19 September 2009

Platform Height

Among the things on your mind as you step across the platform gap to board a train, the height of the platform above the rails probably ranks last. As it turns out, this dimension--and correspondingly, the floor height of the train--is very important. It determines:
  • platform dwell times, or how long it takes passengers to get on and off;
  • interoperability between two train systems, Caltrain and HSR;
  • accessibility for the disabled and people carrying bulky items (luggage, strollers, bicycles);
  • the available options for procuring affordable, off-the-shelf train designs.

Level Boarding

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all new rail vehicles and platforms provide level boarding, with the height of the train floor within 5/8" (16 mm) of the height of the platform, a tight specification that is quite difficult to achieve in everyday practice. The grand staircase that greets most Caltrain passengers will no longer be allowed because the ADA requires "the most integrated setting reasonably achievable." Caltrain got by until now by using a hodge-podge of grandfather clauses and band-aid solutions allowed under ADA law, but as the system transforms from an old-style diesel commuter railroad to a modern, fast and frequent transit system, level boarding and full accessibility is no longer a negotiable feature. Indeed, level boarding features prominently among the goals of Project 2025, Caltrain's blueprint for reinventing the peninsula commute.

That does leave the question unanswered: exactly which height is appropriate for this level boarding to take place? As we will see, this question has far-reaching implications for the peninsula corridor.

Caltrain's Plan

Caltrain has for many years harbored the desire, if not the financial means, to operate swift electric multiple unit (EMU) trains. These trains would increase service speed and frequency, especially at those stations that saw service cut back to make room for Baby Bullet service.

Going back many years, Caltrain's studies invariably conclude that such EMUs should necessarily have two levels (an upstairs and a downstairs), much like Caltrain's existing fleet. The reasons have to do with providing a certain passenger capacity under a cost trade-off between service frequency and train capacity, fitting within platform and train length limitations, taking full advantage of the ample vertical clearances that are available... and last but not least, perhaps also the sheer Strength Of An Idea.

Caltrain wishes to procure its new trains on the global marketplace. A sampling of various European bi-level EMUs under consideration, with corresponding entry floor heights:
  • France - Alstom Coradia Duplex: 600 - 645 mm (24 - 25")
  • Germany - Siemens Desiro: 600 mm (24")
  • Switzerland - Stadler Dosto: 570 mm (22")
For reasons related to vehicle packaging (fitting all the train's innards, systems and amenities around the passenger space), as well as historical European platform standards, these double-deck EMUs typically have entry doors and vestibules on the lower deck, with a floor height of 570 - 645 mm (22" to 25"). High-platform EMU designs are less common, although they do exist in Paris and Sydney.

Enter HSR

While HSR on the peninsula corridor has long been a dream, the increasing tempo of events (Proposition 1A, the federal stimulus, environmental planning for the San Francisco - San Jose HST project) has made it increasingly likely that Caltrain commuter trains will mingle on the peninsula corridor with a steady flow of long-distance high speed trains linking the region to the rest of California. Caltrain and the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) have signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a broad framework for sharing the peninsula corridor, which envisions "mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all tracks."

The MOU identifies the urgent need for a systems engineering integration plan, a detailed technical framework for how Caltrain and HSR will mesh together. Importantly, this plan will have to address the issue of level boarding, and whether "mixed traffic" also applies to platform tracks.

The global HSR marketplace, from which the CHSRA will procure its trains, clearly tends toward so-called "high floors" about four feet above the rails: the floor of the rail car's entry vestibule is built high enough to fit the train's wheels underneath. A sampling of various HSR makes and models, with entry floor heights:
HSR will quite naturally gravitate towards high platforms.

Regulatory Considerations

Platform heights in California are governed by the federal Department of Transportation and the California Public Utilities Commission. There are many laws on the books, and yet more undergoing approval. Taken together, they form a complicated regulatory thicket that has previously, and probably will again, produce odd solutions. The key regulations that govern platform height include the following:
  • Platforms must be within 5/8" of the height of the train floor (36CFR1192.175 and 36CFR1192.93) for level boarding
  • HSR trains must use high-platform level boarding (36CFR1192.175), typically understood as about four feet floor height
  • Commuter platforms must provide full-length level boarding (DOT guidance)
  • There may not be steps down into a train (DOT guidance)
  • Commuter platforms may not exceed 8" above top-of-rail (CPUC General Order 26) to provide clearance for freight trains.
  • New commuter cars must have a 15" floor height for compatibility with Amtrak (see proposed change to 49CFR37.85, effectively already law)
Now it gets really confusing.

These regulations not only contradict each other, but also lead to the strange notion that HSR and commuter rail are inherently incompatible and must therefore be built to differing platform heights. Regardless of this legal mish-mash, it is unlikely that the CHSRA will choose a platform height with Caltrain compatibility in mind; they will choose whatever suits the high speed rail system. That leaves Caltrain to follow their example... or not.

One can easily see where this is all headed, based on the figure at left: with bi-level EMUs, Caltrain is likely to end up with an entry floor height in the low twenty inches, while HSR will end up in the forties. The non-negotiable requirement for level boarding would result in two different and incompatible platform heights. Does that even make sense?

The Consequences of Platform Incompatibility

If one considers the peninsula corridor as a transportation system rather than two independent services simply sharing a right of way, platform compatibility emerges as a key enabler for realizing the potential synergy between HSR and Caltrain, with one serving as a feeder for the other. HSR can operate as a Flight-Level Zero airline with enormous parking garages and rental car facilities, or it can be deeply integrated into an efficient network of transportation where riding the train to your destination anywhere on the peninsula corridor is not only possible, but convenient and desirable.

One of the greatest opportunities currently facing rail planners is the provision of cross-platform transfers between Caltrain local and express trains. Under this operational concept, a local and an express show up simultaneously, on opposite sides of the same platform, and exchange passengers. In effect, the express overtakes the slower local at the platform, rather than somewhere between stations, allowing passengers to switch conveniently from one to the other. Such exchanges, operating on regular clock face schedules, would enable fast and frequent service to and from all the stations currently under-served by Caltrain, such as Belmont, Burlingame or San Antonio, and would greatly magnify the utility and efficiency of Caltrain as a feeder to peninsula HSR stops. Caltrain to Caltrain cross-platform transfers, the key to this highly desirable operational concept, inherently require the same boarding height on both sides of the platform as shown in the figure at right.

Proceeding with two incompatible platform heights would have the following negative impacts:
  • A cross-platform coordinated transfer between local and express commuter trains would be precluded at peninsula HSR stops, unless additional platforms were built. As shown in the figure under Option B, the two key transfer points on the peninsula corridor (Millbrae and Palo Alto / Redwood City) would preclude cross-platform transfers precisely where they are most needed, permanently crippling Caltrain's development potential.

  • If cross-platform Caltrain transfers were nevertheless implemented at the Millbrae and Palo Alto HSR stops, these large stations would have to be further expanded with additional platforms (shown in the figure under Option C) and up to six tracks (if HSR infrastructure were completely secured). Such enormous stations, approaching the size of an aircraft carrier, would be out of scale with the surrounding community.

  • San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center would be operated as two independent mini-terminals, with four HSR platform tracks and two Caltrain platform tracks. The loss of redundancy from the inability to assign any train to any platform would (a) exacerbate traffic jams in the station approach (by limiting the available paths and thus curtailing terminal capacity); (b) allow small incidents that delay a train (e.g. a medical emergency or law enforcement activity) to propagate to other trains; and (c) prevent spare capacity (unused platform tracks) from being re-allocated between Caltrain and HSR in response to actual travel demand, as opposed to ridership projections made decades into the future.

  • The resulting inability of the Transbay Transit Center to support a full Caltrain rush-hour schedule would require the existing station at 4th & King streets to be retained indefinitely, thus confusing commuters, contradicting San Francisco's 1999 Proposition H, and occupying many acres of land that would be more usefully developed for other purposes.

  • The San Jose train station, already planned as a massive double-deck structure, would require dedicated tracks and platforms for each service. With compatible platforms, it is likely that a single-deck configuration could meet the various needs of Caltrain, HSR, ACE and Amtrak.

  • Under delayed or otherwise unusual traffic conditions, high speed trains could not stop at a Caltrain platform to discharge passengers.
The Transition Conundrum

If a common, compatible platform height specification for both Caltrain and HSR is the desired outcome, how do we get from here to there? One of the key requirements for the development of the peninsula rail corridor is to do so without interrupting Caltrain service, to avoid dumping another 20,000 cars on congested roads. Furthermore, changing the height of station platforms, or procuring and commissioning new trains, are not done at the flip of a switch: each would last many months. Under those conditions, converting Caltrain to a different boarding height will be tantamount to changing the wing of an airplane... while in flight. That's not to say it is impossible, but it will require some very creative solutions from Caltrain, an issue that we will revisit later.

In the meantime, now would be a fine time for Caltrain to initiate the waiver process for GO-26D, since it is sure to encounter stiff opposition and delay from certain entrenched interests.

89 comments:

  1. Thank you for keeping a focus on this, Clem. Why is Caltrain obsessed with dual-level vehicles and low platforms, anyway? Low floors make sense for buses and streetcars, but not for heavy rail in an exclusive right-of way and dedicated stations. What can be done to change their minds about this?

