High speed train station idea loses steam
A council majority opposes the idea
A majority of City Council members oppose having a high-speed rail station in Mountain View, they said in a study session Monday night. Unless two of the four station opponents are unseated in the November election, it appears that high-speed trains are not likely to stop in Mountain View's downtown.
The four opponents include Mayor Ronit Bryant and Vice Mayor Jac Siegel, both of whom are up for re-election this year. Bryant and Councilwoman Laura Macias were the most ardent opponents, with Siegel saying he might be open to the idea but it would take a "miracle." Member John Inks also said he opposes a high-speed rail station in Mountain View.
Dominic Spaethling, regional manager for the California High Speed Rail Authority, said a Midpeninsula stop in either Redwood City, Palo Alto or Mountain View is "optional."
"We can either have one of them or none of them," Spaethling said.
Over a dozen residents spoke and all but a few opposed the station over concerns about traffic, parking and how it would change the character of downtown.
While the Rail Authority will pay for the basic station and traffic infrastructure, the city would have to pay for amenities such as parkways or fountains, the "things that would make it a special place," Spaethling said.
A focal point of informal discussion during a break was a collection of scale models of parking garages and station buildings which could be placed on a map of the downtown to give people an idea of how a station might look.
As she looked at two five-story parking garages towering in front of her townhouse on Evelyn Avenue, one resident exclaimed, "That's supposed to raise my property values? They aren't taking my property by eminent domain, but they may as well."
The garages were "the worst case scenario," Spaethling told the woman.
New buildings would take the place of the 1888 train depot and bus turnout at the current station. A two-story, 67,000-square-foot main station building would take their place at the corner of Castro Street and Evelyn Avenue. A drawing presented Monday showed two four-story garages with 800 parking spaces extending from the station building to the end of the 1,410-foot platform, which is long enough to accommodate two high-speed trains attached end to end.
City official noted that the station may require an additional 30 feet of space to be removed from the Evelyn Avenue or Central Expressway right of ways.
The Rail Authority says it needs 1,000 parking spaces at the station and 2,000 more within three miles for long-term parking. Neighbors criticized the idea that the garages would be paid for by charging "market rate" for parking, as the current market rate for parking on nearby streets is zero dollars. With an influx of cars looking for cheap parking, residents would likely have to have permits to park in front of their homes, said downtown resident Robert Cox.
Consultants and engineers for the Rail Authority said the station would probably bring over 8,000 new car trips a day to the area, but that it would add only 750 more cars during morning and evening rush hours for a 3 to 4 percent increase in traffic.
Both Council member Tom Means and Margaret Abe-Koga were more open to the station idea, but no council member supported spending several hundred thousand dollars to study a station downtown, as city staff proposed. Council member Mike Kasperzak was absent.
The City Council is expected to send a "letter of intent" to the Rail Authority in January or February 2011 that supports or opposes a station in Mountain View.
"If Mountain View sends a letter saying 'thanks but no thanks,' we will probably say, 'OK, Mountain View is off the table unless we find a really compelling reason to have it here,'" Spaethling said.
Images from the meeting are online at mv-voice.com.