News

City: Rail redesign could require property seizures

As Palo Alto narrows down its grade-separation alternatives, residents call for elimination of eminent domain

As Palo Alto approaches a key decision point in selecting new designs for its four rail crossings, residents are increasingly waking up to the harsh trade-offs that the expensive, multiyear endeavor will entail.

Their fears were confirmed Tuesday night, when city Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada noted that all 10 alternatives on the city's existing menu of options could require property purchases or the exercise of eminent domain, the government seizure of partial or whole properties to accommodate redesigned rail crossings.

More than two dozen speakers addressed the council Tuesday night, many voicing concerns about the prospect of losing their properties near the crossings at Palo Alto Avenue, Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive and Charleston Road.

Others, like Barbara Hazlett, spoke to a different worry, namely that a proposal to widen Embarcadero Road in conjunction with closing the Churchill rail intersection to cars would worsen the traffic conditions outside their homes.

Like many others, Hazlett said she too was concerned about the potential taking of properties, which the city had to do in the 1950s when it constructed Oregon Expressway.

"This is the canary in the coal mine for our neighborhood," Hazlett said. "We definitely do not want Embarcadero Road, a residential arterial, to become Embarcadero Expressway."

She is not alone. More than 450 residents signed a petition by Old Palo Alto resident David Shen urging the city not to seize properties as part of the effort to separate the railroad tracks from the roadways.

Watch Shen discuss the city's plans for rail redesign and the petition on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."

Carolyn Schmarzo asked the council Tuesday to eliminate design options that would entail property takings, which she said would destroy the neighborhood.

"To lose your home for any reason is hideous," Schmarzo said. "But to watch it bulldozed against your will is a soul-bludgeoning experience and another reason for a lawsuit."

Parag Patkar, who lives in south Palo Alto between Charleston and East Meadow, handed out his own petition with signatures from about 300 people. Much like the Southgate-led petition, Patkar's states a strong opposition to eminent domain and a preference for an underground tunnel for the trains over alternatives that would elevate the railroad tracks.

"We strongly oppose all the raised option," Patkar said. "No raised rail. No raised road. No berm. No viaduct. No Berlin Wall."

The citizen appeals against eminent domain were enough to sway two council members. Councilman Greg Tanaka made a motion to take grade-separation options that require eminent domain completely off the table.

"I can imagine just how devastating it would be that your house is (taken through) eminent domain," Tanaka said.

Most of his colleagues supported his sentiment but not his motion, particularly after Shikada noted that he doesn't believe any of the 10 options would survive if eminent domain were taken off the table.

He also noted that taking eminent domain completely off the table would empower a single property owner on Alma Street to dictate the outcome of the entire project.

"If all (property owners) were willing to sell and one holds out, by taking (eminent domain) off the table as described we would put the project in the hands of a single property owner," Shikada said.

Councilwoman Karen Holman spoke for the majority when she argued that it would be premature to adopt a "sweeping statement" of the sort Tanaka had proposed at this point in time. Ultimately, only Councilwoman Lydia Kou went along with Tanaka's motion.

Tanaka's proposal to take a widened Embarcadero Road off the table also faltered, with no support from any of his colleagues.

The council did, however, eliminate dozens of other ideas from consideration and narrowed the prior list of 34 grade-separation concepts down to 10. By a 6-0 vote, with Mayor Liz Kniss, Vice Mayor Eric Filseth and Councilman Tom DuBois all recusing (each has property interests near the rail corridor), the council supported the list of 10 ideas that will further be screened in the coming months, with the goal of picking a design for each grade crossing by the end of this year.

Only one idea calls for a citywide solution -- a deep-bore tunnel that would start and end within city limits. While this option is seen as a long-shot because of high costs, the council agreed to keep it in the menu of alternatives.

Kou, who serves on the Rail Committee, urged reaching out to some local innovators, including Elon Musk, to see if there are any creative solutions to the tunneling dilemma. Tanaka called grade separation a "multigenerational problem" and said the city should consider selling development rights to the ground-level property along the corridor as a possible way to finance the project. Scharff was less optimistic.

"I don't think this is a viable option, period, no matter what financial structures we're talking about," Scharff said.

Each of the other nine options on the city's shrinking menu pertain to a particular crossing or, as in the case of Meadow and Charleston, two crossings.

At the northernmost rail crossing, Palo Alto Avenue, the council is exploring two options: closing Palo Alto Avenue to traffic in conjunction with yet-to-be-determined transportation improvements (these could include a widened University Avenue or a new bike tunnel at Everett); and a "hybrid" option that would slightly depress the road and partially elevate the tracks.

For Churchill, there are three solutions on the table: the closure of Churchill (again, with related improvements); the "hybrid" option with a slightly depressed road under a somewhat raised track; and the "reverse hybrid" featuring raised road and a lowered track.

The other four recommendations pertain to the two southernmost grade crossings, Meadow and Charleston. These include the "hybrid" and the "reverse hybrid" options for the two crossings; a trench or a tunnel that goes through both crossings; and a viaduct that would create an elevated rail line in south Palo Alto.

Councilman Adrian Fine, who sits on the council's Rail Committee, called the 10 options "the minimum viable set we can go with."

"I know there are people in the community who think these should be removed tonight and I understand that," Fine said. "I think we have to do our due diligence on each of these."

The council's discussion, which spilled into early Wednesday morning, keeps Palo Alto more or less on track to choose a grade-separation alternative for each intersection by the end of this year, the city's officially adopted goal. At the same time, the city remains behind Mountain View and Sunnyvale, two cities that are pursuing their own grade-separation strategies in preparation for more frequent Caltrain service and the possible launch of California's high-speed rail system.

The three cities are eligible $700 million in funds from Measure B, a sales-tax measure that Santa Clara County voters approved in 2016.

To catch up, Palo Alto is preparing to enhance its outreach to the community in the coming months. The city recently hired a new contractor, AECOM, to assist with this endeavor and it plans to appoint a stakeholder group in the coming months to help further winnow down the grade-separation options.

Even if the city reaches its goal of choosing a preferred alternative by the end of this year, it will take at least another four years to perform the necessary environmental analysis and design work, as well as potentially acquire properties.

The city's current timeline calls for launching construction in 2023 and concluding it by the end of 2028.

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Comments

19 people like this
Posted by PhilB
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 30, 2018 at 10:34 am

PhilB is a registered user.

There is no avoiding this issue by simply taking all alternatives except the deep-bore tunnel off the table. The deep bore option would cost roughly $60K per resident. Is Palo Alto prepared to vote a bond issue to raise that amount of money, which of course would include interest costs?

To do nothing is to guarantee complete gridlock for east-west traffic in future years.

Real political leadership means engaging with these issues and making decisions.


33 people like this
Posted by JCP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 10:36 am

JCP is a registered user.

Interesting that many of those in Professorville opposed to enhancing Embarcadero for the rail separation are in favor of Castilleja's plans to plunder the other side of Embarcadero. Aren't we all neighbors? Let's oppose both projects.


47 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 10:47 am

This article sounds like the eminent domain argument is being used as a smoke screen for people who are opposed to the aesthetics of elevating the train tracks. Have there been any independent studies done by licensed engineers about whether any homes will really need to be removed to elevate the train tracks?


13 people like this
Posted by W Meadow resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2018 at 11:01 am

Parag, thank you for representing our neighborhood at last night's meeting.


20 people like this
Posted by hilary
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2018 at 11:16 am

This process is an eyeopener for me. I, like many, bemoan the traffic in our neighborhoods and freeways while I complain about the lack of comprehensive, integrated, convenient public transportation in the Bay Area.

This rail selection process is obviously painful for Palo Alto and the process has shown me why large-scale infrastructure solutions are soooo hard to get done.

Democracy and problem-solving are core values, can we manage to do both?


36 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2018 at 12:46 pm

"I can imagine just how devastating it would be that your house is (taken through) eminent domain," Tanaka said.

The bought-outs are the lucky ones. They'll take their money and run.

The unfortunates are their neighbors who will be living chockablock next to the ugliness that gets built, with its noise, in devalued homes with no compensation for their very real losses. They ought to be included in the takings plan.


6 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2018 at 1:09 pm

by 2028, the cost for taking each property might be 10 million. nice job.


14 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Is there anywhere that lists the properties that would need to be purchased for each of the options? Is the cost of land acquisition included in the cost estimates? How much property would be needed to build a bike bridge from Loma Verde over the tracks? What would this cost? Without this basic information up front, how can anyone make any reasoned decisions.

I d not support any elevated structure. I think Menlo Park got it right by choosing one underpass. If they can’t get a trenched Caltrain, the only option that makes sense to me economically is to close Meadow and make an underpass at Charleston, without connecting Alma. Yes it will be a traffic nightmare but anything will be a traffic nightmare. Destroying entire neighborhoods is also a nightmare.


2 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 1:39 pm

"This article sounds like the eminent domain argument is being used as a smoke screen for people who are opposed to the aesthetics of elevating the train tracks. Have there been any independent studies done by licensed engineers about whether any homes will really need to be removed to elevate the train tracks?"

Yes. In the original HMM report talked about how many properties would have to be taken. Depends on how high you want to elevate. All hybrid models being considered would require property takings.


32 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2018 at 3:33 pm

The whole track related debate is based on an assumption: Caltrain is vital. This may or may not be true. Many tech company chose to open their offices in SF because their employees can simply use Caltrain, causing the Caltrain to run out of capacity. The Caltrain demand is induced, or engineered by the tech companies. In 2003, Caltrain used to run 1 train per hour and without weekend service, and most tech are in south bay. Things worked just fine. We could probably close the train down so young coders can just move near their work. .


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 30, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto seem to be dealing with the same issue that being the train travels through many residential neighborhoods. It would seem to me that the three cities should be working together to find a solution that will have the least impact for their residents.. In other cities along the Peninsula the train tracks are adjacent to commercial districts. Maybe there would be more of a push to tunnel or trench if the three cities worked together with Caltrain and state officials. It seems there should be special protections for projects that will directly impact residential neighborhoods.


12 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm

"bike commuter" makes a good point. Has there been any analysis done on how much the huge sums contemplated to be spent by the affected cities makes any sense at all given the comparatively small ridership of CalTrain? I.e., what is the cost per train commuter of the contemplated grade separation expenditures (plus, if one wants to be complete, the damage to the cities in the form of traffic backups and aesthetics, etc.)?


25 people like this
Posted by PhilB
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 30, 2018 at 6:13 pm

PhilB is a registered user.

Caltrain keeps cars off crowded US 101 and I-280. At peak, meaning very slow speeds, one highway lane can carry about 2,000 cars an hour. Considering ridership on Caltrain, many highway lanes would be needed to carry all those passengers by car, assuming that they all can drive. The land simply isn't available to build all those lanes, and even if it were, imagine the cost.

To say that Caltrain isn't important or valuable is simply wrong.


43 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Bike Commuter,

Caltrain has about 30,000 regular users. That is about 1% of the Peninsula's 3,000,000 inhabitants.

San Francisco's real-estate mafia needs Caltrain so millennial generation tech workers can earn enough working in silicon valley that they can afford to buy real-estate (and pay property taxes) in San Francisco.


9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 30, 2018 at 6:53 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Corey chairs the Rail and Transportation Committee. What did he have to say?


25 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2018 at 7:38 pm

"Caltrain keeps cars off crowded US 101 and I-280. At peak, meaning very slow speeds, one highway lane can carry about 2,000 cars an hour. Considering ridership on Caltrain, many highway lanes would be needed to carry all those passengers by car..."

There's lots more to this than phantom numbers. US 101 and I-280 connect commuters with networks of streets which conduct their users seamlessly from their origins to their destinations. Caltrain carries passengers only between its stations. That's why cars win.


15 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 30, 2018 at 8:06 pm

100 tech workers does not mean 100 cars. The 100 SDEs can be packed into two commuter buses that ship coders directly to the door. With Caltrain, many of them still need to take Uber from station to the office. To serve those people writing php, we need to spend billions to separate the track (so they can check in their php in style), and some of them may lose homes. Why do we need to do all these? Close the Caltrain.


7 people like this
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on May 30, 2018 at 9:03 pm

Hi Gennady,

I believe that you miss-read/heard the Palo Alto Ave options. Josh clearly stated and showed in his presentation, that the option of extending Alma St over the San Francisquito Creek into Menlo Park using a viaduct, was potentially part of the "closure option". He also stated, that talks would continue with Menlo Park, regarding this.

This option would allow traffic to flow to/from Palo Alto/Menlo Park, without crossing the tracks. For example, rail crossings for a round trip from downtown Palo Alto to the Menlo Park City Building, would drop from 4 to 0. The same goes for eastern Menlo Park residents wanting to visit downtown Palo Alto. These reduced crossings, equate to reduced cars and congestion for both Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

As an added benefit, this would also eliminate all horn noise for the current rail crossing. This horn noise affects both Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

Concerns: The El Palo Alto Tree would not be affected, El Palo Alto Park could be relocated to extend El Camino Park, and traffic control mechanisms could be used to prevent added traffic onto Palo Alto's Palo Alto Ave and Menlo Park's E Creek Drive.

This would be two communities working together for a common solution. I have presented this idea to both Menlo Park and Palo Alto city officials, and both have shown interest.

From my understanding listening to Josh, the idea is still alive.

Martin


13 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on May 30, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Whenever someone tries to tell you that you MUST build these elevated train tracks and kick people out of their homes or else we will face "complete gridlock for east-west traffic", just remind them of a few things. There are no fewer than FIVE grade separated train crossings within a few miles that already exist in Palo Alto and Mountain View. FIVE. Caltrain and HSR can run trains back-to-back-to-back 24/7/365 and those five crossings will continue to operate unimpeded.


13 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 9:43 pm

This project has just gone from bad to worst.

Whatever happened to "context sensitive solutions" which Pat Burt keeps touting here? I thought CSS was supposed to avoid all this misery.

What Ed Shikada and the city gov't. aren't figuring on, besides the $3 million+ price tag for each property taken through eminent domain, is that each affected homeowner could very well sue the city, tying the project up in litigation for years to come. Add the cost of all that expensive litigation to the grade sep. price tag and a tunnel will look cheap.

Neighboring peninsula communities are well on their way to achieving grade sep., but not Palo Alto. The difference? The other communities don't have city governments which are as grossly incompetent as Palo Alto's. We talk about working with other cities on this project but seriously, what city would want to work with Palo Alto as badly as Palo Alto is dealing with this issue? If I were the city of Menlo Park or Mountain View, I'd tell Palo Alto to go stuff it.

Not that it will do any good at this stage, but for the 100th time I will post my suggestion. Divide the project into two phases.

Phase I: Charleston and Meadow: tunnel from San Antonio to Matadero creek. Not one home taken. No outcry over an elevated train or "Berlin wall". Cheaper and easier to fund. This option has already been studied several years ago by H.M.M. and CPA has sat on it in the intervening years.

Phase II: Churchill and Palo Alto Ave. Churchill has a low volume of automobile traffic.

The values of all the homes near the tracks have probably just dropped significantly with this development because those homes might be taken by eminent domain.

Where are the displaced families who have their homes taken supposed to go? To high-crime East Palo Alto? An RV on El Camino across from Paly? A truck on the Google parking lot?

"Tanaka called grade separation a "multigenerational problem" and said the city should consider selling development rights to the ground-level property along the corridor as a possible way to finance the project."

Are you kidding me? Is it possible that councilman Tanaka is unaware that the city of Palo Alto DOES NOT OWN the land on the railroad right of way? Is he really that ignorant or uninformed? Councilman Tanaka, you cannot sell development rights to property you DO NOT OWN. I have posted here countless times that the rail right of way is owned by PCJPB, the agency that owns Caltrain, and NOT by the city of Palo Alto.

As the kids say nowadays, SRSLY?

"Kou, who serves on the Rail Committee, urged reaching out to some local innovators, including Elon Musk, to see if there are any creative solutions to the tunneling dilemma."

Yes, Elon Musk has this magic wand which he uses only in Palo Alto. It can make trains fly over the crossings — it's really quite remarkable. He can come in and wave his magic wand. Problem solved.

Or maybe the Wizardof Oz has something.

Really, with the combined brainpower of Stanford and all of Silicon Valley, we need to call on Elon Musk?

And it's time to face reality. Caltrain isn't going away, ever. It's not going to vanish in a puff of smoke no matter how much you analyze the data.

Folks, it's time to start recall campaigns against some of your city councilpersons, and you can start with Councilpersons Tanaka and Kou. Not tomorrow or next week, but today. Now.

Kudos to Gennady Sheyner for his outstanding coverage of this story over the years.


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 9:57 pm

"To serve those people writing php, we need to spend billions to separate the track (so they can check in their php in style), and some of them may lose homes. Why do we need to do all these?"

Grade sep does not benefit the php coders riding Caltrain. It benefits automobile drivers on surface streets who must stop at the tracks while the trains cross. The trains always have the right of way under federal law, so your php coders can work unfettered on Caltrain.

Caltrain is owned by a consortium of three counties. Good luck getting them all to agree to eliminate Caltrain and put thousands more cars on the freeways.


29 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Just love the argument that Palo Alto needs to spend $250+ million on an inefficient one-dimensional transportation system that serves 1% of the population... but all that money being spent on the train is really being spent to help out the poor people driving cars!

If you really wanted to improve the overall efficiency of transportation in Palo Alto you would close Caltrain and put in dozens of east west connector streets to complete the efficient network of roads that is obstructed by the Caltrain right of way.


9 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 12:29 am

If that 1% of the population drove instead of taking Caltrain traffic would be even worse than it already is.


14 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 1:39 am

"If you really wanted to improve the overall efficiency of transportation in Palo Alto you would close Caltrain"

In the real world, where the rest of us live, this is not going to happen.

Now go back to your fantasyland and think up more nonsense to post here.


35 people like this
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 3:05 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Raising the rail on a viaduct should not require any eminent domain, and I was dismayed that staff implied otherwise. What is the basis for the claim of eminent domain for raised rail? (if you answer and reference a study, please include a link to it. The trenching and tunneling white paper does NOT reference fully raised rail). For options that raise or lower roads, yes there is eminent domain, primarily because homes can no longer be accessed from roads that are like 10' higher than their driveways. But don't conflate a road on a viaduct with a train on a viaduct. If you elevate the rail, cars and bikes can stay at grade and no homes are lost.

Residents who are understandably concerned about eminent domain are shooting themselves and the entire city in the foot with their opposition to raised rail. A properly designed rail viaduct can be:
* 1/3 to 1/5 the cost of trenching;
* quieter than the current at grade trains;
* respect privacy by for instance using angled slats to block views down into homes and direct them to the mountains or sky;
* built WITHOUT requiring temporary tracks which would be expensive and snarl traffic on Alma for years;
* designed elegantly and further shielded from view with vegetation;
* at its highest point, assuming full-height sound barriers, the rail viaduct would be about the equivalent height of a 3 story building, I have to remeasure my model but somewhere around 30-40', but it would also have 15' clearance underneath, so it's not the same massing.
* can have park space underneath;

Plenty of people have 2, 3 or 4 storey buildings behind their house, and the city doesn't spend a billion dollars to prevent it. Nonetheless, For a tiny fraction of the enormously greater cost of trenching or tunneling (in the billions of dollars), Palo Alto could set aside a temporary pool of money to buy properties from people who just can't stand to have the structure behind their house, and sell the properties to someone else who doesn't care so much about it. Equitable, Affordable, Effective.


15 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 3:59 am

Nice post, Cedric.

Palo Altans are so focused on property takings that there is no discussion of shoofly tracks and the disruption they would cause as Caltrains hurtle down Alma street, not to mention the two cutoffs that would have to be built to get them on and off the main line.

But these are pampered Palo Altans who can't tolerate an elevated train next to their multimillion-dollar McMansions.


31 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on May 31, 2018 at 6:24 am

The real issue is that a few people can't bear to spend a few minutes extra when crossing the train tracks (using the five existing overpasses / underpasses in Palo Alto / Mountain View) so they insist on taking the homes of their neighbors and creating a monstrosity that will destroy neighborhoods for at least two blocks on each side, for miles of train track.

What gives you the right to take your neighbor's home to save a few minutes driving? Can you leave home a few minutes earlier instead?


16 people like this
Posted by ThePublicGood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2018 at 7:39 am

Eminent Domain should not be taken off the table. It is a well-established principal of government that is centuries old and enshrined in the constitution: no taking without due process and just compensation. If a public work benefits all, but causes detriment to some, the solution is not to say, "Oh, we have to forget about it, due to that detriment", but rather, "We've got to compensate those who must suffer the detriment." Council has to suck it up and do what's good for the overall public.


12 people like this
Posted by Chill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 8:27 am

To @Mary

“Posted by Juan :
The real issue is that a few people can't bear to spend a few minutes extra when crossing the train tracks (using the five existing overpasses / underpasses in Palo Alto / Mountain View) so they insist on taking the homes of their neighbors and creating a monstrosity that will destroy neighborhoods for at least two blocks on each side, for miles of train track.”

And spending hundreds of millions of other people’s money.


1 person likes this
Posted by WilliamR
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 8:55 am

@ Cedric,

I like the idea of a viaduct for the railroad tracks, but I don't see how you can build it around an operating railroad without the temporary tracks on Alma. There would be a lot of construction equipment moving around, and I don't think the safety engineers would want that close proximity.


9 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 9:16 am

I'll say it yet again:

Taking residences will add tens of millions of dollars to the cost of the project. The homeowners would have to be compensated at "fair market value" wich is pretty pricey in Palo Alto.

