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Mountain View's Grand Central Station is in the works

Original post made on Mar 5, 2015

The City Council began talking about a major new downtown transit center and Caltrain station on Tuesday, along with the big question of how to make the Castro Street train crossing safe.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 5, 2015, 11:03 AM

Comments (48)

Posted by Hone Owner
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm

I hope that the council remembers that those of us just N of the tracks consider ourselves part of the downtown area. We live closer to Castro's businesses than many of those in "Old Mountain View". We definitely do not want to be cut off from downtown. Big rebellion situation if anything hinders us from getting to downtown walking, biking. Also, you have to be careful not to reinforce this "wrong side of the railroad tracks" type of thinking by shutting off the N half of town or building massive parking garages as a dividing line. That would truly be poor planning.


Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 5, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Home Owner I've never heard anyone consider closing the railroad crossing to people walking or on bikes, just to car traffic. Like they do now for all the festivals. The transit-oriented development at the corner of Moffett and Central is being built with the assumption that residents would walk to the transit center and walk downtown vs drive.


Posted by Warren Jay Eggly
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:25 pm

I as a train commuter and a mountain view resident. I like the idea close off the castro/mofit crossing to car traffic and make part of castro must more pedestrian mall. Also with the all the outside dinning how nice it would be not have cars driving by when you eating. And have a nice park on parts of castro.


Posted by Wrong side homeowner
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:35 pm

@Hone Owner
Those of us living N of the tracks are already on the "wrong side" and definitely not considered part of downtown. Just look at the sign on Moffett Blvd heading north right after you cross Central Expwy that says "Thank you for visiting Mountain View", like somehow barely half a block past the tracks you're no longer in MV.
Pretty clear sign (literally!) from the city.


Posted by kathy h
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Downtown is becoming one big perpetual construction zone.


Posted by Jessie H
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 5, 2015 at 3:15 pm

I like the idea of closing Castro to traffic. I think it will fix the traffic tie-up at Castro/Moffett and Central Expressway and will improve the outdoor dining on Castro. Yes, please don't restrict access to downtown for those north of the Central Expressway - it is great to be able to walk to the train & light rail and to the Castro businesses. Also about the sign - why not change it to 'Thanks for visiting downtown Mountain View'?


Posted by liz Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2015 at 3:58 pm

could we please also consider the train horn
lots of us now live just blocks away from the train and the horn blowing is out of control
the 10:45 train at night blows its horn forever…can hear it all the way down to sunnyvale
the 2:00am trains sound like they are passing each other and have to blow their horns in a greeting that lasts it seems forever…and what are they carrying on those night time freight trains anyway
PLEASE HELP WITH THE TRAIN NOISE…I can't be the only one who is irritated by the noise


Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm

I live south of El Camino Real and work at NASA Ames. I commute to work straight down Castro and Moffett Blvd. Shunting Castro traffic off to Shoreline seems like it would make traffic worse on Shoreline. While I do not object to closing Castro at the railroad tracks, and I can see how a pedestrian overpass would work for pedestrians and probably bikes as well, a lot of motor traffic will have to cross the railroad tracks somewhere, somehow.

I applaud the idea of no at-grade crossing for the railroad tracks not just at Castro but everywhere on the peninsula.


Posted by Dave
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Yes -- close Castro before the tracks! Big win for downtown.


Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Shutting off the end of Castro where it crosses the rail line and Central is asinine. It would force the traffic that crosses there, to gain access to Central or Moffett onto Shorline or to take a longer, more circuitous route, through primarily residential areas to gain access to S. Whisman.

Not to mention, as discussed above, virtually cutting off a large portion of town from Castro.

I agree in part with Council Member Seigel that an under-crossing for vehicular traffic is not feasible as the grade for such a solution would have to start quite some distance up Castro which would look pretty awful (Think Julian St and E. Santa Clara under-crossings near the Shark Tank in San Jose) and would be difficult to integrate with the intersection at Central.

Perhaps the solution is to take the Caltrain line, light rail and the current parking below grade. This would free up space at ground level for a terminal building (with retail space), Bus & shuttle stations etc.

