My husband, John Plocher, and I spent most of last Saturday (12 September) at the PCC “High Speed Rail Teach-In” at the Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto, California. As lifelong railfans, owners of WP668 (our historic backyard caboose), and neighbors just across the Guadalupe River from San Jose’s Tamien train station, we are of course interested in HSR, California’s biggest public works project ever. Our friend Susan Fineberg (who serves on Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Commission) told us about the event.
The day was about what was desirable, constructible, and feasible from the point of view of the cities and residents of Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Menlo Park, and Palo Alto (the “Peninsula Cities”). Hundreds participated. The event offered two impressive speakers: Gary Patton (a Santa Cruz environmental lawyer and 20-year county supervisor), and Robert Doty (Director, Peninsula Rail Program for Caltrain and the California High Speed Rail Authority), two panels, a community discussion (Open Space Technology), and other opportunities for learning and sharing knowledge and opinions.
The event was well managed by Yoriko Kishimoto (PCC Chair and Palo Alto City Council Member) and Marcia Daszko (of Marcia Daszko & Associates, a Deming-trained management consultant).
I enjoyed meeting and sitting with John Traynor and his sister Joyce and hearing what they had to say about alternative track designs. A few comments, a commendation, and two quotes:
- Comment: In the interminable introductions of local and regional dignitaries, I was pleased to hear two bloggers included: Clem Tillier who writes the Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog, and Robert Cruickshank, writer of the California High Speed Rail Blog.
- Comment: I wish there would be similar events held for the South Bay Area where John and I live. The HSR project will almost certainly plow through many poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods along the tracks. It is great to see community involvement among the wealthier peninsula cities but…
- Comment: I was surprised at how little discussion there was of managing the potentially huge volume of additional travelers going into and coming from the HSR line. John’s break-out session on needing a hub and first class airport connections was one of the few groups talking about the need for rental cars, parking, hotels, food, retail shops, connections to other forms of public transport, security and policing, etc. People who will come to use the new high speed rail service in preference to airplanes, driving, and Amtrak may make for an overwhelming crowd.
- Comment: Only Robert Doty spoke at length with clear expertise about failure management and safety. It seems to me that this topic will end up driving many of the design decisions but it was only very lightly covered.
- Commendation: Many dignitaries were present to be introduced when the event started. At the very end of the day, only three remained to hear everything that the people had to say. Congratulations to: Yoriko Kishimoto (PCC Chair and Palo Alto City Council Member), Terry Nagel (Burlingame Council Member), and Dominic Spaethling (Regional Manager, San Francisco to San Jose Section, California High Speed Rail Authority) for doing your job so well.
Robert Doty: “There is no magic, only magicians.”
Gary Patton: “You can’t trust the government, ever.”
You can check out all of the photos John and I took on flickr:
“High Speed Rail Teach In, Palo Alto, CA”. Video play back dates
and times are listed in the bottom photo.
Greg Greenway, Dave Young,
Rich Tolmach, Robert Doty,
Tony Carrasco, Marcia Daszko
Susan Fineberg, Karen Hollman
reviewing a track model
at the HSR Teach-In
James Jonas, Joyce & John Traynor,
and John Plocher discuss
Open Space Technology
Images Copyright 2009 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher