- UPDATE: the California High-Speed Rail Authority sheds a crocodile tear over the potential demise of Caltrain, no doubt trying hard not to covet the 700 acres of pristine rail corridor real estate that would suddenly become available. Can Obi-Wan Doty save the peninsula commute from the evil HSR empire?
- The Peninsula Rail Program finally releases its long-promised Context Sensitive Solutions toolkit. The toolkit allows anyone to provide specific input and recommendations on the details of how the peninsula HSR project should be configured. The toolkit contains some detailed maps and explains the pros and cons of various options. There is no review period or deadline.
- The slam-dunk certification of the electrification EIR unexpectedly bounces off the rim after a threat of lawsuit over the lack of (recent) public circulation. Who sat on it since the public comment period way back in 2004? Probably the FTA.
- Even as expensive capital projects go out to bid, Caltrain reveals that it is in a fiscal death spiral. That serves as a reminder of two organizational features that have always put a drag on Caltrain: (1) SFMTA, SMCTD and VTA feed it leftover scraps only after they have helped themselves, and (2) a significant portion of its operating budget is squandered on excessive crewing costs, with three to four employees staffing each train. (Safety First!)
- For its April board meeting, the CHSRA has an update on their discussions with the Transbay JPA regarding access to the Transbay Transit Center. The latest drawings and diagrams reveal the following evolutions in the design:
- The access to the TTC seemingly utilizes two new tracks tunneled under 7th street, which are said to be completely separate and independent from the existing tunnels 1 - 4 all the way out to Brisbane, where the giant HSR yard is planned. Could this clearly unaffordable and redundant infrastructure possibly be the setup for a future descoping of peninsula commuter service to a comparatively more sensible Millbrae - Santa Clara link?
- Thankfully, the plan for tail tracks extending under Main Street seems to have been dropped.
- Access to the Caltrain platforms, previously criticized for having only a single access track, now sports a new "emergency" crossover for Caltrain. Why this crossover is not simply considered a regular feature of a competently-designed station throat is a mystery, although it may be related to the fact that it uses (horror of horrors!) curved turnouts, which are generally unknown in AREMA circles. Such a strange and unfamiliar piece of trackwork must no doubt be used only in an emergency, such as if Caltrain actually needed to serve downtown San Francisco.
- The crazy-tight curve radii (650 feet!) are deemed commensurate with the station in Cologne, Germany where, incidentally, these "emergency" curved turnouts are used everywhere. If they can do it, we can do it. Another thing that the Germans seem to have figured out is that you don't put such tight curves 1.5 miles out from the station, and that all the crossovers lie within 800 feet from the platforms, rather than 2500 feet as planned in San Francisco. "High-speed" trains will have to trundle along at 40 mph for a couple of minutes, and tie up key trackwork for way longer than necessary, unless designers finally decide to study a bit more attentively what makes Cologne tick.
- The much-awaited Alternatives Analysis for the peninsula will be pitched by Bob Doty on Thursday in San Jose. The impacts of high-speed rail on commuter service will be of particular interest.
05 April 2010
An all-stops local post of recent developments in peninsula rail: