Mountain View Voice

News - August 6, 2010

HSR station: where will it fit?

City officials say 3,000 parking space are needed

by Daniel DeBolt

A rough outline of what a high-speed rail station would look like in downtown Mountain View is starting to take shape, and it's going to need a lot of parking. City officials say it would require 3,000 parking spaces within a three-mile radius, among other things.

Mayor Ronit Bryant and Public Works director Mike Fuller recently met with California High Speed Rail Authority officials who laid out some basic requirements of an "intermediate" station in downtown Mountain View. Basic requirements include a main station building with the floor area of a large grocery store — 65,000 square feet.

Unlike a larger "terminal" station, like those planned for San Francisco and San Jose, trains would stop and go downtown much like commuter trains do now. But the train platform would have to be much longer than the current Caltrain station, Fuller said, in order to accommodate trains as long as 1,300 feet. That is roughly the distance between Castro Street and the Stevens Creek Trail.

But the most "problematic" piece of information disclosed, Bryant says, are the parking requirements and the potential traffic impacts.

According to Bryant and Fuller, about 1,000 parking spaces would be needed adjacent to the station, while 2,000 more located within three miles. Passengers would likely be ferried to and from those 2,000 spaces via shuttles, Fuller said, much like long term parking at an airport.

To put the parking requirements in perspective, the new five-story parking garage at Bryant and California streets has 405 spaces. Two and a half of them would be needed immediately adjacent to the downtown train station, possibly with portions underground.

"There are pros and cons to it," said council member Jac Siegel. "If a lot more people come to our city and park and spend money here, that helps the economy. The con is that traffic is going to be pretty bad unless we figure out how to handle it."

The Mountain View City Council has yet to support the station idea, but [http://www.mv-voice.com/story.php?story_id=4927 it voted in March of 2009] to have the CHSRA study a potential stop in Mountain View, putting the city up against Palo Alto and Redwood City as candidates for a mid-Peninsula station.

Siegel said he was concerned that the whole 100 block of the city's historic Castro Street would be wiped out under development pressures and higher land prices caused by the station, which he worries would be the size of a "small airport."

But downtown resident and environmentalist Bruce Karney had a different point of view.

"I'd rather live in a city that high-speed rail stopped in than a city it just runs through," he said, adding that he would like to use the station himself.

"I would hate to see this project held hostage to historic buildings in Mountain View or anywhere else," Karney said. "We can't reduce our carbon emissions if we don't find a substitute for air travel. I believe it is in the best interests of society."

Land use decisions that could lead to the scraping of downtown's older buildings would be left to the City Council, where the idea may have little or no support. But the CHSRA notes in a recent report that "the Authority will utilize its resources, both financial and otherwise" to "encourage" higher density buildings around stations, including "requirements for minimum densities" that city councils would be asked to enact.

Karney said he believed that through "sensitivity and good architecture" the downtown station could fit into the surrounding neighborhood, along with new stores, offices and parking garages. He noted that Moffett Boulevard, just across Central Expressway from the station, is ripe for redevelopment. It has also been identified as a focus area in the city's general plan update.

"Does it have to be north of Central or south of Central?" Karney said of the station building. "Maybe it can be both — it wraps up and over to the other side."

Karney said that at Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway, the city's historic Adobe building could be moved and the county building across from it could make way for new development. Perhaps transit could even connect the station to parking garages as far away as Shoreline Boulevard near Google headquarters, he said.

Although the potential station is something slow-growthers like himself are likely to oppose, Siegel said, "I'm open to it if somebody can explain what it looks like and it makes sense."

Similarly, Mayor Bryant cautioned people from dismissing the idea before thinking it through.

"The whole question involves a lot more than having a station or not," Bryant said. "That's just the beginning. It's all the implications, not just for the neighborhood around the station but the entire city, and what it means for future development."

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by reader, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Why does HSR need to use the caltrain tracks? Is there any advantage over running it, say for example, down the center of 101 taking out the middle lanes since of course we would use far fewer cars. if this is not going to be the case, why are we spending so much to build a train that will cost more to travel than air fare and not save that much time. Is it true what I heard that caltrain, if it can continue to exist, will not be allowed to share the same tracks, but will need parallel tracks? Also, can the city afford what this will cost in redesign and rebuilding of intersections, and how it will divide the city? People seem blinded by thinking HSR is something that one must have without thinking what it brings in the incarnation presented (and there seems to be only one incarnation possible--why do we not get a vote on alternative proposals and locations?). To be realistic, the odds of there being an HSR station in Mountain View are probably low. Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Mateo are all more probably station locations.


