News

High speed rail meeting fails to sway crowd

Menlo Park residents are a cynical bunch when it comes to the California High Speed Rail Authority. While it didn't degenerate into a shouting match, there wasn't a lot of love either from the 100-plus people who showed up at the high speed rail project meeting held Friday afternoon, Feb. 19, in the Menlo Park council chambers.

A panel of representatives of the project to bring high-speed trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles fielded -- and deflected -- questions for close to two hours. Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline acted as host, roaming the room with a microphone, Phil Donahue-style.

There was one piece of new information, an indecipherable projection that combined an aerial photo of a segment of the Caltrain tracks, and a couple of illegible graphs about track elevation and right-of-way widths. When the crowd protested that they couldn't read it and asked for hand-outs, they were told it is not currently available to the public yet, according to Tim Cobb, the project manager for the San Francisco to San Jose segment of the high-speed line.

This was met with groans and complaints from the crowd.

"I apologize that these are not the easiest to read things," said Dominic Spaethling, a regional manager for the Rail Authority. "The purpose of this meeting is to try to give you a preview of what is coming in the alternatives analysis."

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

The upcoming document analyzing various project alternatives is due March 4, and according to Spaethling, will help answer many of the questions that couldn't be answered at the meeting.

Most of the questions reflected concern about plans to use the Caltrain corridor for high-speed trains and the impact it would have on local residents. The affects of eminent domain on local property, the likelihood of putting the train underground rather than on raised berms, and the desire to end the high speed line in San Jose were popular topics.

Despite assurances that community feedback is desired, most people who spoke at the meeting seemed deeply suspicious. Spaethling and consultant Bruce Fukuji were peppered with questions from people who wanted to know who they answered to, and if the public feedback they received would have any clout with the Rail Authority.

Menlo Park resident Alan Bushell asked if there was any point to spending time and energy suggesting changes to the design of the rail line through the Peninsula when it seemed to be a forgone conclusion. His remarks were met with applause from the audience.

"I get the feeling that this is just a charade to get cover for a resolution that has already been made," Bushell said.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

"By being engaged, you'll have a better outcome than (you would) by not being engaged," countered Fukuji.

"You're being used as well, but you're getting a paycheck. We don't," Bushell shot back.

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

High speed rail meeting fails to sway crowd

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 1, 2010, 11:17 am

Menlo Park residents are a cynical bunch when it comes to the California High Speed Rail Authority. While it didn't degenerate into a shouting match, there wasn't a lot of love either from the 100-plus people who showed up at the high speed rail project meeting held Friday afternoon, Feb. 19, in the Menlo Park council chambers.

A panel of representatives of the project to bring high-speed trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles fielded -- and deflected -- questions for close to two hours. Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline acted as host, roaming the room with a microphone, Phil Donahue-style.

There was one piece of new information, an indecipherable projection that combined an aerial photo of a segment of the Caltrain tracks, and a couple of illegible graphs about track elevation and right-of-way widths. When the crowd protested that they couldn't read it and asked for hand-outs, they were told it is not currently available to the public yet, according to Tim Cobb, the project manager for the San Francisco to San Jose segment of the high-speed line.

This was met with groans and complaints from the crowd.

"I apologize that these are not the easiest to read things," said Dominic Spaethling, a regional manager for the Rail Authority. "The purpose of this meeting is to try to give you a preview of what is coming in the alternatives analysis."

The upcoming document analyzing various project alternatives is due March 4, and according to Spaethling, will help answer many of the questions that couldn't be answered at the meeting.

Most of the questions reflected concern about plans to use the Caltrain corridor for high-speed trains and the impact it would have on local residents. The affects of eminent domain on local property, the likelihood of putting the train underground rather than on raised berms, and the desire to end the high speed line in San Jose were popular topics.

Despite assurances that community feedback is desired, most people who spoke at the meeting seemed deeply suspicious. Spaethling and consultant Bruce Fukuji were peppered with questions from people who wanted to know who they answered to, and if the public feedback they received would have any clout with the Rail Authority.

