The Mid-Peninsula HSR Station: Take Two

Jun 19th, 2010 | Posted by

by Rafael

One of the decisions that CHSRA has yet to make is whether there should be an HSR station between Millbrae/SFO and San Jose Diridon and if so, where it should be sited. The candidates under consideration are Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View. We last posted on this still-open issue of the Mid-Peninsula Station in February 2009. The present post seeks to revisit that in an updated context.

The station ought to serve two functions: first, it should make HSR service more accessible to residents of the mid-peninsula itself, without forcing them to drive long distances or use Caltrain to connect. The area is not as densely populated as the East Bay, but median household incomes tend to be somewhat higher. Still-single Silicon Valley worker bees tend to have more disposable income, so they may want to take HSR trips more often. Last not least, a mid-peninsula station may simply be the price CHSRA may have to pay for securing environmental approval to construct any new tracks at all in this section of the PCJPB corridor.

The second function should be reasonably convenient access for residents of the central East Bay (Hayward, Union City, Fremont, Newark) via the Dumbarton road bridge (CA-84). Note that prior to the recession, the bridge was severely congested westbound during morning and eastbound during afternoon rush hour. US-101 was similarly congested, so effective connecting bus transit needs to avoid these traffic jams during rush hour.

If/when the BART extension to Santa Clara is completed, residents of the central East Bay will have the additional option of boarding southbound trains at San Jose Diridon. Of course, Amtrak Capitol Corridor and ACE trains already provide connections, though they are not as frequent nor as punctual as BART.

Dumbarton Rail
Back in 2000, San Mateo county voters approved a sales tax hike to fund capital investments for passenger rail service between Union City and Redwood City via the Dumbarton Rail corridor. The wooden single-track rail bridge – built in 1910 and definitely not up to modern seismic code – as well as its approaches are SMCTA property. However, the western trestle of the bridge burnt down in a 1998 fire that the local fire chief called “suspicious”. The remaining part of the bridge also contains two steel swing sections across shipping lanes that are only lightly used these days. These sections are currently welded in the open position and would be replaced by bascule sections. The approaches on both sides run either through or very close to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, a bird sanctuary that is also home to at least one endangered species, the salt marsh harvest mouse. In addition, the Bay mud is still contaminated with methyl mercury from cinnabar mining during the Gold Rush days. Disturbing the mud releases this highly toxic material back into the food web of the DENWR, so all construction activity is subject to additional safeguards and scrutiny. After the bridge is rehabilitated, SMCTA plans to use it for just six Caltrain round trips per day. They do not include any freight, Amtrak or ACE service.

The Dumbarton Rail project has been postponed, because San Mateo county had earlier “borrowed” $145 million in MTC funds from BART’s WSX (Fremont Warm Springs eXtension) project to get the extension to SFO and Millbrae built. BART euphemistically lists the balance of $54 million as “SFO Extension Surplus Revenue” on its project web site. The truth is that there will be a second deferment when SMCTA next gets a chance to reprogram scarce funds.

Just to be 100% clear on this: even if/when the existing Dumbarton rail bridge is actually rehabilitated, it will be totally unsuitable for HSR service because it supports just a single track and is not grade separated against the shipping lanes. Also, the connection to UPRR’s Centerville right of way in Newark features a kink. The freight railroad has indicated it is in no mood to offer Caltrain trackage rights for even six trains a day, given that Amtrak Capitol Corridor and ACE trains already use it. It has also refused to sell any part of that right of way to CHSRA.

Basically, anyone still advocating that CHSRA run its starter line through Altamont needs to understand that this would imply the construction of an expensive brand-new tall dual-track bridge or else a tunnel across a narrow but environmentally sensitive portion of the Bay, plus a tunnel across part of Union City, (e.g. under Decoto Rd) for an intermodal with BART, given that system is elevated in the area. The Hayward fault would have to be crossed below grade. Additional tunnels would be needed just to reach the town of Pleasanton, where HSR is no more welcome than it is in Atherton.

Ergo, the objective for Dumbarton rail is not HSR but very limited diesel-based Caltrain-branded commuter rail service. The upshot of the low service frequency is that it would be a weak HSR feeder at best. Perhaps one day, it could be supplemented with a new ACE route from Stockton to Millbrae/SFO and SF 4th & King, but no such plans exist today.

Caltrain Ridership
Another factor that could be considered in selecting between the candidates is current Caltrain ridership. Palo Alto is the second busiest station, with Mountain View a close third and Redwood City sixth. However, this would be misleading as the reasons people board at those stations today are immaterial to their effectiveness as HSR feeders. If anything, stations that are already busy would have to deal with a double whammy of connecting road traffic and demand for parking from regional commuters plus long-distance passengers during peak periods.

Local Population
The number of residents in each candidate city is also immaterial, as the primary connecting transportation corridors run northwest-southeast, i.e. between cities. With the notable exception of tony Atherton, the mid-peninsula is anyhow a contiguous conurbation.

