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Palo Alto may sue state high-speed rail authority

Original post made on Mar 3, 2009

Palo Alto community outrage and City Council skepticism will not stop the state agency in charge of the high-speed rail project from running the line on the Caltrain corridor through the Peninsula, rail officials said Monday night. City officials said they might sue.
Related articles:
[Web Link Protestors march against high-speed rail]
[Web Link City staff: Tunnel trains or change route]
[Web Link Editorial: Palo Alto surface rail becoming unthinkable]
[Web Link Not so fast]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 2:55 AM

Comments (167)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:41 am

I think that this is the best way to go.
The project was misrepresented in many ways.
The route, energy saving aspect of the project, inflated ridership predictions, costs, and degradation to the environment along the corridor.

I believe that the "Green" theme was simply a tactic to get councils in the cities up and down the corridor to jump on the green bandwagon. Cities did not conduct publicized study sessions long before we went to the polls. Voters did not understand the route and the environmental aspects of running this through a densely populated Bay Area corridor when they voted, because many of these details were missing on the original ballot.

I believe that if prop 1A were on the ballot again, it would not pass.


I support the lawsuit, the "No build" option, stopping the train in San Jose, or change the route.

We cannot tunnel this though a highly dense tight corridor without damage to property. It is not feasible for many reasons.

Go for it council! Go for it Gary! The majority of citizens will support you on this!

Thank you council and staff for listening to us.



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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:58 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

There are uncertainties in any transit scheme but, as I have mentioned, the tracks are there.
I would suggest an incremental approach.
First, close all grade crossings immediately and let traffic figure out alternate routes.
Second. Totally fence right of way in urban areas.
Third, electrify.
Then evaluate.


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Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:09 am

It doesn't seem necessary to me to tie SF and SJ together via high-speed rail, but if the route goes ahead, then it is essential that we try to make Palo Alto a stop. The worst outcome is the barrier dividing the city and no stop in Palo Alto.

Another thing to investigate is more innovative sound walls rather than massive concrete walls. Something architecturally interesting, maybe made of composite materials that can block the sound with less weight.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:46 am

This is quintessential liberal dogs eating their own dog food. Sorry for the sarcactism. But unfortunately it is the fact.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

I support suing immediately. The environmental damage is enormous and overturning this route might prevail on environmental grounds.

I also support a "recall 1A" ballot initiative. Not sure how to go about that, although it is certainly possible. The state budget woes are more clear now, plus this peninsula environmental mess, makes me think 1A would never pass today.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:59 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Listening to Handel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:03 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:09 am

"The buck stops with the board of the High Speed Rail Authority. That board will ultimately make the decision on the preferred alternative," says Diridon.

Diridon is on that board and believes they are all powerful, but Ego Diridon has met his match because *you* will make the decision, *if* you are willing to do what it takes.

If you go to *their* meetings, you will be in *their* sandbox. They will bury you in sand. So, your city council will hear from you quarterly on the subject. Oh please. You must act *now*. The Authority kept you in the dark like a cowpie under a mushroom. Your city council failed you by not asking the right questions when it mattered. It may already be too late. Unless you treat this like a war and destroy the enemy.

1. DO WHATEVER IT TAKES AND DO IT NOW. You cannot play their game and let the monster bury you. The monster is growing and it will consume you if and when it gets its ten billion dollar meal. You must cut off the monsters legs, cut off the head, yank out the heart, and bury the parts on different continents. You must play dirty and play rough to save Palo Alto.

2. GET OVER YOUR LOVE OF HIGH SPEED RAIL. The Authority will use your idealism to weaken you. The people running this project are in this for themselves. Do not believe what they tell you, do not believe this will result in a well built high speed rail system that will go as fast as they say or carry the number of people they say. The are liars.

3. GET PERSONAL - TERMINATE THE PERSONNEL. Contact your *state* representatives and demand a complete cleansing of the High Speed Rail Authority. Ask them to take remove Quentin Kopp and Rod Diridon. These men are the problem. The entire project will change when they are gone. Contact the large corporations of Silicon Valley and demand they remove Carl Guardino as head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He is the third leg of the the stool.

4. HAVE YOUR CITY JOIN THE LAWSUIT. Considering an amicus brief is not good enough. The Council does not understand that time is running out. Demand daily and noisily that the City of Palo Alto join the lawsuit *today*. This is almost the only power Palo Alto has as a city to challenge the Authority. Join the lawsuit. Join it now.

5. STOP THE PROJECT. High Speed Rail is good, but this project is bad. Start the process to place an initiative on the ballot to reverse Proposition 1A and terminate the sale of the $10 billion in bonds. STOP THE CASH - STOP THE GASH. Florida voted for high speed rail, then voted to stop the project when similar corruption was revealed to its citizens. By the time the anti-Prop 1A initiative is on the ballot, the rage over the corruption here in California will end the project. The new initiative will likely garner more votes than Proposition 1A itself did.

6. AVOID THE DIVIDE. The Authority will do everything it can to divide the citizens of Palo Alto on meaningless design points. This will go into high gear when they come out with drawings of the various alternatives. They will divide you and steer you towards the alternative they want. Avoid the local bickering that will weaken Palo Alto by design. Concentrate on routing the trains over Altamont Pass (via the Lawsuit), getting rid of the disease (via terminating Kopp and Diridon), and stopping the cash (via a state initiative to reverse Proposition 1A).

A citizens committee, a consortium of cities, complaining to your city council, going to city departments, going to Authority meetings -- all virtually ineffective. That is what the Authority wants you to do to waste your time and energy. You must work at the state level to stop the project. You must cut off the monsters legs, cut off the head, yank out the heart, and bury the parts on different continents. The fastest way to a true high speed rail project for California is to stop the current project.

The arrogance of the High Speed Rail Authority is exemplified by Mr. Diridon, who got up out of his seat after the council had finished the high speed rail item and interrupted them after they had already started the next item (ostensively to thank them). This is rude behavior by anyone, but Diridon thinks he is above all that.

--Jay L. Tulock, Vacaville

All are welcome to copy my comments into other newspapers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HBR
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

Agree with Observer. Several avenues of redress should begin immediately and run concurrently.

First, money: the bonds for HSR have not been sold. Presumably, the project cannot go forwards without bond money.

Second, information on a recall 1A initiative may be found at: Web Link

And a few thoughts on legal redress: the program EIR that was prepared may be vulnerable on several grounds, not only on lack of notice (what was not told to voters at the time) but also on the material changes that will need to be made to the project description, which may require recirculation of the EIR . For example, yesterday's SF Chronicle reports, re the SF high speed station, "that the current design [4 tracks] that was environmentally cleared gives us less than one-half of the capacity we'll need by 2030 to carry all the passengers . . . the High Speed Rail Authority now believes that the station would have to be able to handle 12 trains an hour, or one every five minutes. Under that scenario, eight to 10 tracks would be required, Alberti said. He said the Transbay team only learned of that three weeks ago." (Web Link)




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Posted by Robert Cruickshank
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

At least it's not clear that this isn't really about a "wall" at all, but is instead about killing high speed rail outright.

Those complaining about this, and now the Palo Alto City Council, are indicating they are happy to kill one of the most important projects in California history if it doesn't get built *exactly* as you want.

The fact is that, yes, the route has been decided and approved by voters. It's going through Palo Alto. That is a done deal. It is good and right to discuss the best ways to implement it, but if you guys persist in trying to kill the project outright, all you'll hear in response from the rest of the state is "screw you."


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Posted by adam
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:27 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:28 am

Robert, the reason there is any incentive to kill HSR in the most green part of the country, is because this CHSRA is corrupt, at least as far as the peninsula route is concerned.

To claim the voters knew that 1A meant moving long range transportation corridors from freeways to downtowns in a manner reminiscent of Urban Renewal from the 60s is really disingenuous. Lets be honest, 1a would not have passed if 1) the budget issues were understood and 2) the Northern Ca voters knew this meant putting what is effectively a 4 lane freeway in the middle of their bedroom communities and schools.

CHSRA pulled a fast one for November. But this is not the end of it. Cue Florida and their HSR endeavor when they voted for it and repealed it.


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Posted by Naphtali
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

I'm all for high-speed ail, and it seems to me that Palo Alto voted for it overwhelmingly. But, as always, we have a lot of naysayers. When it comes to change, "No, we can't."

That said, I think underground will be the only way to go through urban areas. I personally have experienced the separations and blight caused by "the elevated" west and south of the University of Chicago campus and the elevated Illinois Central tracks along the east boundary; and there was the horrendous "Chinese Wall" that was eventually torn down on the north side of the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia (not to mention a few ill-fated elevated freeways in San Francisco). Above-ground is always short-sighted, even when it comes to power lines. Can you imagine BART elevated through downtown Berkeley?

Now is the time to get it right, and engineers, planners, and the tax-paying public will just have to get used to the idea of paying the extra costs for undergrounding. The social and monetary costs of building above ground and having to tear down and replace decades later are much higher.


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Posted by Etaoin Shrdlu
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

Why not think constructively, and press for a tunnel from Castro Street to, say, the north end of Redwood City? Rather than thinking about the Great Wall of China, think of Park Avenue in New York, which sits above the tunnel that brings trains to Grand Central? Not a shabby neighborhood. Recyling the current right of way could make a great contribution to Palo Alto, which is for all practical purposes, built out. Strip parks? Housing? Maybe even tax-paying retail. Increasingly, it would appear that Palo Alto is becoming the city that says "no."


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:59 am

For those of you dreaming about underground tunnels, keep dreaming. It's absolutely not going to happen. The cost is astronomical, $700M per mile at least. There is no way you can expect the people of the Republic of California will pick up the tab so your little Palo Alto and Atherton snobs can live in peace. Just forget it.

Furthermore, the HSR authority will threaten you with fully elevated train tracks, 30 feet above ground on miles of bridges across Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. You want an alternative? Take this! Then you will be forced to sit down and negotiate for the 4-track, China Wall solution.



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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

We can't do tunneling because that would mean all the small towns have to pay for it. No no no. Move the route or no build on the peninsula, that is the answer, I don't trust this CHSRA anyway. Rod Diridon can give the station away to Visalia all he wants. Part of the success of Silicon Valley is its exclusion of noise from the perimeter, this applies to the towns as well. Every time you try to move a challenging project to another destination like San Diego or Austin it just never works as well as good old Silicon Valley engineering. We get nothing from pumping people in from Modesto. Make these people transfer at the south bay station to an electrified Caltrain and leave it at that. Or move the route to Altamont.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

James Hoosac, let them threaten. Come on. 1A barely passed and would likely not pass again. The Pacheco route is not backed by anybody important, the towns are where the moneyed interest lies.


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Posted by Suburban Native
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:11 am

Our city streets are already too congested! What will an influx of hundreds of more cars carrying these HSR customers to the station do to exaserbate this problem? Where will they park? Who will police them, pick up after them and breathe their fumes?


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Posted by midtown resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

I trust our elected officials realize that you only heard from the ney sayers at the meeting. I for one am happy to have either raised or underground high speed trains through palo alto


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Posted by moi
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:18 am

people, get a grip. We NEED high speed rail. we NEED to have public transportation and we NEED to have Palo Alto a stop. I agree that we should find a creative way to deal with either the elevated or tunnels, but please...don't fight something that is necessary.

Europe has high speed trains running everywhere and it doesn't seem to be such a political issue....just a great way to travel. Time we join the real world.

And please recognize, I live in Southgate....right by the train tracks!


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Posted by Shallower and Shallower
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:19 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Apparently you haven't gotten the memo: saving our planet comes with a cost. And I am pretty sure that the property values of Palo Alto aren't going to be too great when it's situated on an unlivable planet. Though I guess it will be quiet.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:24 am

Robert - you are correct. This is about CHSRA doing it exactly as is required by the cities along this route. Period. If not, the cities AND (not on behalf of, but AND) the citizens, will take necessary action. Period. Ruining the quality of life of 50 miles worth of the Peninsula is absolutely not an option.

The sooner the CHSRA comes to term with this Truth, the sooner they will adjust their thinking to the reality on the ground, then the sooner HSR can proceed along their merry way. Otherwise, be prepared to stand still in the quicksands of time, litigation and political languish.

Although, I believe perhaps that Diridon, in his vast arrogance, has allowed the cat permanently out of the bag. Even if at this point they were to announce that the route was being miraculously changed to avoid these towns, there are enough active, involved and civic minded people that nwo realize clearly that a gigantic scam is being perpetrated on the State of California. People aruond here tend to care and they tend to get involved.

The "Authority" now is likely to be brought down completely, whether or not they fix this voluntarily or not, and sadly, likely the HSR plans with them.

Perhaps this begins to demonstrate the MONUMENTAL miscalculation that the arrogant leadership of CHSRA has foisted upon high speed rail proponents.

What's sad is that many here would actually support high speed rail done correctly. They'd love to see an iron clad guarantee that the route would only be done via tunneling, or if no tunneling is feasible than another feasible route would be chosen.

But under no circumstances are they going to risk waiting around to find out if Diridon and Kopp come around 2-3 years from now, in their greasy little backroom dealings, decide to deem tunneling a worthy option.

Diridon and the CHSRA authorities are about to be visited with the most uncomfortable level of civic engagement (ie: scrubbing of their every last document and dealings) than they could have every imagined possible. Their nooks and crannies are about to become quite crowded.

And the sadly interesting part is, CHSRA still actually has a choice to manage their own fate, which they could do by immediately reopen decision for alternatives to this route. Its pretty much just as simple as that. A different route immediatlely would probably have the greatest possible effect on dampening those who are now out for nothing less than the life blood of the Authority.

Authority needs to quickly open up their spreadsheets to FULLY cost out the Peninsula route (over ground, and via tunneling) and compare that to the alternatives. And that full cost goes well beyond a few feet of eminent domain here and there - be quite sure of that.

They'll soon find that any one of their rejected alterantives would have been far less costly.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

It's like building a 101 HWY with trains.


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Posted by Recall Measure 1A
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:26 am

April 29, 2009 - Suggested last day for proponent(s) to submit proposed measure to the Attorney General and request title and summary.

June 19, 2009 - Attorney General prepares and issues title and summary and proponent(s) may begin circulation of the petition (includes time allotted for fiscal analysis).

November 16, 2009 - Last day for proponent(s) to file the petition with county elections officials.

November 30, 2009 - Last day for county elections officials to complete raw count totals and certify raw numbers to the Secretary of State.

December 9, 2009 - Last day for Secretary of State to receive raw count total from each county elections official, determine whether initiative petitions meet the minimum signature requirement, generate random sample, and notify each county elections official of results.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

Since when was taking a human being's home not environmentally friendly? It's not okay to move trees, it's not okay to endanger an animal's breeding and resting place, but for people - we can take their homes? Saving homes and people's peace is good for the environment.

This train fails the environmental test on so many levels.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:31 am

I agree, we need to recall Measure 1A. How do we do that?


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:32 am

moi, maybe you need HSR, but I certainly don't. What we need is a local transportation system that works. It makes no sense to shuttle people at high speeds between two regions of the country that have dreadful local transit systems. The CHSRA snake charmers cast their spell, but slowly that charm is wearing off as people realize 1) the priorities are misplaced; 2) the economy is worse than when we voted; 3) the impact along the ROW is horrific; 4) the CHSRA has little accountability and therefore designs and builds whatever they please, residents be damned.
I agree that some people really, really WANT HSR, but we certainly don't NEED it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:33 am

Can someone please give me a contact phone number or email to the person who's writing the proposal to recall Measure 1A? Thank you.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

Shallower,

Oh- Saving the Planet- thats what this is about? Ohhh well in that case maybe we all better put these freeways right downtown then to save the planet, or else. Maybe we can put some Kit Fox bungalows in the concrete grades and re-establish some kit fox burrows, and enact some Spotted Owl habitats in the elevated grades while we are at it.

Except that there was an alternative route on the table with none of these environmental concerns (altamont) that was cheaper, provided more immediate ridership, and used ESTABLISHED transportation corridors, and it was not selected because SAN JOSE WANTED TO BE A HUB AND NOT A SPOKE.

The problem is San Jose and Rod Diridon, they are killing the planet and the Kit Fox. Bad, bad people.


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

As a retired track engineer (the civil engineering type, not the type that runs the trains) I can tell you Mr. James Hoosac has the number about correct. At $700 million per mile, the earlier suggestion of tunneling from Castro Street to north of Redwood City would cost more than bond issue Proposition 1A provides for the entire state. Does that put the cost in perspective? Is it any wonder the Authority will not pay for it? They cannot. A quick calculation shows that the Palo Alto section of the tunnel would cost each and every man, woman and child in Palo Alto approximately $60,000. So a typical Palo Alto family of four would have their property taxes raised a quarter million dollars to pay for the tunnel, or raised $25,000 per year for ten years.

Are you ready to give up on that tunnel now?

Jay L. Tulock, Vacaville


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:46 am

A powerful argument is the complete economical infeasibility of HSR. China is currently building a HSR of approx same scale with a budget of $40B. This is a budget when the government owns the land and can move anyone in its way without due compensation, when the chance of lawsuits is virtually zero, when environmental impact is mostly neglected, when the labor cost is 1/10th of the labor cost here, and when there are about the same amount of people living along the rail line as the entire United States.

So it is impossible to build California HSR with $40B and operate the line profitably. This is a giant black hole that will drain California resources for generations to come. With all the lawsuits on horizon, massive environmental migitation costs, land costs and labor costs, the budget for HSR will be many times over $40B.

But for the sake of the argument, at 6% interest, and $55 a ticket each way, HSR needs to sell 43 Million tickets per year to just cover the interest payment, not even considering the operational cost, labor (unionized probably) cost, and any profit to repay the principle. How is that supposed to happen? What if the eventual cost is $80B, $120B? This is going to be a total disaster for California.






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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:50 am

Shallower and Shallower:
Actually we're a bunch of intellects who study the issues and come to rational conclusions, even if when they conflict with knee-jerk reactions that saving the environment trumps everything.
You're probably not aware that the IPCC set a maximum standard cost of $50 per ton for removing CO2. The HSR will cost around $2,000 to $10,000 per ton. Do you really think it's worth that much?


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:55 am

Jay Tulock,
That's an, um, interesting way to analyze the cost. You're comparing tunneling to doing nothing. Unfortunately (meant in a most literal sense), "nothing" is not what they have in mind for the Castro-RWC stretch. Why don't you study the full costs of the alternatives before making such misleading statements.


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Posted by Bob Niederman
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:58 am

Tunneling is a great option! Here is why: It will open up a green space all the way through Palo Alto. This will enable streets to be built connecting one side of P.A. to the other, something we have never been able to do in Palo Alto. In the green space we can create parks, plant fruit trees, and beautify the city. The cost of tunneling will not be paid by tax payers. Instead, some of the new land will be available to sell. Near town centers we will sell land to developers who will build high density apartment buildings. This will be a very attractive place to live for someone who wants to commute to S.F. in twenty minutes on the speedy train. This will be a huge benefit to Palo Alto! It will enable us to get out of our cars, get off the freeway, get out of the traffic jams, stop pollution, and enjoy the ride! How will we stop our addiction to oil if we don't embrace a mass transit solution? This is it. Let's go for it.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:59 am


There will be a tiny market for HSR between SF and LA.

IT innovation is making much business travel unnecessary.

People who travel for pleasure or with kids will have to rent a car when they get to LA so they will just drive the family car.

You can fly to LA for $39.00 on SW airlines from SFO and we will more fuel efficient jets and turbo props soon.

Comparisons with Europe and Japan are not relevant,after WW2 they built on their existing rail infrastructure, we build the massive Interstate Highway System.

We will all be driving smaller high speed electric cars in a few years. Computerized traffic control will dramatically increase the speed and capacity of freeway transportation.

HSR is a dodo


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Posted by illuminating
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm

"Vice Mayor Jack Morton complained that the authority is acting as if some of the most critical questions surrounding the project have already been decided."

Wow, now he knows how everyone else in Palo Alto feels when dealing with City Council initiatives!


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Bob Niederman, do you think a 1 mile long, 75 feet wide raw land strip worth $700 million, about $1700 a square feet, or $70 Million an acre? As expensive as Palo Alto is, you are asking too much.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

And I predict the HSR authority will evilly use the threat of fully elevated train tracks running on bridges to divide Palo Alto residents. Those who live farther than 3 or 4 blocks away from the tracks will quickly come to agree on the widening of existing tracks so they won't be bothered by the noises and visual pollution. So in the end HSR may win just what they want, other than maybe a little bit of sweeteners to the pitiful Palo Alto residents.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:24 pm

"HSR is a dodo"

Sharon is right. Rail - of the high speed or any other variety - is a relic of 19th century technology.

The fixed, point to point nature of rail is unduly restrictive in a world where technology will soon offer alternatives of the sort Sharon describes (and others we don't imagine.) We're a century past the age of heavy industry that both spawned and was supported by heavy rail.

Why would we tie ourselves to this dated, outmoded and unaffordably expensive project when we are short on resources. The proponents of HSR like to portray themselves as forward-thinking soldiers of a new age of progress. In fact the reverse is closer to the truth. HSR is an unimaginative, luddite approach to the future and its likely transportation needs. It's no coincidence that the CHSR representatives come across like Soviet Commissars revealing the newest 5 year plan - which they are dictating to the public.

They have to be authoritarian when presenting their plans: it's quite apparent that as the costs and details of the HSR come out, the public won't voluntarily accede to it.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The "tiny market" for HSR is estimated by Cambridge Systematics (one of the most respected transportation analysis firms in the United States) in a careful analysis of likely future ridership to be between 74 and 93 million riders per year by 2030.

The newly opened Taiwan High Speed Rail had 15 million riders in its first year of operation and roughly 30 million riders in its second year. Taiwan's population (23 million) is significantly smaller than California's (37 million).

Forecasting ridership figures accurately is very difficult. However, there is no doubt that there are large numbers of Californians who would ride HSR every day. If California had 36 million riders per year on HSR (well below the current estimates and on par with Taiwan), then about 100,000 Californians would ride the HSR every day.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton have ~100,000 residents combined. A small fraction of those residents live within a few blocks the Caltrain tracks (myself included). I am a strong supporter of our wonderful town and community and an advocate of fully exploring all the costs and benefits of tunneling. But we should be more realistic about how few people in the mid-Peninsula will be impacted by this project as compared to the number of people likely to ride these trains daily. They all vote, too.


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Posted by Mike Cobb, former Mayor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

For the first time in a long time, I attended a Council meeting and, after I briefly spoke, I left with the following emotions:

Sadness ... that our council did not consider the impacts before endorsing Measure 1A ... now, it may be too late to do what should have been done.
Anger ... at the mind-numbing arrogance and 'you voted -- too bad for you now that you see what you voted on' attitude of Rod Diridon and HST Authority.
Frustration ... that no one has asked and demanded answers to how many houses will be taken by eminent domain, how many other facilities will be impacte and how (the Medical Center, Paly High, the PA tree, and more), and how many other will suffer a loss of property values (some of which has already happened because of this threat to their homes and neighborhoods).
Fear ... that we really have very few options to protect Palo Alto's historic quality of life and amenities.
Amazement ... that we are only now learning -- after the vote ... about how the HSR will rip this community into parts and speed its already accelerating urbanization.
Surprise ... that anyone think a terminal in Palo Alto is a good idea, given that it would be another massive, traffic-generating structure -- or that anyone thinks that, given its cost, undergrounding is feasible solution.
Concern ... that, because our options are limited, the community will not fight this abomination for the future of our town and, as a result, allow the HSR Authority to (forgive the pun)railroad us into a result that will transform this community in many negative ways.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

-The Caltrain ROW is an established transportation corridor.

-The ill effects of HSR are grossly exaggerated. I really doubt the line will look like the Japanese Shinkansen. A portion of the funds to build this should be used to beautify the route. Architectural details, landscaping and other mitigation methods should be implemented. It WILL NOT look like a freeway, if done right. Instead of making unreasonable demands for a tunnel the City of Palo Alto should work with the CHSRA to make this the best looking train line in the world.

-Short-haul flights are energy inefficient. Where planes are efficient is at cruising speed. Short-haul flights don't do a lot of that. Take-off is particularly energy intensive and overkill for such a short trip.

-Those Southwest fares may not last forever. The long-term price of oil is going up and the resource itself is running out. One particular poster is low-balling the fare and travel time, and isn't including taxes or mentioning advance purchase requirements.

-Loud, smelly diesel trains will be replaced by quieter electric trains that emit no local emissions.

-The hyperbole and lies spewed by the opposition is amazing. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what HSR is and how it works. At the protest yesterday people were screaming that there would be so many trains people wouldn't be able to cross the tracks. The route will be entirely grade-separated. Not understanding these basic facts only hurts your cause.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm

"Sharon is right. Rail - of the high speed or any other variety - is a relic of 19th century technology."

