Letters | February 18, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - February 18, 2011


Running a railroad


This sidebar to the Caltrain cover story in the Feb.11 issue contains statements that ignore history and defy logic.

Tom Means, Mountain View City Councilman, wants to know why Caltrain can't be run profitably, as are some private trains. However, since World War II the trend in the U.S., Europe and developed parts of Asia has been governmental ownership and operation of mass transit and commuter systems. The only private trains that have run profitably are high-end "land cruise" operations, which have nothing in common with Caltrain except that they both run on steel rails.

Menlo Park resident Martin Engel believes Caltrain doesn't seem to understand its business model. However, Caltrain's financial performance, comparable to other U.S. commuter lines and among the best performing among Bay Area transit systems, suggests that in fact Caltrain does understand its business model. (Sidebar story, "On the verge of Collapse?") However, it is the local and state governments that do not understand their business model, since they all value the benefits of Caltrain service yet are unwilling to assure adequate funding for Caltrain.

Engel's idea that BART could take over Caltrain, to achieve "close integration and coordination that would link the two operators into one," defies logic. BART uses a non-standard track gage, or width, preventing Caltrain or other systems' trains from operating on its tracks. BART tunnels were built to handle the relatively low BART cars, and Caltrain's double-decker cars simply could not fit in these tunnels. BART also uses a third-rail system to power its trains. A third-rail system would not be effective for a future Caltrain electrification and also would create significant electrocution dangers on Caltrain's open right of way.

Phil Burton

Palo Alto

Anaerobic-digester costs


Peter Drekmeier et al continue to promote their "Park Undedication Initiative" by falsely saying that using parkland for an anaerobic digester (AD) will save the city $1 million. The consultant's preliminary cost estimates clearly show that AD costs more, not less.

The range of net costs for AD is $110 to $355 per ton. The range for the regional plan is $68-$72. That is a difference of $2.356 million to $17.546 million a year for 62,000 tons of organics. The consultant inputs rent at only 11 percent of that charged on the very same land since 1992, which would add $12.90 per ton more to AD costs.

Consultant's costs don't include the four-acre green roof used in Drekmeier's flyer to entice petition signers. That alone adds $3.51 to $5.62 per ton more

So the true cost of AD, paying market rent and building a green roof, would be $126 to $371 per ton or at least double the regional plan.

Staff members have said that if the city could get grants of $25 million from our debt-ridden state or federal governments, the lowest AD cost almost becomes competitive with the use of regional facilities.

Drekmeier has said he would not turn in the signatures if the AD project turned out not to be feasible. With the second-highest garbage rates in the Bay Area, doubling the cost per ton surely is not feasible for Palo Alto.

Let's see if Drekmeier is a man of his word.

Emily M. Renzel

Coordinator, Baylands Conservation Committee

Forest Avenue

Palo Alto

Tesla lawsuit?


I am puzzled. If a motor vehicle driven by a Tesla Motors employee on Tesla business had struck another car or pedestrian, Tesla's insurance carrier would have been involved in the veritable New York minute.

However, even though a year has past since an airplane piloted by a Tesla Motors employee apparently on Tesla Motors business crashed into East Palo Alto, it is baffling not to read of any news of a claim or lawsuit against Tesla.

James Madison

Holly Avenue

Menlo Park

Cal Ave streetscape


As a College Terrace resident, I am a frequent patron of California Avenue shops and services. All too often, however, I find excuses to drive instead of ride my bike.

Frankly, I don't feel safe biking on California Avenue, especially with my young daughter. I am not comfortable riding in the center of the lane and there is not enough room to ride on the right side. I've talked to neighbors who feel the same way. Furthermore, the intersections are dangerous for pedestrians. I've seen many close calls where the car on the right stops for a pedestrian who is blocked from the view of the car on the left. That car stops briefly, then continues, narrowly missing the pedestrian (if they're lucky).

The changes proposed will improve the safety for bikers and pedestrians, in addition to making the shopping district more aesthetically appealing and environmentally friendly.

I realize that some merchants are concerned that the construction will negatively impact their businesses, and I empathize. But the streets are going to be repaved regardless. And the appeal of a more beautiful, people- and bike-friendly streetscape will most likely result in an increase in business.

I know that I, and my neighbors, will remain loyal to our local merchants!

The benefits of the proposed plan — more parking spaces, more places for people to sit, more bike parking, a more beautiful landscape — are all good reasons to support this project. But for me, the biggest reason to support this project is safety — safety for pedestrians, safety for bikers.

Please support the California Avenue Streetscape project.

Kristen Anderson

Hanover Street

Palo Alto

Middle East issues


The Obama administration must ensure that any new Egyptian government honors its peace treaty with Israel and continues its efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

The United States must continue to work with our allies to expand and enforce sanctions against Iran, the largest state sponsor of terror.

America's Palestinian and Arab allies must be told that they should stop teaching their citizens, and especially their children, to hate Jews and Israel.

The administration must make clear it will veto Palestinian efforts in the United Nations to bypass Israel to create a Palestinian state through a unilateral declaration of independence.

The administration should work to bring Palestinians back into peace negotiations with Israel and in which the parties can devise a solution to Jerusalem that will bring lasting peace.

Congress and the administration must work together to find creative ways to reduce dependency on foreign oil.

Stephen Tolchin

Parma Way

Los Altos


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