Here is a brief video of the Shibuya Station (Tokyo) sinking it's rail line below grade in a single night. Web Link


Posted by oldabelincoln
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

The situation is identical to that of Palo Alto - the business district ends at the RR tracks. What's wrong with Palo Alto's solution - traffic of all kinds goes UNDER the tracks?


Posted by Resident
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:29 pm

I would focus on the stated problem--crowded platforms--and solutions to that. Not sure what closing off Castro does for this, and I agree with @True that it's asinine and will make Shoreline even worse, or force people down Evelyn to the birds nest with Whisman.


Posted by NeHi
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 5, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Please note that many of the roads that would be affected by closure of Castro at the track have been determined by the city as ones that should not carry much traffic. El Camino now seems to be on that list.


Posted by Roman
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm

I do not know how they accomplished it but look at Belmont and San Carlos. The trains run above street level! Very very efficient. The crossings are all under the overheads so NO traffic congestion. Plenty of parking next to the raised tracks. Absolutely a wonderful solution to many issues. Perhaps Mountain Views city council and planners should go and visit and learn and COPY an already proven plan. I am sure those forward thinking towns would love to show off their accomplishment.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 5, 2015 at 9:43 pm

So old Mountain View residents want their quiet sleep, All of us in the not so desired part of Mtn view (north of the tracks) also hear the trains and the horns. I think a train has to blow their horn for safety. I don't think we want any more vehicle/train accidents. We all know who looses.
Roman, you want to raise the tracks, are you also ready to rebuild the following overpasses: Shoreline, Stevens Creek Trail and Hwy 85. Railroads have a required height clearance and that will be even higher with electrification (think overhead lines). A better idea would be to lower the tracks and build an overhead for the train at Moffet/Casto.


Posted by robstar
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:40 am

As a north-of-the-tracks resident (and previous OMV resident), I really don't think car traffic at the top of Castro does anybody much good. As long as bikes and pedestrians can still cross central and the tracks there (possibly via a tunnel?), I'd support disconnecting Castro from Moffett. If there were no crossing, would that also reduce the need for horn-blowing? It doesn't bother me, but seems to about others.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2015 at 1:41 am

Closing off Castro and improving the transit center makes complete sense given the increased number of commuters. We need a better pedestrian/bike crossing, currently it can take 15min for the lights to change with then a 30 second window to cross the street.
Living for about 6 years close to the train station I noticed the horns blowing louder and more persistently both from caltrain and the freight trains - Honestly I don't get the point of that, especially at 2am in the night. In Europe I had to live with far more trains and trams in the city yet noise was not an issue, horns and bells were rarely used if at all. It seems we are a bit behind the times here, and could maybe copy something that works elsewhere that makes train tracks safer, reduces noise and creates a more attractive transit center.


Posted by Patrick
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 8:50 am

Closing off Castro would just create massive backups at the Villa/Shoreline intersection. Villa is already gridlocked to begin with and forcing people to go around would just make it worse. I like the idea of raising the tracks above Castro and installing sound barriers along the elevated track sections so that noise doesn't become an issue.


Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 9:09 am

@True:

I'm certainly no civil engineer, but there are other challenges in taking Caltrain below grade at Castro Street (or many other places along the Peninsula).

One big issue are the various creeks that bisect the line. Just between the California Avenue station and Castro Street, there are four creeks: Matadero Creek, Dry Creek, Adobe Creek, and Permanente Creek. At Hwy 85 there is Stevens Creek.

It is likely that if there is to be a grade separation, the tracks will have to go up, not down, at least based on SF Peninsula geography.


Posted by Another Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

Trains have to blow their horns, the law requires is, so that's probably not going to change.

As for closing Castro at the tracks, why? There are crossing barriers which come down well before the train arrives. The problem isn't the fact there's a crossing, but that drivers are morons. I've personally seen people enter the tracks where there is clearly no room for them on the other side, so they stop on the tracks. I say let natural selection take its course. Maybe the city could put cameras near the tracks and give people viciously expensive tickets for this idiotic, reckless behavior.


Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

We have no problem with raising the tracks to create grade separations. Elevated tracks is no uglier than the adjacent Central Expressway. Elevating the tracks is a proven technique that is already used in many areas along the Caltrain line.


