Peninsula NIMBYs Continue Anti-HSR Activism, Using Caltrain EIS As Leverage

Dec 19th, 2012 | Posted by

On Thursday night Caltrain will host a meeting in San Carlos of local elected officials to discuss the Caltrain electrification and HSR “blended plan.” And as usual, the anti-passenger rail forces will be organizing to try and stop improvements to rail service on the corridor.

The Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, the organization founded by Peninsula NIMBYs to try and kill the high speed rail project, is trying to use the Caltrain electrification proposal as leverage to prevent high speed rail from effectively operating on the Peninsula to serve San Francisco. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email blast they sent out:

Local residents should speak out for a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Caltrain and the High-Speed Rail Authority, to make clear that the Authority will have to operate any future high-speed trains: (1) without any expansion of the existing Caltrain right of way, and (2) without any aerial structures, unless such a structure is specifically requested by an affected local government. These limitations are NOT included in the current agreements. In addition, we need to ensure (3) that the environmental review process for the Caltrain modernization project will not allow for any changes to these limits without a completely new environmental and project review.

Without expansion of the right of way or aerial structures, passenger rail ridership will never be able to grow between San Francisco and San José, one of the state’s busiest rail corridors. It’s a good thing that those limitations aren’t included in the current agreements, because it is absurd to screw over future generations just to appease a few NIMBYs here in 2012. The “blended plan” doesn’t call for immediate expansion of the ROW or aerial structures, but it correctly doesn’t rule them out either.

Eventually Caltrain, high speed rail, and the communities themselves will need additional grade separated tracks. That’s not just so that more residents can ride the trains to work, but also so that cars, bikes, and pedestrians can cross the ROW safely.

I doubt that the NIMBYs will get their way on this, but they continue to push, in part because they are fast running out of options. Their primary strategy was a political one, hoping to convince the State Senate to refuse to release the voter-approved high speed rail bond funds for construction. They failed at that strategy earlier this year. Their allies in the Central Valley are failing in their legal strategy. CC-HSR is pushing another lawsuit, arguing that the high speed rail phasing plan doesn’t meet the requirements of Prop 1A, but that is their last chance to stop construction from beginning.

But their fight has always been about what’s happening in their own backyards. If they can’t kill the project, then they’ll try and force into permanent limits. If you live on the Peninsula, consider making a trip to San Carlos on Thursday night to speak out in support of Caltrain expansion, high speed rail, and the ability for future generations to make their own decisions about the use of the rail corridor.

  1. joe
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 22:33

    “The Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, the organization founded by Peninsula NIMBYs to try and kill the high speed rail project, is trying to use the Caltrain electrification proposal as leverage to prevent high speed rail from effectively operating on the Peninsula to serve San Francisco. ”

    What is the leverage ?

    If Caltrain does not hobble the HSR project then the Community Coalition will lobby the local cites and Caltrain to oppose Caltrain Electrification?

    Is this like Cleavon Little’s Sheriff taking himself hostage in Blazing Saddles?

  2. Jesse D.
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 22:40

    Can I just suggest again that anyone over the age of, say, 50 shouldn’t be allowed to vote on this?

    Seriously, it’s progress for not only this generation, but the next, and the next, and maybe even the next after that.

    Building for the next generation starts with this one, and to be quite honest, the Boomers had their shot. Vietnam protests, the gas crisis and what was done about it, even as recent as voting Bill Clinton in and then overreacting when he got a blowjob in the White House from an intern. He’s a guy, guys have urges, get over it.

    You wanna make progress? Then put the young blood in who will make progress. You wouldn’t try to play World Of Warcraft with the ENIAC, would you?

    VBobier Reply:

    Humph, My Sister in Law and I are both above 50 and We’re both for HSR, She’s 63 and I’m 52, So maybe that should be 70?

    John Burrows Reply:

    There’s a big anniversary coming up. Next October 18 will mark the 150th anniversary of rail passenger service on the Peninsula Corridor; adding up to roughly six generations worth of passengers. And if it were possible, I would bet that 150 years from now they will be preparing to celebrate the 300th anniversary of rail passenger service on the Peninsula Corridor and the 133rd anniversary of high speed rail service between SF and LA.

    As for who shouldn’t be allowed to vote—You would get even better results if you could prohibit Republicans from voting on this.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Not allowing Republicans to vote would work fine in Atherton, but not as well on the rest of the Peninsula (particularly in heavily Democratic Palo Alto). Best to disallow votes from the Republicans and from the over 50’s (there will be a lot of overlap). Might prove to be very helpful if future Caltrain or HSR bond issues requiring a 2/3 majority should come up.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    would bet that 150 years from now they will be preparing to celebrate the 300th anniversary of rail passenger service on the Peninsula Corridor and the 133rd anniversary of high speed rail service between SF and LA.

    Because the future will be just like the last few decades of your personal adult experience.

    Including sea levels, food supply, ocean acidity, coastline location, national boundaries, “needing” to commute hundreds of miles a day or have “important” business meetings hundreds of miles away, water supply, rainfall distribution, “democratic” governance, population distribution, wildfire prevalence, energy availability, mineral resource availability, human development patterns, global economic system. etc.