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  2. Caltrain prefers dual-level vehicles because if you have have the vertical clearance, it's more cost effective to purchase fewer double decker vehicles.

    Plus, double decker trains have more seats, and all passengers would rather sit than stand for 45 minutes.

    The low floors appears to be a side-effect where most double-decker emu's have low floors.

    One 'crazy' idea would be for HSR to procure TGV Duplex and order them modified with entrances on lower floor. The two downsides are that you're no longer buying an 'off the shelf' system. Also, TGV Duplex is typically rated for 320km/h (200mph), so HSR would not be able to deliver the promised run times. Running the train at 360km would raise operating costs and again we'd end up with a custom order.

    To be fair, it's interesting that Chem wasn't able to find an example of a double-deck EMU with high platform entry. Here's one case where we can't easily look to the rest of the world for an easy solution.

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  3. I really enjoy your posts Clem. Learning a lot.

    Can you do a post on FRA Tier II requirements, what they are and what they mean for sharing RR ROW? Are train manufacturers willing to make special versions for the US that meet the FRA safety requirements and what kind of performance penalty will they have.

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  4. @Anonymous
    Actually Clem provided links to two examples of high platform entry double decker EMU designs (in Paris and Sydney). Here in Japan there is the JR East 215 series:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/215_series

    However, these types are not common in Japan because most commuter systems are based on an intense service level of typically 3 minute headways and extremely brief station dwell times, making them incompatible.

    Anyway, there are plenty of examples, though low level platform designs are more common.

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  5. Considering Caltrain is looking to double trains per hour and triple its ridership, some thought should be given to reducing dwell times by improving pedestrian flow capacity inside the bi-level EMU trains.

    In addition, the tight curves being planned for the DTX tunnel/throat into the TTC train box (esp. tracks 21 + 22, currently earmarked for Caltrain) mean conventional rigid axles will cause significant velocity mismatches between wheels and the top of the individual rails, a.k.a. squeal and over time, increased surface roughness and associated maintenance overheads.

    The Talgo 22 EMU solves both of these issues via the company's trademark wheelsets featuring independent axles for each wheel and pram suspension for 1-2% passive tilt functionality.

    My apologies, I only found the German version of the PDF but the pictures should be self-explanatory. Talgo has good engineers but their website and general marketing are terrible.

    Note that the Talgo 22 is designed for the Euro TSI Low Platform height of 550mm (21.6").

    While there are technological and historical reasons for the range of platform heights that off-the-shelf train products are designed against, it's not clear that a commuter train could simply be jacked up to HSR ground clearance - let alone vice versa.

    Wrt island platforms: those can be level even if the trains require different platform heights. After all, no-one said the rails on either side of an island platform have to be at the same height!

    Unfortunately, different rail heights on either side of an island platform would mean service restrictions in off-design conditions. Caltrain and HSR could each run through stations on the other's platforms tracks, but stopping there to let passengers board and alight would not be possible.

    Still, the design objective should be to optimize for nominal operations. Raising the Caltrain/UPRR tracks and/or lowering those for HSR by a relatively small amount to enable cross-platform transfers might be preferable to messing with train designs or adding transition ramps in the middle of island platforms.

    Keep in mind that CHSRA would also greatly benefit from cross-platform transfers with Metrolink at Palmdale, Sylmar, Burbank and Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs. In Anaheim, cross-platform transfers to and from Amtrak Pacific Surfliner would be highly desirable. The same is true of Amtrak San Joaquin in the Central Valley.

    The strategy for harmonizing platform heights should be the same as for Caltrain, though the details of the geometry may be different.

    Even so, there will be many situations in which cross-platform transfers will be impossible, e.g. to and from BART at both Millbrae and SJ Diridon, Pacific Surfliner at LA Union Station etc. In those cases, inclined moving walkways might be the best solution for conveying HSR/airline passengers with bags/kids to and from a mezzanine level. They are longer than regular escalators but ADA-compliant. In outdoor settings, they need to be protected against rain water.

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  6. Sorry, I only just noticed Clem's itty-bitty little graphic with options A, B and C for both SFFS and FSSF track configurations.

    For option A, CHSRA could help Caltrain pay for TGV Duplex or E4Max rolling stock. In both cases, all trainsets would be ordered with just one active tractor car and even that would have downrated motors. At the other end, a car with just a driver cab would suffice. Available space there could be used for bicycles, a bistro or additional seats.

    Wrt the TTC: locking Caltrain into just two platform tracks is suboptimal, especially if tail tracks must be excavated to compensate. IMHO, PCJPB should play hardball with CHSRA to drastically reduce the HSR dwell time in the TTC from the current - ludicrous - range of 30-40 minutes.

    Clean the toilets en route from/to San Jose. Clean/provision the rest of the train in LA/Anaheim. Change drivers but not the rest of the crew in SF. Use paint/colored concrete plus signs plus staff to manage pedestrian flow along the HSR platforms and promote orderly queuing. Force one-way foot traffic along the aisles inside the trains. Etc. Do whatever it takes to cut HSR dwell time in the super-expensive TTC.

    At 20 minutes, the planned four dedicated HSR tracks would enable the 5 minute headways mandated by AB3034 for the entire HSR network. At 15, three would be enough. At 10, just two. There may be more funding available for HSR, but it's Caltrain that will have more passengers for quite a long time to come. Therefore, the commuter service should be able to use more than just two platforms at the TTC.

    Under option A, it would be easy to adjust to real-world demand and off-design conditions at any time.

    Under option B, Caltrain could be offered platform track 23 or even tracks 23+24 in addition to 21+22. CHSRA would retain an option in perpetuity to convert 23/24 to HSR specs if and when the requisite HSR ridership actually materializes.

    Speaking of options: instead of planning tail tracks down Main, it might make sense to prepare the DTX tunnel/throat to create the option of constructing an auxiliary terminal with two dead-straight platform tracks under 2nd Street. Full-length (1320') platforms there would extend from Market to just south of Howard. The current DTX tunnel/throat design calls for tracks to remain under 2nd through the Howard intersection, so that would have to be tweaked. A decision on side vs. island platform(s) at the auxiliary terminal would also have to be taken up front if it is to be usable by full-length trains.

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  7. It's not hard to make a double decker EMU that supports high platforms. Picture something with the layout of a Bombarier Bilevel (which all three of the example EMUs have), but instead of the putting the doors on the lower level, they're put on the middle level. Incidentally, I think when the Bombardier Bilevels were being designed, there were plans to make an EMU version.

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  8. Adirondacker1280020 September, 2009 11:33

    These regulations not only contradict each other, but also lead to the strange notion that HSR and commuter rail are inherently incompatible and must therefore be built to differing platform heights

    Yes the regulations contradict each other. I'm sure this has also occurred to people in government. I'm sure foamers all over the country have pointed it out to them. I would hope they are working on resolving it.

    Very strange notion to a Northeasterner who gets off ...are you ready for this... a diesel commuter train.... onto a level platform and then switches to an electric train. Some places they get off the electric train and transfer across the platform to subway style service. Pick a station where Amtrak stops and you can get off the commuter train - diesel or electric depending on the the station - with level boarding!!! - and change to the Amtrak train. At some stations you can even transfer to Acela. Work it right there's at least one place where you can change from Acela to the third rail subway style train across the platform!!! Good thing we are grandfathered in.

    Under those conditions, converting Caltrain to a different boarding height will be tantamount to changing the wing of an airplane... while in flight. That's not to say it is impossible, but it will require some very creative solutions from Caltrain, an issue that we will revisit later.

    Commuter railroads in the Northeast do it. The LIRR has been slowly but surely grade separating lines, electrifying and installing high platforms at suburban stations since 1910 or so. Well maybe not surely but in fits and starts for over a hundred years. Pick 48 inches. You can probably pick up some used Comets. Arrows M1s etc. cheap and use those for a few years during the conversion.

    The low floors appears to be a side-effect where most double-decker emu's have low floors.

    Odd the ADA compliant bilevels along the Northeast corridor have high level boarding.

    instead of planning tail tracks down Main, it might make sense to prepare the DTX tunnel/throat to create the option of constructing an auxiliary terminal with two dead-straight platform tracks under 2nd Street.

    With the tunnel still coming up Second or with the tunnel coming up Main or Beale? If the tunnel is still on Second having platforms along a two track stretch doesn't do much for your throughput. The whole point of platforms is to have the train STOP which makes it difficult for trains wanting to go through to go through.

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  9. The simplest solution is ofter the best. If the rolling stock can standardize on one height within 5/8 inch then we reap the benefits. Amtrak, Caltrain, HSR, ACE, Desert Xpress, all should have the same platform.

    I know this is crazy but,
    articulated boarding platforms? Just an idea. Cost nothing to propose and cost nothing to throw an idea away.

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  10. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    keep the tunnel tracks up 2nd but add platforms beyond the point at which tracks veer off into the TTC. See MAP.

    This would be instead of the tail tracks down Main that Caltrain has asked for. By running 100% (or at least 50%) of all HSR trains to platform tracks under 2nd, the commuter railway gets to use not 2 but 4 or even all 6 of the platforms in the TTC train box.

    Btw, at both Richmond(CA) and Millbrae, passengers already execute cross-platform transfers from diesel-based FRA-compliant trains to third rail electric BART. I'm sure the number of stations where this is possible are much greater in the NEC, but the concept is not foreign.

    However, Acela Express is irrelevant in the California context. For good reason, CHSRA wants to buy hassle-free off-the-shelf European or Asian rolling stock rather than futz with a brand-new custom design. Everything on the market today happens to be designed against much higher platform height standards.

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  11. @ James -

    articulated? Do you mean adjustable height?

    If so, keep in mind that HSR platforms are 1320 feet (1/4 mile) long and may be full of waiting passengers. Moving all of that up and down some number of inches every few minutes doesn't sound safe, desirable, reliable or even technically/economically feasible.

    If it's really that important to allow any Caltrain and any HSR train use any platform track at any time, the money would be better spent helping Caltrain acquire downrated TGV Duplex or E4Max trainsets instead of conventional commuter trains.

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  12. The idea is way out in left field. Even across the warning track. One simple way to articulate a 1/4 mile platform so that the passengers will barely notice is the same way the Panama canal lifts an oil tanker. The cost and complexity reduce to a few water pumps.

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  13. Adirondacker1280020 September, 2009 12:47

    Everything on the market today happens to be designed against much higher platform height standards

    Acela has all sorts of problems. Platform height isn't one of them. You step off your nice diesel hauled commuter train and walk across the platform, or wait on the platform for Acela to come in. assuming Clem's diagram of platform heights is correct, a Shinkannsen could pull into Penn Station or Grand Central tomorrow ( ignoring for a moment that the width of the cars are slightly different between Northeast Corridor trains and Shinkansen ) and no one would notice that the floor height is a little bit different. Especially if they use old worn out commuter cars that are so ancient they no longer have 51 inch floor heights. ( Springs sag wheels wear etc. ) If a Velaro pulled in they wouldn't notice either.

    I know this is crazy but, articulated boarding platforms? Just an idea. Cost nothing to propose and cost nothing to throw an idea away.

    There's a few places in the world where curved platforms were unavoidable. The platform extends out to the train once the train stops and then retracts when it's ready to leave. New York City just spent half a billion dollars to get rid of a station that used them. Not a good solution. I don't think there's any place in the world where the platform goes up and down.

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  14. The nightmare scenario is the platform is moving and the stroller or wheelchair starts rolling(!!!!)

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  15. The LIRR and MNRR rolling stock is FRA-compatible rather than UIC-compatible.

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  16. Yes, high platform bi-level is really straightforward ... the mezzanine level is above the wheels, and has metro seating (flips would provide a place for wheelchairs to go), stairs up and down to top and bottom level.

    Could also have four bike slots per side, to the outside of the steps.

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  17. Here's more info on the high-platform Z22500 bi-level commuter trainsets Clem was talking about. The info is in French, but basically these are in use at both SNCF and RATP, the Parisian Metro organization also runs the RER lines. The SNCF model features retractable floorboards that can be extended to cover the gap at curved stations.

    Both models require passengers to use stairs to climb or descend to the seating areas. Each car has a small seating area at one end that could be used by for wheelchair-bound passengers. The images don't show if there are any restrooms.

    The Millenium trains in Sydney initially suffered problems related to brownouts on the OCS, but a PPP involving the manufacturer has since received a large follow-on contract for 78 additional 8-car trains. These wide-body units feature 3+2 seating and fold-down seats in the area accessible via level boarding. The diagrams do not show any restrooms at all. The original max acceleration of 0.83m/s^2 has been increased to 1.0m/s^2.

    For reference, the double-deck Siemens Desiro model is rated at 1.1m/s^2. Acceleration is critical for improving the line haul time of Caltrain locals because of the large number of stops on the 50-mile run from SF to San Jose.

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  18. Note that if Caltrain and HSR trains are to share platform tracks, it's not just the floor height above the rails that needs to be harmonized.

    The two services must also purchase rolling stock of similar CAR BODY WIDTH, with the narrower model(s) possibly equipped with retractable floor boards to bridge the gap. Incompatible widths would mean wider trains could not use platform tracks designed for narrower ones, even to just pass through in an off-design condition.

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  19. @ James -

    "The cost and complexity reduce to a few water pumps."

    Floating 1/4 mile platforms? Really?

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  20. Adirondacker1280020 September, 2009 13:54

    The LIRR and MNRR rolling stock is FRA-compatible rather than UIC-compatible.

    So?..

    There's going to be a transition period while the stations are rebuilt. During the transition some of them will be level boarding and some will be low platform. Take a LIRR car and run it into a Shinkansen station the gap is bit wide. That can be taken care of with a short extension plate in the door.

    Run old LIRR and MNRR and Metra or MARC equipment until the system is complete. Give them away to Metrolink. Metrolink is runing old NJ Transit equipment right now. Then start running the UIC compliant equipment. It literally could happen overnight. There'd be a few Sundays before that when Caltrain would have to shut down so crews could be trained.

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  21. @ BruceMcF -

    are we agreed then that CHSRA should choose whatever platform height and car body width makes the most sense for HSR and that it would be up to Caltrain to harmonize with that?

    Switching all of Caltrain to high platforms would be non-trivial, since its trains have to serve lots of stations, including a number south of SJ Diridon for which the railway plans to retain legacy diesel rolling stock. I suppose passengers could be asked to transfer at SJD, but afaik Caltrain's plans still call for those diesel units to run all the way to 4th & King.

    Amtrak California is interested in operating a Coast Daylight service from SF to LA. If Caltrain switches to high platforms between SF and SJD, that would need to run out of Emeryville instead.

    Note that Caltrain will begin its EMU vendor selection process as soon it clears the regulatory hurdles in its way. CHSRA has plenty of its own but won't be in a position to evaluate vendors for some time to come.

    I'm not sure if Caltrain has already formally filed its waiver request for mixed traffic. It will also need permission to operate an OCS at 25kV AC, something there aren't even any rules for yet. Finally, it needs a waiver regarding platform height.

    Perhaps Clem could clarify if such waivers must be requested from FRA, CPUC or both agencies.

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  22. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    Caltrain already has one non-standard station at Stanford. I'd expect the railway to set up similar temporary stations north or south of the regular ones as platform heights there are increased prior to cutting over to the new EMU fleet.

    Considering the anyhow massive headache of operating Caltrain service while the entire right of way is being remodeled, they're not going to buy clapped-out FRA-compliant rolling stock from commuter rail operators elsewhere in the country.

    Same goes for Metrolink, they needs to spend their scarce capital investment dollars on signaling with PTC functionality. CHSRA is going to do that between Anaheim and Sylmar and perhaps, between Palmdale and Lancaster. Everywhere else, Metrolink is either on its own or partnering with other standard-speed railways.

    Wouldn't it be nice if CPUC simply laid down the law and insisted on e.g. ETCS level 2 as the PTC implementation for California. No interoperability plugfests on mission-critical safety features, please!

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  23. Adirondacker1280020 September, 2009 14:33

    Switching all of Caltrain to high platforms would be non-trivial, since its trains have to serve lots of stations

    How many of the existing platforms that are right up against the existing two track railroad, are going to survive the construction of a four track railroad?

    Caltrain's plans still call for those diesel units to run all the way to 4th & King

    How much slower is that than changing to the fast EMU across the platform? Diesels are never going to run all the way to Transbay. Even if the transit time was the same how many passengers are going to be crossing the platform anyway to get on a train destined for Transbay?

    It will also need permission to operate an OCS at 25kV AC, something there aren't even any rules for yet

    I suppose all the 25kV catenary draped all over Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey has just escaped the attention of utilities that supply electricity to it.....

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  24. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    How many of the existing platforms that are right up against the existing two track railroad, are going to survive the construction of a four track railroad?

    There are a few Caltrain stations where there are already four tracks, e.g. Bayshore. CHSRA's current plans call for SFFS track order south of Bayshore and FSSF north of, on account of the tunnels. The transition would involve digging some trenches and other track work.

    In general, though, none of the existing Caltrain stations has to preserved in its current state, with the possible exception of some station buildings that locals consider to have historical significance. Clem has argued in favor of FSSF track order throughout and island platforms for all Caltrain-only stations. Such changes would involve some eminent domain and substantially more disruption than a relatively straightforward change of platform height.

    I suppose all the 25kV catenary draped all over [...]

    I was referring to CPUC rules, sorry if that wasn't clear. It's probably the lowest of the hurdles Caltrain still has to clear.

    ---

    Wrt direct Gilroy-SF service, I agree that Caltrain should abandon that objective and require passengers to transfer to the new EMUs at SJD after platform heights are increased in the peninsula. On weekdays, the railway runs 96 tpd total but only six of those run as far as Gilroy.

    If TAMC manages to scrape together trackage rights and funding for a route extension to Salinas, there may still be a business case for limited diesel-based Caltrain service south of San Jose even after the Gilroy HSR station goes live.

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  25. Can we all declare a moratorium on random typing from R****l? Please?

    At the very most, how about a quota of one posting per week?

    There's interesting stuff posted here, and not just by Clem, but it's drowned out by non-stop comment drivel.

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  26. only six of those run as far as Gilroy.

    If Gilroy is only getting 6 trains per day, Caltrain could cancel service there completely and let HSR's 8 trains per hour (according to the schedule in the August Board meeting) take up the remainder.

    WRT to platform heights, it seems like the 48" height is the sweet spot, especially if it's already used on the NEC. The inch or two difference between the various available rolling stocks shouldn't be too hard to fix (think thick carpet).

    The AGV would need some work, however. Perhaps a slight ramp inside the train? Is there a minimum door height that such a ramp could mess with?

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  27. How about if Rafael just edited his comments to be concise and comprehensive?

    I admit that I try to read most comments, but I end up skipping most of Rafael's non-stop verbiage.

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  28. @Anon @15:13

    (Note: I am trying to learn hyperlink, here goes)

    You might want to review the "About this Blog" statement.

    about-this-blog

    "We" is Clem

    Take it up with him.

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  29. @Anon @15:13

    If you are new to the Blog you might want to explore previous posts here and also related posts on
    cahsr.blogspot.com
    Then you may find that Rafael's comments have a larger context.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Adirondacker1280020 September, 2009 19:16

    they're not going to buy clapped-out FRA-compliant rolling stock from commuter rail operators elsewhere in the country


    As opposed to locking in commuters for the next 100 years or so, so that they can continue to use the clapped out equipment they already have?

    Metrolink is using clapped out NJ Transit Comet 1 cars that Frontrunner decided to refurbish for their system. Lots of options. There's a thriving market in used railroad equipment. They could buy new. They could buy used. They could lease stuff from other operators. They could make an arrangement with Metrolink to have Caltrain run the new stuff for five years or so and then let Metrolink have it. Or ACE or Capitol Corridor or Metra or .... But it's no fun coming up with a solution unless the solution screws commuters until 2238.

    It will also need permission to operate an OCS at 25kV AC, something there aren't even any rules for yet

    Something stirred itself in the back of addled brain. Why can't they use the existing regulations?

    Hashed out here

    http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2009/04/regulatory-vacuum.html

    Looks to me that this is still applicable

    Rule 74.4-F2, page 277 of the document I looked at then I just checked again.

    http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/published/graphics/13352.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  31. Caltrain won't stop running to Gilroy if they start running to Salinas and then later Monterey.

    If that service is worth running then Gilroy service would still be worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Peter: no, in that case Caltrain should run diesel trains from Salinas to Gilroy with a timed cross-platform transfer to HSR. Alternatively, it could electrify the line from Gilroy to Salinas and run high-speed trains on it at lower speed.

    ReplyDelete
  33. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    Caltrain is in a hurry because its existing 1980s era fleet is rapidly nearing the end of its useful life. Among other things, they'd rather not invest in replacement diesel engines that have to meet EPA Tier 3 or 4 emissions.

    As for locking in the wrong platform height, limiting legacy diesel service to south of San Jose after electrification would address that.

    CPUC rule 74.4-F2 (PDF pp277) refers to tensions of 750-7500V. As Clem pointed out in his post in April: "25 kV electrification is currently illegal in California".

    @ Alon Levy -

    "Alternatively, it could electrify the line from Gilroy to Salinas and run high-speed trains on it at lower speed."

    That section of the Coast Corridor is used for freight, quite twisty, single track and the track geometry is in poor shape. Currently, the only passenger service is one Amtrak Coast Starlight per day (each way).

    ReplyDelete
  34. Minor point of clarification.

    A platform with any degree of freedom is more complicated even if the movement mechanism has a simple component.

    That is what I had in mind when I first said "a simple solution is often the best". Sometimes extreme ideas can lead to better, less extreme ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  35. @ James -

    agreed. Operationally, life would be simplest if Caltrain picked bi-level EMU models with high platform level entry, e.g. similar to those used in Paris or Sydney. These would operate between SF TTC and SJ Diridon only.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Btw, at both Richmond(CA) and Millbrae, passengers already execute cross-platform transfers from diesel-based FRA-compliant trains to third rail electric BART

    Millbrae I'll give you, but Richmond isn't even close to cross platform. The BART platform is at an entirely different location and elevation than the Amtrak platform.

    ReplyDelete
  37. If I remember right, the last time I was at Gare De Lyon in Paris, the TGV trainsets did not have level boarding. It was lower and we needed to step up into the cars. Same in Switzerland.

    So why not just do as everyone else in the world does along the penincula and have the platforms lower, so that caltrain and HSR can mingle together, then on the dedicated line in the valley, have level boarding.

    ReplyDelete
  38. @ Eric M

    Because otherwise Caltrain and/or CAHSR would get the snot sued out of them by anyone with a wheelchair for violating the ADA.

    Most European countries do not have such stringent rules with respect accomodating persons with disabilities.

    ReplyDelete
  39. ADA friendly is also stroller and family friendly. Caltrain should have level boarding.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "Some places they get off the electric train and transfer across the platform to..."

    WHAT?! You mean people get off trains and make simple transfers across a platform, and the world doesn't start to spin in reverse throwing everyone hurling off into space?

    and...
    "Do whatever it takes to cut HSR dwell time in the super-expensive TTC."

    Yes. Good idea - cut it to zero and TERMINATE HSR IN SAN JOSE. Save us all BILLIONS, avoid a tragic duplication of resources and years of trauma, and just lop off all this TTB/HSR thrashing at its source.

    And knock off the BS about caltrain not getting its funding unless HSR comes down the Peninsula. You know damn well that once Caltrain becomes the critical link between SF and SJ terminated HSR anything and everything that needs to happen to Caltrain will get funded in a wink of an eye.

    Lets do a little excersize listing all the problems that would be solved, and all the BILLIONS that would be saved if HSR terminated in SJ

    ReplyDelete
  41. @ Anon 10:33

    Not quite sure if he's trying to 'exercise' or 'exorcise'.

    Anyone know?

    ReplyDelete
  42. If CHSRA insists on having its own separate system with differing platform heights from Caltrain, then yeah, perhaps HSR should terminate in San Jose with a timed cross-platform transfer to Caltrain north. Lots of time, cost, and bother saved. Being an increasingly critical link, Caltrain would still get its improvements.

    If CHSRA is willing to be completely compatible with Caltrain, then they can come up the Peninsula.

    ReplyDelete
  43. @ anon @ 10:33 -

    if HSR were to terminate in San Jose, Caltrain would still need to be fully grade separated, it would still need to be quad tracked just about everywhere and a downtown SF station would still be needed.

    The only difference is that there would be a lot fewer HSR customers so the rest of the network would be a huge waste of money.

    Coming up Pacheco and terminating HSR in San Jose solves essentially nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Caltrain north. Lots of time, cost, and bother saved. Being an increasingly critical link, Caltrain would still get its improvements.

    What about the 27 minutes' difference between Baby Bullet times and expected HSR times?

    ReplyDelete
  45. "Yes. Good idea - cut it to zero and TERMINATE HSR IN SAN JOSE. Save us all BILLIONS, avoid a tragic duplication of resources and years of trauma, and just lop off all this TTB/HSR thrashing at its source."

    The source of the thrashing is, of course, the TJPA, which wants to get funding for its unfunded train box on the pretext that its the HSR station, without ever actually designing it to be an HSR station.

    Designing it properly would, of course, save billions, not cost billions, but only the reduced cost of the tunnel would show up in TJPA's budget, and since they do not plan on paying for any of the tunnel itself, they don't care about that.

    Saving tens to hundreds of millions on station construction costs at the expense of billions - that's the tragic waste of resources.

    An intelligent FSSF rail allocation, a central Caltrain island platform, and side HSR platforms at the places where there are HSR trains - so its a same-platform connection rather than a cross-platform connection. The pedestrian connections to the HSR platforms at the few HSR stations will ad $100,000's, maybe $1m's, but not $10m's and certainly not $1b's.

    And while cutting the HSR at San Jose means that the need for full grade separations, electrification and four tracks remains, there is no money to pay for it.

    "And knock off the BS about caltrain not getting its funding unless HSR comes down the Peninsula. You know damn well that once Caltrain becomes the critical link between SF and SJ terminated HSR anything and everything that needs to happen to Caltrain will get funded in a wink of an eye."

    What state are you living in - Euforia? You are betting on California's finances being in a position to just throw two or three $100m to try to win add'l Federal HSR funding for a corridor after locking the HSR out of the corridor?

    And in the unlikely event that California can come up with that kind of money, precisely how eager will the FRA be to support the idea that if a local area screws the state HSR authority, it gets all the money it wants anyway? What reason would Federal bureaucrats have to encourage behavior that will make their job massively harder?

    One long odds bet is bad enough - you are banking on two long odds bets paying off.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Adirondacker1280021 September, 2009 13:04

    Among other things, they'd rather not invest in replacement diesel engines that have to meet EPA Tier 3 or 4 emissions.

    But they don't have to. They can lease some from another operator. They can enter into an arrangement with ACE or Amtrak or even Metro North or AMT to use their equipment until full electrification is available. Or they can buy new and enter into an arrangement with Metrolink to send it to them when electrification is complete. Or see what SEPTA is up to or .... There's even the stupid option of buying stuff and then hoping the used locomotive and car market is good when they switch over. They don't have to drive it off a cliff and write off the total cost.


    CPUC rule 74.4-F2 (PDF pp277) refers to tensions of 750-7500V.

    Yes, there's special rules for railways with tensions of 750-7500V. Otherwise the general rules apply. Saying it's illegal is hyperbole. If it is illegal this post

    http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2008/12/headspans-and-poles-oh-my.html

    could have been "Can't build 25kV catenary in California until the CPUC issues regulations" All that stuff about clearances etc would be meaningless.