High speed rail was first implemented in the 1960s by Japan. Germany, France, Spain, Italy, China, Korea, Taiwan, and others have all embraced the technology. First and second world nations are building HSR. Someone tell them the technology is outdated before their country meets certain doom.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm

"Why would we tie ourselves to this dated, outmoded and unaffordably expensive project when we are short on resources. The proponents of HSR like to portray themselves as forward-thinking soldiers of a new age of progress. In fact the reverse is closer to the truth. HSR is an unimaginative, luddite approach to the future and its likely transportation needs."

You don't care about any of that. You only care because it's going to be built in your town. If Altamont was chosen you wouldn't have thought for a second about transportation issues.

"It's no coincidence that the CHSR representatives come across like Soviet Commissars revealing the newest 5 year plan - which they are dictating to the public."

There. Was. A. Vote. You are grossly mischaracterizing the situation and making analogies that don't make any sense.

There were volumes of freely available documents on the CHSRA's web site. They include concerns about impacts to peninsula AND east bay communities and all of these issues were considered before choosing a route. You may not agree with the outcome, but everything was done out in the open and for years you had the opportunity to submit comments and have them responded to by the high speed rail authority.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Putting high speed rail between LA and SJ is a great idea, and is long overdue in this state. Extending the high speed line up the Peninsula is a monumentally stupid idea and hugely expensive for arguably no gain. The money should be spent upgrading the existing public transit SYSTEM so that it's easy to take a connection in SJ on existing train lines to SF. Right now, the biggest problem with Bay Area transportation is that it is a dysfunctional SYSTEM.

Putting high speed rail between LA and SJ, and improving our existing urban transportation SYSTEM on the Peninsula will enhance quality of life and improve use of public transportation. Extending the high speed rail up the Peninsula will not only degrade quality of life, if it is done without improving the way the transit SYSTEM works, it will probably make our dysfunctional public transit worse.

Hinging the whole high speed rail project on the short highly urbanized segment between SJ and SF is just idiotic, and to me smacks of a backhanded attempt to sink the whole project.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm

It is purely deceitful for Mr. Andrew Bogan to use Taiwan HSR as a supporting case for California HSR. Sure, Taiwan has 23M people. But it is less than 1/10 the size of California. It is population density that matters. No the absolute numbers. Mr. Bogan, when will California have 250 Million residents?

When you talk about the success stories, Japan, Taiwan, etc., you are talking about areas with very high-density population. This is not the case in California in the forseeable future.

If HSR succeeds, Palo Alto will be forever changed. The city council will have to re-zone the half-mile adjacent either side of HSR for high-density housing in order to alleviate the catastrophic loss of property values of the owners. The riches will flee Old Palo Alto. In the end everyone will lose.


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm

"When you talk about the success stories, Japan, Taiwan, etc., you are talking about areas with very high-density population. This is not the case in California in the forseeable future."

Try Spain, then.

Don't worry, Mr. Hoosac, if we ban Mexicans from riding the train would you be more inclined to support it? Based on your earlier comments in other venues I believe this would be a viable compromise for you.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm


You can by a ticket today to fly to LAX from SFO tomorrow for $38 dollars on Virgin America

You can watch live TV etc and soon will have free internet access on the flight.
Virgin is also developing biofuels for planes.

HSR is a feelgood pork project that no one will use


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Posted by San Mateo
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm

If Palo Alto initiates a lawsuit then San Mateo may like to join that one. The San Mateo city council has the same opinions as PA, same concerns.
Web Link


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Jay Tulock in a comment above offered this quotation: "The buck stops with the board of the High Speed Rail Authority. That board will ultimately make the decision on the preferred alternative," says Diridon.

That, dear friends, sums it up perfectly. Kopp, Diridon and Morshed are operating a privately held corporation. The Board is appointed, not elected. It rubber-stamps Kopp, Diridon and Morshed. They function as though they are not a part of the government and therefore are not accountable to anyone.

Historians, remember the days of Huntington, Stanford, Crocker and Hopkins who built a railroad, stole from the government and made themselves incredibly wealthy? Well, our guys are the new railroad robber barons.

In a Senate committee hearing in Sacramento, Senator Ashburn accused former Senator Kopp of failing to honor the language of the legislation. The former Senator yelled back at Senator Ashburn. Civility be damned.

We are dealing with autocrats and a power oligarchy that will deploy government funds to build its own, personal railroad train.

Don't like it? Tough Nougies, (as my wife says).

I can't say this often enough. We are in an adversarial and what will be contentious relationship with an organization intent to doing what it wants regardless of the consequences to anyone else. What are our legal options to speak truth to power? The courts; that is, lawsuits.

I strongly urge Palo Alto to join the current Menlo Park/Atherton lawsuit with an amicus curiae brief. It is possible and it is desirable. It will strengthen that lawsuit and our bargaining position vis--vis the rail authority and Caltrain as well. That does not prevent Palo Alto from filing its own lawsuit. More is better. We need to get their attention. We need Diridon and his associates to take us seriously. This is the legal way to do it. There are more than enough grounds to go around.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm

How do we all lose when the rich flee old Palo Alto?

Does no one in this town ever GO to Los Angeles? HSR will be a tremendous improvement.

If you believe that the protection and preservation of personal wealth is more important than the well-being of the nation, then you must be a <fill in your own word>.


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

"If Palo Alto initiates a lawsuit then San Mateo may like to join that one. The San Mateo city council has the same opinions as PA, same concerns."

Good to know, but no, they won't. The lawsuit is about the route choice. Either route will bring the train through San Mateo.

Both those of you believing the word of the Authority to justify high speed rail and those of you calling it a "ludite" technology come across as polar-opposite extremists who sink your own argument. High speed rail is a proven technology and right for California. The problem is the planning, the (lack of adequate) funding, and most of all the Authority and its so-called leaders.

Give up on the line stopping in San Jose. Were the line to stop in San Jose, even the Authority could not cook the numbers to make the project pencil out.

Jay L. Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by Tom West
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:04 pm

You'd think Pao Alto would prefer duscussion and dialogue to ensure legimate concerns are dealt with, rather than all this bluster that makes them look a bunch of NIMBYs.


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

How does a paid city offical from another city have the ability to urge another city to join a lawsuite I ask?


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Posted by San Mateo
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Jay Turlock, thank you for the information. I read your earlier informative post also. However let me make a few statements.

- the existing lawsuit, Atherton and Menlo Park appear to be centered around route choice. This lawsuit is closed to new plaintiffs but there is a chance to file an Amicus brief (friend of the court).

- Palo Alto has said they will sue. I have not seen the grounds of the Palo Alto lawsuit, is it the same as Atherton/Menlo Park? If it is, then you are correct and San Mateo's issues would not be fixed with that lawsuit.

Why are these lawsuits centered on the choice of just one of two routes? Both are inappropriate for San Mateo, Burlingame and probably others. It is the same general problem, the Caltrain route is too narrow and residential. The lawsuit could simply state that the current plan is unworkable based on environmental issues and leave it at that, vs. dwelling on route choice. At that point San Mateo could join in.


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

"How does a paid city offical from another city have the ability to urge another city to join a lawsuite I ask?"

I dunno, how does a retired track engineer from outside the Bay Area get to comment here? Answer: The computer lets me. If you don't want to listen to us crotchity outsiders, don't read our comments.

Jay L. Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Its one thing being a crotchity outsider and posting ITS another when you are a paid city officer...on your on time or not


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Steve wrote: "If you believe that the protection and preservation of personal wealth is more important than the well-being of the nation, then you must be a <fill in your own word>."

This seems a quote right out of the commnunist propaganda.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Next time, Palo Alto, read up on what your voting on rather than blindly voting for the things that the people with the most commercials tell you to vote for. Where on earth did you think a train would go through Palo Alto other than on a rail road track! Cheees! Meanwhile, please don't waste any mopre tax money trying to fight a fight that you already capitulated with you uninformed use of your vote.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Now the horse is out of the gate, Palo Alto property values will be stalled. The recession will speed up the decline. Even with lawsuits and other delay tactics, the uncertainty itself will cap property value appreciation for the next ten, fifteen years, recession or not.

When the riches flee, the schools suffer. No more generous donations. Property values plummet. Tax revenues decline. Those guys living farther away from the tracks, please don't think with the "I'm not Subprime" mentality. We are all in for a new era.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Nope, I made it up myself.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

> the Caltrain route is too narrow

Don't be so sure. Web Link


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Posted by R Gordon Heltzel
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Dear Palo Altoans:

The train tracks were there before you were. Using selfish NIMBY arguments against upgrading them to 21st century status makes as much sense as it would have to argue against widening US 101 in the 1950's to replace the Camino Real. Get real. The needs of the people of the State of California must take precedence over the NIMBY arguments of people who knowingly bought property along an active railroad right of way that was there 100 years before they were.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm

It is misleading to say that electrified trains will be quiet at high speed. I had an opportunity standing close to the elevated bridge of the Meglev train in Shanghai. Meglev is supposed to be the quietest, since the train is floated in the air and doesn't even touch the track. But at such high speed it was louder than an airplane flying close above my head.

Granted, the Meglev is much faster than HSR. But given the old technology of HSR, the noise pollution it produces will probably be at the same level of, or maybe even more than, the Meglev.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm

In the past week I have posted my opinions on Palo Alto Online a number of times in support of HSR for our town, in favor of properly studying tunneling, and in favor of building a station in Palo Alto (which already is home to Caltrain's 2nd and 11th busiest stations). I have also posted a number of facts, figures, and key findings from comprehensive research reports on rail systems around the world (not only in Taiwan and Japan, but also the European Union and elsewhere).

In response to my personal opinions and desire to help fellow residents make their own fact-based decisions, the anti-HSR special interests (NIMBYs, anti-development organizers, etc.) have called me a "liar", "dishonest", and "bordering on immoral", mostly using pseudonyms and aliases. James Hoosac (who to his credit uses his own name) recently added "purely deceitful" to the growing list of accusations:

"It is purely deceitful for Mr. Andrew Bogan to use Taiwan HSR as a supporting case for California HSR. Sure, Taiwan has 23M people. But it is less than 1/10 the size of California. It is population density that matters. No the absolute numbers. Mr. Bogan, when will California have 250 Million residents?"

Yes, the population densities on a population to total land-mass basis of Taiwan and California are quite different, despite California's larger population, due to our large thinly populated regions of agriculture and open space. However, a close inspection of California's population density map shows quite similar densities in our urban centers and neighboring suburban regions to the densities in Taiwan:

Web Link
Web Link

If one connects the red dots and areas of >5000 people/square mile on the California map, you roughly get the proposed route of California's HSR. This is no coincidence, of course, since decades of planning around population density information has informed the choice of the route.

Similarly, if you connect the dark orange regions and dots on the Taiwan map (>5000 people/square mile), you also essentially trace the route of the new Taiwan High Speed Rail down the island state's west coast. Taiwan may have less low density agricultural area and open space than California, but the bulk of *both* regions' populations fall close to their rail route.

Claiming that the population comparisons between Taiwan and California are irrelevant is simply inaccurate, since both Taiwan's and California's populations are heavily concentrated along their existing and proposed rail routes, respectively. The difference is that the relatively unpopulated stretches between stations in California will be longer than in Taiwan, and larger chunks of land will be far away from the rail (like far Northern California, the Sierras, the Central Coast, and the Mojave Desert). Note that I describe this as inaccurate, not "deceitful".

I hope readers of these threads note that the nasty name calling is quite one-sided, since those of us who support HSR based on facts; research; and personal experience living near, working next to, and riding on high speed rail have no need or desire to slander our fellow residents or citizens of neighboring communities.

By the way, I hope California never has 250 million residents in my lifetime and at current growth rates, it will not. There were no wild assumptions about population included in Cambridge Systematics analysis, though continued growth is definitely expected.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:27 pm

"Next time, Palo Alto, read up on what your voting on rather than blindly voting for the things that the people with the most commercials tell you to vote for. Where on earth did you think a train would go through Palo Alto other than on a rail road track!"
Wow, the tone has abruptly changed since Cruickshank's gang followed his war cry and showed up here in force. Are you guys always so civil?
Anyhow, to answer your question, WhoRUpeople, a lot of people vote based on information contained in the official voter information guide. Web Link It states that "bond funds may be used on any of the following corridors." The Altamont Pass was listed, yet Pacheco was not. This is deception at its worst. Don't blame the voter; blame the slimy underhanded tactics of Diridon, Kopp and company.

They covered themselves legally by preceding that sentence with "If the authority finds that there would be no negative impact on the construction of Phase I of the project", but they already KNEW from their EIR report that they had no intention of considering Altamont. Diridon himself stood in front of Palo Alto Council members and said that Prop 1A funds are for Pacheco and cannot be used for Altamont.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm



Oakland to San Jose along the freeways would make more sense


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Dear Mr. Bogan, I commend you to list your source of information, and am sorry to offend you personally in my remarks.

However, your analysis of Taiwan HSR is still prolematic.

First of all, the density of >5000/sq.mile is not enough to support HSR. You need, and I suspect Taiwan has, much higher density in big cities than California cities. Few people there have the luxury of living in single-family houses.

Secondly, if you read my earlier comments, you will see that even with 43 million tickets sold per year, the revenue can barely cover the interest of the $40B capital cost. Estimated ridership numbers that are much higher than 46M/year are unrealistic.

Thirdly, if my Chinese does not fail me, the Taiwan HSR has been losing money since it started operating. In total it has lost 53.9 Billion Taiwanese dollars, or the equivalent of about $1.7B U.S. dollars in a couple of years.

In fact they have just announced cutting services to stem the loss.

Web Link



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Posted by Mr. BBQ
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

At one time I had a home that backed up to highway 85. They installed sound walls; they were useless and a waste of money. Oh how I wished they built 85 underground! No noise and no depreciated home value. For the people who voted for this project, "Stupid is as Stupid does!"
Glad I do not live close to the proposed route! We will all be paying for this for generations to come!


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I'd like to emphasize again that the $40B price tag is way too low. $80B or even $120B is more likely the eventual cost. HSR needs to sell astronomical numbers of tickets to cover the interest payment, operational cost, and other costs.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Bogan's use of Taiwan as a comparison to California's HSR is a point in case. He drones on about population density, long stretches of rail and the like. But what he doesn't tell you is that California is much richer than Taiwan, with about 4 times the per capita income as Taiwan. And California has 5 times the number of automobiles as Taiwan. This means Californians have options that Taiwanese do not when it comes to travel. They don't have to be crammed into a government-provided train to be carried only where the train goes and only on the train's schedule. They have options that Taiwanese do not. TO think that Taiwanese response to its rail system has anything at all to do with California is either wistfulness or deceit.

Moreover Californians have a MUCH different relationship to their government than the Taiwanese, who have had successions of authoritarian governments to tell them what to do, and what to think. Californians will be much more resistant to taking a train - with all the limits to flexibility and freedom that come with it - just because their government betters tell them they should.

As much as Bogan and his cohorts would like to change us into Taiwanese or Europeans, they will fail. Bogan's deceitfulness isn't working, and in the long run, Diridon's authoritarianism won't either.

Californians won't be voluntarily taking Bogan's train in the numbers he fantasizes about. But if we fail to fight it, we might be left with an ugly divisive scar right down the middle of town as a testament to his wrongheadedness. HSR is an expensive way to prove the failure of Bogan's social experimentation.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm

To James' point I'd like to add that the official estimate of the cost of 1A to taxpayers is twice the amount of the bonds themselves. ($9.95 billion principal and $9.5 interest.) In other words, we've voted to tax ourselves to cover $19.4 billion so far. When the project costs escalate, the bond payoff will escalate, too.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm

The Prop 1A Voter Material (linked above) does in fact say:

"Phase I of the train project is the corridor between San Francisco Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim. If the authority finds that there would be no negative impact on the construction of Phase I of the project, bond funds may be used on any of the following corridors:

Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno
San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno
Oakland to San Jose
Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union Station
Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside to San Diego
Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim to Irvine
Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the Altamont Corridor"

It is worth noting that there is no "deception" here, since the list also includes "San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno" as the second item, while "Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the Altamont Corridor" is the last.

Similarly, the interactive map on the CAHSRA website<Web Link; showed all of those routes prior to the November ballot, as it still does now. Back in the autumn, the "Oakland to San Jose" and the "Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco" via the Altamont Corridor on their map were dotted grey lines, and no interactive route could be chosen from the map that showed any trains running on it, while the interactive features clearly showed trains running from SF to San Jose on the Caltrain right of way (they even had videos visualizing California HSR passing Caltrain on 4 tracks).

There was also a more detailed, non-interactive map on the CAHSRA website:

Web Link

This map clearly showed in blue the "HST Preferred Alignments" from the Program EIR and in pink it showed Altamont (Oakland/San Jose/Stockton) as "Conceptual High Speed Commuter Rail/HTS Overlay".

Someday, Oakland may realize many residents' goal of having HSR go up the East Bay along the Altamont alignment, too, so that the Bay Area's second largest city has HSR access as well. But, it is and was before the November elections clearly labeled as "Conceptual" not as a "Preferred Alignment".

There was no deception for those of us who read our voter materials and looked at the CAHSRA website before November's vote, which was when I first (to my personal delight) that the Caltrain corridor had been selected.

There are many good reasons to consider the Altamont route. It was considered and is still a longer term possibility (most likely as an addition to HSR), but it is not now and was not in November the "Preferred Route" from July's Program EIR approved at the State and Federal level and that fact was readily accessible to anyone inclined to know.




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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Tell me again, Andrew, how I would know from the Voter Information Guide that the preferred route was already chosen and all the other options listed were there for - what? Feel good options? Confusion? Deception? Not everyone is addicted to HSR, and not everyone uses the internet for voter information.

Finally, please explain how Diridon can tell Palo Alto City Council very directly that the Prop 1A funds CANNOT legally be used for Altamont, yet Altamont was listed as an option on the voter information guide.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Responses to my Taiwan comparisons are in line below:

1. "First of all, the density of >5000/sq.mile is not enough to support HSR. You need, and I suspect Taiwan has, much higher density in big cities than California cities. Few people there have the luxury of living in single-family houses."

San Francisco has a population of 800,000 and density of 17,000/sq mi.
San Jose has a population of ~1 million and density of 5,200/sq mi
Los Angeles County has a population of 9.9 million and density of 2,500/sq mi.
The City of Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million and density of 8,200/sq mi.

Kaohsiung has a population of 1.5 million and a density of 25,600/sq mi.
Taipei has a population of 2.6 million and a density of 25,000/sq mi.

While it is correct that Kaohsiung and Taipei (the terminal cities) are a bit more dense than San Francisco and considerably denser than LA's sprawl, there is no reason to conclude that the 9.9 million people in LA County are somehow too spread out to ride a train from LA's Union Station to San Francisco. After all, 62 million passengers per year manage to get to LAX.

2. "Secondly, if you read my earlier comments, you will see that even with 43 million tickets sold per year, the revenue can barely cover the interest of the $40B capital cost. Estimated ridership numbers that are much higher than 46M/year are unrealistic."

Why do you assume Cambridge Systematics ridership study is off by a factor of two? Furthermore, you assume that long term pricing of air travel and HSR tickets are already known. Estimates have been made for both, but why are yours likely to be more accurate than Cambridge Systematics, which published their assumptions, scenarios, and estimates.

3. "Thirdly, if my Chinese does not fail me, the Taiwan HSR has been losing money since it started operating. In total it has lost 53.9 Billion Taiwanese dollars, or the equivalent of about $1.7B U.S. dollars in a couple of years."

According to Wikipedia: "The operational break-even level (income less operating costs, excluding financial costs) of NT$1 billion[55] was reached in the fourth month of operation, April 2007.[56] In the first nine months, revenue was NT$9.19 billion, and THSRC expected to become profitable by 2009.[57]. The cash-flow break-even level (excluding depreciation and debt service[58]) was reached in April 2008, when an income of NT$1.9 billion in ticket and NT$0.2 billion in other sales stood against operating costs around NT$0.85-0.9 billion and interest payments around NT$1.3 billion per month[59]."

Furthermore, almost no major infrastructure project is profitable at the start of operations, they are designed to generate long term returns to offset the huge upfront costs, typically over decades. If you are correct that the cumulative loss is only $1.7B in THSRC's first two years of service, it is doing quite well, which the 100% annual ridership growth would indicate. Keep in mind that Amtrak (which is federally owned and has been losing massive amounts of money for years) has one profitable line: Acela, the almost-High Speed Rail from Boston to New York to DC (although breaking specific lines' financial performance out of Amtrak's highly political and opaque accounts is tricky).

My goal is not imply that Taiwan is California, it is obviously very different. I used Taiwan as a single example of a successful, new HSR network in its first few years of operation with relatively fewer people living in the vicinity of stations than California would have. There have been successful HSR projects all over the world: Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and the UK. There is no question that they are expensive, but if the benefits did not outweigh the costs, why is Japan still building new HSR lines 45 years after their first shinkansen entered service?


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

The major issue here is the deception and political engineering that got us to this place. You cannot avoid the realty of the process that was deployed to insure a peninsula corridor and an elevated structure. This is rewinding the tape from previous Diridon sponsored projects.


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Posted by HSR supporter
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Point 1: the people of Calif voted for Prop 1A fair and square. We live in a democracy.

Point 2: HSR will benefit many, while undeniably hurting some. Let's not allow the few -- whether in Palo Alto or other cities -- to derail the benefits to the many.

Point 3: a tunnel is going to be prohibitively expensive, so just forget about it.


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Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:59 pm

I have to agree with Anna and James that the use of high speed trains in Taiwan (and now Japan) as arguments that a high speed rail line makes sense in California is so clearly specious that it is disingenuous at best.

These are places where successful mass transit systems exist and are the primary transportation choices.

The cities and population layouts are such as to allow this mass transit success. The high speed lines extend these systems and depend on them for their success.

And this is one of the first things people learn about these places; ignorance can not be claimed as an explanation for not pointing out the critical huge difference in the mass transportation systems.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm

It is ironic that one of the few comments on the programmatic EIR made by anyone from Palo Alto came from Planning Commissioner Arthur Keller. Commissioner Keller commented that the preferred route should be the Pacheco Pass alternative with a station in Palo Alto.

@long time resident: Prop 1A was a state-wide initiative to improve California. It was not a conspiracy to screw Palo Alto. You missed your chance to comment on the programmatic EIR. Now everyone impacted is crying sour grapes.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Bikes2work, Prop1A, at least for Northern CA was not an initiative to improve the area. The function of HSR in the North part of the state is to bring people in from other parts of the state to WORK. This was lobbied extensively by San Jose chamber of commerce and Silicon Valley Leadership consortium in the south bay and probably others in the North bay. What this means is that the people who are already here are indeed being screwed. Prop 1A was way too vague, deliberately.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm

"to bring people in from other parts of the state to WORK" - That makes sense. There are still a butt-load of jobs here with very little affordable housing. Too many retirees still holding onto their "suburban" dream. The jobs didn't move away when they retired and neither did they. New workers are relegated to the long-haul commute. I managed to find a moderately over-priced townhome that I can barely afford with my own and my spouse's income combined.

Oregon Expressway took away a lot of houses when it was built. It wasn't the end of the world.



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Posted by jardins
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm


bikes2work says "There are still a butt-load of jobs here with very little affordable housing. Too many retirees still holding onto their "suburban" dream. The jobs didn't move away when they retired and neither did they."

Have you ever stopped to think why retirees often don't move? It's because they have fixed incomes--in fact, declining incomes, thanks to the economic mess--and they can't afford to move because then they'd have to pay a lot more property tax than they do if they stay put.

I suggest you stop being age-discriminatory. Retired people typically have given a lot to the community while working and bringing up their children, and they continue to give a lot as retirees: they continue to volunteer. A lot more than younger, two-income couples will or can.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

High speed rail exists to get people across large distances that they normally would need to fly to cross. People fly from LA to Oakland, LA to SF, and LA to SJ. However, no one buys a ticket to fly from SF to SJ or vice versa. SJ and SF are very close, connected by public transportation already (and yes, I've taken both trains and buses to SF from Palo Alto), and putting high speed rail between SJ and SF would be expensive, destructive to the communities between, and pointless.

High speed rail shouldn't be viewed as another system unto itself (the way all transportation seems to be done in California). HSR should be viewed in the context of making a better functioning public transit system for the whole of California. Thus HSR should be added from LA to SJ and/or LA to Oakland and beyond to Sacramento. If our SYSTEM is finally fixed so that public transit works together, there really is no good reason to put HSR between SJ and SF. Improvements to the existing transit system, connecting it to HSR will be far more cost effective, more beneficial, and makes more sense.

But as usual, the proponents of this new boondoggle are thinking of themselves and not the larger interests of the state or public transportation in the region... If they're going to "railroad" this project through without engaging their brains to plan it, I'm all for waging real war in court...