    2162 will be just like 2012, only with atomic jet packs, iPhone model 21555s, and kewl high speed choo choos for plying the finally-future-facing-finally-non-NIMBY suburbs of the SF Peninsula.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Barring the invention of teletranporters or nuclear war or a meteorite wiping out almost all life on the planet I suspect there will be people living on the Peninsula 2162. They will want to go places.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Nice to see that HSR supporters only care about climate change and peak oil as selling points, not as serious things to plan for and around. Im willing to bet Las Vegas won’t exist (at least in its current form as a sprawling, gas/electricity/water guzzling city) 159 years from now. But let’s build HSR there anyways!

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Las Vegas original business model was based on a gambling monopoly,which financed all the accompanying glitz. That monopoly is history. Ditto applies to the convention business, which every city of any consequence wants to get in on.

    Add to that change of basic circumstances the general detachment from urban reality that seems to permeate Sin City. They shot their wad on the monorail gadgetbahn while the local bus service has been struggling to keep up. Sad for the rest of Nevada that it is so dominated by Vega; it is already a desert. Can you imagine what the ecology will look like with the aquifer drained.

    And sad for California that an auslander hack like Reid has been able to skew the whole CHSRA project so far off target. As with BART we will be handicapped in perpetuity by the reduced efficiency and effectiveness stemming from really bad, inexcusable past decisions.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Harry Reid was born in a shotgun shack in Searchlight Nevada

    Peter Reply:

    I think syn was taking a swipe at Reid for not being from California. Classy as always.

    J Baloun Reply:

    More than half of California is not from California.

    J Baloun Reply:

    And with plate tectonics the same goes for the rocks and dirt.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Don’t tell the Republicans or their Young-Earth-Creationist allies!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Back in July, SPUR’s magazine “The Urbanist” published a great article detailing how high speed rail was helping to build synergy between Hollywood and Silicon Valley:

    Truthfully however, a very similar article could be written about High Speed Rail doing the same for Silicon Valley/Hollywood building synergy with Las Vegas.

    What you tend to ignore is that Las Vegas today is about venues: look at what the casinos are building and you see it’s event locations that can be used for performances. No one, for example, is going to book Celine Dion for a six month stint the Nokia Theatre. That’s why Reid’s participation is important.

    Andy M. Reply:

    Why should Las Vegas not exist 150 years from now.

    Las Vegas has seen change his coming and is doing something about it. That’s why they’re back HSR. Other are obviously not as smart. They are the ones who could be ghost towns in due course.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    You have the same blind, naive faith in technology and capitalism that libertarians have when they are discussing climate change and peak oil. Lake Mead isn’t getting bigger, and HSR does little to solve the problem of building a monstrous, resource intensive city in the middel of the desert.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You are assuming that climate change means the Colorado River basin will get dryer. It could get wetter. Las Vegas could install a purple pipe system. Flush and irrigate with recycled water. Lots of options.

    Jim Reply:

    No, the basin will get dryer. All the models say so. But, on the other hand, it’s well known that water flows towards money.

    joe Reply:

    Las Vegas is far safer than NYC or the Bay cities in the bay area.

    Time and time again our models fail to predict the acceleration in current conditions such as sea ice melt and sea level rise. We’re seeing greater impacts with elevated CO2 than anticipated.

    Storms for Atlantic and sea level rise in general will threaten transportation.

    Vegas can recycle water like Orlando FL however most water use is for Ag.

    When forecasting 150+ years out, our mesoscale / precipitation models for the Basin are unproven. Too many unknowns.

    The general concern is increasing temps mean earlier snow-pack melt and higher evaporation demand. In Vegas maybe high temperatures and the cost to air condition push people away.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Shorter Joe: in response to climate change, people should abandon the lowest-emission cities in the US and move to Vegas and crank up the air conditioning higher. Works perfectly, ignoring the 95% of the world that’s not in the US. (Where are people in the Maldives supposed to move to?)

    joe Reply:

    Clearly I wrote :”In Vegas maybe high temperatures and the cost to air condition push people away.”

    I can’t find a specific forecast that will show Las Vegas is going to go away in 150 years because of climate change and therefore should not build rail to Las Vegas.

    None of the models can forecast 150 years forward. None.

    We can’t even get sea ice and sea level height right forecasts – they’re happening faster. It’s pretty clear NYC has a problem. 150 years from now it will be very warm and humid with flooding.

    What’s low emission about heavily A/C and humid NYC or the Bay Area?

    The amount of energy to cool humid NYC which condense water and releases the latent heat of vaporization air is far greater than cooling dry air like is found in las vegas.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What’s low emission about heavily A/C and humid NYC or the Bay Area?

    The Bay Area’s temperature range is such that it needs very little heating as well as air conditioning. New York’s temperature range is more extreme, but large apartment buildings are more energy-efficient to both heat and cool, and the city is already fairly transit-oriented. Ed Glaeser did the work to compute the extra emissions coming from residential energy use and transportation only and found that the metro areas with the lowest extra emissions added per new housing unit are New York plus the Californian ones.

