Palo Alto City Council Attacks HSR Project – Without Public Support

Sep 21st, 2010 | Posted by

Last night the Palo Alto City Council, which once made a name for itself by innovating policies to favor alternatives to driving (particularly with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but also with its support for passenger rail), voted unanimously to pass an anti-high speed rail resolution. They went further by approving, by a 5-4 vote, an amendment to the resolution calling for the HSR system to be defunded. To top it off, they then voted to sue the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The council’s embrace of these resolutions and the lawsuit was done against the will of their constituents. As expressed on November 4, 2008 by their widespread support for Prop 1A, and reconfirmed by the independent AD-21 poll from earlier this year, Palo Alto residents want the HSR project to happen. They also want their elected officials to work constructively to build the project in a way that meets the needs of taxpayers, riders, and community members. Yet their city leaders, systematically ignoring this widespread public support, have decided to attack the HSR project rather than follow the lead of their neighbors to the south, in San José, where city leaders expressed their very strong opinions on the project, but found a way to reach a compromise solution that enables the HSR system to move forward.

Palo Alto’s city council can’t actually stop the HSR project on their own, nor can they force it off the Peninsula or even off the Caltrain corridor. But they can delay the badly needed construction of the HSR system, and more importantly, shackle their residents to their cars and to steadily rising oil prices. These moves are disappointing – but they’re not the end of the story by any means.

Let’s look more closely at what happened and why.

First, the city of Palo Alto not only passed a resolution declaring “no confidence” in the HSR project and calling on the California High Speed Rail Authority board to be dissolved – but by a 5-4 vote, they added language calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to pull funding from the project. Even Palo Alto mayor Pat Burt, who has himself been quite critical of the HSR project, saw this as a step too far:

“I don’t see the point at this point in time in taking the position of opposing the federal funds from potentially being able to come to this segment,” Burt said, acknowledging Caltrain’s interest in receiving funding from the project.

Burt is right to be worried about this. Caltrain needs to be improved as well, and was counting on piggybacking on state and federal HSR funds to do so. Without that funding, Caltrain is in extremely serious trouble and will be unable to fund its electrification project that it needs to become financially stable.

Further, it indicates that the Palo Alto city council doesn’t seem interested in constructive solutions – instead it sends a message that they don’t want HSR to happen at all. Even though Californians For High Speed Rail have called for a Peninsula Reset that can address the concerns of some city leaders without blowing up the project, and even though most Palo Alto residents still support the project, the city has backed itself into a corner and left it with no leverage over the CHSRA whatsoever. And they’ve put Caltrain in jeopardy as well.

The call to oppose federal funding is particularly hard to understand. One reason why the CHSRA has been pushing for cost-effective solutions is because of the uncertainty around federal funding. That forces the CHSRA to be very careful and conservative in its decisions on what to build. If Palo Alto wants a below-grade solution, they need more federal funding, not less.

It’s also hard to understand the city’s decision to file suit over the re-certified EIR – the same one that their fellow councilmembers in Menlo Park and Atherton tried and failed to stop:

Palo Alto officials are claiming that the new document violates the California Environmental Quality Act because it fails to address many of the city’s comments on the voluminous document. These include concerns about the project’s ridership and revenue projections and its route selections.

I find it amazing that, at a time when cities across California are struggling to make ends meet – when San Carlos has had to disband their police department – that Palo Alto believes it has public funds to spend on a costly lawsuit.

Palo Alto officials blame the Authority for forcing their hand:

Council members had supported the project in the 2008 election, but have increasingly turned against it as more details emerged. Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said it’s become clear that the rail authority is not being a good partner with local agencies.

“When you see a business plan that’s studied by numerous outside entities and deemed to be completely bogus, you really got to start questioning what type of partnership you have,” Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said.

In fact, nobody has deemed the business plan to be “completely bogus.” And the Authority has been responsive to local agency concerns, from agreeing to study track sharing in Southern California in response to a Metro/OCTA letter to the aforementioned agreement with San José. But Palo Alto has, almost since the moment Prop 1A was passed, chosen a much more confrontational approach.

This resolution and lawsuit were triggered by the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report, which indicated that a tunnel was unlikely for the mid-Peninsula area. Instead of seeking further constructive dialogue and discussion, and without consulting with their constituents, the city council moved rapidly to attack the project and essentially call for it to be suspended or eliminated.

The situation isn’t helped by some of the reporting we’ve seen. Palo Alto Online claims that Stanford University opposes an HSR station in Palo Alto, but as the letter below shows, that’s not accurate. The university actually said they see the benefits to a station, but are concerned about the impact on parking:

Stanford can see the economic and travel options benefits to Palo Alto businesses and to some of the businesses on Stanford lands (e.g., Shopping Center and Research Park tenants) derived from attracting passengers to a Palo Alto HSR station and from having, in Palo Alto, an easily accessed north-south state travel hub.

However, the City and its surroundings have very little available traffic and parking capacity for such a facility (7,800 daily boardings, 3,000 parking spaces) and a station for HSR would not, in our view, constitute a priority justifying further reduction of this capacity.

I don’t read this as a “Stanford opposes an HSR station” position at all. Of course, there have been other universities around the country, most notably the University of Minnesota, that have fought mass transit on or near their campuses, in spite of the clear public need and support for such a project, only to relent once the case for the system was made clear and their concerns were met. Palo Alto doesn’t have to have an HSR station, but if it did, it would be a boon to the city and the university. The parking requirements can be dealt with – especially since a grade-separated Caltrain and HSR system would help reduce the number of people parking in downtown Palo Alto owing to the trains being a more useful and attractive option for visitors.

Overall, Palo Alto’s future, like that of the rest of California, depends on its ability to provide sustainable economic growth for its people by liberating them from a ruinous dependence on fossil fuels. Both HSR and Caltrain are vital to the city’s prosperity, just as is the railroad that the city was built around, that in so many ways it owes its existence and prosperity to. That’s why the people of Palo Alto – including many of those commenting at the Palo Alto Online article – strongly support the HSR project.

Their voices have not been heard or taken seriously by their elected leaders. It’s time for that to change. Not only is the Palo Alto city council endangering their own economic future with this action, not only are they making it very difficult to get what they want from both HSR and Caltrain, but they are undermining democracy by their actions. It’s time for Palo Alto HSR supporters to make sure their voices are heard.

  1. morris brown
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:23

    Without public support Robert?

    Amazing how you not living in the Bay area, would know more about what the Palo Alto public wants then their own council. That is really a tough sell to your readers here. Better try another spin.

    Aside from the action on the letter and joining in filing a lawsuit, there was a report from Mayor Burt and councilman Klein on the So. California League of Cities meeting last weekend; Mayor Burt convened a sub meeting of a number of cities.

    An excerpt of that report can be heard at:

    Of particular interest and showing one of many reasons why opposition to the project is arising everywhere is this portion of that audio:

    Transcript from audio of Burt-Kline of 9-20-2010 ( 8 minutes 55 sec.long)

    At 4 min 55 seconds into the audio Mayor Burt says. (regarding So. Calif. Gateway Cities)…

    ….after a year of extensive design work and collaboration they have now been in the last 2 months under the new CEO Mr. van Ark , told the rail Authority .. the short version is the rail authority doesn’t have any intention of providing them with the designs and construction along the lines of what they think is compatible with their cities. I need to confirm with the city manager of Sante Fe springs, his exact language, but he basically had a conversation with Mr. van Ark, somewhat similar to what we had , where Mr. van Ark now as he committed to us, Mr. van Ark is designing what he thinks he can build for $43 billion , not what is basically most compatible with the communities . And he was straight forward in his position – he told the Gateway cities that they were not going to get under grounding and the gateway cites basically said what about the peninsula? – aren’t they still in the game for it? And van Ark’s response was they aren’t going to get it either.

    So, time will tell just who get what.