There is nothing stopping the displaced homeowners from suing the city for whatever reason. In today's litigious society do you think people are simply going to roll over and abandon their homes? It costs money to defend yourself against a lawsuit and this will add even more to the cost of the project.

Whether you think taking residences for the "public good" is right or wrong in principle, it's bad economics no matter how you slice it. Consider the cost of compensating homeowners and the cost of the inevitable litigation.


16 people like this
Posted by Chill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 9:43 am

@ODB : “There is nothing stopping the displaced homeowners from suing the city for whatever reason. In today's litigious society do you think people are simply going to roll over and abandon their homes? It costs money to defend yourself against a lawsuit and this will add even more to the cost of the project.”

Exactly. This recently happened in the attempted taking of BuenavVista. The residents sued over the RIR assessments and relocation expenses, tying up the process in the courts.

“ Whether you think taking residences for the "public good" is right or wrong in principle, it's bad economics no matter how you slice it. Consider the cost of compensating homeowners and the cost of the inevitable litigation.”

Yup. Taking the homes is guaranteed to put the brakes on any construction for years/decades.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 9:47 am

Suppose there is a bond measure to finance grade sep. in Palo Alto. What are the chances of it passing if people think they or their neighbors' houses will be taken?


15 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2018 at 9:53 am

Tens of millions more for taking properties? The widely circulated plan predicted 60-70 properties, including some big commercial sites that would be much more expensive. And probably some premium to make people leave faster. The typical sale price in PA is like 3-3.5M. Let's say 4M. This is 280M for making the space alone. Hybrid solution is NOT cheap and it is UGLY.


10 people like this
Posted by @bike commuter
a resident of another community
on May 31, 2018 at 10:15 am

"We could probably close the train down so young coders can just move near their work."

Commutes and traffic are what they are precisely because housing isn't being built close to jobs and the cost for what's available is sky high. Closing the train down won't change that, it will just add more commuters onto the road.


13 people like this
Posted by Chill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 10:57 am

BTW, ED is not simply paying a homeowner the current Zillow estimate or Assessment. It requires compensating the owner to establish a comparable home. Anyone who followed the Burns Vista saga knows this. Application of ED requires that the government pay the owner so that theiy can keep their kids in Palo Alto schools and have Palo Alto opportunities and residency. You will need to find them a comparable home in Palo Alto and pay that cost.


8 people like this
Posted by Chill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 11:33 am

@bike commuter: "The 100 SDEs can be packed into two commuter buses that ship coders directly to the door. With Caltrain, many of them still need to take Uber from station to the office. "

Naw. They have busses to/from the stations to encourage commute alternatives.
They also have bike cars on the trains full of hundreds of bikes. So your speculation about Uber is way off. Caltrain gets more people off the roads and onto bikes. A fact all bike commuters know.


12 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2018 at 11:34 am

High rent? Housing shortage? It's the Big Tech's problem. They have a lot of options: commuter buses, rent subsidy, or parking subsidy. Instead, we Palo Altans need to spend billions to make ways for them.


15 people like this
Posted by Chill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2018 at 11:41 am

@bike commuter: " we Palo Altans need to spend billions to make ways for them."

We don't need to do anything at all.
Grade change is a choice being promoted/advocated by some PA residents, and some people who want to change the grade crossings for personal reasons/concerns.

As a Palo Alto resident, and regular user of the Charleston, Castro, and San Antonio crossings, I am not interested in investing in any changes to the crossings. I enjoy riding the train to the City from time to time, and appreciate having it as a commute alternative. Everything is fine.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 1:34 pm

How many more people would the Caltrain ROW serve if we re-purposed it as a four lane expressway?


5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 1:46 pm

"For a tiny fraction of the enormously greater cost of trenching or tunneling (in the billions of dollars), Palo Alto could set aside a temporary pool of money to buy properties from people who just can't stand to have the structure behind their house, and sell the properties to someone else who doesn't care so much about it. Equitable, Affordable, Effective."

Easy to say. Numbers, please.

And where does Palo Alto get a temporary pool of money to buy properties (and sell them at a loss)? A tiny fraction of the enormously greater cost of trenching or tunneling is a lot of money, especially when combined with the enormously greater cost of building what amounts to an elevated trench over the town.

Also, do you have a rendering of your long louvered snowshed on stilts for us to admire?


11 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Cedric understands the problem and the best solution.

So many other posters continue wandering around in the wilderness, complaining about things they don't understand.


33 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Let's start calling the "viaduct" concept what it really is... an elevated freeway for trains.

No one would agree to build an elevated freeway for cars through the middle of Palo Alto. Why is an elevated freeway for trains OK?


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2018 at 4:45 pm

"So many other posters continue wandering around in the wilderness, complaining about things they don't understand."

Conversely, many too many posters obstinately champion things they don't understand. It's fortunate that this forum has no effect on what gets built, or not built.


5 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2018 at 8:15 pm

"It's fortunate that this forum has no effect on what gets built, or not built."

I've seen better ideas posted here than anything the city government has come up with which involve seizures of residential property or which call for Elon Musk to come in and wave his magic wand.

Really, I can't believe there's a city councilperson who suggested Elon Musk as a serious option, but she did.


20 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 31, 2018 at 8:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

Please at least think about a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Why not see this as an opportunity rather than a problem?

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.


7 people like this
Posted by Jason Moy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2018 at 9:54 pm

I think it's fine if there is gridlock. It doesn't bother me. Maybe it will even encourage people to move to less dense areas, which would be a good thing.


23 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2018 at 11:43 pm

A viaduct? Trains every 7 minutes in a few years, then every 3 minutes once HSR gets goung(if it does), 24/7. That’s the projection. Those trains,are hurtling past homes, 20 or more feet up on tracks, plus many more feet of electric armatures and infrastructure on top of that. Goodby all privacy for homes along the tracks. And however long this so called waterless aqueduct is, it divides the town, east and west with a high ugly concrete barrier. And having tons of train flying off into a house or yard would be a nightmare.
Why is this being spoken of so casually given it is just awful.


6 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 12:59 am

"ugly concrete barrier"

There isn't even a design yet! You have no idea what a viaduct would look like or if it would be an "ugly concrete" structure, so your statement is nonsense.

"tons of train flying off into a house or yard"

How many derailments have there been in the 150+ years those tracks have been there? Answer: ZERO.

Fear mongering pure and simple.

You're either letting your imagination run amok or you've come here to intentionally fear monger.

Back to fantasyland with you.


14 people like this
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 1, 2018 at 1:31 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

VIADUCTS CONNECT CITY, TRENCH DIVIDES IT
Here is a Street View example of an existing BART rail viaduct in Albany, north of Berkeley:
Web Link

My friend grew up across the street from it, could see it from his dining room window. The point of showing this view is that it is an open structure, where they have a wonderful off-road bike and pedestrian path which we often rode to get to the shopping and restaurant districts. Does this divide the city? No, it unites the city, and allows for more places to cross the tracks, especially if it were fully elevated the length of the city. unfortunately, a fully elevated viaduct appear to be off the table at the moment, despite its benefits of increasing connections across town. The more likely (and more affordable) scenario would be that it would be elevated with a 15.5' clearance at the road crossings, then return to grade.

Contrast this with an open trench, which is the cheaper of the below grade solutions. 45' wide, 25' deep open trench would divide the city, literally cutting it in two.

FREQUENCY OF SERVICE
Your projections of train frequency are unrealistic: you are obviously projecting some theoretical peak frequency and implying that it would run 24/7, which is a departure from sane reality. Even in New York City trains don't run that frequently in the night, let alone through our sleepy peninsula. Currently, the last trains leaves San Jose at 10:30 pm, and SF at midnight. As a daily train rider, i would welcome later train service, especially from SJ where a midnight train would be great, but to expect all night high frequency, that is highly unlikely.

POSSIBLE DESIGN FOR PALO ALTO AND NOISE REDUCTIONS
The BART viaduct is not the design I would recommend for Caltrain in Palo Alto, as I would think we would want to use more modern technology in sound and vibration control which has been shown to reduce noise by 20dB (reducing the sound by 1/4 relative to an elevated rail without these design features). So for Palo Alto the top would have walls on the sides of the tracks to absorb and deflect noise.

An early visualization of a 3D model I made based on that proven design, but which I modified to add higher walls and particularly the fins I referenced earlier to address the privacy issue, can be found at page 18 of Web Link . I actually think the walls don't need to be as high as i initially modeled, because the trains are proposed to max out at 125mph on the peninsula, which is slower than the 140mph threshold when wind resistance becomes the dominant source of sound.

The train I used as reference for my model, is shown on page 7 of this research paper on noise which talks about its noise and vibration control benefits: www.acoustics.asn.au/conference_proceedings/AAS2004/ACOUSTIC/PDF/AUTHOR/AC040038.PDF
The research paper writes "Trains began running on this facility in 2004 and the wayside noise measured was 64 dBA Leqmax at 25 m for an 8-car train at 140 km/hr." And in the summary, "With attention to the design factors which affect structure-radiated noise, it has been possible to reduce the unmitigated wayside noise from the range of 84 to 87 LAeqmax at 15 m for 130 km/hr train on a concrete viaduct structure to 65-67 LAeqmax for the same conditions but with mitigation."

ESTIMATED COSTS
The cost of a viaduct structure was not estimated publicly but I estimate it to be on the order of 1/6th the cost of trenching/tunneling ($200M or less vs $1.1B). I base this estimate by extrapolating from page 23 of this document, which graphs the costs of different options: Web Link and while this page does not give a separate cost for viaduct, one imagines it is equivalent to the hybrid option which raises the rail a bit and lowers the road a bit. I think it is probably less than the hybrid option because it could be constructed without requiring imminent domain and without requiring a temporary track on Alma for years during construction, which is required in the case of the trenching as well as the hybrid options.

Finally, the recent white paper on the cost of trenching/tunneling has the costs summarized on page 30 of www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/63496


14 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2018 at 1:53 am

I have friend that lives about 250 yards from Albany's elevated freeway for BART. Even from 250 yards away you can hear a constant low electrical hum which turns into a loud electrical buzz every time a BART train goes by.

The green area under Albany's freeway for BART looks nice in pictures but up close it is not very well maintained and no one ever does anything there because... who wants to hang out under an elevated freeway for trains?

People who live near by mostly use the area under the tracks as a place to take their dogs to do their business.


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 3:35 am

"I have friend that lives about 250 yards from Albany's elevated freeway for BART. Even from 250 yards away you can hear a constant low electrical hum"

Not possible. BART cars operate ondirect current so there is nothing to hum.

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 3:46 am

"Trains every 7 minutes in a few years, then every 3 minutes once HSR gets goung(if it does), 24/7. That’s the projection."

That's the line that's being fed to the gullible public and gullible city officials, including Palo Alto's.

How much was the bay bridge reconstruction supposed to cost? How much did it actually cost?


