Palo Alto straddles HSR resistance, acceptance

Aug 31st, 2010 | Posted by

It’s becoming clear that Palo Alto, my hometown, is straddling two differing approaches to the high-speed rail project.

On one side, city officials and most residents appear to be coming, albeit slowly, to the realization that high-speed rail is happening, and that when it does, California won’t be paying for it to be in a deep tunnel or covered trench. On the other side, a small number of residents, fearing any change to their community, continue to aggressively fight the project.

[There’s a middle group — the majority of residents who support the project, including many who live near the tracks. I’ll save that group for a later post.]

This played out on Tuesday, as the Palo Alto City Council’s High Speed Rail Subcommittee met to discuss the latest developments in the high-speed rail project in front of a packed audience.

Unhappy Either Way
Members of the Palo Alto City Council and a small number of residents have called for the high-speed rail project to be stopped, slowed down or drastically modified so as to have no impact on Palo Alto. Recently, California High Speed Rail Authority officials announced plans that, in effect, may delay all construction most HSR infrastructure.

In an updated grant application, the CAHSRA announced that it will prioritize building two new HSR-only tracks from San Francisco to Redwood City, and then from Mountain View to San Jose. In this scenario, Palo Alto and neighboring cities would remain largely untouched at first, with the only major improvement being electrification of the entire corridor.

This may satisfy the desire of project critics and opponents to avoid major construction impacts and minimize the need for additional land. Yet, it does not resolve the fact that once HSR service commences, there will still be traffic and safety impacts due to the additional rail traffic HSR will bring on tracks that are not grade separated. These same impacts will occur with the inevitable increase in Caltrain service in the future, notwithstanding the temporary funding crisis.

Palo Alto officials expressed concern at the idea of this new approach. As an Aug. 26 Palo Alto Online News article reported,

[Palo Alto Mayor Pat] Burt mentioned this scenario at Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council High-Speed Rail Committee when he referred to the possibility of the rail authority taking the ‘phasing’ approach for the Midpeninsula — an approach he said would leave the city with the existing two tracks. He said this could impact the city’s traffic, safety and emergency response and called it one of the most critical questions facing the Midpeninsula cities.

Continued opposition to the project from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Atherton has, it seems, led to the Authority building other phases first.

Palo Alto and other cities need to confront reality and understand that more train service will be coming to the Peninsula, whether its from HSR or increased Caltrain service. They ultimately will have to find a way that allows for the grade separation of the corridor.

It is fantasy for Peninsula residents and leaders to believe they can just hope rail service will stay the same and they will never have to invest in grade separation. What better time to solve their problems then now, with HSR bringing billions of dollars of state and federal money to finally get this essential work done. For Palo Alto to now worry that it will be left with more trains, while not pursuing grade separations, is a head-in-the-sand approach.

Despite the latest complaints, officials and residents do seem to be coming to accept that the project is going to happen, and they’re not going to have total control over the project without putting up funds. Burt told the meeting,

I think the chance of the rail authority funding either cut-and-cover or deep tunnel are highly unlikely. We should focus our discussion around that.

It’s easy to predict how this dichotomy will play out when it comes time for the Midpeninsula station location to be chosen. If history is any indication, Palo Alto will fret over the downsides to a Palo Alto high-speed rail station and then express dismay and betrayal if Redwood City or Mountain View is chosen as the Midpeninsula stop.

Upset Over Parking
City officials and residents also spent much of the meeting dwelling on the 3,000 parking spaces that HNTB rep John Litzinger previously told the city they might be asked to build.

Larry Klein, responded to the issue with more mixed messages.

Parking spaces are far from the best use for any community. Taking up valuable space to create 5 or 6 parking buildings, at 50 feet high, I really don’t think that’s what our community would want to develop. This isn’t my vision of Palo Alto. This isn’t what the plan should be for any particular city, unless they have no economy at all. We should be very clear that we don’t’ want to participate in a process that has no benefit to our community.

Klein makes it clear that he understands the value of urban spaces, and why you prioritize development of other uses, like residences or shops, around a transit station, before you build parking. Yet, he’s also a member of the PCC, and it’s rare that you hear him talking of the value that vibrant transit corridors and transit-oriented development can bring — aside from when it comes in handy to fight construction of parking garages.

For the moment, Palo Alto seems to be stuck going in two directions. Fighting high speed rail, yet bemoaning the outcome of doing so.

Let’s hope they choose the right path – utilizing the HSR project to solve the existing and future problems along the Peninsula associated with rail service..

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  1. StevieB
    Aug 30th, 2010 at 23:19
    #1

    In the September Board Meeting Agenda Item 6, Bay Area to Central Valley High-Speed Train CEQA Findings of Fact and Statement of Overriding Considerations, a station in Mountain View is not mentioned.

    Mid-Peninsula Station: Continue to investigate both Palo Alto and Redwood City as potential sites and work with local agencies and the Caltrain Joint Powers Board (JPB) to determine whether a mid-peninsula station site should be developed.

    A HSR station is of great potential benefit to the 7000 businesses that grew up around the university and medical center.

  2. Nathanael
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 00:57
    #2

    Less parking? Agreed, less parking.

    Probably need 200 spaces at any HSR station. Beyond that, connecting service is the way to go at most of them.

    Andrew Reply:

    For most (if not all) of the stations in the central valley, there should be big parking structures. As much as we transit fans may hate it, driving is simply the reality out in rural areas.

    rafael Reply:

    I’d like to see the parking fees used to subsidize alternatives to arriving by personal motor car. Depending on the city in question, that could be either traditional fixed-route transit, dynamically routed sharecabs and/or bike paths/parking plus recharge infrastructure for electric bicycles.

    In this context, e.g. Palo Alto may well need a different approach than e.g. Merced.

    rafael Reply:

    Forgot to mention that Calif. Ave might be a better choice for a mid-peninsula station in Palo Alto than Univ. Ave., at least in terms of available land and existing road connections to area freeways. Any HSR platforms there would extend south beyond Oregon Expressway, such that derelict land there could be leveraged for parking.

    That said, there’s the question of whether a city that will study just about anything to death to avoid a showdown with NIMBYs is the appropriate choice for a station at all. Caltrain’s Mountain View station is close to both the 101 and 85 freeways; an HSR station there could extend north to Shoreline Blvd. There would be some – not all that much – space for additional parking if the city’s police department were moved to another location. Redwood City would be much more attractive IFF the Dumbarton rail bridge were rebuilt and used for passenger rail service between SF 4th & King and e.g. Livermore.

    Note that AB3034(2008) limits the entire HSR network to just 24 stations, though perhaps that restriction applies only to the maximum number that prop 1A(2008) funds could be put towards. Since CHSRA still has to strike a deal with PCJPB on sharing the Caltrain corridor, it might be possible to structure that such that the HSR operator(s) are permitted shared use of the platforms at selected Caltrain stations. Since those wouldn’t be dedicated HSR stations, they would arguably not count toward the 24 station total. However, such an arrangement would require a common platform height, i.e. restrict the type of rolling stock that could be purchased. If that seems like a severe constraint, consider that it would also any train to stop at any platform at the Transbay Terminal Center in SF. Harmonized platform heights would also come in very handy during off-design conditions, e.g. if a platform track has to be closed due to maintenance.