    Missiondweller Reply:

    Palo Alto can pay for it themselves just as Berkeley did with BART. If one of California’s most affluent cities isn’t willing to put their money where their mouth is then they ought to just shut up.

    Spokker Reply:

    At what point can a city tell an outsider to go away? And will the outsider have to comply?

    Or must a city simply deal with the very real consequences of being a part of a larger society and not its own closed system?

    lyqwyd Reply:

    A quote from Mayor Burt does not provide any evidence that there’s any significant support for this resolution.

  2. Elizabeth
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:29


    Stanford has come out against a station. I sent you via email the full letter.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I saw that letter, and quoted from it in the post. I do not read them as “coming out against a station” – they chose their words very carefully. They did not outright oppose it, but noted several concerns they had about it that they’d want addressed before deciding to back it.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    I also read Stanford’s letter to be taking a constructive approach. Quite frankly, Stanford would be absolutely crazy to not support HSR, which would be a great boon to their student body. Also, the real estate interests around the station will likely benefit them financially.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They dont support the large parking deck..and the traffic it would bring thats what it seems to read..thou I can never tell with that rag reporter from PA online. and his spin…and where is the offical statment and from whom?

    Caelestor Reply:

    Then don’t build the parking lot, ramp up public transportation in the area. Surely it can’t be as expensive and congestion-prone as a few levels of concrete.

  3. Missiondweller
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:30

    Palo Alto elites simply don’t want HSR going through their quaint Norman Rockwell town.

    Unfortunately for them, its not their choice. Unlike BART, which was voted on county by county, CAHSR is a state project. Palo Altons need to accept that HSR is coming, but until then, planning should continue for the peninsula corridor. Building in other areas on the peninsula should begin as soon as is practical. Forget the PA HSR station. Design an inexpensive utilitarian option that can quickly be built through PA once the legal issues are completed.

    If Palo Alto wants to put their heads in the sand, let them. It won’t stop HSR.

    Robert, did you see this story in the Wall Street Journal?

    lyqwyd Reply:

    Even if HSR had been voted on county by county it still would have won, in fact it would have won by a much larger margin. IIRC only 1 county that is planned to be on the HSR line voted against prop 1A, and most voted in favor by about 2/3.

    I completely agree with dumping PA as a choice for a station, and dump any alignment other than the cheapest. The project that has been voted on and won, continues to have significant support, and will bring an unprecedented amount of benefit to California’s transportation and economy.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    “and dump any alignment other than the cheapest” should have been “and dump any alignment other than the cheapest for Palo Alto”

    Missiondweller Reply:

    Excellent point. The Palo Alto elites must be frustrated the little people (AKA voters) support it.

    Emma Reply:

    Very true!

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Railroad managers have a similar age demographic to the population as a whole. Those who believe in passenger rail are either very old retired men or the younger bucks, currently under 60 (maybe a bit younger in the conservative world that is railroading). The ones who don’t believe in it, who are afraid of having to jump through hoops for it, are most of the current top management, who are at 60 or above.

    This middle group remembers how their industry got burned by overregulation and having to keep passenger trains on that lost money, which theatened at the time to sink their industry. They do not yet see the demographic shift taking place among the young, they believe America abandoned them–and for a certain generation, they are right. But there is a new generation, both in railroading and in the general public, that sees the need. Will they ever be given a chance to speak?

    An interesting point–as the trains were dying in the 1950s and 1960s, one of the things that turned up was how important interconnectivity was. Many a train in this time period was making money on a portion of its route–but another company, losing money on its portion of the route, or on a connecting train (i.e., a Santa Fe train that connected with a New York Central train, in which the Santa Fe was making money but the NYC was losing it), would find its trains would go in the red when they lost their connections. Then train-offs would cascade down the system.

    There seems to be an interesting corollary to this. Rattling around in my memory (but darn it, I can’t tell you where it was from or when) is a quote by one of Amtrak’s officers that Amtrak could become profitable with about three times the trains (and traffic) it had at the time. This suggests both the importance of more connections to more places, and an economy of scale that Amtrak currently doesn’t have. (It may also suggest to some wag that Amtrak needs three time the trains to pay for the three times the management it currently needs, but I will otherwise stay silent on that point.)

    Other points–In the comments section that follows, why are the commentors such jerks? Even the ones who argue we need trains do not really back up their claims about highway subsidies, and of course the anti-train guys are clueless about this. As for me, I’ve done it so often I can almost do it in my sleep. Is everybody else that ignorant? Do I have to do that education job alone?

    About Palo Alto: Someone here has suggested Palo Alto wants to feel like it is in Norman Rockwell’s time, or for that matter, in Ozzie and Harriet’s time. Now, there’s a lot to be said for the 1950s (and a lot to be said against it, too), and I’ll even admit to liking both Rockwell and the Nelsons (but that show of theirs didn’t need that stupid laugh track, as a program on AMC called “Remember WENN” demonstrated), but blast it, trains were very much a part of that time, including my smoking steamers! What’s the matter with that crowd? Or is it really the age-generational thing again? How old are the mayor and council members of Palo Alto?

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    A correction: a railroad with a train that made money on its route would find its trains would go in the red when another railroad, making interline connections, would determine its trains were losing money, and sever said connection.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Its NOT a Norman Rockwell town and thats the problem..its a 1950-60 california car suburb/city built as a bedroom for the Big cities of SF and LA and part of a large metro area of 8 million people..Homes were built right up to the tracks that in any other area would have been zoned for business and thats poor planning .

  4. political_incorrectness
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:32

    “not what is basically most compatible with the communities ” If that were the case, then the cost would be $80 billion. Then “we can’t afford this” would come up. Also, grade separations are compatible, it is just Palo Alto isn’t getting its way. Either PAMPA can pay up, then fine. Otherwise, stop whinning. If the tunnel was built at the request and houses collapsed, are you going to sue the Authority? Basically the Authority is trying to be good stewards of tax dollars and not go ridiculously high. San Jose is willing to cooperate as seen as of recent, PAMPA should follow suit. Lawsuits are just going to increase the price of the project and the only thing I know PAMPA will do is whine. Looks like the Costco’s will need to stock up on big Tilamok blocks of cheese to take care of that.

  5. Nadia
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:34

    FYI – The City of Palo Alto uses something called Peak Democracy to take polls from time to time on upcoming City Council issues. Unfortunately, these polls are often written by staff members who don’t really know the issues and thus are poorly written. People who comment on Peak Democracy must register to use the site. The poll closed at noon yesterday.

    The poll asked if people support the B1 (open trench) Alternative in the Supplemental AA. 100 people responded but you have to pick through the comments to really understand the numbers. In a nutshell, most people said – If we HAVE to have HSR go through Palo Alto, then we want it in a covered trench and if not, then – worst case an open trench – but really we’d rather not have it at all. Several others basically said no to any HSR in any form. You can read the results here:

    Robert, I’m surprised to see you cite the PA online comments section as part of your “evidence” for support. That is an open format by which anyone can comment without signing their name.

    Finally, I’ll note that the City Council Packet includes correspondence received in advance of the meeting. The form letter generated by the CA4HSR campaign for a “reset” generated exactly one letter that is visible in the council packet.

    The poll you cite was taken in April and many, many things have changed since then (which include the State Auditors report and the Berkley study). I know you think both those reports are flawed, but the general public doesn’t follow the issues very closely and are very swayed by largely publicized findings from reputable places. Those supportive of HSR generally have soured on the way this project is going. PA’s vote is a prime example of that.

    mike Reply:

    many things have changed since then (which include the State Auditors report and the Berkley study). I know you think both those reports are flawed, but the general public doesn’t follow the issues very closely and are very swayed by largely publicized findings from reputable places

    I guarantee you that the majority of Palo Alto (or any other city) have not heard of the State Auditors report and the UC Berkeley study (actually much of the work in that study was done by a guy at UC Irvine). As you note, the general public doesn’t follow the issues very closely.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I didn’t cite the comments as support, just that they offered specific examples of Palo Alto residents unhappy with the decision.

