75 Days

Mar 30th, 2010 | Posted by

That’s how much time Palo Alto, Menlo Park and a few other Peninsula cities want to assess the upcoming Alternatives Analysis:

Peninsula cities will ask California’s bullet train planners for more time to submit comments on the likely track alignment between San Francisco and San Jose.

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Burlingame and Belmont want 75 days, instead of the legally mandated 45 days, to submit reaction to the High-Speed Rail Authority’s analysis of the route, which is expected to be released April 8.

I guess they didn’t want to go with my 60 day proposal. If these cities can assure Californians that a 75-day period would not place the project in jeopardy of losing stimulus funds, then it might be worth considering.

These cities aren’t just asking for more time. They’re building war chests to take on the HSR project if they don’t get the alternatives they want:

For example, Palo Alto has set aside a $130,000 war chest to challenge the state’s report and to lobby for its interests among Sacramento lawmakers.

And this from Menlo Park:

The city of Menlo Park has hired a lobbyist to make the city’s case to Sacramento when it comes to the California high-speed-rail project, and has devoted $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year to rail issues.

Burlingame too, from earlier this month:

It was the second night in a row Nagel spent discussing high-speed rail, as the Burlingame City Council approved spending $185,000 Monday night to spend on consultants to try and pressure the California High-Speed Rail Authority to bury the tracks in their city.

These cities argue they need to counterbalance the CHSRA, which has a multi-million dollar budget. But the CHSRA isn’t their enemy. Instead these cities, by their desire to block the HSR project if they don’t get their way, are putting the jobs and the economic future of the state at risk by their emerging “tunnel or nothing” view.

In contrast, we Californians who support the project don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars at our disposal to make our voice heard. We don’t have lobbyists on retainer. We don’t have tax dollars we can redirect.

Instead we rely on grassroots activism. And on whatever you can offer to the cause. Californians For High Speed Rail could use your help – click to donate. We’re going to fight for HSR, and ensure that we do not lose this opportunity to secure California’s future by building the infrastructure that will provide for prosperity in the 21st century.

  1. YesonHSR
    Mar 30th, 2010 at 23:59

    I have not seen much from CAforHSR that I joined..nimbys and Naysayers constantly run BS in all the local news..not a word from you people..This blog is one thing..its another out there in the main stream media..start publishing these blog posts all over the web ..the same ones that the naysayers and Nimbys uses..

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Working on it. We’ve been active behind the scenes – two of our board members recently met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to discuss various HSR-related issues – but in April we are going to begin a series of more public actions across the state in support of high speed rail.

    Sharon Reply:

    We hear you! Thank you for your support of CA4HSR. In January, we had a successful media campaign and have garnered some press coverage such as these:

    Take that, NIMBYs: Pro high-speed train movement picks up steam

    Peninsula residents clash over high-speed rail

    High-speed rail advocates hope to keep proposal on the fast track

    The HSR naysayers are persistent, and to keep up our grassroots efforts, we need more supporters like you!


    Sharon Reply:

    We need all the help we can get and are looking for good people to join our local advocacy teams as well. Here is more information about what we are looking for:


    We hope you can join us!


    YesonHSR Reply:

    Sorry if the post seemed gruff..you guys and Robert have done much as it really is grass roots support and not some well funded think tank that churns out misinformation on a weekly basis with full time employees..Many articles Robert writes are very good but never seen outside of this blog ..how can some of these make it to the mainstream media? Do these Reason/Cato people buy these constant
    news articles or do reporters just go to them defacto? And if so how can we make sure Californians for High Speed Rail is also spoke to.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Robert, Chairman of CA4HSR, writes, These cities argue they need to counterbalance the CHSRA, which has a multi-million dollar budget. But the CHSRA isn’t their enemy.

    Then Sharon, Director of CA4HSR, boasts of a successful media campaign by leading off with an article titled, “Take that, NIMBYs: Pro high-speed train movement picks up steam”.

    I dunno, Robert & Sharon. With a message like that, you’re not exactly posturing the CHSRA to be their friend. The message I’m getting from CA4HSR is that you want HSR no matter what the costs or impacts may be.

    That might work for HSR fanatics (originally wrote ‘enthusiasts’, but even we enthusiasts have our limits), but it’s not a message which resonates with most Californians. You might as well have a banner that says screw the bastards, they were stupid enough to move next to the rail. I want it, and I want it now! Yes, Veruca, we hear you.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think CA4HSR wrote the article. You can’t hold them responsible for some journalist’s need for sensationalism. The article itself is quite benign and does not appear to be very confrontational.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    They didn’t write it, but they use it as an example of their successful media campaign. You can’t have it both ways.

