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Video imagines Palo Alto's high-speed-rail future

Original post made on Apr 3, 2009

The sleek, blue train zips on elevated tracks along Churchill Avenue, soaring high above passing cars, traffic lights, meandering bicyclists and the occasional pedestrian.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 3, 2009, 5:53 PM

Comments (143)

Posted by too much time on your hands, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Or you could just drive down the Old County Road in Belmont.


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

I don't want to knock McFall's ability or skill, because it's obvious he worked hard on this video. I actually admire his ability to craft such a video and I think it's pretty cool that he did it.

However, while I would agree you should not discount this video, also consider that the animation, probably because of a limitation of the software, does look crude and includes none of the visual mitigation methods that may be used in the final design. I also think the catenary poles may be too close together, based on what I've seen.

I personally advocate an arched design with nice little architectural details, not this boring, gray concrete nonsense. I agree that HSR should not look like a freeway heading up the Caltrain corridor, even if it costs a bit more.


Posted by VoxPop, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Mr. Diridon, tear down that wall.


Posted by jt, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Very nice video. Would like to see more of it in more detail. What is missing is any interpretation of how the visual impact can be mitigated as this is done all over the state with rail and freeway structures. This video is a god starting point but clearly no one isoign to build a plain wall structure like that. There is ample opportunity to soften the visual impact, and reduce noise at the same time. Any number of aesthetic treatments would be used including lowering the structure by half and depressing the underpasses by that that amount, using landscaping and large trees, advanced concrete design techniques, and color pallets that make all of the features less visible and obvious. What is shown in this video is a very bleak and basic version and clearly not the finished product.


Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Hey, that looks like the Great Wall of California!


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Good stuff.

A couple of comments for Jim McFall:

- The rendering assumes that Churchill cannot be lowered from the existing rail level, which causes the embankment to be about 6 feet taller than necessary. Today, Churchill is about 2-3 feet higher at the rails than in the intersection with Alma. Getting rid of that slope, plus sinking the Alma intersection by a few feet, would lower the height to 15 feet above existing rail level as assumed in the CHSRA document that started this controversy. See high speed rail EIR/EIS, Volume 2, Appendix D, page 5 Web Link

- The assumed height of the overhead support poles is 24-26 feet, much too low. In reality, making accommodations for Union Pacific excess-height freight trains (3 ft taller than they run today) will raise the tops of the poles to over 40 feet above rail level, if four-track headspans are used. For a dimensioned drawing of such, refer to Caltrain's electrification draft EIR, Chapter 2, Figure 2.3-3 Web Link

- The spacing of the overhead support poles is too dense. Typical wire spans on straight track are 150 - 180 feet.

Having a more realistic model of the overhead contact system would drive the point home even more effectively.


Posted by jt, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm

you can see here what a little landscaping would do - you can make it disappear. Web Link a rough idea - but you get the picture. The colors and presentation in the current pic are very dark and forboding on purpose. Web Link


Posted by Spokker, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

jt, add some Christmas trees and a disco ball to that design and we've got ourselves a high speed rail line!


Posted by jt, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 10:06 pm

To today's modern, forward thinking californian, all things are possible. With La Brea reserved for dinosaurs.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm

This high speed rail project just sucks. I hate the idea of having an ugly looking thing like that literally 10 feet away from some people's homes and from Paly's football field.

Geez, it just makes me so upset.


Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm

this is really terrible .... but it does not give a good alternative ... what does underground look like?

this is not going to be done ... i hope, that is awful a giant wall running up and down Alma elevated so all the noise will waft over the whole city, not to mention the giant electric poles .... and 74 feet wide.

no way!


Posted by jt, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Just not a very realistic looking wall though. Nobody builds a plain wall like this through a neighborhood. Maybe something nicer like these: Web Link


Posted by Steve, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Spokker and JT, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. The HSR Program EIR/EIS confirms that "in the locations where the railway is to be raised to pass over streets, there would be a visual impact from the raised embankment." But HSR has ignored multiple requests to show us how ugly this pig really is.

Mr. McFall did what HSR has failed to do ... provide a visual representation of this pig. If Mr. McFall failed in any way, it's that he forgot to represent the sound wall that's going to be needed to mitigate the squeal from this pig.

I must say that I was suprised by Chairman Garber's challenge of Mr. McFall at the PTC meeting. It seemed like an architect's pencil envy to me.

Thank you, Mr. McFall, for sparking the debate. For the sake of Palo Alto, I hope HSR gives us a better-dressed pig.

Speaking of pork ... can California really afford this project?


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Wall must be plain so that it cannot be climbed. Otherwise need chain link fence topped with razor wire. Like a prison. Yeah, search that for photos.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 12:58 am

The wall is not necessary. Keep tracks at ground level, with fence, and use underpasses for Churchill, just like Embarcadero.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 1:01 am

Many thanks to Jim McFall for putting his time and talent into making this rendering.

Please consider adding the existing trees in the area as well as the many new trees, shrubs, and climbing vines that will likely be planted alongside any elevated rail structure. Please also incorporate Clem's suggestions on the catenary supports' height and spacing. It would be nice to see some greenery details along with the school bus and skateboarder.

Also, trusting your artistic talent as an architect, can you try to make a version that is actually attractive? I suspect we all agree that vertical dark concrete is unattractive, that is not the only option for rail bridges, some elevated rail structures are quite good looking:

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:58 am

If you want foliage, you'll have to choose between trees and eminent domain. The right-of-way isn't wide enough to do both. HSR needs every foot available from the Alma curb to the backyard fences. About the only thing there's space for is ivy – you could call it green lipstick.
For those people who argue in favor of taking "just" a few feet of property in the interest of keeping a few trees on the Alma side, take another look at how the embankment towers over the houses. Note that Jim's renderings don't include the inevitable sound walls rising above the embankment, or Clem's correction of the catenary heights. Even with CHSRA's proposed dimensions, the properties west of the tracks won't see direct sunlight until close to noon.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2009 at 8:36 am

Wary Traveler,

The Alma right-of-way has about 15 feet between the edge of pavement and the Caltrain property line. I would think that is enough for some trees and landscaping assuming the City would grant a landscaping easement.



Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2009 at 8:47 am

Alma Street is already the ugliest noisiest street in Palo Alto. I don't see HSR making much difference visually one way or the other.


Posted by An Observer, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 9:20 am

Tracks can't be at ground level in residential areas unless you want electrical fences. Don't be naive and say that YOUR 14 year old son will be the one kid that resists the temptation to play some drinking games on the tracks waiting for the train to come to impress some of the cheerleaders? No ground level, for safety reasons.


Posted by jt, a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2009 at 9:38 am

"Tracks can't be at ground level in residential areas unless you want electrical fences. Don't be naive and say that YOUR 14 year old son will be the one kid that resists the temptation to play some drinking games on the tracks waiting for the train to come to impress some of the cheerleaders? No ground level, for safety reasons." Why... Is this how the extra special and exceptional children of PA schools behave?


Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

Andrew, the photos of the rail you post are for beach resort places where the building structures are hotels!!! They have migrant people coming and and out of their towns all the time. So they don't care about having a train pass by since the vacationers are there for only a week.

These trains aren't going through permanent residential areas!! Get real.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

But Resident, what about "Destination Palo Alto"?



Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Widen Embarcadero to 4 full lanes and abandon Churchill.
Abandon El Palo Alto crossing.
Jump Charleston over and abandon Meadow.
life is easier when you design for success instead of failure.


Posted by everanon, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

here's something simple:

Tire Derived Aggregate, Under-Tie Pads, and Floating Slab Track reduce ground-transmitted vibrations. this rail uses steel wheels at very high speed, so Palo Alto should get commitments to reduce noise wherever possible.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Ballast bags and other noise mitigation techniques do indeed have significant sound reduction benefits. More importantly, grade separations mean no more train whistles blowing at every crossing. Lightweight electric rolling stock is also a lot quieter than the current diesel double-decker Caltrain. People tend to assume the worst rather than pursue the facts.


Posted by phil, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Has anybody ever witnessed the way the residents of Los Altos Hills or Woodside screams when some distant neighbor puts up a structure or paints a woodshed that offends their view. And now the residents of Palo Alto are supposed to roll over and accept a monstrosity into their lives. What are we , savages with no right to visual amenities?


Posted by Train lover, noise hater, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:13 pm

What about Alma crossing near Stanford Mall? Half of the downtown can hear the terrifying sound the train make on arrival.
At the moment in the hotel 100 yards away from the train station in Japan where 200 m/h trains are passing. I can barely hear them. Should we learn how they do it first before re-inventing the proverbial wheel.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I'm not as much concerned about visual as I am about the noise. It's not hard to get first hand experience about the noise. Just go to those places that all the HSR advocates adores for their high speed trains.

All the so-called "mitigation techniques" are lies, blatant lies. It's like taking one coke bottle out of a big pile of junks.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:19 pm

To Train Lover,

It's not surprising you won't hear the noise from inside of the hotel, just like hotels next to a highway. No one will build Four Seasons next to 101 if they can't fix the noise from inside. But once you step outside, the noise will get you.