    I don’t know the electricity consumption in Las Vegas, but in Phoenix proper, which is also dry and hot, it is about 15,000 kWh per person per year, versus about 4,000 in New York proper.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    but large apartment buildings are more energy-efficient to both heat and cool, and the city is already fairly transit-oriented.

    Even when they don’t live in large apartment buildings people in metro NY can live in multiple housing unit buidlings. The outer boroughs and the close in suburbs are fairly lousy with 2,3,4 and 6 unit apartment buildings or garden apartments. Even when it’s a single family house it tends to be smaller and closer to it’s neighbors. I don’t have a reference but I seem to remember that the average NYC resident uses half the energy of the average American and the average NY Metro resident uses three quarters.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let me know if you can find it. I only know where to get data about electricity usage (it’s from PlaNYC); New York uses one quarter as much electricity as the national average, but that doesn’t include heating costs. It emits one third the national CO2 average, but that includes transportation (transit vs. cars), industrial emissions (New York has little industry left), etc.

    Brookings and Ed Glaeser have numbers for each major US metro area, but that’s conversely only for transportation and residential emissions. (Brookings gives you the preexisting average, Glaeser the marginal impact of each additional resident.)

    joe Reply:

    It is unclear Apartment buildings are the reason NY State has low per capita emissions.

    Or CA which is 4th.

    Still, when the subways flood, and they will in 150 years, it makes no sense to hold NYC up favorable against Las Vegas.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I don’t know, I think being able to say “We didn’t cause the flooding of the subways, or of multiple hundred million people’s homes,” is a point in favor.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    I think there’s a little bit of confusion here. Every single major metropolitan area in the Western United States with the exception of Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle is completely dependent on irrigation to supply their water needs. That includes the Bay Area, San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake City, and even Spokane.

    Las Vegas only has problems because of politics: Nevada has the lowest legal allocation from the Colorado River under the the Interstate Compact and it has no other places to go to get water realistically. The 2 million people living there are no more in jeopardy than the 2 million living in Santa Clara County as far as pure sustainability goes. The difference is that San Francisco and the Peninsula don’t have to share the Sierra snow melt with anyone, whereas Nevada does with the Colorado.

    Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and San Jose are way more vulnerable in the scheme of things than Las Vegas as far as survival. Sin City is simply less able to support growth.

    John Burrows Reply:

    Does this mean that we have a bet? Working out the details might be a little tricky.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Experience would indicate that you will hose it up just as we did…

  3. Reedman
    Dec 20th, 2012 at 10:18

    Perhaps the Peninsula would support HSR if CAHSR would commit to no higher speeds than existing Caltrain until there is 100% grade separation and ROW isolation (Caltrain hits about a dozen folks on it’s tracks per year.

    Jon Reply:

    I think CAHSR is more than happy to commit to 100% grade separation and ROW isolation. The reason that’s not going to happen is because of peninsula NIMBYs, not CAHSR.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “without any aerial structures” means no affordable grade separation.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Means no catenary or whiz bang radio based PTC either.

    Whenever “ewwww that unsightly catenary” comes I like to post this link to the Palo Alto train station,+CA&hl=en&ll=37.443076,-122.165011&spn=0.001819,0.002532&sll=42.746632,-75.770041&sspn=3.444692,5.185547&oq=palo+alto&hnear=Palo+Alto,+Santa+Clara,+California&t=m&z=18&layer=c&cbll=37.443076,-122.165011&panoid=1KwalLY4AuFMLB4GiUbRhA&cbp=12,133.43,,0,0

    synonymouse Reply:

    “affordable” is strictly in the eyes of the beholder. Apparently a gratuitous 50 mile detour is perfectly affordable.

    Clem Reply:

    So is a billion-plus tunnel to avoid impact to BART facilities in Millbrae that cost less than a tenth of that to build from scratch.

    OPM is a great way to pay for this stuff.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Thank you, Clem for keeping a vigilant eye on Caltrain-hsr etc. The Peninsula owes you a debt of gratitude for ferreting out the gruesome details. We who were not born yesterday know that had it not been for BART-MTC and the various personalities attached to them the electrification, TBT and Peninsula grade crossing solutions would already be in place and enjoyed for at least a decade.

    And if the PAMPA, et al advocates start to feeling defeatist all they have to do is consider the Tejon Ranch Co.’s utter triumph over the CHSRA. In effect Tejon-Santa Clarita kicked PB to the curb. If they can pull off that coup so can the Peninsula burgs get their way too.

    J. Wong Reply:

    You claim that PAMPA will be able to reject HSR supposedly the same way that Tejon Ranch-Santa Clarita did (with no evidence that they did so, I might add). So why is HSR still coming up the Peninsula?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Electrified Caltrain is coming up the Peninsula, altogether similar to the 1991 plan. grosso modo. PAMPA has far more money than the Tejon Ranch and some of its wealth is as old as the Chandlers’ and will handily fend off any PB attempts at ghetto blight.