    StevieB Reply:

    Dumbarton bridge crossing is not under consideration.

    This alternative involves constructing a new bridge or tube along the Dumbarton corridor across San Francisco Bay. This would involve major construction activities in sensitive wetlands, saltwater marshes, and aquatic habitat requiring special construction methods and mitigations. This alternative would also result in direct and indirect impacts to San Francisco Bay and the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

    The Authority further finds that the extensive agency coordination and permitting necessary to implement an alternative that includes a Dumbarton Bridge crossing (i.e., coordination/permitting with USACE, USFWS, California Coastal Commission, CDFG, and Bay Conservation and Development Commission [BCDC]) has the potential to create further costs, time delays, and other constructability issues. Scoping comments from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission noted that bridge alternatives that could have adverse impacts on Bay resources can only be approved by BCDC ―if there is not an alternative upland location for the route and if the fill is the minimum necessary to achieve the purposes of the project‖ (BCDC scoping response, December 15, 2005). The Authority finds that these considerations render the alternative infeasible.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s not under consideration for HSR. However, it’s still on the table for a Caltrain branch, Dumbarton Rail. It was fully funded, but then the funds were diverted to extend BART to Warm Springs, presumably with the intent of enabling BART to Santa Clara/Berryessa.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The Authority finds that constructing a 100% redundant BART extension in the Fremont-San Jose-Santa Clara corridor best serves the financial interests of the prime contractor, and that any alternative that does not meet this overriding criterion must be eliminated.

    dave Reply:

    Union City Intermodal Station, Page 1

    http://www.actia2022.com/files/managed/Document/1374/July2010_enews_upload.pdf

    jimsf Reply:

    Here’s the site of the Intermodal station with bart in the foreground and commuter rail behind.

    Matthew Reply:

    It seems like we need to get a meeting involving Caltrain, Metrolink, Coaster, Amtrak, CAHSR, etc., and come up with a plan for harmonizing platform standards across California. I understand that there are some restrictions at stations shared by freight, and there are almost certainly a host of difficult legacy problems, but at least an agreed standard to move towards over the next 30 years or so would be nice. That way each system can have a plan for retrofitting stations, standard technical specifications for new rolling stock, and can then develop a plan to phase in the new standards. It will take some effort, but the benefits of bulk cross-system purchases, and much more flexible operations seems to outweigh the inconveniences.

    Peter Reply:

    Seems to me that something like that should be done on a national basis.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Why? What possible good would absolute thrall to historical engineering accomplish?

    Planning on New Jersey to San Diego service any time soon? (No, Amtrak doesn’t count. For anything.)

    Let a thousand flowers bloom.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Let a thousand flowers bloom.

    Yay, time to repeat the last 150 years of frequently incompatible platform heights.

    Fast forward X years to when a handful of HSR systems exist in the US. CAHSR, still locked in its eternal battle to provide proper grade separations in the City of Palo Alto, finds itself short a few trainsets due to road/rail interactions (unsurprisingly, in PA). They want to borrow a trainset or two from some other HSR operator in the country until the damaged CAHSR trainsets are repaired. Can they?

    Nope, they can’t, because the other operators use a different platform height for their equipment, thanks to a lack of a federal standard for HSR platform heights, and having a trainset incapable of level boarding is strictly against the rules. Whoops.

    Pick a height. Mandate it nationwide. Have one nice compatible flower that avoids any future issues when expanding HSR-compatible systems across the country eventually connect or otherwise exchange equipment.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    This is beyond nonsensical. Does JR-East “borrow a trainset or two” from RENFE when they find themselves short?

    Matthew Reply:

    I think if California does it (and I think we all agree it makes sense to at least coordinate CAHSR, Caltrain, and Metrolink since there will likely be shared track) and produces sensible “open source” standards for which trainset manufacturers can provide equipment without expensive, site specific engineering and design, the rest of the country could follow. Maybe not, but that at least wouldn’t immediately be CAHSR’s problem. Caltrain and Metrolink should be a manageable number of organizations for CAHSR to bring to the table.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Richard: To selectively quote myself:

    “HSR systems..in the US. CAHSR.. want to borrow a trainset or two from some other HSR operator in the country. … Pick a height. Mandate it nationwide… across the country.”

    Did you want to address that, say by raising a suggestion that JR-East might borrow equipment from JR-West, since they’re in the same country and share the same regulatory domain? Or did you want to continue with a Chewbacca Defense by mentioning HSR operators that do not share a common regulatory domain (eg, JR-East (Japan) is not in the same country or regulatory domain as RENFE (Spain) )?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It makes exactly as much sense and is exacly as likely for one of the CHSR operators to “borrow” equipment from some place in New Jersey as it does for BART to borrow trains from Boston or JR-East to borrow trains from Spain.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Aaaand we’re back trying to compare apples and oranges by way of bananas. BART has a different track gauge from pretty much anything else, and introducing it is nonsensical. JR-East and RENFE, as I said before, are in different countries and do not share a common regulatory domain, and continually introducing it is nonsensical.

    What I’m trying to get across to you is that having one consistent nationwide environment, in particular platform heights, makes equipment transfers possible. Under your scheme of ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’, each
    state, or worse each operator within a state, would be unable to share, borrow or lease equipment from other operators due to incompatible standards.

    The FRA may have its faults, and the process by which it got to some of its standards may be deeply flawed. But the existing FRA standards do make it easy for one operator, say Metrolink, to borrow equipment from another operator in a different state, say New Jersey. Obviously, the people in charge of Metrolink are pursuing a nonsensical approach by taking advantage of a shared regulatory domain and leasing 15 cars from New Jersey Transit in order to cover shortages while their new cars are being built. Lucky that under your scheme for non-FRA equipment, they won’t be able to do such silly activities.

    bleh Reply:

    @thatbruce:

    JR East Shinkansen aren’t compatible with JR Tokai/West (and now Kyushu) equipment.

    Nadia Reply:

    CARRD agrees completely. We have been advocating this to federal legislators for a while. HSR is a national project, as such, it would make sense to have national standards on things like platform heights, etc. (wouldn’t it make sense that all the trains could connect one day?). In addition, their should be national standards for things like Noise and Vibration that are acceptable. These standards should be driven by health and safety concerns for people and wildlife, etc.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you want a national standard then you are going to get the same platforms as the NEC. There’s billions of dollars of 48″ high platforms scattered all over the Northeast that woulds have to be replaced and thousands of cars.

    Peter Reply:

    I agree that replacing everything now would be impossibly expensive. However, for new systems, there’s no reason, other than excluding certain manufacturers (Talgo), why a single standard cannot be set and used.

    Peter Reply:

    There are national standards for noise and vibration. They just don’t place upper limits. My guess is that the FRA decided to let the states make their own judgment as to the acceptable noise levels in their jurisdiction.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    A California standard for non-FRA lines (= HSR, Caltrain, selected Metrolink lines) makes perfect sense.

    As I’ve said, I think the answer is a platform height in the range of 550 to 650mm and level boarding into all vehicles that run on the non-FRA California network. Others have other ideas. (They’re wrong, of course!)

    A national standard makes less than no sense.

    A California-wide standard that is dictated to by irrelevant Amtrak which in turn is dictated by freight (both completely irrationally in the case of CPUC 26-D and marginally rationally for some routes) makes less than no sense.