    I assume it is unarguably fair, however, to hold Robert accountable for keeping an article tag labeled NIMBY. It’s an offensive label with undertones that demonstrate my point.

    Peter Reply:

    And again, it is ridiculous to blame CA4HSR for the title of an article they didn’t write.

    mike Reply:

    “Take that, NIMBYs: Pro high-speed train movement picks up steam”

    Huh? Are you self-identifying as a NIMBY?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    That’s either narrow minded or callous – your choice. If I called someone an ass, would you have to be one yourself in order to see the offensiveness of it?

    mike Reply:

    Nice try on trying to dodge the question! But I read your answer as being that you don’t actually believe the headline refers to you.

    Incidentally, regarding your own post, I would not self-identify as an HSR “fanatic.” But I don’t particularly care whether or not you use the term, norm do I have any specific presumptions about who it is that you’re referring to there.

    Oh noes…someone on the Internet has said something that could be construed as pejorative to a vaguely defined group!!! :-)

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    Speaking of NIMBYs, our good friends Morris Brown, Mike Brady and Martin Engel are the focus of an article in the Almanac News this week.

    The “Stone Pine Lane” gang. Classic. For the record, Stone Pine Lane is a medium-density infill development, precisely the kind of development that would “ruin” menlo park by “turning it into san francisco”. Though I guess you can’t be a NIMBY if your infill development is too dense to even have back yards…

    Peter Reply:

    All I can say is: angry old men.

    Yes, if you want the project to never be completed, then yes, “digging holes all over the place,” i.e. demanding tunnels is the way to go.

    Talk about a fluff piece to give them an air of David v. Goliath.

    wu ming Reply:

    consider the handle he chose: arthur dent, a man whose house (and planet!) were destroyed for some infrastructure project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s no need to make a fuss about it – the plans have been on display on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years.

    mike Reply:

    LOL. I knew the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.

    jimsf Reply:

    I joined too but haven’t heard much. I have offered to put a poster in my ticket office and/or stock brief hsr informative flyers/brochures on the counters or in racks in the lobby thus getting the message to the people who matter most, train riders, who would have a vested interest in hsr, even if they aren’t yet aware of hsr. The cal rail news people leave their lying biased garbage in the lobby, people read it, and walk away with a skewed perception while there is no alternative information to be found. This paper can be found in many california train stations in the same situation with no couterpoint info available. What that misinformation does, each time a passenger picks it up and reads it, is to spread doubt and skepticism. Often people don’t pay much attention to detail and later on they spread an abbreviated version of that misinformation on to others, in a “oh yeh I heard it was all screwed up, read it in the train station paper, figures its not gonna happen” fashion. And currently there are no equally available positive facts to counter that sentiment. EAch person that picks up that paper without having another viewpoint immediately available is another californian who’s support HSR is losing. Day by day, passenger by passenger, in stations all over the state. I cringe everytime I see someone read it but as much disdain as I have the the authors of those articles, I respect the first amendment and will not remove those papers. ( they are not actually authorized to be there in the first place to my knowledge) Somebody better get some more accurate information out there in the same arena to counter the misinformation and right now, CAforHSR are the only ones who might be able to pull that off. That’s my opinion.

    Jim Wunderlich Reply:

    “positive facts”? Interesting statement. This is starting to sound a bit like talking about climate change.

    Maybe CHSRA is considered the enemy because of their reliance on “positive” facts?

    Its so sad we cant even agree on what are facts and what are opinions. Is there any hope we are going to work together on this?

    jimsf Reply:

    No, the facts are positive by nature. The bias is not truthful and its opinion based on some people who didn’t get their way, in the case of some folks over at cal rail news. Its a lot of badmouthing.

  2. Brandon from San Diego
    Mar 31st, 2010 at 06:54

    The people that intend to comment, will comment. At the end of the day, extended comment periods do not provide additional substantive input…. they only result in more of the same. If extended comment resulted in something new… something uncovered that should be further studied in an EIR/EIS… then the merits of extended the comment period would have more merit. But they very typically do not.

    What is going to happen is, essentially, ballot stuffing.

    That said, if it makes the communities ‘feel’ better AND does not affect a critical timeline… heck, go ahead and provide more time. At the end of the day, the CHSRA can always say, “Look, we extended the comment period for ‘you.’ We did something for YOU. We’re not as bad as you think we are.”

    Peter Reply:

    I agree. If people haven’t commented within 45 days, they’re not going to comment within 75 days.

