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December 30, 2014



Here's a great, technically complete account of the unusual sights and sounds from yesterday courtesy of one of my neighbors who posted it on NN:

This explanation will be a little involved. SFO has two sets of parallel runways 10/28 and 1/19. The runways are named for the magnetic compass direction that they face (rounded to the nearest 10 degrees [so a single runway has two names depending on which way you are facing]). Normally planes land on 28 (right and left) since the prevailing winds are from the west - planes like to land into the wind. Also planes cannot land/takeoff if there is too much wind from across the runway.
So yesterday the winds were from the N i.e. straight down runways 1 (L & R), and they were gusting to over 40 mph so too much "cross wind" for runways 19/28. So planes had to take off and land on runway 1. However, because of the hills to the west/sw of the airport, there is no "straight in" approach to runway 1. Thus the planes had to approach as if they were going to runway 28, and then close to the airport,they had to "circle" around to the north (at low altitudes) to come into runway 1 basically from a right turn.
Now all this is (a) legal and (b) safe. Airline pilots are trained to do this, and if a pilot is uncertain, he can always request a diversion to Oakland or San Jose. And yes, you are correct, this is a very rare occurrence!

Peter Garrison

We used to find seaweed dropped in our backyard from the Catalina flying boats lowering their landing gear while landing at Long Beach airport.

Train blowhards.


I've moved up the hill, and I hear trains at all hours blowing their horn - even more now.

Can we start a petition to request that Caltrain and freight trains blow the minimum amount of time required?

Peter Garrison

2 am- counted 28 blasts. Summer is worse with the inversion layer.
I told Jerry Hill the trains call his name each night: Jerrrrrrrrrrrryyyyy. Jerrrrrrrryyyyyy. 28 times.


Yes, I am still "down the hill" but I agree TB--it has been particularly bad lately. You may want to start one at Change.org and we can advertise its existence here. I'll bet we could get 500 signatures!


If they elevated the train tracks, there wouldn't be a need for the horns.


That turns out not to be true, as I recall. However it is true there would be less frequent horns.The noise emitted from trains on elevated tracks , however, does travel further, and that is why at some point, they were looking at noise barriers to boot. But these are not a panacea; as with sound walls by the freeway, the noise typically gets displaced to other areas.

As a "flatlander" living about 5 blocks east of the tracks, the most peculiar blasts of late seem to be a variant on the common "leaner" horn. It has a different pitch completely, but I think is still some type of freight horn == late at night.


Happy New Year Jennifer.
Regarding those two big trees that went down on El Camino Real...
Do you think that Cal Trans/City of Burlingame will re-evaluate their commitment to the value of keeping those trees?
I think the topic belongs in this thread because the unusual wind direction most likely had an major impact.


You have asked the EXACT WRONG QUESTION. Here is the right question

Regarding those two big trees that went down on El Camino Real...Do you think Caltrans will reevaluate their negligence in maintaining the drainage up and down El Camino? It should be obvious even to Caltrans that when it floods the roads are dangerous for drivers and the tree roots get soggy all of a sudden after being thirsty for years. Why can't YOU (Caltrans) do the most basic maintenance on El Camino in Burlingame?????????????


Happy New Year to you, too!

In answer to your question, it isn't really a matter of Caltrans having a commitment to the trees; they don't really have one. Because our short and narrow segment of the highway trees is considered historically significant, the agency HAS to abide by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). Otherwise the trees would have been mowed down decades ago and we would already have a 5th lane throughout our city, not just at Floribunda. We know now, that 5 lanes equals no trees, period. The trees existence and highway width have always have been intertwined.

Proper tree care is work (and significant cost) for them and honestly, it isn't what they typically do (well)--so unfortunately neglect is the easier course of action, and they have to be bugged to accomplish most of these tasks (as well as sidewalk and drainage issues). The funding mechanism to determine which projects are funded is a mystery to me, but seeing the process that is taking place regarding Floribunda leads me to believe that projects are mostly funded that are tangental somehow to increases in the LOS (level of service). And LOS the way they see it, is probably is related to widening.

'Hate to start the year on a pessimistic note, but if CEQA law is ultimately weakened, we'll have a tougher time keeping our nice little piece of paradise from turning to asphalt.


Thanks, Jen. Let's not call it pessimistic but rather realistic. It is better to have our eyes open early.

@Hollyroller, we do have a thread for this discussion here: http://www.burlingamevoice.com/2014/10/kings-highway-under-siege.html#comments

When in doubt use the "Trees" category to find the closest past post.


Elevating the tracks and removing grade separations would most certainly end the loud train horns. Daytime when the stations are open the only horn use would be what you called leaner horns much like BART uses, a much lower decibel horn not traveling throughout the city and into the hills. At night when the stations are closed and locked there would be no need for the freight trains to blow horns at all.


Speaking of being close to SFO so you do not have to leave 90 minutes before your flight, this bit from the WSJ was interesting--I did not know SFO ran differently than most airports!

Here’s what the U.S. House of Representatives should add: TSA runs a Screening Partnership Program, which in theory allows an airport to “opt out” of TSA and bring in a certified private security firm. In a 2011 report, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure compared Los Angeles data with a private operation running San Francisco’s airport. A contract screener in San Fran moved through 65% more passengers than TSA employees in L.A.

Maybe we are in better shape than most for summer travel.

Peter Garrison

Zipped through the other morning in the new United domestic Terminal 3. Even had "spa" music to calm nerves. Waiting for lavendar scent...

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