    Caltrain is in PAMPA’s back yard and is gonna stay there. The Tejon Ranch Co. proclaims hsr inherently and in all cases lowers the value of their property, even in tunnel. That’s as NIMBY as it gets.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    so you are back to ghetto blight? just a few days ago you were claiming that clean quiet electric trains increase property values.

    synonymouse Reply:

    4 track hollow core elevated equals ghetto blight. Ain’t gonna happen.

    When the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down property values shot up overnight and spectacularly.

    Aerials are noisy, even with only 2 tracks. When they do tv news stories on Oakland streets(usually shootings)oftentimes you can hear that stupid, obnoxious BART tinny, ringy, hiss in the background. Now that’s brutalist-ghetto. BART-PB, clean up your noise act.

    At least the French rubber-tyred metro tech is quiet. altho lacking in other areas. Noise is a health issue. Write a law on it, nannies.

    Clem Reply:

    There is a big difference between mere electrification versus a 10-foot deep concrete box viaducts that PB and HNTB had planned in quite some detail in their preliminary alternatives analysis and draft EIR documents. The draft EIR and supporting engineering was 98% done but never published. Even where I live in San Carlos, PB had planned a 40 to 50-foot tall four-track viaduct on stilts, replacing the existing grade separation berm entirely. You really have to wonder what they were smoking.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Clem, as I opined before, I think the engineers were thoroughly bored and just decided to thump the wasps’ nest. I have the impression Van Ark had a sense of humor and real world possibilities that is missing now. I see this same phenom in the Borden to Corcoran scheme, which just had to have that same certain incendiary effect as the PAMPA “Berlin Wall”

    And again in the “What the Hell?’ call to reopen Tejon. He had to know how that that would play.

    Or maybe I am reading too much into it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Clem they proposed very nice retained fill and berms where possible and it was going to create an impenetrable Berlin Wall dividing the community – which has been divided by the railroad sine it became a community – cause the cows to go dry, stop the hens from laying etc. Can’t do it grade because that would mean taking a dozen or so driveways, cause the cows to stop laying and the hens to go dry. Viaducts in addition to making the livestock upset aren’t good enough either. Just what tdo they want?

    Clem Reply:

    @adirondacker, you seem to blame PAMPA and other peninsula towns for the massive failure of community outreach perpetrated by CHSRA and Caltrain. They presented HSR as a “pick your poison” situation and fell flat on their faces when it came to selling the benefits. On the most fundamental level, they failed to explain to residents what was in it for them, and let the public narrative go wildly out of control (Berlin Walls and all that).

    @syn, we must have coffee or beer together some day.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Clem, they did the outreach they were required to do by law. If you don’t like the law, talk to you legislator. I suspect that even sending out multilingual crews to carefully explain, in hours long presentations, to each individual household, wouldn’t be enough outreach for the people complaingi that there hasn’t been enough outreach.

    Clem Reply:

    Again you miss the point entirely. This isn’t a legal problem, but a public relations problem. It’s not the quantity of the outreach that matters, it’s the quality. They offered a choice between a crap burger and a shit sandwich, and even as that choice was carefully presented within the finely crafted legal framework prescribed by CEQA, it had a very predictable outcome: “F$#% off.” So here we are.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    And if they hadn’t carefully presented it within the finely crafted framework the NIMBY’s on the west side of the track would be suing because they didn’t. The ones on the east side of the track would be simultaneously whining that even though they sent multilingual crews for hours long presentations t each household it wasn’t enough and that they spent too much money doing it. And sued.
    If you don’t like the finely crafted framework bitch at your legislator.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Clem, offering achoice between a crap-burger and a shit sandwich is not a “public relations problem”: its a problem in offering shitty choices, due to considering only shitty choices. No amount of PR is going to fix the underlying shitiness.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    sure – if someone else pays for them.

    The $68 billion budget doesn’t include any grade seps nor any passing tracks.

    joe Reply:

    Reedman is mistaken, “The Peninsula” already supports HSR.

    Cities with high priority Caltrain grade crossings can propose to non-HSR funding sources, such as San Mateo County funds, to improve grade separations.

    Even Menlo Park is considering a grade crossing improvement proposal – Council members are conflicted about ROW improvements undermining the current city govt.’s opposition to HSR. It’s really a mess right now – they are compelled to do nothing to prove their point.

    Clem Reply:

    Speed has little to do with the number of deaths, most of which are suicides anyway. Another important point is that the corridor is already about 60% grade-separated. When we talk about separating the remaining crossings, that’s to get us from 60% to 100%, not 0% to 100%. This is a decades-long process that has been underway since the 1940s.

    Because the crossings are clumped together, a fairly minor grade separation program could result in just three short clumps of crossings in San Mateo, Redwood City, and PAMPA. In sections in between, train speeds could be raised considerably. To get there, we would need to separate just eleven crossings. The remaining 32 would be concentrated in the three clumps.

    Linden & Scott in San Bruno,
    Center St in Millbrae,
    Broadway in Burlingame,
    25th in San Mateo (already planned),
    East Meadow and Charleston in Palo Alto,
    Castro & Rengstorff in Mountain View,
    Mary & Sunnyvale Ave in Sunnyvale

    This would leave 15 miles of grade separated ROW from SF to Burlingame, 6.5 miles from San Mateo to Redwood City (a.k.a. the “short midline overtake”), and 17 miles from Palo Alto to San Jose.

    Leave the clumps for last, when the respective cities decide (on a case-by-case basis) to bite the bullet.

    morris brown Reply:


    For some reason you omit Menlo Park. The main crossing at Ravenswood, is very close to El Camino and is very complicated and has only 55 feet of ROW at some points. MP also has three other crossings, all of which would be affected by any implementation of one grade crossing.

    Also many of the existing grade separations would no doubt be needed for upgrades or re-building to accommodate higher speed operations and certainly to accommodate more tracks.

    Your dogmatic statement:

    “Speed has little to do with the number of deaths…” surely doesn’t agree with the reason speeds limits have been implemented.

    Bottom line, of course is, that the Prop 1A funds are being diverted into funding an ordinary Amtrak style rail system. This is no longer a true HSR project. Rather the local transit agencies are just seeking to get as much money as they can to fund projects for their own purposes. Even Richard admits to this by calling the present business plan a “modernization” plan for regional rail.

    There will be no further funding for the California project from the Feds, at least not for 10 years or more. The Authority will be lucky to hand onto the the $3 billion they have thus far been allotted.

    Peter Reply:

    “surely doesn’t agree with the reason speeds limits have been implemented.”

    Do you even know WHY there is a 79 mph speed limit for rail? It damn sure has nothing to do with grade crossing deaths.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @morris brown and @Peter:

    Since 1951, running passenger trains at >80mph requires additional FRA-mandated equipment to be installed for PTC operation (automatic cab signal, automatic train stop or automatic train control system). Most passenger operators don’t want to deal with any extra expense (until they’re dragged kicking and screaming into the post-2015 PTC mandate), so they stick to 79mph.

    US CFR 49.b.236

    (d) (1) Prior to December 31, 2015, where any train is permitted to operate at a speed of 80 or more miles per hour, an automatic cab signal, automatic train stop, or automatic train control system complying with the provisions of this part shall be installed, unless an FRA approved PTC system meeting the requirements of this part for the subject speed and other operating conditions, is installed.

    Clem Reply:

    Menlo Park is part of the PAMPA cluster of railroad crossings, from Fair Oaks (Atherton) to Churchill (Palo Alto) inclusive. Refer to the diagram I linked above.

    The existing speed limit of 79 mph is set by the type of signaling system currently in use, and has been this way since about World War 2. This speed limit is unrelated to the issue of fatalities.

    I share your distaste for any Prop 1A money being spent on CBOSS.

    Peter Reply:

    Don’t confuse Morris with facts.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    joe Reply:

    They aren’t sure what they plan to do with the money, if anything, but the Menlo Park City Council decided to ask for county funding to study and possibly build grade separations at train crossings.

    The county is only asking for letters of interest at this point, not actual project proposals. It has $225 million available — an amount that Mr. Taylor said will pay for three to five grade separations out of the 40 crossings in the county.

    The four Caltrain crossings in Menlo Park were prioritized based on traffic counts conducted in 2012, with Ravenswood Avenue leading the pack with an average 24,100 vehicle crossings a day, followed by Oak Grove Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and Encinal Avenue, according to the staff report.

    “I don’t disapprove the idea of a study,” Mr. Cline said, acknowledging that the previous reports were outdated. “I want to make sure that when we do that we’re articulating very clearly what we want and don’t want” just in case high-speed rail heads in a different design direction than expected.

    Clem Reply:

    Menlo Park won’t get any construction funds. Their four crossings are all coupled (can’t do one without doing them all) and further coupled to two nearby crossings in Atherton, which is probably the last place that would agree to it. The politics just wouldn’t work, never mind the technical issues.

    The biggest bang for buck is at 25th Ave in San Mateo, with new crossings added at 28th and 31st. These three are already deeply embedded in San Mateo planning policy, and there is little or no controversy about them. I’ll bet you that’s where the money ends up, with bridge abutments built for a future four-track mid-line overtake.

    Bottom line: Menlo need not apply.

    Peter Reply:

    The amusing thing is that Menlo Park could totally benefit from grade separation. At the same time, it will be detrimental to them to NOT have grade separation, as traffic on the Caltrain corridor increases and blocks traffic at grade crossings for longer and longer each day. At the latest when HSR trains are added, residents will likely be clamoring for grade separations.

    Peter Reply:

    Couldn’t they still build single grade-separations if they left the tracks at-grade and built underpasses, albeit with much greater property impacts than building viaducts?

    Clem Reply:

    Menlo Park has already studied this question, and proposes to study it again.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s the plan. Study it, then fight over it for a few years. Then decide to study it again, then fight over it for a few years. By then the first study and it’s conclusions are too old to be pertinent. BUt then someone sues because the first study doesn’t agree with the second study. By the time that wends it’s way through the courts the second study is too old so a third study has to be done. Rince repeat.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Working marvelously for HSR in Canada and Australia.