Maybe it's not a problem for you if you can't enjoy a quiet backyard. But a lot of people do have a problem with that.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Noise is a major concern and needs to be properly addressed, which it will be in the Project Level EIR, hopefully with comprehensive sound exposure level studies. I can hear the Caltrain whistle from my bed at night, a few blocks from the tracks with several large buildings in between. The whistle is much more annoying than the train itself, although engine roar out of the station is very loud due to the diesel locomotive. With grade separated crossings massively reducing train whistle frequency on the route and quieter electric rolling stock, the future noise that many seem fearful of is likely to be quieter than today. A well designed HSR train at 125 mph (about half speed) is not necessarily louder than a whistling Caltrain at 79 mph (the speed at which Baby Bullets pass through stations and the top speed of locals as well).


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2009 at 4:31 pm

It's truly unconscionable that someone who claims to have experienced high speed trains in Japan to write that "the future noise that many seem fearful of is likely to be quieter than today".

And even more so when such person claims to have studied physics in schools. Please, you don't have to be human to know that Speed, Frequency and Elevation promotes sound (or noise in this case).

Running at 120mph, on average of every 3 minutes a train, on a 30 feet high platform, HSR will generate much more noise than current CalTrain. It's also much harder to contain due to the elevation. The noise will propagate throughout Palo Alto, much worse than the noise from 101.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Plus, don't forget, CalTrain will continue to run. The HSR will run IN ADDITION TO CalTrain, and IN ADDITION TO freight trains.


Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Removing all the at-grade railroad crossings will greatly reduce train noise (whistles and bells). More efficient engines and more aerodynamic trains will greatly reduce train noise. We have been promised that HSR will help electrify Caltrain, which will make Caltrain much quieter than it is now.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 4, 2009 at 10:35 pm

James,

The reason I wrote that, "the future noise that many seem fearful of is likely to be quieter than today," is because for most of us who live near, but not on, the tracks, the train whistle is a far greater nuisance than the noise of the train itself. I am indeed familiar with the propagation of sound waves and also with techniques for absorbing and reflecting them. We should all wait for proper sound exposure level studies in the EIR before jumping to conclusions about what noise levels will be in 2018, let alone at higher train per hour frequencies in 2030.

I have stood next to many shinkansen and other HSR trains at full speed passing through stations and many others at half speed. I just don't recall that they are as loud as you imply. I would not say they are quiet, but neither is a 79 mph Caltrain. The biggest noise issue with HSR trains is when they enter or exit a tunnel, a phenomenon called "tunnel boom", which is not likely to happen in Palo Alto. The exposure to the sound of a HSR train operating on above ground tracks is also very brief, since the train is moving quickly.

For a discussion of efforts in Japan to quiet shinkansen trains if the sound is above 75 decibels in a nearby residence or above 70 decibels inside a school or hospital, see section 2 Part E of this Japanese Government Environmental Report:

Web Link

In the US, Federal Railroad Administration Guidelines specify that a train whistle must be between 96-110 decibels:

Web Link

One of the best sound studies on HSR trains that I have found, which is done on a German ICE HSR train at full speed using a 90 microphone spiral sound collection array appears to have measured decibel levels from a variety of sources (wheel noise, aerodynamic noise, etc) between about 70 and 100 decibels for an ICE train moving at 220 mph--almost 100 miles per hour faster than any HSR will go on the Peninsula. Unless I missed something, that is quieter than a Caltrain whistle:

Web Link


Posted by Rajiv, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Thanks to Andrew Bogan for showing some pictures of how attractive grade separate tracks can look.

There's a combination of methods - trenches, overhead, underground. For example, if the track is protected, then there's no need for overhead wires.

HSR can be done well so that it actually reduces noise and makes offer better travel for Californians. It will offer significant advantages to the region. We've already voted for it in Palo Alto. We need to find a way to make this work.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Bogan, the HSR engineers told me that they were planning on using existing acoustical data. The setbacks in Germany are nearly 1000 feet from residential areas. China had to re-route a section of their HSR since they broke the rules. Their buildings are sinking and cracking too - from subsidence, after building underground facilities, This has been well documented and sent to HSR.




Posted by Connie, a resident of Ventura
on Apr 5, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Wow, that's nasty, and it would run right through my sunny little vegetable garden and storage shed, which the kids use as a clubhouse.

What an abomination! But I'd take $2M in compensation and never say another bad word about it...


Posted by RH, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2009 at 8:57 pm

This reminds me of the Embarcadero freeway up in SF. Let's not make that mistake again.


Posted by James H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Thanks to Andrew Bogan for those very realistic pictures. Now I can truly imagine how it will look as I cross under the train tracks in Palo Alto.

Now all we need is a beach or a European countryside and HSR looks almost palatable. I mean aside from a nearly bankrupt state spending $60B of our money on transporting people a few hundred miles. Maybe they'll build those arches and our city council can vote to make each one a low income housing unit. Or maybe Starbucks can put a store in each one. At least the ones that aren't overrun with weeds, graffiti or homeless.

And who will maintain this "beautified" wall? CAHSR? the city? Kopp and Diridon? Andrew Bogan? He sure seems to be making statements like he already knows what CAHSR has planned.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:29 pm

"Bogan, the HSR engineers told me that they were planning on using existing acoustical data."

Great, since HSR trains are already running all over the world, using existing acoustical data is both appropriate and accurate. They are actual noise measurements of real HSR trains, not a simulation. There is no need to retake sound exposure level measurements, if they already exist, since California plans to buy "off the shelf" train sets from one of the few major current manufacturers in Europe or Japan.

"The setbacks in Germany are nearly 1000 feet from residential areas. China had to re-route a section of their HSR since they broke the rules."

I believe you will find that those distances are for magnetic levitation trains due to the intensity of the magnetic fields needed to float a large train on a cushion of air. California HSR will be steel wheels on steel tracks, a proven traditional HSR technology that is not maglev. There is no magnetic field needed and no need for 1000 foot spacings either. Many shinkansen HSR tracks in Japan are very close to homes (both urban and suburban) and have been for decades without harm to anyone.

You are correct that China built a maglev in Shanghai using German technology that has narrower clearances in some places than the Germans recommended and they have seen some protests over it (mainly to do with extension plans, not the existing tracks however). It is important that residents understand that this maglev technology is not being consider for HSR in California.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm

"He sure seems to be making statements like he already knows what CAHSR has planned."

I know what CHSRA planned in their Program Level EIR since it was published last summer. I also know what range of options (underground, at grade, elevated, all of the above, etc.) CHSRA is considering for the Peninsula alignment on the Caltrain right of way, which was selected as the preferred corridor from SF to SJ in the Program EIR last year (after decades of discussion and debate).

The Project Level EIR scoping comment period ends tomorrow (April 6). If anyone wants to have a specific concern addressed in the EIR scope, please send a comment to the CHSRA immediately. I already requested that they fully study the feasibility and costs of tunneling, the impacts of "tunnel boom", sound exposure levels from both Caltrain and HSR, and the potential benefits of locating a station in Palo Alto, among other requests. It is an open process as required by CEQA law and I encourage everyone in Palo Alto who is interested to participate.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Mr. Bogan mentions 75db as if it is just a blip of sound. Of course it is not. The typical ambient sound level is 35db. 75db is more than double. In general 55db is already significant noise. Imagine that your environment suddenly jumps from 35-40db to 75db.


Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2009 at 11:44 pm

What is the average sound level on Alma Street, with or without the current Caltrain noise? That is already the noisiest part of town. Comparing HSR to perfect quiet is unrealistic. You have to compare it to what it is replacing.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:36 am

Caltrain has confirmed that the corridor currently operates under the (self-imposed) rule that trains blow a horn as they approach or pass through station platforms. It's a safety issue and one would presume that they (Caltrain and HSR) would continue to operate under those rules in the future since that's what station passengers along the Caltrain corridor expect. Imagine the lawsuits if someone got hurt because they expected to hear a warning that didn't occur.
This is a separate issue from quiet zones; I haven't confirmed if the quiet zones include passenger platforms in their definition of grade crossings. Think about it, though. A quiet zone works when the auto traffic can be prevented from nearing the track as the train 'silently' passes, usually via a crossing arm. You'd think a similar safety feature must be in place to keep people separate from passing trains. Without such a physical barrier, trains must continue to blow their horns when approaching a station.
This implies that the horn blowing occurrences may actually INCREASE substantially around the stations. Unless you have hard evidence to the contrary, it's not accurate to claim that horn noise will be eliminated with the introduction of grade separations. Given the CHSRA's track record for honesty when presenting the details, I don't take any of their claims for improvement at face value. Learn the facts before you speculate or believe.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:03 am

Mr. Rajiv said: "We've already voted for it in Palo Alto. We need to find a way to make this work."

There are many cases where people were fooled by politicians, or even politicians fooled by other politicians, and voted for something that is neither to their benefit nor to the benefit of the public. Let's not forget how the Iraq War got started.


Posted by Andreas, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:20 am

A wall like that will split the peninsula cities. It's insane to run a wall like that through these cities.


Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

wary traveler - I do not understand your point about whistles at train stations. Caltrain recently remodeled their Palo Alto train stations to eliminate all pedestrians on train tracks so there is no longer any need to blow whistles at train stations. I am sure that HSR will use a similar design (pedestrians use tunnels or overpasses to access different tracks).


Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:40 am

Regarding the "Berlin Wall" design, how about elevating the tracks by 5 feet instead of by 15 feet? Sink the crossing streets by 10 feet instead (like Embarcadero and Oregon pass under the existing Caltrain tracks). There are only a few existing at-grade crossings in Palo Alto, so sinking those should not be a huge problem.