Physical Requirements
The mid-peninsula station should feature four full-length platform tracks accessed via two island platforms. Ideally, HSR and Caltrain would harmonize platform heights above top of rail such that either service could use any of the platform tracks. Rock bottom minimum ROW requirements at the station itself would be 4 * 15′ + 2 * 20′ = 100′. In practice, at least 120′ may be needed during the construction phase. Needless to say, construction costs would be much higher if the station had to be built underground, especially if CHSRA and PCJPB continue to insist on preserving freight rail service.

There should be space for adequate for-fee parking within easy walking distance of the platforms, plus appropriate access road capacity. Where free parking is currently offered by nearby shopping malls or merchants, special measures such as validation might be needed to keep HSR customers from abusing it to avoid fees. Curbside parking spots on city streets could also be abused, unless they are metered.

In addition, there should be enough room for connecting kiss+ride, taxi, heavy/light rail, bus and bicycle infrastructure beyond Caltrain and park+ride. If a walkable neighborhood (e.g. pedestrian downtown or transit-oriented development) can be implemented near the station, so much the better. However, that is not essential for generating HSR ridership in the mid-peninsula.

Station construction will generate more construction nuisance than the grade separation and quad tracking works.

Candidate #1: Redwood City
Pro: Cautiously positive stance toward HSR by city council, elevated alignment might be acceptable. Would be served by Dumbarton rail, if it is ever actually implemented. Good regional access via US-101 and El Camino Real and central East Bay (via Dumbarton road bridge and Bayshore Expressway plus city streets).

Con: Lies half-way between SF and San Jose, such that HSR station spacing in the peninsula would be uneven. Only moderately convenient access from I-280 via Woodside Rd (CA-84) and Edgewood Rd. Significant traffic impacts on El Camino Real and Broadway. Psychologically, Atherton is usually considered the north end of Silicon Valley, though that is subject to change.

The following map sketches a possible HSR station layout in the context of the Caltrain Firebird concept. Note the very limited space available for for-fee parking. The Sequoia Station shopping mall and free parking are located immediately next to the existing Caltrain station. There is also a large high school nearby, which would be impacted during construction.

View Redwood City mid-peninsula station in a larger map

Candidate #2: Palo Alto University Ave.
Pro: Good access via Central Expressway, El Camino Real and I-280 via Sand Hill Rd. Home of Stanford University, which could generate substantial HSR ridership. Extensive bicycle infrastructure. Potential for pedestrian zone along University Ave. if traffic is re-routed to parallel streets. Oldest, most established town in the mid-peninsula. Psychological heart of Silicon Valley’s VC-funded start-up culture, though not its center of employment.

Con: Constrained capacity on University Ave and Embarcadero Rd for connection to Dumbarton road bridge and US-101. Oregon Expressway significantly further south. Very limited space for for-fee parking near downtown parking, unless Stanford University permits construction on its land west of El Camino Real. Large nearby shopping mall with free parking. Nearby high school, hospital and high-end residential districts would be impacted by station construction over-and-above quad tracking.

Note that the El Palo Alto tree will anyhow require special attention during quad-track design and construction. Regardless of whether HSR trains stop in Palo Alto, it will also likely be necessary to reconfigure the University/Alma interchange to free up room for additional tracks on the overpass – unless those additional tracks end up in expensive bored tunnels.

Most importantly: City council has flip-flopped on HSR, is now close to asking for/demanding a tunnel. The town’s “planning process” is infamous for its extreme sensitivity to all manner of NIMBY objections and, associated delays. These reasons alone make Palo Alto arguably the least dependable and most contentious of the three candidates at this moment, so I have not bothered to create a map.

Candidate #3: Mountain View
Pro: City explicitly asked to be studied as a station candidate. Located roughly as close to San Jose as Millbrae is to SF. Excellent access potential via US-101, CA-85, CA-237, I-280, Central Expressway, W. Evelyn and El Camino Real. Existing VTA light rail service into Silicon Valley’s “Golden Triangle”, albeit on single track. Potential for pedestrian zone to boost revenue for restaurants and cafes along Castro St. if traffic is re-routed. Significant bicycle infrastructure along Stevens Creek between Sleeper Ave and Shoreline Park and along Dana St toward Sunnyvale.

Con: Fairly close to San Jose, therefore limited incremental ridership potential. Fairly distant from western end of Dumbarton bridge. Slow but reliable rush hour bus route via Shoreline business park feasible along frontage road east of US-101 if bike lanes on the bridge are usurped during peak periods. City has asked for grade separation via trenches, apparently oblivious to cost, the hydrological hazards of the Permanente and Stevens creeks and, to the lack of lateral space for quad tracking in the section between the 85 and 237 freeways – the overpass support columns are in the way!

This lateral constraint makes Clem Tillier’s suggestion for a vertical split grade separation (Focus on Mountain View) at Castro St nigh-on impossible in a quad track context. The single platform of the existing, lightly used Evelyn VTA light rail station is the cherry on top in this context.

Below is a map showing one possible implementation for an at-grade HSR station in Mountain View, based on the Caltrain Firebird concept. Note that it is located between Shoreline and Castro to provide sufficient space for southbound Caltrains to reach line speed before the heavy rail corridor narrows to two tracks at 85. If CHSRA insists on quad tracks all the way, there will either be impacts on the busy frontage roads or, one regular and two freeway overpasses will have to be remodeled or, the new tracks will have to be stacked in tunnel, possibly diving under Stevens Creek.

View Mountain View mid-peninsula station in a larger map

With an at-grade concept for the rails, Moffett Blvd would be connected to Hope St via an S-shaped two-lane underpass. This would permit a new pedestrian zone along Castro and some side streets, forcing vehicular traffic around downtown. Merchants often fear this would lead to a loss of business, but in Mountain View, there are already parking lots behind downtown commercial buildings plus pedestrian alleys.

A single traffic lane each way would be preserved on Hope St between Villa St and a relocated two-way W Evelyn Ave, enabling access to the bus plaza and station for traffic hailing from El Camino Real / Los Altos.

The concept shown would segregate traffic headed into downtown from traffic headed for the station, with through vehicles encouraged to use Shoreline Blvd, Whisman or Grant Rd/237 instead. In particular, easy connections between the new underpass and W Evelyn are deliberately absent. The existing convenient connection between Castro and Central Expy would also be lost, motorists would have to use Shoreline Blvd or Whisman/237 plus W Evelyn instead.

A second underpass between Castro St and Stierlin Rd would be reserved for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Side passages would provide grade-separated access to all train platforms incl. VTA light rail, plus a bus plaza on W Evelyn, new bus sidings on Central Expressway and a new bicycle parking/rental/sale/repair facility. The existing Caltrain parking lot could be converted into a new city park or else, used for transit-oriented development. Unfortunately, the presence of the new Moffett/Hope underpass plus existing overhead power lines mean that the district north-east of Central and south-east of Moffett would not enjoy fully grade-separated pedestrian access. Residents would have to make do with the existing cross walk at Moffett to reach the pedestrian underpass.

In addition, the city police department would be relocated into the upper floors of a new building that would house the station facilities on the ground floor. That would free up a large block for a couple of for-fee multi-story car parks. A smaller existing structure serving the downtown merchants currently offers free parking.

Note that a decision to stick with at-grade rail in Mountain View would favor a split or underpass grade separation for Rengstorff Ave. According to Clem Tillier, the existing overpass at San Antonio Rd is not up to seismic code. Vertical clearance for bi-level trains plus OCS is impaired, though it may be possible to work around that. The station platforms may need to be moved north or south, well clear of the overpass, unless it is torn down and replaced by either a split grade or an underpass separation.

Alternative: No Mid-Peninsula Station
AB3034 imposes a 24 station limit on the California HSR network, though it’s not clear if that applies only to the use of prop 1A bonds for constructing those stations or, permanently. If CHSRA cannot identify a station site that will deliver significant incremental HSR ridership at reasonable cost and environmental impacts, it could yet decide against all three candidates. Note that the requested Kings/Tulare county station east of Hanford is currently #25 or #26, so CHSRA will need to cut stations elsewhere if state legislators or a judge force it to comply with the letter of the law.

Of the three candidates, Mountain View appears the most promising in terms of station access from multiple directions. It would not serve central East Bay cities particularly well, but then again, neither would the others. Traffic impacts could be mitigated, indeed the downtown area could be made more attractive via a new pedestrian zone and city park.

Assuming CHSRA sticks with its preference for Pacheco Pass, four tracks will be needed at all three candidate stations, whether or not they are picked. This is true of both the official plan and the Caltrain Firebird scenario. However, the ancillary effort required to make road, transit and bicycle access to any mid-peninsula HSR station work well is substantial and would impose additional construction nuisance on the host city.

Finally, while CHSRA is definitely responsible for funding vehicular and pedestrian grade separations plus station platforms, it is not on the hook for changes to local roads, pedestrian zones, parks, construction of multi-story car parks or connecting transit, other than compensating for impacts on their lateral and vertical location. Each of the candidate cities will have to decide if it really wants to remain in the running at all by comparing economic and other development opportunities and risks with and without an HSR station.

The City of Mountain View expects to finalize its formal comments on CHSRA’s Alignment Alternatives during a council meeting on Tuesday 22 June. Grade separation strategy should not be chosen independently of site selection for the mid-peninsula HSR station or of space constraints related to quad tracking in the 85-237 section. The meeting is open to the general public.

City Council Meeting on Alternative Analysis
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Council Meeting: 6:30pm
Council Chambers
500 Castro Street

  1. Mario
    Jun 19th, 2010 at 19:27

    To me it seems like Palo Alto is really the best spot for a stop. It is the most vibrant city in the Peninsula, and with an actual destination for riders (the world-renowned Stanford University, which also guarantees SoCal student riders). It is also closest to the Dumbarton Bridge.

    Mountain View has the advantage of the VTA light rail, but I don’t think it’s enough to overcome Palo Alto’s appeal.

    I really think HSR stops should be destinations, to capture the most-likely traveler demographic (students going home for the weekend, tourists).

    Rafael Reply:

    If University Ave. were set up to handle the additional feeder traffic from the East Bay and, willing to host tracks and an HSR station above ground, you would have a point. California Ave. would be less of a destination than either Mtn View or Redwood City.