    Clem Reply:

    Embarrassingly for Menlo Park, the old study shows four tracks through town.

    Peter Reply:

    Again, as always, a split-grade option would be the best for Menlo Park. As well as Atherton and Palo Alto.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Embarrassingly for Anglophone nations (excepting the birthplace of railways), they are better at producing studies and lawsuits than actually laying track for an HSR route.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nah, even the birthplace of railways can’t seem to lay tracks except at costs that approach those of the Chuo Shinkansen, except they’re not maglev.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    even the birthplace of railways can’t seem to lay tracks except at costs that approach those of the Chuo Shinkansen, except they’re not maglev

    … and not underground…(!)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    FRA regulations are actually generous by international standards about permitting high speeds through grade crossings. The international range I’ve seen is a maximum speed of 160 to 200 km/h through grade crossings, with 160 more common; the FRA permits a maximum of 200 km/h (125 mph really) in principle, and 180 km/h (110 mph) in practice.

    swing hanger Reply:

    In Japan the maximum speed is 130km/h on lines with grade crossings, the speed that requires 600m to stop.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    But then, that’s also the maximum speed of most of the rollng stock…

    Germany, FWIW, has a 200 km/h limit for grade crossings (but I think they have to be four quadrant gates on such liness). Switzerland has 125 km/h (but that’s more the limitation of the general line and signalling configuration; lines for hither speed get upgraded, and grade crossings are eliminated).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In France, it’s 160, hence the Green plans to bag all LGV construction and instead grade-separate everything and upgrade to 200; in Sweden and Norway I think it’s 160 and 200, but I never remember which is which.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    … which is funny in France, because there is almost no rolling stock around running faster than 160 km/h… (of course, besides the TGV trainsets)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s still the question of what speed TGVs are allowed to go through grade crossings at.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s still the question of what speed TGVs are allowed to go through grade crossings at.
    The same speed as any other train in France does. There’s nothing special about TGVs. They’re just trains. (Memo to sub-morons at CHSRA and PCJPB who are unemployable outside the protected US sheltered workshop for Special Needs planners: “high speed trains” are trains, not piss-poor airliner surrogates.)

    FYI here’s a French rail level crossing with 200kmh line speed, 136 trains/day, 4000 motor vehicles/day.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m asking specifically because there are legacy lines hosting TGVs that have been upgraded to 200-220. I think these are grade-separated, but I may be wrong.

  4. Derek
    Dec 20th, 2012 at 15:21

    State Sen. Mark Leno (D-SF) on HSR: “Voters supported the bonds. And I think it is telling that some of the naysayers want to confuse taxpayers by suggesting we can’t invest in infrastructure such as high speed rail while we’re struggling to keep our schools funded. That is classic apples and oranges. One is federal fund money, one is private bond money. So it’s a nonsensical statement and exposes either their ignorance or their determination to confuse.”

  5. morris brown
    Dec 20th, 2012 at 21:29

    @Derek and others:

    What Mark Leno knows about HSR could be put into a thimble. The legislators that had really studied the project (Lowenthal, DeSaulnier, Simitian) all voted no, which followed recommendations from the LAO, state Auditor etc. Such brilliant legislators, like Jerry Hill, who told an audience the other day, “I didn’t vote for HSR, I voted for funding CalTrain electrification”, illustrates with force how much he, like the other sheep of the Democratic party knew about the project; they just followed along Steinberg and Leno, who were led by Gov. Brown with his vision of having HSR become a major legacy attached to him.

    What is so very interesting is that California HSR is a dead issue on the Federal front, and not only a dead issue for Republicans, but for many Democrats as well.

    Robert notwithstanding, how many legislators are going to try and have California, without Federal support fund this project on its own?

    SB-1029, the appropriation law to fund the the current portions of the project is clearly in violation on so many points of law included in AB-3034. $1.1 billion of funds from Prop 1A, specifically dedicated for HSR, are trying to be diverted to regional rail “modernization” projects; like new EMUs for CalTrain, and CBOSS for CalTrain.

    VBobier Reply:

    Actually Democrats do support HSR, Republicans in Congress do not. On SB whatever, that’s for the Courts to decide and I doubt they’ll take the side of the Nimbys, so get over it, the Nimbys continue to lose…

    Eric M Reply:

    Hey morris brown, have you even read Section 2704.095 of AB-3034>

    Eric M Reply:


    morris brown Reply:


    I suggest you read and understand what is in AB-3034. The $1.1 billion they pulled out in SB-1029, is not from the section 2704.095, (the $950 million funding for upgrades to regional tranisit to accommodate HSR).

    No indeed, the $1.1 billion is from section 2704.04, (the $9 billion in funding which is for funding real HSR, not regional or “modernization” projects. Completely illegal.

    Clem Reply:

    It’s actually a mix from both sources (the $9 billion as well as the $950 million). For example, the Caltrain electrification project was assigned $106M out of the connectivity funding and $600M out of the HSR funding.