    The above cities need to decide whether obstructionism is a better use of money at this point than cooperation and actually maybe getting some jobs going in the economy.

  3. Missiondweller
    Mar 31st, 2010 at 09:18

    This is just an attempt to buy more time as they come up with a strategy to resist the HSR. I say, no way. They need to come to terms with HSR and work with the agency to implement something they can live with rather than wasting time and money resisting.

  4. Nadia
    Mar 31st, 2010 at 09:37

    Actually, the full article is here: http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=ACBJ&date=20100330&id=11339837

    And the full quote related to the timing is here:

    “The California High-Speed Rail Authority said Tuesday that the cities – or anybody – can submit comments once the report is published and won’t be held to a 45 day time period.

    The report coming out April 8, said authority spokesman Jeffrey Barker, will help complete an environmental impact report “and it can be altered or commented on or changed all the way up to the end of this process,” which likely won’t be until December 2010.

    Barker said that it makes sense to submit comments sooner rather than later, so that the authority can incorporate them. But there is not formal 45 day comment period, such as there is when a draft EIR is circulated.”

    It sounds like they agree that they will need more time since in order to do CSS, they need to allow for an iterative process. Sacramento seems to have heard the call for more time to go through the process and this is a good thing since CSS, if done correctly, should help improve the final product.

    Peter Reply:

    Ok, so there’s no issue over this then?

  5. tomh
    Mar 31st, 2010 at 16:45

    I think burying the tracks on the Peninsula corridor is an EXCELLENT idea. Those towns should be spending their efforts on raising the money to pay for it.

    Peter Reply:

    Here’s an idea: Build the tracks at-grade and place the city underground.

    jimsf Reply:

    ^^and put a park on top

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    What is it with you San Franciscans and putting parks on shit? ;-)

    jimsf Reply:

    hehe, well it all started long ago when someone decided to put a park on a sand dune, and ever since then the mantra has always been. “put a park on it” Parks, and of course park-ing, strangely, are to very popular sf issues. Presidio, turned it into a park, Alcatraz, turned it into a park, every last undeveloped hilltop, turned into parks, and a parks and park-ing have mandates from city hall when it comes to new development. We are just a parky bunch up here. Seriously, just now the mayor has said something along the lines of how we are gonna start putting plants and trees on top of everything we can put plants and trees on top of, buildings, sidewalks, ( watch out, don’t leave your car parked too long or some one may convert it to a park) Theres a series of temporary mini parks popping up all over town right now too.

    tomh Reply:

    Place the cities underground and put a park on it. LOL.

    Speaking of putting parks on things, they did it in NY with the High Line. Sorry I didn’t find a site with better pics:

    And I’m looking forward to the park on top of the new Transbay Terminal. BTW, since the Transbay Terminal will connect to the statewide HSR, maybe it should be called the TransCaliforina Terminal instead.

    tomh Reply:

    And I should learn how to spell California as well. LOL.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    “maybe it should be called the TransCaliforina Terminal instead”

    “And I should learn how to spell California as well. LOL”

    It’s a freudian slip. Your subconscious wants you to vote for Carly Fiorina. If you say “Carly Fiorina” and “California” in a Governator accent they sound exactly the same.

    Jim Wunderlich Reply:

    I think time to raise money to build this right down the Peninsula is an excellent idea! By building the SF->SF cooridor last, not only will be guaranteed to use the tracks because the rest of the system will be ready, we will have to time to get the money to bury the tracks. See? We aren’t adversaries – we can be on the same page here.

    tomh Reply:

    Jim Wunderlich – It was kind of a joke. My point is if the NIMBYs don’t want quieter and cleaner electric trains (vs. the current diesels) that are grade-separated (safer and no noisy whistles), then THEY can pay for tunneling, not the rest of California. Anyway, the system is projected to be completed in 10 years (not including delays). If those towns can’t come up with the money to tunnel by then, they probably never will.

  6. tomh
    Mar 31st, 2010 at 16:48

    With Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Burlingame and Belmont fighting CHSR, one would think San Francisco, with a major interest in having HSR come to SF (instead of terminating at San Jose), would fight on the opposite side.

    Bianca Reply:

    What makes you think they aren’t?

    jimsf Reply:

    I doubt SF is worried about any of this because they have probably already been assured of the outcome.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    I doubt SF is worried about any of this because they have probably already been assured of the outcome.