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2018 at 9:00 am

This whole issue is raised in part due to the assumption that HSR will be using the Caltrain system. Thankfully an election is coming up in which a more common sense approach may be implemented. Common sense says that HSR should be using the I-5 right of way to cross the valley. That eliminates the need for eminent domain in the valley. The state already owns that right of way. If I-5 is used than the approach to SF would come through the east bay which has a better transportation system in place and established rights of way. That leaves us with BART and Caltrain which can scale their operations without the multitude of issues confronting the state. Why we keep looking for the most expensive and confusing alternative is mind boggling. HSR can work and upgrades to BART and Caltrain can work on a greatly reduced budget. If the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is pushing for the most expensive approach than something is wrong here. Time to check the power plays. Trying to thread whole populations of people through the wye of the needle - the peninsula - does not make sense. We need to move the major transportation choices inland to less expensive land that has not been built out.


7 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2018 at 9:40 am

Annette is a registered user.

@Cedric: your 3D model is impressive - and helpful to those of us who tend toward visual learning. Has the City contacted you to at least ask speak with them further? Have they commented on your suggestions? A common lament is that Staff ignores residents. Another is that CC suffers public comment, often begrudgingly. Yet this city is awash with knowledgeable people who have much to offer IF ONLY THE DECISION MAKERS WOULD LISTEN.

I hope your comments and suggestions have not been ignored.


21 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2018 at 12:12 pm

@Annette,

Sorry, but to me Cedric's 3D model looks like standard concrete freeway construction hidden behind a lot of landscaping. If Cedric's model is such an architectural masterpiece why does he feel the need to hide it behind so much landscaping?

Who is going to maintain all of that landscaping? Cedric? Caltrain? City of Palo Alto? Caltrain barely evens maintains their current "landscaping".

I don't know who is responsible for the landscaping on San Carlos's berm but half of it is already dead.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 12:32 pm

"If Cedric's model is such an architectural masterpiece why does he feel the need to hide it behind so much landscaping?"

That landscaping is for privacy and acoustical isolation. Anyone who has been paying attention to this discussion would know that.


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 12:40 pm

"A common lament is that Staff ignores residents. Another is that CC suffers public comment, often begrudgingly."

You are correct as always, Annette.

So much for "Context Sensitive Solutions". I thought CSS was supposed to facilitate community input. I'm sure my idea to split the project into two phases has gone no further than paloaltoonline, and has never been discussed to receive a thumbs up or down.

The City might listen to Cedric if he posed as Elon Musk.


16 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 1, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

What a total mess-all for this high speed rail which offers very little if anything to residents between San Jose and San Francisco. Remember our city council at the time recommending a yes vote on this proposition-then after the fact realizing what a bad idea it turned out to be as envisioned by the people tasked with creating it. Now we are going to try to take houses or build enormously expensive and disruptive tunnels or overhead rail structures. Is there any end to the insanity of our elected officials on this (and lots of other issues)?

When there was a real chance of killing this turkey by voting down the bond issue a few years back. Joe Simitian did the right thing and voted no. But Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon sold their constituents on the Peninsula down the river by voting yes because the Jerry Brown wanted it. If one or the other had considered the people who put them in office and trusted their judgement and voted no that would have been the end of it possibly.

Now instead of accepting the idea that this has to be done and causing a major level of pain and grief as well as bitter divisions we should use these probably billions of dollars to put and end to the high speed rail project as it is presently configured. If we want real high speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco then run it from airport to airport where the infrastructure for handling people and rental cars and local transportation already exists. Bring it up the I-5 right away and run a via duct up the bay into the airport and leave our communities in peace.


6 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm

"This whole issue is raised in part due to the assumption that HSR will be using the Caltrain system."

You haven't been paying attention.

The idea to use the Caltrain ROW is the "blended approach" adopted several years ago which lowered the projected cost of HSR by using the Caltrain ROW. It's a straight shot to the city, part of what the voters of California so brilliantly approved in 2008. In addition, funds have already been secured and construction begun on electrifying the Caltrain ROW in preparation for, guess what, HSR. I think we've passed the point of no return and it's too late to change the alignment of HSR.

If we're really lucky the next governor will put the brakes on, and perhaps re-vote, Cash-and-Carry Jerry's vanity project. If put to a vote today I doubt it would pass, but somehow it's never been re-voted with Cash-and-Carry Jerry in office. I'm not feeling that lucky.

The passenger rail business is a guaranteed formula for losing money. People would rather fly on jet airplanes or use the Interstate Highway System. That's why Southern Pacific, Santa Fe and the other big railroads exited the business and Amtrak came into existence in 1971. Today those railroads carry freight, where the money is, and Amtrak loses a fortune for U.S. taxpayers carrying passengers. It's also why private capital hasn't gone near CA HSR and they haven't sold any HSR bonds to private investment firms.

California voters really shot themselves in the head when they passed Prop 1a in 2008, which the brilliant Palo Alto CC endorsed at first and reversed its position after the election when it was too late.

The State of California has no business being in the money-losing passenger rail business. There is an effort to build a train from L.A. to Las Vegas. It has a shot at succeeding and has private capital behind it, not the states of California or Nevada.


3 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 1:33 pm

"Now we are going to try to take houses or build enormously expensive and disruptive tunnels or overhead rail structures."

And who's going to foot the bill for all of this? Not the State of California! No, the residents of lowly Palo Alto!


Like this comment
Posted by 20YrResident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Do we know of the radius around these rail crossings that would cover the area that would have properties affected by eminent domain>


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Yes - I am paying attention. I went to the original meetings about 100 years ago when we had available land. So the top level people went to Europe to visit the existing systems. A boondoggle. Then the whole subject disappeared for an extended time. I can be very cynical here and suspect that the reason they are taking the current planned route in the valley is that the farmland they are taking by eminent domain has been in people's families for years and has a very low property tax. Eminent domain calculates off the tax base. And if they are planning to take any homes on the peninsula those have been held a long time and have a low property tax level. The obvious choice was to go up I-5 which is land already owned by the state and has right of way. So now electrification will cost a bundle. I believe that some major families in PA are in charge of electrification - they have a bill board by 101. Reality says that we do not need electrification for Caltrain - just some new engines/locomotives which are state of the art and will produce the same effect. Reality says this whole thing is a boondoggle and we are at the point now in which it is obvious.


1 person likes this
Posted by KOhlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 4:30 pm

KOhlson is a registered user.

Consider South Pasadena. 50+ years ago, the state wanted to clear out a path for what is now I-710. Still hasn't happened: Web Link


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 4:32 pm

"Reality says that we do not need electrification for Caltrain - just some new engines/locomotives which are state of the art and will produce the same effect. Reality says this whole thing is a boondoggle and we are at the point now in which it is obvious."

Agreed. My point was that it's too late to change the alignment now.


17 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Caltrain electrification is just a fractal of CAHSR. Caltrain electrification and CAHSR are both boondoggles, just on a different scale.




13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2018 at 6:16 pm

"Not possible. BART cars operate ondirect current so there is nothing to hum."

There is plenty to hum. BART cars operate on direct current which is derived from the local 60-Hz AC grid by rectifier stations set up at intervals along the track. Caltrain is installing similar. Hmmmmmmm...


"while this page [Web Link] does not give a separate cost for viaduct, one imagines it is equivalent to the hybrid option which..."

Key words: "one imagines". We need solid professional cost projections.

Also, the model view of the elevated trench structure represents what a crow or seagull would see. We poor ground-bound humans need to be shown what it would look like from our perspective, like what the man in the image would see if he weren't looking away from the thing (there's a subliminal message there). Include existing nearby homes in the new image at proper scale and perspective. I double-dog dare you.




1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Oops, sorry. Wrong Web Link in my post above. Here's the correct one for the cost estimate context:

Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Cedric is a guy with an idea. He is not a design firm or a P.E. He has fleshed out his idea and is contributing something more constructive than bellyaching and posting made-up lies to advance his agenda.

I used to live near San Francisco Muni trolley lines and there was no such audible hum coming off the catenary wires. The DC was rectified at power stations located well away from the street.


3 people like this
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Thanks ODB. I am indeed just a guy with an idea and not a firm with lots of resources. I've got a job and I'd like to keep it, so I don't have lots of time nor deep knowledge of rail construction economics. I have done my honest best to infer costs based on the limited information provided by the city, and been transparent with my assumptions and reasoning. I have and will continue to lobby the city council and staff asking them to produce a more professional high-level planning estimate of the cost of the viaduct since this doesn't exist.

I will also request that staff correct and confirm that Viaducts do not require eminent domain, else to back up the statement with clear reasoning why it would.

I'd ideally like them to explore and confirm my belief that it should be buildable on the eastern (Alma) side of the right-of-way, leaving the western track operational through construction and not requiring temporary tracks on Alma. This may save a lot of cost and construction impacts, and the information would aid in decision making, but I could understand if this is something they would explore in greater detail only if it is one of the finalist options for thorough study.

I would like to add accurate 3D massing of the buildings. But it is not easy and it's a lot of work that I hope to find time for.


14 people like this
Posted by Not a viaduct fan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 2, 2018 at 10:02 am

Not a viaduct fan is a registered user.

I'm not sure why some people are keen on the elevated trains. The freight trains are big and loud, and I don't see how elevating them 20 or so feet up can do anything but amplify that noise over a much farther distance, not to mention provide unsightly views from several blocks away. We'll have planes and trains overhead? Thanks but no thanks.


7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm

"I used to live near San Francisco Muni trolley lines and there was no such audible hum coming off the catenary wires. The DC was rectified at power stations located well away from the street."

Of course the catenaries don't hum. They carry DC. It's the transformers at the rectifier stations that hum, like transformers at substations hum, for the same reason. People near them will hear the hum. "Near" can mean hundreds of feet.

Having ideas is the easy part. Successful ideas need competent salesmanship, which includes credible responses to the hard questions. Ideas are not won by whining.


Like this comment
Posted by Ralph Eckland
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the bullet train is now going to end in Gilroy. Caltrain will take over from there to San Francisco. They are not going to have all of the money it takes to go through residential areas. Just make the rail crossings we have a little wider with more automobile lanes.


2 people like this
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

If I am correct that the western track can be maintained operational through construction, or in this case at least after construction, then the freight trains could stay at grade. Freight is so infrequent that it wouldn't snarl traffic and can use a single track. In that scenario the passenger service could be freed from the 1% grade limitation and so the Viaducts could themselves return to grade in a shorter distance. (I'm not sure what are the regular passenger rail's maximum grade slope and radius of vertical deflection.)


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm

"It's the transformers at the rectifier stations that hum, like transformers at substations hum, for the same reason. People near them will hear the hum. "Near" can mean hundreds of feet."