    Federal regulation of transit in general and rail transportation in particular has a record of being nearly all downside, enshrining obsolete engineering, lowest common denominator design, Not Invented Here, and crazy levels of unaccountable, non-amendable, inescapable bureaucracy with no redeeming upside.

    This is a new system, with no legacy compatibility issues (a tiny handful of Caltrain cars that are all going to be replaced in the next decade do not count) and no network compatibility issues (“connecting” “compatibly” with the freight/Amtrak network is the very first thing that should be avoided by anyone with a bring in his head. (Cue comment about the Peninsula Rail Program professional.))

    Joey Reply:

    Isn’t that about the range of the Bombardier bilevel’s lower floor? Wouldn’t it basically allow interoperability with a lot of legacy equipment anyway? (assuming of course that horizontal loading gauges match up). Not that it makes a huge difference.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    By coincidence, yes. The rough idea is that the lower floor of bilevel equipment can be a bit higher (= more design flexibility) in California than in the EU or Japan because we have the luxury of a specifying a taller loading gauge. Squeezing two levels into shorter trains results in lower floor levels at around 450mm, which means a step down from most platforms, and that height is problematic for low-floor single level trains (which is what Caltrain & Metrolink ought to be running on the shared track.)

    Pick a platform height that corresponds both to the lower floor height of double deck equipment (HSR or regional) and to the only floor height of single deck regional equipment. 550mm is proven and known to work for both cases, but, given a blank slate as we are in California, there seems no reason not to consider a little higher if that can allow some flexibility to vehicle design.

    Joey Reply:

    And I presume this would mean something like TGV Duplex equipment for HSR? Surprisingly, the TGV Duplex’s power/tonne is comparable to most EMUs…

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A little higher as in 760mm? Gives the designers another 210mm to work with under the train. May not matter much when it comes to wedging things in but would probably make cooling the things that get hot a bit easier and give the mechanics maintaining it an easier time.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    CARRD agrees completely. We have been advocating this to federal legislators for a while. HSR is a national project, as such, it would make sense to have national standards on things like platform heights, etc.

    Yep, FRA regulation has been so fantastic for Caltrain and Amtrak, we should do the same for high-speed rail too.

    (rolls eyes)

    Matthew Reply:

    Well, it seems that the federal government is creating some standards, but this seems to be designed more for legacy systems than true HSR style lines.

    http://www.masstransitmag.com/online/article.jsp?siteSection=3&id=12354

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    This makes about as much sense as the FAA designing airplanes for Boeing, or FCC telling Apple how to design computers.

    As Richard might say, “Where do they find these people?” 150,000 pound passenger cars, collision posts, primitive car frame construction, wheelchair lifts, no more than 5″ cant deficiency, double-crew requirement. Oh my.

  3. Missiondweller
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 09:29
    #3

    PA needs to make the same choice Berkeley made on BART: with elevated the default, are they willing to pay more to put it underground?

    PA may be the logical choice for a mid-peninsula station but if they don’t want it then locate it somewhere where they do want it. This is a fantastic opportunity for Redwood City and they should be vocal about their support.

  4. morris brown
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 09:34
    #4

    http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=18084

    Palo Alto mulls opposing high-speed rail project

    From this article:

    Klein said the city should formally declare that it has “no confidence” in the California High-Speed Rail Authority under the current process and with the current board of directors in place. He also said the city should begin lobbying the state legislature to halt the project.

    Klein’s proposal is a stunning turnaround for a council member who less than two years ago joined the council in passing a resolution that urged Palo Altans to support Proposition 1A, which authorized $9.95 billion for the rail line. Since then, the council’s enthusiasm for the rail line has gradually waned as members struggled to get answers from the rail authority or to exert influence over the project.

    Sometimes it takes a long time to see through the forest. Here Palo Alto Councilman Klein really has finally taken the right approach.

    Apparently the Palo Alto rail sub-committee will vote on this Thursday and it may proceed to full Palo Alto council shortly.

    morris brown

    Peter Reply:

    “struggled … to exert influence over the project”

    I don’t think they get to exert any more influence over the project than anyone else does. They get to participate in the environmental review process, but their interests do not take precedence over the State’s.

    Peter Reply:

    Assuming they get a veto power is pure civic arrogance.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They are very arrogant..

    thatbruce Reply:

    What exactly does Palo Alto want from CAHSR?

    mike Reply:

    Free money.

    Peter Reply:

    I’d like that, too. Am I going to get it?

    StevieB Reply:

    Palo Alto wants a tunnel that someone else pays for.

    StevieB Reply:

    At the CAHSR meeting Palo Alto asked for the Altamont Pass alignment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The time to ask for it was in 2002-2003.

    jimsf Reply:

    Morris, if you don’t get hsr then you won’t be able to have this station with a nice Westin Hotel on top. PA needs more hotels.

    jimsf Reply:

    station

  5. Andy M.
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 10:01
    #5

    Just tio play the devil’s advocate for onec. How bad is it not to have grade separation? In France and Germany there are many places where high speed trains run on tracks that are not grade separated. For safety reasons, these locations are speed restricted. The exact speed permitted may vary depending on conditions and risk evaluations. The whole advantage of a conventional wheel on rail HST versus something like a MAGLEV is that you can phase the construction and use legacy infrastructure where new lines either haven’t been built yet or never will be built. So if high speed trains had to switch to a conventional line for a bit, even if that might mean a bit of an operational bottleneck and come with a penalty in terms of journey times, that wouldn’t necessarily wreck the entire project, and could of course be addressed in a future phase.

    On a different matter. It need not always be the trains that must go underground or onto a bridge. In some cases it can be advantageous from an urbanist perspective to grade separate by moving cars underground. Several surface crossings can be consolidated into a smaller number of underpasses. This has the overall advantage that driving becomes less attractive and so contributes to more urbanism. Lightweight metal footbridges can assure the continuity of pedestrian flows and are pretty cheap to install and if designed nicely can even become urbanist features. All this may actually be cheaper than sticking rail underground and leaving the road status quo unchallenged.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think Palo Alto is anything near dense enough to justify underground diversion of roads. That’s only worthwhile when you are trying to reduce traffic on an overloaded section and you have nowhere else to place the relief road.

    I agree though that not constructing grade separations is not the end of the world. The municipality has to be willing to accept the consequences of not doing so: longer delays at grade crossings as number of trains increases, continuing horn noise, etc. I don’t see Palo Alto even broaching those issues.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Let’s face reality when you speak of grade separation you are almost certainly talking about aerials. Tunneling is prohibitively expensive and if trenching or road underpasses were really being mooted by PB-Bechtel there would be very little opposition as this approach was always the taken for granted during the many years of planning for the Caltrain upgrade and electrification.

    Aerials and an hsr station are bad for Palo Alto. Parking garages are inherently pedestrian hostile and lead to a mausoleum-like downtown. Aerials are a permanent linear slum. Palo Alto has been prospering, relatively in an extended recession, from an exurban, upscale, gentrified ambience and mindset. PB-Bechtel wants to brutalize it in the East Bay manner. All you will achieve is nimby-flight. It is natural of course that the local city manager types would be loath to run out the richie, trendy, academic gentry. This is the well-healed population that most towns want to attract and retain. They’ll leave when they see their place being trashed down to being just another part of greater San Jose.

