News

High-speed rail launches study for Peninsula segment

As rail officials move ahead with analysis of San Francisco-to-San Jose segment, Palo Alto officials call for grade separation

With plans accelerating for the Bay Area segment of California's high-speed rail line, Palo Alto officials this week called for a more inclusive process in designing the train system and renewed their calls for rail officials to "grade separate" the new bullet trains from crossing traffic.

That is one of the main points that the city plans to make as it prepares its comments on the California High Speed Rail Authority's forthcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Peninsula segment. This week, rail authority officials have been visiting Peninsula communities to solicit comments about the scope of the environmental analysis, a document that the rail authority hopes to complete by the end of next year.

On Wednesday morning, the agency made a stop in Palo Alto, where its Northern California Regional Director Ben Tripousis provided an update to the City's Council Rail Committee about the new document and solicited the committee's comments about what issues the authority should look at in the 51-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose. For the four council members on the committee, grade separation (moving the tracks either under or over crossing streets) was far and away the biggest cause of concern.

Under the current plan, high-speed rail plans to move ahead with rail separation in the Central Valley but not on the Peninsula. Rather, the Peninsula segment calls for high-speed rail to share tracks with Caltrain in what's known as the "blended system." Because the high-speed trains in the blended system would reach maximum speeds of 110 mph, the rail authority is not required by Federal Railroad Administration regulations to pursue grade separation. The requirement is only in place where speeds are 125 mph or above, Tripousis said.

Rather than physically separate the rail corridor from the crossing streets, the rail authority plans to pursue less dramatic and less expensive safety measures: new perimeter fencing and four-quadrant gates at all grade crossings.

While these measures are expected to limit the ability of cars to get on the tracks, Palo Alto officials are concerned that they will also create massive congestion at the four locations where the train tracks meet the streets.

Caltrain's plan to electrify its train system and increase the number of trains could further exacerbate the problem. The combination of six Caltrain trains and four high-speed trains running in each direction during the peak hour means that a train will be passing through every three minutes, creating traffic delays as the gates close and reopen to cars.

Mayor Pat Burt, who sits on the Rail Committee, questioned the rail authority's decision to pursue grade separation in the Central Valley and not on the Peninsula, given the level of congestion that already exists in Palo Alto and neighboring communities.

"This speaks to a pretty fundamental disconnect in our eyes between the plan to put high-speed rail on a blended system on the Peninsula and the absence of an actual plan and funding for grade separation," Burt said.

His colleagues concurred, with Councilman Tom DuBois saying that grade separation is "critical to us."

"The economic impacts of how it splits the town with these trains every three minutes is significant," DuBois said.

Councilman Marc Berman, who chairs the Rail Committee, also pointed to the large number of cars that cross the corridor and the impact that having quad gates could have on local traffic.

"How is that a tenable situation for a community?" Berman asked.

Tripousis said the rail authority will be exploring the impact of quad gates during the environmental analysis.

"Where we see impacts that are untenable, we will look at local solutions, which may involve grade separations," he said.

The committee wasn't entirely satisfied with the response. Vice Mayor Greg Scharff said that it doesn't take an EIR to realize that if a train is coming every three minutes and cars can't cross, it would have a significant effect on the community.

"I don't think an environmental review has to show that," Scharff said. "It's obvious. It's clearly an issue."

But Tripousis noted that there are 42 grade crossings between San Francisco and San Jose and that grade separation would cost somewhere in the area of $3 billion to $5 billion. The agency, he said, has reached out to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for participation and leadership on a study that would develop a program for "achieving grade separation over time."

Though the blended system that the new EIR will evaluate isn't nearly as controversial as the four-track alternative that the rail authority initially hoped to construct, the Wednesday discussion highlighted the high level of skepticism and opposition that the project continues to generate on the Peninsula.

While officials from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton and other Peninsula communities have been wrestling with the implications of high-speed rail since late 2008, when California voters approved a $9.95 billion bond for the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles system, the project took on new urgency in February of this year.

That's when the rail authority released its new business plan, which proposed launching construction of the system between Central Valley and San Jose. Prior plans had limited the first leg of the $64 billion system to the Central Valley.

