With respect to Mountain View Councilman John McAlister's comment in your article this week on express lanes -- in which he said rail is the "technology of the past" -- I recommend he try Googling "S Bahn" or "Pendeltag." These are urban rail systems in Europe -- the S Bahn in German cities and the Pendeltag in Stockholm -- that move hundreds of thousands of commuters a day in comfort.
The trains are fast and run frequently on limited access rights of way, but stop less frequently than light rail so they get to their destinations much more quickly. The stations are strategically located near industrial parks and other areas where lots of people work and live. Stockholm in 2017 completed an upgrade of its urban rail system that remodeled some stations in the urban core, and Germany also continues to invest in its urban rail systems. Sometimes, the tracks run underground through the densely built parts of the city, but just as often they run above ground outside the urban core in the suburbs. The trains run on standard gauge track and use stock equipment -- not like BART, which requires expensive, custom-built equipment and a wider gauge track.
In other words, they are much like Caltrain.
So why does the Highway 85 policy advisory board only consider light trail or carpool lanes as options for the median strip? Here's another suggestion: Run a Caltrain line up the median from just south of the Blossom Hill station, where Caltrain crosses under 85, to Mountain View. Build the stations like BART stations with large parking garages, but terminate the line at the North Bayshore industrial park, and run a branch from the San Jose to San Francisco line there too. Caltrain has been the poor stepchild of the Bay Area public transportation scene for far too long. It's about time transportation policymakers wake up and realize how valuable it could be if there was only some decent investment in it.
McAlister and the Highway 85 policy advisory board are just using the disappointing performance of light rail in San Jose as an excuse to continue doing nothing, hoping at some point that either the public caves in and they get to put in toll lanes, or that podcars, self-driving cars or Elon Musk's Hyperloop show up and rescue the Valley from perpetual gridlock. But no technology moves more people more quickly than urban rail, and waiting another 30 years for some magic solution to appear is no plan.
James Kempf lives on Foxborough Drive in Mountain View.