    The railroads on the East Coast began electrifying at 12.5kV in 1915. The people in 1948 and all other people who have added amendments since are were aware that railroads use voltages higher than 7500 volts. If the CPUC says the regulations don't allow 25kV and the test line is ready to be energized is the legislature going to sit on it's hands and say "well what was good in 1948 is good now, run the trains we are building with 10 billion dollars worth of bonds at 7400 volts" ? or "you have to use single phase motors because the regulations don't speak to IGBT converters."?

    You know damn well that once Caltrain becomes the critical link between SF and SJ terminated HSR anything and everything that needs to happen to Caltrain will get funded in a wink of an eye.

    And once you grade separate and electrify Caltrain there's no reason why an HSR train can't run all the way to the Caltrain terminus in San Francisco. A grade separated electrified Caltrain is going to be a much more attractive option. Which means more Caltrain service. The HSR passengers increase demand too. Which means three and probably four tracks in most places. Terminate in San Jose and you end up with the same thing you end up with if you terminate in San Francisco, it just that there's an annoying transfer in San Jose to a train with a Caltrain logo on the side instead of a HSR logo.

    ReplyDelete
  47. " Good idea - cut it to zero and TERMINATE HSR IN SAN JOSE. Save us all BILLIONS, avoid a tragic duplication of resources and years of trauma, and just lop off all this TTB/HSR thrashing at its source."

    It's not us you need to convince, Anonymous. It's Nancy Pelosi. You think that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is going to acquiesce to her district being cut off from HSR?

    Good luck with that.

    ReplyDelete
  48. @Rafeal: "are we agreed then that CHSRA should choose whatever platform height and car body width makes the most sense for HSR and that it would be up to Caltrain to harmonize with that?"

    Certainly. 30 minutes at the end of one of four terminal segments is no basis for picking an HSR platform height.

    Harmonization can be via:

    (1) Caltrain adopting HSR heights. For the SJ to SF segment, this might well be no big deal if staged properly ... it may be that instead of "shoefly" tracks, they build tracks where they are going to end up, then transition trains to the new track, then build tracks where the original tracks were, and in the process build "shoefly" platforms until the full width is done.

    But there are advantages to mid height platforms. They make three-door double deckers easier. Saving a minute on passenger access/egress is far more critical on a local rail all-stations running a double decker than on the HSR.

    If the appropriate FSSF layout is used, Caltrain will be ending up building lots of central island platforms in any event, which is of course better for limited-mobility access since you only have to invest in the extra accessibility once.

    If Caltrain wants both-way transfer between expresses and locals, and does not want to be tied down to the HSR platform height decision, it can build a longer island at that station - no major benefit if its the HSR station.

    The extra cost at HSR stations is the cross-platform connection ... say, an elevator and ramp up to a pedestrian bridge or down to a pedestrian subway. That's under $1m in most parts of the world, so I'd figure surely under $5m even in California.

    And while a cross-platform transfer is nice, I've done a regular commute from the Newcastle/Sydney interurban to the Central Coast / Sydney local with zOMG! steps!! to a pedestrian overbridge on one direction, and its not a deal breaker.

    Indeed, the suburban platforms in Sydney Central to the intercity platforms are ramps or stairs and long pedestrian subway walkways, and its still better than most bus/train transfers, and definitely better than an airport transfer. I'd take that grungy Sydney Central pedestrian subway over a transfer to/from the Akron/Canton puddle jumper at Pittsburgh or Charlotte any day.

    ReplyDelete
  49. @ BruceMcF -

    Caltrain is actually owned and operated by SF, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. They've funded the ROW, capital investments and operating subsidies pretty much on their own since 1991.

    However, they've also been talking about electrification for donkey's years. Santa Clara county is prioritizing the BART extension and hasn't committed to its $500 million nominal share of Caltrain electrification. Nor, whatever anon @ 10:33am claims, is that likely to happen before hell freezes over.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Adirondacker12800 said...
    " Rafeal: "It will also need permission to operate an OCS at 25kV AC, something there aren't even any rules for yet"

    I suppose all the 25kV catenary draped all over Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey has just escaped the attention of utilities that supply electricity to it.....
    "

    He meant state level rules. Its perhaps not surprising that that only the states that have modern AC catenary have the regulations for them.

    ReplyDelete
  51. What $35 million in Caltrain money gets you: http://www.caltrain.com/capital_project_palo_alto_stations.html

    ReplyDelete
  52. Adirondacker1280021 September, 2009 14:04

    He meant state level rules. Its perhaps not surprising that that only the states that have modern AC catenary have the regulations for them.

    Between the two documents most of the commenters here refer to, there's close to 1000 pages of regulations. Most of it has to with things like residential service drops and where you can put your fiber optic cable etc. The parts dealing with railroads specifically mention special rules for particular circumstances and then refer you out to charts for more generic rules dealing with high voltage electricity. I'm not going to read 1000 pages of regulations. Either the current regulations cover 25kV catenary with the more general stuff - they do have lines with much higher voltages in California after all - or by the time they are putting transformers out to bid there will be specific regulations.

    They've funded the ROW, capital investments and operating subsidies pretty much on their own since 1991

    With great big gooey gobs of State and Federal money. Thanks to Anon at 13:24 we have an example of "pretty much on their own" $17.3 million from the Federal government, $1.4 million from the state and $14.7 million from Santa Clara county. Or roughly 52 % Federal, 4 % State and 44 % local. Looks pretty good to me when transit projects around here have to fight scratch and claw to get 40% Federal funding.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Why is this insane idea of stopping HSR in SanJose and transfering to Caltrain always brought up!! Its the same as having
    people get off the Aclea Express in Baltimore and take a MARC commuter train to DC..NEVER will work!500 trying to get on an already full local The HSR must come all the way up to San Francisco for this system to work.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Why is this insane idea of stopping HSR in SanJose and transfering to Caltrain always brought up!! Its the same as having
    people get off the Aclea Express in Baltimore and take a MARC commuter train to DC..NEVER will work!500 trying to get on an already full local The HSR must come all the way up to San Francisco for this system to work.


    It can certainly work. Who says the direct cross-platform transfer must involve a Caltrain local? How about a Caltrain Baby Bullet or a Caltrain service that duplicates the exact HSR service plan to San Francisco? Caltrain can manage electrification on its own, and even the current diesel locos could probably do a non-stop run in 45-50 minutes, considering the schedule padding.

    It would be preferable if CHSRA and Caltrain design a genuinely inter-operable system together, but it is most certainly not the end of the world if Caltrain realized that two incompatible rail systems on the Peninsula was not in their interest.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Caltrain First said...
    "It would be preferable if CHSRA and Caltrain design a genuinely inter-operable system together, but it is most certainly not the end of the world if Caltrain realized that two incompatible rail systems on the Peninsula was not in their interest."

    If they are the same gauge, same loading gauge, same catenary height, same voltage, same signaling, and Caltrain Express services can switch between the local and express tracks, they are two mostly compatible systems.

    So its just false to say different platform heights makes it into two incompatible rail systems. And not narrowly false, but extremely wild over the top hyperbole false.

    Its just a minor inconvenience that has to be engineered around. Compared to the San Bruno curve, the three tracks through 4th and Townsend or the TBT train throat with 150m curve radii, the platform height issue is chicken feed.

    It doesn't even cost on-platform transfers, just one particular style of transfer where the local train is programmed to lose time by arriving before and departing after the Express at a single platform.

    All you need to do is to have the Express pass the local between two all-services platforms - as, for instance, the local is stopped at one of the local platforms - and the first of the two all-services platform is a local to Express transfer, while the second is an Express to local transfer.

    Both of them same-platform transfers, which is even better than cross-platform transfers.

    Indeed, if you want same island transfers between Express and Local on the same line, just put the islands in. The majority of Express stations won't be HSR stations at all, after all. And if it is, it just means if you want dedicated Express Caltrain platforms, then the HSR platform has to be on the outside and the width of the station is four tracks, two islands and two side platforms. Or else the platforms are staggered and ramps to a pedestrian subway are oriented to bridge the offset.

    Its not perfection, but despite the strong safety benefits of high platforms throughout, there are reasons for middle height platforms for urban systems. They make 8:1 or 10:1 wheelchair compatible ramps that much shorter, for one thing, and ramps down to pedestrian subways shorter as well.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Few people will get off a HST and transfer to Caltrain..this is nothing more than Nimby ideas to stop HSR. Does Amtrak or any HSR system anywhere in the world have its passengers finish the journey to one of its main stations this way? NO A HST running up the Caltrain ROW will be no different if its painted Blue and Gold or Red and Silver

    ReplyDelete
  57. Stopping the CASHR in San Jose is much like stopping the Tokaido Shinkansen at the Shin-Yokohama station and making people transfer to the Local JR line to go into Tokyo and Shinjuku.
    It just won't work out.


    but in simplest terms HSR, Caltrain, Metrolink, Amtrak,ect all need to share platform height it would make everyone lives a lot easier.

    ReplyDelete
  58. And remember the Caltrain doesn't run all the way through ... transferring from BART through some underground people mover to the TBT to get onto Caltrain to get to San Jose to get to the HSR?

    If they did that, they'd qualify for that SNL skit.