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Posted by ybmin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:13 am

How many shills does CHSRA employ? They must be working overtime. I'm starting to recognize them in spite of their various aliases.

As someone who actually DOES travel between Palo Alto and L.A. several times per year, and who has made the trip so many times I've lost count, I am a potential user of HSR. However, I would have no use for it, for the simple reason that in order to have any mobility you must still rent a car at your destination. That adds greatly to the cost of the trip and makes it much cheaper to drive. A family of four wanting to see the sights in SoCal would have to pay four HSR fares AND rent a car at their destination -- forget it! It's still cheaper to drive. This diminishes the attractiveness of HSR for tourists. Apparently they don't plug practical considerations such as these into the computer at Cambridge Systematics.

Unlike what Kopp and Diridon want you to believe, there is no urgent, imminent need for HSR. Travelers have options: the airlines, Interstate 5, Highway 101, even Amtrak. None of them is about to burst at the seams.

The ridership projections strike me as fanciful. Common sense just doesn't support them. If HSR fails to deliver the ridership they have projected, it will be a stone around the necks of California taxpayers for decades to come.

Proposition 1A must be rescinded. And I, for one, would like to see Der Gubernator find Pacheco Pass on a map.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:54 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

So it is agreed - Tear up the tracks, convert the right of way to bike paths and soccer fields - and add 8 lanes to 101 to handle the displaced rail traffic.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:06 am

"If HSR succeeds, Palo Alto will be forever changed."

Palo Alto is being changed now, at this very instant, continually and forever, with or without HSR, and trust me, you are not going to like the changes coming. Your children however will not even notice, on the contrary they will not be able to imagine going back to the "Stone Age" that we currently live in. They will embrace HSR and won't be able to envision a time when it did not exist.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:16 am

To Mr. Bogan, I asked a few Taiwanese friends. The Taiwan HSR is one of the biggest financial disasters there. It has sunk $500B NT. It was recapitalized to $120B NT. Now it has lost half of that value already in mere two years.

But again, using Taiwan as a model for California is a questionable practice. Do we want a quality of life as low as those in Taiwan?


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Posted by We're losing out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:24 am

"Sharon is right. Rail - of the high speed or any other variety - is a relic of 19th century technology."

We are in the 21st century and contrary to what a previous blogger wrote, China is not building bullet trains. China has decided to build for the future with elevated cars riding on a cushion of air.

A German engineering firm got the contract to build this elevated system. First of all from Beijing to the airport, now they plan to extend it several hundred miles south to their high tech cities.

China is looking forward, California is looking backwards, and you wonder why the center of high tech innovation is moving to China.


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Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:43 am

> China is not building bullet trains.

Please, get your facts straight. China is laying bullet train tracks faster than any other country in the world. Their little airport maglev shuttle is but a tiny speck in their growing high speed *rail* network. Web Link


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:11 am

In response to HSR Supporter's 3 points:
Point 1: the people of Calif voted for Prop 1A fair and square. We live in a democracy.
Point 1 response: The vote itself was fair. However, the information given to the voters was intentionally deceptive, perhaps to the extent of being illegal. When voters come to realize that, in a democracy, they may take corrective action.

Point 2: HSR will benefit many, while undeniably hurting some. Let's not allow the few -- whether in Palo Alto or other cities -- to derail the benefits to the many.
Point 2 response: When certain regions suffer disproportionately, the project should compensate proportionately. Let's not allow the project to ignore or understate the serious impacts imposed on the cities and counties along the route, or to expect those communities to pay their own way out of the mess.

Point 3: a tunnel is going to be prohibitively expensive, so just forget about it.
Point 3 response: The cost of the tunnel is speculation. Comprehensive cost comparisons between tunneling and above ground proposals are needed before declaring that the difference will be prohibitively expensive. Besides, fighting cities that don't want walls running through their backyards can be expensive, too.

Frankly, I can't understand the resistance HSR supporters are displaying against tunneling. You'd think they'd be excited about doing this HSR thing right, and that they'd be proud to show off how it travels through the Bay Area in a state-of-the-art way that's sensitive to the vibrant communities and natural beauty of the Peninsula. Why the resistance?


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Posted by moi
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:40 am

so if nobody uses the train, why do we have standing room only in Caltrain to SF or SJ? To me, it's obvious that people would travel on the train more frequently.

As for your airline notes. Please be aware that when you arrive at the airport you will need to get a car rental to get around ... adding more polution! Why not take the train to the middle of town somewhat like the Chunnel t o London and Paris. If train travel is such a mistake, why are more and more trains coming on the line and more and more people wishing to live close to the station?

I used to commute to SF by caltrain... and if I could have had the choice of a 20 min ride compared to 1 hour, I'd jump at it.

Our entire stimulus package is based on putting people back to work. Let them work on building the system for the future. We'll be paying forever anyway, so a few more million won't matter (LOL).


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

Many HSR supporters, like myself, do support tunneling and I have personally advocated for it with the Palo Alto City Council, Commissioner Rod Diridon of the CAHSRA board, and Dominic Spaethling (the head of the SF to SJ engineering EIR team).

Tunneling will now be studied within the scope of the EIR and CAHSRA has clearly committed to that. However, those of us advocating for a tunnel have to recognize that tunneling is always an expensive option and that most of the rest of the State's voters are unlikely to support a tunnel under 3 extremely wealthy communities (Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton) that only have 100,000 residents combined. There are 37 million people in California who don't live in our community and probably don't care about the final alignment of HSR through ~4 miles of Palo Alto.

That does not mean we should abandon hope. Tunneling technology has improved massively in recent years (largely thanks to innovation in Japan, Korea, the EU, and China where large underground infrastructure investments are commonplace). It will most likely prove to be more expensive to tunnel (let's all wait for the EIR analysis before jumping to conclusions), but if a tunnel allows the project to be completed faster, say by 2 years, it could save the State billions of dollars in construction cost inflation and deliver ridership revenues to service the debt much sooner. Those benefits would have a real chance of paying for a tunnel themselves if the accounting is done correctly.

But, we need City Council to be seen as a partner of CAHSRA, or nobody is going to listen to our concerns. NIMBYism is not well received in Sacramento or Washington DC and nor should it be. Fact-based, data driven analysis, however, is more difficult to refute. It may prove tunneling is prohibitively expensive, but it may not, and we should be willing to *help* pay for it, if it is indeed what our residents and City prefer.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:49 am


The same massive amount of money, be it $40B or $80B, can be invested in state-wide electric car charging infrastructure, or 4-8 Gigawatt solar power plants, or new battery technologies, or new hydrogen and other green tech vehicle technologies.

It is a waste to put such huge amount of resource in HSR.

Also please remember, mobility is the hallmark of America's competitiveness. Mobility enables the most efficient deployment of human capital, especially in a diverse and expansive environment.

I'm not against all public transportatiion projects. HSR is simply the worst of its kind and the greatest waste of state resources.

One more point is that many such projects are run by federal governments, not state governments. A state government does not have the monetary tools that the federal government has to finance HSR-type projects efficiently.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:26 am

I have a great deal of respect for James Hoosac's concerns about costs, as the investment will certainly be large. Of the intended $40B, only $10B is currently authorized in State bonds. The CAHSRA plan call for significant capital contributions from Federal (likely $10B or more), private investment (in the form of infrastructure PPPs), and local and regional funding. President Obama has said he hopes to be remembered as "the high speed rail President" with respect to transportation policy. Joe Biden rode high speed rail (Acela) on his daily commute from Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC for years. We will have massive federal support, if we can get construction started within 4 years.

I completely agree that America's competitiveness depends on mobility and that the interstate highway system was a fabulous success for our nation and its economy. I seriously doubt, however, that very many people would support building another freeway the size of 280 along the Peninsula (I certainly would not). But that is what we will need to do if HSR is not built. Japan's competitiveness also depends on mobility and it has been achieved mainly with HSR and regional rail instead of interstate-sized highways. China is in the process of building both HSR and interstate-sized highways having recognized the the importance of both to the world's largest economies.


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Posted by Perry Irvine
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:39 am

I support the concept of HSR, and have written a letter to the Weekly Editor and to the City Council expressing my views. As a longtime resident of Palo Alto, where I also work, and as a rider of public transport, I believe it imperative that we find an alternative to freeways and airport congestion and HSR is probably a good choice.

More importantly for this discussion, the level of discourse on this blog has been unfortunately impolite at best, and sometimes downright rude. I find that disturbing and troubling. We have, in our politics in the past some years, been highly polarized, and often intolerant of differing points of view. President Obama, regardless of what you think of his policies, clearly supports reaching out and listening to views not necessarily his own. Palo Altans should do no less.

Whether you support HSR, or oppose it, do not infect the debate with calumny and vitriol. It diminishes you, and us, in the process.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:51 am

"We will have massive federal support, if we can get construction started within 4 years.'

I'm sure taxpayers in South Dakota, Texas and other states whose governments have acted with relative responsibility will be happy to ship billions of dollars to us to fund this money-wasting toy in a state that can't manage to balance its budget.

The fact is that the funding mechanism described by Bogan - with its heavy emphasis on government handouts - only serves to highlight what how uneconomical this "investment" is. As James Hoosac has amply demonstrated, there is no way this thing can pay for itself - which is why so much government funding is required in the first place. (Do you think private investors, putting up their own money, would touch this thing? Not unless, like Goldman - which may be pulling out anyway - you convince the taxpayers to take all the downside risk.)

This project is the product of an unholy alliance among three special interests: 1. the environmental extremists who would have us all crowded into dense urban areas taking public transportation to green jobs, 2. Unions who fantasize about a trove of new union jobs protected under the umbrella of government from competition, and 3. Greedy politically connected developers who will get the lucrative contracts for this massive boondoggle.

We really need to stop this thing for many, many reasons.


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Posted by propaganda
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:56 am

"I seriously doubt, however, that very many people would support building another freeway the size of 280 along the Peninsula (I certainly would not). But that is what we will need to do if HSR is not built."

Even the most ardent HSR supporters don't pretend that HSR will alleviate any intra-peninsula traffic. With only two stops on the peninsula, its impact on local traffic would be infinitesimal. In fact, because our area lacks public transit options, HSR would be most likely to exacerbate local traffic and increase the need for additional local freeway capacity.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm

The practice of Chamberlainian style appeasement towards HSR authority will not work. The Tyranny of the Majority is in its full swing. Those who proclaim the "morale high ground" will use every possible techniques to entice, divide, coerce, deceive and eliminate those against their interests.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:26 pm

"Even the most ardent HSR supporters don't pretend that HSR will alleviate any intra-peninsula traffic. With only two stops on the peninsula, its impact on local traffic would be infinitesimal. In fact, because our area lacks public transit options, HSR would be most likely to exacerbate local traffic and increase the need for additional local freeway capacity."

Cambridge Systematics estimates between 3.5 and 4.6 million HSR riders per year in 2030 *within* the Bay Area Peninsula, not including trips to or from other regions of the State. Should I assume that HSR opponents don't think that ~4 million trips a year within the Peninsula on HSR instead of roads would reduce some traffic or significantly slow its overall growth?

Now we can return to challenging the Cambridge Systematics figures without anyone producing a similarly comprehensive ridership study. It is odd that the HSR opponents are willing to simultaneously claim that nobody will ride the train and that the train will bring too many people into the Bay Area or to Palo Alto. Which is it?


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Posted by HSR Supporter
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm

In response to 'wary traveler', as a HSR supporter, I actually have no objection to a tunnel. But we shouldn't allow the excellent become the enemy of the good. That is, in a perfect world, I agree a tunnel would be best. But if -- after proper further study -- the costs of tunneling lead to a fact-based, data-driven conclusion that it is prohibitively expensive, then I would rather have an above-ground HSR than no HSR at all.

It seems to me that the comments in this board can be separated into 2 groups: (1) people who don't support HSR in any form, and (2) people who are concerned about the _implementation_ of HSR as it relates to their backyards, their property values, etc. I don't have much to say to the first group; after all, the people of California have voted and they want HSR. To the second group, I will grant that you have valid concerns, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that we must either have perfection or else we will be obstructionist.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Mr. Bogan keeps bringing up Cambridge Systematics report without mentiong WHO sponsored and commissioned the report. Guess who? The MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) paid $1.5M for the analysis for the bay area. It is the same set of HSR people who commissioned Cambridge Systematics. What kind of result one can expect from such reports?


