April 30, 2009

Peninsula Residents Aim To Slow Down High-Speed Development

Menlo Park and Atherton are plaintiffs, and Palo Alto is backing the lawsuit that objects to the proposed routing of high-speed rail through the Peninsula. The best case scenario for high-speed rail to San Francisco if the lawsuit is successful, a two to three year delay.

High-speed rail opposition picks up speed [San Francisco Examiner]
While San Francisco Might Get High-Speed Rail, Will The Transbay? [SocketSite]

First Published: April 30, 2009 8:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I am putting my money on Oakland being the regional hub for high speed rail.

Posted by: anon94123 at April 30, 2009 8:48 AM

Uh, based on what exactly?

Posted by: Joe at April 30, 2009 8:55 AM

NIMBY fuckers.

Posted by: Tweety at April 30, 2009 9:02 AM

Thanks Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto. How shortsighted of you to object to a major and much needed project to improve the state. Rail has been on the peninsula through this corridor for, what, 100 years already? How is it a surprise that this corridor should be upgraded?

Posted by: SFSquee at April 30, 2009 9:02 AM

The lawsuit has essentially no chance of being successful, but it does have the chance of forcing HSR to spend more to bury the rail lines through those cities. So...when the cost overruns come in, here are your cities to blame.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 9:10 AM

I don't get why people think driving is such a problem. I have all my groceries delivered via an expensive and wasteful system. My child's child care comes to him, not the other way around. My commute from Portola Valley to Sand Hill Road is never backed up. Even if it were, I'm not even driving - my driver is. Ha!

Posted by: VC GUY at April 30, 2009 9:14 AM

"Rail has been on the peninsula through this corridor for, what, 100 years already?"

143 years. The first century of which featured smoke belching coal fired steam engines. Through its history, that rail line has experienced increased traffic alongside with the bay area population expansion.

I cannot understand how any property owner can argue that they did not see higher levels of service (like HSR) coming.

So if we cannot build HSR on an existing century and a half old corridor, how did we manage to raze entire neighborhoods to build I-280 and I-880 ?

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 9:16 AM

what is a plantiff?

[Editor’s Note: A person responsible for an editor losing a job (and since corrected)…]

Posted by: whatever at April 30, 2009 9:19 AM

The plaintiff is the person who sues another (the defendant). This lawsuit is indeed short-sighted. Access to high-speed rail will be a huge bonus.

Posted by: Trip at April 30, 2009 9:22 AM

Now they object? HSR has been proposed for what like 20 years? Let the Atherton, Palo Alto and Menlo Parkers pay to put their segment underground if they want.

Posted by: missiondweller at April 30, 2009 9:28 AM

"Uh, based on what exactly?"

Based on the fact that there is little opposition in the East Bay and it (Oakland) is the historic hub of Bay Area rail. Oakland is the least expensive location to bring HSR to the Bay Area because of geography.

Posted by: anon94123 at April 30, 2009 9:29 AM

It is very unlikely that I will ever see high speed rail on the Peninsula in my lifetime due to not only community opposition, but due to the high cost.

It cost ~$1.5 Billion to extend BART ~8 miles (~$187m/mile) from Daly City to Millbrae and it is projected to cost ~1.3 Billion to extend the subway ~1.7 miles(~$767m/mile) from the train station to Chinatown. Even if the Peninsula residents would be happy with an all above ground train like the 3rd street rail at ~5miles for ~$800m (the cost will be ~$160m/mile).

If we go with a low ball amount of $150m/mile and assume that there are no legal problems from some very wealthy Peninsula people that live near the tracks it will cost ~$6 Billion to connect SF with San Jose.

The Examiner article says that it will take 30 minutes to go from SF to San Jose on High Speed rail (vs. about 50 minutes from train station to train station with no traffic in a car). Since most people will have to transfer to a bus, cab or subway to get where they are going on both ends the train won’t end up saving much (if any) time except during the hours with the heaviest commute traffic.

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at April 30, 2009 9:30 AM

I stand by my original thoughts on HSR: great concept that would benefit California if it could ever be implemented as designed. Which I don't believe it can.