    Similarly, an online poll, even that conducted by the city, is not a scientific poll and should not be taken as a true representation of the public’s feelings.

    On the other hand, we have not only the election results from November 2008, which should not be so blithely ignored, and the April poll. I strongly disagree that “many things have changed since then” – the issues around HSR were quite well known on the Peninsula by that date. The studies you mention might have shaved a few points off the support numbers, but that poll found very, very strong support from AD-21 residents, including in Palo Alto. I have a very hard time believing that such support has suddenly collapsed due to those studies.

    For a city council to go against what their constituents believe like this is an undemocratic act. Sure, they can justify it by pointing out that, unsurprisingly, critics were more vocal than supporters. But the council has plenty of evidence that there’s a huge silent majority in support of the project that isn’t being engaged. You’d think they would be interested to hear from those people before deciding to attack the HSR project in this extremist fashion.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    “But the council has plenty of evidence that there’s a huge silent majority in support of the project that isn’t being engaged.”

    Evidence such as??

    I was under the impression that anyone has permission to attend any public meeting. It appears the “huge silent majority” is not showing up, nor are they responding to city surveys.

    Whose responsibility is it for that “huge silent majority” to be engaged? Shouldn’t they attempt to engage themselves? Why don’t you reach out to them?

    Seriously, it seems a little weird to blame the council members for the lack of initiative demonstrated by the “huge silent majority”. If it were so huge, you’d think at least a small, tiny handful of them would engage. I followed Nadia’s link to the Peak Democracy page and found less than 5 people writing in support of the project. How can you blame the council for that turnout?

    Seems to me this “huge silent majority” is largely imagined. I might go so far as to call it fictitious.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The salient feature of a silent anything is that they are slient…..

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Fair enough – they’re silent. But are they a “huge majority”?

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    This whole “huge silent majority” theory assumes a few things which are a stretch:
    1) Virtually all supporters are silent, or put in another way, supporters are not vocal.
    2) All those opposed or with concerns are vocal, or put in another way, there is no silent majority among the non-supporters.

    If not all supporters are silent, then we should be seeing or hearing them. We’re not.

    Here’s a question for you — if we’re only seeing the visible tip of the icebergs, which iceberg is larger? I don’t know the scientific answer, but I can take an educated* guess.

    *Not to be confused with wishful thinking.

    Bianca Reply:

    People who show up at city council meetings are a self-selecting bunch. For many people, especially people who have commutes, irregular work schedules and/or small children, showing up at a meeting at 8:15 am, 5:30 pm or 7:30 pm on a weekday evening is a challenge. When I am able to swing the child care necessary to attend these meetings, the vast majority of people there are older folks. (And it tends to be the same faces.)

    In November 2008, April 2010, and June 2010, a wider group of people were given a chance to express their views on HSR. In each of those cases, a majority of people expressed support for HSR. I’ve heard all kinds of arguments as to why those results should be discounted, (and those arguments often contradict each other) but cumulatively it points to continued local support for HSR.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    Let’s not forget the D-21 poll, which provides an alternative but no less legitmate way to measure support/opposition as people showing up a meetings. One could argue it is much more representative in fact because it reaches far more people. To not acknowledge shows a sense of wishful thinking by opponents/critics in my opinion.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    100 people out of a city of….60thousand? and where do they live..and HSR can come up that Caltrain corridor just fine if it remains at grade and the roads are raised or lowered and since SF also owns that ROW we have a matter what PAs arrogant dream demands/threats

  6. Spokker
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 22:48

    If local concerns were the top priority, than high speed rail will not happen between San Francisco and San Jose. Extensive tunneling and trenching through suburbia is cost-prohibitive. A trench here and there for engineering reasons is okay, but going underground through an entire city isn’t going to happen.

    Is the key to satisfying the requirement to “address local concerns” mean that the final outcome is the one preferred by the city council or even the majority of the populace itself? Or is it okay for the Authority to say, “We have addressed the issue, and the final outcome will not be the one you prefer.”

    I guess, at that point, it’s up to a judge to decide.

    Spokker Reply:

    *then. Goddammit.

    Spokker Reply:

    It has become clear that we “blew our infrastructure load,” so to speak, on highways. That is what we (well, we as a society, because some of us weren’t even born yet) chose to spend public money on when land was plentiful and suburbanization at its genesis.

    Today’s landscape, blighted by auto-dependent suburbs, is not friendly to large infrastructure projects. No more traffic, they say. No more development they say. No more construction, they say. Even relatively dinky light rail lines run into massive, emotional and quite vocal opposition, even if the light rail project has already secured its own right of way that existed for a century prior to whatever current controversy has developed. If there existed a business plan to their liking or an environmental study they approved of, would they then support it? What does “do it right” mean when “right” is undefined?

    Even when we get into the city, other interests oppose large infrastructure projects on environmental and/or social justice grounds. Who must be placated? Who must we lie down and die for? Those of us who are unestablished and wandering around looking for a place to settle into society may be looking for a long time. I am not wanted in Palo Alto or Menlo Park. Nor am I wanted in the inner city. Which far flung suburb will I end up in? Which car will I drive during my two-hour daily commute, four hours round-trip.

    As the inevitable consequence of unchecked population growth rears its ugly head, a gaggle of anti-expansionists appears ready and willing to hijack the public process. I wonder where people go, according to them. The answer I fear is, “Anywhere, as long as its not here.”

    The fight, no matter what form it masquerades as, is, always has been and always will be to keep people out.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    All good questions. The problems escalated because of the (earned, IMHO) lack of trust the communities have in The Authority. If this were an agency which demonstrated an understanding and sensitivity of the tricky issues involved when going through densely populated areas, and if it demonstrated a sense of intended goodwill to those communities it knows it will disrupt — and if it could produce an acceptable business plan, believable ridership numbers & a relatively clean audit, and if it had the confidence of the legislature — we’d be looking at a very different atmosphere today.

    This vote of no-confidence could well be the best thing for progressing a decent HSR system in the state. If the communities cannot trust that the people in charge will protect their interests as they pass through their neighborhoods, we’ll be looking at trouble for years to come.

    To CA4HSR, why don’t you increase the size of your reset button? Put out a call to clean house, clean the books, fix the plans, take on a respectful tone, and we might one day be looking at a completed rail line we can be proud of that doesn’t screw anyone in its way.

  7. mgimbel
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 23:12

    In case anyone would like to know, the CAHSRA open house in Downtown Los Angeles went very well. They had a ratio of guests to representatives/consultants of about 3:1. I personally never had a problem when it came to asking questions about different sections of the project. Nonetheless, the informational meeting was quite interesting. During the Q&A period, a variety of questions were asked including the possibility of gambling cars (taking passengers to “entertainment destinations” along the route) and the disruption support piers of bridge structures would have on the flow of water in rivers and streams. The consultants were very professional when it came to answering such rediculous questions. Not to mention they were always available for comment. If anyone has any additional questions, feel free to ask!

  8. Clem
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 23:25

    The fact that Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton have decided to sue under CEQA is not what I would call surprising. The more interesting story will be what they base their litigation upon. A lot of the issues now being re-hashed have already been sorted out in the Atherton lawsuit, where if you actually read the judge’s ruling (and not the local media) the CHSRA prevailed on a majority of the issues. For example, the judge already ruled that the ridership model was perfectly OK under CEQA (“The court finds that the ridership modeling and forecasts performed by the Authority and the MTC are substantial evidence to support the FPEIR’s description of the Pacheco alternative as having higher “recreational and other” ridership than Altamont pass”). The judge later ruled that new information about the ridership model did not warrant reopening his earlier ruling. So, taking the example of the ridership model, exactly what is there to litigate that hasn’t already been litigated? A claim that the ridership model is flawed, which it very likely is, is nevertheless unlikely to succeed in a new CEQA lawsuit over the same EIR. That’s why it will be fascinating to see what they are going to sue about… they’d better have some very good CEQA lawyers.