The existing Caltrain tracks plus Alma Street already split Palo Alto in half. I don't see HSR as changing that. Actually, an elevated HSR can improve access between east and west Palo Alto since more pedestrian tunnels can be designed into the new elevated tracks, hopefully at not too much additional cost. It would be great to have pedestrian tunnels under the train tracks every half mile or so (similar to the existing Homer Ave. pedestrian tunnel). Imagine having a pedestrian tunnel from Hawthorne Street to El Camino Park. And another one from Seale Ave. to Peers Park. And another from El Carmelo Ave. to Frys Electronics. These tunnels can really help to expand the city, not close it down.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:41 am

"A wall like that will split the peninsula cities. It's insane to run a wall like that through these cities."

The wall in Jim McFall's rendering runs roughly from Peers Park, achieving a maximum height at the the Churchill crossings, and then returning to ground level before University Ave. That is one of many alternatives for this particular section of track. Others being studied include running the train below grade in a tunnel or somewhat lower than ground level in a trench, with the road above and a lower elevated structure with Churchill lowered somewhat as well. The rendering does an excellent job of illustrating one of the options for one of the 4 at-grade crossings in Palo Alto. It is not the only option and others will be studied.

The implication that a wall would run the length of the Peninsula is not the case. Elevated stretches are likely in certain places in order to simplify grade separation. In other places the road will simply be lowered and the tracks left at ground level (like the Oregon Expressway underpass) or the road put over top (like the San Antonio overpass). Grade separations greatly improve safety and Palo Alto has a long experience with them (Embarcadero is a third grade-separated crossing that was already built). Nothing about grade separation implies that the train has to be elevated, although in certain short stretches along the Peninsula, it may be the preferred alignment.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:50 am

"Mr. Bogan mentions 75db as if it is just a blip of sound. Of course it is not. The typical ambient sound level is 35db. 75db is more than double. In general 55db is already significant noise. Imagine that your environment suddenly jumps from 35-40db to 75db."

All trains are loud, including the existing Caltrain that goes up to 79 mph in Palo Alto every day and blows a train whistle that is required by FRA regulations to be between 96-110 dB. 35 dB is a very quiet definition of "ambient", as it is roughly the sound level outdoors with no vehicle traffic. An office or classroom is typically 50 dB and a normal conversation about 1 meter from the speaker is 60 dB. A rock concert is typically 110 dB. (See Halliday and Resnick's Fundamentals of Physics for a detailed discussion of the decibel logarithmic scale.)


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:02 am

@wary traveler
"This implies that the horn blowing occurrences may actually INCREASE substantially around the stations. Unless you have hard evidence to the contrary, it's not accurate to claim that horn noise will be eliminated with the introduction of grade separations."

Good point. I do not know if reducing whistles at stations is being considered or not, though there are physical barrier designs that can prevent people from accessing the tracks prior to boarding making whistles unnecessary--they have these "portal doors" on Kyoto's subway and Hong Kong's Airport Express Train, for example. They make stations more expensive, but they do improve passenger safety.

I did not mean to imply that whistles would not be blown at least some of the time by trains going through Palo Alto's two stations. That nuisance is a real possibility. However, with 4 fewer at-grade crossings, it would mean 4 fewer whistles from every train passing through Palo Alto. In Japan, they have a platform warning system that sounds an alarm much quieter than a train whistle on the HSR station platform itself when a train is passing through. That seems to work well, though it might require approval from FRA to implement.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:36 am

The key point is that the ROW width is minimally enough to house 4 tracks - the trains will run right up agains the outer boundaries. ALL the trees that are there currently would likely be gone.

HSR proponents like to say - Oh, no, there would be foliage and such to mitigate the terrible aesthetic. Unless they are BUYING MORE PROPERTY TO PLANT TREES or nicely lanscaped sloping berms, there wouldn't be any room for landscaping.


Posted by what what?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

how about
The sleek, blue train zips below ground underneath Churchill Avenue, flying below passing cars, traffic lights, meandering bicyclists and the occasional pedestrian where it will bother no one, not be an eyesore, and more importantly, make no noise.

i can't believe people want to build a wall for the train to go on the existing tracks. the whole idea of putting it underground was to get rid of the social segregation these tracks produce. With this wall, it would eventually get to the point where these tracks would completely divide palo alto into different social classes

"oh i live on the west side of the tracks."
"is that so? i heard its rough over there"

i don't think anybody really wants it to be like that.


Posted by jerry, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:47 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Rush, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:50 am

There is a proposal to tunnel the trains and build condos on top of the tunnel to pay for the extra cost of the tunnel (reportedly double the cost of above-ground trains). However, I bet that the same NIMBYs who are opposed to the above-ground trains will be opposed to the condos.

I do not buy arguments about HSR creating an additional split in the city. The existing train tracks already split the city. HSR is not going to make that any worse.


Posted by Jared Bernstein, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:51 am

It looks especially bleak without any trees or color in the buildings.
Put in the existing trees and add some detail, and it would be less dystopian looking.
Anyhow, nifty video!


Posted by An Observer, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:06 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:18 am

Let me go back to the cost.

As New York Time reports, the cost of constructing a subway in Guangzhou, the largest city in South China, is $100 Million per mile, and $2.4 Billion per mile in NYC, 24 times over.

Web Link

The cost of Beijing-Shanghai HSR is about $70M/mile. If the cost of CA HSR is only 5 times, not 24 times, over that, we will need $150 Billion for 400+ mile of SF-LA HSR, not the $30-40 Billion that HSR proponents have fantasized about.

There are more indications.

There are two recently completed suspension bridges across the Yangtze river. One at Nanjing, with main suspension span of 1900 feet, at the cost of $450M. Another at Zhenjiang, with main span of a whopping 4400 feet across the river, at the cost of $920M.

The new Bay Bridge under construction has a span of 2000 feet. And the cost? $6.2 Billion!

Web Link

Granted, there are differences in engineering design and requirements. But you get the idea of how to compare the China price and the cost of building similar engineering projects in the U.S., and why the $30-40 Billion projected budget for CA HSR is complete lunacy.

CA HSR is California's equivalent of the Iraq War.






Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

"under Caltrain's current schedule where they run every half hour or every 2 hours on Sunday, is hardly comparative. "

Caltrain's current schedule runs 6 trains per hour each way at peak commute hours (~7am to ~8am for example). That is 6 northbound and 6 southbound, or 12 trains per hour through Palo Alto today. Or about one train every five minutes at the peaks. It will be a very long time (if ever) that these maximum train frequencies run all day long. The figures are for peak hours of the morning and evening, not midday or during the nighttime. HSR will mean more trains, but so will the continued growth and improvement of Caltrain service under their plans for 2025, with or without HSR. Is one train every 3 minutes really very different from one train every 5 minutes at peak hours?


Posted by a, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Train Neighbor, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:53 am

Well Andrew it is. I sit here, in my home backing up to the tracks, enjoying some quiet. Don't mind the peak times since there's a break in the middle of the day. It would certainly be a very different experience if the trains were to run all day long every 3 to 5 minutes.


Posted by A Longtime Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 12:38 pm

This entire project is an absolute horror, and I fail to understand why Palo Altans would even consider having such a monstrosity going through their beautiful, peaceful city! I think James McFall did an excellent job of portraying the manner in which it would affect the properties and residents - and I find Mr Bogan's frequent "positive" comments on the high-speed rail to be very odd indeed...


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

As I have pointed out many times here and elsewhere, I am not "profiting off this project".

I have no professional relationship whatsoever with the CHSRA and my firm has never participated in the private equity investments (PPPs) that the agency seeks. I have sent the agency scoping comments for the EIR as a resident of Palo Alto on topics like noise and tunneling, which I have also written about here and I encourage others to do as well (it's the last day for comments on the EIR scope). The continuing efforts of people who hide behind aliases and pseudonyms to question my integrity instead of trying to argue with the facts and references that I have posted here is reflective of their character. May I recommend familiarity with the California Civil Code:

Web Link

My interest in HSR comes from having lived near HSR stations in Tokyo and Seoul and my desire to see a similar system in California. Imagine being at SFO in 10 minutes, downtown SF in 20 minutes at rush hour, or in LA in under 3 hours. HSR is a fantastic way to travel.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm

James Hoosac is interested in what this will cost. High Speed Rail is not cheap. The alternative to high speed rail is not just doing nothing at all. The US Census Bureau predicts that the population of California is going to increase by 13-15 MILLION in the next 20 years. That is a lot of people. If we don't upgrade our rail system, then we are stuck with cars and planes. We already know the new span of the Bay Bridge was not exactly cheap. How about our freeways? In many places 101 is as wide as it can get without taking down lots of houses. Freeways are expensive. Airports are expensive. SFO can't get any bigger.

So let's keep in mind that the alternative to spending $$$ on High Speed Rail is *not* spending $0. The alternative is spending $$$ on freeway expansion construction, $$$ on airport expansion/construction, and losing $$$ due to wasted time spent stuck trying to get from point A to point B. Are we really going to pave the entire state?

Do we really want to be frozen in time and not change anything? That's not how California got to be the great state it is. And remember, the way things are now isn't the way they always have been:
Web Link


Posted by A Longtime Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Mr Bogan may have resided in Tokyo and Seoul, but I would like to point out that Palo Alto in no way resembles these large capital cities, nor do I think it has ambitions to resemble them. Palo Alto has changed considerably over the past 30 years but is still a quiet, verdant place where even those who live near the railway can still enjoy a peaceful view of blue sky, trees and bushes along the line rather than an endless vista of concrete. Enough said.


Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:07 pm

"As I have pointed out many times here and elsewhere, I am not "profiting off this project". "

There's nothing defamatory about speculating about what motives might drive a person to post in such copious amounts as Andrew does. I'm willing to accept him at his word that he's just a citizen obsessively determined to to whatever he can to see HSR is built.

But I'm sure even Andrew himself would have to admit that 1. his extensive grasp of facts pertaining to HSR are so encyclopedic as to reach far beyond any normal definition of casual enthusiasm for HSR, 2. He's spending a huge amount of time gathering these facts and posting here on this forum. and 3. This time commitment - if it is not profit seeking - is difficult to square with his vocation.

Andrew is doing a great job of keeping the debate going against the overwhelming number of people here (and one would assume in the city at large) who oppose HSR, and he's done an amazing job of keeping his cool when the discussion gets testy. He's a very valuable contributor here (and I say that as one who is pretty much set against his position on HSR) But you can't blame people for wondering what motivates him given what else we know about him.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:29 pm

To Bianca, I agree that California will grow in population. The alternative to HSR is not doing nothing. But we have limited resources. If we commit all of them to one project, we will leave California dilapidated in all other areas of public works.

As I indicated in other posts, a $10 Billion dollar bond on HSR means a $10 Billion less money for reservoirs, levees, parks, power grids, schools, and other vital public projects.

Currently out state has $53 Billion General Obligation bonds outstanding for all projects combined. HSR alone will dwarf all these bonds combined, and hence drain our resources. It will rob financing opportunities for other infrastructure projects for generations to come.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 1:40 pm

To Bianca, my second point about the financial aspect of HSR is that the proponents has misled people by providing a low-ball figure in order to get Prop 1A passed.

Had they honestly said that HSR will cost $150B, and the $10B initial bond is only a small portion, Prop 1A probably won't pass at all.

I see a lot of similarities between what HSR proponents have done and what our previous administration have done before and during the Iraq War.


Posted by concerned, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

"A longtime resident" makes an excellent point. Comparing Tokyo to Palo Alto makes no sense.

How could anyone honestly propose that, because trains will be electrified, it won't be any worse than what we have now? Four vs. two tracks, substantially greater frequency, more traffic, more particulate to breath, more cars traveling to the stations, residents affected by the wall or eminent domain --- OF COURSE it will be worse. The only alternative I can see that will not only mitigate future problems, but also improve current problems with noise, dust, safety is to go underground (or an East Bay route). Why build condos? Leave it as open space. There are so many condo projects now it's ridiculous.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Andrew Bogan never said Palo Alto was like Seoul or Tokyo. He was just stating his experience. Of course Palo Alto isn't Tokyo. The HSR line in Tokyo that he lived near goes all over Japan, and that means it goes through cities like Palo Alto and even smaller towns on its way to places like Osaka and Kyoto.

If you want a tunnel, understand that is significantly more expensive than an above-ground alternative. If you want a tunnel, and you want to preserve the land above it as open space, understand that Palo Alto is going to have to pay for that. If you want a tunnel, and you don't want to pay for it, then the land above the tunnel would almost certainly have to be sold to developers to defray the extra costs of the tunnel. To expect otherwise is not being realistic. Are the people who want HSR to tunnel under the entire length of Palo Alto prepared to see high-density housing go up above the tunnel?

People are unhappy with the new project at 801 Alma. With a tunnel, you're looking at a lot more of exactly that.


Posted by Super, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:32 pm

What - why the elevated track? I coulda sworn that someone told me the high speed rail train was supposed to fly magically through the air, powered by pixie dust...


Posted by watching and questioning, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

When I voted for HSR it seemed likely that it would come across altamont pass and would off load the commute problem from the East Bay... what happened to that route anyway?


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

@Anna, are these conversations off-limits to people who know too much? Is it un-cool to be an expert? Is a fair, well-researched allegiance to objective facts (as opposed to unfounded fear mongering) something to be deplored? Could Dr. Bogan be disqualifying himself by being too insightful and persuasive?


Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Anna, I have been wondering the same. All the HSR threads have multiple and lengthly posts from Mr. Bogan. Keeping up with the forum traffic is a fulltime job in itself!

Propaganda aside, at least some members of the state legislature seems to be giving this project the critical scrutiny it deserves. This HSR boondoggle has been mismanaged all along, and its money-wasting antics haven't escaped the legislature's notice.


Posted by watching and questioning again, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I guess housing is preferable to dividing the city in 2. Right now we can see the foothills from the East Side of town... that view would be lost.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Tunneling is not an option, because:

1) You can't run freight in an underground tunnel. Freight cars are long and hence too dangerous.

2) The value of the land strip is far from enough to defray the cost, unless maybe you build ten, twenty-story high rises.

3) Other suburban cities will request the same, not just in Bay Area. At state-level it is difficult to be justified for Palo Alto only.



Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Clem, As I indicated, I think Mr. Bogan has been a very valuable contributor and has moved the discussion along with his facts and his argument. (We may, however, disagree about his persuasiveness. The more I find out about HSR - regardless of the source of the information, the more firmly set against it I am. But maybe that's just me.)

My only point was that Mr. Bogan's time commitment to posting on this forum seem inconsistent with someone in a profession that normally requires more than full-time effort if he has no interest in HSR other than a rooting interest in seeing it built. Most people who post as much as Andrew on here are retired, students, part time employed or people who otherwise have a lot of time on their hands. (I am in this situation, and I still can't keep up with all these threads on HSR without spending much more time and effort than I think is reasonable.)

Anyway, as I say, I'm willing to take Andrew Bogan at his word that he's just an HSR enthusiast. Whether he does or does not have a pecuniary interest in HSR does not, to me, say anything about the validity (or lack of validity) of the points he makes. But I don't think it's defamatory to discuss his motivations either - as Andrew implied.


Posted by Floyd, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for the video.
Palo Alto is not Shanghai.
I can't think of a quicker easier way to ruin this town.
I thought I left the east coast behind.
I wonder how many who voted for this monstrosity in November would do so today?
Army engineers and unwanted dams of 75 years ago... REDUX.



Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Add another reason that tunnel is not feasible:

Freight cannot share the same tracks of HSR. Freight is too slow, is not electrified, hard to schedule (no train yard close by) when you want to run HSR every 6 minute each way.

Four tracks in underground tunnel?

I don't know. But has anybody seen one? What would be the cost for four tracks underground?

So again, there is no point arguing for tunneling. It's impossible.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm

A Berlin-style wall is not compatible with an environmental friendly, highly technical HSR. No community should be forced to have trains running so close to residential housing. We are in the 21st century in the wealthiest nation in the world. We have to be able to do this HSR correctly without so much negative impact. I for one certainly did not foresee this ugly wall when I voted for the HSR. Thank you Mr. McFall for making the video and bring this to my attention. If we cannot build the HSR correctly, we should not do it.


Posted by HBR, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm

The following funding news has just been released:

Calif. bullet train project gets $29 million

By STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 6, 2009 (04-06) 17:40 PDT SACRAMENTO, (AP) --

California's financially strapped high-speed rail project has received an infusion of $29 million to get it back on track through the middle of the year.
Short-term borrowing by the state treasurer's office on Monday will provide the funding.
The state's high-speed rail board had been counting on getting the money to cover its expenses through June, the end of the state's current fiscal year.
But the state Pooled Money Investment Board froze funding for most infrastructure projects in December because of the state's budget crisis and delayed consideration of a loan for the high-speed rail board.
That led most of the private consultants who were performing engineering and environmental reviews to stop working because they weren't being paid, said Mehdi Morshed, the rail board's executive director.
He said the treasurer's decision to issue commercial paper to provide the $29 million was "excellent news."
"We're finally back to work again," he said.
Voters in November approved the sale of $9.9 billion in bonds to help pay for the first leg of an 800-mile high-speed rail system, which is designed to link California's biggest cities with trains running at up to 220 mph.
Those bonds haven't been sold yet, and the rail board was counting on getting a loan from the Pooled Money Investment Board to provide its budget for the second half of the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said sale of the commercial paper was a way to avoid tapping the Pooled Money Investment Account, which officials say will be needed to maintain other state programs in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The Legislature's chief budget adviser, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, predicted last month that the state will face an $8 billion deficit in the next fiscal year, despite a $42 billion package of tax increases, spending cuts and borrowing that lawmakers approved in February.
Dresslar said the commercial paper issued Monday could be resold until it's paid off with money from state bond sales.


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2009 at 8:21 pm

That's great news HBR. Thanks to Andrew for tirelessly posting an open mind to this forum of curmudgeons. (For once, Walter isn't one of them).

HSR is a great stimulus project for California. It is a noble investment, but not without risk. Let's give the CEQA process a chance. We may find the project will have many positive results for Palo Alto.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Has a line formed to provide the ten of billions of dollars in private investment that HSR requires? And when that line never forms, where are we? Out the $10B in Prop. 1A funds with nothing to show for it? Seriously, HSR supporters, from whence the private investment?

Mark


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Think about it, the bonds for HSR, $150B at today's price, spread over 20 years, with 6% interest, will cost CA tax payers roughly $90B of interest payment, excluding principle, before we see a dime of revenue.

Remember, you need to pay interest starting from day 1, not when the project is completed.

So the total cost will be more like $240B before operation.