I wish it were different, but today's California is incapable of building a project of this scale. This one lawsuit is but an appetizer of the countless hurdles that will arise in the coming years as this project starts to take shape. Cost overruns? We ain't seen nothing yet.

I'm sorry to sound jaded, but just being realistic here. We might as well start work on a teleporter system between SF and LA. It has an equal chance of ever becoming functional in our lifetimes.

Posted by: Legacy Dude at April 30, 2009 9:34 AM

^^^HSR isn't meant primarily for SF-SJ trips. C'mon, let's be real here.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 9:34 AM

Who has the time to start a "don't be anti-environment, support HSR!" campaign? Are those areas in the tentative "new water level" zone if we keep spewing out the CO2 and trapping heat in our atmosphere to melt the ice caps and such?

Posted by: jamie at April 30, 2009 9:39 AM

I know who might have time and resources ... building trades union folks! This would provide jobs ... and help save the world. Win-win!

Posted by: jamie at April 30, 2009 9:44 AM

The Milkshake of Despair wrote:

> So if we cannot build HSR on an existing century
> and a half old corridor, how did we manage to raze
> entire neighborhoods to build I-280

Back when I was a kid and 280 was under construction I was told that most land owners in the hills wanted the freeway and I can’t speak for the entire length of 280, but from Millbrae to Woodside the area was just rolling hills (I bet they didn’t even have t raze a single barn).

If a few poor tree hugging hippies on the coast have been able to stop any improvements to 92, stop the extension of 380 and stop the Devil’s Slide bypass for the past 40 years just think what a bunch of rich politically connected folks on the Peninsula can stop…

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at April 30, 2009 9:44 AM

^^^HSR isn't meant primarily for SF-SJ trips. C'mon, let's be real here.

perhaps. but I'm not sure why we'd be so shortsighted.
Train travel is wonderful between cities as close as LA/SF are. it is vastly more pleasant than flying, and many people would use it.

I'm not sure if it's economical or not compared to flying, because I haven't researched it. But having just taken the train from London to Paris again I really have to tell you it was a pleasure.
You have to show up 15 minutes before departure. the trip takes 2hrs 15min. (has one stop between paris/london... in Belgium). it has to slow down a few times here and there.

so much better than the hassle of showing up 1 hour before your flight, getting all the security problems, then having to check everything, then having to wait afterwards to get your checked baggage and so on.

also: rail stations tend to be pretty near city center as opposed to SFO which is 1/2 hour outside of the city, and LAX which is not near city center (or westside for that matter).

too bad that there will be so much opposition to this rail. sadly, as it continues to evolve it is highly likely that the benefits of HSR will all be lost to placating all the various litigants.

Posted by: ex SF-er at April 30, 2009 9:47 AM

On the peninsula there is a great deal of enthusiasm for expansion of train services, especially high speed rail. Those who are objecting are crusty old people who want nothing to change. They have fought even the limited expansion of CalTrain every step of the way. Their lawsuit will fail because the legal status of rights of way is solidly established, and working age people in the area will cheer. The right of way is narrow, so there will be extra costs, but that is unlikely to stop the project.

BART is more expensive than any other option in part because the tracks and every other part are completely nonstandard, thus not only the hardware but also the tools and training used to maintain it are all expensive custom orders. CalTrain has much lower costs largely because they use so much standard gear and parts and personell. High speed rail has the option of using mostly off the shelf gear, though most sources for that are in Europe and Asia and make use of scary space-age metric system measures.

Posted by: Mole Man at April 30, 2009 9:47 AM

Remember, when you think about the cost of HSR, the choice does not fall between building HSR and doing nothing. The comparison must be made between HSR and widening highways, and between HSR and building or expanding dozens of airports. When examined properly, HSR is obviously hugely cheaper than the alternatives.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 10:05 AM

ex-SF-er - I agree with you. I was responding to FormerAptBroker, who seems to think that this is mostly for trips between SF and SJ, rather than SF-Fresno, SF-Bakersfield, SF-LA, SF-Anaheim, etc. Those are the HSR sweet spots.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 10:17 AM

The Caltrain tracks run through semi-dense suburban/urban areas. Not to defend the plaintiffs here, but putting the HSR there doesn't only mean more frequent trains. It means more tracks, which need to either be raised above the road crossings or buried below the ground, as I understand, to allow the HSR to do its thing properly.