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I, too, would like a tunnel and I have advocated for one at the highest levels of government in our City and State. However, I would also like HSR with a Palo Alto Station whether or not the final alignment choice is underground, below grade, at grade, or elevated--so long as that choice is made based on engineering realities, careful cost estimates, and a consideration of both costs and benefits. All can be done in ways that mitigate their environmental impacts.

The opponents of HSR should keep in mind that Caltrain's own plans for electrification, capacity increase, and grade separation of crossings will mean that most of the construction required for HSR is going to be done on this rail corridor in the next few decades anyway.

The option is not between no change and HSR. It is between using mainly local and regional funds to continuously increase Caltrain frequency and speed or using local, state, and federal funds to build HSR and have all of those incremental Caltrain upgrades done simultaneously.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Please review the range of clients around the world that Cambridge Systematics has served:

Web Link

Forecasts are inherently uncertain. However, does anyone believe that the State of California would choose a transportation analysis company in Massachusetts to conduct a study of California rail if they were not regarded as being one of the best analytics firms in their field?

I suggest that those who wish to disregard the only comprehensive ridership plan that is currently available should commission their own from another reputable transportation analysis firm.

If one does not believe the estimates from Cambridge Systematics and one is not willing to make comparisons to existing HSR systems around the world, on what basis are one's random guesses and arbitrary assumptions of any merit?


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

"I would also like HSR with a Palo Alto Station whether or not the final alignment choice is underground, below grade, at grade, or elevated--so long as that choice is made based on engineering realities, careful cost estimates, and a consideration of both costs and benefits."

Once more Bogan shows the emptiness of the HSR analysis. The problem with "considering costs and benefits" is of course that the costs are borne by different people than receive the benefits. Environmental zombies will be happy that we've taken another step toward green nirvana. Unions will be happy with all the new jobs and political power HSR provides. Developers and contractors will be laughing all the way to the bank. And Diridon and other politicians will be patting themselves on the back and naming HSR trains and stations after one-another.

If you live on the peninsula, you'll have your town sliced in two by a noisy dangerous train line. Your property values will be diminished. If you live near the tracks, the government may seize your property under eminent domain. And you'll be putting up with the increase in traffic and crime that come with large scale transportation hubs.

In addition, you will find yourself targeted as a NIMBY for trying to protect your way of life and your property values by a thuggish coalition of politicians and airhead HSR supporters.

Somehow it this doesn't seem right that one set of Californians should be sacrificed this way for the benefit of a few politicians and politically connected special interests.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

We don't even need to add lanes to 101. Electric cars are half the size of the current gasoline monstrosities. The current freeway infrastruture is probably fine for a while. What we do need are electric car charging stations though.

Also, there are 2 "observers" that post here. I am "An Observer" from Barron Park. The other guy is just "observer". Since Diridon's HSR lackeys are all over the place make sure you know which one you are reading.

One of the major allegations in the lawsuit is that alternate corridors were not considered, and there is ample evidence that this is true. I think the lawsuit might prevail.


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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:15 pm

HSR supporter wrote "after all, the people of California have voted and they want HSR."
Nope. What they voted for was what they understood the project would entail. Some voters were more informed than others. Some believed what they read in the Voter Information Guide - to their later dismay. Some voted for Diridon's public spin of the project, and some voted for the tantalizing "ooh, high speed rail in California, how cool!" dangling carrot without thinking things through. Most people didn't realize the economic situation would continue to worsen, or that California's bond rating was 49 out of 50. Most people didn't know that CHSRA's EIR itself admitted that traffic congestion would only be slightly less than the No Project Alternative, and that "congestion would still increase on highways and the airports compared to existing conditions for both the Modal Alternative and the HST Alternative." And the environmentalists who voted for HSR probably didn't know that the CO2 reduction costs are about 40-100 times higher than the recommended maximum.
Only a relatively few people actually understood the truth of what they were voting for, and these informed few included the HNTB consultants (hired by CHSRA to implement the peninsula corridor) who campaigned tirelessly to tip the vote in their favor.
"but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that we must either have perfection or else we will be obstructionist."
What we must have is something acceptable, and 75-100 foot walls down the Peninsula aren't acceptable. HSR is playing hardball; we either join the game or lose.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Another disingenuous argument brought up by Mr. Bogan is the Acela "almost High-Speed Rail" train line on east coast. So what is the annual ridership of Acela? 3.2 million as of 2007.

Web Link

Acela starts at Boston, travels through Connecticut, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and ends at Washington DC. It's population coverage and density is by far much larger than Sacramento, San Francisco and LA combined. Yet we only have 3.2 million ridership per year.

HSR fanatics believe that somehow California HSR will have annual ridership that is 20 times of Acela. Where is the common sense?

The only conclusion that I can imagine is that HSR proponents have been knowingly misleading the public.


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Posted by HSR Supporter
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm

To 'wary traveler', it is really hard to go back to each and every election and simply assert that voters didn't REALLY know what they were voting for. Somebody could probably make that claim for ANY election, whether voting for Obama or Bush or Prop 13 or whatever. So I would set that argument aside.

I agree that we need something acceptable, but I don't agree that what is acceptable is ONLY tunnels and nothing else. In other words, if after proper facts + data + study + debate, we conclude that tunnels are cost prohibitive and above-ground HSR is the way to go, then we should support that. What I am hearing instead are people on this chat board saying that it is either tunnels or NOTHING!

Let's face it: you're never get everybody to agree on what is "acceptable" and what is not. There will always be someone saying NIMBY. That's what I mean by not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

To HSR Supporter, it's not just about tunneling. It's about destroying something valuable for little benefit to the public good. HSR will destroy a large part of Palo Alto and other cities without much benefit to the general population. It's a lose-lose proposition. I believe once people realize what kind of financial burden HSR will put onto every Californians, they will wake up and choose differently.

One thing we should watch carefully is how the state government will market the bond. What it will use to back up the bond. When push comes to shove, investors are not fools. They will see through this scam and demand tangible commitments. It's just simple math, as I have shown. Things don't add up. Period. So we probably will be facing severe cuts in other areas of state government services in order to back up the HSR bond. There is no free lunch.



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Posted by wary traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

HSR Supporter, the argument isn't "Oh, wah, wah, we didn't know." The point is that Californians were victims of an intentional deception campaign.


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Yes, Acela has about 3 million riders per year (3.3 million in the last fiscal year) due to limitations on the number of trains it can run on the shared Northeast Corridor route. However, it seems like Acela is actually doing pretty well, according this Boston Globe article from late 2007:

"In the fiscal year that ended last month, ridership on the [Acela] high-speed train jumped nearly 20 percent over the previous year, to 3.1 million passengers, and revenue climbed 23 percent, to $403.5 million."

"But Amtrak has little room for growth. The federally subsidized company has only 20 Acela trains that make nine daily weekday trips between [Boston's] South Station and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, and many of them are often sold out.

"There are definite limits to how much more Acela can do," Cole said. "Amtrak is constrained by the size of the Acela fleet. . . . If we had our druthers, Amtrak would be able to add cars to Acela trains to meet demand."

Acela is also limited by speed. The trains, which have a maximum of 304 passengers on its six cars, roll across winding rails, some owned by other companies. They reach their top speed of 150 miles per hour for just 18 miles, far slower than the bullet trains of Europe and Japan."

Web Link

I have ridden Acela a few times and it is the best rail service in the United States and clearly the best way to travel from Boston to NYC and/or NYC to DC. However, despite its financial success (as compared to any other Amtrak service) with only 3 million riders annually, it is capacity limited by not being a true HSR system. They can only operate 9 Boston to NYC trips per day because they only have 20 train sets and their tracks are shared with other Amtrak services, commuter rails, and freight.

Remember the California HSR ridership estimates are for 2030, not 2007. It is also intended to operate at speeds up to 220 mph inter-region and up to 125 mph (about half speed) on the Peninsula. Acela's average speed is 85 mph.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm



In terms of economic value add we should look at the Channel Tunnel.

The costs overran predictions by 80%, so much for Cambridge Systematics forecasts
The greatest use has been for freight which will NOT be part of the California HSR white elephant.

"The cost benefit appraisal of the Channel Tunnel reveals that overall the British economy would have been better off had the Tunnel never been constructed, as the total resource cost outweighs the benefits generated. Users have gained significantly at the expense of owners (producers). The latter—both ferry operators and the Tunnel operator have incurred substantial losses. The single biggest component of user's gain has not, as originally expected, been in terms of travel time savings, but due to the transfer from producers. The longer-term evaluation of the project confirms the poor viability of the investment both in financial and cost benefit terms."Web Link

Authoritarian communist and socialist governments can force citizens to use trains in their worlds of clepto and crony pseudo capitalism,
it will not work here.
Any rational investor sees that HSR is a dead duck


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Posted by zanon
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I've taken the Acela and it blows.

It is very slow, and very expensive. Door to door, it's faster for me to take the airport shuttle. Or you can take a bus, which is slower but let's you connect to the internet the whole way.

If you're holding up the Acela as some sort of high speed rail success story, we should abandon HSR right now.


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Enough of the RightWing FOX news comments..We talking about HSR and
Palo Alto..not your point of view on goverment..And speaking of that ..A BIG reason for many of the neg comments is because this is one of the few Republicans strongholds in the Bay Area.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm



Palo Alto is not in any way "one of the few Republicans strongholds in the Bay Area"

Their some people with economic backgrounds who can see fraud and a dead duck however

HSR as currently framed is toast.

A line from Sacramento to LA along 5 that included freight MIGHT be worth looking at wearing a green eye shade and a sharp pencil.


Electric cars, computers directed freeway speeds and the current $39 airfares to LA from SFO are what business and family travellers do and will use.


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Posted by menloparkarrognace
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Not a Republican area??? what..you know the Hoover people ect ect?
Well your view sounds like it


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm



The Stanford community is overwhelmingly democratic,Hoover provides a tiny diversity of view and a breeze of freedom of thought.
Let freedom ring


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:45 pm

The University Yes ..and YES let Freedom Ring...The voters gave a hearty 65% YES on Prop1A....NO matter what ones personal opinion on the project is.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:58 pm

As voters begin to understand the extent of the HSR fraud and shell game, as they understand that the costs will be 80% to 160% greater than forecasts, when they understand that their communities will be destroyed by an Embarcadero Freeway like structure looming over them, they will kill this monster.
Very few people would use such an expensive door stop in any honest forecast.
Robert Moses destroyed NY and NJ, we will not let HSR destroy Palo Alto, Atherton and Menlo Park


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Coming Soon To a Backyard Near You.

"NTSB official questions national rail safety supervision" Web Link


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Posted by the real numbers
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Anna:

Prop 1A passed with a statewide 52.7% yes vs. 47.3% no vote. That is less than needed to pass a school bond, but this was for a GO bond which only required simple majority of votes cast.


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Posted by Rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:11 pm

While I would support HSR between L.A. and San Jose I do not support it to San Francisco. Caltrain can do the same job of moving people along this corridor.

Why 2 gov. entities competing against each other.

Also a terminal the size of SFO will be needed for parking and the busses, etc. Caltrain stops at many different locations and trains to specific stops can be adjusted depending on demand at each location.
All stations will need side tracks so trains can pass each other and this is true for HSR also. This would result in side tracks for Caltrain and also HSR where they stop. 4 side tracks at stations that HSR stops at.

Isn't S.F a city of about 1 million? HSR promoters project at least 30 million people going to S.F. each year. Where do these crazy numbers come from.

Why is this area being targeted as a starting point for HSR?
Why aren't they talking about building a test track somewhere in the middle of the central valley? Why aren't they planning the thousands of wind mills to power the trains. Are they considering using Hydrogen/fuel cells to power the trains. No high voltage lines most of the way with Hydrogen power to power them once they reach speed. Little power is needed once they get going.

A ballot measure to prohibit any more Cal. bond money for HSR sounds like a good idea. Also all operating costs, bond costs must be paid for by the riders of the train. No more "free" money for users of this project. This could be a seperate ballot measure.

Lets see if private investors will put up 10's of billions for cost overruns as well as building the HSR.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:14 pm

"Prop 1A passed with a statewide 52.7% yes vs. 47.3% no vote. That is less than needed to pass a school bond, but this was for a GO bond which only required simple majority of votes cast."

Which makes the case for foisting most of the cost and harm of this project onto a few unfortunate cities "lucky" enough to be chosen to be along the route even less compelling. (and makes the odds of defeating it if we an force a revote even more favorable.)


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Are they really forecasting 30,000,000 passengers per year? Coincidentally, that's within a rounding error of the annual SFO passenger count of 33,000,000 per year. Say only 20% use the Palo Alto station. Where in Palo Alto do you want to put 1/5 of SFO?


