CA4HSR Mobilizes Peninsula HSR Supporters for a “Peninsula Reset”

Sep 13th, 2010 | Posted by

Last month the San Mateo County Times reported on a poll showing large majorities of voters in the mid-Peninsula cities, including Menlo Park and Palo Alto, still supported the high speed rail project. That came as no surprise, given the fact that 60% of voters in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties approved Prop 1A back in November 2008.

But as most of you that have been following the HSR project are aware, a small but vocal group of opponents on the Peninsula have been fighting against the project for a long time, even before voters approved it in November 2008. In 2009 and 2010 they began to gain traction with several city councils, got the Peninsula Cities Consortium to pass an “our way or nothing” resolution, and even have gotten cities such as Palo Alto and Menlo Park to consider passing resolutions of no confidence or even outright opposition to the HSR project – in defiance of the fact that most of their constituents still want HSR to be built.

We know that the squeaky wheels get the grease. It’s easier to show up to a city council meeting when you’re motivated by fear and misunderstanding than to say “good job, let’s keep moving.” But now is the time for the silent majority to make their voices heard. It’s time that the Peninsula’s local leadership heard from their constituents who still want HSR, who are tired of having their voices shouted down by project opponents or ignored by their elected officials.

That’s why Californians For High Speed Rail is today launching an organizing effort to give voice to that silent majority. We’re submitting a letter to each and every city council along the proposed HSR route in San Mateo and northern Santa Clara Counties asking them to take a constructive approach to planning the HSR project, to step back from “our way or nothing” approaches and statements, and to make sure they include the voices and opinions of HSR supporters in their decision-making.

You can add your name to the letter by clicking here. Select the city in which you live and a letter appropriate to that city’s position will come up. If you don’t live on the Peninsula but still want to take action, you can add your name too, but be sure to mention that you are NOT a resident of that city. For all letters, we ask that you take a respectful and positive tone – remember Aesop’s fable of the wind and the sun from last night’s episode of Mad Men.

These letters are just one piece of our overall strategy. CA4HSR is not just calling on these cities to be more constructive – we’re also offering a road map for a “Peninsula Reset” in this open letter to the Peninsula city councils:

CA4HSR Open Letter to Peninsula Cities

And here’s some quotes from our press release:

Californians For High Speed Rail (CA4HSR) Calls for a “Peninsula Reset” in Light of Poll Showing Widespread Public Support for High Speed Rail Project

Appeals to Peninsula City Officials, CAHSR Authority, Political Representatives and Residents to Seek Win-Win Solutions

San Francisco, CA and Menlo Park, September 13, 2010 – In light of new evidence of widespread public support for the California High-Speed Rail project, Californians For High Speed Rail (CA4HSR), a statewide grassroots coalition of high speed rail supporters, today, in an open letter, called on the Peninsula Cities Coalition (PCC) and other Peninsula cities to join Caltrain, the California High Speed Rail Authority, political representatives and members of the public in a “Peninsula Reset” of the implementation for the high- speed rail project.

“With clear majorities on the Peninsula and across the state in favor of California’s high speed rail network, combined with the economic, health, and environmental benefits it will bring to the area, the attitude of building it our way or not at all is not acceptable,” said Brian Stanke, Executive Director of Californians For High Speed Rail. “We believe that with all parties being constructive, solutions will arise to allow the project to proceed in a win-win fashion. Although we respect the desire of the PCC and other Peninsula cities to ensure the HSR project is built in a way that is sensitive to their communities, some city officials have gone too far in their public rhetoric regarding the project, by threatening to hold the project hostage to their particular demands.”

The San Mateo County Times recently reported on a poll conducted in the 21st Assembly District located along the Peninsula. It showed 77 percent of Democratic and independent voters taking part in the Democratic primary still support the high speed rail project. Those voters represent 70 percent of the overall electorate in the 21st Assembly District, indicating that even if every Republican voter opposed the HSR project, a clear majority of all voters would still support it. The poll was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Mullin and Metz for a candidate in the 21st Assembly District primary in April 2010.

