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High-speed rail hits speedbump in its Caltrain partnership

Original post made on Mar 6, 2013

What was billed as a historic occasion for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and its Bay Area partners ended on an awkward note Wednesday morning when the rail authority failed to get votes it needs to renew its vows with Caltrain and other agencies involved in building the controversial, $68 billion rail line.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 11:35 AM

Comments (40)

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Quentin Kopp must be messing his under-drawers right now. His grand plan/scheme to get someone else to pay for CalTrain electrification is blowing up.


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Posted by Museum Magazine LLC
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm

We at MM LLC seriously hope the "memo of understanding" can be revised nicely in good time. Remember that the L.A. Metrolink already has a letter or contract in place that allows for efficient electrification and a trenched 4-track systems approach. Now, when the monies are distributed from HSRA we hope to be able to allocate to both bookends without conflict. A delay in approval of the memo can add unnecessary risk to the CalTrain segment, possible jeopardizing the entire schedule and commuter leg from San Jose to San Francisco. And our understanding is that the commuter numbers are rising as we speak almost as fast as the price of oil which as of this post is about $ 90 / bbl.

Web Link

Museum magazine LLC



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Posted by George Pron
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The article says:

"But the pubic will now have to hold its expectations for another month."

PUBIC?????

I could not find "RED LIGHT DISTRICT" among the "Neighborhood or School Communities" when posting this comment, by the way.


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Posted by brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

the MOU should be revised to clearly state that a 4 track system will be built on an as needed basis based on future capacity needs. Caltrain and the CAHSRA should be actively working on acquiring easements for this purpose. The problem with the current MOU is that it defines Caltrain as primarily a 2-track system which I guess means that not more than 49% of the route mileage can be 4-track. That is an onerous restriction and ignores the fact that the primary function of Caltrain is to serve as a means of transportation. Once again imagine how traffic flow on the 101 would work out if certain segments were mandated by law to bottleneck down to a single lane in either direction? I fear that the 'primarily 2-track' requirement is something everyone will be cursing 20 to 30 years from now.


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Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

A temporary setback for the scam, unfortunately. At least this shows some have not drank from the tank. Schenk will be gone as soon as they can terminate her.

Jay Tulock, Vacaville


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Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I'm glad someone with serious involvement spoke up publicly for how damn selfish the Peninsula has been. A blended approach is a fine way to start, but we definitely should not be legislating that that's the end of the line (see what I did there?). A 3-or-4 track solution, with express tracks and local tracks, will be better for the state AND better for the Peninsula. Permanently locking us out from that is an injustice, and a buckling to a small handful of loud, self-entitled Peninsula residents.


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Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Electrifying Caltrain is close to a criminal waste of public funds.

Caltrain is a money-pit, that produces very little for the vast sums that it consumes!

Shut it down!


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Posted by Matt
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Shut-It-Down: You can stop subsidizing Caltrain as soon as I can stop subsidizing highways.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm

You can stop subsidizing highways by not using them, by not owning a car and paying DMV fees, by not buying gas and paying the gas taxes, by not buying groceries, clothes, etc that are delivered by trucks. All of these are things people do on a voluntary basis and get a direct benefit from doing so.


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Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Mar 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm

The Peninsula has been selfish, she is right. Of course we need to plan for a 4 track system.

Meanwhile CP Dad -- You ready to stop expecting sales taxes to build roads? When I want to drive a personal car I'm fully prepared to pay tolls and much higher gas tax. Our generation always expects to leave problems to our grandkids


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:12 am

California voters have never approved one cent for the electrification of CalTrain. Electrification was not part of prop 1a in November 2008. These funds are being hijacked.


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Posted by Matt
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:48 am

Crescent Park Dad:

You left out "not paying federal income tax" and "not paying state income tax."

Use tax pays for about 50% of the road maintenance. Caltrain fares pay for 55% of the cost of Caltrain!

If drivers had to pay for 100% of the cost of driving, I bet Caltrain could go without subsidies. As it is, people who say "shut Caltrain down" really mean "I don't understand that the roads will be way more congested if Caltrain shuts down."


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Posted by Ted CRocker
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

I love that Schenk decides to point out the elephant in the room now - namely that the blended approach doesn't meet prop 1A requirements - because it was that promise of money to the legislators at "the ends" that got them the winning vote to go ahead with the sale of the bond money (SB1029). Had she done this before the legislators voted, when it passed by only one vote, the project surely would be dead. This isn't the first time someone on the HSRA board has gotten suddenly honest after it mattered. I hope the judge in Mike Brady's Prop 1a case against the HSRA is taking note that Schenk admits the project doesn't meet the bond requirements. Remember when Schenk admitted the earlier business plan was more of a marketing piece than a real business plan...after the fact? Web Link What a joke!


