Town Square

Post a New Topic

Cities issue rail challenge: 'build right or not at all'

Original post made on Jul 6, 2010

Palo Alto and its four allies in the Peninsula Cities Consortium have issued a new call for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to "step back and resolve troublesome issues" with the rail project days after an independent review uncovered flaws in the ridership projections for the proposed line.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 6, 2010, 12:26 PM

Comments (18)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

MV missed the train on this one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Xing
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

"...the models these projections were based on were flawed and unreliable as a basis for decision-making."

Call me crazy, but didn't we base a pretty big decision (as in should we even build it) on these bogus numbers. I'd like to re-do a vote when the actual numbers are in, not the inflated "if we lie we can get what we want" numbers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Wait and See? Figuring out what is right for us? Are you kidding me? We elected these people to be proactive, to participate in the process, not to wait and see what happens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Very disappointed with MV's Mayor and City Council. As other have stated - what are they waiting for? How soon can we vote them out?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Seer
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 6, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I'm sorry you guys, but basing any decision even in large part on projections is a fantasy that somehow the future can be predicted. The predictions are completely subject to
1) Total trips between the bay area and LA, which depend heavily on the economy (and no, it's not mostly tourists but rather business!)
2) The cost of alternatives, all of which are oil-based and therefore depend totally on the cost of oil. With demand rising across the world and supply already drawn down past the halfway point (we pumped half the total oil out by 2004), assuming that plane and car trips will somehow stay the same price in the future is a fantasy worse than anything the HSR authority has cooked up.
3) Decisions made on routing, connections, feeder services etc can drastically change ridership. For example, I keep hearing from the NIMBYs that Caltrain can be used for San Franciscans to get to the HSR terminus in San Jose. Doing this would pretty much eliminate ridership from the northern peninsula, and greatly affect the totals. Similarly, not building connections to BART in San Jose and SF, and with bus systems could sink the HSR as well. So any ridership projections have to take into account the hard-headedness and sheer pig-headedness of the NIMBYs and false economists that have (for example) kept other transit systems from fulfilling their potential.

Europe and Asia don't have high-speed rail because of detailed ridership predictions. They simply knew that population was going up and people needed efficient local access to high-speed inter-urban transportation. In other words, they had faith that it would work out (together with a healthy dose of engineering realism.) I find it amusing that some of the people commenting on this issue are often quoted as having a "faith-based" lifestyle, yet they don't have any faith about things that happen outside their churches! In our case, we have the benefit of having someone else already taken the big risk of trying HSR out and proving that it could work. How much are we going to let fear of the future paralyze us?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Burlingame and Belmont understand that there is strength in numbers. Benjamin Freanklin said it a long time ago- "We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately." Unfortunately, our city council has chosen to wait until the California High-Speed Rail Authority rolls over them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jay
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm

"So any ridership projections have to take into account the hard-headedness and sheer pig-headedness of the NIMBYs and false economists that have (for example) kept other transit systems from fulfilling their potential."

Seer, BART, CALTRAIN, Light Rail, VTA, even AMTRAK, are all losing money and you are arguing for this boondoggle??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

While I agree that expecting perfect models and predictions is unrealistic, it is also dangerous to commit to such a large project without having a solid scope and solid design to work with.

Rushing design in order to meet Federal funding requirements is a sure guarantee of change orders and cost overruns in the future. Having a good 90% design, to base a budget on and then a solid basis for maintaining funding over the life of the project is crucial to success. As it stands, the Authority is focused on chasing dollars, rather than defining scope.

This isn't about faith, its about defining what you want, and then committing the necessary funds to pay for it. If we don't have that yet, getting the money to kick off the project is premature.

Sort of like a doctor running to the blood bank before it closes, before diagnosing the patient.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by patioberar
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm

All you naysayers, if you have to have every i dotted and every t crossed before procededing, you will just continue to breath in the exhaust of all the cars on the freeways you spend your time sitting on. What ever happened to the Silicon Valley spirit of risk taking?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm

USA is a registered user.

'build right or not at all'

OK, that's easy -- not at all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 8:02 am

"All you naysayers, if you have to have every i dotted and every t crossed before procededing, you will just continue to breath in the exhaust of all the cars on the freeways you spend your time sitting on. What ever happened to the Silicon Valley spirit of risk taking?"

--------------

There's entrepreneurial risk taking, and then there's gambling.

Entrepreneurial risk taking is when you risk all that YOU own and start a revolutionary business, quite possibly with a partner and quite possibly in your garage. That's how HP did it.

Gambling is when you risk all that you and your family own AND borrowed on a whim and desperate hope that the next hand will be a winning one.

Entrepreneurial risk taking requires you have a business plan, which is more than a dream, or a desire, but an actual plan of execution, and if you're really smart, an exit strategy in case things don't work out.

Gambling is when you dive head first into the pool, without checking first if its filled.