    VBobier Reply:

    Well unless You can prove what You say in a court of law Morris, until then it’s legal, don’t like that answer? Too bad, so sad…

    VBobier Reply:

    HSR & Caltrain will use the same ROW, the same Tracks & the same Catenary to get electricity from, so I see nothing wrong with money being spent on what will be the 1st part of a functioning HSR system & the Courts will see the same thing, so Your argument is worthless as it does not hold water…

    VBobier Reply:

    That should be:

    “so I see nothing wrong with HSR money being spent on what will be the 1st part of a functioning HSR system”

  6. joe
    Dec 20th, 2012 at 22:21

    “What is so very interesting is that California HSR is a dead issue on the Federal front…”

    Yeah, if you discount the President, the Senate and California Delegation, HSR is literally dead.

    In other news, Menlo Park just hired the former Iraqi Information Minister (AKA ‘Baghdad Bob’) as it’s new HSR lobbyist.

    VBobier Reply:

    Glad to hear He’s not dead at least, He was at least entertaining…

  7. Derek
    Dec 21st, 2012 at 13:54

    X Train aims to make a party of the Southern California-Las Vegas trip, by Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas Sun.

    The train will have 16 cars, including two food service cars, two lounges and 12 first-class passenger compartments with 48 seats and a small bar… The southern terminus of the train route will be the Fullerton Transportation Center in Orange County… “We’re advertising to the guy who wants to start his Vegas vacation the minute he gets on a train in Fullerton,” Barron said… Barron hopes to do test runs in November 2013, with an inaugural journey rolling into Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve… Tickets will cost $100 each way and include food and drinks, but not exotic cocktails, Barron said. Those would cost extra.

    Peter Reply:

    This train isn’t transportation, it’s a novelty item.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Yes, it’s a cruise train. Like the Orient Express in Europe (the ritzy one with the dress code, not the real one that departed the Gare de l’Est daily until a few years ago).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Peter: If it conveys people between an origin and a destination then it’s transportation. If it were a loop it would be a novelty. Some Union Pacific folks like to denigrate Amtrak as “novelty transportation”. They seem to be content to host this train, presumably because the commercial terms are acceptable, and more remunerative than the Amtrak contract.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Indeed. The Union Pacific has every reason to want to see the X Train succeed. It clogs up BNSF’s track where the former competes with the UP and then conveniently adds demand for UP’s track where it doesn’t have much between Barstow and Las Vegas.

    The X Train also undercuts the argument to reserve a right of way alongside the High Desert Corridor east of Palmdale for Desert Xpress or other types of trains.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted: How can one train a day 4 times a week undercut the argument for rail along the HDC? The X train will barely scratch the surface of the demand out there. As for it being some plot to by UP to congest the BNSF Transcon, again one or two trains a day will have little extra impact where there are already 60 or more. As far as I know there is as yet no agreement with BNSF or RCTC, the other agency involved.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    You are already assuming that there is such a demand out there. Running it 4 times a week is precisely what the High Desert Corridor/Desert Xpress want to avoid. If they are empty, it shows there is no demand and there’s no point of building HDC with rail. If they are full, then building HDC would be under cost pressure to be able to serve the population at a lower price. And if demand is really strong, taking a service away that goes through the Inland Empire and OC and replacing it with one along the HDC will not be as popular.

    Peter Reply:

    And no railroad would sell trackage rights that would be detrimental to its own operations.

    @ Ted

    Please take off the tinfoil hat.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Amtrak is novelty transportation, or at least the parts that share tracks with UP are.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Well, 40 years of service is hardly “novelty”in its true sense, and indeed its a continuation of services that have been around for much longer than that. If you disapprove of Amtrak’s offering you need to utilize a more appropriate pejorative. But remember that many people still find that it meets their needs and they are willing to pay good money for tickets.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’d take it on the NEC regularly; the only time I ever used a competing mode, an NJT-SEPTA combination to Philly, it was slow and my first train was late and missed the connection, so I never did it again. So yeah, I am willing to pay extra money for tickets. So are something like one eighth the number of people who’d be willing to pay extra money for tickets at normal HSR speeds. And that’s on the NEC – in UP territory, the proportion of people willing to pay money to ride the train should be measured in orders of magnitude notation rather than fractional notation.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    We don’t know how many people in UP territory might ride the train as frequencies are minimal and trains are often sold out. My point is that a lot of people are willing to pay even for a slower journey. The service meets their needs and indeed if you are traveling say from Tucson to college in Alpine TX it works quite well and there are few alternatives.

    Jim Reply:

    They’re not willing to pay very much, though. The average fare revenue per passenger-mile on the NEC is 60 cents. On the Surfliner it’s 26 cents, on the Coast Starlight, 18 cents and on the Sunset 14 cents (despite those lucrative sleepers).

    Assuming Amtrak is charging what the market will bear, that suggests people really aren’t that eager to ride the UP based trains. Amtrak hasn’t yet reached the point where it has to pay people to ride the Sunset, but it’s getting close.

  8. Ted Judah
    Dec 21st, 2012 at 23:22

    OT: DeSaulnier to Return as Transportation Committee Chair in 2013:

    Although not the only Senator reappointed to the same comittee chairmanship as in last session, you have to wonder if Steinberg made a mistake in not putting new Senator Cathleen Galgiani into this role.

