Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Restore lower SF Bay Estuary & Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge to its pre-1910 natural state!

This note is intended for agencies and organizations who are concerned enough to help improve further the lower San Francisco Bay's water quality and beautiful natural environment with better long-range planning, implementation, advocacy while improving Bay Area transit mobility and air quality, specifically, today, aimed toward the bienniel San Francisco Estuary Conference Members, Regional Water Quality Control Board(s), Bay Conservation District, ABAG and MTC/BATA members.

To wit:

  Just  a quick note to ask the SF Bay Estuary conference members, this meeting or next, and/or the Implementation Committee to please consider supporting a push to finish BART around the SF Bay with a component relating to elimination of the old 1910 Dumbarton Rail Bridge pylons since they will no longer be necessary when BART achieves its ultimate and original goal of circling the Bay.   BART currently is planned to go through San Jose to the Santa Clara University station. BART already exists from SF to Millbrae.  That leaves only 21 miles to close the ultimate BART Around The Bay gap that will increase BART's capacity for two-way access around the Bay, to all the major universities, airport and train stations, many shopping and TOD centers.   With BART completing the 21 miles, no further need exists for the old Dumbarton Rail bridge $1Billion reconstruction/recreation across the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge, since BART will serve the same communities, Union City, Redwood City, Menlo Park/Palo Alto. thus the 1910 era pylons can be removed, restoring the DEWR to its pre-1910 natural state, and avoiding implementation of a diesel-electric train air and brake pollution across the refuge. .  The $1 Billion programmed to Dumbarton Rail project could be applied to Regional Measure 2's other major, proven  one-seat (no transfer) candidate electrified, grade-separated, safer project: BART is one of them. Indded, Santa Clara County's VTA has noted possible planning to extend BART up the Peninsula to the end of its jurisdiction at Palo Alto/Stanford University/Stanford Shopping Center at the Menlo Park/San Mateo County line, thus leaving only the distance from Menlo Park to Millbrae to consider for a study etc and so eliminating the need for any Dumbarton Rail regressive reconstruction over the DEWR.

I am seeking water quality agency support/sponsorship to begin the discussion to do the above at ABAG, MTC/BATA, Regional Water Quality Board and other public and private stakeholders who have a vision for this approximately 15 year project.

Currently, MTC and Peninsula cities are not looking at this, rather continuing the old 198x-1990s Dumbarton Rail notion.  Will members of the group help raise this awareness?

My interest is to plan to replace the once-successful, but now outdated, at capacity, at grade, and very deadly Caltrain (kills 12-16 each year for decades on its tracks) with BART, and not add another leg across the Bay and refuge of this outdated system--because an effective heavy rail train system exists: BART.  Caltrain, because of its express trains (same max speed as BART ~ 75 mph) run at grade through the heart of Peninsula Cities, whereas BART must be grade separated and is already electrified and parallel 15 miles from SF to Millbrae, so only 21 miles remains to upgrade the Peninsula Corridor rail and truly relieve Peninsula highway traffic, as BART has done in its existing corridors.  I am will aware of many obstacles and East Bay needs, but Santa Clara and San Mateo county residents have both approved, and are paying taxes for BART, but key cities in the 21 mile gap have no direct access now. Imagine the future, at least with respect to replacing the planned Dumbarton Rail reconstruction with a more efficient BART Around the Bay that will serve more riders and protect the lower Bay, restore it to it natural state, not seen since 1910....in only 15 years or so, if we can get public agencies to start focusing on this Bay Estuary improvement opportunity.  Note that Dumbarton Rail (DR) project is stand alone, though planned to be under the current Caltrain administration.  My suggestion here is to sever DR from Caltrain by redirecting resources to bring BART closer to closing the 21 mile gap, while providing more frequent, farther reach, and better service to entice transit mobility.

Omar Chatty

Friday, October 18, 2013

Posted on the Palo Alto Patch, "Speak Out" board, Friday, 10-18-13:

