Town Square

Atherton, Menlo Park councils slam plans for high-speed rail

Original post made on Feb 6, 2008

Local critics of California High Speed Rail are keyed up after city council members from Menlo Park and Atherton blasted plans for high-speed trains to zoom through the middle of both towns. But the fate of the long-planned rail project isn't up to officials from two towns — the decision will fall in the hands of all California voters.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 12:00 AM


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Posted by Jobst Brandt
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:13 pm

I can't imagine what prompts resonably educated people to oppose HSR through Menlo Park. As the article states, such trains trave "UP TO 220 MPH" which doesn't mean that is the only speed they travel. As As I wrote to the local press, Zurich and Geneva Switzerland are served by ICE and TGV high speed trains, although like the peninsula CalTrain tracks, Switzerland has no high speed track. The run on the same two tracks as other trains.

These trains, in countries where they are heavily used, travel at high speed only after leaving built-up areas on well protectd ROW.

Just as the AmTrak Superliner was displayed at the Santa Cruz Boardwak that is only accessible on 10 MPH track, high speed trains can reach San Francisco at normal commute train speeds. If HSR requires extra tracks, that is an HSR cost, not a city cost.

I find all this poorly placed fear mongering.

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Posted by Roxie
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 8, 2008 at 1:39 am

I agree with Jobst Brandt's post above.

The High Speed Rail fear mongerers seem to be the same people who oppose grade separations, which would improve traffic and pedestrian safety at railroad intersections. It is impossible to know all that is going through anybody else's mind, but sometimes I think they have a misguide belief that allowing more commuter trains to run through town will degrade the quality of life for the citizens of Menlo Park and so they must fight it by opposing any project that improves or adds to our rail system.

Unfortunately, this view disregards the realities of the world we live in today, a densly populated urban environment with a growing population and that is causing serious problems, especially air pollution caused by automobiles. Studies have shown time and again that modern commuter trains are the cleanest and most fuel efficient methods of transportation, so we need trains to get people out of their cars and clean up the air we breath.

I hope the HSR initiative passes, because it would be a great thing for California. Even if it doesn't, Menlo Park still needs grade separations for the railroad track.

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Posted by DERAIL
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm

“I want the truth!”
“You can’t handle the truth!”

Our advice to all the high speed train advocates is, think, do some homework, find out whether what we are being sold is real, or only smoke-and-mirrors.

Do you understand that this project will cost 2 to 3 times the now estimated $45 billion price tag?

Do you know that you, and all the rest of us in California, will be paying for this project out of your pockets? Bond issues are like mortgages. Do we need a $10 billion mortgage this year or next year in a state that is already in hock for $14.5 billion (and rising)? Bonds have the highest priority to access funds from the State treasury.

This project will saddle California with never ending annual operating deficits. Just wait for the inevitable sales taxes and the state income tax increases to pay for it!

They claim the train will be profitable. No passenger train in the US has ever been profitable. Most foreign passenger trains are heavily subsidized by their governments.

When you repeat their claim that this project will carry from 117 million to 120 million passengers each year, do you know who all these people will be, where they come from, and why they would want to be rushing up and down the State?

Remember, the State now has 38 million residents and that number may go up to 50 million (or, it may not). Why would over 100 million people have to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles every year? That would be every man, woman and child in California riding the train three times a year. If you think about it, are these number really plausible? And, if you are still in doubt, it’s about one third of the entire population of the United States.

This project will never get the Federal funds that Governor Schwarzenegger has demanded, nor will it get the private funds he also wants. The State will end up paying for almost the total cost of construction, possibly well over $100 billion. No project in the history of the human race has ever been even close to that expensive.

This project has serious environmental problems, which, by themselves should prohibit the project from being built. Evidence for that requires a whole separate discussion.

They claim that it would cost $50.00 one way from Anaheim to San Francisco. That’s nonsense. Look at train ticket costs around the world and in the US.

This project would basically be a luxury train for the well-to-do, costing the State taxpayers billions of dollars to build and millions each year in subsidies to operate. It will not be a commuter train. Is that a good investment of tax dollars in a state that is cutting health and education budgets?

And, here’s the really bad news. This project is really all about making billions of dollars for the developers and the construction firms. The prime contractor is Parsons Brinckerhoff, contractor of the infamous Boston “Big Dig”, which ran 5 times over budget and took a decade longer to complete than forecasted. They just settled a $458 million claim for faulty construction of the project.

The proposed bond proposition is already a “pork barrel” measure. Ten percent (10%), $950 million, doesn’t go to HSR, but rather to other transit agencies, which in turn were "bought" to give their support for the project.

Mike Brady, Morris Brown, Martin Engel
Founders of DERAIL, a 501 C-3 organization

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Posted by not a fear monger
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I do not understand how HSR will help get people out of cars. I am absolutely serious. Sure, I can understand that if there were no train from A to B, just a road with cars that need to go just from A to B, a train (oh yea, a HSR) would use less energy per person. But that's not what we need to compare.

The rail line is already served by Caltrain, so people who CAN get where they want to go can already take that even if it might be a little slower than HSR.

Most of the traffic congestion around here is from people who travel within local towns and to/from places the proposed HSR tracks will not be going.

What we REALLY need are other public transit offerings that go where people need to go, and run at hours when they need to travel. Neither Caltrain or BART do this, so why would HSR?

I think I'm a realist, not a fear mongerer.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2008 at 6:50 pm

High speed rail would not get people out of cars for local trips, but it might get them out of cars or airplanes for longer trips. Modern trains are much more energy efficient per passenger mile than are airplanes. Just look (and sniff) at the exhaust when a plane takes off and you can see how badly airplanes pollute. We take planes because they are faster and more convenient than driving, and are cheaper because the government subsidizes air travel by paying for much of the infrastructure. If we gave that much of a boost to trains, they could be competitive. Unfortunately, many politicians expect train systems to support themselves financially in a totally twisted and unfair market. Then you get snobs like Menlo Park and Atherton residents who want to deny the benefits of rail to everyone because they don't see anything in it for themselves. Atherton wanted to keep their train station open even though nobody used it. I guess they just liked to be able to call people from the phone in their Mercedes and talk about how their town has a train station.

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Posted by more money, another rat hole
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 8, 2008 at 7:19 pm

We have a train to L.A! Why not try to figure out a way to make that service faster (for example, not shunting the train off to the sides whenever a freight train comes along) before investing a lot of money in a duplicate system?

It's folly to think that most people who use airplanes will switch to the train. Or that people who drive will take the train. We're talking about L.A. -- if you don't drive, you need a car when you get there, and that's just one more hassle.

This is a boondoggle and some people are planning to make a lot of money from it. And they're making every effort to derail the opposition by accusing us of being fearful. That's the number one tactic in their playbook--don't fall for it.