Do any of you know how other HSR systems deal with this issue of tracks through densely populated areas? Of course, this means the TGV or the Japanese bullet train.

Posted by: electrician at April 30, 2009 10:19 AM

Yes, the corridor will be quad-tracked and strung with overhead wire. The right-of-way does not need to be widened in most places, except on a few curves where the existing radius is too small to support high speed operation. The tracks will remain at their current elevation for the most part, and the roads will be depressed to pass under. This is the cheapest and easiest option at most road crossings. Congestion and delays on roads which now cross the Caltrain ROW at grade will be significantly improved.

The NIMBY screaming about a "Berlin Wall" is ridiculous, especially considering that peninsula cities are already dramatically divided by US101. There is no reason why the trackway has to present a solid wall. For example, here is a double-track high speed railway in Italy that is elevated on arches:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_hZWOWGb3cLU/SNf6r8BZ0KI/AAAAAAAACa8/SbXSA3PbBxk/IMG_0676.JPG

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 10:35 AM

@electrician

Comparisons are not just to TGV or Japanese bullet trains. The HSR plan is for only ~125 mph through the peninsula, which is much slower than the TGV, and the tracks don't have to be buried.

I don't know all the FRA regulations, but there are others beyond just burying/elevating the tracks, they just may result in fewer track crossings = slower auto traffic. I'm sure folks here have differing views on the merit of that.

Posted by: BayAreaBum at April 30, 2009 10:36 AM

Agree with ex Sf-er. A high speed train would be beneficial in many ways. Here are two articles describing the change in Spanish travel habits brought about by high speed trains.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/13/spain-trains

http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13061961

The distance between Barcelona and Madrid in Spain is about the same as SF-LA. As of 2007, it was the world's busiest passenger air route by number of flights (LA-SF was 20th, but in 2001 it was the 7th busiest in the world by number of passengers). It will be interesting to see just how drastic the reduction will be in several years time. The Madrid-Sevilla route (which started in 1992 and is about the same distance as a SJ-LA route) nearly eliminated airline travel between the cities within a few years.

Btw, LAX is actually located in the westside of LA.

Posted by: nnona at April 30, 2009 10:47 AM

It isn't just old folks who don't want HSR in their backyard.

Posted by: Usually Named at April 30, 2009 10:52 AM

FormerAptBroker - I-280 was responsible for the destruction of dozens of blocks of houses in San Jose and Santa Clara. I'm not sure whether the same happened where it passes through the Excelsior and other nabes in SF though. I-880 wiped out similar swaths of homes in Oakland and San Leandro.

My point was that the negative impacts of HSR expansion are negligible compared to what was done for I-280 and I-880.

electrician - Much of the Japanese HSR travels on elevated trackway through urban areas through the Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama metropolis.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 10:56 AM

nnona - that only shows SFO-LAX traffic. When you look at SFO/OAK/SJC - LAX/ONT/BUR/SNA/LGB, in other words, LA Basin to Bay Area, we're by FAR the largest air market in the world now (in 2007 we would have been within a percentage point or two of Madrid-Barcelona).

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 11:03 AM

The Caltrain corridor on the peninsula is a BLIGHT on the cities through which it passes. It has destroyed large segments of the commercial districts of town after town and, yes, the "wall" is an eyesore and, no, it's not like 101 because Caltrain passes through the downtowns.

Some FORETHOUGHT is needed. How do we want the peninsula to develop for the next century? The peninsula needs HSR, regional rail, and local transit. Can't we figure out some way of solving these challenges together? Stacked underground rail? Commercial development above it? Something we will look back on and be proud of?

We need to figure out a way to bury rail lines at a reasonable cost. This is a stupid thing to "save money" on.

Posted by: BobN at April 30, 2009 11:07 AM

It isn't just old folks who don't want HSR in their backyard.

Good to know there are some selfish young'ns too!

