Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

No Time For Trains

Last night, I went to one of the "Open Houses" that Caltrain and the High Speed Rail Authority are holding to show materials on the various possible ways that the Caltrain line may be rebuilt as part of the California High Speed Rail project. Because I'm packing for SiliCon, I don't have time to write as much as I would like on this, but here are a few observations:

  • I'm glad that not every person there was a "no trains, never, never, never" protestor.

  • OTOH, the degree of foolishness displayed by some of the people there is dismaying.

  • I wish I could have heard the person who submitted the comment "Terminate HSR in San Jose and extend BART all around the Bay" to find out what s/he thought the point of that would be. Cheaper? Less construction disruption? Quieter? Faster? Built somewhere other than the Caltrain corridor? All highly unlikely.

  • Speaking of people who Don't Get It, the guy distributing fliers advocating terminating the line at SFO and building a tunnel to Oakland airport instead of going down the Peninsula, while also building an underwater branch to San Jose Airport, is unrealistic on so many levels it's unreal. I guess he thinks HSR is some sort of airport-feeder system and that nobody would actually want to use it to travel to San Francisco.

  • Everyone who thinks HSR should terminate 50 miles away from San Francisco because of course everyone will drive to the station since you'll have to have airport-style security and have to arrive two hours before departure.... Sigh. You've obviously never ridden a train before. Or you've never ridden a modern system like those in Europe and Japan.

  • Can we please build a first-world rail transportation system in the USA before more third-world countries do so?

  • The overhead electric lines (25kV AC) aren't going to irradiate you, kill your children, or make your hair fall out, nor are they going to knock birds out of the sky. Multi-technology equipment (i.e. diesel/25kV AC overhead/third-rail all on the same train) is madness.

Some of the suggestions I saw were so crazy that I can't tell whether the people are just clueless or are deliberately trying to make the project so difficult and expensive as to destroy it so that it will Go Away. Folks, it's very likely that the project will cause some individuals a lot of trouble. We must weigh this against the overall good. Letting a relatively handful of NIMBYs hold back the entire state is wrong and I hope the agencies involved are able to resist the naysayers.

Now I admit that I think that strategically, the route selected by the CAHSR is wrong -- I think the Dumbarton-Altamont route made more sense -- but I also say that trying to hold out for the perfect system is a great way to get nothing at all. If the only choices are the suboptimal Pacheco alignment and No System, I'll take Pacheco. I only hope I live to see the day when you can travel by train as easily between the Bay Area and the LA Area as I did between London and Paris.
Tags: high speed rail, train

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