    Really? You thought that catching the BART to Caltrain to catch the HSR would get people out of their cars? Really? That was the best you could do? Because some bloggers worried about the platforms not being the same height? Really?

    ReplyDelete
  59. I concur that CalTrain should use the same heights as HSR is planning on, to create an integrated metro service with high ridership on the Peninsula. As Clem and Rafael pointed out though, the selection of available (articulated?) double-decker EMUs with high floors is poorer.

    Rafael mentioned using a TGV Duplex or E4Max, which could work. But I suspect those trainsets are heavier and have slower acceleration than commuter EMUs might, which is what counts on this corridor.

    Hopefully they resolve this soon, it's a relatively minor problem compared to the far bigger ones (DTX and TTC, San Bruno curve, etc.).

    @ Rafael

    If CHSRA gets an agreement with UP on SJ-Gilroy similar to what they apparently got with BNSF in the Central Valley (and what VTA got with UP w/ former WP line for BART), what's to prevent CalTrain from operating some EMUs to/from Gilroy and the stations in between?

    If they can't get an agreement with UP (stupid UP, not only do they hate timetables, they hate free upgrades) or secure adjacent ROW otherwise, building a new ROW would be annoyingly more difficult and expensive, but doable as you showed on the CAHSR blog. And CalTrain would have no reason to run EMUs down there, when HSR would make plenty of those runs.

    If there's a new ROW, there'll likely also be a new HSR station in Gilroy. One that is not intermodal with the existing CalTrain station.

    Amusingly, VTA/SCCo could have bought UP's ROW south of SJ for ~$15 million, or some trivial amount thereabouts. But I heard the option to buy lapsed. The fools were apparently too distracted by BART, and foolishly spent every cent they had and will ever have in the future on getting BART. What a bunch of trouble that could have been avoided.

    Re Salinas extension:

    I don't think CalTrain really wants want to go to far flung communities outside its core area. Serving Gilroy is probably a real pain as it is, what with 50% longer route length, poor ridership, poor funding from VTA, and operating on UP ROW, even if lightly used.

    I think Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterrey Counties need to work together and come up with their own rail plans to get to Gilroy. They shouldn't expect CalTrain or HSR to come to them, at least not for several decades.

    The track alignment south of Gilroy looks like a mess on Google Maps. I'm not sure how a cohesive rail system would even work there. I heard SCruzCo bought the ROW between Davenport, SC, Watsonville, and Pajaro, and wants to run light or heavy passenger rail, so that's a good start. Salinas and Monterrey look more challenging. SBenCo could use the Hollister line to Gilroy if they wanted to. Although all of these alignments seem at least somewhat sprawl inducing.

    @ Adirondacker12800

    All transit projects get some federal money for capital projects. The transit operator has to come up with the operating subsidy.

    CalTrain is a very efficient commuter railroad, as it operates like 1 big light rail line, it moves a lot of people with very little money. Federal transit planners can clearly see that, and have awarded them high % of matching funds for capital improvements. The absolute dollars awarded are still quite low though.

    Check out this related blog post for more:

    http://21stcenturyurbansolutions.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/bay-area-transit-efficiency-how-bart-caltrain-vta-light-rail-and-muni-metro-stack-up/

    ReplyDelete
  60. To clarify, cross-platform transfers (step out of one train and into another) can be done with different heights. The key ingredient I am advocating is Caltrain-to-Caltrain cross-platform transfers with no waiting.

    All you need to do is to have the Express pass the local between two all-services platforms

    That involves waiting for at least one unit of headway. They already do that today with the "timed transfers" at Redwood City.

    Perhaps more simply, Caltrain to Caltrain cross-platform transfers could occur elsewhere than HSR stops. There will be only two peninsula HSR stops (excluding SF and SJ), and more like 4 to 6 commuter express stops... at least, one would hope

    ReplyDelete
  61. Also totally random, but did you know that in Chicago, Metra actually has EMUs that look almost identical to Caltrain's gallery cars? The only difference is that they have pantographs on one end, and doors configured for a platform height of 48 inches. And Denver, which is also looking to build EMU lines, has decided to standardize on a platform height of 48 inches as well, and generally be as compatible with the northeastern commuter operations as possible. As for the conversion process, back in the 1920s, Boston converted what is now the Blue Line from a trolley line to a subway line over one three-day weekend. This not only required changing the platform height, but also the power supply (overhead to third rail) and even some fraction of the rail (trolley style girder rail and special work to railroad/rapid transit style T rail). A similar process happened in what is now the Green Line subway when two tracks were temporarily used for the Orange Line before the Washington Street tunnel opened: they switched from trolley to subway operation and then back.

    ReplyDelete
  62. @ BruceMcF -

    TAMC is planning to build light rail from Monterey to Castroville, where passengers would transfer to Caltrain diesels out of Salinas on the central coast line.

    Once HSR stops in Gilroy, the motorcoach connection (Monterey-Gilroy in ~60 min) might end up being faster overall, in addition to being cheaper to operate.

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  63. @ Clem -

    continued baby bullet service doesn't depend on harmonized platform heights, does it? I mean, if someone wanted to transfer from a Caltrain local to a Caltrain baby bullet once HSR goes live, they could execute a same-platform transfer, couldn't they?

    I would expect most transfers would be between Caltrain locals and HSR trains. Note that there is no fundamental reason why there couldn't be Caltrain-branded, strictly regional HSR trains between SF and Gilroy. Alternatively, Caltrain could retail HSR tickets it buys wholesale from another operator and even negotiate a sweet deal on those as an easement for letting CHSRA use its right of way. Lots of ways to slice and dice this.

    CHSRA is a planning body, not a railway that will compete with Caltrain!

    ReplyDelete
  64. It can certainly work. Who says the direct cross-platform transfer must involve a Caltrain local? How about a Caltrain Baby Bullet or a Caltrain service that duplicates the exact HSR service plan to San Francisco?

    If the Caltrain transfer duplicates the HSR plan, there's no reason not to through-run HSR onto the Caltrain corridor.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Adirondacker1280022 September, 2009 13:12

    I would expect most transfers would be between Caltrain locals and HSR trains.

    Assuming the HSR trains stop. It's kinda hard to get on or off the HSR train at what is now a Baby Bullet stop if the HSR trains never stop there.

    Even at SFO and PaloAlto or Redwood City some of the HSR trains are going to express through. Passengers tend to splatter if they try to board or alight while the train is moving at 100 or 125.

    Is the train that makes all stops in Santa Clara County then only stops at the Mid Peninsula Station, SFO and Transbay a local or is it an express? Is someone in Sunnyvale going to get off the train that gets to San Francisco almost as fast as an HSR train going to get off at the Mid Peninsula station and wait ten minutes for the HSR train to arrive or are they going to stay on the Caltrain that gets to SF seven minutes before the HSR train does?... because the Caltrain will be on the express tracks in San Mateo County and has to be in SF by the time the HSR train is passing through Bayshore....

    There's going to be more people who want to go between SF and SJ than there will be people who want to go between SJ and LA. Do they let all comers onto the HSR train? Commuters to San Jose will figure out how to scam a seat leaving Grandma to stand between SF and SJ. Grandma is going to be thrilled with that. Or Grandma is going to be thrilled that there was backpack in her face for 30 minutes after the commuters got on northbound in SJ.

    One of their options is to ban local traffic between SF and SJ. Or price it so that the number of people willing to pay for SF and SJ balances out the people between SJ and points south. . . there's not going to be, compared to Caltrain's volume, a whole lot of people taking HSR between SJ and SF.

    ReplyDelete
  66. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    (a) stay on the local until you do reach an HSR station

    (b) people all over the world manage to take a step back as through trains run through at 100mph or more

    (c) plenty of HSR trains in the SF peninsula, whether operated by Caltrain (regional HSR between SF adn Gilroy only) or someone else (long-distance HSR), will stop at PA/RWC and/or Millbrae.

    (d) would a passenger be prepared to buy e.g. an SF-Lawrence Expressway ticket from Caltrain, board an HSR local (i.e. true bullet) and transfer to a Caltrain local in PA/RWC?

    Dunno, Caltrain would need to study if preserving the baby bullet service level alongside HSR service makes sense.

    There seems to be a persistent but non-sensical notion abroad that HSR tracks must only ever be used for trains down to SoCal. For the first couple of decades at least, those tracks will have plenty of capacity for strictly regional HSR service between SF and SJ, perhaps Gilroy (if the station there has terminal as well as run-through platform tracks).

    ReplyDelete
  67. If the Caltrain transfer duplicates the HSR plan, there's no reason not to through-run HSR onto the Caltrain corridor.

    If HSR was to use Caltrain's electrified infrastructure, that would imply shared platforms for both Caltrain and HSR, right??

    HSR is helping to pay for Caltrain corridor improvements, and in return Caltrain is allowing HSR to operate on its corridor. Caltrain is essentially just allowing HSR to use its upgraded infrastructure, so it is blindingly stupid to build two different platform heights for a supposedly "shared" corridor. If HSR insists on having its own platforms all for itself, then just keep it off the Caltrain corridor. Caltrain service will be severely disrupted during all the heavy construction, so it's not worth the time and bother building unique infrastructure that Caltrain can't use.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Adirondacker1280022 September, 2009 16:36

    (b) people all over the world manage to take a step back as through trains run through at 100mph or more

    But rarely if ever to do they attempt to get on or off the train that's not stopping. It's very nice to step off the local train and walk across the platform to an express or vice versa. Very few people are going get off the local to watch the express pass through without stopping while the local continues onto their destination.