With electrification you're going to have to rectify the AC and feed it out to the catenary no matter what scheme is picked for grade sep in Palo Alto: tunnel, trench, viaduct, hybrid, "reverse hybrid", lower the tracks, lower the roads, raise the tracks, raise the roads or no grade sep at all. In addition, it's going to affect all communities on the electrified Caltrain ROW, not just Palo Alto, with the possible exception of the ROW south of San Jose. An electric Caltrain is going to bring these issues no matter what.

If a trench or tunnel were built in Palo Alto, add the noise from the pumping stations to the din. It is unknown whether a trench or tunnel would be pumped only during a storm or 24/7 like at Oregon exwy.


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm

"I'm not sure what are the regular passenger rail's maximum grade slope and radius of vertical deflection."

It's subject to approval by PCJPB. A 2% grade might be the maximum, but that's just a figure I'm pulling out of the ether. A 1% grade is no problem, but would be awfully long.

"According to the San Jose Mercury News, the bullet train is now going to end in Gilroy. Caltrain will take over from there to San Francisco. They are not going to have all of the money it takes to go through residential areas. Just make the rail crossings we have a little wider with more automobile lanes."

Now that Caltrain electrification has actually begun and the funds have been committed, they're trying to put the genie back in the bottle. We've been arguing for years that HSR should end in San Jose and let Caltrain go up to the city. Gilroy, even better.

This whole HSR deal is being mismanaged from the get-go. If the new governor (probably Newsom) is any good he'll put the kibosh on HSR. Maybe I'm dreaming.

"Just make the rail crossings we have a little wider with more automobile lanes."

It's is not as trivial as you make it sound. How are you going to widen these crossings without taking residences?

Widening Embarcadero should be a separate project with separate funding. If you're going to lump Embarcadero widening in with grade separation it's going to cost a fortune and good luck funding it. The land Paly high sits on may actually be owned by the university and leased by PAUSD, not owned by CPA. A Paly teacher told me that when I went there.


Like this comment
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2018 at 3:14 am

"According to the San Jose Mercury News, the bullet train is now going to end in Gilroy. Caltrain will take over from there to San Francisco."

The plan is to end the bullet train in Gilroy... but starting it in San Francisco.
The plan is to get a starter HSR train in service from San Francisco to Gilroy but not further until the tunnel is built, then it can connect through to Bakersfield via Fresno.

HSR is required by law to terminate in the Transbay Terminal.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm

There is the ACE train that comes in from the Manteca area connecting from I-5. If the law says that HSR MUST go to SF then there is more than one way to get there. CA keeps struggling when there are established rights-of way with stations stops. I get the feeling that the Leadership Groups have manipulated us into a corner for their own purposes that is going to cost a bundle.


3 people like this
Posted by Quinn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2018 at 4:13 pm

@resident.

Sure. You can fly from SFO to Vegas, and Vegas to Denver, and Denver to Portland, and Portland to Seattle. So why have a direct flight from SFO to Seattle when there are other established routes ?


1 person likes this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2018 at 4:17 pm

"There is the ACE train that comes in from the Manteca area connecting from I-5. If the law says that HSR MUST go to SF then there is more than one way to get there. CA keeps struggling when there are established rights-of way with stations stops. I get the feeling that the Leadership Groups have manipulated us into a corner for their own purposes that is going to cost a bundle."

All you have to do is convince the CAHSRA to change the alignment. Good luck with that, as they've already begun prepping the Caltrain ROW for HSR by spending $$$ on electrification and beginning construction.


3 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2018 at 5:11 pm

>>> "All you have to do is convince the CAHSRA to change the alignment. Good luck with that, as they've already begun prepping the Caltrain ROW for HSR by spending $$$ on electrification and beginning construction."

Yes, and by law, Prop1A bond funds can only be spent on things that are parts of the final HSR system, so if HSR does not blend with Caltrain, Caltrain will need to return the electrification $600 million, but Caltrain has no money, and electrification is well under way Web Link, and the new custom made trains are already being built: Web Link so yes, Good luck selling your new plan.


7 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2018 at 6:49 pm

According to Web Link they've sold $1.2 bln in bonds for a project estimated to cost $64 bln, so they've got less than 2% of the bond financing needed.

Given that these projects have a way of encountering "cost overruns", I multiply the lowball figure fed to the public by at least 2 (bay bridge anyone?) so the project will come in at more like $128 bln if built, so they've really got less than 1% of the funding and it's taken them 8 years to get there.

What a boondoggle.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2018 at 8:04 pm

Quinn - HSR is taking property away from people via Eminent Domain. My feeling is that is the intention. They are taking private property on a pipe dream - HSR is the excuse for taking private property. If there are other routes that the state already owns and they are not using that property then acquiring more property is just obscene. And a lot of that is farm property. It is like the state is eating itself and the products that are important. That has no comparison with air routes.


5 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2018 at 8:31 pm

They wanted HSR to run through Bakersfield and Fresno so they ran it up to Merced where it will cut across almost half the width of the sate to Gilroy, one of the least efficient routes imaginable.

Running it up the center of I5 would be an improvement and the state already owns the land.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Jun 3, 2018 at 9:25 pm

OK, I am getting into your moderately off topic HSR discussion.
The latest HSR Business Plan has raised their estimated price to $75B. That estimate low balls the construction inflation rate and only has a placeholder for the recently added long Pacheco tunnel. That’s for a truncated project that would be a Blended System on the peninsula and it does not include much of the huge added costs to tunnel out of LA. Even under this low ball cost estimate, they don’t have anywhere near the funding needed to do that project.
The Central Valley costs are largely sunk now so an I-5 route is a moot point. Getting from the CV to San Jose is still under termites as to how to fund it and, possibly, how to get there. An Altamont route is more direct and much lower cost than Pacheco given the lack of need for a tunnel and the potential to share the Ace route in another “blended” system.
All of that is probably a side show for the peninsula. If HSR does not come our way, Caltrain will eventually be allowed to exceed their current limit of 6 trains per hour per direction and add the up to 4 trains per hour per direction currently reserved for HSR, meaning need to grade separate either way.


3 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2018 at 11:28 pm

All these billions spent on trains by Governor Choo-Choo and not one nickel spent on water management to prepare for California's next drought, and there WILL be another drought.


2 people like this
Posted by Quinn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2018 at 7:26 am

Yes. Let’s discuss the drought.


4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2018 at 8:29 am

In the SFC today, Matier & Ross - "New transit center not wired for trains". The assumption is that it could take 6 to 10 years before trains requiring specific wiring will be needed - if ever. So much for the "legal Requirement" that HSR goes to the transit center. And that raises the question now as to why we are converting to an electrical system when the end destination is not able to service it. There is a house of cards that all require multitudes of money that the state does not have and the various agencies have not really prepared for. All are pushing the pieces that hold this all together way out in the future . Meanwhile the eminent domain keeps using HSR are the reason to take personal property via eminent domain that will sit there unbuilt on forever. As to the LA portion if you have not been there lately they are building more freeways and transit systems which will not be torn out. And they are doing a good job on those new transit systems. Assume that nothing is going to be torn down that leaves only the state owned rights of way that already exist. Of late we are wallowing in incompetence.


1 person likes this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 9:47 am

Nice picture of a viaduct. I'm sure that would be very attractive on the Caltrain ROW.

Web Link

(ironic it's for a Rod Dirdon, Sr. opinion piece supporting his HSR boondoggle)


1 person likes this
Posted by Not a viaduct fan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 4, 2018 at 10:14 am

Not a viaduct fan is a registered user.

@Cedric -- interesting idea about splitting the two types of rail, and having some elevated and some at-grade. I don't know if we'd be getting the best of both worlds or the worst of both worlds that way, but it's something that should be considered. I just can't imagine elevating the freight trains, but a small/quiet/greener elevated track for electric trains (only) I could consider.

I also think we should consider plans that are sufficiently restricted that we can get state/federal funding and corporate taxes to cover the cost. As other folks here have mentioned, it doesn't seem like there is much local benefit to all of this (except for the unlikely tunnel, which would create a lot of local real estate). So our response should be in scale with the funding we get, and we should evaluate the cost per (local) rider of all this work. And if that means we need to negotiate to restrict train traffic, because we can't afford more grade separation, then we do that in order to preserve local traffic flow.


7 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 10:23 am

>>> And if that means we need to negotiate to restrict train traffic, because we can't afford more grade separation, then we do that in order to preserve local traffic flow.

Palo Alto has no negotiating power to restrict trains. If PA can't afford grade separations, Caltrain can just construct a concrete barrier across the road and fence off their right of way permanently. PA already has 3½ road under-crossings, how many more do you need?


4 people like this
Posted by Not a viaduct fan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 4, 2018 at 10:33 am

Not a viaduct fan is a registered user.

@brian -- I'm not sure we have no negotiating power. We have the stations, for starters. There is always room for negotiation.

To your broader point, though, I agree -- I think we need just one more grade-separated crossing, in South Palo Alto, and we should try to limit other efforts to safe bike/ped crossings to save money. The tunnel is the only other option I can envision, because it can create a lot of money while also costing a lot of money (but it may be unworkable for other reasons).


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Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 11:45 am

@Not a viaduct fan -- "We have the stations, for starters."

Who is "We"? JCJPB (Caltrain) owns all of the land under and around the stations: Web Link Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 4, 2018 at 11:52 am

Annette is a registered user.

Cedric is a guy with an idea and that idea is generating discussion around a topic that could cost billions. I think that warrants discussion and that people with skin in the game should be part of that discussion. Sure, the city holds meetings, but they've gained a reputation for circular discussions. We need to do better.

Unless they also live here, our planners don't have the same sort of skin in the game as tax paying residents. Nor is it their home that might be seized. Also, word on the street is that our City Manager will be leaving sooner rather than later and relocating to Bainbridge Island or some such place. Not staying here. Just as it is easy to commit and spend someone else's money (ref: the recent poll about the TOT tax) it is easier to disregard consequences when making planning decisions that will not have personal impact. Add to this the sad fact that we have a CC majority that is blinded and bound by ties to deep pockets that fund their campaigns.

So who truly cares about the residents of Palo Alto and the kind of community we have and maintaining the infrastructure that keeps everything functional?

If Staff and CC (majority) won't seriously listen (Exhibit A: limiting public comment at council meetings to 60 seconds) how are ideas with merit going to see daylight? How are we going to become a city that functions as though it has a thoughtful, integrated plan? As I look around I don't see examples of great success coming out of the public sector. Theory-based planning is failing us.

I'd like to see the City harness the creativity of guys with ideas. What can it hurt? At the very least some good questions will be asked.


3 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm

>>>>> -- "I'd like to see the City harness the creativity of guys with ideas."

Grade separations are not some new frontier that has never been explored before, clever engineers have been building grade separations all over the world for over 100 years. The options are well proven and well understood.
It is extremely unlikely that "creative guys" with no civil engineering experience are going to invent some new solution that no one else in the world has imagined in over 100 years.

Most likely you will need to choose the least worst option already on the table.


