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High-speed rail route through Peninsula chosen

Original post made on Dec 20, 2007

The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board on Wednesday chose Pacheco Pass as the preferred California high-speed rail route, meaning passenger trains traveling up to 220 miles per hour between San Francisco and Los Angeles could zoom through Menlo Park, Atherton, and other Peninsula cities in as soon as 10 years if a bond measure passes in November.
  • Picture: California High-Speed Rail concept image by Newlands & Company Inc.

    Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 6:45 PM
  • Comments (9)

    Like this comment
    Posted by Nora
    a resident of another community
    on Dec 20, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    I think this would impact greatly people's ability to get around for work. in Palo Alto and taking the train to LA for work. Wow!. I think we voters definately need to encourage alternative modes of transportation that are more eco-friendly as well. The naysayers will complain about (A) "the traffic and noise pollution around the train stations and tracks"; response, think of the decreased traffic in our congested highways, decreased demand for gas, decreased smog and other environmentally harmfull emmisions. (B) "I like my car"; response, fine keep driving - they're here to stay anyway right. But it is my hope at least that with other transportation options we will come to be less dependant on foreign oil, and in the long run - stop fighting wars that stem from that dependance. (C) "influx of "outsiders" into our community that would threaten our safety due to lack of roots; response, when we open up our communities to the outside world, we promote a richer economy, welcome the fresh perspective of others on the changing needs of our communities and gain a deeper understanding of people we may not have been exposed to otherwise. Do you see how a thing as simple as access to transportation, the ability of people to move from one place to another; an inalienable human right only diminished by fearful, elitist, closed-minded fools; is the first step toward America actually transforming itself into the "land of opportunity" it claims to be?

    Like this comment
    Posted by Martin Engel
    a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
    on Dec 20, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Ah, the romance of railroads. This country, built with the sweat of the labor of thousands of imported Chinese “coolies” constructing tracks across the continent, building a great nation, building a dream, a land now no longer divided by distance. Ah, the clickety-clackety of the wheels, mile after mile, the beautiful landscape whizzing by. The late night horns, their lonely call echoing across the valleys and foothills. Ah, the romance of railroads.

    The romance part may have been true in the 19th century when the railroads replaced the horse and buggy. But this is over 100 years later.

    Now, for a little adult reality. 450 miles of track will cost – their numbers -- $40 billion.
    That’s 89 million dollars per mile. To pay for it, what we will support is a bond issue; that is, a mortgage. We will pay interest out of the state budget and eventually have to return the principle. They say that for every dollar borrowed, it costs $2. for the life of the bond. This is not other people’s money, it is yours and mine. The California economy is tanking. This project is the last thing we need.

    Japan, Germany, France have high-speed rail? They are getting ahead of us? Japan has 339 people per square kilometer; California has 84. Density and much higher taxes make all the difference.

    Given what such huge infrastructure projects have cost recently, do you seriously believe that this project can be completed for $40 billion?

    Do you really believe that 117 million – that’s million – people will ride this luxury train each year? (These are also their numbers.) That equals 320,548 people each and every day of the year. That’s over three trips each year for every man, woman and child in California. These trains, if they ever run, will carry the well to do. It will be a Disneyland or Orient Express for tourists.

    Let’s look at ecology a little more closely. Have you any idea how much pollution and GHG emissions will be generated by the industrial processes to create the materials and machinery necessary for this project? How much ecological damage the construction process itself will wreak on the environment?

    Do you know that the research has indicated, over and over, that people do not get out of their cars to commute on public transit? Personal car traffic on I-5 is not the problem; it’s freight and truck traffic. But, we are not building freight trains here (which we should). We are building passenger trains, and in the 20th century, they have failed in the US; Amtrak is the result. Amtrak is a government financed passenger rail system of enormous inefficiency. This train will never be profitable; almost no passenger train is. We will be supporting it with tax dollars forever.

    Finally, it will solve no problems; not ecological, not traffic gridlock, not commuter transit. For short distances we will continue to drive, and long distances to fly. Our planes and cars will become better. Intercity passenger rail, north and south, is not what we need. However, regional, east-west urban rapid mass transit is what we need in both the Bay Area and the LA Basin. But, we are not getting that. What a waste! Think Boondoggle. Think pork barrel. Think high-speed train robbery.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Alan
    a resident of another community
    on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Smog, car wrecks, traffic jams, maintenance/gas/insurance costs, urban sprawl, endless road that sounds like a boondoggle. Yeah, we'll still fly cross-country. For the medium distances, would I rather hop on a fast train, kick back and get there 4 times quicker, or would I rather risk my life and spend more hours on the highway? It's an expensive one-time investment, true, partially offset by creating jobs and stimulating the economy. What are the costs of expanding airports, upgrading air traffic control, and building more highway lanes which will be immediately filled? A simple consumption tax on polluting fossil fuels would help encourage people to get out of their cars and into public trans.

    Like this comment
    Posted by give me a break
    a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
    on Dec 21, 2007 at 11:18 am

    So a high speed train will take me to LA in 2-1/2 hours? I can get there quicker on a plane. The alternative is not driving, unless I want to stop along the way between these locations. And I would need to get to the train terminal somehow, just as I do to the airport, at each end. And I'm STILL not at my destination. I have struggled for years to use public transit to get to and from the airport and the connections stink, especially because I value my time. There are far too many times I simply cannot get where I need to be without spending literally hours in addition to the flight itself. So why would HSR be better? Especially in Menlo Park. There will never be a HSR station here. Maybe in Palo Alto, but who knows. This is totally absurd proposition.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Joseph E. Davis
    a resident of another community
    on Dec 21, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Great idea, as long as the neighbors don't mind wearing ear plugs when this thing roars by.

    However, let it pay its own way rather than receiving a massive government subsidy. What's that, impossible you say? Well then, I guess there isn't a good case for it.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Roscoe
    a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
    on Dec 21, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I traveled to LA by train recently. Getting on a high speed train would be as simple, I'm sure.

    On my trip, I walked to the Menlo Park train station with a rolling suitcase, took Caltrain to Milbrae, BART to Oakland and Amtrak to LA, where a friend picked me up. (Traveling HSR, I imagine the initial trip would have been to San Francisco.)

    On the way back, I took MetroLink to Union Station, Amtrak to San Jose, and Caltrain to Menlo Park. (Traveling HSR, there would be a trip back to Menlo Park from SF.)

    Life is compromises, and these are hardly big ones given the inescapable travails of air travel these days. Walking to a train is very good exercise, especially in the cool pre-dawn hours. It's a throwback to the 19th century.

    A train is a great place to attend to recreational or business activities that require sitting quietly.

    There were no metal detectors blocking my way, lots of room to walk around, great scenery, great meals, and a price of $55 one way. What hardships!

    Trains need advocates who appreciate living day by day. Fortunately, there seem to be plenty of them.

    High speed rail or no high speed rail, give me the train over the plane any day. Life is too short to waste it locked in an airborne sardine can.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Martin Engel
    a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
    on Dec 21, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    We don’t need tourist trains; we need far better commuter systems. We don’t need to hook up No Cal with So Cal. We do need to connect our population centers with the growing population regions to the East. The Bay Area should have much more commuter connectivity with the Central Valley. The Bay Area should have a fully developed,effective urban and regional mass transit system. We really don’t need, and don’t need to pay for, a long-distance luxury train for the well to do.

    Let me put this another way that is easy to understand: Would you borrow money to pay for a million dollar automobile? I know, it would be nice to have, but you would never be able to pay it back, and you would be in the worst debt of your life. You really don’t need it. It’s not like you don’t have a car. You have other serious expenses, like college for your kids, health care for your family, and the repair of a leaking roof. Is this the best time to be buying a million dollar car you really can’t afford anyhow?

    You do realize that all your arguments about how wonderful this will be come from the newspapers that get it from the people who are desperate to build this thing. They are selling you snake oil. The CHSRA has been – how shall I say – very careless with their facts.

    The fact is they are NOT going to build it for you. They are going to build it in order to get their hands on a vast amount of money to be spent on land developers, building contractors, bureaucratic empire builders, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists and all the rest. They, with their hands on our tax dollars, like the colonial invaders that they are, are seducing us “dumb” natives with their flashy trinkets that we think we want.

    "Look at the shiny new train." "Don’t you want a ride on it?" "It goes real fast!" "Vote for it and pay no attention to the man behind the screen" (who is helping to drain the state treasury).

    Like this comment
    Posted by Derek
    a resident of another community
    on Dec 22, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    There wouldn't be as much of a demand for high-speed rail between Los Angeles and the Bay Area if there were a decent passenger rail line in place. Amtrak's Coast Starlight takes over 11 hours to go from Los Angeles to Oakland. At one time San Francisco to Los Angeles only took 8 hours. And the Megabus takes less than 6 1/2 hours to Oakland.

    True, you can make that trip by plane faster than the projected 2 1/2 hours by high speed rail, but yesterday they suggested arriving at the airport 3 hours before departure. So much for the time advantage of flying!

    Like this comment
    Posted by prefer planes
    a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
    on Dec 26, 2007 at 8:54 am

    I have several options of airports in both the bay area and LA basin. With HSR, I doubt I will have the same flexibility. Unless a trip is for pleasure, I value my time! Sorry, but I don't buy the extra delays suggested for peak holiday travel as the norm...
    The costs of this worry me. It's tremendously expensive to build, with materials, labor, and disruption. It will be very costly to operate. We need a comparison of total costs!

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

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