    The outcome is $2 billion for PBQD’s Central Subway in SF.
    Support PBQD’s $10 billion Fremont-SJ BART line (= PBQD’s $20+ billion added cost SJ-Los Banos line) and you’ll get your pork also. Don’t and you won’t.

    MTC-style regional cooperation and coordination! Integrated planning!

    Mission Accomplished! Heckuva job!

    Joey Reply:

    There are plenty of valid arguments for Altamont, but you have yet to explain why Pacheco will cost more.

    jimsf Reply:

    Too bad you’re bitter. although Im beginning to enjoy your suffering Richard.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Thats because at this point the idea is just nonsense proposed by the nimby towns..If it gets any traction..which it wont.. THEN all hell would break loose and you would see SF /Boxer/DIFI jump in..that said The City doed need to get more involved in this as we also own 1/3 of that Caltrain Corridor along with SJ and San Mateo county

    tomh Reply:

    Good points. And don’t forget that the Speaker of the House’s district is in San Francisco, not the Peninsula.

  7. Amanda in the South Bay
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 10:31

    Hey, when you are affluent a**holes who don’t want the status quo changed, and can probably afford all the expensive gas and plane tickets in the future, screw public transportation!

  8. Amanda in the South Bay
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 10:33

    Sometimes I wonder if it’d be better just to not have a peninsula stop-just go from Mountain View to Millbrae, screw the rich NIMBYs who live in such an insular world.

    Of course not going to happen, but its still frustrating.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Sometimes I wonder if it’d be better just to not have a peninsula stop-just go from Mountain View to Millbrae, screw the rich NIMBYs who live in such an insular world.

    Wonder no longer. The World’s Very Finest Transportation Professionals have just that amazingly clever idea all ready to go, just for you: no stations on the dedicated-to-PBQD-no-Caltrain-allowed tracks between San Jose Diridon Memorial Intergalactic and Millbrae Quentin Kopp Memorial Parking Fortress.

    Lucky you!

    And suck that up, EVIL NIMBY OBSTRUCTIONIST BANANA RICH A**HOLE HSR DENIALISTS STATUS QUO BLAH BLAH BLAH. That will show you! Bwah hah hah hah. CA4HSR 4 EVA! Peak oil!

    The idea that somehow running a Flight Level Zero airline powering non-stop through people’s towns while providing absolutely no benefit to them — all downside, zero upside — is somehow going to enhance the viability of a rail project … well .. that’s only something that The World’s Very Finest Transportation Professionals, the sort of heroic world-class figures we just happen by amazing coincidence to find right here in our own backyards at PBQD and Caltrain, could ever come up with.

    Pick the worst alignment, and then go out of your way — a long, long way out of your way — to implement the worst possible project in the corridor: why, it’s the US Transportation Professional Way of Life. No surprises here. Non-stop, baby!

    jimsf Reply:

    Obviously Richard applied for a job with those folks and was turned away. Or maybe they ran over his cat.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    wow Richard, you are the posterchild for “poster who has lots of interesting technical information but manages to make a fool out of himself for acting so rudely”

    Peter Reply:

    He won a badge in that.

    Joey Reply:

    If Mountain View were chosen as the station, there would be no other stop between there and Millbrae. As far as I know, the station will be EITHER (one of) Redwood City, Palo Alto, or Millbrae.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not going to be Palo Alto. It’s almost certainly going to be RWC – just look at how in the last year, the sample schedules have rewritten the Peninsula stop from RWC/PA to just RWC.

  9. jimsf
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 13:21

    I vote for Redwood City.

  10. Reality Check
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 16:12

    Very bad news from Caltrain CEO Scanlon today:

    Caltrain goes broke; huge service cuts loom; survival in doubt

    Peter Reply:

    That’s … pretty scary. That’s how my wife gets to work.

    Peter Reply:

    Anyone have any ideas how to get it through the Legislature’s head that we need to increase revenue in CA so that we can continue paying for vital services? We need to get rid of the ridiculous 2/3 majority requirement to pass a budget and to raise any sort of taxes.

    Joey Reply:

    How come I can’t see this anywhere besides some yahoo groups thing?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    It is on the main page of the Mercury News website

    Joey Reply:

    I see…

    Spokker Reply:

    I almost want it to happen just so people can see what life is like without good public transportation. And if people survive without it, then maybe we were wrong all along.

    I just wonder how many cuts this state can take before it all comes crumbling down. Or maybe people will adapt.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The wealthy believe they can ride out any collapse, and therefore see as their top priority the preservation of their existing wealth. Any new tax, government proposal, or infrastructure project is seen as a threat to that wealth, and so they oppose these things with extreme vehemence.