    Afaik, tourism isn’t a major industry in Palo Alto. I suspect Stanford students will end up having to drive or use Caltrain to reach the nearest HSR station. An underground station at Univ. Ave would not generate sufficient ridership to justify the incremental cost over and above quad tracking. Palo Alto may be a vibrant city, but it’s a fairly small one. It’s not on par with San Francisco.

    dist Reply:

    Well, your last point is very weak. If you are going to compare cities with San Francisco then I’m not sure you are going to find many cities that will withstand the comparison. You should compare what’s comparable.

    Rafael Reply:

    My point was that an underground station in downtown SF is justified by the additional ridership that will generate. In Palo Alto, not so much.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    In a common sense long term mindset Palo Alto would be the best site..its right in downtown next to 2 hotels near an already busy parkway style road sytem and near a major university/medical center..that mayor and council are irresponsible to the future and will rue there actions in the years to come

    Risenmessiah Reply:


    The reason to put an HSR stop in Palo Alto, bluntly, is money. Sand Hill Road is where you find a majority of the big venture capitalist firms. The further away you put the station from these guys, the less you have a motivation for them to take the train as opposed to a corporate jet or something like that. These are going to be your highest-paying and most desirable customers.

    The real issue is whether the HSR stop in Palo Alto should connect to Mountain View by light rail or BART. One you solve that question, the rest falls into place.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The future HSR stop where ever it is, connects to all the Caltrain stations along the line …. by Caltrain. No need to extend BART or light rail.

  2. Amanda in the South Bay
    Jun 19th, 2010 at 21:01

    At this point I would under no circumstances be willing to consider PA for a station, simply out of spite to punish the town. Even assuming HSR is built (which I get more pessimistic about every day), the obstructionists in PA/MP/ATH simply dont deserve a station, Stanford student/faculty convenience be damned.

    rafael Reply:

    I actually suspect that even now, there may still be a majority in favor of HSR in Palo Alto. It’s just that the NIMBYs have cowed them into silence. In a community that’s tightly knit around its schools, no-one wants to burn their bridges with the neighbors by referencing the legal principle of “buyer beware”.

    What bothers me is the lack of steadfastness among city officials. It’s fair to consistently oppose HSR, as Atherton has done. Flip-flopping, on the hand, just yanks the entire state’s chain because the new tracks have to go through both towns one way or another. How can you plan to site a station in a city that can’t decide what it wants?

    In addition, University Ave. is the most direct path from Dumbarton to the downtown Caltrain station. Letting HSR trains stop there would likely generate substantial additional traffic on a street that isn’t wide enough for the job, at least not west of Middlefield Rd. Putting the HSR station near Oregon Expy/Page Mill Rd (i.e. at Caltrain California St) would work around that, but that location is quite far from downtown. That’s why I didn’t consider it as a fourth candidate.

    Peter Reply:

    “Punishing” PAMPA by denying them a station at University Avenue would be punishing the system. The station should be located where it makes the most sense. “Getting back” at them for being obstructionists is kind of childish. We, as in the State, would benefit from placing the station there if it makes sense.

    Rafael Reply:

    Yeah, punishment wasn’t what I had in mind. Rather, I was thinking of the risk of delays due to the local planning process in Palo Alto.

    Except for the central East Bay, other parts of California probably don’t have a very strong opinion on where the mid-peninsula station should be sited or even if there is one at all. CHSRA is forecasting 5000 boardings a day by 2030 for a mid-peninsula station vs. 32000 for downtown SF and 15000 for San Jose Diridon. Even if the absolute numbers are off, the ratios between them may not be.

    jimsf Reply:

    I’d rather see it in Mountain View. Mt View is actually where the jobs are not PA. Mt View would also serve the cupertino-sunnyvale area where there are even more jobs and and a more working class middle income population. PA would serve Atherton, Los Altos and other people who already have an aversion to public transit. Actually its only a matter of what, couple miles difference? Id say go with the city who will be interested in getting the job done versus the one from which we can expect incessant meddling in every aspect. Building a station in PA will reopen the very same can of worms we have now with the very same people, all trying micromanage the design. Thats just the kind of people who live there. You’lll find a much more practical, pragmatic bunch in Mt View who will be more reasonable and more interested in actually getting the job done.

    Victor Reply:

    Agreed, I too would rather see a Station in Mountain View where It’s apparently wanted, than in pathetic Palo Alto where It’s not wanted, Just put through tracks in Palo Alto and be done with that town.

    Jon Reply:

    Seems to me like the order of preference considering objective factors (e.g. location, potential ridership, engineering) is 1) Palo Alto, 2) Mountain View, 3) Redwood City.

    But, the order of preference considering subjective factors (e.g. city willingness and cooperation) is 1) Mountain View, 2) Redwood City, 3) Palo Alto.

    Mountain View looks like the best choice considering both these factors, but it’s a shame to have to make these decisions based on city politics. I expect many in Palo Alto will feel duped if/when Mountain View HSR opens in eight years time.

  3. flowmotion
    Jun 19th, 2010 at 21:23

    Good post which summarizes the complexities of building a major transportation facility in these towns, although it barely scratches the surface of the traffic management and parking issues.

