HSR station: where will it fit?
City officials say 3,000 parking space are needed
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 [www.mv 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."
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