    StevieB Reply:

    Attorney Stuart Flashman, who will represent the cities, “…They’re filing them in frustration and almost desperation…”.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    ..CHAAACHINNG for Stuart Flashman.. the real reason behind this

    Elizabeth Reply:


    That is not actually what opinion said. The opinion basically said that the plaintiffs had won and forced a new EIR. Ridership was fair game in the new EIR and the Authority in its briefs had promised to respond to comments about ridership. In essence, the judge said what more do you want?

    The issue is that the Authority response to ridership in the new EIR was oddly incoherent.

    Joey Reply:

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    (for the record, there are issues, but I don’t expect this lawsuit to go anywhere)

    mike Reply:

    That is not actually what opinion said.

    What? That’s exactly what the ruling Clem is referring to said. Lest there be any doubt, here is a direct quote from the ruling as posted on the Sacramento Superior Court’s document server:

    “Petitioners contend that the FPEIR failed to accurately and impartially describe the operating characteristics of the project alternatives. They contend that the FPEIR failed to accurately describe the frequency of service for the Altamont and Pacheco alternatives in that it did not consider ‘train-splitting.’

    The Court finds that the EIR provides an adequate description of HSR operations, supported by substantial evidence. The ridership forecasts were developed by experts in the field of transportation modeling and were subject to three independent peer review panels. (See C001886-88, C001879-964, C001954-60, E004118-148; E004149-187; E004188-97.) Substantial evidence supports respondent’s approach of not using train-splitting on main trunk service. Evidence in the record, including evidence submitted by petitioners, shows that train-splitting and coupling is operationally disruptive, and that while some HST systems worldwide use train-splitting and coupling, the use is very limited. (See B004716, B006694, B008032, B008035-36, B008037.)

    Petitioners also contend that the FPEIR failed to adequately and fairly describe the ridership of the Altamont and Pacheco alternatives. They contend the Pacheco alignment would not draw significant additional recreational ridership because the limited number of stops on the HSR would make it less attractive than the already-existing Caltrain ‘baby bullet’ route, and any additional ridership would be at the expense of Caltrain ridership rather than taking cars off the road.

    The Court finds that the ridership modeling and forecasts performed by the Authority and the MTC are substantial evidence to support the FPEIR’s description of the Pacheco alternative as having higher ‘recreational and other’ ridership than Altamont pass. The ridership analysis concluded that it taps into a very wide market in Santa Clara County (B006696) and also creates a sizeable HST market to and from the Monterey Bay area, a market virtually non-existent for the Altamont Pass alternative (B006695). The ridership analysis also suggests that some individuals will pay a premium to ride the HST rather than Caltrain in this corridor based on the service being faster and more reliable. (B006696.)”

    Whether the ridership forecast is accurate is certainly open for debate. But the claim that the “Court finds that the EIR provides an adequate description of HSR operations, supported by substantial evidence” is simply a fact. It is not open for debate. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    From a more recent (August 2010) court opinion that would supercede the above finding as their was newly revealed information about ridership:

    Petitioners’ argument that it has no alternative legal remedy is too
    speculative at this time to support the issuance of a writ of error coram
    n o b i s . Petitioners fail to present any actual evidence that Respondent
    will not consider or has not considered Petitioners’ comments regarding the
    allegedly flawed ridership/revenue modeling relied on by Respondent to
    select the Pacheco Pass Network Alternative. Pursuant to the Writ, the
    Court required Respondent to rescind and set aside Resolution No. 05-01
    approving the Pacheco Pass Network Alternative Serving San Francisco and
    San Jose Termini. (Peremptory Writ of Mandate at St 1 (Nov. 3, 2009).)
    Petitioners’ contentions regarding the ridership/revenue modeling relied
    upon by Respondent to select the Pacheco Pass Network Alternative appear
    Moreover, Petitioner argues that “under Laurel Heights Improvement
    A s s o c i a t i o n v. Board of Regents, (1993) 6 Cal.4th 1112, Respondent must
    respond to the new information of the newly-discovered revised model and
    its infirmity.” Importantly, Respondent itself asserts m its Opposition
    that it is required to consider Petitioners’ comments. (Opposition at
    9:24-10:1.) At this time, the Court cannot conclude that Petitioners are
    without an alternative, viable legal remedy to address their grievances.

    mike Reply:


    1) Clem’s post was clearly about the 2009 final rulings. No offense, but claiming that he misrepresented or misquoted what was said in those rulings seems rather disingenuous.

    2) The only things that really matter legally regarding the Writ of Error Coram Nobis are the following findings from the 8/20/2010 ruling:

    “The Petition fails on both procedural and substantive grounds and Petitioners are not entitled to a writ of error coram nobis…Petitioners’ Petition and Discovery Motion are DENIED.” (emphasis not added)

    Clem Reply:

    Mike, for the record, I don’t feel misrepresented by Elizabeth. She correctly points out that the judge told the plaintiffs last month that they’d have another swing at the pinata. I think most of the candy already fell out, but lots of people obviously believe otherwise, and some even think they’ve got a whole new pinata to whack at. We shall see, shan’t we?

    Peter Reply:

    Although I’m not sure where to find the law on this, I’m also pretty certain that the decision pertaining to the DENIED Writ of Coram Nobis does not “supercede” the “final judgment” in the original case.

    mike Reply:

    Indeed it does not. The judge simply clarified that the cities will have a chance to file lawsuits on the revised EIR. Which I don’t think comes as a surprise to anyone. Of course, they are unlikely to prevail on issues that have already been litigated and addressed, but they’re free to try.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The judge later ruled that new information about the ridership model did not warrant reopening his earlier ruling. So, taking the example of the ridership model, exactly what is there to litigate that hasn’t already been litigated? A claim that the ridership model is flawed, which it very likely is, is nevertheless unlikely to succeed in a new CEQA lawsuit over the same EIR.

    If the Authority gets to certify the EIR with an obviously flawed — if not fraudulant — ridership model, then what’s the point of having CEQA anymore? It will open to floodgates to Caltrans and every other highway agency to just Make Shit Up in the EIR.

    So for the sake of CEQA, let’s hope that plaintiffs do prevail. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Basically, the judge is saying he doesn’t find the ridership model fraudulent. If the flaw in the model is much smaller than the inherent uncertainty of models, it’s not worth revisiting.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    We’ve seen this bad movie before. In the 1990s, there was a very similar lawsuit over the BART-SFO extension. Plaintiffs showed proof of manipulation in the ridership model, but the judge dismissed the claims as inconsequential. Sadly, the plaintiff claims were validated when the inevitable BART operating deficit blew a major hole in the San Mateo budget.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Just because the two projects are in the same state doesn’t make them the same. The complaint with CAHSR is not that the model is inflated; it’s that one parameter was tweaked to make Pacheco look better than Altamont. The differences in the overall projected ridership are small, much smaller than the uncertainty in the model.

    StevieB Reply:

    The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires identifying the alternative that best protects the environment. Is it possible that factors other than the ridership model would be compelling evidence for selection of the prefered alignment in terms of environmental quality?

  9. J. Wong
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 23:26

    All the “rich” cities on the Peninsula want tunnels and are upset that SF is getting a tunnel from 16th Street out to Bayshore when they don’t. (Personal conversation with Burlingame council member.)

    Clem Reply:

    Clueless. The cities on the peninsula don’t have tall hills to cross like San Francisco does.

    jimsf Reply:

    PArt of the problem is that at the local level, any ignorant gadfly can get elected to a council. That’s why you have a so called “politician” from Burlingame making a comment like that. Not only are there the hills, ( with existing tunnels that have been there 100 years already) but the mere idea that the l”leaders” *cough* of towns such as Burlingame or Palo Alto would put themselves in the same realm as San Francisco is ludicrous. As we used to say in olden times, “what have they been smoking?”