Adding to the committee's skepticism is the rail authority's pivot away from the "context sensitive solution" (CSS) process that was originally envisioned for the Peninsula segment -- an extensive community-drive process that is commonly used for highway construction.

In January, Palo Alto submitted a letter to both Caltrain and the High Speed Rail Authority urging them to make CSS "a part of all phases of program delivery, including long range planning, programming, environmental studies, design, construction, operations and maintenance."

Such a process would not be possible, however, under the rail authority's current timeline, which calls for completing the process by the end of 2017. Tripousis stressed that the rail authority is committed to working with various committees made up of community stakeholders. But the Rail Committee argued that this is not enough, and urged the rail authority to make the process more inclusive, even if the timeline has to be further stretched.

Berman urged Tripousis to conduct a "thorough CSS process" with more opportunity for more community engagement. That way residents along the line can feel like partners in the project, rather than foes, he said.

"If I'm a third-party investor and I see a 50-mile stretch of the project with a lot of the communities very angry and looking to block it at every step of the way, I'm probably not very interested, and I'm much more concerned about the timeline and investing in the project," Berman said.

According to the rail authority's "notice of preparation," the analysis for the San Francisco-to-San Jose portion of the line will identify site-specific environmental impacts from construction, operation and maintenance of the project; mitigation measures to address these impacts and "appropriate design practices to avoid and minimize potential significant environmental impacts."

The notice states that the Peninsula segment will include at least one set of passing tracks (with a location yet to be determined), one terminal storage maintenance facility, track improvements to support higher speeds, and improvements to existing stations to support high-speed rail.

Under the current plan, the new trains would stop at the 4th and King streets station in San Francisco (ultimately, it would go to the Transbay Terminal, which is currently under construction), at the Millbrae station and at the Diridon station in San Jose.

The rail authority will be collecting comments about the scope of the EIR until June 10. Comments can be sent to san.francisco_san.jose@hsr.ca.gov or mailed to Mark A. McLoughlin, Attn: San Francisco to San Jose Project Section, California High-Speed Rail Authority, 100 Paseo De San Antonio, Suite 206, San Jose, CA 95113.

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Comments

22 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 8:05 pm

Fast trains in congested urban areas do not mix. Anyone with half a wit can recognize that, well, except the CA HSR Authority. The quad gates HSR proposes for most of the Peninsula do not prevent people from easily accessing the tracks, do nothing for cars getting trapped on the tracks when traffic moves slowly, do nothing about the train horn and gate bell noise that will be going off every few minutes as more trains pass by in the future, and will undoubtably wreck havoc with cross town traffic all along the Peninsula. Somehow HSR found the money for multiple grade separations in the central valley, but none here in one of the most congested parts of the state? In one of their electrification of the Caltrain corridor documents, the CA HSR Authority made it clear that they think grade separations here are a "local" problem, not theirs. Another fail by HSR.

Don't forget, CA HSR and San Francisco are planning, assuming, that HSR will terminate in San Francisco, not San Jose like the pr-press release du jour says. San Francisco has nearly completed their HSR/bus transit terminal and are currently looking to connect it to the tracks at 4th and Townsend, AND for HSR to pay for it.

I can only hope HSR runs out of funds and suffocate quickly when Jerry Moonbeam is finally termed out of office. Regardless of the longevity of HSR in California, I would still support grade separations and/or road closures all along the Peninsula to finally separate the rail line from auto and pedestrian traffic. That makes sense, though I do realize it's an expensive proposition.


25 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 8:24 am

Fast trains in congested urban areas have thrived in other countries for many years, including Japan where their bullet train has been running for OVER FIFTY YEARS.

Anyone who has traveled outside of the USA to Asia or Europe in the past twenty years would recognize that.

The Japanese figured this out in 1964 with the Tokaido Shinkansen, the world's busiest and most successful HSR. The annual ridership of the Tokaido Line has averaged about 145 million over the past five years. The northern terminus of this line is Tokyo Station, right in the heart of the city.

The point here is that for a successful deployment of HSR in an urban area, one needs grade separation.