    Realistically, with its nearby massive parking and car rental facilities, and convenient freeway access, Millbrae/SFO will likely be the most popular station for most peninsula riders. The wild-card factor is to what extent HSR functions as an express commuter service to cart San Francisco residents to their Silicon Valley jobs.

    Rafael Reply:

    Wrt local/regional road traffic impacts, I don’t claim to be an expert. I just used my personal knowledge of the area and common sense to try and give a sense of what might be involved. Someone would have to model car/bus traffic in more detail to determine just how much flow and parking capacity is really needed. Only then could they decide if e.g. my concept for downtown Mtn View could provide enough of both without long-term adverse impacts on local businesses. The only thing that is already clear is that grade separation plus quad tracking will either be nose-bleed expensive (rails below grade) or else, require substantial modifications to the connections between cross streets and frontage roads (rails at or above grade).

    As for commuting, HSR isn’t intended to get worker bees from SF, Gilroy/Hollister, Merced or Fresno to their jobs in Silicon Valley, nor those from Silicon Valley to jobs in SF. However, customers have a way of using products and services in ways and for purposes that manufacturers/providers didn’t have in mind.

    Right now at least, there are no plans to offer discounted monthly/annual passes to generate long-distance commuter ridership on the HSR system. That’s in contrast to e.g. France.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Sure, I was just pointing out the logistical difficulties with getting large numbers of people in and out of these older downtowns. In terms of local political support, the devil is often in the details.

    As for what HSR is “intended” for, I suspect they are maintaining a =bureaucratic fiction that they are not stepping on Caltrain’s turf. Realistically they have to know there would be a demand for high-speed commuter service along many of their lines, and they are a long way from announcing any pricing plans, passes or otherwise.

  4. rafael
    Jun 19th, 2010 at 21:52

    Btw: in my post, I assumed that the 85, Whisman and 237 freeway overpasses in Mtn View could not be remodeled because of the disruption that would cause. If so, there really isn’t enough lateral room for additional tracks at the same vertical elevation as the others.

    Now, if these existing structures were declared fair game, they could probably be replaced by alternate bridge designs that don’t need any supports within the corridor. That in turn would free up sufficient lateral space to support VTA + 4 heavy rail tracks side-by-side at grade, while maintaining the lanes on Central and W Evelyn by shifting them laterally and eliminating the planted medians. There might even be enough room to allow VTA to double-track its line in this section.

    The high cost and disruption associated with remodeling those three overpasses plus the frontage roads would need to be compared to the those same parameters for putting at least two heavy rail tracks underground plus dealing with Stevens Creek. Avoiding both scenarios would require HSR and Caltrain to share a main line, as described in the Caltrain Firebird post.

    flowmotion Reply:

    The 85-237 junction is a a woefully-inadequate 1950s-style cloverleaf, so the freeways in this area will eventually need to be torn up and rebuilt anyway. I would hope that HSRA does not consider a highway overpass to be a major engineering constraint.

    Rafael Reply:

    The 85/237 junction isn’t affected by the rail corridor remodeling project. I was referring narrowly to the overpasses across Central + rails + W Evelyn. Replacing those with alternate bridge designs that don’t require support columns would make 5-6 tracks at grade possible while maintaining all of the lanes on the frontage roads.

    Rafael Reply:

    Expensive and disruptive, though. Hence the idea of setting things up such that HSR and Caltrain can share a dual track main line in this and other sections.

  5. Caelestor
    Jun 19th, 2010 at 22:41

    Just a question: what would be the consequences for not having a mid-peninsula station?

    Rafael Reply:

    Loss of ridership, loss of political support in Silicon Valley and the central East Bay.

    On the other hand, reduced ROW requirements and construction nuisance, slightly lower cost (if quad tracks are above ground anyhow). Also, contribution toward meeting AB3034’s ceiling of 24 stations total.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    …and if Caltrain and HSR pick compatible platform heights etc the way you make the four platform station at Palo Alto or Mountain View an HSR station is to install TVM and hang out a shingle that say “HSR” ….. when there is a problem Amtrak trains will stop at any commuter station and certain commuter trains can stop anywhere on the NEC. Where the Amtrak trains regularly stop changes now and then and the frequency changes often. I’m sure this happens in places outside of Japan and Spain where the trains are the same gauge etc. It can happen in California too.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    On the East Coast, platform length isn’t an issue for trains. They just open the doors that happen to have a platform next to them. With high speed rail and a reservation system which can put people in the right cars or notify them that they are not in the right cars, can’t every station be a potential stop, as long as the platform heights are compatible?

    The cities in question have gone through a lot of changes in the last 20 years and will continue to go through changes in the next 20.

    Rafael Reply:

    You can’t implement 30-60 seconds dwell times for a 200-400m train if you can only open half of the doors. We’re not going to spend over $40 billion so we can’t board or alight. Folks on the East Coast are apparently glad to have any useful service at all, so they’re willing to put up with cloodges that work around a chronic lack of public investment over many decades. CAHSR is supposed to be a quantum leap forward.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I’m only talking about this measure for a Peninsula train. It wouldn’t be every train by any means and it might be the onlly way to get a peninsula stop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You’ll be able to get to any Peninsula stop by changing trains at a station where HSR stops. With compatible platforms they could, but probably won’t, stop at any Caltrain station. World Series comes to San Francisco they can have a special run from San Diego that terminates at 4th and Townsend for instance.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The stations on the East Coast where lots of people use the station have full length level boarding, some of them for a the past century. Most of them for the past 75 years. The major stations have 16 or 18 car platforms. The lesser used stations are the ones that still get by with 8 car low level platforms, it’s doesn’t matter much that it takes a long time for any individual passenger to get on or get off, there aren’t many of them.