    (c) plenty of HSR trains in the SF peninsula, whether operated by Caltrain (regional HSR between SF adn Gilroy only) or someone else (long-distance HSR), will stop at PA/RWC and/or Millbrae

    Fine call the train that makes few stops between San Francisco and San Jose, one owned and operated by Caltrain, an HSR. Most people would call it a Caltrain express.

    (d) would a passenger be prepared to buy e.g. an SF-Lawrence Expressway ticket from Caltrain, board an HSR local (i.e. true bullet) and transfer to a Caltrain local in PA/RWC?

    Is HSR ready to run an empty seat all the way from Palo Alto to Anaheim so they can do that? It's not an option for someone who wants to get from Menlo Park to Santa Clara. Makes a lot more sense to me to have Caltrain run an express from San Francisco that makes it's first stop in Palo Alto and then runs local or some variant. The passenger in Menlo Park might have to take the local that terminates in Palo Alto and then change to the express that is running local to San Jose. Neither of them needs to be on a train that goes to Los Angeles.

    There seems to be a persistent but non-sensical notion abroad that HSR tracks must only ever be used for trains down to SoCal

    You're the one that views them as HSR tracks. Other people see them as express tracks that serve the trains that make few stops no matter who is operating them. And since the highest speeds north of San Jose will be 125 MPH, calling them HSR tracks is a bit of a stretch.

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  69. If HSR insists on having its own platforms all for itself, then just keep it off the Caltrain corridor.

    Fine, as long as Caltrain pays for electrification and four-tracking by itself.

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  70. if someone wanted to transfer from a Caltrain local to a Caltrain baby bullet once HSR goes live, they could execute a same-platform transfer, couldn't they?

    Not without a transfer penalty of at least FIVE MINUTES! That's my whole point, and one that railfans (as opposed to commuters) don't seem to get.

    Or maybe I haven't explained it clearly enough.

    We need to create an opportunity for these Caltrain-to-Caltrain coordinated cross-platform transfers (two trains, same platform, same time), which reduce the transfer time penalty to less than ONE minute.

    That saves a commuter at least FOUR minutes per direction, or EIGHT minutes per workday, or 33 hours per year. The perceived benefit is even greater, since waiting time feels longer than it actually is.

    The transfer penalty would boil down to whatever slop is built into the schedule... which will have to go way down, by the way, to make trains arrive simultaneously. But rail operators all around the world operate within 30 seconds of a timetable. Yeah, it's hard, but it ain't rocket science.

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  71. Adirondacker1280022 September, 2009 21:57

    Not without a transfer penalty of at least FIVE MINUTES! That's my whole point, and one that railfans (as opposed to commuters) don't seem to get.

    With two and half minute headways they could probably do it in under five but that assumes that Californians learn how to get on and off trains in reasonable amounts of time. Of course that means the locals and expresses have to share those two and half minute headways. Or a max of 24 trains an hour, probably less, much less.

    They are only thinking about one direction/transfer. Local comes into the single platform followed by an express, that's mediocre for the people who want to change from the local to the express. It sucks for the people who want to change from the express to the local, it's going to be a long while until another local comes by. It's going to be a while because you can't run high frequencies with the local and express services constrained by single platforms. Slows down the express too because switching from the express track to the local track takes time.

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  72. @ adirondacker12800 -

    I'm not sure if you're being wilfully obtuse. Not every HSR train that sets out from SF has to run all the way to Anaheim! Which part of regional HSR from SF to Gilroy is conceptually unclear?

    As for terminology, the Obama administration considers 125mph top speed an intermediate level of HSR.

    It's perfectly ok for the HSR tracks to carry 4 long distance plus 4-6 regional HSR trains in the SF peninsula per hour from day one. In addition, Caltrain can run 4-6 locals per hour on the standard-speed tracks.

    Passengers would be able to execute cross-platform transfers between Caltrain locals and HSR trains at both PA/RWC and Millbrae.

    But perhaps the most important point is that regional HSR trains would mean commuter traffic wouldn't be constrained to two platforms at the TTC in SF even if platform height isn't harmonized.

    I'm not convinced baby bullets at a top speed of 79mph still make sense if you can run trains at 125mph instead.

    Btw: just because someone boarding a long-distance train in SF alights before it crosses Pacheco Pass does not mean that seat will not be occupied again by another passenger boarding further south. Trains are not planes, multiple passengers can occupy the same seat - just not at the same time.

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  73. Adirondacker1280023 September, 2009 13:01

    Which part of regional HSR from SF to Gilroy is conceptually unclear?

    I understand the concept very well. I lived in New Jersey most of my life where trains have been running at 125 consistently since the late 60s. Shinkansen didn't spring full blown from the mind of a Japanese civil engineer, they had been reading the news about how the Pennsylvania Railroad had a test train that was able to get up to 175 between New Brunswick and Trenton on unmodified track.

    Just because an Arrow III goes over it's design speed to make up time between Trenton and New Brunswick doesn't make it an HSR train. Since the new equipment NJ Transit is ordering is rated for 125 I suspect they have plans to run it at 125. No one is going to call the train from NYC that terminates in Trenton, HSR, they are going to call it the Trenton Express. When it stops at all the stations they will be calling it the Trenton Local. When Amtrak uses NJTransit bilevels to run special trains to Washington DC or uses MARC trains to go to NYC everyone calls them Amtrak.

    They use the High Speed 1 tracks in the U.K. for commuter service to St. Pancras. They didn't brand it as Eurostar Regional.

    It's perfectly ok for the HSR tracks to carry 4 long distance plus 4-6 regional HSR trains in the SF peninsula per hour from day
    one. In addition, Caltrain can run 4-6 locals per hour on the standard-speed tracks


    Just like commuter railroads the world over. The ones painted red and white with the Caltrain logo on the side are going to be called "Caltrain expresses" or maybe "Baby Bullet" will survive. Call the one that rarely or never runs in revenue service south of San Jose HSR if you want to. On Thanksgiving Day when CAHSR uses it to run all the way to Bakersfield people will call it whatever CAHSR ends up being called, even though it's painted red and white and has Caltrain logos.

    I'm not convinced baby bullets at a top speed of 79mph still make sense if you can run trains at 125mph instead

    F40PH locomotives have a top speed of 103 or 95 depending on who you ask. Caltrain runs them at 79 because the FRA says so, not because they can't run faster. It weighs 260,000 pounds. A P40 weighs 268,000 pounds. If they don't want to run the occasional freight train on the the line because it's "tears up the tracks" how eager are they going to be to run 100 diesel hauled Caltrain locals over the same tracks on week days? Why would they if there's going to be catenary all the way to Anaheim?

    just because someone boarding a long-distance train in SF alights before it crosses Pacheco Pass does not mean that seat will not be occupied again by another passenger boarding further south

    I have a sneaking suspicion they expect more traffic between San Jose and San Francisco than between San Jose and points south. Otherwise they wouldn't be proposing four tracks north of San Jose and two south of San Jose.

    How many passengers will be boarding in Fresno when it's an express to LA and doesn't stop until it gets to LA? Remember that if you try to board passengers when the train is moving through the station at 190 the passengers tend to splatter all over the car.

    When there's fast service between San Jose and San Francisco many people will take the train because it's faster and you don't have to park the car in San Francisco. Far fewer will be heading south. If the fare on the long distance train is the same as the fare on a Caltrain bilevel people will arrange their trip to use the long distance train with it's cushy seats and bar car. Commuters are wily creatures, they'll position themselves to get seats. Southbound that means passengers going longer distance will end up standing to San Jose or they will be running empty seats south of San Jose. Or you can call the train painted red and white that never goes south of San Jose HSR because it only stops 7 times between San Jose and San Francisco.

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  74. Amtrak California is interested in operating a Coast Daylight service from SF to LA. If Caltrain switches to high platforms between SF and SJD, that would need to run out of Emeryville instead.

    Not necessarily. If we stick strictly to the Surfliner/California cars, this would be true; however, the morning LA-SLO Surfliner already operates with high platform-compatible Horizon (Comet) cars. The "spare" Amfleet set is also compatible with low and high platforms.

    Not that I'm a huge fan of watching a couple hours worth of coastline through those tiny windows, but it *could* work with the equipment we have today.


    Btw: just because someone boarding a long-distance train in SF alights before it crosses Pacheco Pass does not mean that seat will not be occupied again by another passenger boarding further south. Trains are not planes, multiple passengers can occupy the same seat - just not at the same time.

    Thank you for writing this. This fact is often overlooked by, well, almost everyone, when trying to talk about passenger train ridership. A trainset with, let's say 350 seats, may quite easily handle many more than 350 seated passengers during any given run from Anaheim to Downtown San Francisco.

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  75. @ Adirondacker 12800

    About the commuters "positioning themselves" for the cushy seats, that can be easily solved by having the through passengers make seat reservations. If you don't allow seat reservations on the short distances, the commuters will simply either stand for the short ride, or find any seat not reserved.

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  76. But .. but .. but!!!!

    We have to run everything just like Amtrak and NJT and MNCRR do!

