct elaborate conspiracy theories?
Say-no-to-Dumbarton-rail reader: you raise the issue of Dumbarton’s promotion actually based on its potential as a freight carrier. Highly plausible. Heavy rail (and, as you know, they are resisting light rail) is highly freight appropriate but a poor people-mover. And, consider this: The impetus for Dumbarton is Caltrain. Caltrain and BART are competitors. Each is vying with the other for Bay Area rail dominance. Instead of collaborating and seeking cooperative mass transit interaction, they fight for funds to salvage their persistent deficits and invest in capital expansion. Caltrain eagerly seeks connectivity across the Bay as well as south to Monterey. BART made sure that its rail is incompatible with standard heavy rail. What’s interesting is that Caltrain operates like a freight train system. The freight just happens to be people. They want to be regional carriers, eager to close more stations mid-Peninsula, not a local commuter service. The rolling stock for Dumbarton rail will be Diesel equipment "loaned" from Caltrain which claims it can electrify by 2014. Note also that in the DRC plans, the north and south trains, even as Diesels, are intended to go all the way to San Francisco and San Jose. Why not stop Dumbarton in Redwood City and transfer north or south? Because more is better, more trains running in the Caltrain corridor. Bottom line: the motivation for Caltrain and Dumbarton’s existence is Caltrain and Dumbarton’s existence, not urban mass transit service.
Mr. Engel's published writings over the years have firmly established him as a highly-predictable anti-rail NIMBY with respect to any increased (or perceived threat thereof) rail activity along the-in-continuous-operation-since-1863 Caltrain rail corridor near his Menlo Park Stone Pine Lane condo. Keeping this firmly in mind, everything Engel writes with respect to rail through or near Menlo Park is extremely predictable and consistent with the classic anti-rail NIMBY whose views are couched in terms of (sometimes fantastic) logic or concern for ... something ... anything but the simple (but apparently too nakedly honest) "I oppose this or that because I live near and own property near the tracks, end of story."
Contrary to Mr. Engel's assertions, Caltrain staff is actually not keen on expanding to Monterey. Monterey County is pushing for a Salinas extension, which Caltrain's top staffers, according to local papers, have been resisting.
Heavy rail and light rail are slippery terms. If we go with light rail equals track infrastructure associated with constraints (such as gradients or vertical or horizontal curve radii, etc.) that can only be traversed by LRVs, you will find that heavy rail is the infrastructure generally associated with higher-volume, longer-distance, higher-speed commuting pretty much anywhere in the world. So it's got nothing to do with freight conspiracies. BART is essentially heavy rail too ... and so it has got nothing whatsoever to do with track guage or whether freight is in fact run on it or not. And there's plenty of freight run on narrow gauge ... sometimes, you will even see where standard guage freight cars are loaded onto special narrow guage flat cars to reach into areas only served by narrow guage tracks (take a look at the Brünig line out of Luzern, Switzerland, for an example).
"Perspective" dismisses Engel as a NIMBY and totally misses a major message that I have learned to respect in Engel's many posts -- we really need a total systems view of transit. That is, from door to door. That sort of design is absent and worse, that sort of thinking seems absent. I find it enormously disappointing that an apparently knowledgeable writer is trying to sideline the discourse by focusing on whether or not light or heavy rail is best and by demeaning Engel and others by hauling out labels.
I would like to see NIMBY eliminated from political discourse, especially since it's used mostly by wealthy developers trying to steamroller the opposition or by anyone who's too narrow-minded to understand the perspectives of others.
Martin Engel is an expert on the local transit system from a functional as well as a political perspective. He doesn't even live in Suburban Park, so using the N-word here is particularly absurd.
I am all for public transit, and would love to be able to step outside my door and walk a block to a subway stop, even though I realize it's never going to happen here. But even if we can't have subways that cover the area, mass transit needs to focus on taking people where they want to go. I for one would like to see a big picture solution that looks at commute routes and tries to create an integrated system. Spending untold millions to get a few hundred cars off the road seems like a joke.
Door to door? Riiiight. It's called the auto, and it's already in widespread use. And our over-reliance on it (often for lack of alternatives) for just about everything is becoming an ever-growing problem for us and the earth we inhabit. You want to talk "untold millions"? Then go see Engel and "sensible solutions" to discuss the price of their pie-in-the-sky never-going-to-happen-in-our-lifetimes door-to-door public transit. Don't let the theoretical perfect become the enemy/death of the good. Meanwhile, getting people places where they want to go at less-than-prohibitive costs may or may not mean they may have to pass through areas they don't necessarily want to go along the way. Obviously.
