Fighting floods begins with stream maintenance: Other Voices

Every summer since 2001 the Santa Clara Valley Water District has undertaken a five-month-long effort to maintain and improve stream conditions so that they can safely carry water during winter storms. From June to October, our crews trek into streams to remove sediment, manage vegetation, clear trash and debris, and stabilize banks that have been eroded.

During heavy storms, unruly vegetation and sediment washed down from areas upstream can restrict the flow of water and, in some areas, cause a backup, increasing the risk of flooding. Managing vegetation is an important part of stream maintenance. Removing invasive vegetation, weeds and dry brush improves habitat for wildlife and a healthy stream ecosystem, contributes to improved flows in creeks and even reduces the risk of fire hazards.

Other Voices: Find best solution for enrollment growth, not quickest one

Enrollment growth is a long-term issue that warrants a lasting, thorough solution to benefit current and future generations of Los Altos School District (LASD) students. It takes trust and patience, but our students and residents are worthy of a comprehensive resolution that serves our community well for decades to come. Let’s not jump at the quickest or easiest answer, but work together toward the best one.

At the end of the day, this decision is about what is best for our children and our children’s children. Our students need a place to continue thriving under the fantastic conditions that have long supported our community. Research has shown that smaller schools strongly support the academic, social and emotional growth of children. Smaller schools also help mitigate traffic issues that larger schools foster. For these reasons, we encourage the district to continue diligently seeking a 10th school site, as it is our best opportunity to protect our award-winning model in the long term.

Other Voices: PRT –  a solution looking for a problem

The April 26 Town Crier reported on Mountain View's ongoing fascination with “Pod cars,” otherwise known as "Automated Guideway Transit" (AGT) or more accurately as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). This is a bad idea that just won’t die despite many shortcomings with the concept as discussed by experts. Gökçe Günel, for example, explained why Masdar City's PRT is an “Expensive Toy.” (See

Steven Hauser explains that PRT is "a 40-year-old concept for a system of autonomous vehicles that can go to multiple destinations on demand, on a track or guideway. Techo-cultists are fascinated by it – a Jetsonesque technology that has its own German joke word, “gadgetbahn.” Like most cults, it has a core of true believers and the more sinister quacks and scammers that prey upon them. Right wing nutcases back the PRT technology movement; they know it will never be built and PRT proposals can block or dismantle real public transit infrastructure and systems. Occasionally, left wing fantasy loonies who want to transform the world into a Futurama cartoon back PRT schemes. All the PRT backers say 'if only' – 'if only there were politicians to back a real big system it would work; if only there were funding; if only ….'” (See

Fabien and Young explain that "PRT promoters speak in the conjectural tones of 'could' and 'would'. Or 'can' and 'will'.   After 50 years of such conversations, we cannot truthfully state in the present tense: PRT satisfies urban transport needs. At best, we can point to West Virginia University, which is served by a USDOT demo from the 1970s and a few recent shuttles overseas." (See

The folks in Minnesota had to deal with this, as you can read in the PRT Boondoggle blog (

PRT only seems to get built in niche areas, such as airports or planned communities with car restrictions. Author Eric Jaffe points out that "though the concept has been around for half a century, only five completed systems in the world can be reasonably defined as personal rapid transit: those in Morgantown, West Virginia, which opened in 1975; Rotterdam in The Netherlands (1999); Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (2010); Heathrow Airport in London (2011); and Suncheon Bay in South Korea (2014). While there's been a noticeable uptick in the past 15 years, four projects in that span is still, in the report's own words, 'not enough to claim that there is an active market sufficient to support an industry.'" (See

This topic has been discussed at length. I recommend a couple of articles on the Light Rail Now website.

First, there’s “Let’s Get Real about Personal Rapid Transit,” by Ken Avidor ( He points out that “PRT has a solid 30-year record of failure. Its main purpose in recent years seems to have been to provide a cover enabling its proponents to spread disinformation about real, workable transit systems.” (delete altogether if you need more space.

 “The unsubstantiated claims of PRT proponents are always presented in the present tense as if the system is a proven success … which, of course, it certainly is not. Promoters never seem to fail to bash real transit, such as light rail (LRT), as ‘old-fashioned technology.’ Sadly, the media rarely check the veracity of PRT publicity and propaganda.”

A longer, more technical article is “Cyberspace Dream Keeps Colliding with Reality” ( The authors write, “Despite the persistent and fervent claims of its promoters, repeated attempts to implement a working PRT system, even in very small-scale scenarios, have invariably failed. Not a single PRT plan, during these promotional efforts over the past 40 years or more, has seen successful implementation even in a small test application, much less a major, heavy-duty, citywide rapid transit application. Early would-be PRT installations, such as the AirTrans system at Dallas-Ft. Worth Regional Airport, and the PRT at West Virginia University at Morgantown, eschewed any attempt to provide true PRT-style, small-vehicle, customized origin-destination service, and were implemented in effect as line-haul automated guideway transit (AGT) peoplemover systems with some innovative features (such as offline stations).”

And finally, the good folks at Light Rail Now have put up a helpful list of links to various Monorail, PRT, AGT and “Gadget Transit” analyses at

A good article by Setty and Demery points out that, “In our view, it is a big waste of time advocating such ‘gee-whiz’ options, given the severe limits of monorails and similar technologies such as PRT, when U.S. transportation problems are almost always sociopolitical and economic ‘not technical’ in nature.” (See

Mountain View's staff and city council should do some research beware spending money on this solution looking for a problem.

Bill Hough is a Los Altos resident working for a California-based transportation agency. He has a master's degree in transportation from Brooklyn's Polytechnic University.


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It's time to consider existing land options for 10th school

Since the passage of Measure N 31 months ago, the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees has focused exclusively on finding new land suitable for building a 10th school.

While we applaud its efforts, students continue to wait for better facilities. Projecting future district enrollment has always proven to be a difficult exercise. Given the uncertainty, how can we be sure that the best option is to use taxpayer funds to purchase new land during a local real estate boom? It is time to expand our solution space.

Other Voices: First Street Green and offices – yes, please!

Downtown Los Altos has suffered too long from lack of private investment and redevelopment, so I love Los Altos Community Investment’s proposal for a new office building and public park on First Street. I find the design appealing, restrained and smart, but it also strikes me as a generous offer for public benefits and potential catalyst for future investments and revitalization in the downtown triangle.

Times change, the economy changes and generations and demographics change, but some local attitudes about preserving a “quaint downtown” never seem to budge. The small but vocal antidevelopment movement must be brought to heel because it stifles downtown economic vitality.

Editor's Notebook: Los Altos family battles cancer, celebrates life

Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Jeanne and Duncan MacVicar and their daughter, Bryn MacVicar Pennington, are united in their fight against cancer.

For more than a dozen years, the MacVicar family of Los Altos has put their hearts and souls into organizing and participating in the annual Relay For Life.

Fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, the 24-hour events are more importantly therapeutic exercises for those suffering with cancer and their families. Although reflective of those lost, Relays are primarily celebrations of life and survival.

Other Voices: Educational foundation celebrates schools

Families from throughout the Los Altos School District will gather at the Junior Olympics Saturday. This day is more than just a chance for some friendly competition among students and schools – it is a celebration of our community and how much our schools contribute to making Los Altos a great place to raise a family.

As part of this tradition, the Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) presents the district with a check representing the culmination of our fundraising efforts – $3.7 million this year. We will achieve this impressive goal thanks to all our donors, large and small, within the parent community and beyond, as well as extensive corporate matching funds. These donations provide for the programs that enhance learning for every student from transitional kindergarten through eighth grade in the Los Altos School District.

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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