Thursday, October 22, 2009


Several decades ago, the entire Bay, north and south, was endangered. It was the dumping place for waste and the opportunity for landfill to create more space for in-fill development.

Beginning with three women in Berkeley, including the wife of the University Chancellor, Dr. Clark Kerr, Kay Kerr, as well as Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick, they assembled themselves into an action group that expanded into a major movement to Save the Bay.

They were successful, finally winning the support of legislators and other people of influence. The Bay, which was on its way to becoming a landfill and small river, was saved into a federally protected estuary, to the benefit of all of us who live in the Bay Area.

Today, our Peninsula is in great danger. It needs to be saved. The charms of the two-track Caltrain system are about to give way to a four-track expansion of the grade separated rail corridor. They will, in our particular area, also raise the tracks on a 20 ft. retaining wall. The California high-speed train will occupy the rail corridor along with Caltrain and Union Pacific's freights.

This expansion promises to be immensely intrusive and harmful to the communities and their village-like character through which it will pass. The construction period alone could consume ten years. This rail expansion will adversely affect the entire Peninsula.

But, then, one must ask, wouldn't it be better to increase the number of tracks not only to four, but to six, in order to better handle the varying speeds of what will be double the number of daily trains intended for this expanded rail corridor? Any high-speed train station must have extra passing tracks. Won't there be many more trains, all operating at different speeds? So, if six tracks are better, why stop there? Isn't our future in railroads? Isn't that progress? That's what we are told.

From the point of view of the newly formed partnership of Caltrain and the high-speed rail authority -- called the Peninsula Rail Program (PRP) -- they see the Peninsula mostly as an obstruction for their intentions to enlarge the rail system. In effect, we who live on the Peninsula are in the way of their expansionist aspirations, and although intended to be served by these transit carriers, are obstacles to their ambitions. What sense does that make?

Therefore, it is time to say no. It is time to call a halt to what they call progress and what we call imperial exploitation. The fifty miles of Peninsula are threatened to become one large, bisecting railroad yard, cutting a swath of tracks through each town through which it passes, greatly increasing the importance of the expanding, separating rail barrier that divides so many of the towns in two.

We have been, especially after last fall's election, bombarded with rail advocacy messages, outlining the many virtues of the train and the many benefits that will be bestowed on the State and on us. It will save fuel, save power, create jobs, improve the environment, save money and provide economic growth and benefits to California forever. This so-called panacea is marketing hyperbole, too good to be true. Literally!

We are never told about the downside:

•A construction period of ten years or more which will create pollution and GHG throughout California that will set back our environmental efforts for generations.

•That it will cost, not $50 billion, but twice that amount and possibly more.

•That it will be most expensive mega-infrastructure project in the history of the US, and possibly the world, including the great Pyramids.

•That it will never be profitable but will need to be subsidized by the State forever.

•That it will serve only the well to do, since worldwide, HSR is the icing on the rail cake; the luxury, premium rail service with the most expensive tickets.

•That all the cities through which it passes on the Peninsula will be severely penalized in terms of property values, business, and quality of life.

•That the expression, “the other side of the tracks” will become more meaningful than ever, and not in a good way.

•That the promise of the high-speed train and an expanded Caltrain service will become the fertile ground upon and around which developers will thrive with the construction of high-density, high-rise urban in-fill. See their HSR video and watch buildings grow before our eyes as the blue and yellow train whizzes past.

We must organize and say, Save Our Peninsula. We must organize to put a stop to this destructive force, hurling toward us in the guise of shiny metal luxury and speed. We must see it for what it really is and what harm it will do to all of us.

Save Our Peninsula.


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