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 11:09 AM

BobN: Burying a quad track all the way from San Jose to San Francisco will cost $20 billion extra, or more than the entire cost of the SF-LA starter system, including stations and trains. Where do you suppose the money should come from? Also, where do you suppose the destroyed commercial districts are? Mountain View and Menlo Park both have thriving districts centered on their Caltrain stations.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 11:21 AM

Good point, anon. I totally forgot about the other North-South air routes.

Posted by: nnona at April 30, 2009 11:22 AM

The Caltrain corridor on the peninsula is a BLIGHT on the cities through which it passes...

What?? I'd say EVERY single Peninsula community benefits from Caltrain. Caltrain through the downtowns keeps things pedestrian friendly and makes those downtowns lively. Palo Alto, Menlo, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Burlingame...

The alternative is huge park & ride lots in the burbs that would indeed be a blight. And put more cars on the road.

Posted by: fan of downtowns at April 30, 2009 11:59 AM

"The Caltrain corridor on the peninsula is a BLIGHT on the cities through which it passes"

I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I read this.

BobN - Are you aware that the passenger rail corridor actually enabled the creation the peninsula cities ? Before rail, most of the peninsula was farmland because there were no fast transport options to reach jobs in SF.

It was textbook transportation oriented development speculation. The railway owned large tracts of land and developed passenger service to increase the value of those tracts.

Check out the peninsula cities sometime. In almost every case the oldest and most dense part of town surrounds the Caltrain station.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 12:28 PM

Both San Francisco and San Jose want the Peninsula route, and these two metropolises have much more combined political clout than anything Palo Alto can pull together. Especially since a large minority or perhaps even a majority of actual Peninsula voters want this alignment as well.

These NIMBYs can slow the project down and cost California billions in stimulus money though, which is kind of sad.

Maybe it is worthwhile to form some kind of PAC to elect pro-rail city council members to the town councils of the various peninsula cites. I am going to send out some feelers.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at April 30, 2009 12:28 PM

NoeValleyJim - You will find that the core of the PA opposition is centered in the neighborhoods directly adjacent to the tracks, particularly between Charleston and downtown.

There's actually small pockets of opposition in the south bay, also adjacent to the tracks.

surprised ?

I think you're right that most of the peninsula would favor HSR so long as they live more than a half mile from the tracks.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 12:53 PM

Maybe it is worthwhile to form some kind of PAC to elect pro-rail city council members to the town councils of the various peninsula cites.

Probably more constructive than burning the place down so we can get a real 200 mph right of way. That's the backup plan. Don't tell anyone.

Posted by: theo at April 30, 2009 12:57 PM

It has destroyed large segments of the commercial districts of town after town

This part made me spit-take.

"Has destroyed"? Talk about getting the causality wrong.

Those damn time traveling train tracks from the 1850s. Jumping forward in time just to destroy preexisting commercial districts.

Posted by: theo at April 30, 2009 1:02 PM

"...get a real 200 mph right of way."

Just to stem the confusion here, HSR won't be operating at 200mph through urban areas. In fact I don't know of any urban area (Tokyo, Paris, London, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hamburg, Yokohama, Kyoto, Osaka, etc.) where HSR trains run at anywhere near top speed.

They don't have to run at top speed through urban areas. In fact it is better for them to slow down since they must hit the brakes to 0 MPH at the station. HSR makes up its time in the long stretches through rural areas.

HSR could run below 100MPH through the peninsula and still make their 40 minutes from SJ to SF projection. That's only 20MPH faster than the current clunky, outdated, 1950s style Caltrain currently runs.

So please don't believe in the 200MPH boogieman.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 1:06 PM

Jeffrey W. Baker wrote:

> The NIMBY screaming about a "Berlin Wall" is ridiculous,
> especially considering that peninsula cities are already
> dramatically divided by US101.

And when the NIMBY people point out that homes in San Mateo and Palo Alto east of 101 are worth a lot less than those on the west we can just tell them that at most the difference in values are only about a million, so it is not anything to worry about…

Then BobN wrote:

> The Caltrain corridor on the peninsula is a BLIGHT on
> the cities through which it passes

Other than the stop below the Potrero Hill housing projects (that I think may be gone now) there is not a lot of blight on the Peninsula (have you ever been to the Burlingame Ave. or Menlo Park train station??).

