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Scale Down the High Speed Rail Project

Original post made by Brielle Johnck, Menlo Park: The Willows, on Feb 27, 2009

The High Speed Train Project (HST) arrived at our front door before Palo Alto and Menlo Park have had the time and funding to address the Caltrain issues of electrification and grade separations. Accomplishing these upgrades would make for a quieter and less polluting public transit system. For years we have made do without these upgrades but HST, an electric system, requires such improvements. The questions of right of way accommodation and speed of the Los Angeles/San Francisco trains add grist for the mill.

The HST Authority seems to be withholding information that residents in communities along the Caltrain right of way need now. Why delay until 2011 the decision to designate stations? Neither Redwood City nor Palo Alto can make plans regarding Transit Oriented Developments, zoning and funding for public amenities without knowing if their city is to be selected.

If HST would scale back their project in the Mid Peninsula area to a 2-track system for a discreet number of trains destined for and leaving San Francisco, it could at a later date adjust the number based on actual ridership.

For example, the initial service plan might have only 20 southbound and 20 northbound trains a day between Los Angeles and San Jose. 10 of these trains would terminate in San Jose and 10 would continue on to San Francisco.

In this scenario the trains running between San Jose and San Francisco will run no faster than the current Baby Bullets, 79mph. The entire line would be grade separated and electrified resulting in quieter and less polluting trains.

In this scenario no eminent domain actions need to be carried out. The existing width of the right of way is ample for a two-track version of the HST, shared with Caltrain.

In this scenario the argument as to tunneling or berming the HST would be moot. The Mid Peninsula is a region with small towns built on a modest scale that is suburban in style. The HST should recognize both the aesthetic and the monetary value of the property along the CalTrain right of way and take the path of least resistance. One of the reasons BART was rejected by the towns on the Peninsula is that the system of few stops requiring huge parking structures is inappropriate for the scale of this area.

The towns from San Francisco to San Jose along the CalTrain corridor might consider forming a commission that would insist on a more realistic and modest approach, one that would gain support for the HST concept rather than the angry opposition that is mounting today. The question should not be to tunnel or to berm.

Hopefully a 2-track system can accommodate High Speed Trains and co-exist with CalTrain. A 4-track system with stops only in San Jose, Millbrae and San Francisco creates a sacrifice too great for the Peninsula to bear, even if electrification and grade-separations benefiting CalTrain are paid for by the HSRA.

Comments (8)

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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:03 am

Brielle, even if that is a good idea, (and I don’t know enough to judge) it won’t happen. The people designing the corridor development have a budget of $4.2 billion. They intend to spend it, and probably more. They will, no matter what we suggest, electrify and grade separate. Also, and this is important, they will expand to four tracks. Both Caltrain (see their 2025 Strategic Plans) and HSR are relentlessly ambitious and a reduced version of that will be unacceptable.

To make the alignment changes you suggest, you would have to sit down with Quentin Kopp, Rod Diridon and Mike Scanlon and convince them to give up their aspirations. Good luck with that!

What is currently taking place with the scoping hearings is for their contractor team to manage as many venting sessions as possible. (And, indeed, we are all venting like crazy.) They are covering the Peninsula in around-the-clock meetings. They are very good at doing this and at the same time, making it clear to us that they have made no decisions whatsoever. By the time they will be able to say, this is our decision, it will be too late to persuade them to change it.

We all know, that when empires are being designed and built, being reasonable is never part of the equation. What they have sold the voters is a grandiose vision embodied in this supposed panacea for all of California’s ills. Those of us who stand in the way of California’s high-speed destiny must get out of the way.

And now, town after town on the Peninsula is suddenly discovering the brutal reality of what they supported and how it will impact them.

Sorry, folks, too late.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:38 am

The HSR is too expensive. With our huge budget deficit we can't afford it. There should be another State wide initiative that will delay the HSR until the State has balanced budgets with revenues that cover expenditures without bonds or borrowing.

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Where were you people before Prop 1A was passed. Probably the first opinion that Hank Lawrenece has issued that has much credence.

However, beware, the High Speed Rail budget was approved in full in the new budget -- Kopp and Diridon managed to get all the money they wanted, yet the schools, welfare and almost everything else.

Brielle's comments, have been totally dismissed by the Authority many times. The only way this is going to be stopped is lack of money (a real possibility) or through the courts.

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Posted by Glen
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Someone with common sense..good ideas and gives all most of what they want..

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Posted by Malcolm Cousens
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2009 at 8:32 am

No HST in San Carlos. No more tracks!!! As a 32 year resident I remember well the raising of the tracks.

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Posted by Bianca
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2009 at 10:28 am

Maintaining the status quo is fine if the state weren't growing. But the US Census Bureau has projected that California's population is going to grow by 13 million people by 2030. How are all of us going to get around? Doing nothing is not an option. High Speed Rail seems expensive, but not when you compare it to the cost of building more freeways (and where would we put them?) or more airports (again, where?) We can't just pave the whole state.

There are existing railroad tracks on the Peninsula. We can work together with the High Speed Rail authority so that the results work for everyone. Europe has integrated High Speed Rail into lovely towns that are many hundreds of years older than any towns on the Peninsula, and it has not been disastrous or destructive.

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Posted by get real
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 10:41 am

Straight from the CHSRA playbook! HSR will not help us "get around." It does nothing to help facilitate local transit at all. If high speed rail were running alongside 101 or 280 (an option that CHSRA has scoffed at) then their arguments about reducing the need for freeways might make sense, but we are still going to have to depend on freeways to get us almost everywhere.

Name one "love town" in Europe that has high speed rail running through a residential area.

Gotta love the HSR enthusiasts -- they believe in their own propaganda.

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Posted by question growth
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 2, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Isn't it high time to question the basic assumptions about the population growth? Other developed countries have slowed theirs significantly. Why can't we have an honest discussion about the horrible impacts on limited natural resources and infrastructure. Seems to me that kingdom builders are behind these things. Change is inevitable, major growth is not.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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