    The rest of us, looking on those government programs and infrastructure projects as our ticket out of high unemployment and recession, are going to have to organize to ensure that the wealthy aren’t able to continue to block us from building our own future.

    Mark Drury Reply:

    If Caltrain’s travails aren’t an indictment of the CAHSR business plan I don’t know what is. You may trumpet the differences between the two systems but the notion that either could ever be profitable is fantasy. And this from someone who supports HSR in principle, but not the current plan, and definitely not the Pacheco alignment. Regards,

    Mark D.

    Joey Reply:

    Excuse me do you have a single piece of evidence to back up your claims? Like maybe the fact that every single HSR system in the known world (even the shitty ones) operates at a profit? Oh wait that works against you…

    Mark Drury Reply:

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan_High_Speed_Rail:

    “In 2009, it was revealed that THSR has lost NT$67.5 billion in the two years since opening, equivalent to two thirds of its equity capital. The workforce has been cut from 3600 to 2500, work on the extension to Nankang was halted, and the planned construction of three more intermediate stations was postponed.[83] The company got a new management in September 2009[84] with the aim to turn around the company’s finances with government help in organising a refinance. While the government decided that the construction of the three stations should go ahead anyway, the company’s creditors and founding shareholders refused to increase the loan package for the planned refinance.[85] The government took majority control of the company after the election of its new board on 10 November 2009.[86]”

    You and I must have a different definition for “every,” Joey. Regards,

    Mark D.

    Peter Reply:

    I think Joey meant to say they all cover their operating expenses. Which THSR does as well. They just have problems making their loan payments, which is what often happens when you build major infrastructure projects with private money.

    Mark Drury Reply:

    Only Joey knows the source of his confusion or error here, but do you suppose THSR’s inability to cover interest/loan payments on private funding portends something for the, what, $17B in private investment CAHSR hopes to raise? My problem with most of the posts and associated comments on this blog is that there’s far too little skepticism aimed at the current business plan — good, “healthy” skepticism — and far too much grandstanding for the project. Again, I support HSR in principle, but I think taxpayers should know they may very well be subsidizing CAHSR indefinitely, and ridiculous fantasies about near-term profits funding extensions to San Diego or Sacramento should be recognized as such. Regards,

    Mark D.

    Joey Reply:

    Well I didn’t say that THSR’s troubles don’t raise the question of what role private investment should play in the CAHSR system. Just that it should be able to operate without a subsidy.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think that major public infrastructure projects should be funded by the private sector at all. The public-private partnership is a Schwarzenegger fantasy. The only way it could work would be with federal loan guarantees, imho.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    Sure, skepticism is needed, but so is a fair look at the numbers.

    THSR was 100% funded with private money, making it one of if not the single largest private infrastructure project in the world.

    CHSRA is looking for about 30% private funding.

    Despite lower than expected (but growing) ridership, THSR was and is operationally profitable, like all other HSR systems in the world, which is what CHSRA has said their system will be.

    THSR, without government backing, such as loan guarantees or the government putting up 70% of the cost of the project, was forced to borrow money at high and variable rates.

    CAHSR will have government backing in the form of co-investment, and possibly in some sort of bond guarantee (though that is not decided yet).

    THSR with the new government-backed loans is on track to be both operationally profitable and to be able to cover their loan services, putting them on track to be the third (or fourth, if KTX beats them to it) HSR line to cover both it’s operating expenses and it’s initial capital investment.

    The alternatives to HSR in california: more freeways and expanded airports, cover neither their operating expenses nor their capital expenditures.

    All transportation is subsidized, all transportation requires public investment. The point of HSR is that it requires less of both and has positive externalities that more roads and airports do not.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, like Peter said, you must make the distinction between capital costs and operating expenses. THSR borrowed a lot of money from private sources to fund its construction, and, while it was more than able to sustain its operations with ticket sales, it couldn’t repay its debt. Infrastructure projects are rarely if ever expected to pay for themselves, but HSR can and will cover its day-to-day expenses.

  11. political_incorrectness
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 16:49

    The NIMBYs better WAKE UP! If HSR doesn’t come in, Caltrain is gonzo

    Peter Reply:

    If you read the article linked above, NIMBYs Morris Brown, Mike Brady and Martin Engel would likely be just fine with that. I guess their interests trump those of the 35000+ Caltrain riders…

  12. Emma
    Apr 1st, 2010 at 20:54

    It is the SAME problem in all countries with high speed rail! Those whining anti-High Speed Rail conservatives are the ones who will prais it the most.

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