  6. Donk
    Jun 20th, 2010 at 12:48

    I might be missing something here, but why is conveneince to or access from the East Bay that important? I don’t see there being a large market for HSR from East Bay riders in the mid-Peninsula.

    Somebody who lives in the central or south East Bay would probably be better off taking the new BART to SJ to catch the train if they are heading south. If they live in the north East Bay, or if they are heading to SF, they would probably be better off taking BART directly to SF. If they are heading anywhere else on the Peninsula (not SF or SJ), there would be no need to take HSR when it would probably be more practical taking Caltrain.

    If this logic is correct, then there is no reason to consider the East Bay in the equation. Am I missing something?

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I think Rafael’s point was that there were a lot of commuters over the DB from the East Bay during the dot com boom years. Hence having HSR in PA.

    I think it really depended on where all those people were going-to work in PA, or to generic tech jobs in Sunnyvale/Cupertino/MV/Santa Clara?

    If its the latter, than relying on the BART extension would be a better idea, I think.

    Rafael Reply:

    More people live in the East Bay than in the peninsula, but SF is a bigger ridership generator than Oakland. By the time the first HSR trains run, chances are BART to Santa Clara will as well, so it’s fair to ask if folks in Milpitas, Fremont, Union City and perhaps Hayward would use it to connect with HSR in San Jose. BART will run far more frequently and punctually than Amtrak CC and ACE can hope to, but since it’s a locals-only system the trip will be slow.

    That’s why CHSRA is assuming that at least a sizeable fraction of residents in the Central East Bay might well prefer to drive or take a bus to connect to HSR in the mid-peninsula. The primary purpose, however, would be generating some ridership from the locals.

    Politically, Silicon Valley taxpayers are footing a disproportionate fraction of the bill for the whole system, simply because that’s where the money is. Alameda county is the most populous county in the state that isn’t slated to get a station on the core HSR network at all.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    BART will run far more frequently and punctually than Amtrak CC and ACE can hope to, but since it’s a locals-only system the trip will be slow.

    And phase 3 or 4 of the project will be to upgrade ACE and Capital Corridor making the trip between San Jose and Oakland or San Jose and Sacramento much faster than BART could ever hope for.

    Alameda county is the most populous county in the state that isn’t slated to get a station on the core HSR network at all.

    So? There’s alway phase 3 or 4…

    Donk Reply:

    So do they really need a HSR branch up to Oakland? Sure it would be great to have, but is it worth it when you already have BART, ACE, and CC in the same route?

    To me this is sort of similar to the situation in LA. The majority of people in LA will have to take some sort of transit to get to HSR, whether it is the new Purple Line subway from West LA, the Orange Line busway and/or Red Line subway from the San Fernando Valley, or Metrolink from SanBerdoo. I wouldn’t expect HSR to build a line along the 10 freeway to get to West LA when we are already investing $10B in a subway to Westwood. Same goes for building HSR to Oakland and the East Bay, now that they are building BART all the way down to San Jose.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes because believe it or not there is life besides getting to San Francisco. People in Fremont want to get to Oakland without stopping every mile and half to get there or all the way to Martinez. Or People in San Jose have the urge to go to Sacramento. People in Davis want to get to Berkeley. Too bad the terminal in San Francisco sucks because the people in Davis who get the urge to go to Fremont might also get the urge to go to San Francisco now and then. They won’t have an option to do that unless they want to get on BART or a bus.

    BART doesn’t go to San Jose. Rational people wouldn’t come up with that as a solution but the Bay Area is dazzled by BART for some reason. ACE doesn’t go to Oakland or San Francisco. And extending BART to Stockton has the same problems that extending BART to San Jose has. Inordinately expensive and lousy all local all the time service.

    Rafael Reply:

    To be fair, Amtrak does offer a shuttle bus between downtown SF and the Emeryville Amtrak CC station. Folks from the Sacramento area that are headed to the SoCal would arguably be better served by Amtrak San Joaquin to Merced – except that runs on the BNSF track several miles east of the preferred alignment for HSR.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But getting on a train destined for Los Angeles in Merced doesn’t get you to Oakland or San Jose. There are people in the world who are neither destined for or departing from San Francisco and Los Angles .

  7. Donk
    Jun 20th, 2010 at 13:38

    Ok, but then if the station is at PA, how would this help them? It would get them to either Milbrae, SF, or SJ stations (the only other HSR stations) faster. But like I said it would probably be faster to take BART to SF or SJ instead. Therefore, the only purpose would be to get them to Millbrae faster. So a station in PA would really only benefit EB people who worked in Milbrae or near a BART/Caltrain station north of Millbrae. However, it is already a one seat ride to get to Millbrae from the East Bay via the transbay tube right?