Posted by Mark, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2009 at 11:48 pm

@bike2work, either you didn't read past the headline of the article posted by HBR, or this is your idea of "great news":

"The Legislature's chief budget adviser, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, predicted last month that the state will face an $8 billion deficit in the next fiscal year, despite a $42 billion package of tax increases, spending cuts and borrowing that lawmakers approved in February."

But even the scant $29M given the rail board will fuel that bureaucracy only until June, when it will return to the trough seeking more of our tax dollars. If we cannot fund the rail board without selling "commercial paper" does that not presage something ominous about the HSR project as a whole?

Honestly, earnest though you HSR supporters appear to be, you come across as a bunch of arrogant, schmaltzy Kevin Costnerians peddling your "noble" Rails of Dreams: If we build it, hundreds of millions of riders will come, at little or no cost to anyone.

I, for one, am simply not buying it.

Mark


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 7, 2009 at 12:29 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Great Job, Mr. McFall.

I am happy I did not vote for this monstrosity.


Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 7, 2009 at 8:22 am

With California's credit rating where it is and likely to get worse, 6% interest is optimistic, IMO.

Housing has not bottomed. Housing will continue to decline. State revenues will continue to decline as a result. If the city and state continues to nickle and dime us like the 9.25% sales tax and utilities rate tax increase for HSR, there will be revolt.


Posted by james h, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Wow, now Andrew Bogan is citing civil codes on defamation.

Do we really need to get to SFO in 10 minutes? SF in 20 or LA in 3hours? And getting to LA is not THAT much longer with a plane ride. Yes, go ahead and add in travel time to the airport, checking in, etc... you'll need to do that with the train as well.

And who's the say that airlines don't speed up the check in process so that you can even get to LA even faster than via train. Wouldn't take much more than adding security lines for each gate or a cluster of gates instead of one line for the entire airport.

What exactly is the benefit of getting to LA so fast? Is that really going to be necessary for the 90 million people they claim to be serving?

I don't care if it runs silently and invisibly. It's a waste of money for a state and a country that has enough areas that could use a few billion dollars. Look at the numbers.


Posted by ellieg, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2009 at 5:29 pm

First, I would like to correct what I believe is a misconception of the sound levels. If 35 db is ambient level then 45 db is twice as loud. Every 10 db increase doubles the noise level. Thus 55db is four times as loud, 65 db is eight times as loud, 75 db is Sixteen times as loud, 85 db is 32 times as loud and 95db is 64 times as loud. That is the physics of it. I have forgotten what the full estimate of the noise level is but it is clear that the likely noise is not just a little more but a whole lot more.

Second, I voted against this because it did not look like something we could afford with the state already in debt and no private investors coming forward. They maybe know something that the big supporters do not. That is that there have been at least four HSR systems proposed in this country and not one has been built; just a lot of money down the drain for studies and engineering costs. In Florida, four years after the proposal passed with billions of dollars spent and nothing at all to show for it, the voters put another initiative on the ballot and killed the project. I hope it does not take that long for us.

Another example is the Embarcadero freeway monstrosity in San Francisco. It took an earthquake to start the opposition that eventually led to its complete removal. The city is much improved and people are happier and businesses are thriving.

Both New York and Chicago finally took out the neighborhood blighting elevated tracks, (the El) and the people are much happier without them. I hope we do not have to learn by such bitter experiences.

One final note; trees cannot grow very well in only one foot wide spaces so forget about having the nice trees bordering Alma.


Posted by ellieg, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 7, 2009 at 5:35 pm

I forgot to say that we should not count on tunnels to save us. The costs are way too high, It would disrupt the neighbor hood just as much or more while it was being built, (where does all the dug out soil go?), it would damage the aquifers, and it would kill most of the trees on the route including El Palo Alto, our three hundred year old tree. Mature trees cannot survive any disturbance at all to their roots, and especially redwoods, which are very dependent on underground water sources.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm

"First, I would like to correct what I believe is a misconception of the sound levels."

No misconception here, the decibel ratio of sound intensity over the minimum audible intensity is indeed a logarithmic scale, as I said above, and you illustrated as well. Perception of sound however is extremely complicated and the response to different intensity levels is non-linear for many reasons. Certain frequencies of sound are perceived to be annoying at much lower volumes than other frequencies, for example. One of the most important considerations in a sound exposure level study is the duration of a loud noise, which is happily very short for a rapidly moving HSR train.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm

"and it would kill most of the trees on the route including El Palo Alto, our three hundred year old tree"

Mass tree death from tunneling is very unlikely, although many trees will be lost no matter how the project proceeds, just like many trees were lost to various recent Caltrain upgrade projects along the corridor. A deep bore tunnel would be below the roots of most trees, including redwoods with their unusually shallow root system. Cut and cover tunneling would be much more problematic.

In the case of El Palo Alto, its protection will be a priority in the alignment design of HSR tracks nearby. CHSRA representatives have specifically addressed this issue in interviews with the local press. Also, El Palo Alto is far more than 300 years old. It is believed to be over 1,000 years old:

Web Link

The tree was actually quite sick in 1910 and its canopy thin due to pollution from coal-fired trains. It would most likely improve the tree's health to electrify the tracks and remove local diesel pollution from the current Caltrain diesel locomotives:

Web Link



Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm

"What exactly is the benefit of getting to LA so fast?"

Travel speed is a matter of personal preference. However, tens of millions of people choose to fly between the Bay Area and the LA Basin every year already. Presumably they could all drive up Interstate 5, or up Highway 1 if travel speed was not important and cost was the only issue. While I have a great appreciation for slow travel (like on horseback, for example), many travelers care a lot about speed and will happily pay for it. Note how much more ridership Caltrain got when they launched the Baby Bullet service, which is only moderately faster than their locals in terms of line haul times and has the same top speed of 79 mph.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm



If you use Cisco Tele Presence, or other vendors, you essentially travel at the speed of light.
The HSR is obsolete already for business, families and tourists will use fuel efficient cars on cyber controlled freeways or the next generation of fuel efficient planes with AI traffic control.
HSR is a solution without a problem or a market, dump it now


Posted by james H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm

"One of the most important considerations in a sound exposure level study is the duration of a loud noise, which is happily very short for a rapidly moving HSR train."

I would hope it's short given that trains will be passing every 3-4 minutes.

So, only short bursts of noise every 4 minutes. Oooh, I feel much better.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm

On public transportation projects, California has one of the worst track record. VTA, Mr. Diridon's pet project, is a fine example. Tens of millions tax payer's money have been shoveled into this money hole year after year.

VTA has bus drivers and train conductors that earn 120K/y salary, plus a fat pension set to be 90% of the salary, and life-time healthcare coverage for the whole family.

BART and MUNI is not far away from such schemes. Their employees are among the highest paid public transportation workers in the country.

Bonds that are supposed to be used for expansions have to be redirect to handle the deficit.

Yet the services are poor. Anyone who has been on trains in Europe, Japan or Shanghai can attest to the horrible conditions and exorbitant fares of BART and MUNI.

They also fragment the system in order to enrich themselves and escape responsibilities. We have BART, MUNI, AC Transit, Sam Transit, VTA, etc., etc., just in Bay Area. None of which can be run efficiently.

So how can we entrust the huge amount of tax payer's money to the same political system to build and run HSR? An ostrich can never fly, no matter how much it wants to imitate the eagles. Our politicians cannot succeed in public transportation, no matter how hard they try to imitate the Europeans or Japanese.

It's built into their blood. HSR is doomed.




Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm

"HSR is a solution without a problem or a market, dump it now"

In countries every bit as high-tech as California, like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, tens of millions of people ride HSR trains every year.

In Japan they have had over 40 years to get used to using HSR regularly. Korea's KTX opened in 2004 and had nearly 40 million riders in its 5th year of operation. Taiwan's THSR opened in 2007 and had over 30 million in its second year.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 7, 2009 at 10:45 pm

@James Hoosac

"BART and MUNI is not far away from such schemes. Their employees are among the highest paid public transportation workers in the country."

Pay levels of MUNI and BART union employees do appear to be ridiculously high:

Web Link

$90,000 in annual wages and benefits *on average* for BART employees is above nearly all other transit workers in the country (and the world). If your argument is to privatize BART and break up the unions, I wholeheartedly agree. Mass transit can be operated profitably by private companies (examples include Hong Kong's MTR, Singapore's MRT, and various private railways in Japan). Governments have a very poor record in operating businesses efficiently, since they are motivated by votes and employment, not returns on investment.

However, CHSRA's plans for California High Speed Rail are surprisingly well thought out as compared to past California government transit projects--which have mostly been union dominated boondoggles. The CHSRA intends to structure the HSR project as a build-operate-transfer public private partnership, or PPP. These structures have been very successful for building infrastructure and running it efficiently and cost-effectively in many other countries. It is long overdue to use PPPs here in America and prevent the kind of costly financial holes that James Hoosac opposes.


Posted by wary traveler, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:25 am

If the CHSRA is so confident in its PPP structure, then why did they word Prop 1A so that the public assumes more risk than the private investors? Here's the Prop 1A verbiage about Operating Costs: "Depending on the level of ridership, these costs would be at least partially, and potentially fully, offset by revenue from fares paid by passengers."
Gee, that sounds reeeal confident. Let the public take on the risk, with the HSR itself being only "at least partially" responsible for sustaining its own operating costs. How generous. It sounds like they expect an "at least partially" successful project. Oh, and in the same paragraph they estimate the operations and maintenance costs to be in excess of $1B per year. How about we introduce a Prop 2B that forces the HSR to fund operating and maintenance costs through ridership or private funds, with no more than 20% coming from state or federal public funds.
That would force them to look a little harder at other alignments such as Altamont Pass where there are 10 times as many potential riders. Prop 1A gave the High Speed Rail Authority a free pass to interject their personal politics into the process without worries of accountability. If the project fails, we're stuck footing the bill.