NIMBY is convenient shorthand for those who actively and (typically) unalterably oppose a proposal primarily (or even solely) because of its proximity to their place of residence. NIMBYs will often (smart ones, anyway) try to avoid being found out by hiding behind all kinds of other reasonable/altruistic/rational-sounding-as-possible concerns. NIMBY opposition isn't necessarily good or bad or right or wrong ... people fighting a new coal plant next door would have my sympathy ... people fighting a park or school or train or bus down some street or track, merely because they are afraid it will be disturbing don't.
For a better perspective on Engel's anti-rail NIMBYism, see:
1. I am a strong public transit supporter.
2. I live nowhere near the area that will be affected by the Dumbarton Rail.
3. Martin Engel's arguments make a lot of sense to me, and I believe more answers are needed and, possibly, an alternative found to the current Dumbarton Rail proposal.
So go ahead. Attack me as NIMBY. It won't wash in my case, will it? Why can't you stick to the issues and stop bloviating about other people's motives, as if you've got some sort of divine insight on what's going on in other people's heads?
Perspective Provider, we understand that you have YOUR perspective, but in your next post, perhaps you can tell us who gave you authority to dictate what we are allowed to protest and what we can protest only if we don't being mind labeled as NIMBYs by you.
Besides, I'm not sure I see a whole lot of difference between a diesel locomotive and a coal plant in terms of pollutants. If a coal plant is quieter than a diesel engine, it may be slightly preferable.
Until and unless transit providers realize that they are competing with private cars, not with each other,we are not going to make progress. I don't think people expect door-to-door--even with our cars, we often have to park and walk a few blocks--but if the choice is between hopping into your car and getting to work in 20 minutes vs walking a mile, taking a train, transferring to a bus, and getting to work in 90 minutes, which alternative will any sensible person choose?
Donna, not sure what you want me to attack. Let me know, and if you have anything to say worth commenting on, I'll be happy to oblige :-)
The reason NIMBY is relevant to the Dumbarton rail discussion is that people need to realize that when you spend time trying to answer the issues NIMBYs raise, there's a good chance that the only thing that will really "satisfy" them is the withdrawal of whatever proposal is on the table. They just know that they're against something and that working on answering all their objections can be a daunting and never-ending task because they don't really care in the end ... they will come up with new objections until the proposal they fear just goes away. Perpetual "further study" often works for them, and it's among the things you will even find some of them suggesting is what's really needed.
Sure, diesel isn't the greatest thing (I *hate* my neighbor's obscenely huge "PowerStroke(off)" diesel trucks too -- but mainly because they're louder than almost any other street-legal stock global warming machine you'll find plying our roadways) ... but honestly, a diesel train passing by once in a while is not nearly as objectionable as the insane din of living near 101, or having, say, the Moss Landing power plant next door. I've lived right on the Caltrain tracks for a period of years, just as thousands of people always have and still do, and it's really not anywhere nearly as hyperbolically bothersome as many of the NIMBY Dumbarton alarmists make it out to be. Growing up, for example, living over near St. Pat's Seminary, when our backyard neighbors put a pool in, and their kids started having pool parties ... that was far, far worse. Incessantly barking dogs, again, far worse. The trains come and go quickly and it's really quite easy to live with. If it really was a big deal, you'd find it a lot easier to afford all those beautiful homes in desirable neighborhoods bisected by railroad tracks all over the world ... but that's not what you see, is it?
Wow, I can't believe people even would consider calling someone NIMBY when it relates to the Dumbarton Rail project--just the simple facts outlined by the plan itself is enough to reject it as a California Taxpayer.
I voted for bond measures that support public tranist in 2004 that "relieve regional traffic congestion" and now I'm disgusted that this train system will use up hundreds of millions of dollars (billions when you look at operating costs that will be subsidized) while benefitting so few people and NOT improving regional traffic congestion at all.
While I don't live right on the tracks, I do live just a few blocks away and I can assure you that I wouldn't object to a system that could really benefit our region so close to my home. We really wouldn't have an argument if this were a useful project that could help thousands in the Bay Area. Unfortunately I couldn't even use this train myself since I don't work the graveyard shift in Union City. The absurdity of the project is baffling and to spend time labling knowledgeable studied transportation people as "NIMBY's" is just as blind as I was when I voted my tax dollars away for better regional transportation! Just because I have learned about this project with wide eyes and don't like it at all does NOT make me a NIMBY or anyone else who objects to it!