    Aerials and berms are inherently linked in the popular mind to slums and ghettos. I was reminded of this recently while watching an Italian mystery on pbs, L’Ispettore Coliandro in Bologna. Any way in the episode the cops had to do an investigation in an impoverished, crime-ridden gypsy encampment. Guess where it was located – right under a berm with electrified high speed looking trains running atop. Of course, the trains were very noisy. The noise was probably dubbed but the point remains that even for film makers berms mit trains equate to slums.

    Peter Reply:

    So, my question is: What did the area look like before the berm was built? You can’t prove that the area became “worse” because of the berm. All that you can do is claim that the berm caused it. Without any facts to back you up. Isn’t that convenient for your theory.

    synonymouse Reply:

    There is no theory, just the observation that the average citizen reacts to aerials as hulking, dark, intimidating, scary.

    Trolls live under bridges. Unless the bums ran them out.

    Peter Reply:

    So you admit that you’re “arguing” solely based on anecdotal impressions?

    James Reply:

    This Troll under a bridge actually ran the bums out.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremont_Troll

    Peter Reply:

    Oh yes, the train station will be a true blight magnet.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Do you have a shot of the parking garage?

    Peter Reply:

    What parking garage? There’s no such thing in Germany.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Exactly.

    mike Reply:

    I don’t have a strong opinion on the mid-Peninsula stop location. But clearly putting thousands of parking spaces anywhere near downtown Palo Alto is guaranteed to turn the area into a blighted, crime-ridden urban zone.

    Or not.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Ah, you see those spaces are for god fearing upper class white people to go shopping at the mall on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Clearly HSR will bring all sorts of under class, poor, non -white people to Palo Alto.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Transbay Terminal redux.

    jimsf Reply:

    I like this one

    Peter Reply:

    Ironically, I just heard that a large truck jammed itself under the bridge for that station (Berlin-Zehlendorf) so violently that it heavily damaged the bridge and knocked the tracks out of alignment.

    StevieB Reply:

    You do realize that the gypsy camp was an imaginary creation. It was concieved by a set designer in a convenient location and was not an actual camp. Reality is much different from movies.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Of course, My point is that in the public imagination under aerials is where you go to get mugged or worse.

    PB-Bechtel’s jedi mind tricks(you love berms and the hsr)won’t work on the affluent, lawyered-up PCC. Hard to hustle a hustler.

    But screwed-over nimbys have nothing to lose in defeat and their minds will be made up negatively for good. Expect plenty of scorched earth and civil disobediance. Some very embarrassing press for Bechtel and the Pelosi machine.

    thatbruce Reply:

    For my mugging experience in a city well known for Aerial Rail Lines, I go to a Dark Alley where people aren’t around.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are in your imagination. An extreme example is the Loop in Chicago. Hardly a place to get mjugged etc.

    jimsf Reply:

    Transbay would be way to nice for PA. This is actually the proposed PA station ;-)

    Matthew Reply:

    And this is what office buildings look like, so we shouldn’t build any of these:
    http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/chiocciola/IMG_1722.JPG

    And this is what single family homes look like, so we shouldn’t build any of those:
    http://www.archinect.com/images/uploads/det04.jpg

    And this is what roads end up looking like, so I guess we shouldn’t invest in that:
    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/03/15/article-1258128-08B99A81000005DC-805_634x403.jpg

    In fact, I recommend we don’t make any infrastructure investments, because infrastructure = blight.

    Peter Reply:

    “Expect plenty of scorched earth and civil disobediance.”

    What, you mean the two or three people who will stand on the tracks to block construction so that they can be arrested? This situation is not anything similar to Stuttgart 21.

    Spokker Reply:

    I’m looking forward to the High Speed Rail Riots of 2012. Maybe they’ll find a contractor, pull him out of his tractor and smash his head in with a brick on live television.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    We could sit in front of all the naysayers homes!! or in their trees!!

    Spokker Reply:

    I’m not going to do anything. I’ve never protested anything and I’m not about to start. The only thing that happens at a protest is that you look like a fool.

    Now this civil disobedience thing is very intriguing. I’m curious just how far Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton residents will go to disrupt construction of this thing.

    I imagine that opening day is going to look like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJGRKtzKBv0

    Look, you gotta have passion for your cause.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    marching will be a 2way street in this battle…this is not some little condo builder that the regular PA ‘bullies’ get to beat up on..this is a major state wide project with large support ..they want to march ..so will HSR backers and tradesmen that will build this system..PA/MenloPark and that big mouth ViceMayors Burlingame …and in front of these deniers homes also!!

    JoeinSF Reply:

    “Aerials are a permanent linear slum.” Really? Like say, Rockridge or Walnut Creek?

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    This is not the first time someone here has mentioned the Rockridge BART. It is pretty clear that posters who use hold this as a good example have no clue what the “C-line” did to North Oakland, or perhaps they just never wander more than few feet from College Ave.

    The C-line was built in conjunction with the Caltrans SR-24 freeway project; i.e. double-whammy for neighbors. It literally is a Berlin Wall. For example, the North Hills neighborhood used to be connected to Montclair, but no more. In the MacArthur BART direction, Martin Luther King Ave was walled off, and is incredibly blighted today.

    Granted, problems were more the fault of Caltrans than BART. But one has to look elsewhere for example of good design practice.

    Peter Reply:

    Don’t call it a “Berlin Wall”. That’s pure arrogant hyperbole. Add razor wire, guard towers, booby traps and land mines, THEN you can compare it to the Berlin Wall.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Obviously you aren’t familiar with that part of Oakland. There’s a reason it is called Ghost Town.

    Peter Reply:

    Having actually lived in Berlin with the Wall, I can tell you from personal experience: THEY’RE NOT ALIKE IN ANY WAY. Like I said above, it’s pure arrogance. Have you watched actual escape attempts from oppression as they unfold, only to find out later that the escapee died in the attempt? I don’t think so.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Having actually lived in Berlin with the Wall, I can tell you from personal experience

    Give me a break.

    My family is from Eastern Europe and Russia. I’ve been behind the iron curtain during many occassions. Detente, Perestroika, and the darkest days of the Cold War. Believe me, I have plenty experience with the Evil Empire. Even with nuclear weapons and AK-47 machine guns, the commies were much less threatening than the average Oakland gang banger.

    Peter Reply:

    Ok, maybe I was a little over the top, my apologies. Nonetheless, you can’t argue that an area is “bad” area is bad because it has a freeway or rail line running through it. There are way more factors that go into that equation before you come out with a result of a dangerous neighborhood. You’re lacking a foundation to show that the “wall” is the cause of your effect (bad neighborhood).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Peter, among the working-class urban neighborhoods of the early 1950s, there’s an almost perfect correlation between becoming slums and having freeway construction through the neighborhood or. Equally, there’s an almost perfect correlation between maintaining a middle class and eventually gentrifying, and not having new neighborhood-splitting urban renewal projects.