Posted by Train Neighbor, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:25 am

"In countries every bit as high-tech as California, like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, tens of millions of people ride HSR trains every year".

Yes, and in those countries they actually have "local" mass transit to which their high speed trains can connect. Do we have that in high-tech California? Noooooo....it would make more sense to apply the money being spent on HSR to create local systems first in California.


Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

Perhaps Mr Bogan could return permanently to Seoul and Tokyo....


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

"Yes, and in those countries they actually have "local" mass transit to which their high speed trains can connect. Do we have that in high-tech California? Noooooo....it would make more sense to apply the money being spent on HSR to create local systems first in California."

Taipei's subway system is little better than SF's MUNI or LA's mass transit and subway options. Taipei, like LA, is a car-centric sprawling city with a skeletal subway system, but they manage to attract tens of millions of passengers onto HSR. While Tokyo and Osaka certainly have superior mass transit, many Japanese cities like Kyoto have only recently built a few subway lines. Having lived in SF for many years and ridden MUNI buses and light rail extensively, it is a much better mass transit system than most Peninsula residents think. There are also existing plans to improve and extend it, like the proposed new MUNI subway tunnel running north/south through downtown. Including the planned connection to BART at the SF Transbay Terminal, HSR will have ample transit connectivity in SF as well as in LA. Less so in Fresno and Bakersfield, however, but those cities, too, have mass transit plans in the works. No California is not Japan, but nor is Japan much like Spain, where the new Barcelona to Madrid HSR train has begun to take a considerable share of the air traffic between those two cities as well. HSR has attracted heavy ridership everywhere it has been built.


Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:43 am

... Taipei would be fine too.Or Barcelona, or Madrid.
It's like a broken record.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:57 am

"Yes, go ahead and add in travel time to the airport, checking in, etc... you'll need to do that with the train as well."

Not necessarily. Japanese HSR does not subject passengers to pointless security screenings. Japan has had its fair share of terrorist attacks and does not take security lightly, but a train is unlike a plane in that it cannot be hijacked to a different destination, and the real security threat to HSR is integrity of the rail line itself, so there is no point in screening passengers and their luggage.

What exactly is the benefit of getting to LA so fast? Is that really going to be necessary for the 90 million people they claim to be serving?

It takes a lot of fuel to get an airplane off the ground and up to cruising altitude. To spend the fuel to get 5 miles up in the air, only to go another 300 miles or so before landing again is terribly inefficient. Air travel makes more sense for travel more than 500 miles away. If you've ever flown between the Bay Area and the LA area, you know that the cabin crew barely has time to get everyone a drink and the hurriedly collect all the cups before the plane begins its descent. Wasteful. Furthermore, the takeoff/landing slots and gate access times are precious commodities. HSR frees up airport capacity for longer trips. This is really important- many of our airports are at capacity and cannot expand, or can only expand at enormous expense with lots of eminent domain takings of homes. People think HSR is expensive, but not building it is actually MORE expensive- building new airports and freeways will cost so much more- upgrading an existing rail line to add HSR makes a lot more sense when you think about the big picture.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 10:58 am

"Taipei's subway system is little better than SF's MUNI or LA's mass transit and subway options. "

You are comparing apples and oranges. Taipei has an extensive bus system. It is absolutely not a car-centric city. People do use motopads a lot. But don't mislead by comparing Taipei's subway with SF's bus.

Speaking of Taipei, it is a prime example the so-called public-private partnership fails miserably on a HSR project. The partnership was forced upon private companies by the government, and more specifically then president Chen. It became a giant money hole, infested with corruption. President Chen himself are now facing trial for various egregious corruptions. The HSR itself has to be recapitalized. Majority of the loans from private companies were wiped out. Yet it still has lost half of the value since recapitalization merely two years ago.



Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:12 am

"... the real security threat to HSR is integrity of the rail line itself, so there is no point in screening passengers and their luggage."

I'm not sure this kind of nonsense will be received well in Madrid where terrorist killed a couple of hundred people with bombs planted on trains in backpacks, etc.

Anyone who thinks that HSR will not require airport style screening security is really out of touch with reality. And this is in addition to the security of the hundreds of miles of tracks that HSR will require. I don't know how much money HSR has set aside for security operations, but based on the poor quality of the overall analysis they've done, my guess is that it's not nearly enough.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:23 am

For those who are curious about Taipei's bus system, you can download the maps from here:

Web Link

Two big files (10MB and 16MB). One can only wish we have bus systems as good as theirs in Bay Area or in LA. And they only have one bus company. Not MUNI, AC Transit, Sam Trans, VTA, Golden Gate, ...

I suggest that Mr. Bogan, who has been to these places, and apparently has a lot of intelligence, do not repeatedly mislead people with similar tactics.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:33 am

Anna, the Madrid bombings were on commuter rail lines, not HSR. By your logic, Caltrain, BART and MUNI should all have security screenings. Tokyo has also had tragic bombings on the subway, but they don't screen passengers either. London had bombings on city buses. Should we have screenings to get on a bus? Really?


Posted by live life, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:33 am

"I'm not sure this kind of nonsense will be received well in Madrid where terrorist killed a couple of hundred people with bombs planted on trains in backpacks, etc."

How much security did you go through when were you last got on a train in Europe? The London July terrorist attacks were bombs in backpacks on buses in addition to the tube. What about all the car bombs in Iraq? Do you want to start screening everyone getting into a car or onto a bus as well?


Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

Cisco added $240 million to their bottom line by using video teleconferencing, which cut down on travel costs. Web Link. Here's the MV article about it.

Seems Cisco will lead the future and make money by cutting down travel costs to do business, which is a much greener way to do business. Teleconferencing saves on energy, time, and money.

What was the point of HSR again? Seems planes and rails are outmoded.


Posted by Clem, a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 1:27 pm

> Teleconferencing saves on energy, time, and money.

Face-to-face meetings, outmoded? Tell that to grandma when she wants to see her grand kids.

> Madrid where terrorist killed a couple of hundred people

Very interesting that you should bring up the Madrid bombings. Several of the bombs were placed at a main station with HSR service. The HSR had Security Theater and was thus spared. The commuter rail did not have Security Theater, so the bombs went off on the commuter rail. What did this demonstrate? Security Theater for HSR is no more effective than a moat built only half way around a castle.

Effective security is a comprehensive proposition: it's all or nothing. The only other reasonable alternative is to secure Caltrain, BART, etc. after all, there's no reason those people shouldn't take their shoes off too!

And lest we lose sight of *why* airplanes need security: they are essentially pressurized, flying gasoline tankers made of gossamer structures vulnerable to the smallest explosive device. Bombs on HSR have been tried, and they aren't very effective. Web Link


Posted by espeeboy, a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:04 pm

To the uneducated NIMBY's and "object before I learn about the facts" population, I submit the following opening point and follow-up replies to some of the concerns expressed in the comments section:


1. Simply put, which came first, the SP Railroad right-of-way or the houses? Seeing the RR was constructed in the 1860's entering service between SF and SJ in 1863, the TRAIN came first. This is the main reason why the entire Peninsula is populated with interesting towns, neighborhoods and industries - all thanks to the Railroad! If you lived or had family in existence next to the track before the 1860's, please continue to voice away your concerns about too close to my house, yard, garden, etc..

2. re: HSR Noise - do we think that an electrified trainset running on stable welded "ribbon" rail over rubber-pad insulated concrete ties, without any street grade crossings from SF to LA (no horn, no bell) will be louder and more noise polluting than the current diesel-powered, 79mph running CalTrain commuter trainsets deep-base accelerating, honking and not to mention spewing out diesel exhaust on the Peninsula Line??? From studies I have seen on modern, electric, high speed rail done the correct way, noise in the 70-80 DB range will not surpass the airhorn honking and diesel engine bass decibels (not to mention congested freeway noise) currently existing along the CalTrain right-of-way.

3. re: argument that dirty noise diesel CalTrain commuters will continue to run - yes CalTrain will continue to run but instead as a quieter, non-polluting state-of-the-art electric trainset service to commuters and eco-friendly people wanting to travel up and down the Peninsula.

4. re: SF Embarcadero Freeway - how tall was that monstrous double-decker concrete structure? At least double the height the HSR elevated ROW is showing in the featured PA rendering. Please don't compare apples to oranges.

5. re: Tunneling option - YES you can run freight in a tunnel. The Southern Pacific before 1996 and Union Pacific railroad up through today has done it on the Peninsula Line running freight local nearly every day. Ever been to north of Bayshore or by the 22nd Avenue Caltrain station? TUNNELS! FYI, Caltrain commuter cars are longer and taller than most freight cars in service today (89' autoracks and Doublestack container cars omitted - both which don't currently run on the CalTrain Peninsula line anyway)

6. re: "dividing the city in two" and the "wall" - seriously WHAT??? The 101 freeway and racial Ghettofication lines already drawn from "White Flight" and the "other side of the tracks" phenomenon from the mentioned 146-year old rail line has already divided Palo Alto in two. In fact for people that are not wanted by the residents of PA or don't feel welcome there know that's what East Palo Alto is for! (I know, different city/county but still it represents the other side of Palo Alto)

7. re: Cisco and teleconferencing - so you are telling me that Cisco has made it possible for me to visit family for the holidays and vacation by video screen teleconference! Score, I can't wait to "virtual hug" them at the next Holidays dinner and virtual-smell/taste my mom's home-cooked rolls through the Cisco conference screen.