Posted by Estelle, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

Unbelievable. Recreating the wheel. I got to go to LA. Get in the car, drive to the parking structure, park, catch a shuttle, get my ticket or check-in, wait in security lines, hope the train will be on time, take a two and one-half hour train ride, disembark, walk to the rental car agency, wait in line, get a car. Whew! Oh crap. I hope I can take a large suitcase, a carry-on, and a laptop and purse with me. Will I need a luggage cart? Am I going to have to juggle all that on a shuttle? How will I get all that on the train during it's short stop, since it is a high speed train? Will I block the aisle? What to do. Maybe I'll just fly instead. You can't beat the airline prices these days. Trains are for peons and morons. The rich and elite fly everywhere and will continue to do so, why can't I.

Passengers would likely be ferried to and from those 2,000 spaces via shuttles, Fuller said, much like long term parking at an airport.

"I would hate to see this project held hostage to historic buildings in Mountain View or anywhere else," Karney said.

No kidding?!? Like in Palo Alto where they've accepted the fact that they will make an exception and tunnel under the old trees?


Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 9:05 am

Everybody drive to your nearest really large BART station and tell me how you'd like that to be plopped in downtown. This is nuts

This is THE issue in the council race. Anyone running that isnt willing to address this issue head-on has got to go! Hold candidates accountable!


Posted by Robert McGinn, a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Hello Mountain View Residents,

I hope this article and the replies to it ignites the process of waking MV up to what having HSR running through your downtown, and perhaps stopping in MV, will do to it. The parking structure, shuttles, large building needed, noise, added congestion, air pollution, and added competition for parking spots within walking distance will seriously alter MV. Is the gain really worth all those consequences? Be very careful before you accept the Faustian bargain. Kopp and Diridon are clever and deceptive snake oil salesmen. Do you really want your historic buildings destroyed?

The comments by "downtown resident and environmentalist BruceKarney" made me sick. He apparently is willing to go along with trashing historic MV buildings for utterly uncertain and at best small savings of carbon emissions. It's not as if HSR will remove massive amounts of cars from out roads. Moreover, if the cars and rail are not made using renewable resources, which in all likelihood they would not be, then the savings would be that much less. Karney then proposes MOVING the Adobe building district, all for a system that will cost about a tenth of a billion dollars, run at an annual operating deficit, and put California much further into debt. Sounds to me like Karney is prepared to unleash the wrecking ball on your historic district for a hugely expensive project and bring on significant new traffic congestion in order to realize carbon savings that would likely be marginal at best. Environmentalism does not require urban and financial tunnel vision!


Posted by Uncle Choo Choo, a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:02 am

My sense is that the HSR snake-oil salesmen detect increasing opposition to HSR in Palo Alto so they're looking for another city in which to put their peninsula station. Guess which city they've chosen! It clearly won't be in Atherton or Menlo Park due to those cities' lawsuit against HSR. It was supposed to be in Redwood City or Palo Alto where opposition is mounting, but now they're looking at Mountain View. Am I the only one who notices the hubris of these guys coming in and saying "we're going to put our station in your city whether you like it or not, and here's what you will have to build to accomodate it"?

Mountain View, along with every city up and down the peninsula, needs to wake up and figure out what impacts HSR will have on their communities with regard to eminent domain land seizures to expand the right-of-way, and to the aesthetic effects of an elevated rail system over the existing CalTrain tracks.

The bigger picture is that HSR is based on grossly inflated ridership projections which don't even come close to reality. When ridership estimates are brought closer to reality, the system loses money and will require subsidies from California taxpayers for generations to come. With regard to construction costs, the $42 billion estimate (a huge sum in and of itself) is before the "cost overruns" which typically accompany this kind of project.

<< It's not as if HSR will remove massive amounts of cars from our roads. >>

Mr. McGinn has hit the nail squarely on the head. To Mountain View's self-styled "environmentalist" Mr. Karney, HSR will run IN ADDITION TO, not INSTEAD OF, cars and airplanes. You're living in Fantasyland if you think the airlines will simply shrivel up and stop flying, or that people will stop driving (with HSR you won't have the use of your car at your destination). HSR will be an added consumer of energy and source of pollution.


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