on Saturday 10/19/13 Caltrain will hold a nice 150 yr celebration of its trackway at the Merrill St station area from 9:00am to 3:00pm, per the MP Almanac/PA Weekly.  Caltrain has served its purpose well from inception in the very rural, pre automobile, pre-light bulb, pre-telephone, pre-paved road era, but now the Peninsula is burgeoning with growth, especially high density housing (Transit Oriented Development) such as the apartments near where the latest Caltrain street-level fatality occurred, the 13th this year, 42nd since 1/1/2011, 201st since 1/1/95...5 of those died in Palo Alto in the last year, and this is the 4th in Menlo Park in the last 2 years.  The Caltrain carnage must stop. Who's child will be next? The MP and Palo Alto city councils and state legislators (Gordon, Hill) and federal rep's (Eshoo, Speier) have done nothing.  Caltrain has tried to reduce fatalitites, but more growth will induce more deaths, suicide or accident. Caltrain is simply out of date. Electrification will not help. Grade crossings have not stopped fatalities at other corridor sites. I have urged the local MP, PA, MV, Sunnyvale city councils to please start investigating bringing BART south (after the strike ends!) because BART must be elevated or below street level at intersections (as each city determines the design with BART). BART has fewer suicides, is safter, cleaner, quieter, electrified, and has a greater reach around the bay to reduce inbound auto commute congestion--but will save lives.  No effort has been made by the (sorry to say) all-Democrat elected officials because, as Jerry Brown (and Rod Diridon Sr tax-funded rail and HSR advocate) admitted in media last year, that they have been "working to bring High Speed Rail to California for 30 years". This is exactly coincident to when the passenger train up the Peninsula was taken over from SP by California then the Caltrain Board. The Gordon/Eshoo/Speier/Hill "Blended Solution" for two -tracks (which is very dangerous for 4 train types to all operate on together won't be allowed ultimately, only 4-tracks are safe). So, although this ought not be political, the fact is that Caltrain is blocking BART discussions to come down the Peninsula to greatly reduce these deaths, because HSR and Caltrain can share the same (very dangerous) track width. BART's are wider and only for passenger travel.  That is the background.  The key here is that 12-16 people are killed by Caltrain, especially the 75mph Express Mini-bullet (tragically named) trains. More trains will mean more deaths on this outdated system. It will take 15-20 (160-240 more deaths) years to bring BART down the last 21 miles from Millbrae, past Hillsdale, to Stanford then to BART's planned station at Santa Clara University.  So far, Caltrain, as the HSR placeholder in the Peninsula, has superceded my pleading to PA and MP and other councils, all Democrat controlled, do to this Democrat and Sierra Club backing of Caltrain HSR. Human, child, stray pets, of so many deaths simply don't rate against the Dermocrat HSR agenda.  Will you, your child, or someone you know, be next to die on these long-since outdated urban Caltrain tracks. Please attend Saturday's event (politiely) to urge a study to close the gap to bring far safer, cleaner, non-traffic congesting BART down the Peninsula the rest of the way to make BART Around The Bay loop a safe and better reality for us. Whose child will be next? We have to put a stop to this carnage/slaughter/dismemberment of people who happen to be on the tracks when monster, million-pound, "unstoppable", inflexible Catrains roar through at street-level, endangering anyone nearby. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The (Monday, 10/14/13 latest Caltrain death/slaughter/dismemberment on its tracks of the 16 year old Menlo Park boy north of the Menlo Park Encinal station is the 25th since 1/1/2012, the 13th this year, and 201th since 1/1/1995 which is when I started my Caltrain death count. 

In a tragic irony, on Saturday, 10/19/2013, Caltrain and the Peninsula's nearly all elected Democrat public officials and other representatives will celebrate Caltrain's 150th year at Menlo Park's 1100 Merrill Street Shelter from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Indeed, what more does this irony demonstrate that this Caltrain is now dangerously out of place.  The Peninsula is no longer the very rural area of 1863, nor the suburbia of the 20th century, but now an increasingly urban-densifying region of annual multi-million square foot vertical growth (SmartGrowth, Sustainable Communities, Agenda 21-One Bay Area Plan) increasingly congested area where a surface-level train has become simply too dangerous, congesting, polluting, noisy, and scary to operate in our midst at street-level.These increasing number of Caltrain deaths are inevitable!  Deaths of children, temporarily despondent adults, accidental track crossings, and even stray pets and wildlife that happen on the tracks at the wrong moment.

 A few years ago, a SJMercury News reporter surveyed US train accidents, and, as I recall Caltrain was near the top in number.  With the increasing density of Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) along the corridor, such as the apartments near the latest fatality (no sure if the dead boy lived there or not), deaths will certainly continue, and likely increase.  Will you, someone you love or care about, be the next victim?

So many have died, yet despite my pleas to Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and other city councils in the Caltrain corridor to please work to initiate a study to bring grade-separated, electrified, non-congesting BART down the last 21 miles of the Peninsula to join its future planned station at Santa Clara University.  Imagine the safer regional connectivity--without transfers, to shopping centers, SF, SJ, sports stadiums, our major Bay Area universities and train and air travel destinations...safer!

Caltrain is outdated and ought to be replaced with the far safer, greater reach around the Bay, more frequent service that causes zero parallel and cross traffic congestion (read GHG), is already electrified and must be grade separated by law.  What will it take for the monolithic, Democrat monopoly of elected horizontal and vertical officials from city council level, county, region, state and federal government offices to finally start to plan to replace Caltrain with BART?!!  Every year, 12-20 people die on its tracks, about 40-50% may be suicides, but far fewer die on BART's tracks despite its larger reach. How many more must die before one of these 'caring' Democrats do something to start to plan to extend and fund the last 21 miles of BART to its current planned terminus in Santa Clara at SCU. BART around the Bay (my advocacy blogsite name, too) to over the next 15 years or so (another 160 or so will die on Caltrain tracks during this period, or more if it takes longer to extend BART south from Millbrae). Indeed, all counties are now paying taxes for BART. It is time to close the Bay Area BART gap.

Question to our SF Bay Area all-Democrat politicians:  How many more must die before you act to stop this massacre by this  outdated, dangerous, congesting, polluting, out-of-place train in the midst of our ever-increasing urbanity????  Where is Senator Jerry Hill, or the mayors of Menlo Park, San Bruno, Palo Alto, where most deaths have occurred recently, or Assemblymen Kevin Mullin or Richard Gordon, or Congresspersons Eshoo or Speier (for whom Caltrain locomotive #925 has her name emblazoned on it) to terminate this train track carnage, improvetranist and road mobility, one-seat transit rail reach around the Bay (two way) to educational, shopping, airport and rail destinations, while reducing pollution, congestion, noise, increase frequency and hours of service, and, save precious transit $$ long term?  Where are these caring Democrats?  Why does Jerry Hill make such a grandstand about the 8 who died in the San Bruno pipeline blast, the 5 who died in the horrific limousine fire, but yet refuses to do anything to move to better safer rail transport on BART in the Peninsula/ Why?  Simply because, as a good Democrat who depends on typical Democrat funding and support (high-density developers, labor unions, and the Sierra Club) all of whom support HSR, he must support the Democrat "Caltrain/HSR" cause over the lives of his constituents. Tragic, just tragic and sad.

Please, how many more must die by Caltrain before this train is removed from our danger, at the earliest, in 15 - 20 years?