News

Palo Alto looks to advance plan for Caltrain 'grade separation'

Planning commission and City Council prepare to adopt new problem statement, engagement process for separating tracks from roads

Palo Alto's elected leaders have been talking for years about the need to separate the rail corridor tracks from local streets, a goal that is becoming increasingly urgent as Caltrain prepares to electrify its fleet and as California's high-speed-rail project advances toward the Peninsula.

But when it comes to actually planning for "grade separation," everyone acknowledges that the city has fallen behind other Peninsula communities, including Burlingame to the north and Mountain View to the south. Later this month, the city will try to play catch-up when it unveils a new plan for engaging the community in the complex endeavor -- an exercise that is sure to pit Palo Altans' penchant for a drawn-out process against the need to move quickly so as not to get left behind when Santa Clara County dishes out Measure B funds for grade-separation projects.

In the coming weeks, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, a special City Council committee and, ultimately, the full council will consider staff's latest plan for both developing a solution and getting the community on board. The three bodies would also approve the "problem statement" for the endeavor and evaluation criteria that would be used to develop a design alternative.

For Palo Alto, the drive toward grade separation is far from new. Officials have been talking about the need to separate the tracks from the roads -- preferably by putting the train into either a trench or an underground tunnel -- since at least 2008, when California voters approved a $9.95-billion bond for the project. In 2013, the city completed a Rail Corridor study that involved a citizen stakeholder committee and that made a number of recommendations, including increasing the number of grade crossings and considering a below-grade solution for the tracks.

Since then, however, the planning effort has run out of steam as the California High-Speed Rail Authority shifted its focus away from the Peninsula segment and toward the Central Valley. The council's Rail Committee, which was active during the early days of high-speed rail, disbanded and the Rail Corridor report was effectively shelved.

"When the high-speed rail project became less urgent, unfortunately the grade-separation work also became less urgent," the city's Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello told the council's recently reconstituted Rail Committee at a June 28 meeting. "And some of the follow-through items that were identified in the corridor study didn't come to fruition because the urgency of the high-speed-rail project fell off a little."

Now, things are again changing. With Caltrain's electrification plan speeding ahead and Measure B allocating $700 million for grade-separation work in north Santa Clara County, rail crossings are once again a top infrastructure priority. And because the city is competing for the Measure B funds with Mountain View and Sunnyvale, time could be of the essence.

With that in mind, the city held the first of a series of community workshops in May to bring the topic back to the forefront. Over the summer, it sent out online surveys to gauge residents' opinions about what should be done on the rail corridor. Now, it's planning for subsequent workshops, with the next one set to take place on Sept. 16 and the one after that on Oct. 21.

But before the city can identify the solution, officials first hope to get a clearer grasp of the problem. One of the first tasks that the planning commission, the Rail Committee and the council will take on is adopting a problem statement. A new report from Planning Director Hillary Gitelman stresses the importance of having a "common understanding" between the community and the city's decision makers about both the problem and the evaluation criteria that would be used.

"While some may find it frustrating to dwell on these points and want to simply embrace and pursue a specific solution, the adoption of a Problem Statement and Objectives (which lead to evaluation criteria) will pay dividends as the community begins to evaluate trade-offs inherent in any complex capital project with the potential to affect the long-term future of Palo Alto," Gitelman wrote. "The trade-offs don't just relate to the physical form of improvements along the rail corridor but also to specific engineering, financing, phasing and construction considerations."

To develop the problem statement and the evaluation criteria, the city relied on both past reports and resident feedback from the May workshop and subsequent survey. According to the surveys, the residents' top three concerns are bike/pedestrian circulation; auto/truck congestion; and pedestrian safety.

Given this feedback, staff's proposed evaluation criteria includes as the most important factors east-west connectivity, traffic congestion, bike/pedestrian circulation and support for continued rail operations. Secondary factors that will be considered are things like reduced noise and vibration along the corridor and improved access to neighborhoods and local destinations. Other factors considered "somewhat important" include minimizing disruption caused by construction activities and right-of-way acquisitions.

In preparation for the upcoming discussion, staff also drafted a problem statement that reads:

"The Caltrain corridor creates a physical and visual barrier to east/west connectivity within the City of Palo Alto, and is also the source of safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, especially at existing at-grade crossings. The rail corridor also creates issues in surrounding neighborhoods such as noise, vibration, traffic and visual impacts. While the City of Palo Alto benefits from Caltrain service and supports Caltrain modernization (including electrification), some of the issues experienced along the rail corridor will continue to get worse in the future with increases in Caltrain service traffic due to Caltrain modernization (including electrification) and the possible addition of high speed rail."

Throughout the planning process, city officials have signaled their support for "context sensitive solutions," a deeply collaborative process that has traditionally been used by the state Department of Transportation to design highways.

But while Palo Alto's plan calls for engaging the community through a series of workshops, some say it falls short of the type of stakeholder engagement that the "context sensitive solutions" process typically entails. Former Mayor Pat Burt and Nadia Naik, a co-founder of the rail-watchdog group Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design, have each criticized the city for omitting what they see as a crucial component of the process: a stakeholder group.

Both had characterized the approach proposed by staff as the classic "DAD" approach -- "design, announce and defend" -- rather than a true collaboration.

"Public participation best practices and the CSS process adopted by the City require a collaborative, consensus-driven dedicated stakeholder group as an essential part of a public process that seeks to collaborate and empower its citizens," Naik wrote in a statement she submitted to the planning commission.

The omission of a stakeholder group in the proposed plan, she added, goes directly against the recommendations of the International Association of Public Participation (a group that the city's consultant, Circlepoint, cited as a source for its proposed process) and therefore does not serve the intended purpose of the "Citizen Engagement Plan."

Burt, who had served on the Rail Committee before terming out last year, also submitted a memo arguing in favor of a stakeholder group. The approach proposed by staff, he wrote, is led by staff and consultants, with some community input -- not a true "context sensitive solutions" process.

"In a true CSS process, there is front-loaded community participation where stakeholders influence outcomes by raising issues early in the process when they can still be addressed and help avoid wasted time and resources studying alternatives that might make sense from an engineering/transportation perspective but are at odds with community concerns," the memo states.

The planning commission will consider staff's new plan for engagement and proposed problem statement and evaluation criteria on Wednesday, with the Rail Committee scheduled to follow suit on Aug. 16 and the full council on Aug. 28.

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Comments

24 people like this
Posted by Not Far From the Tracks
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:27 am

I'm pretty sure the solutions we'd like are the solutions we can't afford. So I predict we'll descend into a battle over unattractive solutions where there will be only losers and the whole process will create nothing but acrimony in the community.


31 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:31 am

We can't afford to do nothing either, which is what the city council decided the last several times that this issue came up. We are paying them to have the political backbone to do the right thing for the city, so now is the time for them to step up.


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2017 at 11:54 am

Don't sep 'em, close 'em. Simplest and cheapest.


10 people like this
Posted by lin
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 7, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I think we should require grade separation for CalTrain but we should not have to pay for it. Could we get the state to pay for it or tax new homeowners?


3 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2017 at 1:22 pm

@ Curmudgeon:

>Don't sep 'em, close 'em. Simplest and cheapest.

Close, but no cigar. Close the Alma and Churchill and Meadow crossings. Put an overpass/cloverleaf on the Charleston crossing. Most of us can live with that.


20 people like this
Posted by C'est Moi
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I would be completely satisfied with overpasses for Charleston and Meadow-- like Sunnyvale has for Fairoaks and Mathilda.

Closing off crossings will make it much harder to get to the freeways or even just across town. That would just add to the road rage.

It's bad enough when you are in a long line of traffic stopped because a long CalTrain crosses-- then another long train passes in the opposite direction, then yet a third train-- and the gate doesn't come up one in 12-15 minutes! No one has that much time for a delay like that!


9 people like this
Posted by LTRes
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Just close them.
No need for them.
Too costly for the convenience of a few.



14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Electrifying work is about to start on Caltrain. If the grade separation is not done at the same time it will cost even more in both dollars and inconvenience to local residents and local traffic.

Get on with it asap.


5 people like this
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Tunnels are terrible for the millions who travel by train. Overpasses or underpasses are the way to go.


37 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Overpasses or underpasses are terrible for the millions who live by a train. Underground tunnels are the way to go.

Note: Only 30,000 people or <1% of the Peninsula's population of over 3,000,000 use Caltrain.


11 people like this
Posted by LTRes
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2017 at 5:51 pm

[Post removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 6:26 pm

Above ground passenger rail produces blight. In the early to mid part of the 20th century many cities had above ground passenger rail, but they were all ripped out and put underground to rescue the area around the tracks from blight.

The only major city left with above ground rail is Chicago and its rail system has become a joke with Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers living next to the El.

Elwood Blue's Apartment: Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm

@LTRes, @Ahem ..

@Ahem is absolutely correct.

@Resident ..

The work needed to be done for these grade separations has nothing to do with the electrification boondoggle. Having watched, and been involved, with attempts to bring this matter into the public arena for a long time now, this is going to be a hot potato because taking some homes to facilitate the structures will be required.
Moreover, the structures are going to be seen as incompatible with the residential nature of the neighborhoods where they will be constructed--which will result in a lot of resistance to the City's plans, whatever those plans might be.

If the City has any plans that it has been working on in the background, it would be a good idea to get them out for public review. If not, this is going to be a long process. If the City misses the window for this round of funding, there will be even more resistance if the City proposes a parcel tax, say, to fund these structures.

All-in-all, this project will be a real test for the Planning people.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Close 'em and make money instead of spending money. I bet Caltrain could sell the gate mechanisms for way more than the cost of installing barriers.


14 people like this
Posted by LTRes
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2017 at 6:47 pm

@Joe
Absolute Baloney.


4 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 7:31 pm

@LTRes ..

Let the substance of our postings speak for themselves.


2 people like this
Posted by LTRes
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 7, 2017 at 8:03 pm

@Joe
Which part ?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 8:21 pm

It has to be done in conjunction with electrification because of the height of the electric wires overhead. Both tunnels and trenching will have to have enough height and if the train is left at grade then bridges will have to be high enough to allow for the electric wires. If it is not taken into account then high level train (elevated tracks) will be the only option.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2017 at 8:37 pm

@LTRes ..

Time to exit your echo chamber.


5 people like this
Posted by hyperloop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm

How about forget the overpass or tunnel and build a hyperloop instead?


18 people like this
Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Ok sounds like a lot of name calling but the choices are following.

1. Tunnel
2. Open trench
3. Elevated tracks
4. Elevated roads with at grade tracks
5. A solution where some crossings get removed.

I bet this is the order of priority for a lot of residents. Tunnels are expensive and elevated railway is ugly. Elevated roads are messy (eminent domain, anyone?) and cause a host of issues with nearby intersections.

So I say this: open trench for the railway with roads at or near grade. Trench Alma too while you are at it ... and make it 65 mph. The right of way is wide enough that most alma houses/ businesses could be served by an additional 2-lane 25 mph street. Tunnel under creeks. Leave train above ground in parts where no conflict exists.

This will release a lot of real estate ... parking structures, station depot and shopping could be built on top of the trenched tracks and so can be office space. Also potentially allow streets like Hamilton and California Ave to cross the tracks ... resulting in better East-West connectivity and reduction of congestion, especially in downtown.

This won't be cheap, but it will be cheaper than a tunnel and it will make the town "more whole" than it currently is. One would need to run some real estate numbers ... putting offices on top is a beautiful thing, it will invite commuters. So, Caltrain potentially could fund this as we generate more office space for them to serve. Developers might be interested at the prospect of more buildings.

Unfortunately I would not make it to Wednesday's meeting due to being on a flight ...


9 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:22 pm

@Ahem, we don't live in an urban area. Plenty of above ground rail across the world in places like Palo Alto.

Grade separation will help traffic and increase safety. Enough said. Cough it up and get it done.


9 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:22 pm

Marie is a registered user.

It is a real joke for the city admin to say based on one meeting that "According to the surveys, the residents' top three concerns are bike/pedestrian circulation; auto/truck congestion; and pedestrian safety." And " Secondary factors that will be considered are things like reduced noise and vibration along the corridor and improved access to neighborhoods and local destinations. Other factors considered "somewhat important" include minimizing disruption caused by construction activities and right-of-way acquisitions."

In fact, the the only reason that minimizing disruption and right-of-way acquisitions were only considered "somewhat important" is because there has been no description of what that means. There has been no real discussion of the fact that construction will require that close of 2-3 lanes of Alma Street for a totally unpredictable amount of time. The only vague estimate I have seen is that "26" properties (undefined) would be required for a Charleston intersection that would drop the road and raise the train - which is apparently no longer on the table. Caltrain has made it clear that they will not be willing to move the train tracks at all, probably because if they did they could never meet their current completion date for electrification. All their planning is based on the tracks not moving.

Even though the latest Caltrain plan is to start construction in San Jose and San Francisco and meet in the middle, which gives the maximum time to work on eliminating grade crossing in the middle, I do not believe the timing leaves any solutions but closing the crossings or massive disruptions of the neighborhoods. Those who refuse to study history are doomed to repeat it. I suggest the city council go back and study the result of pushing through Oregon Expressway, which eliminated many houses along the expressway. The political landscape was changed significantly.

And forcing dozens of families to lose their homes under terms that would not allow them to purchase replacements with the proceeds (due to increased cost of property taxes, reduced proceeds due to income taxes and lack of inventory) will cause extreme reaction. Trust me, bike and pedestrian paths are inconsequential in comparison and anyone who can't figure that out, is living in lala land.

I am sure the city transportation officials have read the small print and know very well the kinds of disruption they will be dealing with. The " the classic "DAD" approach -- "design, announce and defend" -" quoted above is exactly the path the city is on and it will be a disaster that will leave us with grade crossings, with quad gates and a greatly reduced ability to cross the tracks. The elevated solutions proposed above would be a disaster - financially, in terms of time of construction, and in terms of neighborhood disruptions. And yet, I don't think anything else is possible. Palo Alto has missed the boat. Long ago they should have been working with Mountain View and Menlo Park to depress Caltrain. I see no real solutions.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:34 pm

"It is a real joke for the city admin to say based on one meeting that..."

Those are the outcomes the city staff had decided on, and they would be the "outcomes" no matter how many meetings there may be. Ergo, all meetings beyond the first are superfluous.


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2017 at 10:51 pm

I do not want tunnels. Based on numbers I have read in the past, tunnels will cost at least 3 times as much and take at least 3 times as long as elevating the tracks all the way through the city. Working on 2 or 3 grade separations and replacing the others with pedestrian bridges can be done even faster and cheaper.

Are you willing to pay thousands of more dollars per year per household for the rest of your lifetime to get tunnels? Meanwhile traffic will just get worse, because I don't expect tunnels to be complete in my lifetime.

Unless HSR makes a big cash donation to this project, it will have to be paid for by taxes city residents. Most county transportation tax money goes to highways, not transit.


13 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 12:14 am

Robert Neff is a registered user.

I'm really disappointed that project cost and relative cost of alternatives was not on that list of "important" issues.


17 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:13 am

@Michael O.

The same people that are telling us we need to electrify Caltrain are telling us we need to electrify Caltrain BECAUSE Palo Alto is, or is becoming, an urban area.

Above ground passenger rail blights both urban and suburban areas. The only difference is when above ground passenger rail blights a suburban area, less people are effected so they don't have enough political power to force the blight underground.

With Caltrain only serving 30,000 people or less than 1% of the Peninsula's population of more than 3,000,000, Caltrain will probably end up blighting more people than it serves.


6 people like this
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:20 am

Caltrain serves far more than 30,000/day (if that's the correct number of passengers). It serves all of us, through the decrease in air pollution, the lessening of the traffic and parking nightmare and the stress that results from driving. it's not a subway, so no tunnels. Riders like to watch the landscape, they always did even in the "olden" times of the transportation system. Trains have been with us for a long time, in fact they are a big factor in making the US what is today and certainly of our West. Better the traffic, yes, but don't go on about eliminating a treasure- I always take the train to the airport, that's the only way to make sure I'm unencumbered by freeway traffic woes. I hear the trains from my house, but that's all right. It's the price for having a civilized means of transportation.
I also would welcome BART. The sooner the better.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:48 am

^ BART is beginning to sound like the Wild West. Be careful what you wish for.


10 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:09 am

@Caltrain will probably end up blighting more people than it serves.

That works only if everyone who saw it considers it blight. Many of us see the railroad as a thing of beauty. Few are as sensitive to reality being blight as you. Thankfully. We'll take our grade separated train and raise you 20.