    Peter Reply:

    He’s not going to put a junior senator in as chair when there are much more senior members of the party on the same committee.

  9. Andy M.
    Dec 22nd, 2012 at 04:23

    If they won’t approve aerial structures, then just leave the crossing barriers down for most of the day and if somebody complains tell them to talk to the NIMBYs about it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That is one of the options I’m sure was explored very early on – just leaving the ROW as it is. And eliminated as an option for many reasons. It’s still one of the options. Just leave it as it is and when the train traffic gets busy enough start eliminating stops along the two track section. So sorry but if we stop the Caltrain local at Palo Alto it means the Caltrain express and the HSR train get slowed down too much so we have to eliminate the Caltrain local stop. So sorry the crossing gates are down so much but you were offered grade separations but grade separations were going to cause the apocalypse so they didn’t get built. So very sorry….

  10. datacruncher
    Dec 22nd, 2012 at 12:36

    Bakersfield opponents are taking a slightly different EIS/EIR tactic. They have asked CAHSRA to leave Bakersfield out of the current EIR/EIS, truncating it as Fresno-Shafter. Locals want a separate EIR for a Bakersfield ROW (thru vs around the city) when there is additional construction funding lined up.

    Meantime in Kings County, Hanford’s new City Manager feels the Hanford East alignment will emerge as the chosen alignment. He indicates “entrepreneurs are already out there making property acquisitions”. Additionally, Hanford is in the process of studying and approving a new Costco anchored shopping center east of town near the proposed Hanford East station site.

    Peter Reply:

    The Bakersfield Californian author failed geography (Pixley is on 99, which is not what the HSR alignment will be following). Other than that, it makes sense to rethink the Bakersfield alignment.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, giving him the benefit of the doubt, the Pixley Wildlife Refuge is on the HSR alignment.

    Michael Reply:

    If re-thinking happens, it would be nice to look again at crossing from BNSF to UP north of Bakersfield and following adjacent to the UPRR through Bakersfield. Seems like the alignment is better suited for running at top speed and wold not require so many miles of aerial.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The impression I get is that what the City really wants is to have train enter city limits on existing or new legacy track and not go faster than FRA limits would allow. That’s not going to happen because the system has to be capable of 220mph service in the Valley, and that means new viaducts and construction to achieve it.

    This is an attempt to argue for a “blended” approach, if you will.

    VBobier Reply:

    Pixley, the only town that’s both real and fictional at the same time.

    joe Reply:

    Just amazing:

    “The idea is simple really, though it would involve a degree of open communication by the authority that we haven’t seen a lot of so far.”

    Remember the CAHSRA was rebuked by bakersfield in Dec and made a counter offer to Bakersfield’s City Manager. The City Manager did nothing: Didn’t forward that offer or respond. He waited months and then wrote an apology letter to the City Council for not telling them about the CAHSRA counter offer.

    joe Reply:

    The alternate route would avoid those two properties, but it would impact the Bakersfield Homeless Center, a city public works yard, new housing being planned at Mill Creek and parking for the Rabobank Arena and Convention Center.

    On Tuesday, The Bakersfield Californian ran an article about the possible alternate alignment.

    In his memo to councilmembers about the topic a day later, Tandy said, “My apologies that this follows the newspaper story. We were attempting to get more understandable material to share, but we should have sent it to you anyway.”

    Tandy and city staff reviewed the alternate alignment in January but didn’t disclose it publicly. The city manager told The Californian he hadn’t told council members about the new plan because he considered it “incomplete” and missing key details.

  11. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 22nd, 2012 at 19:59

    Off topic, but recently revived on Railway Preservation News–and included simply because it is so appropriate for the season.

    Below, as commented by RyPN poster Alexander D. Mitchell IV:

    [notes below from YouTube post with corrections/additions made by me]

    “Train 42 ‘The Pelican’ headed by N&W 4-8-4 Class J 603 arrives at Rural Retreat, VA eastbound from New Orleans to Washington shortly before 10pm Dec. 27th, 1957, and thunders off into the night. The Norfolk & Western Railway’s own Class J was perhaps the finest of all express steam engines, and 603 is heard here in its last days of main line service with a consist of 17 cars. The photograph is of Train 17 ‘The Birmingham Special’ westbound arriving later that same night at 11.37pm, being waved through by Agent J.L. Akers. The photograph and sound recording were by O. Winston Link and his assistant Corky Zider who operated a Tapesonic recorder and non-directional microphone; chimes were played specially for the recording at the nearby Grace Lutheran Church by Mrs. Kathryn Dodson. Seven nights later, steam motive power would come to an end on the N&W main line through Rural Retreat and Bristol.”

    Alternate recording, with different photo of an eastbound and possibly of better audio quality:

    NPR interview with Mrs. Dodson in 2001:

    The station still stands in 2010, albeit in poor condition:

    Crank up the speakers………………


    From me–I’d bet even Morris Brown would like this. . .and if he didn’t, then there would be something really wrong with him. . .Merry Christmas!

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