    If the station is in Redwood City, the same scenario would play out. If the station is in Mountain View, there really is no access from the EB. So to me it still seems that EB access is irrelevant to the CAHSR mid-Peninsula station selection.

    Rafael Reply:

    No, if you were to board a southbound HSR train in the mid-peninsula, it would take you all the way to LA/Anheim without an additional transfer. The scenarios you are describing refer to Caltrain.

    No-one’s going to drive fro Union City to Palo Alto just to catch an HSR train to Millbrae, buy a BART ticket, transfer to BART to San Bruno, transfer to another BART train to SFO and possibly transfer yet again to the SFO Air Train. If some one from the central East Bay needs to fly out of SFO, they’re just going to keep driving. Taking BART via Oakland, downtown SF and Daly City involves only one transfer between BART lines, but it still takes forever and isn’t cheap. If possible, this particular group will try to fly out of either OAK or SJC. Unfortunately, direct flights to many international destinations are only offered at SFO.

    HSR will give folks an alternative to flying to SoCal only, at least initially. However, without a station in Alameda county, simply getting to the station will be almost as much of a hassle as getting to one of their airports. Palo Alto would be the closest option, but getting anything at all built there – ever – takes forever. They still haven’t put their overhead power lines underground, something they decided to to do forty-odd years ago.

    Donk Reply:

    Yes exactly, the scenarios I describe refer to Caltrain because that to me is the only reason you would connect to the mid-Peninsula.

    I still don’t see why anyone would want to go to PA to go south to Fresno or LA or Anaheim when they can simply take a direct BART train down to SJ. Sure SJ is a bit further for some folks than PA. However, you need to factor in (1) that SJ will have more trains (and especially express trains) than PA; and (2) I don’t think you included the travel time from the mid-Peninsula station to SJ in the equation.

    The travel time from Hayward to PA is probably faster than from Hayward to SJ. However to compare apples to apples you need to compare Hayward-PA-SJ (with PA-SJ on HSR) to Hayward-SJ (on BART). Even if it is slightly faster going from Hayward-PA-SJ, the difference is likely small enough to be outweighed by point (1) above.

    Rafael Reply:

    Well, if and when BART to San Jose actually materializes, I imagine you will have a point. Right now, it looks as if none of the candidates for the mid-peninsula station will particularly impress folks who line in the central East Bay.

    I still don’t get why you’re so preoccupied with driving across the Bay to a Caltrain station to connect to HSR somewhere else. If you’re going to ride from the East Bay to SoCal, you’re going to look for a way to get directly to an HSR station.

  8. James
    Jun 20th, 2010 at 17:28

    If the East Bay is a big consideration, one might think a station in San Mateo, even though it is already close to Milbrae, might make sense. Although it is a minor station on Caltrain, Hayward Park is right next to CA-92, a direct link to the San Mateo Bridge and closer to much of the East Bay. Furthermore, 92 is a freeway all the way to 280. Though it may need some widening, access to that station would be easier than downtown stations in Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Redwood City.

    Rafael Reply:

    HSR is about not stopping frequently. San Mateo is way too close to Millbrae to even consider. Besides, the right of way is really narrow there.

    Peter Reply:

    Except as a link to BART, I’m not feeling that there is a necessity to connect at Millbrae. I understand that it is the link to SFO, but why are we even bothering with a link to SFO? Are we trying to justify the BART-to-SFO extension by hooking it to HSR? I don’t see that a lot of people will be taking HSR to SFO. I feel that while BART may generate more riders for HSR than the airport itself would, I’m not sure whether it’s going to be worth it to use up one of the 24 station limit.

    wu ming Reply:

    SFO is a major international hub for california, more than a few people will be taking HSR from the airport, as they connect with CA destinations beyond millbrae.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s a major domestic hub too. To get to Chicago, New York, Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte etc. today you fly out of Fresno or Bakersfeild to a hub airport. If the train gets you to SFO just as fast and cheaply people will use it instead of the commuter flight to a hub.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The amount of people riding HSR to SFO will be large from the Central of now they have an expensive connecting flight or a 3-4hour drive plus daily parking fees..10-12 bucks

  9. Brandon from San Diego
    Jun 20th, 2010 at 19:53

    These blog posts are far too long and too involved. Other than that…

    Station considerations needs to be sensative to the necessary trackwork, such as min/max slopes, special trackwork, access to the main line, etc, and the necessary maintenance that will need to be scheduled… shutting down a track segment. The more flexibility built into a system, the better. And, preserve consideration for expansion. A new line over the Dunbarton Bridge is an example and it’s good to see that discussed.

    Rafael Reply:

    As I said, there is is currently no official plan to ever run any HSR trains across Dumbarton. The SMCTA project is strictly about very limited commuter rail service.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    I cannot match what your talking about with what I wrote.

    Dunbarton service is an example of what to take into consideration. Certainly not an advocate of such a service. And, as it is on the minds of some people, it is wise to be congnizant of the possibility during design of the HSR/Caltrain trackage and stations.