13 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:04 am

2017 Passenger Counts

Web Link


27 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:05 am

Every thread about the crossings is the same rehash of tired points.
The proximal residents argue to shut down the train altogether using phony math (Ahem).
The problem solvers argue about the virtue of tunnels over elevation and visa-versa.
The budget conscious argue that any form of separation is too expensive.
Somebody brings up extending BART.
Somebody reminds them about the BART vote decades ago and a;; the reasons for the "NO" vote, and that the BART track gauge is not compatible with CalTrain.
Somebody complains about how trains are antiquated vestiges of the past (Ahem).
Somebody brings up the crossing guards and their apparent poor attendance records.
Somebody talks about the "poor out-of-town drivers" who might get confused at a crossing and how bad that makes our town look.
Curmudgeon says something sarcastic, or witty, or with a double meaning, or maybe funny.. I'm not sure.
Somebody brings up micro units and development.
Somebody asks why the local billionaires don't fix the problem for us.
Somebody blames the local billionaires for the problem.
Pat Burt chimes in to tell us the long process and complicated workings of government.
People get snippy (Joe)
Nothing gets resolved.


I say just close the at grade crossings.
We have San Antonio, Oregon, and University.
Close the rest.


22 people like this
Posted by Some Facts to consider
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 8, 2017 at 8:36 am

BART is an unique technology - meaning it has a different track gauge (width) than any other train system in the world. It is thus VERY expensive to maintain and it is also REALLY loud.

People like BART because what they really like is the convenience of having a a train come at a good frequency. If you can show up at any station without consulting a timetable knowing a train will come soon to take you to whatever your destination is, then you're a happy rider. That is what people really mean when they say they want "good" train service. They also want some dependability in the schedule for evening and weekends.

For Caltrain to achieve that level of service, they need to be able to run more frequent train service. And to do that, they need to eliminate the grade separations so peds/bikes/cars never have to stop again for a train.

Whether you take Caltrain or not, it provide a HUGE amount of traffic relief to our area. Without it, many more cars would pour onto our streets from 101, 280 and El Camino.

By they way, to those that suggested 280 as an alternative - the train needs to run in a straight line and running it on 280 would not work. Besides we'd have to build all new stations - which would be VERY expensive. Also 280 runs near a lot of protected land, so probably not feasible.

For those who think you can run the train on the 101, there is a similar issue in that we don't have stations there. Also, once you arrive at "Palo Alto/101 station" you still need buses or other methods to solve the "last mile" problem (ie - how to get you from the station to where you actually need to go).

You cannot simply close ALL the grade seps because traffic across Palo Alto would all be redirected to Embarcadero and Oregon Expressway and those roads simply can't handle the traffic.

To raise or lower the road at Churchill, Meadow and Charleston, you also have to lower Alma, and many connecting side streets that run parallel to Alma - like Park Blvd. This could require taking a significant amount of homes (possibly upwards of 80 homes if all 3 intersections would be lowered - which requires less land takes than raising the road). Given the housing crisis, this is complicated.

An electrified Caltrain will be much quieter than the current diesel trains. However, if we raise the tracks in an aerial viaduct or a berm, we are also raising the freight trains - which are loud and will remain diesel. The aerial viaduct (which could have arches and thus be visually divisive than an earthen berm) actually amplifies sound even more - so the freight train noise would likely travel much further than it does now.

Trenching is definitely expensive, but ironically, our crazy housing prices also make that solution something within the realm of possibilities (especially given the long term benefits).

This is a complex problem. And there is more and more understanding on the ENTIRE corridor that cities like San Francisco and San Jose should care whether or not Palo Alto can solve their grade separation issue because it allows them to have better Caltrain service too. This is actually really important. We are all connected in our desire to figure this out.

The best thing we could do is ask our elected officials to work regionally, with all agencies (CalTrain, MTC, VTA, SamTrans, etc.) and work with CalSTA (who are working on a state rail plan) to help build a permanent funding source for Caltrain and for the capital expenditures needed.

Historically, grade separations are paid for with different pots of money, some local, some state, some federal. Local money allows Palo Alto to have "skin in the game" and thus exert local control on what it wants. (That's the argument for why we would at least want to consider putting some money towards this issue). Otherwise, things get dictated to you (like high speed rail tried to do). (This happened with Oregon Expressway and with Embarcadero, if memory serves me).

Whether or not HSR ever comes is another matter. A vibrant Caltrain is important for all of us simply because it helps reduce congestion and the environment.

I hope we can all stop, listen to each other and to the various viewpoints and work towards something that we can all accept. A compromise might need to occur where we don't all love the solutions but in the end we know why we had to do it. That would actually be a win.


12 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 9:31 am

@GOTL,

Sorry GOTL but my math is real. From Caltrain's 2017 passenger counts:

2017 average weekday "ridership" is 62,190 (down 0.4% from 2016). If you read the report you will learn what Caltrain misleadingly calls "ridership" is actually a headcount of every passenger on every train. Since the vast majority of people using Caltrain take two rides per day the average number of people using the system is about half of Caltrain's headcount.

It is also important to note that the method used by Caltrain "Differs from ridership based on randomized samplings for (the) National Transit Database (NTD)"

Caltrain's headcount method allows them to cherry-pick the traditionally busiest days of the year to do their count.

"Caltrain 2017 Annual Passenger Counts" Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 10:00 am

Caltrain's daily ridership may be X number, but that does not mean that it is the same X number the following day.

I know many people who use Caltrain several times a week and either drive, carpool or work at home on the other days. I know one rider who commutes from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, and due to working late in the evening often gets an Uber back when trains are rare, they can claim back the cost of the ride as late working expenses and have the advantage of a door to door ride as well as light freeway traffic.

The daily ridership may average to a similar number, but the number of individual people who become riders each week is probably a lot higher.


6 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:17 am

For those of you who are advocating below ground solutions, just look at the below ground solutions we have, Embarcadero and Oregon. What happens when it rains hard? The engineers say it is not a problem. But Oregon is always wet and they pump it all the time. And what about all those basements that get pumped all the time? Just think what a problem a train trench and tunnel would be. I predict the only feasible solution will be overpasses with the tracks staying right where they are now... Let's just get on with it.


15 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:21 am

For those of you who suggest that elevated trains cause blight - please travel north to San Carlos / Belmont area and take a look at the elevated solutions there. I'd be interested to know where the blight exists in that area. It's been over 10 years and it looks fine.


7 people like this
Posted by Former CalTrain commuter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:34 am

We've been talking about this forever. There are people who say having the train at grade level is a "blight", but that's what we have today. Electrifying CalTrain is a great thing to do, both for noise and pollution (more, newer trains are a lot better than the locomotives we have today). It seem to me that the big question is whether you tunnel the one of two roads that you would need to, and which one(s) those are. Given that we already have University, Embarcadero and Oregon, and then San Antonio for the southern crossing, we may only need one other, somewhere. The least impact may be Meadow or Charleston. You wouldn't need to take homes, but you would need to block off some streets (Park Blvd, e.g.) But we would get used to it. And you could totally block off the tracks, avoiding the security problem/concern.

In any case, let's get on with it. Every major metropolitan area (and yes that's where we live) worth it's salt has workable mass transit. Let's get this things going; we can talk about it forever.


10 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm

@Ahem ..

Thanks for sticking to your ground on this ridership vs unique rider concept. For years people have tried to inflate the use of this incredibly expensive railway by flaunting the ridership numbers only. Amazing how hard it is to make this point with so many people.

During the 2016-17 year, Caltrain reported about a high of 64K ridership for July, with each month's ridership decreasing to a low of about 52K in December. Then, there was a monthly increase again heading into the summer months of 2017.

There is no "math" here .. just straight ridership data and the recognition that if a person takes the train to work there is a very high probability that that person will take the train home at the end of the day.

Caltrain also reports that there has been a small decrease in the monthly ridership for at least six months in the 2016-17 year over the 2015-16 year.


2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm

@ahem hates on Chicago for the above ground rail there, which it is partly, and I can't see why. I have had only positive experiences with all the rail I've used there, meaning CTA "the El," which has routes above and underground, and Metra (which is like Caltrain with multiple routes) and is mostly on or above ground. I have a family member using rail constantly for years there - doesn't own a car - with very infrequent complaints about it.


10 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Undergrounding the tracks is by far the best option based on everything I have read and heard to date.

Some Pros:
- Safety (for pedestrians, cyclists, vehicle drivers, train riders, and people with thoughts of suicide, plus earthquake robustness);
- Reduced noise (no train whistles or sirens from emergency vehicles responding to accidents on the tracks);
- Improved traffic flow/reduced traffic congestion;
- Minimizes property takings and impacts to accommodate above-ground grade separation and electrification;
- New open space for community use and bicycle/pedestrian pathway;
- New space for development, housing, retail, businesses;
- Improved Reliability of the system (no car-train collisions and consequential delays).