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by I smell an HSR Funded Rat
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:42 pm

It's always good to understand a person's motivation...

Andrew Bogan, are you the same Andrew Bogan of Bogan Associates, LLC?

It says that Bogan Associates, LLC is in investment firm specializing in "Ifrastructure" (amongst other pursuits). There is a quote on the Bogan Associates web page which states: "Many of the opportunities in infrastructure have the attractive characteristics of natural monopolies."

Hmmmmm .... So if you are THAT Andrew Bogan, then I am guessing that you have invested a large sum of money in the California HSR project hoping for a monoply. So you stand to make a great deal of money from your investment, UNLESS the people you are poised to trample (which includes EVERY taxpaying citizen of the state) succeed in shutting down your boondoggle HSR - then you would LOSE your money, and some status too. That's some pretty strong motivation.

Here's a glimpse into MY motivation to fight against HSR... I do not stand to make any money from the HSR project. But I certainly stand to lose money - in increased taxes to pay for HSR, in the value of my house and my neighborhood, in the value of life here in California (and not just in MY backyard) because money will be sucked from other sources (Schools? Local transit? My state tax refund?).

And what do I stand to GAIN from HSR? A 5th option of how to get me from here to Los Angeles. I do NOT need a 5th option of how to get from here to L.A.


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Once again I see that THE GANG on here gets away with insulting people !!
"If in the next election, 65% of the voters approve confiscating all the houses on your street, I assume you'll be fine with the result - no matter what your petty, selfish personal opinion might be on having your house taken away.
AND this is ok?


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Mr. Bogan quoted "But Amtrak has little room for growth. The federally subsidized company has only 20 Acela trains that make nine daily weekday trips between [Boston's] South Station and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, and many of them are often sold out...."

If you run a business that is so good, it is at capacity, what do you do?

1. You raise the price so you make more money, and/or
2. You go to the capital markets to solicit investment so you can expand your business.

Instead, Amtrak, which has the reputation of a perpetual money loser, is whining about not having enough trains to operate with. What kind of business model is that?


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I smell a large rat in this HSR fraud, the projections on cost and use have zero or marginal validity, there also seems to a conflict of interest among the promoters.
Given what we have been through in the financial fraud crash, we need a full investigation of those who could profit from HSR, because it is not the the people of California, that is certain.


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Posted by Leland laughing from the ether
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Stanford brought the continent together, drove the golden spike, developed Palo Alto for his pleasure with the Farm, now it's time for us simple pilgrims to stand aside so HSR can unite the state and free us from our discount airline addiction.
Did anyone ask Kishimoto, who fancies being a state legislator, why she pushed for unanimous Prop 1A support from PA council as last year's Mayor?
You people don't get it. This is the second coming of the Robber Barons. Pay up or move back to Iowa or wherever you hail from.


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Posted by james Harrison
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Does anyone know how many passengers currently take the shuttle routes in CA (SF/SJ/OAK to LA?) Doesn't the HSR assume that all of those flights will be cancelled? Prop 1a says it will create 450,000 permanent jobs in industries like tourism. How? It's not like you'll tap in to a new market of traveller.

People keep telling Palo Altans to stop complaining because we voted for it. I didn't. In fact under 7M people in the whole state voted for it. (Yes, I know that's still more than voted no.) The city council supported it. But, they're clueless and couldn't take a couple hours to read the information. One of their arguments is that it'll bring people to Palo Alto, as if it's SO hard to get here now. HSR will stop in Fresno, too, but I'm not going there just because it does.

The council makes Stanford jump through hoops in order to expand the mall, which actually is known to bring in revenue, but blindly sells it's soul for HSR which will turn into the largest money suck in CA history.

Are the airlines going to bow down to HSR? Is that a good move economically? Kill the airlines for a government subsidized money drain? I'd love to see what a couple INDEPENDENT consultants would say after looking at HSR's business plan. 93M passengers?

And what happens when airlines, as the auto industry is doing, come up with more efficient and/or faster planes? Or shorten security lines with gate checks instead of a central line?

Our city council should be tied to the tracks when the first train comes through our city, with Diridon at the controls.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:25 pm

I want to go on the record as a Palo Altan who voted for HSR and continues to support it.

Our town is already "divided" by the existing rail line, as well as by several major roadways. HSR won't make much of a difference. And while a few inhabitants who CHOSE to buy properties along the existing railroad tracks might not like the impact of bringing HSR to Palo Alto, I think that this project will be a good thing for the overwhelming majority of the local population.

Please don't let a few strident oppoments bully us into refusing HSR in our town. The "silent majority" of Palo Altans supports this project.


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Posted by an honest citizan
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:26 pm

next election currant city counsul members will not be elected .


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Posted by termed out, but movin on
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Ms. K is termed out, so she gets a promotion to Sacto.
Thanks to HSR and the new Regionalists barking the Green mantra.
Green, as in, dig deeper into your pockets for their political aspirations
You can check with Gail S. on that score.


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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:59 pm

According to the state Legislative Analysis Office, a $10 Billion dollar, 30-year General Obligation bond will cost roughly $650 million per year to service. California HSR will cost the state much more than the low-ball number of $40 Billion, as I and others reasoned in earlier posts. An $80 Billion General Obligation debt will cost California more than $5 Billion dollars per year to service.

To put this in perspective, as of June 1 2008, the state has a total of $53 Billion GO bond outstanding, covering numerous infrastructure projects, including highway, water, parks, etc. So one can see that HSR alone will dwarf all current outstanding state GO bonds, and rob financing opportunities for other infrastructure improvements for generations to come.

Our state is so poor we have to borrow $5 Billion dollars from lottery , cut Billions from education spending yet again, and raise various taxes to balance the budget. How can we afford this monstrous HSR project without painfully sacrificing even more vital services and raising more taxes?


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Posted by 3 blocks away from CalTrain
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I, hearing the trains at night, have felt some NIMBY.

But, it is a necessary safrifice. Even if it is not a cost-effective investment now, it will be more applicable in the future, with greater population.

We need to suck it up. It will stink, but the gains outweigh the losses. It will be loud, it will be fast, it will be frequent, it will be large. But, we can do it. If my home were taken over, I would find comfort in that

a) The price they think my house is worth is higher than what it really is

b) The train will bring good to countless people

c) The train is a symbol of both a connected and futuristic California (albeit a costly one)



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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Claiming the "silent majority" is the last refuge of scoundrels, so please don't go there. If you asked PA homeowners how they felt about a large elevated train, going 125 mph through their town every few minutes you'd get -- well, pretty much what you have now, which is a huge outrage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not true
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:52 am

Me Too: If you asked me, I wouldn't much care. Too far away from the train line to be bothered by them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:59 am

Can someone please post Rod Diridon's and QUenton Kopp's email for comments?
Thanks


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

It is correct that I am a Managing Member of Bogan Associates, LLC. It is also correct that my interest in and knowledge about infrastructure is in part because my firm invests in publicly traded science, technology, and infrastructure companies around the world.

It is also absolutely false that my desire for HSR in my home town of Palo Alto has anything to do with my profession. As I have clearly stated in prior posts, my firm manages global public equity portfolios and Bogan Associates, LLC no relationship whatsoever with CAHSRA.

For those of you who do not know what all that means: we only invest in stocks of private companies that are traded on major stock markets. There is no plan for California High Speed Rail, which is run by a State Government Authority, to ever be a private company with a public equity stock listing. There are not any private passenger railway companies with listed stock anywhere in the United States to the best of my knowledge. Only the major freight rail operators are publicly traded.

There is discussion of CAHSRA using private public partnerships to raise some additional funding for the HSR project, which would significantly reduce the taxpayers' total contribution. PPPs are *private equity* investments (like venture capital). There are many infrastructure investors that focus on PPP investing, such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Macquarie, and Babcock & Brown. My firm, however, has never invested in a private equity PPP and has no plans to do so in the future.

The loose relationship that HSR opponents have with the facts and their willingness to slander fellow Palo Altans clearly represents their intelligence and character.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 10:27 am

James Hoosac wrote:

"If you run a business that is so good, it is at capacity, what do you do?

1. You raise the price so you make more money, and/or

2. You go to the capital markets to solicit investment so you can expand your business.

Instead, Amtrak, which has the reputation of a perpetual money loser, is whining about not having enough trains to operate with. What kind of business model is that?"

I completely agree that Amtrak is an inefficient, highly political, poorly run, and federal subsidy addicted mess. It should be broken up and privatized. If it were to be broken up and privatized in the future, Acela would be the most valuable asset.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 10:34 am

James Hoosac wrote:

"Our state is so poor we have to borrow $5 Billion dollars from lottery , cut Billions from education spending yet again, and raise various taxes to balance the budget. How can we afford this monstrous HSR project without painfully sacrificing even more vital services and raising more taxes?"

I share James Hoosac's concerns about the dire state of California's finances. Unfortunately the origin of this disaster is not infrastructure spending (current or past), but entitlement programs and outrageously large pension and health benefit obligations to retired workers. The private sector moved to 401k style defined contribution retirement plans ages ago. When will government and the public sector face the reality their defined benefit plans involve obligations that cannot ever be met.

I am a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, but there are many ways to be responsible that do not include cutting all infrastructure investment.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2009 at 10:47 am

Bogan appears to recognize that government controlled passenger trains in the US are always and everywhere money losing enterprises which end up being run for the benefit of special interests like the transport unions. And so he comes to the obvious conclusion that they should be privatized.

What to think then of his support of a government-run behemoth CHSRA? Does he really think that an agency of he State of California that can't balance its own budget will run a railroad efficiently - or that, like Amtrack, it will not be asking for buckets of taxpayer subsidies over the years? It represents hope over experience that under any reasonable experiences, HSR will not follow down the same tax sucking path as Amtrack.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2009 at 11:19 am

MeToo said:

"If you asked PA homeowners how they felt about a large elevated train, going 125 mph through their town every few minutes you'd get -- well, pretty much what you have now, which is a huge outrage."

Well, for years and years we've had large, noisy airplanes flying above our heads, sometimes quite low, every few minutes, and there's been little if any outrage about it. HSR would impact most of us much less than the overflying planes.

As to the "huge" outrage-- really? I read there were 50+ demonstrators against HSR the other day. Then, there are a few strident opponents on this forum. Nothing "huge" in my opinion.


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

If Palo Alto does sue the CHSRA, what should they sue for?

Some thoughts about tunneling costs.

Many say it will cost far too much. Some say it will cost $1 billion per mile, or more. Well, maybe. Or, perhaps not. It depends a great deal on how you run the numbers.

Let's say the distance and length of this tunnel is from 5th Ave. in RC to San Antonio Rd. in south PA, about 7 miles. If that's not correct to the inch, I'm confident that there will be bloggers out there who will rush to correct this egregious error.

The per mile construction costs vary with each and every project. The costs depend upon variables like tunnel length, soil composition, depth, required technologies (boring machine or not) and a whole host of other variables unique to this particular site. A contractor of large projects once confided to me that he could build a project at three different price points, and the client wouldn't be able to tell the difference. So, specifying dollar numbers at this point is an open-ended exercise.

The actual (bottom-line) tunnel costs must then be calculated with a number of deductions. What is the least expensive way that CHSRA has in mind for the track alignment, say either at grade or bermed? Call that the base cost. What is the cost for that, and presumably that includes all the grade separations, and the temporary shoofly tracks and their use by Caltrain? Then there are also eminent domain costs and a percentage of construction easement costs. With full-cost accounting, these costs, not line items with tunneling, need to be deducted from the tunneling costs.

There are other, less apparent costs that are not part of the CHSRA equation. These are the costs to the cities. Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto will be severely impacted by this construction, both during the five or more years of its duration, and the dramatic changes that will become permanent in the expanded and revised rail corridor.

There will be property devaluation costs and property tax revenue losses; there will be business decline and even termination costs as well as business tax revenue losses in the downtown areas; there will be public utility and public service costs, including city administrative costs. Who eats those? And, can we sue for recovery? We would be fools not to try. Thus, add legal costs to that list.

In short, these are all deductible from the original tunnel bids. While there may be no break-even point, there would certainly be a consequential reduction of the cost "delta" between the alignment such as berm, and that of tunnel. And, if time is money, time delays in the settlement of various litigations would also need to be factored in as costs that are tunnel cost offsets.

Some have suggested revenue generation as a consequence of tunneling. That sounds plausible but would have to be spelled out further to be taken into consideration. This would be another cost off-set. I'm for it, but I don't understand it.

Without sounding too dramatic, the tunnel we want may become a bargain.