Silicon Valley success was built on many people who dreamed big AND who executed business strategy effectively to start a whole new industry. And of those that we know succeeded, there were many that didn't. HSR doesn't fit that model at all. It's relies on other people's money exclusively, has a flawed ridership model, and an incomplete concept of design, yet purports to be a shoe-in success.

If what you advocate is Silicon Valley risk-taking, then the funds for HSR should instead be broken up into smaller chunks and used to fund private and public projects that are proven to have a solid plan, backed up by solid funding, and local stakeholders that have a keen interest in ensuring the project's success, and that the money is not wasted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

Hanging separately? Diving into an empty pool head first?

Are we still talking about a train here? Where's the Berlin Wall people to take it way over the top?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Transit user
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

"Common sense is absent from the high-speed rail discussion," Menlo Park mayor Cline said. He omitted to cite the same or greater lack in so many criticisms from the Peninsula. Opinions loudly asserted (including on this forum) by people who have not bothered to do even basic homework about the issues, and a few anxious property owners near the Caltrain line marshalling wag-the-dog support for their perceived narrow interest.

The so-called Atherton rumor around late 2008, which grew on fertile ground in Menlo Park and Palo Alto, misinformed many with its armchair paranoia (or demagoguery) about six-track 220-MPH Peninsula trains and fears of eminent domain. People clinging to such notions ignore the whole reason the Caltrain corridor is objectively attractive: It's an existing publicly owned right-of-way, and _minimizes_ any eminent domain. Atherton and Menlo Park even sued over the long-rejected Altamont pass option -- rejected for good reasons: it would cause far _more_ problems than the Pacheco / Caltrain option. Considering costs of real alternatives is a bit of common sense glaringly scarce among people scrounging any handy rationalization for their anti-HSR whims rooted mainly in emotion and ignorance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hardin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 7, 2010 at 12:49 pm

"Hanging separately? Diving into an empty pool head first?

Are we still talking about a train here? Where's the Berlin Wall people to take it way over the top?"

-----------------
Over the top, you say?

Let's assume for the moment that diving into an empty pool will have an aggregate cost of $10,000, including hospital bills and loss of work.

Compare that with an estimated $43 Billion dollars that will need to be spent for HSR.

Consider also that other public projects of similar size and scope have historically run overbudget up to 2-3 times the original estimates.

Consider also that a large portion of this money is borrowed, and that without full completion of the project, all you'll have are tracks leading nowhere.

It's not just "a train". Its billions of dollars that will be committed for the next decade, and whose opportunity cost to address transportation needs in other ways has not even been considered yet in this discussion.

I'm not against trains. Just train wrecks. HSR currently has the symptoms of a project starting off on the wrong foot: questionable funding sources (everyone is hurting for funding: Federal and State), incomplete design, a many-headed client that is composed of competing and conflicting interests, and pressure to rush to construction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Catherine
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I live a pleasant, easy 10-minute walk from CalTrain/VTA, yet rarely take it.

One example: I fly out of SFO at least once a month. So ideally, I'd get on the train and take that there. But between spotty midday service and the lame CalTrain-BART-AirTrain triple transfer, it's just not feasible.

I'd have more faith in high-speed rail in California if I had more proof that we know how to do mass transit "right".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by le dude
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Yeah, no kidding. Trying to take a flight out of SFO using public transit is next to impossible. For one, try catching a direct flight to the east coast that leaves between 6 and 8 AM and use Caltrain to get there. Forget it. And then try coming back dead tired during the week or on the weekend. It's great for retirees flying to the midwest or budget fliers, but for those who need to be somewhere for work, forget it. And they have already cut the BART service to SFO. All trains used to stop there. Now you have to transfer and wait and they even cut back on those trains.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don P
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

And how many hundreds of millions did they spend to make the now defunct Millbrae to SFO track? These are the same folks who fixed their incompetence by lining up 200 orange cones on the platforms for a year now, added a huge surcharge for one transfer stop and allowed airport employees ONLY to take a bus to Millbrae to circumvent their stupidity. May be we should lobby for a trail along the track. That would take about 12 minutes at a decent pace.

Are we dealing with the same sort of defective DNA on the LA train plans? I am really concerned that if their IQ has more than 2 digits they would be working elsewhere.
______________________


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Curt
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Well put. Most people don't know about the Milbrae-SFO boondoggle. It is perhaps the most glaring example of a great idea gone very bad without any explanation given. If all you HSR supporters don't know what Don P is talking about, you owe it to yourselves to attempt to take Caltrain from MV to SFO. Have fun.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

I Told My Mom She's Dying
By Chandrama Anderson | 12 comments | 2,530 views

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,873 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,250 views

Fancy Fast and Fun!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 970 views

Palo Alto and Bay Area Election Facts and Thoughts on the Implications
By Steve Levy | 4 comments | 849 views