Some Cons:
- Cost;
- Construction disruption.

What is needed to make the most intelligent choice? Real data and transparency about the pros and cons. For example, what is the all-in cost of tunneling over the alternatives (including maintenance), how can we place a dollar amount on the lives of those who die on the tracks, what are the potential sources of funds? We live in one of the most technologically advanced places on earth. Hyperloop should not be ruled out. But if we stick with trains, we should not simply do what's cheapest. We should do what's best overall. My sense is that the best overall solution is tunneling.


5 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Jonathan Brown- You get most of the benefits by elevating (safety, improved crossing, reliability, no whistles, minimized property takings), at a vastly lower cost.

@Neighbor - don't even fall into the trap of allowing a comparison to the elevated trains of Chicago. Running Caltrain on its existing right of way on a ber, is not comparable to building a skyway over existing streets and businesses. As Crescent Park Dad suggest, take 15 minutes and go up to San Carlos.


20 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:59 pm

@Neighbor,

I love Chicago, but the problem with above ground passenger rail is living next to it, not riding it. Above ground passenger rail blights residential neighborhoods surrounding the tracks. Most modern cities ripped their above ground rail out decades ago and put it underground to rescue the surrounding neighborhoods from blight.

Above ground passenger rail is not a good neighbor.


16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 2:12 pm

CPD,

The area around the elevated tracks in San Carlos/Belmont is already mostly a commercial/industrial zone so there is little to blight. Palo Alto is mostly residential.

The elevated tracks in San Carlos/Belmont are going to look a lot less appealing once they are covered by a thicket of industrial grade structures and wiring.


8 people like this
Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 3:27 pm

The problem with grade separations especially if they significantly elevate the track is noise.

Years ago when they elevated the caltrain tracks in San Carlos, the amount of radiated noise grew exponentially. The noise could be heard home miles away in the hills.

We already face significant noise from aircraft, endless construction, etc. this would again add to the existing noise burden. (electrified of not)

Tunnel or trench IMHO. would be the only way to mitigate further impacts upon the citizens of the city and achieve the traffic improvements.

For the commenter that was not happy with having to commute in a tunnel, what about those not commuting that are impacted by you travels?


5 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm

CPA has had a completed grade-separation engineering study from Hatch, Mott, MacDonald in its hands for THREE YEARS now and has done NOTHING with it. There has been but ONE community meeting in those three years and not one step has been taken regarding funding for this project. For three years city officials have sat on their keisters doing absolutely nothing as the dual express trains of electrification and HSR have come barreling down the track. Now they're almost here.

Reading the article, it looks like there will me many more years of studying, overthinking, bureaucratic lassitude and general foot dragging. Oh, and don't forget special elections to fund the project. The ROW will have been long electrified by the time CPA is close to taking the first step toward grade sep. You'll then have to add the cost of re-electrifying the stretch through Palo Alto at CPA's expense if and when grade sep ever happens in P.A. Other peninsula cities are already grade separated and will have to be electrified but ONCE, and not at those cities' expense.

In the meantime there will be hundreds of posts in this space quibbling over ridership figures and debating trench/tunnel/elevated/underpass/overpass options. The engineering study was finished three years ago and takes but a Google search to find, so read it and educate yourselves.

There are two realities that aren't going to change, no way, no how:

1. Caltrain and the freight trains aren't going away.

2. BART isn't coming down the peninsula.

Palo Alto doesn't exist in a vacuum. A score of other municipalities on the peninsula have a say in matters affecting Caltrain and its right-of-way.

Meanwhile, someone is going to suggest closing these crossings permanently. Instead of the crossing gates being down less than, say, 5% of the time, they would effectively be down 100% of the time. Instead of 95% traffic throughput at these crossings you'd have 0% throughput and P.A. residents would be crying about the ever-worsening gridlock. That's a dopey idea if ever I've heard one.

All of these projects cost money and have practical challenges. You can't make a tunnel, trench or hyperloop appear with the wave of a magic wand.

I predict there won't be grade sep at all in Palo Alto within the next 10 years. You have incompetent and inept city officials to thank for that.

Fun fact: When Oregon expwy. was built in the early '60s you could buy a home in P.A. for $25,000. Now those same homes cost 100 times that amount.


10 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm

In Chicago there is much less seismic risk to elevated trains. In California the seismic risk is non-trivial.

If you people would read the engineering study which is just a Google search away and enlighten yourselves on a major issue facing your community, you would find that a tunnel per se is not in the cards. A 2% TRENCH (not tunnel) is described in detail in that study. It would require ZERO property takings (at $2 million a pop). It seems like the most attractive option to me.


4 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:41 pm

I won't speak for any of the other crossings, because I don't use them or live near them. But I live near (and use) the Churchill crossing and would fully support closing it to vehicle traffic. It will require taking too many homes to make this a functional separated crossing, whether up or down, unless the connection to Alma is severed (which has its own problems). (And it will do away with the ridiculous traffic behavior associated with parents dropping off and picking up from Paly.)

That said: one of the heavy, albeit periodic, uses of this crossing is for bicycle traffic to/from Paly. So my full suggestion is to close the crossing to vehicle traffic, but build a bike/ped underpass.


1 person likes this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:08 pm

What is the benefit of closing the Churchill crossing?

Trains have the right of way no matter what, so it wouldn't benefit them. What would the impact be on vehicular traffic and the surrounding neighborhood. Why not leave Churchill as is and put up with the occasional crossing train?


14 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:09 pm

I call BS on claims that elevating the train tracks will cause blight. The tracks run along Alma Street, which is already the ugliest noisiest smelliest street in the city. Elevating the train tracks is not going to make it any uglier than what the high-speed reckless driving along Alma Street is already doing.


9 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:45 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

This is what the elevation looks like in Belmont:

Web Link

This is Chicago:

Web Link

Continuing to compare them is wilfully deceptive, as is bringing up seismic risk. Is their greater seismic risk in Palo Alto than Belmont? A tunnel would be awesome, but will never ever happen due to the cost, so advocating a tunnel or trench is advocating doing nothing.


12 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:18 pm

The trains in San Carlos go up a few feet on a berm. It is not the giant monstrosity seen in your Chicago picture, nor is it the Cypress viaduct which pancaked in 1989.

I've seen the maps created by H.M.M. and I cannot fathom why a Churchill grade sep has such a huge footprint. It is nothing like we see in San Carlos, and it is nothing like the erstwhile hybrid crossing at Santa Monica Bl. and Beverly Glen in Los Angeles. Unless they're contemplating a giant structure like a freeway interchange, I don't see why the footprint is so huge.

You really need to read the engineering study, Mr. Alderman, before you poo-poo the idea of a trench.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2017 at 6:57 pm

"This is what the elevation looks like in Belmont: Web Link ."

Thanks for the photo.

Note the deep landscaped buffer in the foreground that nicely softens the berm's visual impact. No room for that essential amenity alongside the local tracks, tho, unless we buy up all the properties on each side and move Alma 50 feet east. Now _there's_ a cheap solution for ya, eh?

So can't do Belmont in Palo Alto. Our option is to build a massive Berlin Wall-Berm right up to the Alma curb and to the backyards adjacent to the tracks, and pray nobody notices it.

Obviously there is no good affordable gradesep solution, so Just forget all this silliness. Close those crossings, build housing on the road stubs, and move on.


10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:01 pm

@John_Alderman,

Take a good look at that picture of San Carlos/Burlingame and try to imagine that pile of crushed rock topped by a tangle of high voltage wires and galvanized poles. Try to imagine that pile of crushed rock bounded by a barbed-wire topped chain-link suicide prevention fence. Try to imagine that fence covered in graffiti and trapped litter. Try to imagine a grimy rail car rumbling by every 5-10 minutes, drowning out your conversation and rattling the filling out of you teeth. Try to imagine the screech of steel-on-steel and the squeal of brakes. Try to imagine the flash and pop of electric arcs and the smell of ozone. Try to imagine the rush of wind as the train passes by blowing your hat off and whipping dust and filth into your eyes, nose, and lungs. Try to imagine all of that after a decade of neglect from a chronically underfunded state run enterprise.

Try to imagine that... and tell me you would to live there.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:36 pm

"Obviously there is no good affordable gradesep solution, so Just forget all this silliness. Close those crossings, build housing on the road stubs, and move on."

Not for Churchill Avenue, no.

Another uninformed opinion from someone unfamiliar with the project. Add ignorance as one more reason Palo Alto doesn't have grade sep. Close Meadow and Charleston, two well-traveled arteries. The trains won't benefit and it will make life better in Palo Alto how?