“I’m not surprised that so many of my fellow Peninsula residents still support the HSR project,” said Bianca Walser, Board Member of CA4HSR and a resident of Menlo Park. “We understand that our communities will be made more sustainable, more livable, and given a higher quality of life once we can silence the train horns, reduce traffic at cross guards, and make a safer rail corridor for pedestrians through the Caltrain/HSR project. I hope that my city’s leadership and others along the route will improve their outreach to project supporters, and ensure that our voices are an integral part of the planning process going forward.”

This is just the first step in mobilizing HSR supporters on the Peninsula to let their local officials know they expect HSR to be built. We’re also going to roll out a similar action for other cities along the proposed HSR route in the coming weeks.

There’s no doubt that the process of building a major project like HSR can be difficult and contentious. But that shouldn’t mean the voice of the people is left out of the discussion. We know that Peninsula residents still want HSR built. It’s time all their local elected officials started reflecting that position. For those that have always done so, they are receiving thanks today. For those that have not, they’re being gently but firmly reminded of their obligations to their constituents. Let’s hope that they get the message.

  1. nobody important
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 14:09


    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    Now if they can do the same thing in CA, it would definitely help out with building support for the project and not to mention the free press and marketing for HSR.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I would expect that to happen at some point soon (and I’m not saying that with any knowledge of actual plans to do so, just my speculation).

    Eric M Reply:

    Bring that bad boy out here too so people can have a peek at one that have never seen one in person!!

    Peter Reply:

    Combine it with Caltrain bringing in some Bilevel commuter EMUs similar to what they are considering purchasing.

    Reality Check Reply:

    I rode the ICE-1 demo train on the Caltrain line from SF down to Salinas and back in August of 1993.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Oh, and then my father later just happened to spot the same ICE trainset while gallivanting about Germany. He said he knew it was the one, because the outline of the Amtrak sticker applied for the US tour was still visible on the nose.

    nobody important Reply:

    Florida’s choice of rolling stock and contractors may very well affect California’s decisions too.

  2. Richard Mlynarik
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 14:21

    Ah yes. The Silent Majority. You’re in fine company there.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Well, he’s basically saying, “Come on, stop being silent, prove you exist”. Which is a little different from Tricky Dick.

    The usual problem with “silent majority” claims is that they are usually unprovable, because the majority is silent *by definition*. If you claim that the majority is merely quiet, but can be convinced to be loud, then you have a testable hypothesis. If nobody signs the letter, then there’s probably no “silent majority” to be activated; if several dozen do, well that’s more than the number who raised up all the opposition.

    Matthew Reply:

    I think everyone knows what the phrase refers to….

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I am from Orange County, after all…

  3. Victor
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 14:31

    I wonder what Menlo Park’s and Palo Alto’s response to this was? Besides the shredder of course.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They’ll take this fairly seriously, I think.

    StevieB Reply:

    Elected officials show a strong response to what may cost them votes. Their sense of self preservation is very strong and if a good number of voters show support for a position they will act for fear of not being reelected. Send them mail and they will waver in their positions. Send more mail and they will acquiesce.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Oh, I’m sure their City Council members will be real eager to go after the Monterey vote.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The need to listen to the majorty..instead of the local fearmongers and stop reacting to the local medias circus side show act on HSR..I glad CA4HSR sent this and I wish for more of this in the local bay area media ..including letters in the papers just like the deniers always seem to have printed