    As an example, other projects elsewhere in the state are doing so… Los Angeles Westside Subway Extension is considering a junction with a line to West Hollywood; however, there is no funding for such a line. But, they are obviously considering due to the possibility.

    Where this plays a role with the peninsula… don’t locate a station in such a way that it prevents a junction with a line to Dunbarton. Be complimentary to the possibility, don’t pre-empt. Be congnizant with design of the closest stations to the junction along the HSR/Caltrain corridor to enable easy passenger connectivity, such as for transfers. What that might mean… possible center platforms and/or enabling a minimum pedestrian walking distance for those that could not have a cross-platform transfer.

    If the HSR/Caltrain designers cannot design for a Dunbarton service, then they should explain so in envirenmental documents and/or breifing’s with politico’s.

    Rafael Reply:

    If we’re talking about Dumbarton rail as a commuter/HSR feeder service, we’re on the same page. It’s just that even now it’s such a nebulous proposition that at least to my mind, it doesn’t tip the scales strongly in RWC’s favor. Now, if there were a bona fide long-term plan not just to rehabilitate the bridge but to leverage it for new services (e.g. ACE to SF), that would be a different matter. But there isn’t because SMTCA is still paying for BART-to-SFO.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Even if the bridge magically was restored there’s no room in San Francisco for trains from Stockton to drop off passengers. Best Stockton can hope for is a fast ride to Oakland and transferring to the overcrowded BART or a bus ride across a congested Bay Bridge.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    there’s no room in San Francisco for trains from Stockton to drop off passengers.

    Trains, maybe, but this is a nonsense statement about “passengers“.

    Sacramento-Livermore-Fremont-San Jose trains could easily arrange to have
    cross-platform transfer to LA-Livermore-Fremont-San Francisco trains with essentially zero time penalty. There’d be plenty of room for passengers, both on the trains and in the stations.

    But silly me … serving passengers (or humans or the economy or the environment) isn’t what the PB’s all trains via Pacheco wonder plan is all about.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So then there aren’t going to herds of trains streaking up the Central Valley whisking captains of industry to important meetings in the powerhouse of California business that is San Jose? They are going to have to change trains in Fremont? Or are you suggesting that Fremont becomes such a an exciting destination that enough people get off the SF-LA trains in Fremont to equal the amount of people that want to get from Stockton to SF?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If TBT were better-designed, there would be plenty of room.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They voted on it, it has to be bestest design ever. …they voted on it…

    jimsf Reply:

    San Francisco fell in love with the design. And, just recently reiterated that at the ballot box.

    jimsf Reply:

    yikes and its 84% in favor of tbt as terminus!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Buy Oakland real estate.

    Clem Reply:

    Keep the roof garden, get rid of the train box, and everybody comes out ahead.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    Trains can go south too, but I see others already pointed that out.

    As for being a nebulous project and not bona fide, I am simply afraid that if we waited to any project becomes bona fide, that it is either too late to accomodate the idea OR accomodating the idea comes with great expense.

  10. Alon Levy
    Jun 21st, 2010 at 10:20

    I disagree that “the reasons people board at those stations today are immaterial to their effectiveness as HSR feeders.” The reasons are in fact very important. All else being equal, a station with more ridership indicates more residences and jobs near the station, and more existing TOD, which means better prospects for HSR. On top of it, the breakdown of riders matters, because some types of ridership are friendlier to intercity rail than others. If the station is a job center, or an important junction, then it’s more effective as a feeder. If it’s just a high-density residential cluster, then it’s not as effective. If the station is a university then it’s especially useful, because students are a captive market for public transportation.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    Agree completely.

  11. JamesJonas
    Jun 24th, 2010 at 08:40

    First – Redwood City
    Second – Mountain View
    Third – Palo Alto

    California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to not look only at was is, but what will be for these cities. In the area of futures, Redwood City beats the pack hands down, but to see that you need to see their forward looking General Plan and Downtown Precise Plan.

    Regional Transit Hub: Redwood City plans a Regional Ferry Terminal at the end of Seaport, with a Trolley system from Caltrain (HSR) station and is right next to the Municipal Airport. Mountain Views VTA is a plus, but access to that system is provided to HSR riders via the San Jose station.

    Dumbarton Bridge Access: Redwood City has local road access from Dumbarton Bridge to the Downtown, giving East Bay HSR riders an option when 101 is clogged. Access to 280 is via two routes, Whipple and Woodside.

    Downtown Renaissance: Redwood City has outlined both in its Downtown Precise Plan and its General Plan a significant expansion for the downtown, giving entrepreneurial businesses room to setup shop and expand. Redwood City is San Mateo County’s seat.

    Medical Hub: Redwood City, along with Stanford, is building a Medical Campus. Imagine hopping onto a HSR train, riding to Redwood City to receiving world class medical services.

    Room to Grow: Mountain View and Palo Alto both have real constraints with regard to long term expansion. Redwood City is just getting started. The entire area surrounding the HSR Station site is in play. Talk of a Sequoia Station remix, downtown rebuild, El Camino revitalization… the list goes on.

    Engage: Redwood City, Mountain View and Palo Alto are scheduled to begin a community conversation concerning High-Speed Rail soon. Take a pause from your keyboard and show-up, listen and engage.

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