    Dear Mr. Burlingame Council Member, San Francisco gets tunnels because San Francisco matters more. You couldnt figure that out on your own? Really? And your’re an elected decision maker? Wow. Interesting.

    Further, if PA and the University are concerned about the impacts of a station then by all means don’t give them one. I assure you it won’t be missed by the rest of us, none of whom have any need, reason or desire to spend any time in Palo Alto anyway. Skipping PA would allow either RWC to get a station instead, or, free up another station location for a more deserving city elsewhere on the line.

    I propose we do the following: build the system from the north and south to the PA city limit, don’t build a station in PA, Leave the two tracks and the grade crossings in place through PA, then run hsr and caltrains every 6 minutes through town, at 39 miles per hour for the couple mile stretch, keeping the gates down perpetually. And be sure to do lots of horn blowing, you know, for safety…..

    If they wanna keep it old school, then give them a nice dose of old school.

    jimsf Reply:

    and let me just reiterate in case they missed it..

    Dear PA, Burlingame and others. San Francisco is more important than your cities. It’s more substantial, it’s more populated, it has a larger economy, a larger geographical area, a larger global presence, better national representation, and show up in a larger font on any map, than your cities and towns. San Francisco just matters more, in every way. Ok?

    Meanwhile, ordinary folks in the East Bay are rolling their eyes, again, and as usual, at the poor little over privileged folks on the peninsula, who are second only to a place we call “Marin” ( always said with a particular tone) when it comes to the “eye roll factor.”

    jimsf Reply:

    Oh here, just to illustrate more clearly, cuz you know, a picture is worth a thousand words as they say, just lick here and you’ll notice that neither Burlingame, PA, MP made the list, losing out in importance to places such as Lemoore, Coalinga, and Alturas. Funny how google, based right in PA’s back yard, left them off the map.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Google only does the advertising on that page, and didn’t generate the map.

    mike Reply:

    PArt of the problem is that at the local level, any ignorant gadfly can get elected to a council.

    Unfortunately this problem isn’t just limited to the local level.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Today’s Palo Alto wants the rest of the state to pay for their past zoning errors that let homes be built right up against the railroad tracks.. the answer for them billion-dollar park, it’s only way this can now be acceptable to have this railroad running through town!!.. I agree with JimSF leave the CalTrain line exactly as it is and run the high-speed rail trains and CalTrain right through town they can cry and scream and try and sue all they want and they won’t get anywhere because nothing has been done to change anything except moving to clean quiet electric trains and CalTrain and high-speed train service running through town will cause no more delays than an average traffic light.. so they so they won’t have a leg to stand on

    StevieB Reply:

    There are residential lots in Palo Alto that abut the Caltrain right of way but I would be surprised if more than one house is within needed HSR right of way. This includes the 80 foot right of way needed to build overpasses above the four streets with level grade crossings and the wider right of way for at grade track at the two Caltrain stations.

  10. John Burrows
    Sep 21st, 2010 at 23:34

    Some reasons for running high speed rail from San Jose to Los Angeles first.

    1. Cost a lot lower (around $30 billion instead of $43 billion).
    2. System should be viable with major cities as temporary end-points.
    3. Cities from San Jose to Los Angeles generally seem receptive to high speed rail—this means less opposition, less delay. The economy is likely to remain less than robust for quite a while. CHSRA could probably save billions by building as much as they can as soon as they can—before inflation comes roaring back.

    By the time high speed rail would arrive in San Jose, San Francisco would have completed the Transbay Terminal. At this point, with CAHSR operating from San Jose and with San Francisco expressing a strong desire to make full use of the Transbay Terminal, Palo Alto and the other reluctant Peninsula cities might be ready to rethink their position on high speed rail— they might even rethink the idea of a mid-peninsula station.

    Nearly 180 years ago as the first passenger railroads were being built in England, the good citizens of Northampton were so strongly opposed to the railroad that it was forced to detour around their town. A few years later, after the railroad was operating successfully, the good citizens of Northampton, were demanding that the train stop in their town.

    jimsf Reply:

    There is no need to worry about “letting PA rethink its position” because they aren’t in a position to make any decisions.

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Wouldn’t it be psychologically more productive to forget about the bay area and build the line to San José as soon as possible? When trains are running and people realise the progress HSR represents, keeping San Francisco out will look preposterous to everyone. Fingers will be pointed at those responsible for this situation. They will be the ones looking unamerican or, at least, uncalifornian. The media support they are now enjoying will likely vanish. Their position will become untenable.
    Then, a few unexpensive face-saving concessions will get the line through.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    SF is NOT going to let these slurbs stop HSR from running up that railroad we also worst case it will just have to make do with the current railroad plant with the power and train control upgrades and that might be it on opening day

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Do you have any reference for the claim that the SF-SJ section will cost $13 billion out of $43 billion?

    John Burrows Reply:

    San Francisco-San Jose plus Los Angeles-Anaheim.

    John Burrows Reply:

    I should have been more specific:

    From Table 3 (Capital Costs by Segment), page 85 of the CHSRA business plan.

    San Francisco to San Jose——–$6.142 billion
    Los Angeles to Anaheim———- $6.454 billion

    Total———————————-$12.596 billion


    John Burrows Reply:

    Don’t know how that $12 got in there. Probably has to do with problems some members of “Difficult Generation” have with computer.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    LA-Anaheim and SF-SJ are not the same thing. LA-Anaheim is a marginal addition, which most trains would not even use. Pringle has fantasies about ARTIC becoming the new center of SoCal or something, but the primary O&D point in SoCal will always be LAUS, as both the station of the largest downtown and the regional transit hub. This is the opposite of the situation in NorCal, where SF is a bigger destination than SJ as well as better-connected to local transit.

    Doing it LA-SF is fine, as long as they still include the LAUS run-through tracks in the project. Doing it LA-SJ saves too little money for the benefit.

    John Burrows Reply:

    CHSRA projects that Anaheim ARTIC would have 23,500 daily boardings, LA Union Station would have 14,100. This doesn’t sound right, but The Rail Authority apparently feels that Anaheim will have higher ridership than Union Station.

    Johnathan Reply:

    The Anaheim section seem much more of a urban commuter rail, than a destination. One reason is that even with the proposed monorail, the total travel time from SF to say Disneyland would be about 4 hrs., a real planning disaster. Neither will it be used to travel to SD.

    Cutting the SJ-SF section would only harm ridership. I don’t think Caltrain have enough extra capacity to run Baby Bullets every 20 min., anyways. Part of the cost is also tunneling to Transbay Terminal, improving Caltrain service.

    I’d like to see the project overbudget to speed up slow corners. Ticket prices and revenue most likely won’t be affected. CAHSR is projected to only take away 36% of the air market and 6% of drivers by 2030. If it’s not competitive enough, airlines would simply lower prices and some would revert to driving. In addition, CAHSR projects 25 million out of the 88-117 million annual passengers to come from local urban area auto travel, creating demand from daily commuters. The SJ-SF section helps generate a higher profit margin.

  11. James
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 07:02

    Just want to echo — no station in Palo Alto.

  12. Jack
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 07:58

    so I’m a Palo Alto resident and my wife is a student at Stanford, how do I tell the city council that I support the project and they do not represent my point of view?

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    You can start by signing Californians For High Speed Rail’s online letter.

    Jack Reply:

    done. now I just have to find their phone number and give them a call. Does anyone know if there’s a similar contact channel at Stanford that I can ask my wife to go through?

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This is a good place to find some phone numbers for Palo Alto’s city council:

    As to Stanfurd, dunno about that.

    lyqwyd Reply:

    You can also write them letters, or call there offices and tell them how you feel about what they are doing.