4 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

"Nice picture of a viaduct. I'm sure that would be very attractive on the Caltrain ROW."

A classic straw-man argument. Any structure, be it a viaduct or a building, can be designed to be attractive or ugly. A building can be attractive like some on the Stanford campus, or it can be designed and built to look like a federal penitentiary.

Someone posted a picture of a European rail viaduct that was architecturally attractive, but then Europeans are smarter than Americans.

People don't realize that although the rail ROW is within the city limits, it is not owned by the City of Palo Alto. Even some on the city council may not fully grasp this. CPA cannot simply do as it pleases with the ROW such as build on it, sell development rights or restrict train passage without first striking a deal with PCJPB. Common sense tells us PCJPB is not going to agree to let the passage of its trains be restricted. Under federal law the trains always have the right-of-way so slowing them down or stopping them won't happen. CPA has no authority over how Caltrain operates its trains. No point in even trying or you'll be involved in expensive litigation with slim chances of winning.

I don't understand how people, including city councilpersons, don't get this. How can they be so uninformed on a project of this magnitude, and it is a huge project?

Note that several city councilpersons have abstained from choosing a grade sep option because they own property near the tracks. Ironically they could be thrown out of their own homes!

The prospect of abandoning grade separation entirely and letting people wait in their hulking SUV's on the way to their McMansions as trains pass during rush hour as has been the case for many decades, is interesting. At least no one would be thrown out of their home.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

"If Staff and CC (majority) won't seriously listen (Exhibit A: limiting public comment at council meetings to 60 seconds) how are ideas with merit going to see daylight? How are we going to become a city that functions as though it has a thoughtful, integrated plan? As I look around I don't see examples of great success coming out of the public sector. Theory-based planning is failing us."

Exactly. The much-touted "CSS" or context-sensitive-solutions approach has been a dud because city officials are keeping citizens at arm's length.

Cedric has a practical idea worthy of consideration which will probably never see the light of day other than paloaltoonline, because ...
Bureaucratic incompetence would be my answer. Maybe the grand wizard Elon Musk has some kind of magic up the sleeve of his wizard's coat.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group has been a good advocate of large projects over the bay area. However their organization is made up of companies that prosper from large contracts. Any by anyone's definition this is a large set of contracts. I think we need to get some type of lay-out of what they are pushing and why. And possibly harness their expertise to come up with the best solution that everyone can live with. They have tentacles with the Bakersfield and CV folks so there has to be a solution that is workable. And that includes taking the HSR up the east side of the bay to SF with feeders via the ACE connection to SCV - it goes to the location near the convention center. If the end destination - the SF transit center is not going to be functional then collectively we do not want to spend a lot of money displacing people from their homes with HSR as the excuse. We are not talking to the right people.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 2:03 pm

"that includes taking the HSR up the east side of the bay to SF with feeders via the ACE connection to SCV - it goes to the location near the convention center."

Again, that ship has sailed. You're a few years too late with your idea. It's too late to change the entrenched bureaucracy now with construction already underway on Caltrain electrification.


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Posted by @resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 3:02 pm

----> "And possibly harness their expertise to come up with the best solution that everyone can live with."

The Caltrain blended option IS the best solution everyone can live with.

----> "And that includes taking the HSR up the east side of the bay to SF with feeders via the ACE connection to SCV"

Prop1A specifically states that the San Francisco to San Jose section must take no more than 30 minutes.

----> "the SF transit center is not going to be functional"

It IS going to be functional, it is the legally required HSR terminus and Salesforce.com and others didn't build a huge towers next to a bus station.

The route of HSR is a once in 100 year decision, so it should not be made based on short term political winds and NIMBY winging.
HSR should not go up the I-5, the median is not available, the median is reserved for future lanes, perhaps high-speed-self-driving only lanes, and the Grapevine is not easily crossed at high speed.
Putting HSR and I-5 on the same alignment is not resilient, if a sink hole opens up, both North-South transportation arteries would be simultaneously severed. It is a wise choice to put HSR and I-5 on different alignments.
HSR has to go where people are going to be living in 50 years, that is Fresno, not along the I-5.




4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 3:20 pm

"A classic straw-man argument. Any structure, be it a viaduct or a building, can be designed to be attractive or ugly. A building can be attractive like some on the Stanford campus, or it can be designed and built to look like a federal penitentiary."

At least I have a picture of a *real viaduct* for rail in *California*. I'm closer to what a viaduct would look like on the ROW than the words that you type. With the costs ballooning, no matter what proposed decorations Cedric wants to show, this naked structure is going to be what you get. You're going to get a cheap viaduct that looks like what they're putting in Central California. In fact, I bet they would even use the same engineering consulting group (gasp! AECOM!) and maybe even the same contractors.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Cedric is making primitive illustrations with his crayons. He is not a professional engineer, architect or landscaper, so don't expect him to draw every petal of every flower.

"With the costs ballooning, no matter what proposed decorations Cedric wants to show, this naked structure is going to be what you get."

No, it's a straw-man argument you came up with to advance your agenda against an elevated structure. You don't know what a viaduct would look like in P.A. so you're making claims out of your hind quarters, just like the imaginary tons of Caltrain that are going to fly off the tracks into someone's back yard when there hasn't been a single derailment in the 150+ year existence of that rail line. Another straw man and more fear mongering.

Costs are ballooning for HSR but they haven't projected the cost of PA grade sep — they haven't even settled on a design — so there is nothing to balloon. Get your facts straight.

The PA cc has decided on 10 plans which all involve taking residences. An innovative idea like Cedric's won't get the time of day from the cc, nor my idea to split the project into two phases — unless that idea comes from Elon Musk himself.

What will quite possibly happen is that the city will put up a bond measure to finance a plan which will take a number of residences at $3 million each, and the bond measure will fall flat on its face.


24 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2018 at 5:55 pm

@resident has accidentally lurched onto the real reason these boondoggles are being pushed by party elites.

@resident said: "It IS going to be functional, it is the legally required HSR terminus and Salesforce.com and others didn't build a huge towers next to a bus station"

The San Francisco real-estate development mafia is heavily invested in the Salesforce building... so public resources are being harnessed to build infrastructure to insure those investments are profitable.

That's how the real-estate game works. Developers build office space and collect rent for the rest of their lives. Taxpayers build the infrastructure needed to service the offices and pay for its maintenance for the rest of their lives.

No accident that Nancy Pilosi's husband is a multimillionaire real-estate financier and Dianne Feinstein's husband is a billionaire real-estate developer.


4 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm

You mean the plan was to have the largest commercial tower in SF with the most jobs built directly next to a major mass transit nexus? Clearly the work of development mafia!


27 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Your "transportation nexus" was already capacity limited before the Salesforce building was even started. The Salesforce building investors need the public to bail them out with billions of dollars of transportation infrastructure needed to make the building viable.

That's how the real-estate game works. Developers build the offices and collect the rent. Taxpayers build the infrastructure and pay for its maintenance.


1 person likes this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Yeah, once a station is at capacity you basically can't build near it anymore, since there's no advantage (it being at capacity and all). These things also aren't intended to be upgraded over time to allow for more capacity.

I swear, these developers. They're probably banking on Joe Public funding the highway maintenance for 101 and 280 to bring they're employees to work, not to mention all the bridges! It's as if they assume all this transportation infrastructure was built to aid regional commerce.


15 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Of course the taxpayers can expand the "station" servicing the Salesforce building, but its not just the "station" that needs to be expanded. The whole system needs to be expanded to get people to the Salesforce "station", and that is really, really, expensive.

That's why the connected money in the real-estate game builds and rents office space and scams the taxpayer into building and maintaining the infrastructure needed to make that office space viable.

Connected real-estate developers profit from the portion of urbanization that has a positive return on investment and saddle the taxpayers with the portion of urbanization that has a negative return on investment.


6 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Tell me about it! First you build some roads connecting homes and businesses, and all of a sudden these guys start growing, getting more workers, clogging up the roadways that were perfectly fine before with commuters! Then that's where it begins. Your tax dollars start getting used to buld more roads and expand existing roads. Then it just never ends! Bridges, highways, all on your dime just because these corporations know you're their meal ticket to getting their employees into the office. Pretty soon you have highways and trains running all throughout the region taking workers to work and back home. It's a racket! Why don't these corporations build their own roads to get their employees to the office???


2 people like this
Posted by bob.smith
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2018 at 12:10 am

>>>>> "That's how the real-estate game works. Developers build the offices and collect the rent. Taxpayers build the infrastructure and pay for its maintenance."

So where could Salesforce and other corporations build their office space such that taxpayers don't fund employees traveling between home and office?
Should corporations build their own private villages in the desert? that has been tried in the past and didn't really work out.

Properties surrounding Transbay Terminal pay an extra property tax to fund transport development: Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2018 at 6:17 pm

"No, it's a straw-man argument you came up with to advance your agenda against an elevated structure. You don't know what a viaduct would look like in P.A. so you're making claims out of your hind quarters, just like the imaginary tons of Caltrain that are going to fly off the tracks into someone's back yard when there hasn't been a single derailment in the 150+ year existence of that rail line. Another straw man and more fear mongering."

A straw man argument? Takes one to know one. You're claims are just as vaporous, imagining some "beautiful" viaduct that has never been built in California that doesn't somehow involve the use of shoofly tracks.

That's some heady stuff you're smoking. Maybe pass around that straw-man weed....


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2018 at 6:52 pm

There are aesthetically-pleasing viaducts the world over.

The notion of an attractive viaduct is less fanciful than tons of flying Caltrain coming off the tracks when there have been zero derailments on that line in over 150 years.


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2018 at 9:39 pm

ODB,

I think you would say any "viaduct" with a train on it is beautiful.

You claim there are lots of examples of beautiful "viaducts"... well let's see the links. But, to prove you know the difference between beautiful and ugly, also provide us with a set of "viaducts" that you think are ugly.

Love is blind. I think you have been blinded by your infatuation with trains.


3 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2018 at 12:58 am

If you want to "capture value" do a viaduct like this Web Link
In south Palo Alto the rail line is trapped between a highway and residential back yards, so given the limited budget, a solid earth berm is ideal for that location.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 6, 2018 at 11:19 am

You all need to check out Redwood City and the new building that is directly next to the tracks. Major apartment buildings and major commercial properties in major buildings. All next to the tracks. If you look at the Redwood Station it is part of a major shopping center. This is what is intended and it looks great. I can't figure out how HSR will fit into this scheme with additional tracks. Everything we are discussing does not fit this scenario - it is already done in San Mateo County and will not be torn out. Try Friday nights - Music on the Square - one block from the station.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2018 at 1:58 pm

HSR will use the two existing Caltrain tracks, along with some added passing tracks so the nearly-empty HSR trains can whiz by the pokey Caltrains.

To "capture value" on the Caltrain ROW, a deal would have to be struck with PCJPB. How many times have I repeated that?