    Peter Reply:

    I’m not saying that it wasn’t a major factor for many neighborhoods. But there are many other neighborhoods that did NOT turn to shit based on the construction of a freeway nearby. I’m saying it’s simply one of many factors to be considered. The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were a time of major social change in the U.S. They also happened to be prime time for freeway construction.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I say both Peter and Alon are right. There were a lot of other changes going on besides road construction. At the same time, a major highway really is not pleasant to live next to at all because of the continuous roar and constant dust. Those who can eventually leave; those who stay eventually die, and their houses wind up being purchased for rental property (at least that’s what used to happen), and the downward spiral starts; no one lives next to a freeway, especially one on bridges, if they can avoid it, because of the noise.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a rail enthusiast, but trains are much, much less intrusive. Most of this is because the traffic frequency is much less than that of a highway; there is no noise unless a train is present. Granted, we are not talking about BART rush-hour frequencies, but a railroad just lays quietly between trains. Overall sound quality, what a musician would call “timbre,” the effect of a sound that identifies it as a piano or a violin (or a train or an airplane), is not as unpleasant with trains as it is for jet aircraft and highway traffic, particularly large trucks and some souped up cars that sound like “blaat” or “blurrt,” or two-cycle motorcycle engines that sound like “wi i i ing, ng, ng, ng, ng, wii ii ii ii ii ng, wii ii ii ii ii ng ng. . .”

    Prejudice alert–steam trains are most melodic by comparison. . .

    This seems to have been confirmed in Shepherdstown, W.Va., by a real estate agent there who was selling property in a relatively new development there. Part of this was next to a freight railroad, and the first part to sell was the section next to the tracks. She granted that one or two rail enthusiasts had made this deliberate choice, but the rest knew trains didn’t make as much noise as a major highway–and this section was as far from the local two-lane road as you could get.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I think there are two differences between elevated urban railways and elevated highways. First, elevated highways are usually much wider, creating more visual impact. And second, elevated highways often come together with infrastructure for onramps and offramps, which make the area less walkable; elevated train stations are the opposite, coming with infrastructure for pedestrian access.

    The one elevated road I know that’s relatively narrow and doesn’t interfere with pedestrian access below – the segment of Riverside Drive in Manhattan bridging 125th Street – does not cause blight.

    Spokker Reply:

    It has more to do with concentrated poverty than elevated structures of any kind.

    Unless the Peninsula has a Richmond or an Oakland nearby, an elevated structure will not have much of an impact.

    Peter Reply:

    It’s not as if large numbers of homeless people would be a new thing in Menlo Park, for example, anyway. They just don’t sleep under a freeway.

    jimsf Reply:

    It has more to do with concentrated poverty. ( btw PA does have East PA nearby, but I serioiusly doubt people in East PA are going to run over to PA and MP to sleep under railroad tracks)
    The draw for “homeless” has more to do with services offered in a community.
    And its true the poverty near the older freeways wasn’t caused by the freeways it was probably more of a coincidence. Freeways were built to from and through the older suburbs/job centers, the industrial ones, ships yards for instance, when those industries went away the poverty came to those neighborhoods. Meanwhile, when the new suburbs grew, people who could afford it, moved to the new areas, and left the rest of the folks, and the older freeways, behind. You see this all over california where every city that has had high crime and poverty was once a ship building community, – count em, long beach, oakland, richmond, hunters point -sf, and east pa, pittsburg ca, and vallejo.

    JoeinSF Reply:

    I was’t really defending the freeway and BART line through Oakland as designed, but trying to make the point that an elevated structure doesn’t necessarily mean that an exisitng affluent community will become a blighted slum overrun by all sorts of social ills. In Rockridge which many Bay Area residents are familiar with, the BART station brings people to the neighborhood to commute but they stay to shop, and also brings visitors. While the aerial structure represents a border between the two sides of Rockridge (basically Berkeley and Oakland) it isn’t a barrier. And at other points, say at Claremont Ave., there is a well-used park and play area that mothers with young childern use. The design of the structure is pretty poor but the community is strong and creative. What CAHSRA needs is to get creative and come up with some designs for aerial structures and berms that can become assets for the community. If you are coming from a point of view that infrastructure is a dirty disgusting thing and should be hidden then this won’t make sense but the HSR Authority needs to counter that with some smart design.

    jimsf Reply:

    ^its true. I take bart from civic to rockridge because zachs pizza is down the street.

    Matthew Reply:

    OK, Back to the original topic of grade separated crossings. Here are some pictures from Germany of street level crossings:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/oberau-online/3493341787/
    http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/rM1cbjud8cYehP94AYGSpw
    I suspect the second one is a slow crossing indeed. At any rate, the trains don’t have to honk their horns at grade crossings (at least protected crossings) in Germany, which makes the whole idea less intrusive, provided people have the tiniest grain of common sense and don’t ignore traffic signals and gates. I’ve only seen this in the countryside, though, and never in a built up area. I don’t know if anyone has any counterexamples. This wouldn’t be my design choice on the peninsula or in the LA basin.

    Peter Reply:

    The first picture is of Oberau. Oberau is, according to the german-language wikipedia, the smallest town in Germany with an ICE stop (population 3000). It’s on the ICE line from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. According to the german wikipedia entry on the ICE, it’s located on a “slow-speed” section, top speed 160 km/h. Looking at the alignment through town, it’s quite windy, so top speed would be quite limited here, as well.

    Reality Check Reply:

    The second photo appears to be a secondary or tertiary bit of track off the main line; perhaps a turning loop or infrequently used spur/connector track. Certainly not seen by ICEs (or probably any other passenger train) in regular revenue service.

    Matthew Reply:

    There are a few at grade crossings pictured on this page: http://www.eriksmail.de/dbbr401neu2.html
    The ones above are just what I could find without too much searching (try keywords “Bahnübergang ICE”). There’s one grade crossing I remember in particular, I think between Frankfurt and Mannheim. It was a Landstraße (certain class of road in Germany), and there were usually about 10-15 cars waiting every time I went by (regularly for several years). I’m not sure of the exact speed of the train at the crossing, but I would guess well over 150 km/h, and perhaps more like 200. The majority of crossings on the ICE network in Germany are grade separated, but there certainly are some that are not. Like I said, I don’t know of any that are in any reasonably sized city, and I think it would be a horrible design choice in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Maybe it would be OK in Atherton, though ;-)

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    What stands out for me is not just a grade crossing or two, but the lack of fencing to keep people off the tracks.

    Overall, the photos look very much like Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania. This is the former Pennsylvania Railroad line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Of note are a station built in the 1880s, with train shed, still in use in Harrisburg, a sweet-smelling Mars candy factory in Elizabethtown, and buggy-driving Amish people in Lancaster County. Also in Lancaster County is the steam-powered Strasburg Rail Road, which has a working interchange at Paradise. This interchange is currently freight only, but there have been proposals to build a new station there, and have Amtrak passengers connect with Strasburg’s steam trains, which use open-platform wooden cars. Talk about a time warp!