  13. Jay Taylor
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 08:11

    I live in El Cerrito and we have elevated rail lines(BART) running right through our city. Its not blight, not by a long shot. The the walking/bike path under the rail lines, ( ) is well used.
    Also from where I live, I hear more noise from I-80, than I do from BART, and I-80 is farther away.

    But on this subject matter, yes it would be nice to have the only stop between SF and SJ at SFO, and maybe years later when the good people see what an economic driver HSR is they can beg for a station.

    Caelestor Reply:

    I personally think the mid-peninsula station is more important than SFO the way things stand right now. On an operational standpoint, the HSR station should be at RWC, not Palo Alto.

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    I also feel that it is really important to have a mid-peninsula station. The tragic thing is the benefit to Palo Alto and Stanford would be huge. HSR and a huge student body in close proximity is ideal for HSR.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    The people living in PA in the future will hate these people for getting the station removed from the plans

    jimsf Reply:

    Well then its settled, the consensus is screw PA and their would be station!
    I wonder where the young people are, like the Stanford students who would benefit most from such an easy connection to the rest of the state? On Amtrak in California, the college and university stops ( and the prisons) are some of the most popular. Even the bus connections, such as the SFC-SLO direct bus route which packed full of students all the time. ( there’s even a stop SLP right at CalPoly. ) So for students and business people in PA to have such convenient, frequent, affordable, simple and direct service, to so many key, statewide destinations is a no brainer. But, they aren’t the people who get heard, nor the ones who have the time and energy to attend meetings and blog and raise a fuss. Instead, the people who have nothing but time on their hands, the cranky aged geezers ( no offense intended to those of a certain age but you know what I mean) and the uppity white upper middle class housewives, you know the ones who have absolutely nothing to do all day except go to lunch and hang around Stanford Shopping Centre and bother the poor salespeople with endless inane questions about whether that armoire is maple or birch, are the ones who get heard. So you wind up with a city council, which, because most politicians today are spineless and without leadership skills, asks how high they should jump when the busibodies speak, because they know that the fussbudgets are the ones who also show up to vote.

    What happens in PA with “the rest” of the people not making the time, is the same thing in microcosm that happens nationally and its why we wind up with candidates like anti masturbation crusader Christine O’Donnell and “we’ll just shoot ’em if we don’t get our way” Sharron Angle.

    Get off your asses and vote, people, please, for the love of god go vote this November.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    This is only a problem with the current all-or-nothing design strategy: pick the stations now or forever hold your peace.

    The really cool thing about complete interoperability – including station platform heights – is that you have flexibility to add/remove HSR service at virtually any station along the Peninsula, at any time in the future. The early train stops in Mountain View, the next one in Palo Alto, and the next in Redwood City. The express train stops at none. 5 years later add service to another city, or increase service to existing stations. Or whatever.

    It becomes largely a scheduling problem rather than a concrete pouring project. The amount of service can be coordinated with parking lot capacity, and can incrementally grow as needed.

    This solution would never fly because it doesn’t meet the “jobs” part of the project. Not enough pork. They’d rather bake in solutions, no matter how stupid and short-sighted.

    I’ll leave the defending of this idea to the Clems and Richards and Rafaels of the group, seeing as Robert has wrongly dumped me into the NIMBY category where anything I say will be met with suspicion.

    jimsf Reply:

    having interoperability doesn’t jeopardize jobs. Maybe not doing the upgrades would, but do the upgrades and do them with standards, and you get that flexibility.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If Caltrain and HSR use the same platform height etc the Peninsula doesn’t need any dedicated HSR stations. The HSR trains can stop at any Caltrain station.

    jimsf Reply:

    I really don’t understand what is so difficult about caltrain and hsr using the same heights. I mean they are rebuilding everything anyway, it makes it easier for everyone to comply with ADA requirements, its speeds up boarding, increases flexibility, etc etc, what’s the gosh dern problem with these people?

    Clem Reply:

    The dern problem is a toxic combination of bureaucratic inertia and CPUC General Order 26-D.

    jimsf Reply:

    ah yes, the general order. No wonder.
    Seriously though, there is a reason for those rules and that reason is safety. ALl the railroading rules came about because railroading was so incredibly dangerous in the beginning, I mean really really bad news if that was your livelihood, and so item by item they finally had to address these issues, and the FRA set a standard, the same way we’d all like to see national hsr standards, to remove doubt and question, and streamline the process. The problem isn’t the general order, the problem is having the freight trains share track with the passenger trains.
    just build a fifth track.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Jim, the rest of the world gets by without that antique rule. Mostly by banning riding the outsideof cars except maybe inside yards. Freight trains merrily pass by level boarding platforms all over the world including inside the US. Youtube is filled with videos that foamers take of the freight train passing through the LIRR station or the Metro North Station or the NJTransit station or the SEPTA station…. There’s no need for a a fifth track for 3 trains a day.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Take another look at that rule. It states that said platforms, at 4 feet above the rail, are to be located 8 feet from the centerline–note, centerline–of the adjacent track. This is typical of high level platforms in general for cars of normal width. No big deal unless your equipment (or an oversized “high and wide” load on a flat car) is wider than normal.

    The main thing is to have your men know where these platforms are if there is any switching to be done in the vicinity. From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look like there are too many freight spurs in the vicininty of stations, so this really shouldn’t be much of a problem. The real problem may be in setting a uniform height for equipment and associated platforms, and of course that’s a hardware choice and political issue.

    Joey Reply:

    8 feet from the centerline would mean that your traincars are nearly 16 feet wide. That’s pretty damn wide.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The 4-foot platforms in the Northeast are not even close to 8 feet from the centerline. They fit the standard loading gauge, which is 10’8″; anything else would be a violation of the ADA’s level boarding mandate.

    thatbruce Reply:

    and the FRA set a standard,

    California Public Utilities Commission, not FRA.

    Unfortunately, if you want same platform height for Caltrain and HSR, and have the occasional freight train use the outer Caltrain tracks, someone is going to have to pay for gauntlet track, retractable platforms or repealing 26-D, each of which have their own issues.

    @jimsf: Mind you, you could have dedicated rails for freight by running them as extended gauntlet track, rather than just through the stations; would cut down on the number of switches required and expected damage to the passenger rails due to freight traffic.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Unfortunately, if you want same platform height for Caltrain and HSR, and have the occasional freight train use the outer Caltrain tracks, someone is going to have to pay for gauntlet track, retractable platforms …
    False. What is so hard for you people to understand for you people about the idea of building the platform outside where the trains go? I mean, this has been the way “platforms” and been built adjacent to “tracks” for a couple hundreds years now.

    or repealing 26-D, …

    A state-wide repeal isn’t necessary, desirable as it might be. But regardless, in other words, this would have involved making the trivial level of political investment (“leaning upon”) any time in the last 15 years that any of our local state or federal electeds would have been happy to have made if they had been asked. (As I’ve been told by several of their staffers at a level high enough to know.)

    each of which have their own issues.

    Hey here’s a novel, entirely new, idea. Let’s pro-actively think outside the box and run this up a pole and synergize win-win leveraging assets ongoing entrepreneurially?

    How about just getting rid of freight for the time being? Solves dozens of problems, saves hundreds of millions of public dollars, costs practically nothing?

    How come the highly professional and highly ethical and highly compensated public agency employees and the astronomically paid consultants on the public’s dime never ever once considered or analyzed or evaluated or costed this as part of any of their laughably unprofessional “alternatives analyses”? Too busy working out ways for their special consultant buddies to score from CBOSS and from Special Needs Unique Design Standards For Unique Local Conditions and from adding 50% to the amount of construction needed to have time to do any thinking in the public interest.

    America’s Finest Transportation Engineering Professionals!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The problem is 100% Caltrain staff incompetence.
    They’ve had 15 years to deal with this simple but vitally important issue and chose not to.