Posted by anthodyd
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:39 am

Good luck getting Caltrain to go -up or -down w/ their tracks; any grade separation must inevitably involve surface traffic on streets. Caltrain will invoke legacy pre-emption of right-of-way thru the peninsula, no question. Have you seen what effect raising the tracks has toward splitting a town in half? (see Belmont/San Carlos).
Closing thru traffic on Castro would benefit the Castro merchants- consider making Castro all-pedestrian in the European model from Church St. to the Caltrain cul-de-sac, as is done for the Annual Art and Wine festival. Free shuttles would alleviate the parking problem in surrounding streets.
Regarding future development in the North Bayshore, consider a light-rail overpass connecting the Caltrain station to the new office parks currently under consideration. This should have the added benefit of providing access to downtown MV to those residing on the "other side" of Caltrain/Central Expressway. Hey, for a blue-sky proposal, why not a robo-vehicle that could be run singly or linked up for rush-hour traffic on dedicated ramps that would overpass Central and Route 101. Such a solution is already under consideration at brainiac planning sessions. Do It.


Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2015 at 11:18 am

Central Expressway already cuts the city in half. Elevating the train tracks would have no additional negative impact. If anything, the impact would be positive, since an elevated track makes underpasses much easier to build in the future, especially bike and pedestrian routes.


Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm

The elevated tracks might reduce the number of horns since there's no grade crossing.

Electrification will help with the sound; electric trains operate much quieter than diesel locomotives.

The tracks have been there for 150+ years. The Peninsula was sparsely populated way back when the tracks were laid in 1863. It's not like towns were split in half recently. Enormous population growth has forced urbanization on both sides of the tracks.


Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Whatever is done about Caltrain in Mountain View, it has to be the same as Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc. But it is imperative to get rid of the grade crossings.

A piecemeal approach makes no sense whatsoever. However, it is a regional (Peninsula) solution that must be made. In fact, an efficient Caltrain service improves traffic and transportation problems all over the SF Bay Area.

Putting a tax on gas, or sales tax, should be done for the whole Bay Area, not just those cities that have Caltrain tracks.

Getting an overall Bay Area transit Agency rather than all these individual competing services makes sense. From the point of view of efficiency, ticketings, scheduling, administration and even advertising, having one Agency with one hierarchy would cut a lot of costs.

Investing in public transportation is necessary and should be done as a priority all over the SF Bay Area.


Posted by robstar
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

i think what some commenters are missing is that with the original high-speed rail plan, there were to be *NO* at-grade rail crossings. it appears that this may no longer be true with the "blended" system. it would mean that trains could not exceed 110mph: Web Link

re: splitting the city, currently you can easily see from one pedestrian crossing to the next -- from shoreline to castro/moffett to the stevens creek trail bridge.


Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:05 pm

will the Farmer's Market be affected?


Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Long-term, I'm hoping we could turn Castro into a pedestrian street. That means closing off Castro to cars where it crosses the railroad tracks would be a good first step.

Pedestrian streets are great for commerce and livability. Most major cities in Europe have them. Here in California, the Third Street Promenade, The Grove, Americana at Brand, Old Town Pasadena, and Universal City Walk in the greater LA area are examples of good things that happen when we get out of our cars.


Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 7:36 pm

@MadamPresident:

The Mountain View farmers market will likely be affected if the street closure occurs. In a beneficial way as currently the market alternates between the Caltrain parking lot and a very cramped city lot (near the downtown CVS) when there's an event at Levi's Stadium.


Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 6, 2015 at 7:36 pm

@MadamPresident:

The Mountain View farmers market will likely be affected if the street closure occurs. In a beneficial way as currently the market alternates between the Caltrain parking lot and a very cramped city lot (near the downtown CVS) when there's an event at Levi's Stadium.


Posted by mike
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 6, 2015 at 10:34 pm

I have waited at Central Expressway for the red light to change. We wait for 2 + minutes when central traffic moves, then the left/right turn arrows onto Castro. Then, when its our turn, a train comes. Central gets green. The train leaves. Central has a second 2 + minutes, then the left turns onto Castro get green. Finally, when it should be our turn, a second train comes. The cycle begins again. Why can't Caltrain/Caltrans give people/cars waiting to cross Central a green light? Why does the same stupid cycle start all over again? Why hasn't anyone thought of this? Yes, the train/central cycle continues in this way until finally there are no more trains. Stupid


Posted by Belmont_resident_Mountain_View_and_Palo_Alto_native
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 12:28 am

I am stunned that the cities of Mountain View and Palo Alto, which are rolling in money, do not have grade separation.