Then NoeValleyJim wrote:
> These NIMBYs can slow the project down and cost
> California billions in stimulus money though, which
> is kind of sad.

I think that HSR would be great for the Bay Area, but when I see people in SF fight for 5 years to expand a deck and when I’ve watched the 40 year fight build a Devil’s slide bypass (still not completed) I just don’t think that I’ll be taking a trip to S. Cal from SF on HSR anytime in the next 50 years…

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at April 30, 2009 1:06 PM

I was talking to a member of Palo Alto government the other day, who told me that originally the city voted for the high speed rail, being a green-friendly city and all, but when it came time to look at it a bit more closely, they realized that having CalTrain running through there along Alma St. and having a high speed rail line running through are two very different things. The most important issue that they hadn't really realized or focused on was that the high speed rail is not allowed to go across streets, so at every intersection, the train must run underground or elevated above the street.

Posted by: SFguy at April 30, 2009 1:19 PM

That must have been a rather naive PA government worker you talked to SFguy. Caltrain and UP have been pushing for grade separated crossings for decades, long before HSR was proposed.

Whether or not HSR is built, the at-grade crossings will continue to be rebuilt into grade separations to improve safety and service.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 1:29 PM

"And when the NIMBY people point out that homes in San Mateo and Palo Alto east of 101 are worth a lot less than those on the west we can just tell them that at most the difference in values are only about a million, so it is not anything to worry about…"

But that's just my point. NIMBYs in Menlo Park *like* that 101 divides them from the riff-raff. In fact presently they are trying to tear down a pedestrian bridge across 101 that west-side dwellers say allows undesirable east-side dwellers to tarnish their idyllic neighborhoods. So they can't have it both ways, arguing in favor of the socioeconomic division of freeways but arguing against the theoretical division caused by a railway.

Also there's the small matter that the HSR right-of-way is approximately the same width as the Caltrain right-of-way.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 1:36 PM

Okay, its been a while since I rode Caltrain, but I believe BobN may be referring to the "blight" of train tracks surrounded by chain link or solid walls running through communities (NOT the station areas, which are generally much nicer looking). I was also intrigued by one of his other comments about building commercial (or for that matter, residential) above the tracks. Anybody know about the feasibility of doing this over the large swaths of operational "open track" on the penninsula? Any examples of this elsewhere? A concern with this would be 'tunnel boom', but maybe it is ameliorated by the lower speeds?

Posted by: EBGuy at April 30, 2009 1:38 PM

The train is so f-ing asinine. Take away the tens of billions in taxpayer subsidies and it is far more expensive to take a train to LA than fly, not to mention how much slower it will be with all the stops along the way. That money would be better spent improving smaller regional airports.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 1:49 PM

^^^Thanks for the input from someone who has clearly never ridden an HSR train before or understand how scheduling systems work (how long stops are, what express trains are, etc) and also has no idea the level of subsidy that exists for airports.

Thanks again.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 1:53 PM

Then take away the tens of billions in taxpayer subsidies for highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, telecom, and electrical cabling. What's left in your libertarian utopia?

Posted by: unearthly at April 30, 2009 2:00 PM

Since HSR will only have one stop on the Peninsula between SF and SJ, why not have the train go along the 101 right of way, rather than through downtowns (like BART does on 280 and 580)? There is usually more separation between the freeway and neighboring homes, with roads already going underneath.

Posted by: Dan at April 30, 2009 2:04 PM

Since HSR will only have one stop on the Peninsula between SF and SJ, why not have the train go along the 101 right of way, rather than through downtowns (like BART does on 280 and 580)? There is usually more separation between the freeway and neighboring homes, with roads already going underneath.

Ridiculous levels of expense. Most of the Caltrain ROW is already wide enough to upgrade tracks to the level needed without any eminent domain usage. We'd be buying hundreds of properties along 101 to fit the tracks in. It would probably cost at least $20 billion more. Might as well tunnel along the Caltrain ROW for that cost.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 2:07 PM

HSR will stop up to twice on the peninsula (including the airport connection), depending on if it's local or express service. But Caltrain, which shares the same right-of-way, will still run a local service making all stops. Therefore it is infeasible to run the railroad down 101. Also, 101 does not serve any city center. If you put the Palo Alto station on 101, you'd get off the train in the middle of nowhere.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 2:10 PM

And has been mentioned, while HSR will only have one stop for HSR along the route, the upgrade will benefit Caltrain too. Caltrain will be converted to electric, which will help with diesel pollution along the route, speed up Caltrain by significant margins (helping every current station and city along the route), and just make everything peachier.