8. re: Cybercontrolled freeways - SERIOUS? How long and how much wasted public money will that take to get me from the Bay area to L.A. - and in one piece? Until the solution around blown rubber tires is figured out, don't expect computer controlled automobiles on super packed automatic flow freeways to go anywhere.


Simply stated, even if the economic timing is off, there is no doubt that HSR will help this troubled State of California in areas of creating jobs, traffic congestion relief, strained airport/airway relief (looking at pre-9/11 air travel numbers and eventually public $$$ savings (less spent on expanding/maintaing 101/I-5/99 freeways). Yes, it is a sad fact that costs on just about all public infrastructure projects escalate over the planning and construction time period. But the longer we wait, the more expensive the project will become with resources and studies wasted and material costs escalating.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm


Air and rail depend upon business travel for their revenues, Ciscos products make such travel history.

Families will have to rent cars at either end of the LA-SF fantasy train so they may as well just drive, its cheaper for a family, or take a plane, it is cheaper for an individual or couple, $39 one way now.

There is no business case nor market for HSR in California apart from a freight/passenger line down 5, maybe--


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

The next time oil reaches $145+/barrel those $39 fares are history, as is the notion that it is cheaper to drive than take the train. It's only a matter of time.

California has a long and proud tradition of looking forward and showing the rest of the country a better way to live. High Speed Rail is a better way, and the longer we put this off the more expensive it is going to be.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:52 pm

The proponents tries to frame the opposition as people who categorically dismiss the need of travel between SF and LA.

Of course we are not that stupid. Travel between SF and LA is frequent and necessary.

But, a $40 Billion debt, with 6% interest, needs yearly interest payment of $2.4 Billion to service, without amortization. At $55 per ticket, this requires HSR to sell 43.6 Million tickets!

If you count the real budget, say $100 Billion, and the actually operating cost, probably in the billions per year, and the need to repay principles, how many tickets HSR need to sell per year?

Do some calculations, please, Mr/Ms espeeboy, Bogan and Bianca. Don't try to fool yourself and others.




Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm


For a family of 5 to take HSR will cost $1000 return.

The driving distance is 700 miles return.

In 5 years cars will easily get 50 MPG on that freeway route so the trip will take 14 gallons of gas if the future gas price is $5/gallon

That is $70 for the trip versus $1000.

At $10/ gallon it is $140 versus $1000.

At $20/ gallon it is $ 280 versus $1000.

Look at the economics, no one in their right mind will use HSR

It is dead in the water


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

And about tunneling that espeeboy tries to give us some false hope for, the 22nd street tunnel is just about 200 meters. There is nothing above it that monetizes the land to pay for the tunnel.

Even Mr. Bogan has realized that a long underground tunnel is unlikely a feasible choice.

For the noise situation, just the huge difference in frequency dwarfs any attempt to pseudo-reduce the noise levels. Just go to Japan, or go to Europe, listen to it, late into the night.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm

So when Andrew Bogan mentioned that he had lived near HSR in Tokyo and Seoul, people complained that he was somehow saying Palo Alto was like Tokyo or Seoul. And now James Hoosac is saying "Just go to Japan and listen to it". I have. Andrew Bogan certainly has.

How many people here who are against HSR have actually ridden on one, in Asia or in Europe?


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

"Even Mr. Bogan has realized that a long underground tunnel is unlikely a feasible choice."

I realize that a long underground tunnel is an expensive choice with its own unique engineering challenges as well as its own potential benefits. There is nothing about it that is not "feasible" however. Once the EIR is complete we will all know a lot more about the cost benefit considerations of various alternative alignments.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 3:57 pm

"Look at the economics, no one in their right mind will use HSR"

So tens of millions of riders per year in Asia and Europe are not in their "right mind". Interesting.


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:05 pm

"For the noise situation, just the huge difference in frequency dwarfs any attempt to pseudo-reduce the noise levels."

Caltrain already runs every 5 minutes during rush hour, horns blaring at about 100dB. Is every 5 minutes much different from every 3 minutes, with trains that would not have to blow a whistle nearly as often? As a neighbor of the train myself, I don't think every 3 minutes is much different from every 5 minutes and I would welcome fewer train whistles. Furthermore, Caltrain plans to massively increase frequency with or without HSR, so this issue has little to do with HSR itself.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

>>>"Look at the economics, no one in their right mind will use HSR"

So tens of millions of riders per year in Asia and Europe are not in their "right mind". Interesting. <<<<<

If they were thinking of riding the fantasy, dead elephant California HSR from SF to LA then they would be out of their minds.

The situation in Europe and Asia is completely different in terms of population density, housing, distance, freeways, infrastructure, car ownership, taxation, laws, rights, etc, etc.
I have ridden HSR in Europe and Asia where they made some sense,they good deal as they are so heavily subsidized by tax payers over there.

They have legal prostitution rationed health care and euthanasia in Europe, in China they have a one child policy and internet censorship--are you suggesting that we adopt those policies also?


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

"How many people here who are against HSR have actually ridden on one, in Asia or in Europe?"

What I meant is to listen to the noise of the train outside, not to ride the train. I've to admit the train themselves are comfortable. But my comment was about the noise these trains generate in the environment.

Web Link


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:22 pm

"Travel between SF and LA is frequent and necessary."

Glad we agree.

"But, a $40 Billion debt, with 6% interest, needs yearly interest payment of $2.4 Billion to service, without amortization. At $55 per ticket, this requires HSR to sell 43.6 Million tickets!"

So far we only know that $9.95 billion of the cost will be paid for with debt. Federal money may be from Treasury debt issues (which is likely and below 6% interest) or it could be from existing tax revenues on which no interest is paid. Somewhere on the order of 1/5 to 1/3 of the capital is expected from private equity investors, which would not necessarily be in the form of debt (it could just as well be equity). So while we are calculating things, let's keep in mind the impact of one's assumptions. Debt is not the only mechanism for financing infrastructure, though it is an important one.

Selling 43.6 million HSR tickets is perfectly plausible, based on foreign HSR examples serving comparable populations and on California-specific ridership studies, though I personally doubt it will be that high in the initial years of service. However, you have assumed an arbitrary ticket price. Presumably at a lower price you would see more ridership and at a higher price you would see more revenue per rider. It will be up to the HSR operator to learn the optimal pricing based on the elasticity of demand. Back of the envelope calculations are a nice way to frame things, but the Cambridge Systematics ridership study was a lot more comprehensive. It's available at the CHSRA website.

Who has done the more thorough study of ridership and pricing: James Hoosac or Cambridge Systematics?


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:34 pm

"What I meant is to listen to the noise of the train outside, not to ride the train. I've to admit the train themselves are comfortable. But my comment was about the noise these trains generate in the environment."

I am very pleased that you share my enthusiasm for the comfort of traveling by High Speed Rail.

I, too, have listened to the trains from the outside as well (including French, German, Japanese, and Korean made train sets). In fact, I worked for several months in a pharmaceutical chemistry laboratory surrounded by over 20 train tracks, two of which were the Tokaido shinkansen--the busiest HSR in the world. It was sufficiently quiet to do world-class scientific research, with some labs only 30 feet from the tracks. That laboratory, Daiichi-Sankyo's R&D headquarters, has developed some of the most important classes of human therapeutics for heart disease (HmG Co-A reductase inhibitors or statins) and diabetes (thiazolidenediones).

I am not disputing that trains are loud. So are cars, so are airplanes. But, Caltrain already runs on this route and it, too, is loud. Electrified trains tend to be quieter than diesel ones.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm

"Caltrain already runs every 5 minutes during rush hour, horns blaring at about 100dB. ..."

Caltrain does not nearly as frequent after rush hour and in weekends. Caltrain does not run on an elevated platform as HSR is shown in the video.

I support Caltrain electrification.

In fact, I would support HSR if it does bring enormous and sustaining benefit to Californians instead of a gigantic financial mess and liability that drains our resources for generations.

People were fooled into supporting the Iraq War, because Rumsfeld said Sadam has WMD, and that Iraqi people will bring flowers and dance in the streets to welcome our troops, and that the oil itself will quickly repay the cost of the war.

Let's not make the same mistake in California.



Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm

"I have ridden HSR in Europe and Asia where they made some sense,they good deal as they are so heavily subsidized by tax payers over there."

HSR operations are not subsidized by tax payers in Japan or in some European countries. JR East, JR Central, and JR West are all private companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. They operate the Tohoku Shinkansen, Tokaido Shinkansen, and Sanyo Shinkansen respectively. They are for-profit private companies, not tax-payer subsidized entities. France's TGV operator is a public sector company SNCF, but it, too, operates the nations HSR system at a profit. Deutsche Bahn in Germany is also profitable.


Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm

"Who has done the more thorough study of ridership and pricing: James Hoosac or Cambridge Systematics?"