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Posted by far2fast
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

No one mentions Union Pacific in these plans. It is my understanding that the freight trains cannot operate well on electrified tracks, partly because of grade changes. Are we saying that the voters of California can shut down a business by eminent domain? Is part of the cost of electrifying Caltrain alloted to buying out Union Pacific? This might be the ultimate stumbling block for a two-track system.


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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:41 am

I can't keep up with the various evolutions of opinion, rumors and facts about tracks, costs, funding and timing; but, there is one issue that I have not seen in any consistent manner. It is clear to me that one significant funding source will be air rights above the tracks. Does anyone know about how air rights will be awarded? One artist's rendering of stations would indicate that there will be dozens and dozens of stations and large office/condo buildings above the trenched tracks. ..a la the Pam Am/Met Life Building over Grand Central Station in New York.
I am guessing that the HSR is the Peninsula's future one way or the other....and sooner rather than later given the long term demand for office and housing.


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Posted by Phil Farrell
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

A lot of commenters here seem to agree with Schenk that high-speed rail money should not be "siphoned off" to electrify Caltrain.

OK, how about the enormous local investment made by Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties in purchasing and preserving the Caltrain rail corridor?

If HSRA wants to jointly use the Caltrain right-of-way FOR FREE, then they should contribute to improving Caltrain.

If not, let them buy their OWN right of way all the way up the peninsula and we can keep Caltrain and its right-of-way totally local!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:58 am

Here's the latest post from "Evan," a resident of Crescent Park:

"I'm glad someone with serious involvement spoke up publicly for how damn selfish the Peninsula has been. A blended approach is a fine way to start, but we definitely should not be legislating that that's the end of the line (see what I did there?). A 3-or-4 track solution, with express tracks and local tracks, will be better for the state AND better for the Peninsula. Permanently locking us out from that is an injustice, and a buckling to a small handful of loud, self-entitled Peninsula residents."

This says more about Evan's continuing sense of outrage than it does about what Schenk actually said.

First, sorry Evan, she didn't "speak up publicly for how damn selfish the Peninsula has been." There was not a single reference to anything like that in the article. I read her comment as saying that spending money on electrifying CalTrain was not legally permitted under Prop. 1A, a quite different thing. As he has done before, Even projected his own agitated views into his (erroneous) interpretation of someone else's actual words.

And of course one cannot fail to notice Evan's latest futile attempt to reduce opposition to THIS high-speed rail project to "a small handful of loud self-entitled Peninsula residents." How would Even reconcile that claim with the fact that recent surveys show that around 60% of Californians are against THIS high-speed rail project? I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for a compelling answer from him. After all, the main purpose of his posts seems to be to vent, not to persuade through reasoned argument.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Unnamed
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 7, 2013 at 11:18 am

Let's not argue about whether or not HSR itself is good, but look at the process so far.

Does all this dysfunction not bother anyone? How much time and money have been wasted so far? How many proposals, meetings, votes, and so on and so forth? It's amazing how so little (or nothing) has come to fruition from so much effort.



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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

I didn't, and don't support HSR...just doesn't pencil on several levels. However, if it is going through, due to political formulas, then its needs to be elevated, and four track. Otherwise, the East-West connections in Palo Alto will become moribund...A Berlin Wall of sorts.

It continues to amaze me how our city council supported this turkey, because it was a reflexive 'green' project, without taking a few moments to consider the consequences.

But here we are now...elevated viaduct with four tracks makes the most sence.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm

My point, though not communicated as well as I'm able, is that there are ways for individuals to change their behaviors to "boycott" their particular issue --- at least as much as they can.

In the case of highways and not wanting to pay for them, there are personal habits that can be modified to minimize your contributions to the highway system. In the case of CalTrain, it is not


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Posted by NIMBY(grin)
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

High Speed Rail does not belong on the Peninsula!
It should come up the East Bay (or TriValley) first (on its way to Sacramento) and connect into BART for access to San Francisco.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Crescent Park,

You seem to ignore the fact that Caltrain is primarily
paid for by its users?

Can you support a toll for ALL lanes of 101 and 280?
Singapore charges tolls widely and they have a very good quality of living.


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Posted by carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Mrs Lynn Schenk, you have earned the respect of many people, myself included. Is refreshing to see somebody finally stands for their principles, instead of doing backroom deals that go against what the people of California voted for.


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Posted by Linda C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Putting HSR on the Peninsula is not what people specifically voter for. That is a horrible mistake to try to impose that on a community / region that has not voted for it to be here. No due process. Plus the whole HSP rail process is dysfunctional for our state the way it is set up !!!