Menlo Park resident Alan Bushell asked if there was any point to spending time and energy suggesting changes to the design of the rail line through the Peninsula when it seemed to be a forgone conclusion. His remarks were met with applause from the audience.

"I get the feeling that this is just a charade to get cover for a resolution that has already been made," Bushell said.

"By being engaged, you'll have a better outcome than (you would) by not being engaged," countered Fukuji.

"You're being used as well, but you're getting a paycheck. We don't," Bushell shot back.

Comments

Dazed and Confused
Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Dazed and Confused, Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

A presentation made by highly compensated government employees that is incomprehensible to an affluent and educated public? Shocking!

"When the crowd protested that they couldn't read it and asked for hand-outs, they were told it is not currently available to the public yet, according to Tim Cobb, the project manager for the San Francisco to San Jose segment of the high-speed line." Really? Why not have the meeting after you figure out what the heck you want to say?

I think that many of these projects either fail or have grotesque cost overruns because the people charged with their management have no clue as to what they are doing, and no incentive to change that.


YESwe voted
Castro City
on Mar 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm
YESwe voted, Castro City
on Mar 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm

What kind of group has the time to spend friday midday in a meeting?
They cant see ..they cant hear...complain complain...I think I know what kind of group..AND not the kind that voted for this or will be here in 20 years when we reallu need it


Big Al
Old Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm
Big Al, Old Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:39 pm

The attention span and thought process of a voter voting on a proposition such as this, and many others in this state, last about 5 seconds and goes something like this... "Duh... a high speed train to get me to LA? And it will be dirt cheap and green? Wow, who could it hurt? What the hec, I'll vote yes, sure why not." Everyone else then has to live with it.


change is good
Blossom Valley
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm
change is good, Blossom Valley
on Mar 1, 2010 at 6:41 pm

These people in Menlo Park against the High Speed Rail Project are just concerned with the value of their property. This is the same type of thinking that prevented BART from expanding down the Peninsula many years ago. Also they didn't want "undesirable people" to pass through their little town. SELFISH


Highspeed joke
North Whisman
on Mar 1, 2010 at 7:28 pm
Highspeed joke, North Whisman
on Mar 1, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Installing a highspeed rail system is a total joke and a waste of money. We currently do not have the funds to complete such a project nor do we have the technical expertise. Our tax dollars will be distributed to companies outside of the US that have the technical expertise and we will funnel most of the money to them and then we will not complete the project as proposed, as usual. What we need to do is invest in technologies that do not lead to additonal hidden environmental impacts. What should be done is investment in electric motors for airplanes, clean fuels, carbon capture, etc. Give the people who attended this meeting applause for attending, holding those in powr accountable, and making sure that should the project be implemented it is done so on time, on budget, is not destructive in its implementation, is performed in an environmentally senstive way, and is SAFE!!


localmom
Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm
localmom, Cuesta Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Having a 130 nile-per-hour train run 50 feet from your house, or past the restaurants on Castro St. or University Ave. on a regular basis, is COMPLETELY different from allowing BART into our area. First of all, I wasn't here when BART was being discussed, but I may have wanted it b/c it benefits locals 100%! But this ridiculous HSR is something that almost NO ONE from the Peninsula will need and will rarely ride on. However it will zoom past private homes, shaking the walls and windows, numerous times a day, carrying tourists and others from hundreds of miles away to business or vacation destinations in SF that have nothing to do with our communities.
I have to partially agree with Big Al, that most people put no thought into their vote other than "sure why not, I'll only pay a few cents for it--it's the future"! But 99% of the voters who said yes do not live within 2-3 miles of this bullet train. We, the Peninsula locals, are the people who now should be able to decide if we want to give up property rights, quiet evenings, safe crossings over the tracks (such as they now are with 40 people a year being hit by Caltrains), and so on. It's a quality of life issue, not really a NIMBY thing. The HSR simply doesn't benefit enough people, and it's outrageously expensive, to justify the disruption, noise, cost, and "eminent domain" evictions that will occur, not to mention needless additional suicides and accidental track deaths.
This type of train in Europe and Japan runs primarily through industrial areas and open spaces. We don't HAVE that on the Peninsula. Honestly it would make more sense to run it up along 880 where there are fewer homes and there is already a tremendous amount of noise and pollution, and cross it over or under the Bay to SF! Hardly ANYONE is going to be riding the high speed rail from L.A. to Menlo Park, trust me.


Rodger
Sylvan Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm
Rodger, Sylvan Park
on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I suggest that Mountain View hold a high speed rail meeting but not like the last one. We need a presentation by experts on both sides of the subject, the promoters and the opposition. The meetings I have seen are just by boosters from the High Speed Rail project people, we need to hear the counter views. Questions should not be screened so that questions on both sides are allowed which was not the case at past Mountain View High speed rail meeting held in the senior center. The City leaders do not seem to be doing anything to protect us from the blight and noise that will be created by a 125 MPH train going through down town and next to our houses.
Get moving city leaders.
Rodger


local dad
Shoreline West
on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:47 pm
local dad, Shoreline West
on Mar 1, 2010 at 11:47 pm

You said it, local mom. Well done.

Electrify and improve Caltrain. Much less cost and adds only a few minutes to the trip.


Capt. Obvious
Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:07 am
Capt. Obvious, Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:07 am

Use caltrain as the "spur" line to a HSR line that DOES NOT run down the peninsula.
What the heeck is efficient about a line that runs up then immediately back tracks.
If I was headed to LA I'd have no issue driving down to San Jose to board a HSR train just like I have no issue driving to SJ or SF airports.
We don't need an airport runway that leads to SFO built downtown either.
I know that's obvious, but it sounds like some people need the obvious explained to them.


Ollie
Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:16 am
Ollie, Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 6:16 am

HSR will benefit the entire state. Investing for the future requires sacrifice in the present. The US needs to improve its infrastructure now in order for our country to be competitive. So what if the companies that will provide the hardware for the HSR are foreign companies, this just goes to show America should have invested in these areas long ago. And if you don't want people traveling through your city go live in out in Montana on a ranch. Things need to change. For those of you who live next to the tracks what did you people think was going to happen over time? Did you really think we would be using the same technology for ever?


localmom
Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 7:34 am
localmom, Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

I think we need to carefully look at the cost/benefit to all as Ollie suggests; so, what is the true cost? The voters authorized 9.9 B$ in bonds. The actual cost is probably $90 billion and no one is denying that. We don't have that money right now as a state. We are deeply in debt, our K-12 and University educational system is suffering terribly. State and local municipalities are making cuts and laying off workers. Even the 9.9 billion bond package IS more debt that every tax-payer must add to their yearly tax bill when many are unemployed or stretched thin. If WE, the citizens of CA must pay for this to benefit the whole country, can we multiply that by 10 to pay for the whole cost?? I don't think so.
Then, who rides it? We already have 3 airports in the Bay Area. None are at capacity. Airlines are cutting flights due to the recession. If you want to get to LA/San Diego, etc, there are probably 5 airports there, w/planes arriving every 15-30 minutes. I just went to SD 2 weeks ago and from SJC it too 1.25 hours in the air; 15 mins. in security. So, I would probably not have chosen the train. The "high speed train" from Boston to NYC takes 3.5 plus hours and slows down tremendously in populous areas (and stops numerous times at local towns on the way into NYC--would that happen here too??).
Let's ask that question as well! When and if it actually zips through RWC, MV, etc, will it actually run at top speed?? Not likely. Too dangerous, plus if we allow it there will be stops. So, why do it? Adds another $10-20 B to the cost and duplicates the trains we already have!
So, no offense to other supporters, but I'm not seeing anything futuristic here. In fact, there may be greener ways like electric high occupancy vehicles to travel down I-5; newer, cleaner fuels for aircraft; and perhaps a faster Caltrain with a link to a high speed train built at a lower cost through low-population areas where it really CAN live up to its potential!


Train Enthusiast
Monta Loma
on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:17 am
Train Enthusiast, Monta Loma
on Mar 2, 2010 at 10:17 am

@ Ollie

Ollie, your post is centered around technology, which is always a winner here in the valley. Only problem is, as localmom pointed out, the technology of air travel already accomplishes the primary mission of this expensive project far more efficiently.

I have never expected things to remain the same forever, but better they remain the same than move backwards. The fact that you are capable of doing something doesn't mean you should.


Yeswe voted
Castro City
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:11 am
Yeswe voted, Castro City
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:11 am

The HST will NOT be going at 120mph all the way along this line ..people need to stop making up facts!


wary traveler
another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:29 am
wary traveler, another community
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:29 am

You're right. The HST will be going 125 mph between SJ and SF, except where the existing curves of the Caltrain corridor will slow both types of service. South of San Jose, it'll pick up speed and travel at 220 mph through the downtowns of Fresno and other cities. Thank your lucky stars they're not proposing those speeds through the Peninsula.


kathy
Sylvan Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:38 am
kathy, Sylvan Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:38 am

Agree that this type of project should not be up to voters, when it was on the ballot nobody knew what impact would be, how it would be built etc. This has negative impact not only on peninsula but on downtown San Jose. The funds should be used on other projects, BART to San Jose for example.


Bruno
Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Bruno, Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Kathy, I disagree. Plenty of people knew the impact before placing their votes. I studied the planned proposal and was aware of the peninsula route being chosen, Pacheco Pass was already the approved route. I think what's really happening is that a small group of people who are overly-invested in this due to their home locations, and in some cases just NIMBYism, are trying to pretend like this is all breaking news. People voted on this, and they're for it. I'm tired of hearing people talk about wasted tax money like they even keep an eye on the thousands of other projects that drain tax money and benefit next to nobody.

All this talk about how empty the train cars will be, and what a failure it will be, it's pure speculation. As a matter of fact, it sounds like wishful thinking to me. It's obstructionism plain and simple. The wealthiest part of the path is telling the rest of the state that their votes don't count.


Big Al
Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Big Al, Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm

localmom:

Run for office and save this city and state. You've got my vote.

Bruno:

You might have studied the proposal, but you know darn well 99% who voted in favor of it, like many other props, made up their mind as fast as they could read through the ballot as they voted in the booth.


James
Shoreline West
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm
James, Shoreline West
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

All the NIMBYs and fact-manipulators need to accept that this is going to happen. Most people want it to happen. It is necessary for our environment, our economy, and our ability to move forward as a state. You can't rationalize away a vote. Thats not how democracy works. People voted and the measure passed. The small but vocal group of NIMBYs who are selfish, "entitled", and act like they are more important than everyone else cannot have their way this time. Once again, the voters voted and the measure passed.

Oh, and Iv lived in Japan--HSR goes through dense urban areas there, NOT just industrial areas. Another blatant lie.


bikes2work
The Crossings
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm
bikes2work, The Crossings
on Mar 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Well said Bruno! You echo my sentiments exactly. I actually didn't vote for the Proposition, but I support it now. I don't think electrification and grade separations will happen on Caltrain without HSR. We need those changes more than anything. NIMBY's need to stop fighting this or we'll lose the best chance for improving the JPB corridor in our lifetimes.


Big Al
Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 4:22 pm
Big Al, Old Mountain View
on Mar 2, 2010 at 4:22 pm

It won't happen in our lifetime folks, because there simply isn't any money left. It's all a pipe dream, and hopefully not one smoked with medical marijuana.


localmom
Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm
localmom, Cuesta Park
on Mar 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm

For James, who thinks the voters should hold all the power, please read today's SF Gate op ed piece by Chip Johnson, "CA Initiative Process has Gone Off-Course", which begins:
"Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the ballot initiative in California, but I'm not sure if we should hold a party or a wake.

The initiative process is no longer the sole purview of populist citizens looking for a way to wrest control from an unresponsive government.

In addition to its intended use by private-citizen groups, ballot-box budgeting - as it has come to be called - has become part of the arsenal of corporate-funded special-interest groups and elected officials looking to avoid difficult and often painful fiscal choices.

In California, voters have used the ballot box to decide everything from same-sex marriage to statewide auto insurance rollbacks to local after-school programs for youth in Oakland. Corporate interests have used the same political process to further their business or block citizen-sponsored measures to regulate them."

My point is, many voters are manipulated through the process, or approve things we can't afford as a society.


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

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.