HSR is not a new concept, so stop making it sound like California is some sort of pioneer for unexplored territory. The proposed blended California HSR running at 110 mph would still be slower than the 120 mph Shinkansen from the Sixties.

The HSR authority needs to make grade separation happen.


Like this comment
Posted by Steven Torry Rappolee
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 9:04 am

I blogged about this a little while ago now :)

Web Link++

The idea is thus; (A) CHSR comes up the 101 and jointly funds and builds the San Jose tunnel with BAR/VTA.The partnership can involve bonds from multiple agencies owed to one another(Tunnel arbitrage) One agency might owe more or own more than the others (B) Caltrain is also a partner in the funding and borrowing for the tunnels.The end product would look like MUNI/Bart in downtown SF.(C) An ESOP would own a for profit entity that would fund & own/lease the CHSR stock and track and jointly own Caltrain track and stock.A minority of both systems would be managed/owned by CHSR and Caltrans.The ESOP is a leveraged one that borrows to build the system( it owns/owes the high speed rail bonds) and retired bonds become equity to the ESOP.Caltrans and high speed rail would in reality be under a common ownership.


15 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2016 at 9:14 am

These guys are not very smart. Lots of well-off people in these neighborhoods. If they were good with politics, they would have allocated $$ for tunneling or trenching a long time ago.


12 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

HSR knows full well they need grade separation. They just want to off load the expense. How many folks were splattered by trains last weekend?


8 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 10:18 am

If they were relying on cap and trade money to help finance the train to nowhere, they need to look harder. The money isn't there to even build SJ to central valley, much less SF to SJ.

"The quarterly auction, conducted May 18 and announced Wednesday, will provide just $10 million for state programs, including $2.5 million for the bullet train. The rail authority had been expecting about $150 million."
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

Why not just take concrete barriers, like those used on freeways and block off the roads where they cross tracks. The idea is to reduce the number of automobiles. Make driving anywhere a truly royal pain and save communities a literal ton of money. Three to five billion to provide auto / train separation ?? I think not!


10 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton
on May 26, 2016 at 10:38 am

@Midtown

HSR probably wants to offload the expense, but I suspect that isn't the biggest problem. It's time.

There are 40+ at grade crossings remaining. Each one takes 3-4 years for construction from start to finish. Therein lies the first problem. If CA want HSR on the peninsula within a decade's time, it'll need at least a dozen crews working simultaneously on grade separation. And they need to start now.

But then Caltrain is confronted with a different problem. It can't run bullet trains through active construction areas. Train operators have to be extra slow and cautious through these areas. Of course, construction could occur only at night and weekends, but that would extend construction time longer and increase costs significantly.

Bottom line: CA can't add all the grade separation along the corridor without massive disruption to Caltrain service or delaying HSR even longer.

Money just happens to be HSR's second biggest problem. It is way underfunded and news just got worst today. Cap and trade auction sales have significantly plummeted.
Web Link

These auctions were to be a significant source of HSR funding. And if that isn't bad enough. If the appeals court finds that the tax/fee does not pass constitutional muster, then there will be no more auctions and no money for HSR from this source.


13 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 11:12 am

Only idiots would accept HSR without grade separation. Just think of the 110 mph train vs. auto collisions (vs. current 70 (?) MPH Caltrain. And the huge backups at crossings due to increased train traffic. Suicides will still occur. So the number of multiple hour line closures affecting both Caltrain and HSR will be huge.


17 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 11:36 am

I have to wonder how many will really utilize this fantasy of Brown's.

I live close enough to one of the train/street intersections to see how badly congested streets already are because of stupid light timing issues, and I can't see this improving anything.

Companies pay for employees' flights, and time is money. Maybe a few people who fear flying will use it, but really?

If one takes the train, it's for appreciation of the scenery...not likely to appeal at 100 mph.

What a money suck and foolish plan that should be acknowledged no longer worth consideration. Times have changed, minds and plans should too.


22 people like this
Posted by Seen It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm

The Shinkansen in Japan just breaks even every year. We lived in Jaoan for two years. We were told that; in the sixties through the mid-eighties, it was losing money. It has never really made a profit.

The TGV in France is hemorrhaging money, and the ICE in Germany has cut some of its lines in order to maintain a very marginal profit.

We travel frequently to Europe and Asia for business and pleasure. So far, the only profitable HSR we have seen ( and it is strongly suspected that their gov't is fudging the facts) is the system in China.

HSR seems only to work in overwhelming huge metro areas.


4 people like this
Posted by MP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

@Seen It - do freeways have not been hemorrhaging money?


10 people like this
Posted by Write to decision-makers TODAY
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Write to decision-makers TODAY is a registered user.

Auto facilities don't pay for themselves--not even close--they are heavily subsidized. Why should trains be required to pay for themselves?

Nonetheless, I am FOR trenching the train. If HSRA fails to offer that, it will be a disaster for us. Residents, don't waste your time commenting here. Send your thoughts to people who can DO something to redirect this train wreck. Write to Jerry Brown and HSRA and your State Assembly and Senate Reps.

Jerry Brown governor@governor.ca.gov
Jerry Hill senator.hill@senate.ca.gov
Rich Gordon www.asmdc.org/members/a24/
HSRA san.francisco_san.jose@hsr.ca.gov



13 people like this
Posted by Not-Jeff
a resident of Stanford
on May 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm

Not-Jeff is a registered user.

Union Pacific has an exclusive easement on the Caltrain Right-Of-Way. That means it has the right to protect its access and usage of the ROW. Any construction in the ROW would have to be acceptable by Union Pacific, as any construction (depending on how its done) has to potential to disrupt their freight service.

If Union Pacific makes the case that construction (even trenching, which I'm a supporter) disrupts their service, they can nix the construction and/or High-speed-rail...whenever they want.


10 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Seems that the only real intent of the HSR on the SF Peninsula was to get tax dollars. If they add anything at all to the current train system it will simply be more problems. Isn't the current plan no stops between San Jose and SF with the tracks at street level!


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Generally speaking I am all in favor of public transportation and the HSR, but not the way it is being perceived at present.

Stating that grade separation is for the local communities to sort out is a big problem as far as I can see. Caltrain has to sort this out regardless of whether HSR becomes a reality or not. It is definitely a regional problem, not a local city by city problem.

As an example, on Monday I think, there was a Caltrain issue in Burlingame or somewhere. This issue caused problems all along the Caltrain corridor. All trains were affected, north and south. All commuters were affected, regardless of whether they had to travel through the area where the problem was caused. As a result of train commuters having problems local communities suffered too. Not only were people late for work who used the train - doctors not getting to work, teachers not being in the classrooms, etc. but all roads were hit with more traffic as buses and trainriders switching to cars increased the traffic on all routes up and down the Peninsula.

The train tracks, whether they are Caltrain, HSR, Amtrak or anything else, are arteries that get people to where they are going. Anytime there is any type of incident that prevents the trains running smoothly will affect every other form of transportation in the region.

The train tracks are a regional problem and trying to pass the issue to make it a local one is not going to work. All cities along the route should be pressing Caltrain and HSR to get this sorted out now, not some vague time in the future.


10 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm

@Seen It:

Sorry, you are wrong. The current operators of the Tokaido Shinkansen are in fact profitable. There was a time when it wasn't breaking even, but those were the days when it was government-owned. Privatiziation began in 1987 and was fully completed by 2002, fourteen years ago.

Today, JR East is a listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. But don't just take my word for their profitability, you can see their Fiscal 2016 Financial Results (Japanese GAAP) right here:

Web Link

with a profit attributable to owners of the parent at 245.309 trillion yen. Of course, financial documents don't detail the profitability of each individual rail line.

As I wrote earlier, the Tokaido Shinkansen is by far the world's most traveled HSR line. Japan's HSR works because of the population density. They have about half of the USA's population crammed into a country the length of California.


10 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm

@Seen It:

Even as a Bay Area resident, if you wanted to invest in East Japan Railway Company (a.k.a. "JR East"), you could.

It trades in the OTC market as an ADR with the stock symbol EJPRY.

You can see the basic stock information at Yahoo Finance:

Web Link

and their EPS is $0.96 (ttm).


75 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 4:30 pm

One indicator of how much use the Tokaido Shinkansen gets is how often the rolling stock is updated. They make major model changes about every 18-22 years or so with a couple of mid-life updates during that period.

How old are the Caltrain gallery sets? They date from the mid-Eighties. Riding them was fine in the Nineties even at the turn of the millennium, but today they reek of disinfectant cleaners. Worse, the JPB is deferring routine maintenance, so there are more equipment failures these days.

How old is BART? (Yes, I know they aren't HSR). BART is 43 years old and during one of the recent massive service outages, some spokesperson from BART admitted that the equipment is at the "end of its useful lifespan" [sic].

Let's look at a comparable Tokyo subway line, the Yamanote line. In 2015, they started deploying new trains to replace older equipment. When was the older rolling stock first put into service? 2002. Thirteen years.

Is there is any surprise that BART rolling stock that is three decades older have a lot of problems?

If California HSR is going to build this system, they better have a plan to replace it because that will eventually need to happen. And they should know better, it's not like they're inventing the wheel.

People have been running HSR systems for over fifty years. THIS IS NOT A NEW CONCEPT.


15 people like this
Posted by Local Problem
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Grade separation is ALREADY a local problem, and will get worse with or without HSR. Palo Alto should be ponying up money to improve (and SAVE) the lives of its own citizens, instead of relying on federal funding to do it. What is WRONG with Palo Alto, Atherton, Mt View, etc., who aren't willing to pay money to save lives and improve their own communities?


1 person likes this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm

@Local Problem wrote:

"Grade separation is ALREADY a local problem, and will get worse with or without HSR. Palo Alto should be ponying up money to improve (and SAVE) the lives of its own citizens, instead of relying on federal funding to do it. What is WRONG with Palo Alto, Atherton, Mt View, etc., who aren't willing to pay money to save lives and improve their own communities?"

Ok, but where is Palo Alto supposed to get the money? If it is by reallocating funds from other programs or cutting waste, then fine. If it is by increasing taxes, then not fine.


12 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Even the much cited Shinkansen slows as it approaches Tokyo, and makes an accommodation for that portion of the route. The 25.5km between Shin-Yokahama and Tokyo, a very urban area, takes 18 minutes. That's an average speed of 85 km/hr (53 miles/hr), which is comparable to Caltrain train speed. I do not know, but assume that the entire Shinkansen line is fully grade separated, I do not see how they could achieve the fast speeds elsewhere on the line safely otherwise.

The fake engineers and political dupes running CA HSR would benefit greatly from taking some notes from those who have essentially perfected high speed rail. Instead, the CA HSR Authority chose to bluster, blunder, and bully to demonstrate just how incredibly ignorant, or just plain stupid, they are when it comes to this project that they clearly do not have the skills to manage or develop themselves.


7 people like this
Posted by All the Way Around
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 26, 2016 at 11:07 pm

BART is a money suck and dictated to by the BA MTC and Chevron. They have way too much power and labor problems. The Bay Area needs a fully comprehensive no-nonsense single train company that makes the connection ALL THE WAY AROUND THE BAY, This will invite ease and convenience so that single drivers will get out of their cars. It's still way cheaper and easier to drive folks!!! What of the track that crosses alongside the Dunbarton bridge - That track needs to be upgraded and used by a commuter train. Instead, we'll just keep patching together a rail line that UNION PACIFIC has exclusive rights to, Light Rail, CAL Train, BART, SMART and might or might not hook up with a VTA, MUNI, SAM TRANS, GGTransit bus . . . And maybe someday a BULLET Train might get added to the mix too. The two East Bay oil refineries pulled apart what was once a fine working 20th Century commuter train system and now it's up to us to put together a fabulous 21Century system.


Like this comment
Posted by Rogue Trader
a resident of Green Acres
on May 26, 2016 at 11:20 pm

"SACRAMENTO — A critical source of funding for the state’s high-speed rail project came in substantially short this week when demand fell sharply for pollution permits sold in the state’s cap-and-trade program.

The rail authority was expecting to receive $150 million Wednesday from the auction, but will instead receive only $2.5 million after the state took in 2 percent of what it had anticipated netting from the final quarter of this fiscal year’s cap-and-trade auctions.

The cap-and-trade program is also authorized only until 2020, leaving some statutory uncertainty in the program, Brown said.

Peters said the analyst’s office found it problematic that the rail authority’s business plan relies heavily on the cap-and-trade revenue in future years, particularly given that the cap-and-trade program is authorized only through 2020."

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by adobe
a resident of College Terrace
on May 27, 2016 at 12:48 am

everyone here missed the point: look at the past first before give your 50 cents. CHSR will not pay for grade separation final. understood. now the city politics will need to add a bond and bring to the votes to pay for underground in each one the peninsula cities. Berkeley did that in the 70s and since then they have BART running underground their main street. Somebody needs to have some guts and propose a city BOND.


5 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of Southgate
on May 27, 2016 at 7:17 am

Anyone commuted on 101 lately? I have been an on and off commuter for 20 years now, and I've never seen it as bad as it is now. 3 exits = 40 minutes around 5pm (in the carpool lane). The Bay Area has a massive problem due to decades of failure to update infrastructure to handle rising population. (Is this the most obvious comment ever?) HSR doesn't seem like a bad idea, but we have MUCH larger problems if we want to continue to live here with a good standard of living (not spending all our lives in our cars). Make Caltrain run WAY more often, with grade separations so that it doesn't interrupt traffic and present such a hazard to life, put a subway line under El Camino, put the HSR in the middle or 101 (or under it) - there is current construction in the middle of 101 that takes about 4 lanes worth of width, and 101 is moving OK past it, add bus service east/west. We need to get some intestinal fortitude to make big painful decisions as a *region* - local governments can't make these decisions without cooperation with all cities/counties adjoining. Probably will mean there are some imminent domain issues but so be it. As I see it, this place is becoming less livable with every additional person who moves here.


Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Trains *are* traffic.

And how come when people get a red light at a road intersection (far longer and more frequently than at any train crossing) to allow at most several dozen people to pass through in cars, they don't scream about how billions worth of grade separations and trenches for all the cross streets is needed?

And yet, when a railroad crossing gate that blocks a road for less time and less frequently than almost any traffic light at any major intersection allows several HUNDRED (sometimes even a thousand) people to pass aboard a train, motorists and train-hating NIMBYs scream about the horrifically unacceptable inconvenience and delays?

Nutty auto-centric double-standard.

Please check how many times per day and for how long traffic is blocked at any major intersection (ie with dedicated left turn lanes in all directions) and compare to any Caltrain crossing either now or in the future. Compare average gate down time to average length of red cycle, compare number of gate activations to number of red lights per day (or per hour) ... then also compare average number of people that are allowed to pass during a gate activation vs. during a red light cycle ... maybe normalize it by number of people per second of gate down time vs. number of people per second of red light time.


11 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2016 at 2:04 pm

The Shinkansen is in a completely different environment. Japan is an order of magnitude more dense than California. You're simply not going to get the same kind of ridership. That's why public transit is so bad locally - we don't have enough people/square mile to support more VTA (or Caltrain) service here.

As for commuter's complaint about traffic on 101 - repeat this after me - HSR IS NOT LOCAL TRANSIT.It will do absolutely nothing to resolve our local traffic issues. Only local public transit and smart development around transit stops can solve that. It amazes me that this outright lie keeps getting brought up.

The substitute for HSR is air travel between here and the Southland. And there's plenty of capacity that can be built. Even in Shinkansen-land, they were flying big 500 seat 747Ds and 777s short distances. We're flying small regional jets and narrowbodies. My last roundtrip to LAX was $139. I don't think HSR is going to come close to that.


7 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2016 at 5:22 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Why does HSR need to go up the Peninsula? POLITICS

Caltrain makes the trip from San Jose in less than 1 hr (way shorter than a TSA LINE).

HSR to San Jose (or Morgan Hill), a Transfer. the total trip time difference would be small

Less disturbance to existing right of way, easier HSR track routeing to South County and little cramming it into a saturated route.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2016 at 6:21 pm

@SteveU

"Why does HSR need to go up the Peninsula?"