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    “They need to listen” or you need for them to? What they need to do is protect their cities’ interests. That’s what they’ve been elected to do. It’s a complex task which could include or not include promoting HSR, but certainly it includes how the tracks are designed through their communities. For a system that’s supposed to be forward-thinking, it’s utterly lacking in long-term vision of community impacts and the potential to enhance. Lost opportunity.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    They have been systematically ignoring the interests of their constituents, who have long demonstrated support for the project, *including* grade separations, which would finally end not just the traffic backups but the horrific death toll of at-grade tracks.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Robert, the emphasis and nuance is on the word “how”, which is something that very few HSR supporters seem to get. What I’m hearing from these cities is that, even if they’re supportive of HSR, they’d rather have nothing than be f’d.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Some of the Peninsula Cities seem to be taking the attitude of ‘We want something other than what you are offering, even if what you are offering is what we previously asked for’ combined with ‘We want far more money to be spent on the 2 miles of track that go through our city than you would spend on 10 miles anywhere else’.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    I don’t agree with that characterization. But what do you make of San Jose’s latest memo, which is strikingly similar to ‘other’ cities?

    “If the City and the CHSRA fail to reach an agreement by the proposed deadline, the City
    will then seek a further study of the underground alignment to protect our residents from the impacts of a project that does not meet our vision for our community.”

    This underscores my original point: it is city government’s responsibility to protect its residents and community interests.

    Peter Reply:

    Do you have a link to that letter?

    And what makes them think that further study of a lunatic alternative is going to lower the lunacy thereof?

    Peter Reply:

    Found the memo.

    The agreement Arthur mentioned is kind of unlikely to come into being: “ensures the City have authority to approve or reject any design and construction materials for the alignment through the Diridon area.”

    I don’t foresee the Authority acceding to the City’s demands that they be given a veto power over the design. That would also be an illegal move under CEQA, if I understand it correctly.

    Some type of compromise is more likely.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    I don’t foresee the Authority acceding to any City’s requests which are not within the CHSRA’s vision for that segment. But this is exactly my point: the Cities are obligated to protect their interests, especially when the CHSRA’s interests are in direct conflict. San Jose’s letter indicates that they are becoming aware of that obligation. Two years ago they were all pompoms and rah-rah HSR. Their tone has sobered.

    In fact, Caltrain also has a responsibility to carefully distinguish between what serves their interests and which of the CHSRA plans are in direct conflict. Their most recent letter hints that they’ve not lost sight of this, and they are beginning to realize that they must protect their communities if they are to expect those communities and counties which support them to continue to defend and support them.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Peninsula is special but not in the way you think it is. The rest of the state and nation aren’t going to pay for it. You want tunnels, tax yourselves for them. And explain to your neighbor why they would not have had to move if above ground solution had been used.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    And that CalTrain line is also owned by the city and County of San Francisco.. we support high-speed rail in the 70% range.. something all the little city suburbs in San Mateo County forget.. Santa Clara County in San Jose also supported very highly and we are all three owners of this right of way. WE will all decide how high-speed rail will be built on this railroad.. thank you!

    Elizabeth Reply:

    I watched part of the SJ meeting. Dan Leavitt was at the meeting and if the Authority is not prepared to meet San Jose’s terms, there are some potentially serious consequences.

    There is not a day to spare in the EIR process to meet the ARRA deadlines and it does not appear that the CHSRA has included study of a tunnel in the current schedule. If HSRA doesn’t acquiesce, San Jose will of course ask for a tunnel to be studied.

    As one of the council members said though, what if you go down the process and San Jose doesn”t like anything, what then?

    StevieB Reply:

    If the EIR is not completed in time to meet the ARRA deadline then the money will go to another segment. Planning will continue and construction on the penninsula will be funded at a later date. It is not necessary that San Jose construction should start first. The first town in California can wait.

  4. Matthew F.
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 21:36

    I suppose there will be a story soon about Arnold’s visit to Japan?

    Or will all the visits to the Asian high speed rail systems be rolled into one article?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    There’ll definitely be a post tomorrow on the Japanese offer – I’m working on it right now, and it’ll go live in the morning.

    Matthew F. Reply:

    Obviously I haven’t been reading much lately, there’s an article three slots down….