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 8, 2018 at 7:19 am

If you look at the RWC station people are everywhere and buildings are everywhere. The whole location is now near completion and beautiful. A HSR whizzing through this very busy station looks like a giant problem. At least the PA Depot has some space and open areas so not all on top of the whole rail picture. I can see adding rails at the PA Depot but the RWC Depot is now almost totally closed in by buildings. What ever concept is envisioned for the peninsula has to be consistent. San Mateo County has created under passes almost throughout. Can the Santa Clara County people in charge please consult with the San Mateo County people in charge who are pushing ahead with underpasses and improvements throughout. They are plowing ahead with upgrading the whole system while we debate actions which have a huge financial price tag. Meanwhile San Jose at their end is busy conjuring their transportation objectives and plowing ahead. We sit here in the middle of this and get nowhere.


24 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2018 at 7:55 am

This isn't a race to see who can build the most obnoxious train structure as fast as possible. If RWC or San Jose want to rush to build something then good for them, but it doesn't mean we should do the same. Since we already have a half-dozen overpasses or underpasses, there is no urgent need to build anything. Anything we build needs to have a positive impact on the community and environment, a trench / tunnel would have that impact. A giant berm going across town would have a negative impact and should be taken off the table, no residents will support it, just forget about the idea.


14 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2018 at 12:23 pm

@Resident,

San Mateo County has always been much more onboard with the San Francisco political elite's plans to develop the Peninsula into something that serves San Francisco's economic interests. If you want a great example of San Francisco dumping their transportation problems on San Mateo and reaping the benefits look no further than SFO.

If you want to know what Redwood City's stack-n-pack along the rail-line is going to look like in a few years, after millenial buyers wise up and realize living next to above ground rail is not such a good idea, check out this link: Web Link


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Apt YouTube clip. Elicited wistful nostalgia in its comments. And that was just light rail.


104 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2018 at 9:59 am

Reality Check is a registered user.

Neighbors: we oppose anything that takes homes and/or elevates the tracks!

Council: we oppose taking homes too, but can't rule it out yet

Neighbors: so we only support tunneling/trenching the tracks

Caltrain: we oppose tunneling or trenching; grades over 1% require special approval

City study: tunneling/trenching is cost-prohibitive (assuming Caltrain even allows 2% grades)

City staff: we agree, we see no remotely plausible funding scenario, so tunneling or trenching should be eliminated

Smart, open-minded people: viaducts get the tracks & trains up and out of the way, AVOID taking homes, long road closures or costly utility relocations, cut noise, open up views and bike/ped/road/trail access across (under and along) the tracks, since, unlike with solid and wide earthen "berms" or "Berlin walls", they're fully open underneath ... and may even allow us to avoid (or minimize) construction and use of temporary "shoofly" tracks.

<Music screeches to a stop ... crickets chip softly>
<Crickets continue chirping softly>

Neighbors: yeah, no, but we oppose elevating tracks, so let's just resume pretending someone will figure out how to tunnel or trench with other people's money!! Yay!

Translation: if we're honest with ourselves, we know (or should know) that's not really going to happen, so we're in effect admitting we'd rather have lots of homes taken than even permit the city to seriously study viaducts. (Sad.)

Fact: HSR is not "stopping" in Gilroy or SJ ... it will continue to SF via track-sharing on the Caltrain line, either through Palo Alto from SJ, or starting at Redwood Junction via the Dumbarton line (if HSRA abandons the tunneling-heavy Pacheco Pass alignment and goes back to the formerly preferred tunneling-light Altamont Pass alignment in the hyper-congested I-580 / Hwy 84 corridor).

Fact: Caltrain — not Palo Alto — owns and controls their right of way and stations.

Fact: 25kV AC electrification does not hum or make noise; there will only be 2 substations and 7 paralleling stations between SF and SJ (see project map: Web Link ).

Fact: UP pays to use Caltrain's tracks -- this also covers their (minuscule) share of track maintenance, etc.; there is no way in hell it makes any financial or operational sense to keep/build/maintain a separate at-grade single track and grade crossings just for two or three freight trains per day. Not. Going. To. Happen. Forget about it! (You'd have a better chance of either lobbying to get freight off the Peninsula or convincing Caltrain to buy a couple more of the used electric locomotives they just approved buying for testing and use those to haul freights ... which would require electrification of all the freight "spurs" (Port of RWC, Port of SF, etc. ... also unlikely) or having diesel locomotives standing by just for the switching the spurs (also unlikely)).

See also: the U-shaped viaduct grade separation: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 11, 2018 at 11:10 am

Any one criticizing the RWC station and development needs to go up and look at it. It looks great. And I love when the train goes through. All we need is a up-to-date state of the art engine/locomotive. And a underground transit at Charleston - it is big enough at that location to create an underground pass without disturbing the residential area. We do not need to take people
s property. We just need an updated locomotive.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@resident: "underground transit at Charleston ... We just need an updated locomotive."

Although Caltrain electrification would phase out diesel locomotive use for ordinary/regualar service ... the ability to safely accommodate diesel locomotives (and all the attendant venting & life-safety requirements) must be preserved for freights, special or other trains (ACE, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor, diesel-powered maintenance/repair trains/equipment, hi-rail equipment, "rescue" trains or locomotives during power failures) to traverse the corridor.

You also need:

• Caltrain agreement to allow going below grade (and below the water table)
• Caltrain agreement to allow the 2% grades the city's tunnel-trench white paper was predicated upon
• The substantial necessary extra funding, as per the tunnel-trench white paper
• Palo Alto agreeing to build, maintain & operate the pumping infrastructure to prevent standing water/flooding
• Palo Alto assuming the liability and costs for any pumping or flooding-related problems

All for zero added transportation value over and above cheaper alternatives.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

"Fact: UP pays to use Caltrain's tracks"

I've read the agreement and believe it or not, no money changes hands for U.P.'s freight rights. Freight rights were part of the original deal when Southern Pacific unloaded the commute service on CalTrans under then-governor "choo-choo" Jerry Brown.

"• Caltrain agreement to allow going below grade (and below the water table)
• Caltrain agreement to allow the 2% grades the city's tunnel-trench white paper was predicated upon"

At this stage in the planning, I am not aware of any outreach to Caltrain/PCJPB by CPA, so we don't know if Caltrain would even agree to this in principle.

Isn't it about time CPA ran these grandiose, multimillion-dollar schemes by Caltrain?

"• Palo Alto agreeing to build, maintain & operate the pumping infrastructure to prevent standing water/flooding
• Palo Alto assuming the liability and costs for any pumping or flooding-related problems"

CPA has a horrible record of maintaining the pumps at Oregon expwy which floods due to pump neglect. Caltrain would be crazy to let CPA maintain the pumps, considering that all Catrain traffic passes through Palo Alto. In addition to Caltrain there's U.P. freight (which is going to be taken over by another short-haul carrier) and possibly CA HSR. Let Caltrain maintain the pumps and test them periodically and charge it back to CPA.

One more: Caltrain must agree to the construction of two cutoffs, from its main line, one North and one South, for whatever shoofly tracks are needed, and Caltrain must agree to let its trains rumble down a Palo Alto street such as Alma.

"• The substantial necessary extra funding, as per the tunnel-trench white paper"

But money grows on trees in Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

The underpass at Charleston is for cars - not the train. And yes there is enough room to create the underpass without taking people's property. The only stipulation would be to limit the height of the trucks that are going under. Trucks would have to go to the Alma Overpass. Any program people are proposing that requires taking people's property is suspect - the solution does not require it. Our portion of the rail system does not have to be all things to all people - we do not have to solve all of the problems for this train. We only need to let it go through the city with the least amount of disturbance to the residents.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2018 at 4:08 pm

"The only stipulation would be to limit the height of the trucks that are going under."

Caltrans has rules governing vertical clearance. 14 feet sticks in my mind. I don't know if there is a way around that. I believe you have to consider the passage of emergency vehicles.

"Any program people are proposing that requires taking people's property is suspect - the solution does not require it."

I think you're right. All this talk of taking tens of millions of $ in residences and we don't know what kind of edifice they have in mind that requires it.


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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 11, 2018 at 6:44 pm

309.2 Vertical Clearances

(1) Major Structures.

(a) Freeways and Expressways, All construction except overlay projects – 16 feet 6 inches shall be the minimum vertical clearance over the roadbed of the State facility (e.g., main lanes, shoulders, ramps, collector-distributor roads, speed change lanes, etc.).

(b) Freeways and Expressways, Overlay Projects – 16 feet shall be the minimum vertical clearance over the roadbed of the State facility.

(c) Conventional Highways, Parkways, and Local Facilities, All Projects – 15 feet shall be the minimum vertical clearance over the traveled way and 14 feet 6 inches shall be the minimum vertical clearance over the shoulders of all portions of the roadbed.


Source: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@ODB, you are mistaken. UP has trackage rights which grant them the exclusive _right_ to run freight ... but not the right to run it without paying Caltrain for costs incurred (infrastructure wear, tear and repair/upkeep, dispatching, etc.). As you can see from the recitals in the following settlement agreement, Caltrain has maintained that UP was underpaying, and UP has maintained Caltrain was overcharging: Web Link

Further, since Caltrain opposes lowering tracks below grade due, in part, to flooding concerns, and would want Palo Alto to assume full liability for any and all costs or impacts related to pumping system malfunctions or flooding, it wouldn't make sense for Caltrain to operate or maintain the pumping systems since that would be inconsistent with Palo Alto assuming full responsibility and liability. (Imagine the finger-pointing and dueling attorneys if the liable party was not the one with full control of and responsibility for the system designed to prevent the incidents it would be assuming liability for!)


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

The majority of rails go through commercial areas which have a leeway for more space to add any additional rails required for passing. Menlo Park has the whole section that used to be car sales. Further up they are now putting in a giant parking lot next to the rails. The PA portion is residential for the most part. Since our section is mostly residential then our section would just be the straight through with no passing lanes reducing the amount of change required.
Comment on !-5 - the train would be next to the highway - not on top of it. the state owns all of the land on either side so there is room for the tracks with no connection to the highway.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2018 at 11:14 pm

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one concerned about the potential of flooding and the very real possibility of pump failure. Most people poo-poo the idea that a trench or tunnel could flood, shutting down all rail service on the peninsula which, of course, passes through Palo Alto. Maybe have Caltrain inspect the pumps periodically and be able to compel CPA to fix them if needed?

I still don't think a trench/tunnel is the most practical option for Palo Alto. Flooding risk is part of it; expense is another.

Shoofly tracks are another concern. I don't know if there's a way to do grade sep if only at Meadow and Charleston without a shoofly track, but it doesn't help if CPA or the new firm aren't communicating with Caltrain.


2 people like this
Posted by brian
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2018 at 3:25 am

Even if Palo Alto could scrape together $3bn for a trench, it would not be enough. Another $3bm for contingency would be needed before Caltrain would agree to having their property torn up.
The worst case scenario for Caltrain would be the tracks running on a temporary shoofly and the trench half dug then Palo Alto goes bankrupt because of cost overruns and the next financial crisis has hit.

