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Editorial: Palo Alto surface rail becoming unthinkable

Original post made on Mar 3, 2009

When all the trains envisioned to run up and down the Peninsula railroad tracks are added up, by the 2020s they will have an unthinkably terrible impact on the lives of residents in a broad swath on either side of the right of way.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (19)

Posted by Andreas
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:10 am

There is no way a surface high-speed train can go through here. Folks, they're talking about trains every 3-5 minutes! A 20-foot wall through the city would split Palo Alto. It must go underground.

Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 11:35 am

Does anyone have the contact phone number or email address to the person writing the proposal to recall Measure 1A? Thank you.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

There's no way this is going underground - the cost is just too high. We are going to have to fight this tooth and nail and still have a good chance of losing.

BTW, what was the Council etc. thinking in not opposing this earlier (like before the bond vote)? Asleep at the switch..

Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm


Did the PA Weekly recommend a "yes" vote on the HST proposition? If so, what was the rational basis for that decision?

Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

With all the nice 3D simulation technology, couldn't someone whip up a 3D simulation of what the train traffic would look like through Palo Alto with the proposed scheduling? They did it to show us the Caltrain electrification design.

Web Link

Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm


That rendering, in your link, sparked an idea in my mind.

Let me say firstly, that I do not think HST makes any sense from an energy standpoint, and I have made this point several times on this forum. I also did not vote for this thing. However it is now a done deal, so I will try to make the best of a bad situation.

If one looks at the rendering, it shows a partially enclosed (plexiglass)above ground tunnel. One could consider a similar solution for HST through urban communities. There would need to be vertical air vents, etc., yet it might suppress noise and allow a view by passengers. I don't know if it is practical, but it seems to me that it might have possibilities, given the current political mess.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm

The link shows a train at the Airport, which is how people who do not want to drive will continue to use to get to LA.

They might use a train to get to the airport or from LAX to down town LA,unfortunately you now have to take the "blue ghetto" line which takes you into Bloods and Cripps gang territory.

Posted by You've got what you voted for
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Yes, the PA Weekly recommend HSR so did our City Council. You've got what you wanted, now stop crying about it.

If the City takes legal action against HSR it will be more expensive than taking on Enron'a creditors. If you recall they gave Enron's creditors $21 Million because that was cheaper than fighting a law suite according to our City Attorney.

Any law suite will fail and cost the city millions.

Posted by An Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:28 pm

"There are numerous technical, financial and other questions that need answering, not least of which is proximity to the San Andreas Fault."

This is a strong argument if favor of the tunnel, which would contain the damage and carnage if an earthquake derailed trains going 125 MPH. As an alternative, imagine the swaths of destruction that would result if the trains were tossed off elevated structures into residential areas at such speeds.

Posted by sheep
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm

PAWeekly did recommend a "Yes" vote on measure 1A: Web Link

"Proposition 1A: YES

Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century

Authorizes general obligation bonds to fund $9 billion in pre-construction activities and construction of a high-speed (speeds of over 200 mph) passenger rail system, and $950 million in capital improvements to passenger rail systems that expand capacity and/or enable train riders to connect to the high-speed rail system. "

Nice one, Weekly!

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Relax, everyone. This thing will never happen. Reason: $$$. Whatever price the proponents lowballed to us to get our votes is history. Now they have to find the $$$ to actually build it. That's always a much higher figure.

They'll certainly find enough to pay their salaries for a while, to strut and fret their piece onstage, with all due sound and fury. But that's all.

Posted by Comment
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:15 pm

It baffles me that so many people are worried about a train travelling along already established rail corridors, but no one seems to notice the airplanes flying every few minutes above our town, impacting with their noise and pollution many more Palo Alto residents than HSR ever will...

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm

"There are numerous technical, financial and other questions that need answering, not least of which is proximity to the San Andreas Fault."

If they sent the HSR through the Altamont Pass to the east Bay they'd be in close proximity to the Hayward fault - what's the difference?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:14 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The discussion is of an upgrade to an EXISTING facility, and the proposals of tunneling and elevation are offered not as rational alternatives but as deal killers. Folks, the trains ain't gonna go away. The lower price you paid for your house was reflective of the proximity to the tracks. The inevitable electrification of the line will significantly reduce the noise, just as the transition from steam to diesel also made trains less intrusive.
I propose, frequently, that all crossings at grade immediately be closed as a safety measure, and that the cities involved finally work around any problems this causes. I suggest that the whiners get a life and stop bothering the operation.

Posted by energy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2009 at 6:25 am

Think about all the coal, oil, and electricity we'll be burning just to build this thing! LOL!

You think we're going to build this on solar power? Ha ha ha. Environmentally friendly? What a laugh.

Posted by Comment
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I rarely agree with Walter Wallis but this time I wholeheartedly agree with him.

We already have train tracks (as well as major roadways) "dividing" this town. Upgrading for HSR won't change things much (although electric lines with no rail road crossings will eliminate local pollution, as well as train horn noise). Sure, immediate neighbors of the tracks will be impacted, but they knowingly chose to live close to a train track in the first place.

For the overwhelming majority of the rest of us, having HSR will be a good thing.

Posted by rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm

A ballot measure to limit all taxes collected for this HSR project would be a good idea. No more than the aprox. $10 billion voted on could be collected from California residences. There have been no real national tax money committed for this specific project. There is talk of billions for something, maybe a HSR from L.A. area to Los Vagus.
We could probably only vote on a tax limit for Californian's.

Private money is counted on for a large portion of this project. Let them take the risks.

Also maybe a ballot measure that requires riders pay the full cost of operations, interest on the bonds and paying back the bond money over time would be a good and resonable issue to vote on. I don't think people would want to subdize each rider of the train $100 to $200 per trip to cover those costs.

Posted by Traffic Fearing Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

What about the proposed Palo Alto station?! The City Council is for it because they get a larger chunk of federal funds to make upgrades to the University Ave station - but what about all that traffic??! - I know the point of HSR is to get cars off the road -but in our immediate area - the car traffic would increase!!

Think about it - Stanford Hospital is already planning to expand, and I believe so is Stanford Shopping Center - and in addition we would be the only stop between Millbrae and San Jose?! How will all those cars get off the 101? University Ave is already a mess!

I can't wait for election time - you better believe I'll be grilling our leaders on how they got us into this mess.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2009 at 2:48 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Rick, bless a new idea, precious commodity in today's idea market.
How about the State owning and maintaining the facility as we do airports and roads, but train operations by private, for profit carriers paying tolls? Track time to the highest bidder, and jobs only to those who work within the revenue available. Imagine the revenue just from private rail yachts descendant of Lucius Bebe's Virginia City railcar.

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