And, as Milkshake mentioned, plans for grade separation of EVERY street along the route have been on the books for years for Caltrain. All of what is being looked at has been under PUBLIC consideration for literally decades. These moves will still be looked at with or without HSR using the corridor, because they make sense for Caltrain speed, safety, etc.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 2:11 PM

Why doesn't Caltrans just double-up the rail lines that already exist along the Peninsula (thus making 4 lines) and sieze any extra land it needs by eminent domain?

They should start the process now so everything is ready and all the lawsuits are cleared out in time for construction to start.

The overpasses that they have in San Carlos are a great way to keep trains and cars separated. Plus it keeps the riff raff out of the westside neighborhoods.

And lastly, an electrified (and more frequent) Caltrain would be a massive boost to the Peninsula's lame-o public transit system.

Only stupid people would oppose that.

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at April 30, 2009 2:16 PM

^^^Um, Jimmy, that's exactly what they're trying to do. And that's exactly what Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton are opposing.

Posted by: anon at April 30, 2009 2:21 PM

Yeah Jimmy not-Bitter, that's exactly the plan. And the plan was hatched over 15 years ago in a public process.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 2:24 PM

So if they've been working on this for 15 years, where's my electric once-every-10-minutes-from 5AM-to-midnight Caltrain service?

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at April 30, 2009 2:28 PM

It's tied up in court being sued by NIMBYs. Actually it was never funded until Prop 1A passed in November 2008. The CHSRA has only had barely enough money to keep the planning operation going for the last decade. Now they have several billion dollars in authorized bonds, and they can actually get to work.

Posted by: Jeffrey W. Baker at April 30, 2009 2:31 PM

Ah.

Well the courts should just hurry on up and dismiss those cases so we can get our train running faster.

Caltrain should just bypass Menlo, PA and Atherton completely as punishment. Just veer off to the left when you get to Redwood City (there's a track running east through East Menlo Park -- check it out on the map) and write off the whole southern Peninsula. No one cares about those twits.

Probably Burlingame should be tunneled under as well. Let them enjoy NO public transit for awhile.

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at April 30, 2009 2:36 PM

It's not going to happen.

Posted by: Usually Named at April 30, 2009 2:38 PM

Why not?? Just imagine a huge banked curve that you take at 200mph while jetting through the RC, East Menlo Park, over the Dumbarton railway bridge and then another huge banked right hand turn that heads south to San Jose & from there on down to LA.

That's probably only an extra 10 miles of track, which at 200 mph takes only 1/20th of an hour (3 minutes?) to cover.

Its a win-lose solution (we all win with HSR -- PA, Atherton and Menlo Park NIMBYs lose).

I should run for office.

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at April 30, 2009 2:48 PM


Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) wrote:

> Probably Burlingame should be tunneled
> under as well. Let them enjoy NO public
> transit for awhile.

Most of Burlingame would be happy without public transit. Burlingame (and the rest of the Mid Peninsula has voted down BART every time it was on the ballot and everyone I know has been happy since Sam Trans cancelled the (big noisy) 34D that ran through town due to lack of riders (In the ~20 years that the 34D ran through Burlingame the bus was empty about 99% of the time I saw it since Burlingame Soccer Moms would never let their kids ride a bus and all the old people used Redi Wheels that gave them door to door service).

Posted by: FormerAptBroker at April 30, 2009 2:57 PM

Relax, people. Filing a lawsuit is a LONG way from convincing a court to enjoin construction along the Caltrain right of way. To win an injunction, the plaintiffs would need to show (among other elements) that they face irreparable harm -- a tough sell since the ROW won't change and, if anything, electric service will IMPROVE the noise and fumes.

Posted by: sacdomc at April 30, 2009 3:14 PM

The Peninsula should have public transit imposed upon it by the State government. They will learn to love it.