    Gianny Reply:

    What can we make out of this loan offer? I am extatic to think that financing may be available even if its not from our government.

  5. Lionel
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 22:41

    I’d like to see a mailing sent out by Palo Alto to all Palo Alto residents that was in effect a reliable secret ballot that settled once and for all what the majority view of Palo Alto was on the question of high speed rail.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The county of Santa Clara sent out a very reliable secret ballot on this very question. Here are the results.

  6. morris brown
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 23:13

    Always trying my best to keep this blog well informed.

    At the Palo Alto council meeting tonight (9-13-2010), CalTrain released two letters which can be viewed at:

    They were well received by the PA council.

    What they seem to advance is a phased approach whereby on the Peninsula, HSR and CalTrain would be sharing tracks and only building what is necessary to service that needed into the immediate (maybe 25 years or more) future. Thus no need for 4 tracks.

    Comments at the meeting, indicated that the Authority had been approached before with such plans, and the Authority had responded it wouldn’t be legal. Now, CalTrain seems to be taking a much more friendly position with the Cities on the Peninsula and is putting pressure on the Authority to accept such a scheme.

    Read for yourselves

    Joey Reply:

    Thus no need for 4 tracks.

    Probably true, at least not everywhere. But I’m hesitant to believe it from planners until CHSRA and CalTrain agree on a timetable which shows that 4 tracks are not necessary everywhere. Also, if it boils down to a choice of which sections should NOT get 4 tracks (perhaps because of constraints on the timetable), the section through SF, which quad-tracking would be a nightmare even if they hadn’t decided on deep-bore tunnels, should probably get priority.

    mrcawfee Reply:

    What would be the legal reason why a full build out is required? The only thing i can think of is the 30 minute requirement?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    I think thats it…I have a Caltrain handout about HSR from last summer and it stated the current infrastructure with a fully signaled and electified system will support up to 12 trains per hour per direction ofcombined Caltrain and HSR service….nothing about the speed and timing of this ..and goes on to state that certain locations will need to expaned to 3 and 4 tracks in the future to support more frequent service levels..

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    It has to do with grade separations.

    dave Reply:

    I think I’m going to have to agree with Caltrain on this.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    For the most part, except Caltrain wants CHSRA to look into trenches. I strongly disagree with that part as to go in to expand a trench to 4 tracks would be expensive. Also, I wonder what the penalty is for expansion later? Wouldn’t it cost more?

    Peter Reply:

    It fits quite well with CA4HSR’s call for a Peninsula Reset. Sounds to me like a good way to compromise. It doesn’t change the problem of grade separations, which would still have to be implemented, for safety sake.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    I don’t think there are many people opposed to a phased approach, particularly if it results in banning freight trains, or restricting them to lightweight vehicles that will minimize damage to the rails. This blog and others have argued that without freight, the design becomes much more flexible, and could be built with far less impact, and would probably require fewer rails to provide the same capacity.

  7. BMF From San Diego
    Sep 14th, 2010 at 17:34

    I think the proposal is politics and it will muddling things up. Engineers should be designing this thing using common design practices and the current legislation as guidance. No arm-chair planners and engineers, please.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    No arm-chair planners and engineers, please.

    Alright! So finally all the US sub-siminan wage-suckers of CHSRA/Caltrain and PBQD and HNTB and PTG and etc are canned! Bring on the at least half-way competent professionals!

  8. Ken
    Sep 15th, 2010 at 18:40

    Finally a move where you guys actually got together to do something instead of sitting here going back and forth with each other.

    I’ve been saying this all along: you want things done in America, you’d better join up and create a massive interest group. If they want a war, well they have a war. Bring in more corporate advocates, it’s the awakening of oilcos versus electric cos!!

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    The Bay Area Council will be the first group to ally with. Any chance of allying with train providers, financial institutions and such? Private sector backing would really help any effort.

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