Also, to "Tune It": I'm a democrat, I support the residentialists and I REALLY don't like this project. So much for your theory! Please stick to the project facts so we don't turn residents away with political name calling. We need all the support we can get to stop this waste of taxpayer money.
Thank you to Voter With Hindsight for helping focus on the real issues, which are definitely NOT NIMBYism!
I live pretty far from all the train tracks in town, and I use CalTrain when I can (less often each year as they CUT service to Menlo Park) so I don't know what the label-happy people would say about me.
What I really hope is that everyone become more concerned about being prudent with the limited funds available for transit, and about creating a plan that fits with real, as opposed to hypothetical, people's transit needs from door to door (sure, including some walking).
I love living within walking distance of the Menlo Park train station, and think it's unfortunate that service has been cut. So am I a NIMBY because I find nothing appealing about the Dumbarton proposal? Dumbarton Rail doesn't pass the straight face test: how can anyone seriously be contemplating plunking down that kind of money for an outdated mode of transportation that will serve such a small number of people? Shouldn't we be trying to get the most bang for our buck?
A number of local companies have set up their own private transit system, some with a hub-and-spoke orientation (they pick up employees at the train station, for example). Seems as though our local transit organizations should take a cue from them and figure out how to build on the system we already have to create more flexible options, perhaps using light rail.
Even though the Dumbarton rail does not benefit Menlo Park at all, I doubt you would see this level of opposition if there were any consideration given the neighborhoods or if we had any reason to believe that the overall impact on the regional commute would be significant. Instead, the whole project smells suspiciously like a boondoggle that will consume a lot of taxpayer dollars and not provide much overall benefit. Once you get past the posturing and the rhetoric, it's easy to see that the proponents of this project don't have much of a case to make.
Pardon me for chiming in so late; I didn't even know about this Dumbarton rail scheme until now. As a Palo Alto resident I have no direct NIMBY interest in this thing, but I'm sure my wallet would take a good whacking were it to come to fruition.
One thought - maybe y'all know this; Currently there is NO Dumbarton rail bridge. That's right. About 400 yards of the west end has been dismantled, or worse, has fallen down. Look out the plane window next time you jet back from Kuala Lumpur or where-ever. Failing that, try Google Earth.
So if it was advisable to get rid of a large chunk of the bridge, what does that say about the remaining bits? (News flash: Wikipedia says it caught fire in 1998). Those two rusty old swing sections over the deep water are probably frozen open too.
6 mile long bridges (including causeways over shallows) ain't cheap folks!
Arthur L. Lloyd's "Practical plan whose time has come" eh?
"The sensible and practical answer" eh? What was the question again?
Michael, look at this web-site:
DUMBARTON RAIL CORRIDOR STUDYCORRIDOR REHABILITATION_REDWOOD JUNCTION TO NEWARK JUNCTION CAPITOL INVESTMENT WORKING PAPER Prepared for the San Mateo County Transportation Authority Prepared by Parsons Transportation Group Barton-Aschman; De Leuw, Cather; Steinman July 13, 1999
In Section 4.0, Structures, the report point out that due to the fire of January 1998 (which some people suspect was caused by arson) this part of the timber trestle bridge, built in 1908, is now missing. The report, in considerable detail, outlines the superficiality of inspections, what can be repaired or needs to be replaced throughout the bridge, and, most important, “The construction cost estimates for this study do not take into account seismic retrofit strengthening.” It goes on to talk about the lack of existing subsurface information and unstable geological conditions. “There is also a concern about the potential liquefaction of the bay mud. “. . .it appears that the proposed bridge rehabilitations, at least for the steel spans, does not include provisions for any degree of seismic upgrade.” Apparently, the term “retrofit” regarding the existing bridge structure, is nonsense. Furthermore, the CHSRA, in considering a bridge crossing at Dumbarton for the Altamont route, prices a new bridge at $1.7 billion. It appears that the Caltrain/Dumbarton folk have been less than forthcoming with correct and adequate information regarding the real costs of this project.
Did anyone else hear the NPR report this morning about the link between diesel soot and an increased risk of cancer? I don't think that anyone - no matter where they live - wants cancer in their backyard.
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