Ahem: I'm busy imagining the magnitude 9 earthquake that will happen during rush hour and shake the train off its elevated structure, sending a Caltrain full of passengers plummeting to their deaths as they are electrocuted by the 25 kV overhead catenary that has collapsed on them, just before a meteorite lands on the Caltrain right-of-way in Palo Alto and the Martians land.


5 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2017 at 9:02 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

I get why people argue for various options, but the option that makes no sense to me is closing the crossings. What problem, exactly, does that solve? That seems to just block traffic.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 10:35 pm

John Alderman shows the El in downtown Chicago in the Loop, not Metra, which would be the equivalent to Caltrain. Not sure what this proves.


1 person likes this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:04 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon - nope, the width of the right of way in Belmont and Palo Alto is the same, but I'' throw in a lane from Alma no extra charge.

@ahem - I'd rather look at overhead wiring than look at trains crossing while I'm stuck in traffic.

@Neighbor - People specifically cited "the el" and the Blues Brother to evoke a false image of urban blight. We know exactly what it would look like because we already have it just a few miles from here, so any reference to Brooklyn, Chicago, Metra or not, is cheap deception.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2017 at 9:08 am

Anyone living in Palo Alto knows that the Caltrain tracks already divide the City. With both high schools the same side of the tracks and all those who live west of the tracks need to cross the tracks to get to highway 101, we all spend a great deal of our time crossing the tracks regularly. Arguably, what we really need is more places to cross the tracks rather than less.

As Palo Alto grows in numbers of residents as well as workers, the need to cross the tracks in a timely manner will increase. From high school students and those who work at these schools, to residents and incoming commuters, those tracks and how to cross them is one of the constant problems we have moving around town.

The issue is not to prevent the tracks from becoming a divide, but how to make that divide less of an issue.

The issue of blight is nothing to do with the tracks per se, but more of whether the physical tracks are neglected and treated poorly, or designed to be part of the landscape in an attractive manner. Along with that is what we, those of us who encounter the tracks often, deem them to be.

Of course money and engineering constraints are the major factors to take into account. But we have to also take into account the fact that the tracks are and will be a fact of life for Palo Alto. Attitudes will have to be adjusted by us all. The fact that we can talk about it rationally will help to start the process.


6 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2017 at 12:45 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

@john_alderman:

Comparing Belmont and Palo Alto right-of-way is misleading. The elevation you're showing is in a mostly commercial area inside two streets (one of them multi-lane - El Camino Real). The Palo Alto right of way is right has a significant portion of it against residential property. You using Belmont as a potential comparison is as misleading as using the decrepit El in Chicago.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:03 pm

"Add ignorance as one more reason Palo Alto doesn't have grade sep. Close Meadow and Charleston, two well-traveled arteries. The trains won't benefit and it will make life better in Palo Alto how?"

Erudition won't get us gradesep either. What is needed is lots of money. In fact, an educated aesthetic is a major foe of most of the gradesep schemes.

I'm fine with the present layout. I'm trying to accommodate those citizens who are unhappy with it but don't have the money to do gradesep right.


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Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:35 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Me 2 - No, it is pretty much the same. Both have a road on the east side (Alma/Old Country), and structures on the west (businesses and homes in Palo Alto, businesses in Belmont and San Carlos). It isn't going to require the berm to be in taller or wider. Old Country road is much narrower than Alma, so we have even more flexibility here.


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm

@john_alderman,

"No, it is pretty much the same. Both have a road on the east side (Alma/Old Country), and structures on the west (businesses and homes in Palo Alto, businesses in Belmont and San Carlos). It isn't going to require the berm to be in taller or wider. Old Country road is much narrower than Alma, so we have even more flexibility here."

No - it is different. Much of the Belmont and San Carlos track elevation are partial, requiring lowering the roadway under the track. That approach in Palo Alto would require confiscating private property here in Palo Alto. That's a non-starter.


5 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:39 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Me 2 - Incorrect, there would be no confiscation required to allow a slight dip in the road to pass under the partially elevated tracks. It is a win-win. Go spend 10 minutes driving around San Carlos and Belmont. There is no unique problem in Palo Alto - just use the existing proven affordable solutions.


9 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Churchill Avenue is a problem case.

You people are showing your ignorance again, not being the least bit familiar with the H.M.M. engineering study which the city has paid for. Google "Palo Alto grade separation study" and voila! It's number 3 on the list.

It is astounding to me that Palo Alto citizens are so ill informed about a project of such import.

Even more astounding are the genuinely dumb suggestions to close the crossings altogether. The trains wouldn't benefit; they already have the right of way. It would disadvantage everyone who needs to go from one side of town to the other. I ask what the benefit is of closing the crossings and all I get is deafening silence.

I ask how such grandiose and mega-expensive projects such as a five-mile tunnel through town (or a hyperloop!) would be funded and there is more deafening silence.

The 2% trench solution requires NO property takings and could be built tomorrow but for the fact that CPA has no clue how to fund it and has done nothing to address the issue of funding for years. The 2% trench would separate Charleston and Meadow, half of the at-grade crossings in town.

Bureaucratic inaction is the main reason there is no grade separation, but another mitigating factor is that the local residents can't pull their heads out of their hind quarters. The locals know more about David Starr Jordan's eugenics involvement than they do about an important project in their own community, and are too preoccupied with middle school names to figure out how to separate the roads from the train tracks. It's dumbfounding.

Other peninsula communities have already got it licked but not Palo Alto, with all of its Stanford and silicon valley brain power. Shameful.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2017 at 4:49 pm

"@Curmudgeon - nope, the width of the right of way in Belmont and Palo Alto is the same, but I'' throw in a lane from Alma no extra charge."

Throw it in where? Do you have clear title to its throwiness? Better check.

You don't seem to know that Caltrain doesn't own Alma. And that Alma's got zero lanes to spare. Not to mention it carries way more people each day than the train, so it's got a way bigger constituency than the train.

Just close those crossings, build housing where the cross-streets were, and be done with the whole silly thing.


3 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

"there would be no confiscation required to allow a slight dip in the road to pass under the partially elevated tracks. It is a win-win. Go spend 10 minutes driving around San Carlos and Belmont. There is no unique problem in Palo Alto - just use the existing proven affordable solutions."

What you describe is called a "hybrid" crossing. The road dips and the tracks are slightly elevated. All you need is 14 feet of clearance under the tracks.

No one has been able to explain to me why the H.M.M. plan has such a huge footprint and would require taking so many parcels. I think the city of Palo Alto is using the wrong engineering firm and should consult the firm that did San Carlos. They used Hexagon Transportation Consultants out of San Jose. Here you go, web link and everything:

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:01 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon - Alma has two lanes to spare.


2 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:23 pm

"Just close those crossings, build housing where the cross-streets were, and be done with the whole silly thing."

You keep repeating this suggestion over and over and over again. It doesn't make sense no matter how many times you repeat it. Further, you don't respond to requests to explain why this is a viable idea. You're frankly trolling this forum with this idea, with no explanation of what you think are its benefits.

"build housing where the cross-streets were"

Where are you going to build this housing? On the train tracks? There already is housing on the sidestreets, plenty of $2 million homes.

Please stop trolling this forum.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm

"Further, you don't respond to requests to explain why this is a viable idea. You're frankly trolling this forum with this idea, with no explanation of what you think are its benefits."

OK, glad you asked.

1. Closing all grade crossings solves the grade crossing problem, whatever it may be.

2. Closure is much, much simpler and cheaper than any of the other proposals. It is the only option fiscally feasible right now.

3. You build housing where the cross-street _pavements_ shall have used to be, thus gaining housing stock. Build them with spacious ADUs if you want.

After you've perused a few blogs you'll learn that the so-called trolls are often the only posters who make sense.


6 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Marie is a registered user.

As a resident living on Alma, I am deeply disappointed by anyone who suggests that reducing lanes on Alma is a viable solution for anything. This will be proved during the construction of the electrification poles which will require the temporary closing of 2-3 lanes of Alma. The chaos that will occur during this time will end any possibility of this as a permanent solution. As it is, during rush hours, I have a hard time getting out of my driveway. Today, when they closed one lane partially during non-commute hours, it was a long wait. Unless you have some other way for those of us on Alma to get out of our driveways, please drop that solution.

And the problem is not speeding drivers. If they slowed down, then the carrying capacity would drop and the small amount of time we have to exit when E. Meadow is red, would be even smaller. Trenching the train is the only solution that means very little land will need to be confiscated and Alma can continue to be the vital artery it is today, carrying far more people than Caltrain.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm

"@Curmudgeon - Alma has two lanes to spare."