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=300904&nseq=1

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=75803&nseq=5

    http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=253207&nseq=23

    http://www.hmdb.org/Photos/19/Photo19986.jpg

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_mEI30LxsiNw/Sjw-N8YvJQI/AAAAAAAABKI/-Y9qETB_wbw/s400/April+24+002.JPG

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wrightfamilyarchives/2837936761/in/set-72157606930058213/

    Brief Harrisburg slide show.

    http://www.igougo.com/attractions-reviews-b335888-Harrisburg-Harrisburg_Amtrak_Station.html

    Oh, and further east, towards the Philadelphia end, this same line (recently upgraded to 110 mph operation) runs through what is called the “Main Line” suburbs of Philadelphia, likely the toniest section of that city; the “Paoli Local” was and remains a tradition for moneybags commuters there.

    thatbruce Reply:

    An example from the Netherlands (Zaanstad) shows both a grade crossing on a busy regional road, and a rail overpass over the same road. The bicycle paths to each side also have lights and gates. The line crossing the road connects Hoorn and Enkhuizen to Amsterdam, and runs on a half-hour schedule.

    Another, this time in Hilversum. The satellite view shows 4 tracks with quadrant gates, complete with vertical hangers to stop people from ducking under the booms. As a result of trains crossing this every 5 minutes at peak, including the occasional DB service, this crossing appears to have been replaced with a subway in the street view.

    Just to the north in Naarden-Bussen, the same set of 4 tracks has an at-grade crossing with just two simple boom gates to stop people intruding onto the tracks. Only local trains stop at this station, and the speed of the express Koploper crossing the road is 80 to 100km/hr

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I shouldn’t say it, but appearance wise, the Koploper, to my eyes, is horrible.

    A more interesting design was the ETR 300, the once-famous “Settebello” of Italy. One of its notable features was that its motorman ran the set from an elevated position, while passengers could occupy a lounge below him, complete with expansive end windows. I understand this thing set speed records, even on the notoriously winding tracks of the Italian State Railway system.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlXjxpyhcfk&feature=related

    An indication of how behind we have been is that these early fast trains have been retired for some time now, as the following clip indicates at the end, passing an out-of-service and graffitied ETR 300:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyAZo1I-Xjg&feature=related

    I would not normally put a model train video clip here, but this is all I could find to show an ETR 300 in its original green colors:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7uZR9_CvSU&feature=related

    A much more interesting equipment set than the Dutch job, or a lot of other things, too. Of course, you have to remember I’m retro enough to be a big steam locomotive fan. And I’m not certain we would still want that spectacular end lounge on a line with grade crossings!

    Enjoy anyway, even if, like me, you don’t speak Italian. . .

    Peter Reply:

    Nahh, Trans Europ Express VT601/VT11.5. Including custom soundtrack.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Man, what a nose, I keep thinking of the charicatures of the late Jimmy Durnante.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p5erN2_4gU

    As to the music–well, I didn’t think much of the 70s when I was living in them. This included the clothes of the time, with a notable excpetion–the maxi-skirt. Following skirts that got shorter and shorter until they could get no shorter, the designers had to do something different–so they went very long, clear to the floor, a return in a way to the 19th century. I liked’em, I thought they were graceful–but most guys didn’t. I guess they preferred to see skin. The current styles seem to have gone in this direction.

    My mother (when she was alive) and brothers would tell me I’m something of a romantic.

    I’ve had at least two other people tell me I live in the wrong time; it’s one thing to feel it, as many do, but it’s another to have others tell you so!

    I’m also a big steam train fan, so that fits.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DB_Class_VT_11.5

    http://www.dbtrains.com/en/trainsets/epochIII/VT11.5

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_Europ_Express

    Enjoy.

    Peter Reply:

    I don’t think that was 70s music. More like late 1990s German Techno.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, maybe 1980s. Sounds a lot like the soundtrack to Das Boot.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Took a look around, the band is even older than I thought, goes back to 1970, and is still performing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraftwerk

    http://www.kraftwerk.com/

    http://www.bing.com/music/albums/search?q=kraftwerk&FORM=DTPMUA

    I think I’ll stay with my bluegrass, old-time country, and big band music. . .

    Peter Reply:

    Yeah, I saw that last night.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Gee, after looking at the comments from Palo Alto today, I figure we can use something a bit lighter, like another dose of retro-electro-techno music and a high speed train–note I did not say rail! Actually, this “Aerotrain” was a French proposal for high-speed ground transport using guided air cushion vehicles. The project was dropped as conventional high-speed rail began to prove itself, which the French followed through in the TGV.

    For now, though, check out the footage of what was seen as a possible alternative future.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ysj8UcKOR8

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%A9rotrain

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU_xXw2_1-U&feature=related

    thatbruce Reply:

    I shouldn’t say it, but appearance wise, the Koploper, to my eyes, is horrible.

    It’s certainly not the prettiest thing the NS runs, but it is (well, up until they closed off the end doors as part of their refit in 2005/2006) one of the more functional in terms of allowing passengers to walk between connected sets, and still having a modicum of streamlining.

    If you stay out of the pointy nose HSR trains that they run (Thalys, ICE), probably the VIRM look prettier.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    In France I’ve never seen at-grade crossings in urbanized zones or on any road with notable traffic. They still exist on country roads with very low traffic and, paradoxically, their lonely location makes them deadly. The absence of traffic encourages drivers to do things (like going around barriers) they would never do if other people could see them.
    The government thinks installing cameras recording infringements will solve the problem.

    Since at-grade crossings are on secondary lines with top speeds around 160km/h (100mph), trains don’t slow down for them. They don’t routinely blow their horn.

  6. JoeinSF
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 22:36
    #6

    I guess if I had bought a house near an active rail line (in existance for over a century), and that line had 90 diesel trains (that removed thousands of cars from highways each day), with each train blowing its horn loudly while approaching each of the several grade crossings, which are protected by loud clanging bells, and gates that close the streets for a couple of cumulative hours each day, and to boot had tragically become a teenage suicide magnet, and this grade-level line was going to be replaced with an elevated railroad that eliminated the diesel fumes and noise, bells and horns, closed streets and vastly reduced the suicide factor, plus would improve both local and intercity transportaion near my house, I would say “YES PLEASE!”

    Spokker Reply:

    I am for teenagers committing suicide, but all the other things you mentioned sound like pretty good benefits. I’ll take it!

  7. StevieB
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 23:58
    #7

    Going through a few back issues of Palo Alto Online I see that presentations were made by a local architect of what a retained fill structure might look like. Architect McFall presentation. A retained fill structure is an imposing wall seperating the city but this design has been eliminated and only a trench or structure has been carried forward in Palo Alto. Another video I found shows possible HSR design options in Palo Alto. California High Speed Trains: Alma Street, Palo Alto.

    This video clearly shows the difference between the wall of the retained fill design and the structure on pylons. The structure is much more open underneath allowing pedestrian or bicycle paths. I much better understand the residents reference to a dividing wall after seeing how they have been misled after being presented this depiction of an eliminated design.

    Spokker Reply:

    Misled how?

    By the way, many still feel the elevated structure will divide the town, one critic going so far to say that it’ll be a psychological barrier.

    Also, at-grade tracks also separate the city and it’s doing that today.

    Joey Reply:

    Note, however, that elevated structures (as opposed to retained fill) don’t absorb noise and vibrations as well.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    You do realize that the video was produced by the high speed rail authority?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Are they not supposed to? Or are they then only “dishonest’ all the time? that what I get tired of hearing from people along the route that everthing is always wrong when its not…BTW check out the link below..I suppose this is not nice enough for our towns

    Peter Reply:

    You do realize that the McFall video was produced by an opponent to the project, intentionally made to look as unpleasant as possible? Berm is completely out of context to the surroundings, catenary wiring placed unrealistically dense, no trees, etc?