  14. Clem
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 09:03

    OT: Morris Brown’s lawsuit is thrown out.

    Peter Reply:

    Brown, the plaintiff in the case, was not sure what to think of Kenny’s ruling yesterday.

    “From what I understand, the judge is saying we filed this action too early before the authority has done things we allege they will do,” Brown said.

    That’s what happens when you file a lawsuit against something before its time. It gets thrown out. It’s called ripeness Maybe his attorney can explain it to him. Since he apparently didn’t bother doing so before.

    The nice thing about this, though, is that if they refile after the Authority does those things Morris alleged will happen, those specific arguments will fall victim to a different legal doctrine, namely mootness. The arguments will be stale because full funding offers have in fact materialized, from China and Japan, with a partial offer from Korea. More of those likely to come from SNCF, and likely from Siemens, as well.

  15. Eric M
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 09:07

    This is for everyone to read. Morris Brown already knows it. His lawsuit is going to be thrown out. Boo hoo Morris. Just making sure everyone else does too, as Morris does with all his links around here. Time to crawl back into your little hole.

    Eric M Reply:

    Clem just beat me too it. Sorry for the repost.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A Whitman victory will be the game changer. She has taken a high-profile anti-hsr position and it will be taken as a majority repudiation of the CHSRA scheme if she wins. You can try to spin on this one like a whirling dervish but for everybody other than hsr foamers this is the litmus test. It is the equivalent of a re-vote. So you had better vote for Jerry early and often.

    Eric M Reply:

    But you don’t get it (as with most of your posts)!! If other countries are offering to fully fund the project, it wont matter who gets elected. The CAHSRA has enough power to run on it’s own now, especially if it takes up the offer from one of those countries. The funding is falling into place, whether you like it or not.

    Peter Reply:

    Wow, he uses active voice!! See how easy it is?

    Daniel Krause Reply:

    I don’t think most people equate voting for Meg Whitman as a re-vote of HSR. That is a gross misrepresentaion in my opinion. I do think however she can cause problems for the project as governor but given the continued support around the state she will have to tread lightly.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Totally agreed. It is not going to play a major role in this election.

    Tony D. Reply:

    “She has taken a high-profile anti-hsr position”…no she hasn’t! Whitman becoming governor will be “A major repudiation of the CHSRA scheme if she win”…no it won’t! Where are you getting all this crap?! Even if she does win the governorship, Meg won’t go against the people of this state or against the greatest economic stimulus project this state will ever see. Heck, if Meg is smart she will embrace this project wholeheartedly just like Arnold. In other words: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs = HSR, HSR, HSR!

    synonymouse Reply:

    If she reneges she will lose her base. She would end up like Schwarzenegger, without support from either party. McClintock and others have already put her on notice as they question her conservatism.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Now really ..stop the stupity and fearmongering and wasting MY tax dollars ..the morris browns of the world is just why CEQA needs redone

    Eric M Reply:

    LOL, I agree. I hope all these stupid lawsuits get thrown out

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    OT: Add this to the list of being thrown out. This is the same lawsuit as they did two years ago pretty much. I just say, send it to the garbage heap.

    political_incorrectness Reply: Whoops forgot URL. Menlo Park is joining. PAMPA and other cities are lining up wondering “where is my tunnel?”

  16. Emma
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 13:37

    Just one question. What are they trying to accomplish by stopping HSR?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Their lifestyle and the status quo be maintained. That their communities will not be “destroyed” by the big bad government.

  17. Michael D. Setty
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 16:11

    The level of ignorance and biases shown in many of the comments on this blog are appalling (rail fanboys at work??)

    There ARE options for building HSR in a way that doesn’t raise issues such as those legitimately raised by Palo Alto, Atherton, and Menlo Park, let alone very similar objections from a number of Southern California cities.

    For example, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason why ALL Bay Area/Sacramento HSR trains need be routed through San Jose, let alone Merced and Fresno along Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley, let alone the bizarre dogleg through Palmdale/Lancaster. Running 220 mph trains through these areas introduces virtually ALL the objections that are surfacing now.

    A new HSR rail line down the middle of I-5 would allow operation between Bakersfield and Tracy in about 1 hour, 15 minutes at 220 mph. This alignment, connected with slower speed, 110-125 mph segments into the Bay Area, from a new 125-150 mph mostly surface alignment across the Grapevine into L.A., and via existing rail corridors from Tracy to Sacramento via Stockton.

    The new segments of these routes probably could be constructed for less than $10 billion, plus another $10 billion or so for upgrading existing railroad corridors to 110-125 mph with full electrification, exclusive passenger tracks, new stations, and so forth–including mostly exclusive 110-125 mph passenger tracks between Tracy/Stockton and Bakersfield (on the south end connecting into a new Grapevine route).

    Under this scheme, HSR trains could still easily provide end-to-end travel times of less than three hours from L.A. to Bay Area end points in San Jose, mainly because an I-5 alignment would have no stations except perhaps two “local” stops near Coalinga and Los Banos–the former to provide bus connections to Tulare and Kings County, to San Luis Obispo County, and the latter to pacify Rusty Areias and his land development plans around Los Banos, as well as reasonably fast bus connections to the Monterey Bay Area.

    Upgrading existing railroad rights of way into L.A. the Bay Area and Sacramento, plus the Highway 99 segment between Tracy/Stockon and Bakersfield all have the great benefit of providing regional rail service to areas that desperately need something in addition to 220 mph HSR, which is really only important for the 6% of total California intercity trips that involve travel from San Diego, the L.A. Basin and the Bay Area and Sacramento regions.

    Frankly, I think the current HSR is heading towards an EPIC FAIL as currently constituted, reflecting the bone-headness and egotism of the political crew from Santa Clara County. The solution to this problem is simple: allow competing HSR consortiums to submit proposals, including dramatically different route structures and operating plans than the current CHSRC plans. I’d rather have HSR rail delayed a few years until a $20-$25 billion plan that CAN BE FUNDED with 50% private participation ($10-$12 billion+/- plus the bonds and federal dollars) can be vetted and approved environmentally, that have the entire process completely self-destruct, which is where it is currently headed.

    BTW, the idea that SNCF from France should be barred because that system carried people to the Nazi death camps AT GUNPOINT BY THE NAZIS, is completely absurd and a red herring thrown out there by those who realize that a HSR plan modeled on the French TGV network would quickly blow away the current half-baked plan in a fair and open competion.

    SO, following the SNCF “death camp” logic, let’s not let the Japanese bid either, or advance loans, because of the Bataan Death March in 1942, nor could the Chinese bid or advance loans because of the thousands of GIs killed by Chinese troops in the Korean War!

    Sheesh! Hey Rod and Quentin, what are you afraid of in a real open HSR competition, anyway?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Michael, if you read the service plans, you’d know that there are plans to run nonstop HSR between LA and SF, through Bakersfield and Fresno. The non-insane people who propose otherwise aren’t even thinking about I-5; they’re thinking of a greenfield right-of-way, skirting the western edges of Bakersfield and Fresno. At Fresno, such a route would allow a station about 5 km from downtown, which is closer in than many Amshacks. At Bakersfield, which sprawls in the wrong directions, it would be much more distant, about 20 km, which approaches beet field station standards.

    Spokker Reply:

    This is what I predict will end up happening.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I think it’s highly unlikely. So far the HSRA has avoided stepping out of the existing ROWs in many cases where the costs of land acquisition are much smaller than the benefits of the new alignment.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Mr. Setty

    Right on, bro’

    thatbruce Reply:

    The level of ignorance and biases shown in many of the comments on this blog are appalling (rail fanboys at work??)

    Indeed. Your post is a good example of such.

    Bay area:
    For example, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason why ALL Bay Area/Sacramento HSR trains need be routed through San Jose

    Given that the CAHSR system is being designed to serve the state of California, why would you remove the most populous city in the bay area from the system? ( San Jose is #3 statewide, after Los Angeles and San Diego and ahead of San Francisco at #4 ).