    What if somebody gets on the WRONG TRAIN?! The world will end! Homeland Security must be alerted! (Empty) comfy seats inappropriately occupied! Danger danger danger!

    What if two different trains going between the same two stations cost THE SAME PRICE! Catastrophe! What is they took the same tickets! Disaster!

    Look, there's one way to do things, and the Pennsylvania Railroad worked it all out in 1930.

    God has ordained that it is an abomination for commuters to miscegenate with high speed trains. Repent!

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  77. Look, there's one way to do things, and the Pennsylvania Railroad worked it all out in 1930.

    Yes, and JNR, SNCF, and DB work the exact same way. Shinkansen trains always cost much more than low-speed trains, even on the same route, even when used by commuters. The TGV is more expensive than Corail. The ICE is more expensive than the low-speed IC even on the same route.

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  78. Adirondacker1280023 September, 2009 19:42

    Not that I'm a huge fan of watching a couple hours worth of coastline through those tiny windows, but it *could* work with the equipment we have today

    If they pick the Shinkansen specs there'd be a gap three inches wider than the gap on high platforms on the Northeast Corridor. They'd have to screw down some extra wide thresholds. That may not work because the trap doors have to fold back into the train. Probably also need to consult an oracle or two to see if it's ADA compliant. But it might cost tens of thousands per train. And they would have to do that scary engine change from diesel to electric somewhere. When the fleet gets replaced they could spec out slightly wider cars or use the three inch wider thresholds again so the the cars are nearly indistinguishable from the ones in the rest of Amtrak's fleet...Which means no one here would consider it because it would work and would be cheap.

    A trainset with, let's say 350 seats, may quite easily handle many more than 350 seated passengers during any given run from Anaheim to Downtown San Francisco.

    Works that way all over the world. More specifically along the Northeast corridor Amtrak has to set fares outrageously high for short distances to discourage local travel on Amtrak. On the Peninsula they would probably be facing similar passenger flows. If a train with 350 seats leaves San Francisco with 275 long distance passengers, with 75 booked for travel between SFO and points south of San Jose, it not going to work out well if 150 passengers for San Jose and intermediate points want to board. With creaky old cars and ancient diesels slowing down for grade crossings they already are carrying close to 40,000 passengers a day. It will probably be more than 150 per HSR departure if the fare is the same. HSR being the trains that primarily run for long distances, not the fast trains that go to between San Jose and San Francisco at the same speed as other commuter lines in the rest of the world.

    About the commuters "positioning themselves" for the cushy seats, that can be easily solved by having the through passengers make seat reservations. If you don't allow seat reservations on the short distances, the commuters will simply either stand for the short ride, or find any seat not reserved

    How much staff will there be on the platform in San Francisco to assist with boarding? How many assistant conductors on board to enforce it?

    We have to run everything just like Amtrak and NJT and MNCRR do!

    Or JR or SNCF or whatever they are calling the railroads in the UK this week or.... Premium services almost always come with a premium fare. Richard, even the Swiss make people pay a booking charge when they want to get on the through trains.

    What if somebody gets on the WRONG TRAIN?!

    The kindly conductor explains to them the the red and white trains go to Hillsdale and the blue and gold ones to Gilroy, their next stop. He'll then explain that the next train back to Palo Alto is in an hour and half, the one in 20 minutes won't be stopping at Gilroy. Also will explain to get off in Palo Alto and wait for the red and white train on the other side of the platform for the local train to Hillsdale.

    (Empty) comfy seats inappropriately occupied!

    People on the Peninsula aren't stupid. If you give them a choice between Caltrain bilevels complete with people who can't figure out MUNI and are possessed of the urge to bicycle to their destination in San Francisco, they are going to pick the long distance train with the bar car. Well some people on the Penisula aren't stupid, I'm still not convinced of the utility of a bicycle in San Francisco. The problem isn't seats that would otherwise be unoccupied. It's seats being warmed by suburbanites while long distance passengers are loitering outside the train's restrooms until the commuters get off the train.

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  79. But it might cost tens of thousands per train.

    A high-speed trainset costs $50 million. Even a low-speed 16-car EMU set clocks in at $25 million. So tens of thousands of dollars per train is trivial.

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  80. Rafael said...
    "@ adirondacker12800 -

    I'm not sure if you're being wilfully obtuse.
    "

    No, he's being wilfully correct.

    "Not every HSR train that sets out from SF has to run all the way to Anaheim! Which part of regional HSR from SF to Gilroy is conceptually unclear?

    As for terminology, the Obama administration considers 125mph top speed an intermediate level of HSR.
    "

    And considers HSR a type of Intercity rail (pdf). There is no doubting from the HSR Strategic Plan that Adirondacker is correct in this regard - page 2 (sheet 8):

    "Conventional Rail. Traditional intercity passenger rail services of more than 100 miles with as little as one to as many as 7–12 daily frequencies; may or may not have strong potential for future highspeed rail service. Top speed of up to 79mph to as high as 90mph generally on shared track. Intended to provide travel options and to develop the passenger rail market for further development in the future."

    "Emerging HSR. Developing corridors of 100–500 miles, with strong potential for future HSR Regional and/or Express service. Top speeds of up to 90–110 mph on primarily shared track (eventually using positive train control technology), with advanced grade crossing protection or separation. Intended to develop the passenger rail market, and provide some relief to other modes."

    "HSR – Regional. Relatively frequent service between major and moderate population centers 100–500 miles apart, with some intermediate stops. Top speeds of 110–150 mph, grade-separated, with some dedicated and some shared track (using positive train control technology). Intended to relieve highway and, to some extent, air capacity constraints."

    And especially for California right now, but eventually for the rest of us:

    "HSR – Express. Frequent, express service between major population centers 200–600 miles apart, with few intermediate stops. Top speeds of at least 150 mph on completely grade-separated, dedicated rights-of way (with the possible exception of some shared track in terminal areas). Intended to relieve air and highway capacity constraints."

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  81. @ BruceMcF -

    California HSR won't operate as express HSR along the entire route. In the SF-SJ segment, top speeds will be just 125mph, i.e. regional HSR.

    For trains that run from SF to LA/Anaheim, it does make sense to implement a fare structure based on x+y*distance to discourage intra-regional passengers.

    However, on the very same tracks you can also run purely regional HSR trains. Just because some trains will reach 220mph in the Central Valley doesn't mean spare line capacity in the SF peninsula can't be used to operate regional trains based on equipment that maxes out at 125mph. Whether Caltrain wants to do that is a separate matter, of course.

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  82. Rafael said...
    "@ BruceMcF -
    California HSR won't operate as express HSR along the entire route. In the SF-SJ segment, top speeds will be just 125mph, i.e. regional HSR.
    "

    That is, Regional HSR speeds, but not a Regional HSR corridor unless it goes somewhere further than San Jose to San Francisco.

    In terms of corridor length, Regional HSRail corridors are defined as 100 mile to 500 miles corridors, rather than 200 mile to 600 mile Express HSRail corridors.

    So, for instance, if the coastal Starlight route between San Jose and LA was upgraded to Regional HSRail status, then a San Francisco to LA corridor via San Jose and the Caltrain then Coast Starlight corridor would be Regional HSR.

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  83. At least the proposed 15" regulations are not "effectively already law" -- in fact, they are dead on arrival and completely obsolete.

    Why? Because Amtrak declared that 15" was a stupid height which didn't provide compatibility with Amtrak (and its 18" floor cars).

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  84. You know, if the platform height problem isn't resolved, it mainly affects San Jose and San Francisco.

    Regarding San Franciso, they have to fix the severe misdesigns in the Transbay Terminal before even worrying about this.

    San Jose has enough space to waste on separate Caltrain and HSR platforms.

    If necessary, the HSR could simply run all trips nonstop San Jose-San Francisco.

    It would still be intensely stupid to end up with nonstandardized platform heights. Every country in the world is trying to standardize, and standardize on level boarding.

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  85. @ BruceMcF -

    SF-Gilroy is about 80 miles, close enough. Santa Clara county has strictly limited development there, though, ostensibly because Gilroy is in a 100-year flood plain. It would be easy enough to build dwellings on stilts and use the ground floor for parking.

    The real reason, of course, is that Silicon Valley wants to keep housing scarce to prop up real estate values. Hollister and San Juan Bautista are on higher ground and in San Benito county. Look for them to become bedroom communities when HSR comes to Gilroy.

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  86. I just did the (albeit crude) calculations based on a drawing of the Millennium Train from CityRail's website.

    The Millennium Train has a door floor height of 1155.

    So does the AGV. Problem solved!

    AGV for HSR, and Millennium Train version for Caltrain.

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  87. muni metro uses trains with movable steps for both high platform and low street access.

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  88. The european double deck EMUs have a good reason to keep lower deck's floor as low ATOR as possible - the loading gauge that permits maximum height 4650 mm ATOR. If the line in question conforms now to AAR plate H, it would make sense to have custom-built units with doors at 1150 mm. The resulting minimum required loading gauge height would be 5250 mm.

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  89. As the latest (2011) CAHSR Train Width Technical document shows, Caltrain doesn't even need to submit for waiver, just need to specify the new EMU the same width as CAHSR's trains. CAHSRA has chosen wide-body trains, i.e. Shinkansen width, that allows high-platform to coexist with plate-H freight cars without the need for gauntlet station tracks.

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