    Matthew Reply:

    It seems the difference between the two videos is that the CAHSR version has landscaping while the McFall one intentionally does not (I say intentionally, because the architect spent enough time to put dozens of people and cars in the environment, but not a single tree). While it isn’t common for cities to have as much landscaping as is shown in the CAHSR video, for orders of magnitude less than the additional cost of a trench, they could make the whole ROW look like a jungle.

    StevieB Reply:

    The McFall video is an adaquate depiction of a retained fill design but that design has been ruled out for Palo Alto.

    Peter Reply:

    Perhaps technically adequate, but now definitely outdated.

    Peter Reply:

    And do you dispute its accuracy? And if so, on what basis?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You do realize that the viaduct itself will be built by the HSR Authority? This is only one short leg of Stage One … they do have an incentive to build viaducts that can be used down the track as counterpropaganda against “all viaducts bad” propaganda.

    Indeed, a sincere “Build It Right” coalition would embrace a viaduct in a central town area that was done right. Its a rare thing for a smaller town center in the US to get an opportunity for more walkable development and more off street parking at one and the same time.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The “Build it Right” theme is a sort of gradualist dissent that will not work for the PCC, et al.

    The primary foamer argument against any one who dares to question the holy hsr writ of PB-Bechtel is that a handful of nimbys is trying to overrule the majority of Californians. Thus the only effective recourse available to the opposition is to swallow the liberal reluctance and unite with the downstate and rural conservatives and collect enough signatures to get a revote on the ballot.

    If the Peninsula nimbys are not unhappy enough to go statewide they are doomed to defeat, even tho it will prove to be a very ugly and acrimonious victory for Bechtel.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    It depends on how you define defeat and victory.

    For the nimby’s that are worried about property values, they lose if they win and visa versa: for real property values, having access to oil-independent transport is far more important for property values in places like Palo Alto in the decade ahead than whether or not there are high speed trains running on a viaduct in the middle of town.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … the thing is that clean quiet and fast electric trains connecting suburbs to other suburbs and the big city make property values go up. Even smell noisy slow diesel trains make the property values go up…

  8. Mike Connor
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 00:14
    #8

    There is another possible scenario
    2010 Meg Whitman gets elected in November and kills the High Speed Rail project
    2012-2013 Caltrain runs out of public fund and declare bankruptcy
    2015 Bankruptcy court auctions out the Clatrain right-of-way
    2016 A private equity group buys the right-of-way
    2017 Atherton, Melno-Park and possibly Palo Alto agree to rezone the right-of-way for commercial and residential real estate development
    2020 The rest of the peninsula cities follow suit rezoning the entire right of way for development
    2020-2025 hundreds of thousands of construction jobs are created to build up the former right of way as a commercial/residential area
    2025 The former right-of-way becomes the most trendy area in the peninsula

    thatbruce Reply:

    You’re forgetting a few other dates/events to go along with your scenario:
    2014: Congestion on CA-101 starts occurring for longer.
    2015: Congestion on I-280 starts occurring more regularly.
    2017: Atherton, Menlo-Park and Palo Alto make attempts to stop vehicles driving on surface streets to avoid traffic jams on CA-101, investigating large-scale gated communities and/or congestion charging (residents exempt).
    2020: Peninsula Cities suffer land resumptions along the CA-101 and Central Expressway corridors to widen them.
    2020-2025: Hundreds of thousands of construction jobs are created to widen CA-101, Central Expressway and I-280.
    2030: Congestion on the Peninsula starts to rival that in LA.

    I’m not sure about the predicted trendiness of the entire right-of-way in 2025. Problem there is that trendiness is usually centered around a specific location which is easily walkable; not a narrow strip of land stretching for further than most yuppies are capable of walking in a day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A much more likely scenario is that BART finally makes its Ring-the-Bay move and promises the PCC they can have double track subway if they can secure the extra funding, ala Berkeley. HSR is kaput and the UPRR stays on the surface for the time being.

    Spokker Reply:

    2050: The Peninsula becomes a Mad Max style war zone as residents fight to reclaim what little is left of habitable suburbia.

    Peter Reply:

    I’d buy tickets to watch that.

    Spokker Reply:

    The rest of us will be dead already.

  9. EXCEAR
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 00:48
    #9

    They should really, really, really, REALLY develop the ground plane on the elevated structures along the Peninsula. I.E. Infill retail below the viaducts, particularly near stations, and maybe even housing elsewhere. You make use of valuable otherwise unused space below the tracks.

    Here is a good example: the Viaduc des Arts in Paris, France
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=48.845613,2.379184&spn=0,0.006866&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=48.845613,2.379184&cbp=12,0,,0,5&photoid=po-14553249

    Mike Connor Reply:

    Who would want to live below a speeding train wake up at night every 10 min!

    Reality Check Reply:

    @EXCEAR, I had a look and if you zoom out from this nice street view, you will see there are no tracks or catenary up on top of this viaduct, however.

    Peter Reply:

    Berlin has the same types of viaducts. With shops in the arches. With six tracks above them. With four tracks worth of catenary systems, plus two tracks of third-rail.

    Matthew Reply:

    Here’s a train viaduct in Berlin that has tracks and catenary on top. There are countless high speed trains, inter city trains, commuter trains, etc. using this viaduct. Sorry, “Reality Check,” but train viaduct doesn’t equal doom and gloom.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=52.522735,13.401622&spn=0.001379,0.002122&t=h&z=19&lci=com.panoramio.all&layer=c&cbll=52.522735,13.401622&cbp=12,0,,0,5&photoid=po-17927431

    rafael Reply:

    The snag here is that masonry structures aren’t earthquake safe. I suppose you could build a regular aerial concealed by fake masonry facades and arches, but those would look completely out of place in California. I very much agree that the space underneath any tall aerials in the SF peninsula should be made available for productive use, but the architectural/civil engineering solution would have to be aesthetically compatible with architectural styles common in the area and also comply with seismic codes. Not a trivial task.

    Note that aerials also give local road planners the freedom to relocate crossing points or, to add new ones where appropriate (especially dedicated ped/bike crossings). Neighborhoods that have long been separated by the railroad can be connected or re-connected. Vehicle speeds on legacy frontage roads can be reduced by adding new intersections, if that is desired. Etc.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Looks to me like the architect bought a copy of “The Delaware Lackawanna and Western’s Reinforced Concrete Structures” and came up with this:

    http://www.menlopark.org/departments/eng/GradeSeparationSupplement.pdf

    Peter Reply:

    Note page 3 of the document: Despite what Morris Brown has claimed, these options were considered by the Menlo Park City Council. They may not have acted on them, but they knew about them. They even asked for greater detail on the at-grade and split-grade options (the second of which would have meant the ever-dreaded BERM.

    morris brown Reply:

    I don’t understand your saying despite what I claimed ….
    A study was done, presented to council and no action taken. About $500K down the drain.

    Menlo Park loves to do studies. Menlo Park does things like charettes, great political
    theater, but nothing useful seems to result.

    dave Reply:

    Why did they not just recommend the “Split” option in this study?? It seems to have the four tracks proposed for HSR and it doesn’t look half as bad as most people think? Plus it was already looked at (I presume) by Menlo Park.