    But I digress. What is your proposal to get from the mandated San Francisco Transbay terminal to Sacramento without going through San Jose, and without drastically increasing the budget? You mention using existing railroad rights of way into … the Bay Area from Tracy, a project which is being investigated as the Altamont Overlay (in conjunction with ACE). Note that this project is not investigating putting HSR-compatibile trains across Dumbarton.

    , let alone Merced and Fresno along Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley,

    #98 and #5 respectively.

    Alignment through the Central Valley:

    Your statements are inconsistent. For example, you bring up the old, but very attractive routing along I-5, ie:
    A new HSR rail line down the middle of I-5 would allow operation between Bakersfield and Tracy in about 1 hour, 15 minutes at 220 mph

    You then say that operation at 220 mph is:
    really only important for the 6% of total California intercity trips that involve travel from San Diego, the L.A. Basin and the Bay Area and Sacramento regions.

    From a cost perspective, creating a 220 mph racetrack up the Central Valley along the I-5 for a mere 6% of trips doesn’t make sense. Far better to:
    Upgrad(ing) existing railroad rights of way … the Highway 99 segment between Tracy/Stockon and Bakersfield (has) the great benefit of providing regional rail service to areas that desperately need something

    or something similar, like putting the main HSR line in the Central Valley roughly following CA-99 and providing service to the existing population bases on the east side. Those 6% of trips running at mostly 220 mph can just slow down to 125 mph to pass through the cities.

    Central Valley to Los Angeles:
    let alone the bizarre dogleg through Palmdale/Lancaster.
    from a new 125-150 mph mostly surface alignment across the Grapevine into L.A.,

    As I and others have requested of the synonymouse puppet, how, exactly, would this alignment go, keeping within a maximum gradient of 3.5%? Due to faults in the area, tunnelling under the Grapevine (aka Tejon Pass) isn’t an option, and the gradients involved for a mostly surface alignment tend to be greater than 3.5% at points, and/or stray within restricted areas (National Forest).

    I’d rather have HSR rail delayed a few years until a $20-$25 billion plan that CAN BE FUNDED with 50% private participation ($10-$12 billion+/- plus the bonds and federal dollars) can be vetted and approved environmentally, (than) have the entire process completely self-destruct, which is where it is currently headed.

    The 2008 Prop 1A provides for 9.95 billion of bonds, which is expected to cover roughly half the cost of the core system in 2008 dollars. With the remainder being picked up by federal and private financing, how does the CAHSRA’s funding plan differ from yours (apart from covering a greater percentage of the population) ?

    what are you afraid of in a real open HSR competition

    Mainly yet another attempt to delay into oblivion the initial construction of the system. If the current ‘entire process’ is headed for self-destruction, let’s get some usable segments out of it first, which can be combined with future efforts.

  18. Michael D. Setty
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 16:13

    I also note that the major reason I’ll be voting for Jerry Brown is that I want a rational HSR plan to succeed, not throwing out the baby with the bathwater as Whitman would do.

  19. Michael D. Setty
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 16:15

    I also add that, under my 110-125 mph and 220 mph plan, the most “remote” station on the network, Fresno, would still be no more than 2 hours, 15 minutes from San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and Los Angeles, even at 110 mph over most of the Highway 99 alignment.

  20. Michael D. Setty
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 18:31

    Why haven’t my previous comments been posted yet? It’s been 3-4 hours, and there were several others that showed up after I wrote mine.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Chill out. New commenters must have their first comment approved by me before it or any subsequent comments will appear. It’s an anti-spam measure that has worked pretty well ever since we moved to WordPress almost a year ago.

    Spokker Reply:

    Comments from new posters are held for moderation. After the first post is approved, your subsequent posts will show up instantly.

  21. AndyDuncan
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 21:44

    I haven’t posted much recently, mainly because I recently moved from LA back to the bay area, specifically: Palo Alto. More specifically: downtown Palo Alto, about two blocks from the tracks.

    Clem posted on his blog a diagram showing the various grade separated crossings already existing on the corridor, and indeed that was my first impression: wow a lot of these crossings are already grade separated. In fact, the peninsula seems to be grade-separation happy, and not just for rail, but for various “expressways” crisscrossing the area.

    Regarding noise, even just two blocks from the tracks the existing trains are pretty quiet. cars driving down my street are louder, and mainly what you hear are the horns from the remaining non-grade separated crossings. Electric trains would be even quieter, even at 125mph.

    About those horns: they’re way, way, way quieter than the metrolink horns. Metrolink got in trouble with the FRA and had to switch to louder horns and move the horns higher on the trains. Let’s hear the peninsula NIMBYs calling for keeping those grade separations when the FRA wakes up and cracks down on caltrain too. It’s only a matter of time.

    The existing ROW is the perfect place for HSR. It’s wide, bordered on one side by one of those four-lane expressways (Alma, which is the north end of the Central Expressway), It’s already half grade separated through PA. The ROW is completely fenced with security fencing so crossing is only possible at intersections and crossings and is as much of a community dividing line as an aerial or a “berlin wall” would be. But neither of those seem necessary. PA should be campaigning for a slight berm and they should be clamoring to keep the trees and shrubs that provide noise and visual separation. (most of the separation is shrubs or small trees, by the way, very little is made up of old trees). Digging a trench would likely take out more trees than a berm.

    I specifically moved to PA and to downtown PA because it’s the densest area on the peninsula and because of the access to Caltrain. Perhaps it takes a bit of an external eye, but this is the perfect place for HSR and the perfect place on the peninsula for a station. RWC might want it, and they might be willing to encourage a bunch of development, but it’s going to take 20+ years before they have the draw that PA does.

    Oh, and for all the talk about parking garages ruining downtown PA, there’s several down there already and they don’t seem to be blighting anything. Grade separating the remaining crossings would help with traffic, even the relatively light caltrain schedule causes backups at Channing, Meadow and Charleston today. Even if you keep it at two tracks you’re going to need to grade separate those to avoid creating LA-like traffic.

    Caltrain is the best thing the peninsula has going for it and the only hope they (we?) have for avoiding LA-style traffic hell. HSR+Caltrain would be terrific. Build it.

    AndyDuncan Reply:

    (Churchill not Channing)

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That would make a great op-ed, letter to the Palo Alto City Council, and a blog post here. I encourage you to do all three. Thanks so much for this excellent post!

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Thank you for posting this. I enjoy seeing people from your city that take a second look at things before passing judgement.

  22. Michael D. Setty
    Sep 22nd, 2010 at 21:59

    OK. Thanks.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Welcome to the club, Mr. Setty;

    We have a common aquaintance, Mr. Snyder in Shepherdstown, W.Va.; I live about 20 minutes from him, and am one of several lifting fingers now and then on the station restoration project in Duffields.

    I’ve got to warn you, though, I’m one of those horrible rail enthusiasts, who sometimes has an almost unpardonable affection for smokey steam engines! Of course, they aren’t something for everyday regular service, but I hope you won’t mind if I bring in the puffers now and then. It’s not that the old is always better, but the old should be remembered for what it did, and for the lessons it can bring for the future (and I think the monsters are cool, anyway).

    For the rest of us who are not as familiar with Mr. Setty, he and and Leroy W. Demery, Jr., run a transit website with a great deal of statistical information you may find handy, along with plenty of good analysis (much more thorough than anything I do) to put the Randall Oh-What-A-Fools and Wendell Cons out to pasture, not that Wendell needs much of that these days, with him sounding as ridiculous as he does anymore.

    The site:

    Bookmark, enjoy, and once again, welcome to the club.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    !!@#$%&!! again! “And” twice in that one sentence!

    One word of warning; the program being used here has no edit function, if you make an error typing something, it’s there forever. Proofread before you hit the “Submit” button, you’ll have no other chance!

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