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at April 30, 2009 3:24 PM

Just to stem the confusion here

That wasn't confusion, that was sarcasm.

You're right though, Peninsula NIMBYs have proven themselves to be such skillful disseminators of misinformation that I shouldn't even talk about running supertrains at 2XX mph through the post-apocalyptic burned-out ruins of Palo Alto while roving gangs of cannibal East Palo Alto Samoan gangbangers on Segways chase their children from school to Kumon.

They might think I'm serious.

The real non-sarcastic facts:

Trains will run at 125 mph maximum.

There will also be no "Wall" beyond what you already find all along the Peninsula.

Posted by: theo at April 30, 2009 3:55 PM

I'm a Menlo Park resident whose (rented) home abuts the tracks. I support the high speed rail project more because I want electrified rail through the area than the actual two-hours-n-change to LA, though the latter is nice. What's frustrating is that the non-insane-NIMBY faction in this town vastly overreached in 2003 and was almost completely voted out of office. The NIMBYs rule the council 4-1, and there's no sign of that changing - heck, nobody on our side will even run. And, totally off-topic, I don't think the Derry project will ever be built. The way they can stop anything new is pretty amazing.

Posted by: Jeremy at April 30, 2009 5:57 PM

and development. And they don't get that this is their turn. Their turn to shut the hell up, and sacrifice for the good of future generations and the future of this planet. How do they justify this to themselves? Donating 0.00001% of their income to the Sierra Club?

There will be casualties. Jump on the grenade and be a hero, someone your grandkids can be proud of. Get behind it, help find the best solution. A lawsuit? That is some cowardly poop.

Posted by: obro at April 30, 2009 6:33 PM

Jeremy - Your track abutting location reminded me of one of the fringe benefits of grade separating the railway. For safety, the trains must blow their horn at every level crossing. And it is a very loud horn.

Once the grade crossings are separated, there's no chance of colliding with a car crossing the tracks. Most of the horn toots are eliminated and the trackway becomes significantly quieter.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at April 30, 2009 8:03 PM

We should probably just send all the people who oppose the system on a free trip to Japan or Europe. They will have the opportunity to see exactly how brilliantly a HSR system works. In the end, the trip will be cheaper than fending off a protracted court battle since any delays in creating the HSR system will carry enourmous opportunity costs. What has happened to our country? Where's the optimism, the innovative spirit and the desire to improve the lives of everyone in the community.

Posted by: Vancouver Jones at April 30, 2009 8:44 PM

That's pretty funny, Vancouver Jones. And sad at the same time. You're probably right that an all expenses paid trip for the opponents would be cheaper and swifter, though the stubborn core will remain on their position.

This is really a case of legal extortion. What will probably happen is that the plaintiffs will deadlock the courts and push for some sort of expensive mitigation (a new park and community center or something unrelated like that).

I saw this exact scenario played out in another much smaller project. The NIMBYs caused the project cost to skyrocket by requiring a lot of aesthetic and landscaping features to be included. The shame is that the money spent on beautifying the NIMBY's neighborhood was taken away from implementing two other similar but un-beautified projects in the poorer part of town. It was a real distortion of the use of funds.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at May 1, 2009 7:44 AM

Sorry to have caused so much spitting. I wasn't clear, I guess. (Though, I have to wonder how anyone would think that I didn't realize the importance of Caltrain on the peninsula given that I think we should spend billions to get it right.)

To clarify: a raised-wall right-of-way would be awful for peninsula cities. Sure, Menlo Park's station is great and Palo Alto's is, too (PA largely by accident of history). MP's rail is at ground level. Go take a look at Belmont. Or Broadway. Or Hillsdale. Pay particular attention to how well business has done along El Camino in areas where there are businesses only on one side of the street.

And, yes, I lived on the peninsula for 20 years, in PA, MP, Redwood Shores, and worked in Burlingame and MP. And I don't drive, so I spent a lot of time on those trains and in buses driving along El Camino.

Posted by: BobN at May 1, 2009 1:12 PM

There were several problems when San Carlos and Belmont elevated their tracks, and PA/MP/Atherton are probably worried.