It's got four lanes, needs six. Try driving it sometime.

OK, I'll admit it could spare a couple lanes in the wee hours, but you better put 'em back before the commuters come along.


6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm

@john_alderman

"@Me 2 - Incorrect, there would be no confiscation required to allow a slight dip in the road to pass under the partially elevated tracks. It is a win-win. Go spend 10 minutes driving around San Carlos and Belmont. There is no unique problem in Palo Alto - just use the existing proven affordable solutions."

What a coincidence. I read your note while at the San Carlos Station on Caltrain. Sorry there is no comparison between San Carlos/Belmont and Palo Alto - the layout is different. The big difference is how close Alma is to the tracks compared to Old Country Road. The studies have already shown that a partial dip in the road will require taking property at the corners or sinking Alma which will render a large number of properties inaccessible on Alma at the dips, which will also require taking properties.

Rather than a "10 minute" drive, I actually take Caltrain many days a week. I see this layout practically every day.


3 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:22 pm

"1. Closing all grade crossings solves the grade crossing problem, whatever it may be."

Why not close all the roads? No more traffic problems, whatever they may be. No traffic = no traffic problems.

"2. Closure is much, much simpler and cheaper than any of the other proposals. It is the only option fiscally feasible right now."

No, leaving things as they are now is the simplest and cheapest, while motorists wait up to 10 - 15 minutes waiting for trains to pass as their car/SUV engines are idling and generating emissions, getting 0 MPG.

"3. You build housing where the cross-street _pavements_ shall have used to be"

That would put them smack-dab on the tracks, or so close to the tracks that no one would want to live there.

You win the prize for crackpot ideas.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 6:39 pm

"sinking Alma which will render a large number of properties inaccessible on Alma at the dips"

Just as big an obstacle is that the cross streets would have to be sunk as well, making driveway access for homes on those streets impossible.

That's why the 2% trench idea makes so much sense, going under Charleston and Meadow as it does, with ZERO property takings and no sinking of Alma or surface streets.

Again, Churchill is a problem case.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm

I was also in San Carlos today and took an hour to survey the scene.

Palo Alto and San Carlos are completely different situations. In San Carlos east of the tracks is 99% light industrial and big box retail (Home Depot, auto supply, lumber yards, etc). West of the tracks is 99% commercial and retail. There is very little residential in sight from the tracks.

Palo Alto, Atherton and Mountain View are the complete opposite with mostly residential property on both sides of the tracks.

John Alderman's picture of the berm seems to have been cherry-picked to show the berm in the best possible light. The berm is actually enormous and physically very imposing like some sort of fortification. The Alderman photo makes the berm look like it is 8-10 feet tall. It is easily twice that height and extends beyond sight in both directions. The berm is the dusty brown color of dead vegetation with little to no green landscaping. The underpass at Brittan Avenue looks like it was covered in ivy at one time, but the ivy is all dead now.

A San Carlos style berm would be a disaster ion Palo Alto.


6 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2017 at 7:52 pm

The state can spend $100 billion on HSR, but can't spend $500 million per crossing to run a tunnel underground? The math doesn't add up. 3 crossings in Palo Alto, 2 in Mountain View, that's 2.5% of the paper cost. Do it, or NO DEAL, HSR can go around city limits.


1 person likes this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 8:05 pm

I'm looking at the Google satellite view. Old Country Road appears to be no wider than Alma street. On the north corner is a shopping center with Chuck's Donuts. I see driveway access to this shopping center on both Old Country Road and Holly Street. I don't see what the problem is, other than maybe CPA is using an engineering firm that doesn't "get it".

"The Alderman photo makes the berm look like it is 8-10 feet tall. It is easily twice that height"

You need to subject your estimates to a reality check. You need 14 feet of clearance for traffic underneath. This is partially achieved by depressing the roadway approximately 7 feet. The rest is achieved by raising the tracks approximately 7 feet. So we're talking about a structure more like 9 - 10 feet above grade, not your exaggerated figure of 20 feet.

Here is the structure in question, with autos for size comparison. To call it "enormous" is another exaggeration. Aesthetically it's no worse than the Embarcadero underpass IMO. If you want a railroad crossing that looks like the Taj Mahal, forget it.

Web Link

"The berm is the dusty brown color of dead vegetation with little to no green landscaping. The underpass at Brittan Avenue looks like it was covered in ivy at one time, but the ivy is all dead now."

If the city of San Carlos didn't water the plants to save water during the recent drought, it's not a Palo Alto problem.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 8:18 pm

"The state can spend $100 billion on HSR, but can't spend $500 million per crossing to run a tunnel underground?"

Send your complaint to Governor Jerry Brown, Sacramento, California.

If the state financed a tunnel through Palo Alto and Mountain View, what are you going to tell the other peninsula cities who will demand to know why those cities get special treatment and state money, particularly when there are other peninsula cities which are already grade separated and don't get the trains put in a tunnel? Or are you going to tunnel the entire 50-mile ROW from S.F. to S.J.? Not for a couple of billion you're not.

"HSR can go around city limits."

Governor Jerry Brown, Sacramento, California

Governor Brown is waiting to hear your nuggets of wisdom.


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

"Again, Churchill is a problem case."

All the grade x-ings are problem cases. Close 'em off, and build housing in the resulting street stubs.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2017 at 9:30 pm

@Leslie

If you look at your Holly Rd. underpass, you'll note that El Camino Real is on the other side of the tracks. In Palo Alto, there are houses butted up against the right of way. To get that much space to allow for that kind of depression would require taking homes.

Let's also note that this particular overpass is indeed over 15 feet tall (just need to compare to the car heights in the picture). If you want to sink the roadway even more than here at Holly to reduce it to 10 feet, you'll need to take even more housing because you need to depress the roadway even earlier up the road.

Confiscating housing isn't going to fly in a Residentialist community like Palo Alto.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm

"If you look at your Holly Rd. underpass, you'll note that El Camino Real is on the other side of the tracks. In Palo Alto, there are houses butted up against the right of way. To get that much space to allow for that kind of depression would require taking homes."

At Churchill I see homes which driveways could access Mariposa and Castilleja if they don't already (hard to tell from the satellite view). All you need to sink is the roadway, not entire lots which abut it.

Again, I see driveway access to the shopping center on Old Country Road and Holly Street. Guaranteed that shopping center was there before they built the hybrid crossing.

Under he 2% trench solution, with which you are familiar because you have read the H.M.M. study, this is moot at Charleston and Meadow.

"Let's also note that this particular overpass is indeed over 15 feet tall (just need to compare to the car heights in the picture)."

Read my previous post again carefully. I'm not talking about the overall height of the structure, I'm talking about the height ABOVE LEVEL GRADE. Part of the structure is sunken, as I explained earlier. For the purposes of this discussion let's use the surface of El Camino as "level grade". Look at the picture again. How far above El Camino does the structure rise?


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2017 at 10:27 pm

"All the grade x-ings are problem cases."

That is patently false and you know it. Clearly you are unfamiliar with the engineering study which lays out a perfectly feasible solution for Charleston and Meadow.

And clearly you persist in trolling this forum.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Leslie.

I think you are an excellent advocate on the subject and hope that you are involved with the City and Caltrain on this. Unlike many of the CC you seem to talk sense as well as understand the different constraints. Thank you for taking this on.


2 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2017 at 11:19 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@ahem - " There is very little residential in sight from the tracks." "The berm is the dusty brown color of dead vegetation with little to no green landscaping."

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Does this look like residential, and does the berm look like the dusty brown color of dead vegetation? You started the fear mongering with the dishonest comparison to Chicago, now you are continuing to fudge.

Web Link

@Me 2 - "The studies have already shown that a partial dip in the road will require taking property at the corners or sinking Alma which will render a large number of properties inaccessible on Alma at the dips, which will also require taking properties. "

Wrong. The grade separation study was for submerging the roadway without elevating the train. I don't even know why you would think houses would need to be taken if the tracks were elevated? What do you think the space would be needed for? Alma is also 4 lanes vs County Road which is 2, so there is room to work with.


8 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

@Leslie,

Let me help you with your math and spacial reasoning.

14 feet (max vehicle height)
01 feet (clearance)
07 feet (height of two-lane bridge span)
02 feet (height of the roadbed, ties, and rails)

24 feet (total height)

If you put 7 feet of the 24 foot total below grade you are still have 17 feet above grade, and that is without the height of rail-cars or the structure needed to support the overhead electric power.