The language of the bond measure requires it. That being said, I'm not entirely sure how HSR is any more disruptive than the Caltrain modernization project; stopping HSR in San Jose doesn't negate the need for electrification, quad tracks, grade separations, and so on.


3 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton
on May 27, 2016 at 10:26 pm

@Robert

"Why does HSR need to go up the Peninsula?"

"The language of the bond measure requires it."

Actually, the bond language does not. It says HSR has to go to SF. There are two ways to get to SF: the peninsula or the East Bay then through the transbay tube.

HSR is more disruptive because it will add more parallel tracks in order to run more trains along the corridor. That means more gate down time and more train horns.


7 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Whether Gov. Browndoggle's vanity project comes to pass or not, the train tracks are here to stay on the peninsula, HSR or no HSR. They've been here for over 150 years and aren't going away. Palo Alto has had 150+ years to grade separate four crossings and has done nothing about it. Now, congestion at the crossings is untenable without one scrap of HSR in place, and Palo Altans are crying and expecting the state to pick up the tab and bail them out by paying for grade separation. Palo Alto needs grade separation for Caltrain alone, with or without HSR, so why is it the State's problem?

Get in your SUV and drive from your McMansion to Holly Street in San Carlos to see grade separation done well. That crossing has been grade separated for several years now, yet Palo Alto with its vast Silicon-Valley riches, its $2 million homes and Stanford University brainpower, can't get it together to grade separate four railroad crossings. It's a done deal in modest and unassuming San Carlos and has been for years -- what's wrong with Palo Alto? Self-driving cars? No problem! Railroad grade separation? Uh, does not compute!

You can entertain your pipe-dream fantasies about trenches and tunnels, but figure $1 billion per mile before "cost overruns" for tunneling and you're looking at well over $50 billion for the peninsula alone, on a project which is supposed to come in at $68 billion for all of HSR.

SteveU has the right idea. There is no reason in Hades for HSR to come up the peninsula, given the expense and disruption involved. Let the (largely empty) HSR trains go no further than San Jose and the handful of HSR travelers can take one of Caltrain's sleek Baby Bullets to the city. It will add 15 minutes to the trip, but there are people starving in this world so those 15 minutes are truly a first-world problem.

People who are in a red-hot hurry to get from L.A. to S.F. will probably fly anyway, as they have always done. There is not one shred of market research showing that travelers will favor an HSR train over air travel or the highways.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm

"Why does HSR need to go up the Peninsula?"

"The language of the bond measure requires it."

Since 2008 they're been rewriting the rulebook, shuffling the deck and moving the goal posts on HSR, so why is the letter of the law anything but a mere abstraction now?


6 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm

"Union Pacific has an exclusive easement on the Caltrain Right-Of-Way."

UP also owns the ROW south of San Jose. Per a very old law, it cannot be taken by eminent domain. UP has to give it up willingly.

HSR has blithely ignored these inconveniences. That leads me to suspect that the real motive for HSR is to milk the taxpayers for an extensive, expensive, foredoomed planning process. Nice "work" when you can get it.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2016 at 5:01 pm

One thing I don't understand: If PCJPB owns the ROW between SF and SJ, how can Union Pacific have an "exclusive" easement if they are sharing the ROW with Caltrain? If they are sharing it, how can it be "exclusive"?


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Because Union Pacific sold the ROW to Caltrain...it was part of the deal.

Politics is exactly why CAHSR is going up the Peninsula. The CalTrain BoD saw the cash cow as their way to fleece the state in order to pay for their electrification plans. They politic'd CAHSR to change from the original plan to go through Alatamont Pass and change to Pacheco Pass.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2016 at 4:57 pm

No, Southern Pacific sold the ROW to Caltrain.

My question is, if Caltrain owns the ROW, how can UP have an "exclusive" easement when it is shared with Caltrain. Note the use of the word "exclusive".


7 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton
on May 31, 2016 at 8:44 am

@Joe

Southern Pacific retained the right to run freight and passenger traffic when it sold the ROW to Caltrain. Thus, it has veto power on any ROW changes that Caltrain could make if it affects that traffic.