A little bit Google you will find out Who Sponsored the Cambridge Systematics study. They were those who proposed and/or firmly supported HSR, and they paid Cambridge Systematics with our tax dollars, of course.

There are others who have done extensive studies during the debate that leads to the vote. However they did not get much chance to reach the voters because the HSR supported blatantly used tax dollars to fund their campaign for Prop 1A.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I have many friends who are women in Japan and they call the JR - the death train. The loudness is unbearable, the wind has killed all vegetation along the tracks, and knocked people over killing them.
The seating is cramped and many "gangsters" ride the trains and there is no space to keep away from them. She went on the tell me that it is not child friendly. Her husband quit his job with a major corporation because his boss forced him to ride the "death train", after being shoved into the train by a JR employee. She told me to save Amerika, do not let this monster be built.

I wish that I had written to mu friends before the election. I voted no on 1A, but if I would have told our politicians the truth about this, things may have gone differently.

I have lived in Japan, and rode the Japanese rail, and it seemed quiet on the inside, but you must think of those people living along the rail.

The velocity of the rail drying out vegetation in drought stricken CA if concerning due to wildfires and efforts to conserve water.





Posted by Anna, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2009 at 6:02 pm

The noise issue so blithely dismissed by Mr. Bogan is very real. Moreover, noise from trains and other transportation is increasingly seen as a health issue, not just an annoyance. Europeans, having a lot of the kinds of trains that Mr. Bogan wants to inflict on us is at the forefront on this issue:

"Evidence is growing that environmental noise has a significant impact on health. One recent report claims road and rail noise are responsible for 50,000 premature deaths a year in Europe, another that night-time aircraft noise can raise people's blood pressure even if it does not wake them. " Web Link

In Britan, it's also a big issue. See, Web Link

On the general effects of noise and health, see: Web Link,

Sure Caltrain makes noise. But Bogan seems to think that since Caltrain already makes noise, the additional noise from HSR is completely justified. Shouldn't we be looking for ways to mitigate the dangerous, unhealthy noise levels in our town instead of adding to them?


Posted by sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm


It is obvious that the best solution is Tele Presence and high band width telecommuting, we lead the world in this technology, why would we pay $bs for an outdated 19 century / industrial revolution technology--trains-- when we have a green, productivity boosting, time saving and lower cost of ownership technology, developed in our own back yard and ready for export around the world.

We need to showcase TelePresence in Palo Alto as a beacon to the world in terms of Green, life balanced, low cost solution to transportation and productivity challenges.

How could Palo Alto support HSR ,which damages the environment, rather than TelePresence that saves the planet and increases peoples quality of life?

HSR fanatics are looking like luddite fascists in light of this new technology from Cisco and HP, shame on them!


Posted by Andrew Bogan, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 8, 2009 at 7:14 pm

"I have many friends who are women in Japan and they call the JR - the death train. The loudness is unbearable, the wind has killed all vegetation along the tracks, and knocked people over killing them."

There have been no accidental deaths caused by the Japanese shinkansen in over 40 years of operations. It is the safest rapid transit system ever built, and there is no shortage of green vegetation alongside the tracks.

"The seating is cramped and many "gangsters" ride the trains and there is no space to keep away from them. She went on the tell me that it is not child friendly. Her husband quit his job with a major corporation because his boss forced him to ride the "death train", after being shoved into the train by a JR employee. She told me to save Amerika, do not let this monster be built."

I am over 6 feet tall. The seating on Japanese shinkansen trains is very comfortable, better than a typical airplane seat. The clientele is largely a mix of business men, tourists, and families. Many children ride shinkansen trains as well, though it is possible some kids get bored on the trip. Nobody is shoved into shinkansen trains. They do sometimes give a gentle push to load JR commuter rail (but not HSR) at rush hour to ensure that the doors close safely.

NIMBY nonsense is just that, whether it comes from Palo Alto, Japan, or Europe.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 7:33 pm


All totalitarians, fascist, communist and socialist all have had a obsession with trains and getting then to be fast and run on time, why is that?

TelePresence on the other hand, saves energy, saves time, protects the planet and increases the quality of peoples lives while increasing their economic productivity-- what is not to love about that.
the Luddites are squealing, as they always do.
It is time to move on to 21Century solutions to transportation.
Air quality and quality of life balance= TelePresence, not rolling stock, with massive noise ,pollution, ecologically destroying rolling stock rail to nowhere projects.
we understand that the frauds who put together the HSR scam will loose money, but that is justice in our view.
Let us save the planet, not the money of HSR pyramid schemers !


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I suppose I am not surprised that they never asked CEOs from Cisco and HP to give their vision of alternatives to HSR.

Maybe the proponents of HSR have a conflict of interests?
Lets get the Attorney General on this case.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm

A letter from one of my dear friends in Japan.

Her exact words "text" used.

"evil railway story of Japan. FORCED
LABOUR TRUNK LINE made many deaths. Assault vector in many ways.
Understand? When come back, zentran bring evil way onto Japanese
people. Working harder from further from home. not good life!! very
expensive life in tokyo because of train!!!shinkan train (NEW TRUNK LINE TRAIN) of lethal quality has many very
danger. in japan, cheap but chance of accident very high. husband of
mine left position at TOSHIBA CORPORATION rather than use shinkan sen
(NEW TRUNK LINE TRAIN) to go to kyoto. say company try to make him
DEATH.

very small - internet picture of shinkan sen (NEW TRUNK LINE TRAIN)
look of great beauty. very very lie. seat very small, no fit supersize
amerikan of modest size. further, non good for of family. news story
of children in handbag to save money is of very common origin.

imagine savage
(understand?) neighbour seating, very uncomfortable. of
time, greedy JR push man into train for SAVING OF MONEY
i love amerika, i love you and your family. must save we earth from
CROOK politician (seijika in Japan!). please stop NEW TRUNK RAILWAY
in amerika.

Andrew, I have a whole group of friends who have written to me over the past few months, telling me of incidents, unbearable noise, wind damage, and many other things.

I do not live near the tracks, and have no financial gain if this project goes or not. I love the Peninsula and my family has lived in Palo Alto since 1950. We have lived in the bay area since the mid 1800's. I want to protect the beauty of this peninsula for future generations.


Posted by MeMe, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm

<< Who has done the more thorough study of ridership and pricing: James Hoosac or Cambridge Systematics? >>

James Hoosac probably has a better intuitive grasp of the actual ridership for HSR than Cambridge Systematics. Anyone can get a computer to spit out the numbers they want to see. The ridership projections for HSR are straight out of Fantasyland. Where is the ridership survey asking actual travelers if they would rather fly, drive or take HSR between S.F. and L.A.? What's that? You say one doesn't exist?


Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 10, 2009 at 12:09 am

The impartial analysis from the state's legislative analyst berated the CHSRA for not providing any substantiation for its figures. The legislative analyst pointed out many other problems with the project too. We're all pretty focused on what's happening in our little segment of the proposed project, but there are real and significant holes in the overall "business plan" that is supposed to serve as the outline for the process.

And yet the charade continues.


Posted by Bianca, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

MeMe asked: "Where is the ridership survey asking actual travelers if they would rather fly, drive or take HSR between S.F. and L.A.? "

Check out this survey here: Web Link

"From the study, more than half of Americans (54%) would choose modern high-speed trains over automobile (33%) and air travel (13%) if fares and travel time were about the same. "


Posted by Cassandra, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Is that it? The cited survey asked very general questions and nothing about the California project at all. As far as anyone can tell, the CHRSA pulled their ridership projections out of fantasy land.

Note also that the survey states: "more than half of Americans (54%) would choose modern high-speed trains over automobile (33%) and air travel (13%) if fares and travel time were about the same." As has been pointed out often on this board, HSR travel is far more expensive than automobile travel if two or more people are traveling together. So those numbers are irrelevant for most.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Comments for the San Jose to Merced route, and Merced to Bakersfield route are due by close of business today.

Web Link

This project will impact our water supply in several ways

Increasing sprawl - transit oriented towns will emerge in areas which do not have adequate water supply. The farmers are suffering already, cutting back on their crops due to the lack of water and the cost of pumping groundwater.

It could potentially impact water from the delta if additional dense housing sprawl is built in these traditionally rural areas.

Fire Danger - the high speeds of the rail will dry out natural grassland areas. Farmers will need to water their crops more often due to the winds from the trains.

These are wind speeds which are capable of knocking people over.
We have wildlife out there as well which are in danger.

What were people thinking when they voted for this boondoggle?
There must be a lot of new people to this state who are unfamiliar with our terrain, and anticipated water woes.

Water will be the limiting factor for growth in this state.
High speed rail will add to this problem.

As my friend in Japan told me "seijika" - crooked politicians.

The Japanese people did not want HSR it was forced on them.

Please get comments in fast this afternoon to save the central valley and our water supply. We are in our third year of drought!


Posted by palo alto against ugly, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

The 15 foot concrete wall looks like an ugly graffiti magnet and I agree that it blocks the view of the hills... What's the plan for all the kids who walk and bike to Gunn? Hopefully not a dank dark smelly underpass...


Posted by Stop the Seijika, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 12, 2009 at 7:45 pm

I agree with Resident from Old Palo Alto. The high velocity of the trains will create winds that will dry adjacent vegetation. We are in drought, so they better not water the plants! And if they don't water, the dry vegetation will be prone to brush fires.

Seijika! Who in our government is not? I want to write to someone to get a referendum to repeal Prop 1A and stop this stupid HSR.


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