A Frustrating Evening
I did go to the Fremont meeting on Dumbarton Rail, which was actually an additional meeting requested by the City of Fremont, outside of the regular scoping process. I was frustrated that there was nobody from the media present; had there been, I almost certainly would have been quoted, for I was about the only person present who had good things to say about the Dumbarton project.
The meeting was in a unheated school auditorium, and as you may have heard, we're having a cold snap. Yes, I know this doesn't compare with the kinds of cold you get in other places, but when you live in a place where it rarely gets below freezing, temperatures at or below freezing are difficult to handle. My hands were like ice, but I couldn't put on my gloves because I needed my hands free to take notes. I was shivering, but I don't know if it was because of the cold or if I was quivering with anger over the comments from most of the attendees at this meeting. Most of the people present were classic NIMBY types -- keep those trains out of my backyard! They don't give a damn about anything at all except the impact on them alone. They want all of those nasty other people to just go away and leave them alone. Build transportation improvements Somewhere Else.
Dumbarton Rail, even though it has a currently projected price of about $600 Million, is an incredibly cost-effective rail project. It ties together so many loose ends of the existing transit system. A minor potion of the project even reduces freight rail congestion, by providing a better route for Oakland-Stockton trains, reducing the number of trains that have to sit idling near Centerville.( Neepery about transit connectivityCollapse )
The fellow from Caltrain who is leading this project was very patient with the very hostile and in many cases, uninformed and flat-out ignorant audience he faced. He handled the abuse ladled upon him and this project with aplomb. He tried to explain points about which several people repeatedly made mistakes. For example, there were people who seemed to think that this was just a railroad from Union City to Menlo Park/East Palo Alto, and who didn't seem to "get" that you could keep riding (without having to change trains or transfer) to points on the Caltrain line north and south of Redwood City as well. I even tried to give my own personal example: I would walk to the Centerville station, get on a train, and ride it to San Mateo without changing trains
. Yes, I'd have to ride a shuttle bus to my office, but that bus is already there, serving the existing Caltrain line, and used by my co-workers. The shuttle's schedule is tied to that of the railroad. It's not an uncoordinated local bus running on its own route. But this sort of thing goes right over people's heads.
They called on me about halfway through, which was pretty good timing, since by then we'd had a pile of negativity. I stood up, faced the hostile audience, and read from the notes I had been taking:( It will sound better here than it did there, because I can clean it up. And what I actually said was slightly different, of course.Collapse )
I kicked myself for forgetting to include my intended closing line, which was, "Do I want this railroad? YES, IN MY BACKYARD, PLEASE."
Tomorrow is the last official day of comment for the scoping session. I need to submit my comments in writing by then. If you're interested in this project, see the Dumbarton Rail Project Scoping Meetings
web site. In particular, they have a Comment Form
, but you can also submit comments by e-mail to the address on the form. (I won't give it here as Marie Pang at Caltrain probably is getting enough spam as it is -- it's in the PDF I referenced.) If you, like me, would like to see rail service restored across the Dumbarton bridge as part of a larger package of transportation improvements, particularly if you live in the Bay Area, I encourage you to submit comments in favor of this project.
This isn't the end of the process by a long shot -- really more like the beginning. In a year or 18 months, the Draft EIR/EIS will come out and there will be more rounds of questions. To a certain extent, these scoping meetings aren't about answers -- more like "what questions do you want the EIR/EIS to answer?"
(I may even toss one in one such question myself: "What would it cost to grade-separate the Centerville line? I assume the most likely way of doing such a grade-separation would be by trenching the line such as was done in downtown Reno several years ago.") Current Mood: frustrated