The idea of an exclusive easement is similar to what you may have if you own a single family home. The electricity, gas, cable, and telephone companies have an exclusive easement to run utilities through it, but you own the property. If you want to make changes to your property that would affect these utilities, you need to get their ok before proceeding.

The problem with Palo Alto funding grade separation on its own is that it is very expensive: around $100M-$200M per crossing. It needs the county, state, and/or federal government to pitch in the vast majority of the funds, plus their political capital to get the UP and Caltrain bureaucracy to approve it.

For the grade separations that happened in San Carlos, Belmont, and San Bruno, they were primarily funded by San Mateo County itself, not the cities. Most of Santa Clara County's capital transportation funds goes toward BART and VTA expansions. Not much of it goes to Caltrain. Even the next sales tax increase to be voted on this Fall is going primarily to BART.

Thus, Palo Alto's problem is that it is far away from the political and geographic center of Santa Clara County: San Jose. That is why BART and VTA serves that community very well, but those farther away not so much.

In San Mateo County, the next three most likely grade separation likely are in the cities of San Mateo, Burlingame, and Menlo Park. All of them are expecting some combination of the county, state, and federal government to pick up the tab.


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Apple: thank you for the very clear explanation. When people discuss Caltrain and HSR they forget, or are unaware, that U.P. uses those tracks for freight every day/night.

I have read the engineering study for grade separation in Palo Alto, done by a different firm than did the San Carlos grade separation. I feel it is extremely poorly conceived, nothing at all like the elegant solution I see at Holly Street, known as a "hybrid" grade separation. Nearly a year ago I expressed my concerns to several people on Palo Alto government staff. I described the Holly Street grade separation and referred them to the firm that did the Holly Street separation. I have since read here that Palo Alto will be having another engineering study done of grade separation, hopefully by the firm that did Holly Street. I see the existing study as a disaster in the making.

In Los Angeles there was a hybrid grade separation at Santa Monica boulevard and Beverly Glen. There was little disruption to the surrounding area; in fact there are businesses and residences at that intersection. The railroad bridge at that intersection has been removed in recent years.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2016 at 6:59 am

Marie is a registered user.

I just sent the following comment to the HSR authority in response to their call for input to their scoping project for the upcoming SJ-SF Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). I encourage everyone to send their comments to san.francisco_san.jose@hsr.ca.gov before June 10. For more information, check out the HSR website:

Web Link

"As a resident on Alma street in Palo Alto, I would like to see the HSR EIS for the SJ-SF section to specifically address the impacts of construction on Alma including any reduction of lanes during construction. In particular, I would like to know how long each stretch of Alma would be impacted and whether the HSR construction will be at the same time as the electrification construction, In other words, how many times and in which years can we anticipate lane reductions on Alma?

I favor electrification of Caltrain and the elimination of grade crossings in Palo Alto. I am prepared to endure the impact of construction but hope that it will be done as expeditiously as possible.

Trenching the train throughout Palo Alto would be my preference. Alternative sources of funding could make this alternative economically feasible, such as selling air rights for housing or hotels above the tracks. Think Grand Central Station or Penn Station in NYC. My understanding is that half of the trench could be covered without additional ventilation requirements. This would also bring together the community since it would facilitate more ways to get across the tracks and ease the congestion on Charleston and East Meadow. This would be a win-win as opposed to a major negative impact on traffic flow in Palo Alto.

Kathleen Goldfein
Resident, Homeowner and Landlord
Palo Alto, CA 94306 "


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Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm

"Trenching the train throughout Palo Alto would be my preference."

Then every other city along the right-of-way will want the train trenched.

In addition, there are non-trivial water-table and creek-crossing issues to be dealt with, adding even more to the cost.

How many billions will that cost and where will you come up with the money?


2 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm

"How many billions will that cost and where will you come up with the money?"

That's easy, you just raise taxes. That's how we solve all problems of any nature whatsoever in California


1 person likes this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

Perhaps increasing the speed limit on Highway 5 to 150 mph would help the SF-LA travel time.


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