Palo Alto Council members seek Caltrain partnership for grade separation funding

On Monday night, Palo Alto City Council heard a presentation from Caltrain regarding the electrification project.  Council members expressed several concerns with the electrification EIR, and also an intention to work with Caltrain to resolve the issues, including working to secure funding for grade separations. 

There is one issues with the visual appearance of electrical station that seems solvable – community members opposed one proposed location, which hasn’t been taken off the list until an alternative has been verified.

There are concerns that the additional service would add delay at the intersections at Charleston, Meadow, and Churchill. For example, Alma and Churchill, without electrification there would be 84 seconds of delay by 2020, and an additional 25 seconds with more frequent electric service.   Council members and community members spoke in support of grade separations that would improve safety and improve crosstown connections. 

Council Member Kniss, formerly on the Caltrain board, recalled that San Mateo County has funding for grade separations because it was earmarked in a ballot measure, whereas Santa Clara County does not have such funding.

Council Member Burt suggested that increased service at California Avenue and San Antonio stations might mitigate some of the car traffic, since more convenient train service will help more commuters choose not to drive.

While a majority of community members (including this blogger) spoke in favor of moving electrification forward while working on future funding, a couple of commenters recommended holding up electrification, in the hope that this would help $500 million or more to be found for grade separations.

In 2016, Santa Clara County will put a measure on the ballot to fund transit improvements.  Palo Alto residents vote, and so do Mountain View residents.  Palo Alto and Mountain View, and their major employers have leverage to affect what goes into the ballot measure.  Peninsula Cities also have an opportunity to partner with San Francisco and San Jose on funding to increase Caltrain capacity and grade separations, so it can keep up with ongoing growth in ridership.