Where is the money going to come from to re-fill the trench and restore the rail line?


5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 12, 2018 at 6:32 am

HSR has all types of schemes to raise "private funding". One is to take people's private property by eminent domain then lease it to business concerns. In our case that would be developers who would put high rises next to the tracks. Another was the Indian Casino that wanted to put a "reservation" casino at the juncture in Merced. Take the HSR to a gambling casino. So we are faced by the aspect of raising "private funding" which has all type schemes to take personal property and then convert it and lease it back to builders. We just saw that bill in Sacramento. The degree to which our local PACC allows this to happen - if they have any choice at all - needs to be monitored. The County may be complicit in this with their building in San Jose. Be careful what you wish for - today's papers report that Amazon in Seattle is beating back any tax applied to their business that was suppose to go to homeless support. Amazon is in your neighborhood - EPA - so how are they helping with any schemes related to HSR and impact on cities. Bottom line is that Caltrain has a lot of tracks in a lot of cities that are next to commercial concerns. Let them absorb the impact of extra rails and power stations - they have the space and room for that. In PA the train goes through - that is it. We do not have to allow private residences to be sacrificed for all of the added requirements for the train.


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Posted by @resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2018 at 10:06 am

>>>>> The only stipulation would be to limit the height of the trucks that are going under.

Great idea, an underpass for Ferrari and Lamborghini only, keep the neighborhood exclusive.


9 people like this
Posted by @resident
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2018 at 10:17 am

>>>>> In PA the train goes through - that is it. We do not have to allow private residences to be sacrificed for all of the added requirements for the train.

The train does not have any requirements that need private residences to be sacrificed.
It is Palo Alto that requires grade separation to relieve road congestion.
Caltrain does not need any changes outside of its existing right of way.


11 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Why isn't Caltrain responsible for integrating its technology into an evolving environment like every other industry?

No profits = no R&D = technological stagnation. Reminds me of Cuba where they are still driving around in American cars from the 1950s.

Southern Pacific actually knows the railroad business. That's why SP unloaded the passenger rail service onto the suckers in government 40 years ago.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2018 at 9:12 pm

"Why isn't Caltrain responsible for integrating its technology into an evolving environment like every other industry?"

An electrified ROW, migration away from diesel locomotives and brand-new rolling stock. What more do you want, a Hypertrain designed by Elon Musk?

"Southern Pacific actually knows the railroad business. That's why SP unloaded the passenger rail service onto the suckers in government 40 years ago."

S.P. unloaded it because it was losing piles of money. Choo-choo Jerry Brown seems determined that the State of California should be in the money-losing, state-subsidized passenger rail business.


2 people like this
Posted by @ODB
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 2:59 am

Passenger rail across the world rarely is profitable, besides maybe Honk Kong's subway system. That ignores the point of it though. Passenger rail doesn't exist to make money, it exists to get cars off the road and transport large amounts of people on a system that's easier to add capacity to. That creates indirect economic and environmental benefits worth far more than the fare revenue, which is really just there to offset some of the maintenance cost of the system.


23 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 3:33 am

Why isn't the automobile industry responsible for integrating its grade separation technology into an evolving environment like every other industry?


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2018 at 6:53 am

As you all may recall the early topics for HSR were a power station in PA. They even posted the location of the power station which was next to a residential area. All types of projections of what would be located in this city. As if our residential city is the answer to all issues for the HSR while the commercial sections which have more surrounding space are not noted for these attachments except at the end points which require a turn around.
As to size of trucks - "Resident of another community" may not be aware that there is already a limitation of the size of trucks that travel on Charleston/Arastadero. Charleston is a residential street with schools located from one end to the other. The fact that HSR is using the tracks is not going to change the road requirements for that street. We need to make sure that it does not become a super highway for big rigs at a later point in time. We are not going to change the requirements for a residential street because of an underpass. In fact we should further qualify the requirements since it is a major bike path for children from one end to the other. If you have ever been on this street during the school year you would know that. We have created a revised number of lanes on the street for the purpose of protecting children on bikes.


10 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2018 at 6:17 pm

@ODB said:

"Passenger rail doesn't exist to make money, it exists to get cars off the road and transport large amounts of people on a system that's easier to add capacity to"

If the reason Caltrain exists is to get cars off the road and transport large amounts of people it is a complete failure.

Caltrain carries 1% of the Peninsula's population for 50% of their travel. The first thing half of Caltrain's users do when they get off of the train is hop into their car. It is funny that the Caltrian which you claim exists to get cars off the road is dependent on the roads to get their "customers" from the station to their home.

The idea that it is EASIER to add capacity to rail is just silly. Caltrain's $3 billion electrification will only increase Caltrain's capacity by 20% (according to Caltrain's optimistic numbers). The only way for Caltrain to seriously expand capacity is to go underground, and that costs $1-2 billion per mile!



5 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 7:02 pm

"Caltrain carries 1% of the Peninsula's population for 50% of their travel."

You keep quoting that 1% figure of the total population as if it's meaningful. The population of people we're concerned with is workers who commute. The packed train cars are full of people that would very likely be taking up one cars worth of space on a highway if not for Caltrain, making the current highway crawl even worse.

"The first thing half of Caltrain's users do when they get off of the train is hop into their car. It is funny that the Caltrian which you claim exists to get cars off the road is dependent on the roads to get their "customers" from the station to their home."

Web Link

Having commuters take mass transit the majority of the way and drive the last mile is infinitely better than having them all driving on main arterial highways for the entire trip. Half of me wonders if you're even being serious with this criticism.

"The only way for Caltrain to seriously expand capacity is to go underground, and that costs $1-2 billion per mile!"

lol what. Nothing about the trench will increase Caltrain capacity. You can add more cars to current Caltrains regardless of whether or not the crossings are at grade. What on Earth are you talking about?


9 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2018 at 10:48 pm

@Ahem,

The reason I keep pointing out that Caltrain only serves 1% of the Peninsula's population of 3,000,000 is to put Caltrain's impact into a quantified and rational context and force the Caltrain true-believers out of their anecdotal bubble and into the real world.

You ride Caltrain and think it must be having an enormous impact because the trains are "packed". You think Caltrain has an enormous impact because having 0.5% of the Peninsula's population driving the final mile is "infinitely" better than having them all driving on main arterial highways for the entire trip.

Also, I understand a trench would have little to no effect on Caltrain's capacity. When I say "underground" I mean underground like London's Underground.

Unless Caltrain goes underground (like London's Underground) it will never have the capacity to become a true mass transit system, but instead will always be a boutique transit system with marginal impact.


6 people like this
Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2018 at 11:04 pm

@Ahem, Caltrain today is equivalent to almost 3 lanes of freeway through Palo Alto. There is no need for made-up percentages when hard numbers are readily available.

Web Link

On the existing two tracks, the capacity of Caltrain can and will be boosted to 8 equivalent lanes of freeway through the heart of Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by @Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2018 at 12:16 am

"The reason I keep pointing out that Caltrain only serves 1% of the Peninsula's population of 3,000,000 is to put Caltrain's impact into a quantified and rational context and force the Caltrain true-believers out of their anecdotal bubble and into the real world."

No, the reason you do it is because the percentage is larger if you're only counting the group that matters for this discussion (workers who commute), which wouldn't serve your narrative as well. Retirees, the disabled, children, and so on are very likely not regularly commuting during rush hour on a daily basis and contributing to peak transit load on highways, which mass transit services like Caltrain mitigate. But I don't expect this to stop you from continuing to give intentionally misleading numbers.


"Also, I understand a trench would have little to no effect on Caltrain's capacity. When I say "underground" I mean underground like London's Underground.

Unless Caltrain goes underground (like London's Underground) it will never have the capacity to become a true mass transit system, but instead will always be a boutique transit system with marginal impact."

Being underground has no bearing on the capacity that Caltrain can have. The number of cars attached to the train, the speed at which it travels, and the number trains in service along the line all determine capacity. These are all capable of being improved without burying the tracks and converting the train engines and train cars to subway light rail.


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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2018 at 3:04 am

All these statistics are meaningless because they won't change or even influence public policy.

By my count count there are 16 peninsula communities through which Caltrain passes in the 3 counties which own it. Shocking though it may be, the world does not revolve around Palo Alto.

Caltrain isn't going away. You can spout all the statistics you want but you're basically preaching to the lamp post.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 14, 2018 at 3:11 am

^ My world revolves around Palo Alto. Always has.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 14, 2018 at 7:03 am

Caltrain has been there forever in some form or another. I love it as it is - however I want it to get a new state-of-the-art locomotive. If you look at the ads for Amtrak it shows a beautiful engine/locomotive that looks like the one advertised for HSR. One time I was in Alviso when the ACE train came through - be near the tracks on the walking trail and that is a powerful feeling and site. Out in the open you can feel the huge amount of power as it goes by. That is a WOW feeling.

We have downgraded the depots where Caltrain stops and are trying to fix them up with coffee and donuts. So get a new locomotive and fix up the depots so when people are waiting they have a great experience. Put good restaurants near them so people will use the train to go on a rail adventure to visit a town down the tracks. Kids love this type of stuff. My parents took us to Union Station in LA growing up - an architectural gem and food adventure. time to go see the trains - a WOW adventure for kids. LAX was also an adventure to see the planes and get a great breakfast. Children love this type of adventure. Adults also enjoy day trips on the weekend to explore another town down the tracks.

So all you need is some good locomotives, good depots, and a couple of more underpasses so cars are not stopped forever. I saw them put in an underpass up the system in a very short time and traffic could still go through with limited lanes while this was happening.

We do not need to keep shooting ourselves on the foot to make this happen. We do not need "experts" to gin up huge costs and awards to many contractors to create work. Just get the basic in and the rest will transpire as needed. And do not depend on Sacramento to help out - they talk big but have other plans for your money.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2018 at 9:04 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Ahem (apparently) ignorantly speculated that: "The first thing half of Caltrain's users do when they get off of the train is hop into their car. It is funny that the Caltrian [sic] which you claim exists to get cars off the road is dependent on the roads to get their 'customers' from the station to their home."

"Ahem" appears to be inventing (or using very old) data. For years now, the trend has been well below and away from anywhere near 50% of Caltrain riders using cars when they get off the train. Here are the stats from Caltrain's 2016 on-board rider survey: ( Web Link )

Q11A. HOW DID YOU GET TO THE STATION WHERE YOU GOT ON THIS TRAIN? (MULTIPLE RESPONSES ACCEPTED)

23.2% drive by car
9.2% dropped off by car

Q11B. AFTER YOU GET OFF THIS TRAIN, HOW WILL YOU GET FROM THE STATION TO YOUR FINAL DESTINATION? (MULTIPLE RESPONSES ACCEPTED)

7.6% dropped off by car





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