    Peter Reply:

    I still think the split-grade option was the best compromise. Now they’ll get an aerial. That’s what happens when you take an unreasonable hard line.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What sort of “compromise” is that supposed to be?
    More property impacts.
    Far worse pedestrian environment.
    Worse stations.
    Fewer road crossings for the same expense.

    Raising the tracks as far as necessary (but no further; have real engineers not half-wits concrete obsessives do this strange foreign thingcalled “design”) and leaving the roads and through pedestrian routes level works best in every way from every perspective.

    Peter Reply:

    Less property impacts from not having to build full-blown underpasses.
    Less visual impacts.
    Likely less noise due to better noise dampening on retained fill berms.

    That’s the compromise. Sorry that you apparently don’t understand what a compromise is. It’s your way or the highway, isn’t it?

    StevieB Reply:

    A split grade option has potentially more impact to surrounding properties because of the wider footprint. The depressed areas impact adjacent properties farther from the elevated right of way. There is potential for the depressions to impact side streets. Split grades are not a catholic solution.

    Peter Reply:

    Compromise: “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things ”

    The main issues are: ROW width (how much is required in terms of property acquisitions), noise and vibration, visual impacts, parcel access, and traffic circulation.

    A split grade would offer a number of compromises:

    Compared to aerial, it would have a slightly wider cross-section, therefore slightly more ROW required than an aerial. It would have better noise and vibration dampening than an aerial. It would have greater impacts in terms of parcels having decreased access to the roads, but less than if built at-grade. It would have a lot less of a visual impact than an aerial.

    Like I said, it’s a compromise, not a perfect solution. We (including the people on the Peninsula) need to come to a reasonable compromise.

    Matthew Reply:

    Rafael, it wouldn’t have to be masonry. The same basic urban design principles can be implemented with many different kinds of materials.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    There used to be a railway ending at la Bastille station. The station has now been replaced with an opera house. The tracks have gone and have been replaced by an elevated garden, with trees and fountains called “la promenade plantée”. The arcades underneath are mostly occupied by art shops and bars. The Viaduc des Arts attracts art lovers from all over Europe.
    Supposing vegetation were kept on the sides of the viaduct and trains ran behind it, you would hardly see or hear them. Of course, building that type of viaduct is unthinkable nowadays. Labor was cheap in the 1850s.

    EXCEAR Reply:

    I visited the viaduct in Spring 2007, walked on top and visited the shops below. It was awesome, fit in perfectly with the urbanism of that part of the city, and provided an enclave of park space above city streets (like the High Line in NYC).

    Although the same viaduct cannot (and should not) be replicated along the SF Peninsula, there is no reason why the same urban design principles cannot be applied to a contemporary beam and column viaduct. With four tracks, that would be ample space to develop retail or restaurants, with plenty of landscaping and trees along the walkways.

    The best part: CHSR gets a consistent yearly return on its investment in the form of rents. Over time this would slowly pay off a small, but still significant, portion of the capital cost. You get quality urbanism with the package, and retail near stations get plenty of foot traffic. I say, win-win.

    With careful design (sound proofing, vibration proofing, etc), you might even add residential into the mix). I hope someone does a market analysis on this. Take that, NIMBYs!

    EXCEAR Reply:

    I am still confused as to why people make such a big deal out of catenary.

    CHSR catenary is NOT going to be catenary like we see along the NEC. That was built in the early 20th century and technology has allowed slim poles to supersede the massive towers.

    There are still telephone and powerline towers all over the peninsula. On neighborhood streets! Why aren’t people making a big fuss out of those? What about street lamps? Those are taller than catenary poles, many are dingy or rusted, and some don’t even work. Should we remove these because they obstruct a view?

    What about signal poles on the railway? Are those also eyesores? Like traffic lights?

    This really is a non-issue. Plus, catenary = no more diesel fumes and loud diesel trains.

    Peter Reply:

    From Clem’s blog, courtesy of adirondacker12800.

    The anti-catenary arguments are basically as disingenuous as they can get.

    Evan Reply:

    In some places, they’ve even built OVER the viaducts. Been to NY recently? You might have seen the Standard Hotel, built over the High Line:

    http://www.furnitureseen.com/blog/index.php/2009/08/25/the-standard-hotel-high-line-park/

    Not an active rail line, so not a completely fair comparison, but still an idea to keep in mind.

  10. dave
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 14:02
    #10

    CHSRA meetings in progress:

    http://stateofcalifornia.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4

    dave Reply:

    Click view event to watch.

    Peter Reply:

    Wow, lay persons discussing CEQA law are entertaining.

    Spokker Reply:

    Any highlights for those of us that can’t watch?

    StevieB Reply:

    Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission favor approval of the Bay Area to Central Valley High‐Speed Train Revised Final Program Environmental Impact Report. Several cities in the peninsula are opposed.

    Peter Reply:

    Same old bs: Ridership studies are faulty, Altamont is better, blablabla. Transdef insinuated that they would sue because all of the same issues they brought up in their comments to the first EIR are have never been addressed, and the same weaknesses exist in the revised EIR. I liked the lady who stated that the EIR was in violation of AB 3034 because it didn’t discuss the impacts of building to Oakland.

    StevieB Reply:

    Did you like the arguement that the EIR is flawed because it did not address the outcome of UP opposing the use of the Caltrain right of way?

    Peter Reply:

    You mean given the fact that UPRR has not complained about trains using ROW that is not owned by UPRR?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    What about the part where the HSRA staff reports that UP continues to hold firm to its earlier position.

    “Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) sent a letter dated September 1st, 2010 to the
    Authority restating that all their comments and objections submitted to the Authority
    to-date still stand.”

    Peter Reply:

    But UPRR never complained about HSR using the Caltrain corridor on JPB property. South of Lick, HSR is not planning on using UPRR property.

  11. HSRforCali
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 21:14
    #11

    LOL!!!

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/01/EDLB1F72TD.DTL#

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    What struck me most silly about this were the comments that moving dirt didn’t pay well (gee, that’s most of what you do to build a road), that terrorists couldn’t shut down an air system (wow, I wonder what happened to all those airplanes in the days of the middle of September in 2001?), and that even the rails would be made in Europe or Japan (hey, where do the freight roads buy their steel?)

    Darn it, it looks like we still have a long, hard slog ahead of us. . .although I wonder how old the writer is, could we be seeing the generational factor again?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Alain Enthoven was born in 1930, which makes him 80, in the cars-are-the-future demographic (current age range 60 to 90);

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Enthoven

    Couldn’t find much on William Grindley, but he did “retire” from a company call Pacific Strategies in 2006, so I would be inclined to say he is over 60.

    http://www.svrt.org/meeting.php/id/172/

    How do they do it? These people (including Wendell Cox and Randall O’Toole) get paid good money to tell lies and be bad guys, while we’re good for nothing. . .for some reason, that doesn’t sound quite right. . .(with apologies to Red Skelton). . .

    Alon Levy Reply:

    On the other hand, Donald Shoup got his bachelor’s in 1961, which would make him 71.

  12. YesonHSR
    Sep 2nd, 2010 at 08:59
    #12

    They are….NIMBYS!! they live near the tracks!! read the comments about their rant..Im so sick of these people and made up BS covering up their real objective…NoInMyBackYard

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