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City wrestles with high speed rail plan

Original post made on Aug 23, 2008

This November's statewide vote for a high speed rail line could mean a whole new way to get to Southern California -- but it could also mean major changes to Mountain View's downtown landscape.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 22, 2008, 2:34 PM

Comments (19)

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Posted by James
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2008 at 7:05 am

It's simple. If California wants to move forward it should build the high speed rail. However, if California wishes to go backward it should not build the high speed rail.


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2008 at 1:56 pm


James, it's far from simple. There's nothing simple about the proposed California High-Speed Train. You are not alone in talking about California "moving forward." How do you see the State moving forward? Is getting into deeper debt moving forward? If you can't make your current mortgage payments, would you borrow even more money to "move forward?" The State currently can't get a budget together. They are almost $20 billion in debt. They are talking seriously about raising taxes. Are more taxes moving forward? Adding to that tax burden by borrowing $10 billion more to build a train is not, in my mind, moving forward. It is building a pork-barrel project that will make hundreds of individuals very rich, and the rest of us even poorer. Do not think for one minute that this train won't hit your pocket book very hard; you and all the rest of us.

Now, about the train. They said, ten years ago, it would cost a total of $23 billion. And, it would be paid for by a sales tax. Now, ten years later, they are saying that it will cost $45 billion. The down payment – and that's all it is, a down payment – will be the $9.95 billion bond issue. That bond issue will cost twice as much during the life of the bonds. Cost who? You and me, James. Now, here's the hard part. They say $45 billion. We actually know that it will cost three times that much, well over $100 billion. Who will pay for that, James? You and me. That is not moving forward. That is building a boondoggle with other peoples' money. That's a scam. That's the gravy train. That's not moving forward.


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Posted by Francis
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2008 at 6:22 pm

You are assuming a lot Martin. This train is a great way to spend 45 billion. "A few hundred people will get rich"?? Um and the rest of us get a really great train from NorCal to SoCal. How can you call it a boondoggle when it hasnt even been built yet?

Mountain View will be able to connect to LA in less than 2.5 hours. Plus the train will be one of the cleanest forms of transportation on earth, reducing California's need for oil. Its simply a great idea and people like Martin are willing to sacrifice the bright future of this state for a little savings at tax time, how selfish.


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Posted by Ven
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Don't worry, Mr Engel is just opposed to to their trains path messing up his small communities "little establishment".....


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Posted by one born every minute
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Yes, the HSR is going to take only 2.5 hours to travel from SF to LA...but it won't go faster than 70 mph on the peninsula...and it will stop in every small town in the Central Valley so as to re-energize their economies, and it won't cost us anything.

Amazing!


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Posted by Spokker
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm

"They are talking seriously about raising taxes. Are more taxes moving forward?"

Yes it is. Taxes should be raised, starting with the vehicle license fee.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2008 at 11:28 am

"Now, about the train. They said, ten years ago, it would cost a total of $23 billion. And, it would be paid for by a sales tax. Now, ten years later, they are saying that it will cost $45 billion."

A very good argument for building now what most certainly will be built eventually.


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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 26, 2008 at 9:30 am

Hey, Martin, I just want to add a voice of support for your concerns about the massive spending that this project would entail.


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Posted by not that dumb
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 26, 2008 at 9:41 am

This high speed rail project will be tied up in the courts for years because of environmental and right-of-way issues. There is no money for it, and it will not be built for decades, if ever.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers will be on the hook for $10 billion++

Sound like a good way to spend our money? In a state that's already massively in the hole?


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Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Somehow they manage to pull this off all over Europe and Asia. I don't buy that somehow we can't pull it off. Spain, which has a similar pop density has built a successful system.

As for a "stop at every small town" problem, obviously there will be Local, Express and Limited-Express trains. High speed rail systems run around the world. These issues have been sorted out.

I lived for a few years in a smaller city outside of Nagoya in Japan. The people who lived in Nagoya could hop on a Limited-Express "Nazomi" bullet train and be in Tokyo 1.5 hours later. I would hop on a local bullet train for a couple of stations, then transfer to an Express "Hikari" train which would be non-stop to Tokyo for the rest of the trip.


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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 27, 2008 at 11:38 am

A great deal of the railroads in Japan are privately owned. Why not a privately-owned high-speed rail line in California? Let investors take the risk rather than the taxpayer.


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Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2008 at 12:04 am

In Japan, the governments (local, regional and federal) bares a lot of the burden of the initial construction costs however.

Especially now, as the network expands into less populated regions of the country like the city of Kanazawa, southern Japan (Kyushu) and Aomori.

These projects would all be impossible without heavy government support for the initial construction.

More on the Shinkansen here at Wikipedia:
Web Link


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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

Having the taxpayers assume the cost of construction, then letting a private company take over after the financially risky part of the project is done would be the worst of all possible arrangements. I'm suggesting that private capital assume the risks and the profit. If no private companies are interested in building a high-speed railroad across California, maybe that's a sign that it's destined to be a white elephant, winning awards for its coolness, but with low ridership, not really helping the environment or energy usage much.


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Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2008 at 12:10 am

Just handing over built infrastructure to a private company is not what is being suggested.

The answer is a PPP (Public private Partnership). An arrangement between private enterprise and government that has been successful around the world, and in America.

Or have a government company, a new one or Amtrak run the thing.

Do you have private companies building Airports? Highways? Other key transit infrastructure? No. Mostly publicly funded, with expansions paid for through user fees and other taxes. At best you have PPP arrangements in some cases.

More on PPP here:

Web Link





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Posted by Thomas Carrig
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

I think that if we used the raised Unimodal Skytrans and put Bike and walkways underneath where existing rails are we could have the best of the world. The high speed train could be run along the coast to SF or to San Jose and on to Sacramento from LA along Int.5. From there we could use skytrans <www.unimodal.com>into the populated areas. Larger freight could be accommodated along existing track space with a raised Maglev rail and smaller tracks could travel to other places along power lines or canals or even dowm El Camino. It needs 4 ft. The existing Railroad tracks could be replaced by bike and pedestrian pathways.
This system is also very cost effective.
Tommy Carrig
Sunnyvale - Heritage District Neighborhood Assoc. where the tracks are. (downtown).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Carrig
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

I think that if we used the raised Unimodal Skytrans and put Bike and walkways underneath where existing rails are we could have the best of the world. The high speed train could be run along the coast to SF or to San Jose and on to Sacramento from LA along Int.5. From there we could use skytrans <www.unimodal.com>into the populated areas. Larger freight could be accommodated along existing track space with a raised Maglev rail and smaller tracks could travel to other places along power lines or canals or even dowm El Camino. It needs 4 ft. The existing Railroad tracks could be replaced by bike and pedestrian pathways.
This system is also very cost effective.
Tommy Carrig
Sunnyvale - Heritage District Neighborhood Assoc. where the tracks are. (downtown).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Carrig
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

I think that if we used the raised Unimodal Skytrans and put Bike and walkways underneath where existing rails are we could have the best of the world. The high speed train could be run along the coast to SF or to San Jose and on to Sacramento from LA along Int.5. From there we could use skytrans <www.unimodal.com>into the populated areas. Larger freight could be accommodated along existing track space with a raised Maglev rail and smaller tracks could travel to other places along power lines or canals or even dowm El Camino. It needs 4 ft. The existing Railroad tracks could be replaced by bike and pedestrian pathways.
This system is also very cost effective.
Tommy Carrig
Sunnyvale - Heritage District Neighborhood Assoc. where the tracks are. (downtown).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alison Chaiken
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 30, 2008 at 9:20 pm

The solution to accomodating the HSR is obvious: rip out the stupid Light Rail!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Hearings will be held this week and next week on the detailed plans for High Speed rail (3pm Jan 29th at the Santa Clara Convention Center). They are considering stations in Redwood City and Palo Alto.

Unless they are planning on running the tracks around/under Mountain View unobtrusively, we should have a station here instead of those two areas, since we are already at the nexus of Caltrain and Light Rail.


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