The first is noise. Elevated tracks WILL allow the noise of the trains to carry further. But the trains will be electric, and that includes Caltrain, so any noise increase a few blocks away should be very minor. Also, with the grade separations, the trains won't have to blow their horns at every crossing.

The second issue was appearance. San Carlos/Belmont had a choice between building a Berlin Wall and a landscaped berm. They chose the landscaped berm, but the slope of the berm was too steep to allow much of anything but scrub brush to grow, so it has always looked terrible.

The tracks are used for freight during off peak hours, which is really heavy, so an elevated structure would be very expensive and the space between supports would be tough to be all that far apart. This is obviously a ploy to force a tunnel. That would be ideal for those cities, think of the long park they could have, but it would be too expensive. So they are doing the exact right thing for their interests, but hopefully a court will tell them to shove off.

I think the Berlin wall is in their future. In San Carlos and Belmont, there was room to build up while the tracks were active. I don't see that kind of room in Palo Alto or Menlo Park. I think that such building could require major disruptions of Caltrain for many years.

Posted by: tipster at May 1, 2009 2:37 PM

BobN - the placement of tracks in those cities you mentioned is entirely different from the placement in PA or MP or Atherton. In Atherton there are no businesses to worry about, and the line doesn't run anywhere near El Camino. In MP, there is quite a bit of room between El Camino and the tracks, and current businesses will not be expected to move. In PA, the tracks already run right along El Camino, with NO businesses in between the tracks and the road ALREADY. How is this going to affect El Camino businesses again?

Posted by: anon at May 1, 2009 2:53 PM

It should be noted too that PA and MP downtown business districts END at the Caltrain station, they don't run alongside the tracks. Hard to see how a raised station would have any affect at all on something that ends right there. Is the Stanford Mall (which ignores the street anyway) going to suffer?

Posted by: anon at May 1, 2009 2:56 PM

Let's just build a great long raised tunnel (e.g. put a lid on the "Berlin Walls" on either side of the tracks). That'll be no only Aesthetically Pleasing (NOT!) but it'll keep the noise really well contained.

At intersections, the roadways can go up & over the trains -- no problem! If you take the crossing at 60+ mph, you can catch some air Dukes of Hazzard style.

By the way -- to get 4 tracks onto the Belmont/San Carlos section, won't you have to raise up the current retaining wall and fill in beside the current set of tracks?

I still maintain that a banked left turn at Redwood City, over the Dumbarton bridge and then south through SJ from there is the best way to avoid a long fight with the peninsula residents.

Posted by: Jimmy (No Longer Bitter) at May 1, 2009 3:04 PM

I would think that electrification and elimination of diesel fumes would be a boon for those with properties adjoining the tracks. Anybody who has ever lived or worked near a diesel route knows exactly what I am talking about-- a diesel train going by is like having fifty eighteen wheelers go by at once. The replacement of aged track with the newer, more precisely engineered track required for HSR, combined with the higher rate of speed might actually reduce the overall noise impact-- the HSR is actually likely to be quieter than the existing service and what noise there is will pass by quickly.

As for the billions of subsidy for rail that irks some, well, I guess they slept through those billions in subsidies we gave the airlines!

VC GUY: I thought real VC's preferred speeding recklessly in their Boxsters to being driven in a limo.

Posted by: joe shmoe at May 2, 2009 11:22 PM

Peninsula request for a stay while lawsuit is decided is rejected:

http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2009/10/05/daily100.html

HSR begins studying feasibility of a tunnel route:

http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2009/10/12/story6.html?b=1255320000^2236151

I thought that this might all be about trying to squeeze extra money to build a tunnel along some or all of the route. The residents will find that tunnel construction will be even more inconvenient than other ways of grade seperation, though the final outcome will be superior for the communities.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 13, 2009 10:40 AM

Let's assume that global warming is a reality, (I do) If HSR is not elevated it will be underwater along with SFO and HWY101 by 2100. Do we want to rebuild the whole thing over again because of our short sighted politicians? Let's do it right the first time. That will also give Atherton, Burlingame, Menlo Park and Palo Alto bay front property. Just a thought.

Posted by: William Herman at April 21, 2011 1:56 PM

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