SVLG held a summit last Friday at Stanford mostly attended by representatives from businesses and governments. This Saturday, "Friends of Caltrain" will host a "grassroots" summit in San Carlos. The goals of both summit are to find solutions to the Caltrain funding problem and to the rally support.
The Caltrain situation is bring together political factions that have been at odds. SVLG, as we know, is behind the BART project and also supports high speed rail. On the other hand, cities like Palo Alto and Burlingame are lending support to preserve Caltrain service as they fight against the High Speed Rail Authority.
Regardless of their true intentions, it is clear that cities and businesses will hurt if Caltrain service were to be eliminated or curtailed significantly. The high tech businesses in the valley rely on Caltrain to bring employees that prefer to live in San Francisco. The cities up and down the Peninsula take advantage of Caltrain to promote downtowns and transit oriented developments. Employers like Stanford University depend on Caltrain to reduce traffic and cut down the parking spaces that otherwise would be required.
Some people, perhaps blinded by their pure hatred against high speed rail, think that Caltrain should be eliminated to kill any chance for high speed rail. At the same time, some high speed rail supporters suggest that high speed rail could be completed sooner if Caltrain were eliminated. But as history shows (Caltrain was closed on weekends from 2002-2004), there's no transit that can truly substitute Caltrain. There's also no room to add lanes on 101 without tearing down homes.
Given Caltrain's performance and potential, Caltrain needs and deserves a strong regional coalition in order to survive the financial crisis. If done right, Caltrain could be a catalyst for a more integrated and efficient regional transit system. If groups on both sides of the high speed rail issue can work together to save Caltrain, it is possible that they could agree on a high speed rail scenario that is integrated, achievable, and does not create unnecessary fear.
Location: SamTrans Auditorium,
1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos (near Caltrain)
Date: Saturday, January 29, 2011 Time: 8:30 am to 2:30 pm.