You whippersnappers down there in Silicon Valley proper should mosey on up our way to see how it is done. Grade separation has made our lives easier.


Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Mountain View needs a good train/rail/bus station which should be built above Castro Street with platfors on the upper level and ground level should be shops, cafes and services. The lower lever should be parking, car share services and bike parking or storage.

If tracks are rasied then maybe a street or two can connect Central from the west, improve the Whisman/Centreal interchange. Improve Shorline/Central ramps.

Closing Castro Street from Friday to Monday morning should be looked at.


Posted by [email protected]
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:25 pm

This is really exciting! I'm really happy to see the station getting a much needed overhaul, and also really happy to see something might be done at the Castro/Central intersection. During rush hour, the traffic is unbelievable here. I would be very interested to see an impact study of how traffic along Villa/Shoreline would flow if that intersection were closed, maybe turning the space into a pedestrian plaza and permanent home for our Farmer's Market.

The timing also seems great for the city, perhaps we can use money from Google/LinkedIn's community benefits from their NBS expansion to do something to help connect the station to NBS. Perhaps at least a pedestrian/bicycle bridge from Castro to Moffet, so our neighbors "on the other side of the tracks" will feel like a more welcome part of the downtown community!


Posted by go big!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Is it at all feasible to have a light rail connecting downtown to North Bayshore, and perhaps also to San Antonio? Are our projected densities high enough to support it?

I also recall someone suggesting we build a pedestrian/bicycle Highline connecting downtown and NBS. This would be incredible, but is it realistic?


Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2015 at 7:17 pm

How would a "pedestrian/bicycle Highline" be different from the existing Stevens Creek Trail, which does pass a couple of block from downtown?

I think it would be great if the Permanente Creek Trail could also be extended southwards to the train tracks. If the tracks were elevated, the land underneath the tracks could be used for a bike path, including connecting the existing trails to the Caltrain station.

The "East Bay Greenway" is a similar project to build a bike path underneath the elevated BART tracks from Oakland to Hayward.


Posted by NWhisman_Neighbor
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I think completely closing down Castro St. at the train tracks is a good idea. Redirecting traffic to Shoreline would be a better choice. Shoreline has 3 lanes that can handle the flow of traffic much better. All roads coming into Castro will now be directed away from the tracks down Shoreline to El Camino. You can even argue that California Street/Shoreline now can become the "NEW" entrance coming into Castro.

Closing down the street is not the only thing that should be done. Caltrans should also lower the tracks into the ground at that location and create a "Welcome" walkway bridge for local residents, outside visitors and bike friendly as well. I'm not certain what's currently being built in the corner of Moffett/Central Expressway, but they've dugged very deep into the ground. Having a large parking garage there and a bridge over Central connecting to that welcome bridge would add more safety than crossing over the busy Central Expressway. Yes, yes, all of this would cost money, but how many more lives need to die in order to justify the costs. So who's with me with this idea?


Posted by Resident
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

So NWhisman_neighbor, you think that Shoreline has 3 lanes for traffic in each direction. This maybe news for you, but there are only 2 lanes north of Central to the entrance to Shoreline Park and you want to redirect all Moffet traffic from 101 to an already extremely busy street. Plus the city has big plans to add more bike traffic to Shoreline. If you make it more difficult for people in cars to get to downtown, they will go elseware. Not everyone lives within walking distance and some of us would not want or can bike or walk when it's dark to a nice restaurant downtown.


Posted by other side of the tracks
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

@Neighbor - The sheer volume of traffic entering/exiting downtown makes closure a very bad idea. It's worse than you seem to think. Traffic studies should confirm this. It would be awful for neighbors on the side streets. Transit center buses need to access Moffett and Central directly. Downtown needs the connectivity.

Lowering tracks - This is the best solution, but the expense may be prohibitive.

Construction at Moffett/Central - This is for a new high-end apartment complex. There will be no public parking here. However, if I recall correctly, when plans for this complex were drawn up, the city required sufficient setback to accommodate an underpass!

Ped/Bike bridge - Yes.