The tallest freight car is about 16 feet tall and for safety the high tension lines will need to be 2-3 feet above that. The support structure will probably need to extend another couple of feet above the high tension lines.

Even with 7 feet below grade that puts the noisy electrical pick-up and catenary system 35-36 feet above grade. Try to imagine the noise from an metal electrical pick-up dragging on metal wires at 50mph, and at 35 feet above grade how far that noise will project into the community.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:03 am

"I think you are an excellent advocate on the subject and hope that you are involved with the City and Caltrain on this. Unlike many of the CC you seem to talk sense as well as understand the different constraints. Thank you for taking this on."

Resident:

Thank you for the nice compliment; it is very much appreciated.

I was born in Palo Alto in 1955 and went through Walter Hays, Jordan and Paly. I am trying to open channels of communication with city officials. It concerns me greatly that San Carlos solved the problem satisfactorily years ago, yet the engineering firm engaged by CPA doesn't seem to "get it". The solutions they have proposed involve huge footprints extending several square blocks around the affected crossings and involving the taking of many residences. These days there isn't a home selling in Palo Alto for less than $2 million so you can see how infeasible those solutions are. One home taken for grade sep is one home too many. Unless they contemplate building a full-blown freeway interchange, which would be totally inappropriate for Palo Alto and for a project of this size. It disturbs me greatly that other cities have grade separation now without having built giant structures with cloverleaves, etc. and without laying waste to the surrounding terrain, yet Palo Alto has nothing in the pipeline. I firmly believe Palo Alto needs to have this project re-studied by a different engineering firm; that is the first order of business.

Although it owns the right-of-way, I don't think there is much if anything Caltrain/the Joint Powers Board can do other than to cooperate with CPA in whatever plans may be adopted.

Palo Altans need to keep their expectations in check. An above-ground railroad crossing will look like a railroad crossing no matter what you do, so Palo Altans shouldn't expect such a crossing to look like the Taj Mahal. This may come into play at Churchill Avenue. Also, the putative purpose of grade sep is to improve auto traffic throughput at four at-grade crossings, mainly during rush hour. There is also the consideration of CA HSR which will hopefully die a merciful and well-deserved death at some point in the future.

Many of the ideas presented here are either totally infeasible or are prohibitively expensive (such as a tunnel through the entire 5-mile length of the ROW through Palo Alto) or a hyperloop.

Just as disturbing is that CPA has no plan, no idea or no clue how to fund grade sep aside from the pittance in Measure B money that may trickle down from San Jose. There have been no ballot measures for property or sales tax increases, bonds or what have you. The Measure B money that San Jose doesn't hoard may pay for the first sovelful of dirt but that's about it.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

Ahem:

What is this seven foot two-lane bridge span?

"noisy electrical pick-up and catenary system 35-36 feet above grade. Try to imagine the noise from an metal electrical pick-up dragging on metal wires at 50mph, and at 35 feet above grade how far that noise will project into the community."

I used to live above an electric trolley-coach line in the city so I know what kind of noise they make.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:36 am

"The grade separation study was for submerging the roadway without elevating the train. I don't even know why you would think houses would need to be taken if the tracks were elevated?"

Right. That track elevation, i.e. a hybrid crossing, wasn't even studied is telling.

I'll beat this drum again. There is a shopping center at the corner of Holly Street and Old Country Road, right at the RR crossing, with full driveway access on both Holly Street and Old Country Road. In San Carlos they didn't level all structures within a several square-block radius of the crossing as has been proposed for Palo Alto.

Why couldn't this be done in Palo Alto?

Time for a better engineering firm.


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Posted by QuiteReading
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:02 am

Solution:
Palo Alto High School - Caltrain = ^grade^ separation


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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 9:02 am

"I'll beat this drum again. There is a shopping center at the corner of Holly Street and Old Country Road, right at the RR crossing, with full driveway access on both Holly Street and Old Country Road. In San Carlos they didn't level all structures within a several square-block radius of the crossing as has been proposed for Palo Alto."

Beat it all you want. You keep focusing on one side of the tracks. You keep conveniently omitting the other side of the tracks. In San Carlos and Belmont, El Camino Real is on the other side. Here in Palo Alto, we have Ventura, Evergreen Park, Southgate and Charleston Meadows.

And, Ahem is right - even with a partial sinking of the roadway, with electrification, the height will be much higher than what you see today. There's no getting around it - it will be an ugly mess.

I think you need to spend more time on the ground in San Carlos rather than sit in your computer and look at Google Maps. It really is much more massive than you seem to realize.


6 people like this
Posted by Be Done with it
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

For Pete's sake!
Just close the remaining at-grade crossings already and be done with it!!!
Like others have said, you already have san Antonio, University, and Oregon.


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Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2017 at 9:48 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Me 2 - "I think you need to spend more time on the ground in San Carlos"

I agree, call Me 2 and Ahem's bluff, and go look. See if you get any sense of the EL in Chicago (you won't). Note that there are single family homes and apartments along Old Country road, just like Alma.

"You keep conveniently omitting the other side of the tracks"

Again, wrong. On the west side of the tracks in Palo Alto runs Park, in Belmont/San Carlos there is El Camino. Both are streets, both have properties between the street and the tracks. In Belmont/San Carlos, there are commercial properties that are much closer to the tracks than in Palo Alto. There is no reason that because some of the properties in Palo Alto are single family homes that the tracks can't be raised. And it has no impact on lowering the streets to pass under the tracks.


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 10:26 am

"I agree, call Me 2 and Ahem's bluff, and go look. See if you get any sense of the EL in Chicago (you won't). Note that there are single family homes and apartments along Old Country road, just like Alma. "

Who's bluffing? I ride that train practically everyday. Bluff implies lying. I'm not. Go ahead and look.

" There is no reason that because some of the properties in Palo Alto are single family homes that the tracks can't be raised. And it has no impact on lowering the streets to pass under the tracks."

No reason? Easy for you to sit in Crescent Park to say there's "no impact" - there's more than a few properties that would be impacted by a even partial raise. But I'm not going to change your mind - when you live miles away, it's clear you don't care about your fellow Palo Altans.



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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

"That is patently false and you know it. Clearly you are unfamiliar with the engineering study which lays out a perfectly feasible solution for Charleston and Meadow."

I was responding to your own recent expositions of the huge difficulties attending gradesepping the crossings. Surely you realize by now you cannot ignore them.

You also need to realize that an engineering study may indicate something is feasible, yet can/will somebody pay for implementing it? So far and for any foreseeable future the answer is a resounding NO!.

Closure is the simplest, least expensive, most aesthetically pleasing alternative. Why not get on board with it?


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

I know this is a little off the flow of this thread, and probably a completely dead idea, but has anyone done a cost benefit - not of the various schemes for ameliorating CalTrain's effects on Peninsula cities, but of the whole idea of passenger rail on the Peninsula?

We're talking about spending hundreds of millions - even billions of dollars - so that CalTrain can operate without too many undue effects on Peninsula residents.

CalTrain carries what? 30,000 passengers per day which might go up to 50,000 or so under electrification? So the question seems to be how much should we spend so xx,000 passengers can travel per day on rail up and down the Peninsula.

For example, if all the cities on the Peninsula combined spend 10 billion dollars on grade issues (or if the total spent on grade separation projects plus inconvenience/delay costs sum to that amount), and there are 50,000 passengers per day then each passenger costs around $200,000. Of course these costs are amortized over a number of years, but it still seems like a big number.

Is it reasonable to spend that much per passenger - if that's the real cost? (And this is only the cost of the grade separations: you also should add in implicit and explicit CalTrain operating subsidies as well as the cost of electrification, etc.) Are there alternatives that would make more financial and engineering sense?

I don't know the answers to these questions and my math may be way off....but it seems like something that decision makers should be considering. Are they?


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

"This is what the [Caltrain berm] elevation looks like in Belmont: Web Link .

Cute, but I'm not fooled. That photo is taken from the most favored possible spot for berm huckstering. It looks west from Old County Road between Laurie Meadows Drive and Sterling View Ave. The buffer park in the foreground is NOT part of the Caltrain right of way; indeed, just down the street the continuation of that strip of land is occupied by commercial enterprises. The photo scene is highly exceptional.

"@Curmudgeon - nope, the width of the right of way in Belmont and Palo Alto is the same, ..."

True, but quite misleading. It is 55 ft wide in both places, but the environments are much, much different. For example, at Churchill crossing the Caltrain ROW fits snugly between Paly High and Alma St. The buffer park strip in the Belmont photo foreground is 30 ft wide. At Churchill the available space for a buffer is zero ft on both sides of the ROW.