Martin



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Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm

back before the election, when Menlo Park and Atherton filed their suit, I recall reading something that basically said that those two cities were in a position to sue because they had previously challenged the EIR and thus had legal status, but that other cities, like Palo Alto, who had not, did not have legal standing in order to file suit now. Any one out there even know if PA can sue, and if so, what grounds/issues they can file on and which ones they can't?


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Posted by Andrew Bogan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm

According to the City Attorney at Monday's Palo Alto City Council meeting, the statute of limitations for joining Atherton's lawsuit against CAHSRA already expired. The filing of an amicus curiae brief to provide information in the case to the Court, without being party to the suit, would be the only legal action related to the existing lawsuit:

Web Link



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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Indeed you're right, Andrew. I communicated with Stuart Flashman, the attorney for our lawsuit, and he pointed out that a friend-of-the-court brief from Palo Alto would be not only possible but quite helpful to all of us, since it strengthens the case.

A "Petitioner's Opening Brief in Support of Motion for Peremptory Writ of Mandate" to quote the legalese on the cover, has been filed for consideration on May 29 in Superior Court in Sacramento.

The lawsuit must be taken seriously by the rail authority, and Quentin Kopp's recent arrogant dismissal deserves our indifference. I am proceeding on the assumption that what's good for Atherton and Menlo Park is also good for Palo Alto. We are all singing from the same song sheet.

Quentin, Rod and Mehdi, we'll see you all in court.

Martin


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Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Will you be representing the City of Menlo Park? as you are now Martin?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm

However, that does not mean that PA cannot mount its own lawsuit. There are more than enough questionable statements and actions on the part of the rail authority to go around.

For example, the language of AB3034 and Proposition 1A do not make it clear that what the voters would be voting for is not merely the down payment of $9.95 billion, but a project expected to cost well over $40 billion. Was that point unambiguous and straightforward? Not in the ballot language.

Furthermore, when the project level EIS/EIR is presented to us as a fait accomplis, will their alignment decision acknowledge and reflect the input provided by the comments from those of us on the Peninsula,
or be as arbitrary as their Pacheco pass decision of the program level EIS/EIR?

Time to bring in the offensive first string of attorneys to do some homework.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Actually, I am representing myself as an American citizen with First Amendment rights of free speech. Is that a problem for you?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by menloparkarrogance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2009 at 4:19 pm

As long as you not wasting tax dollars on your "private cause"
And thats my 1st amendment right of free speech ..is that a problem for you?


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Ahhh, wasting tax dollars. Good point. I voted against wasting tax dollars last November when I voted against Proposition 1A. I won't ask how you voted. It's none of my business. I voted against a $9.95 billion bond issue which will cost the California taxpayers two dollars for every dollar borrowed through the sale of bonds. I voted against Prop. 1A which, though that was unclear, will need at least $40 billion of taxpayer dollars to built this unnecessary luxury train for the rich. I have opposed the expenditure of at least $60 million in unaccounted for tax dollars in order for the CHSRA to run an advertising campaign, disguised as a program-level EIS/EIR, to sell the voters on this pork-barrel project. Even though a high-speed train may be a good thing in the right place, I am totally against waste, fraud and abuse. So, I gather we agree, right? And, finally, I believe that my cause is very much public. I write with my full name.


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Posted by An Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

The lawsuit looks excellent to me, based on my admittedly limited knowledge of legal matters from a law clerking job when I was in college 20 years ago. The Menlo Park/Atherton challenge was aligned with a few environmental agencies.
Count 1: Inadequate project description - this is where CHSRA avoided calling out "we plan to use the CALTRAIN TRACKS on the peninsula", plus accurate cost estimates.
Count 2: Failure to disclose environmental impacts: this is where they forgot to mention the 15 FEET HIGH CONCRETE WALL up and down the peninsula, you know little things like that.
Count 3: Failed to mitigate environmental impacts: This is where they are supposed to work with the impacted cities to deal with the above WALL, etc.
Count 4: THE BIGGIE: Failure to include ALTERNATIVES. They only analyzed Pacheco and Altamont, they made a big deal out of environmental impacts to fremont (altamont) and conveniently ignored the peninsula concerns for Pacheco which were worse. Also they never looked at alternatives like the FREEWAYS because, of course Diridon station isn't connected the the freeways DUH
Count 5: Failure to respond to to comments. Anything Atherton or Menlo park said regarding the above was circular filed.

Then a second and third cause of action regarding CEQA guidelines, basically no reaction to new or changed information and FAILURE OF CEQA FINDINGS TO BE SUPPORTED BY EVIDENCE (in other words they lied about stuff)

Seems pretty solid to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CEQA case manangement
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:11 pm

You folks should hire Alexander Henson of Carmel Valley, a CEQA pro, with 16 published decisions on CEQA law. Stanford Law Grad, former enforcer of Cal CEQA compliance with Mark Weinberger in the 1970's Cal AG office. You need the CEQA "silver bullet" legal case to kill the CHSA silver bullet train pipe dream. Bring in the big guns with a track record on developing CEQA law with actual case law "Wins".
No reason that ordinary citizens should not have their own representative counsel without relying on the city to act in their interests.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ybmin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:47 am

You forgot that they misrepresented the feasibility of the Gilroy - San Jose route because they (still) don't have a deal with UPRR (Union Pacific) to use their right-of-way.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:23 am

PLUS

They completely failed to disclose, analyze, comment on or discuss mitigation for, the Caltrain corridor's STRACNET designation (Federal DOD/DOT designiation; Strategic Rail Corridor Network)

which likely comes with its own set of regulations, construction and mitigation paramters, and levels of governmental regulation and approvals, etc.

Some on the CHSR blogs are claiming - that designation is really no big deal because they could do this that and the other thing. Or they are saying - big wow - like there are really alot of need for psh emergency military usage of that railrway. Like, sure, there's HARDLY EVER a big earthquake. Right.

BUT THE REAL ISSUE is not even whether or not its a 'big deal' or if California really needs to maintain this corridor as an emergency safety valve for military purposes.. whether that designation is just a 'throwback' to the olden days of 1977, or 1997.. That's not even the issue!

The LEGAL ISSUE HERE is whether they studied it, disclosed it, mitigated it and opened public comment on it - as is required BY LAW - under the Program EIR/EIS process. And THEY DIDN'T.


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Posted by senseless decision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm

California has no extra money. Anyway who in their right minds will buy these bonds with the possiblity of default! I for one will never buy another California bond. High speed to go from SF to LA? By the time this project is completed, cars will be flying! There are so many ways that this money could be spent to better local traffic within our cities. Have you noticed the traffic on 580 eastbay or even the 405 in LA. Work on this before you go off on this 100 billion waste! California please stop all these propositions that waste and spend tax payer money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 7, 2009 at 9:26 am

Mr. Bogan said, "I am a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, but there are many ways to be responsible that do not include cutting all infrastructure investment."

If HSR continues, all infrastructure investments, other than HSR, will probably be cut. Money does not grow on trees, and California cannot borrow unlimited amount of money.


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Posted by like palo alto right now
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

I usually disagree with Palo Alto decisions, but I agree with this one. How would you like, in this tough economy, to lose your home and have to move to Balooba Looba Land? I don't think so. I read in the Daily Post that the agency making it is broke. That's good. I like my friend, I don't want her to move. Good job Palo Alto!

P.S. Could you do something about Victor Frost?


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Posted by HBR
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Here is the AP report on the current funding problem:

California high speed rail project needs cash to keep going

Associated Press
Posted: 03/05/2009 04:42:29 PM PST

SACRAMENTO " California may have to halt work on its high-speed rail project if it does not get an infusion of cash from the state's infrastructure fund.

Aides told the state's high-speed rail board today that the project is out of money and unable to pay its bills. The problem is an outgrowth of the state's larger budget crisis.

Some of the rail project's engineering and environmental review contractors have said they will not continue working without being paid.

The rail board has asked the state's Pooled Money Investment Board for a $29.1 million loan to fund its operations through the end of June. But the state's budget problems forced the board to freeze funding for infrastructure projects.

That has not changed even though the Legislature passed a two-year budget plan last month.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm


Business will use Telepresence for most meetings ask Cisco and HP.

Families will drive because they will have to rent a car in LA to get around, and any way it is cheaper and more fun.

Students will use the $39 LA to SF air options

Who is left to use these trains? Zip, maybe drug dealers.

If they where faster freight from Oakland/Sacramento to LA that may have users, but Fedex does the light loads and fast ships will do the heavy much more cheaply.

The hsr fanatics want to build a 17ft Berlin wall through Peninsular homes for some crazy ideology that makes no financial or quality of life sense.

Dump it now!


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Posted by get active
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Now that Palo Alto has finally become aware of what this HSR project represents, you best do much more than post to this blog.

Senator Simitian is a key player. He has been a supporter of the project, and in fact became a co-sponsor at the very last minute of AB-3034.

Now he is on the key sub-committee of the State Senate to overlook the funding.

Write him, visit him, get him to chance his position. Save the Peninsula.


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Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Ex-Mayor Mike Cobb made some very on target comments at the March 2,2009 council meeting. I have posted the audio/video to YouTube and it can be watched at:

Web Link

I have also transcribed these remarks and I copy them below.

==============
(remarks from former Mayor Mike Cobb at Council meeting of 3/02/2009

Mike Cobb ex-Mayor Palo Alto 3/02/09 at City Council.

Honorable council members:

There are some questions I would like to ask you with respect to the bullet train with and I would hope they would be questions you would answer clearly and effectively. As this process moves forward. One of which is:

My first question is why was an endorsement given to this bullet train when we really had no concept what its impacts would be and we had done no discussion on that. That really does trouble me a great deal.

And with respect to Mr. Diridon comments, he talked about the 65% vote, do you think that would have been a 65% vote if the people had understood the impacts on this community? I would register that it would not be.

My second question. How many homes will be taken by eminent domain. We haven't heard much talk about that; we heard that word slip in there briefly once. Well how many homes will be lost by eminent domain as the result of needing to expand these tracks.

What about other facilities in town, like the high school , the medical center and a lot of other that you can think of including the tree.

Another question, Get my notes clear here.

You talk, Mr. Espinosa talked about some alternatives, and yet what I am hearing from Mr. Diridon is that these alternatives really aren't open to us. So that's is kind of interesting, I'd like to if these can be pursued or not.

Will you folks join Menlo Park and the other Cities in the legal briefing that has been filed?

And a tough question, one more related question on values, you know if you take out houses along Park Blvd and some of the other streets out there , the houses across the street will also loose value . When are we going to find out this very real impact , on the very real homes, the very real people that live in this town?

Finally some very difficult question I think, questions that I feel need to be asked.. As you evaluate your own performance on this, are you guilty of putting regional interests ahead of those of the people in Palo Alto that you represent?

The bullet brain is going to cut through this town , cut a swath though it that will change it forever and will probably hasten the already almost out of control urbanization of Palo Alto.

So my final question is what will this Council be doing to stand up for the citizens of this community the people and their homes to make sure that this community can maintain some of the qualities of life we have come to cherish over the years

Thank you.


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Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 14, 2009 at 12:54 am

It's tough to see where all this objection is coming from. Palo Alto is already significantly divided by the Caltrain tracks and Alma. Grade Separating the crossings could actually make the city more connected. Perhaps they could increase the railway ROW by taking a chunk of Alma, leaving it as a two-lane residential street instead of a pseudo-expressway. University Avenue is the second busiest caltrain station (after San Francisco). It probably has more daily buses than any other caltrain stations (VTA, Samtrans, DB, Marguerite, etc.) It is also an easy walk to downtown businesses and Stanford.
If the station needs many platforms, perhaps the bus stops can be reconfigured and parking area consumed.
The great advantage of European railway stations is that most are in the city centers and not surrounded by vast parking lots. University Avenue is an ideal place for this model. Cutting back Alma and parking lots will only help this more.
If you really want to fight horrid transportation corridors, you should strive to shut down 101 and 280. Both of those divide Palo Alto with noise and pollution. They also require parking space devoted to any car that wants to appear.
Rail travels through downtowns and carries people.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2009 at 7:57 am

The USSR was very proud of its railways they were the only choice for long distance travel, the subway stations in Moscow where spotless and like cathedrals, they also served as fallout and bomb shelters.

The Italian fascists were very proud that they could make the trains run on time.

We all know about the German fascists preoccupation with trains as a form of mass transit in the Shoah.

Why is it that fascists and dictators all share this love of trains?

Goes with central command economies, control of freedoms and the cult of the masses.
And denial of reality


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