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Look at the map and it's obvious HSR should pass through the Altamont Pass and across the bay, using existing rail routing, possibly hitting Redwood City and terminate either N or S of SFO into BART. This would be far cheaper than eventual land costs of 4-tracking through Palo Alto. As it stands the project has been warped by landed interests in San Francisco and San Jose.
Web Link


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Use fees are a good thing.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Tired for many for me to say this (again): HSR should run up the 101 corridor with stops at SJC and SFO.

Easy access. Right off the highway.
Plenty of parking already in existence at the airports and the local long-term parking lots.
Serviced by shuttles, buses, taxis, private cars already.
Obvious benefits of connecting HSR with major airports.

Do whatever you want with CalTrain - it does provide a valuable service to many commuters.

The whole reason HSR is running up the CalTrain line is because Quentin Kopp twisted arms to get it there --- so HSR would pay for CalTrain electrification. There was no thought given to the impact of cities on the Peninsula and/or the impact of daily life in those towns.

If you have to have HSR, at least be smart about it and put it where most people can get to it and/or use it when coming to our airports, etc.


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Posted by Disruptive
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Make it quiet and invisible, while you are at it. Or better still, postpone groundbreaking until 2030, so we can sell our homes within sound and sight of it for a good price.


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Posted by Betty
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Once again the HSR Authority blunders and exposes itself as the fiscal fraud that it is. Thanks to Lynn Schenk, it's been made abundantly clear, again, that spending HSR bond funds on regional transit, like Caltrain, is NOT authorized under the terms of prop 1a, and that the electrification of Caltrain was necessary step to secure the support of Peninsula legislators like Hill and Gordon. It was a bribe, paid for with our tax dollars.

The HSR Authority is so arrogant that publicly flaunting the law is simply how they operate. Having our Gov desperate for a legacy project doesn't help matters.

$300B (realistic cost of complete HSR project) divided by 37M CA residents is about $8100 taken from every man, woman, and child in the state to pay for this fraud. What would you rather spend that money on?


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Posted by Matt
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Betty (and others generally against HSR): here's an idea for that $8,100 per person. Let's continue to invest it in a transportation system that is at capacity so the growing California population can continue getting stuck in traffic, waiting out delays at airports and polluting. We could give it back to everyone as tax breaks so that they can buy new cars and contribute to congestion and the hours we waste sitting on the road.

Personally, I'd like to see us plan for our future. I'd like there to be mobility and housing options so we aren't forced to buy cars and live far from work in isolated housing "communities." I'd like us to be courageous about facing the challenges of the future rather than whittling away solid policy options into dysfunctional governance simply because we don't agree on all the details.

I'd like those that have benefited so much from the American way--its freedoms, its justice system, its free markets, its many free or subsidized resources--to acknowledge that there is a price to be paid for this beautiful democracy. That price includes a graduated income tax by which those who have benefited most, whether by their own efforts or not, pay the most toward raising the overall good in this country. If you don't believe that this position is part of the American system, then maybe you don't realize the democratic system has spoken on the issue time and time again (though increasingly today that democracy seems broken too by big money interests).

I'd like Peninsula residents to realize that, while their lives may or may not be encumbered with their own difficulties, there are others out there who desperately need better options than our status quo provides, which will be less and less if we don't take action for change. Soon enough, we will all need better options. The Peninsula communities can help a bold, historic undertaking be realized or they can continue to fear the losses they may somehow suffer from HSR while so many others must suffer first.

I've been reading Palo Alto comments on transportation issues for several weeks now and it's increasingly clear to me that many of you just don't get the realities of transportation infrastructure. It's costly to build, yes, but without it businesses could not function. These are investments we must make. Will we continue to invest in the social experiment of the 1950's, a jumble of roads that has proven to be extremely costly as it ages not to mention environmentally destructive (a soft cost) and increasingly ineffective, or will we try other options even if not seemingly perfect either?


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Posted by Ernst
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hmm, $8100 spent on a train that is by all accounts a financial fraud, or something else. I'll take something else thank you. The train is a solution for a problem that does not exist. Mass transit problems are very real within the SF Bay area, and within the LA area, they are chronic in fact. But squandering so much money to stroke politicians egos is foolish.

I think California ranks near dead last in in the nation spending on education. I'd rather spend the $8100 there. Money for a train, or a better future for our kids, a really tough choice there. Of course, more poorly educated kids could mean plenty of eager low wage employees for the fabled train of the future. After all, someone will need to keep it clean.


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Posted by Ernst
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Clarification: transit problems exist within the larger metro areas, not getting between them. HSR does nothing to alleviate the very real urban area transit problems in SF or LA.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm

more money for schools, none for the train.


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Posted by Anandakos
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Craig Laughton,

A fully elevated four track viaduct would be enormously heavy. The only realistic way to do this is to trench it the whole distance from the junction with HSR. Which is another reason to consider the Redwood City junction instead of San Jose. It's fifteen miles less trench.

In any case, I don't believe anything is going to happen. It's simply too expensive and people don't really believe it will work.


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Posted by Suzanne
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Matt,

I donate money to PIE to support our local schools, if I could, I would donate more. Better funded public schools benefit everyone, period. The prospect of the state siphoning precious dollars to build a fantasy train few will ride, basically because it's not needed, is absurd.

I propose that you put your hard earned dollars to task, and generously donate to the CA HSR Authority, since you consider it to be such an important project. Instead of helping to educate the work force of tomorrow, they'll put it work squandering the fiscal solvency of this state on a train.

Let us know how that works out for you.


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Posted by Matt
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Oh, I didn't realize this was about overall funding priorities. Yes, education is very important. To that I would add affordable health care as our top two national, long-term priorities, if we had any sense at all in this country. I will gladly pay higher taxes for improved education and health care funding. Infrastructure might be #3 on my list.

But that's not what this post is about. It's about the merits of a specific infrastructure project. I suppose you may see it as competing with other worthy causes for scarcely available funds. Fair enough.

As for those who don't think there's a problem, that's because you aren't looking beyond your own immediate needs. Our roads (the vast majority of which stretch between major urban centers) need constant, costly upkeep. Our airports are at maximum capacity with little to no room for expansion. Some inner city congestion is the result of longer distance trips. Maintaining the status quo with increasing population means greater overall costs with diminishing levels of service per capita. This is a downward spiral that eventually will put lives and the economy at risk.

How to deal with the situation is not an easy question. There's no silver bullet or sure-fire solution. It takes lots of study, hard choices, collaboration and careful planning, and ultimately not everyone will be satisfied. This not about the ego of politicians. It's about planning and engineering professionals (public officials, academics and consultants) seeing a problem with the old ways of doing things and working toward a solution. If your doctor told you you have an illness that will seriously impact your quality of life at some point in the future and explained a number of potential solutions all with unguaranteed results, what would your response be? Would you try any of them or wait until your quality of life began to suffer? Would you notice your quality of life slowly declining if the changes were very gradual?


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Posted by BuckRodgers
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Ha!

Let me see, California should *** billions away to build a train, and this will save the state because it is bold, visionary, and lots of other things. Well, if that's not the most stupid thing I've ever heard. Train is more important than schools, train is more important than health care, train is, well, just the most important thing around.

However, the train is insignificant compared to establishing an outpost Mars, heck, add a galactic coffee shop too! Why? well, it's bolder, and certainly much more visionary than a train. Besides, it will most certainly cost more. So, if a train will save California, then a space boondoggle will be hat much more better. Right?


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:05 pm

>A fully elevated four track viaduct would be enormously heavy. The only realistic way to do this is to trench it the whole distance from the junction with HSR

HSR was sold to us as an elevated viaduct, just look at all the artists' renditions, back in the day. HSR is a complete turkey, but it appears to be going through, due to the green fanatics. So, what is the most realistic approach? A trench or tunnel...will never happen. Surface all the way, blended or not, ...how will we ever get across town without more undercrossings/overcrossings? The elevated viaduct solves some of the major problems.


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Posted by Pat Brown
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:11 pm

"The most expensive public-works project in the U.S. was Boston's Big Dig, a highway tunnel system that cost $24.3 billion including interest and related obligations, according to a financial summary presented by transportation officials to the state House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight in July. The program, which was plagued by overruns and structural defects, was financed primarily by federal funds and debt backed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. " from Web Link

The Big Dig was undoubtably a 'Think Big!' project, something to be proud of, and the cure for what ever ailed Boston and probably Mass at the time. It turned into a huge fraud, about $10B. $10B sounds quaint now. The CA HSR project if fully built out is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Guess what the Big Dig and CA HSR have in common? Parsons Brinckerhoff, a principal engineering firm behind the Big Dig then, and now the major backer of Prop 1a, most of the staff on the CA HSR Authority, the CA HSR leader is a former Parsons Brinckerhoff executive, and Parsons Brinckerhoff is expected to be the successful bidder for much of the CA HSR train to nowhere.

Oh yeah, this special train really will save California.


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Posted by stevenjv
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:59 am

40+ years ago the same negative comments (expense, boondoggle, noise, etc etc) were heard prior to BART being voted on in 6 Bay Area counties. (3 counties dropped out. 2 of those counties now account for nearly 2 million residents and huge costs to bring BART into their counties). There was no dearth of lawsuits along the way. What those lawsuits accomplished in the end was to increase the cost of construction so that the finished system could be tailored to some cities needs (Berkeley for example that did not want elevated tracks but subway border to border - something the wealthy community of Atherton might want to buy for themselves). Seriously, are the naysayers thinking ahead 40 more years from now. And what is the alternative?


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