In Belmont, the berm is (ready for this?) exactly 55 ft wide. The whole ROW. A like berm at Churchill crossing would span fully from the Alma curb to the Paly fence.

The Belmont berm rises 12 ft above Old County Road. At Churchill the berm would need to be at least 6 ft higher to clear Churchill Ave and provide space for the bridge girders.

So visualize an 18-ft pile of rock and dirt extending completely across the Caltrain ROW at Churchill, and you get an idea of a Belmont Berm's impact in Palo Alto.

Photogenic?


2 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:01 pm

"For Pete's sake!
Just close the remaining at-grade crossings already and be done with it!!!"

Close the crossings, close all the roads, shut down Caltrain and close the freeways, too. It's an idea with no benefit no matter how many times you post it and how many different identities you use.


Like this comment
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:17 pm

"has anyone done a cost benefit - not of the various schemes for ameliorating CalTrain's effects on Peninsula cities, but of the whole idea of passenger rail on the Peninsula?"

Mary: Here's a little historical background. The peninsula commute service lost money for Southern Pacific for years after WW II. S.P. wanted out but the state wouldn't let them out of the commuter rail business. In 1980 then-governor Jerry Brown (who seems to have a "thing" for trains) agreed to let CalTrans take the money-losing commute service off S.P.'s hands. The state of California was now in the passenger rail business with the unprofitable former S.P. commute service. To complicate matters, it was agreed that S.P. (now Union Pacific) would have freight rights on the peninsula right of way in perpetuity. So there is an added legal obligation to let freight trains traverse the peninsula.

The question becomes, what would happen to 30,000 commuters if Caltrain went out of existence? Would that mean 30,000 more cars on already-congested freeways, or some other public-transit service with the potential to lose money?


2 people like this
Posted by jim h
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Why stop at closing Charleston and Meadow? We should close ALL railroad crossings and just have 2 city parts. Folks on the West side could use 280 and folks on the East side could use 101. (:-

Seriously, if this forum is any indication, we should NOT have too much community involvement. As Leslie points out, we could use another engineering study that is a bit more focused on practical solutions, even if hybrid. Get a reasonably sized group of folks to work with the city. We could use the knowledgeable people that contributed to this forum rather than the trolls with simplified answers that post the same thing multiple times. Oh you know who your are! You post on every topic. Find another hobby please.!


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:26 pm

"Let me help you with your math and spacial reasoning.

14 feet (max vehicle height)
01 feet (clearance)
07 feet (height of two-lane bridge span)
02 feet (height of the roadbed, ties, and rails)

24 feet (total height)"

Let's remove the padding from your estimate:

14 feet clearance
2 feet height of the roadbed, ties, and rails

16 feet total structure height, eight feet lower than your padded estimate. Seven feet of that structure would be sunken below level grade.


2 people like this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:33 pm

"Seriously, if this forum is any indication, we should NOT have too much community involvement."

Right you are. Given the large number of troll posts under multiple identities and crackpot ideas, probably the less "community involvement" the better. So much for "context-sensitive solutions".

One consolation: at the rate CPA moves, there won't be any action at all on grade separation for at least 10 - 20 more years.


2 people like this
Posted by Be Done With It
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:43 pm

@Leslie says: "Close the crossings, close all the roads, shut down Caltrain and close the freeways, too."

No.
Just the streets crossing the tracks at the currently at grade crossings.
Try to stick to the topic of this thread, please.
We're talking about grade separation of the currently at grade crossings.

Also, the correct link to Caltrain ridership has been posted above.
I'm not sure why you think it is helpful to misinterpret, misrepresent, and hyperbolize comments from those who have opinions different than yours. You and I pay the same taxes, and live in the same city. My opinion is just as worthy as yours.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

"Just the streets crossing the tracks at the currently at grade crossings."

What would be the benefit of doing this? Same as your previous reasons under a different identity?


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:29 pm

"16 feet total structure height, ... Seven feet of that structure would be sunken below level grade."

It would look much better that way alright, but only vehicles no taller than 16 - 7 = 9 ft could squeeze under. Might have to let some air out of the tires and remove a layer of paint from the roof before trying.

It gets worse. We need to allow for the train track rails, ties, ballast, and the bridge span structure, say, just 3 ft allowing for hard work and clean living. That drops the aperture to 6 ft. Ouch!

Why not jack the thing up 8 ft, to 24 ft, and make it actually usable?

Or, better, just close all those troublesome crossings and spend the money on housing.


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Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm

long view is a registered user.

About closing crossings - if you are in a car, driving to Oregon or San Antonio or University to get across the tracks is not too bad. If you are biking to Paly or Gunn, it is more of a problem to lose crossings at Charleston, Meadow and Churchill.

So I could support closing Charleston, Meadow and Churchill if bike/ped only underpasses or bike/ped only over passes were provided. By having the ascent of the over crossing run parallel to the tracks, there would be plenty of room for a gradual ascent to whatever height was needed. The over crossing could be fully enclosed, like the current overpass over 101 near Oregon.

Because of spikes in bike use at certain times in the morning, a wide underpass would be preferable. I wonder what the differential in cost is between an auto underpass and a bike/ped underpass? I wonder if a bike/ped only underpass could be achieved with no imminent domain of homes? I'm guessing no imminent domain would be needed.


1 person likes this
Posted by Just the facts, please.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Just the facts, please. is a registered user.

I agree with Robert Neff, "I'm really disappointed that project cost and relative cost of alternatives was not on that list of "important" issues."

We absolutely need grade separation. The question is what kind? Nothing is off the table yet. I think we should have a robust FACT-based, community conversation about options that should include COST, because no matter what we do, it will exceed $500 million.

We need a process that will get us to community consensus around a grade separation plan as quickly as possible so that we can take advantage of Measure B funds. Attend meetings and/or visit the city's web page on this to learn more. This issue is important and complicated, and it will require a major bond measure. Be a thoughtful, active citizen and learn more here Web Link .


1 person likes this
Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm

"I could support closing Charleston, Meadow and Churchill"

For the 100th time in this thread, what is the benefit of closing these crossings vs. leaving them as is? Presently the crossings are impassable for a few minutes per hour during rush hour. Please tell us the benefit of making them impassable 100% of the time. There is no upside for the trains and all kinds of downside in terms of automobile traffic and gridlock. It's another crackpot idea. The nearby streets either already have housing or the vacated property would be too close to the tracks so you can't really do anything with it.


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

"I think we should have a robust FACT-based, community conversation about options that should include COST, because no matter what we do, it will exceed $500 million."

To get realistic costs you need to do an engineering study; otherwise you're pulling figures out of your a**.

CPA has had an engineering study in its hands, with four plans for grade sep (two of which involve trenches), complete with costs, for three years. All you have to do is a Google search and read all about it.

This territory has all been covered for several years now.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:24 pm

"Presently the crossings are impassable for a few minutes per hour during rush hour. Please tell us the benefit of making them impassable 100% of the time."

In a word, consistency. No more access anxiety.

"There is no upside for the trains and all kinds of downside in terms of automobile traffic and gridlock."

There's plenty of upside for the trains. They would not be delayed waiting for debris removal, nor would the locomotives need paint/body work. Saves time and money. Auto traffic will adjust. Dig bike tunnels at strategic spots to promote healthy, pollution-free crosstrack navigation.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

This is the link to the CPA engineering study from 10/20/2014 which Leslie mentions above:

Web Link


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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2017 at 6:08 pm

"This is the link to the CPA engineering study from 10/20/2014 which Leslie mentions above:"

Web Link

Thank you for reposting that link, Paly Grad. It is must reading for every Palo Alto resident. This is a matter of extreme importance for everyone in Palo Alto needs to read it and be informed.

Take particular note of the 2% trench option.

Again, Churchill and Palo Alto Avenues remain problem cases.


4 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2017 at 7:57 am

I use to live in NJ where in places the commuter rail lines were trenched so that over crossings could be at grade.
The trenches had to be quite deep to accommodate the over-train power lines. Down in the trenches, the walls were covered with graffiti and trash buildup was perpetual. Fences with razor wire ran along both sides of the trench to deter vandals and suicidal types.

The grade separation solutions at San Antonio and Mathilda seem far more practical to me. This could be done at Charleston but not easily at E Meadow or Churchill. These streets should be like California -- with ped and bike only underpasses. The adjoining residential neighbors could surely get behind this.


3 people like this
Posted by Claude
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2017 at 5:11 am

In Japan, they elevate the trains and develop the real estate underneath. Long rows of little shops and not much sign of the train itself.


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