Posted by NWhisman_Neighbor
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:39 pm

We can even be more creative in the name of maximizing existing space-

How about this idea?

Why not build a parking structure over the train tracks from the Shoreline Bridge in parallel with W. Evelyn Ave down to Castro Street. The train tracks would stay in place as is and now trains would travel under the parking structure. Even a 2 level garage would suffice in order not to over-tower the existing Castro buildings because the space is very long from end to end. Isolate the main Castro strip to only foot/bicycle traffic. Now think about it. Castro is made to attract the hungry people, not the vehicles.

Doing this will also provide a cleaner atmosphere without having to smell someone's exhaust while you're trying to enjoy your lunch/dinner next to the street. A good example is the City-Walk downtown Disney if you will atmosphere.




Posted by NWhisman_Neighbor
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:10 pm

@Resident- I can feel some agitation in your tone and I'm sure you're already pissed off about the traffic coming up and down your road- I know because I drive that route every morning trying to get to work on Rengstoff. All of that is caused by people that mostly live out of town that's usually caused by people working in the Google direction. But do you ever see that log-jam during the weekends? The reason why you don't is because most of these folks work a M-F core hours and probably also live out of town.

Drivers coming from Moffett could just turn onto Central and will be redirected to the Shoreline exit, curl around and drive over the bridge. This is a good way traffic could be redirected.

Better yet- if the crossing at Castro is to be remained open as suggested by @othersideofthetracks, it should only be reserved ONLY for bus traffic and/or taxi's coming in and out of the station. Strictly passenger and/or other vehicles prohibited. There still needs to be a pedestrian/bicycle bridge at that location as well.


Posted by pedestrians and bikes on grade
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Lets try to keep Pedestrians and Bikes on grade. It is much easier for cars and trains to go up or down than pedestrians. If we take that as a first design consideration, think how nice it would be if the trains and central were below grade? Yes it would be expensive, the type of thing you could only do in a town with Million dollar tear downs...
oh wait... that would be the South Bay! It was not hard for Sunnyvale to put Central below grade. For those that would put the train over head, travel up the line and see what it did to the towns that went that route. They have two towns now. The train sits on rampart walls. Think how great it would be if in place of a train right of way, there was parks, community gardens, bike trials, famers markets new schools, the list goes on.... The dirt could be used to build a wall against sea level encroachment from the bay. Why would we pay to move dirt to stack it in the center of town instead of moving dirt to lower the train grade?


Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:06 am

Again, I don't think sinking the tracks below grade is an option at Castro Street or along most of the rail line on the SF Peninsula. There are too many creeks running perpendicular to the tracks to deal with. Castro Street lies between Permanente Creek to the north and Stevens Creek to the south.

For grade separation, the most plausible solution is to elevate the tracks along most of the line.


Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:43 pm

If the tracks are raised or lowered wouldn't the trafic be greatly improved.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Monta Loma

on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Posted by Samson
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:09 pm

As one who frequently visits Castro Street, I think that closing off Castro Street is a terrible idea. There would much less business, if it were to turn into a pedestrian mall. For one, the farmers market would be affected. How will folks be able to get to the farmers market?

I love what council member Siegel has proposed, which is to have some of the station over Central Expressway and extending it west of Castro Street where light rail isn't in the way. It is the most logical idea and one in which it satisfies both the commuter and local residents.


Posted by urbane urban design
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

Garret makes some very good comments on Urban Design (as did the Belmont 'grade separation' person). Go up. Or partial up and partial down. A Barcelona style "pedestrian mall/ small surface streets" raised design over The Tracks and over The Expressway would increase walkability to North of Station, and allow some car access across Castro. It is not feasible to Dig Deep (either The Tracks or Castro) because of creeks and city-street disruption issues.
But 3 stories of cool-modern pedestrian / slow traffic-parking access? If Barcelona could do it for the '92 Olympics - why not us in this little area (Castro @ Station & Central)? Samson/Siegal/Garret makes sense - and not impossibly costly for the public benefits.

Google Map: Barcelona Spain, Columbus Monument
Web Link
Rhonda Litoral under (aka Central Expressway) @ Place de les Drassanes


Posted by David Speakman
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Build a Pedestrian bride over Central and the tracks.


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