29 May 2010

The Great Platform Height Transition

The editorial position of this blog has always been that Caltrain and high-speed rail ought to be 100% interoperable, to derive the maximum transportation benefit from the considerable investment about to be made in the peninsula corridor. This creed can be summed up in a simple slogan: Any train, any track, any platform.

As was previously pointed out in the discussion of platform heights, it is most likely that high-speed rail will make use of high platforms. "Any train, any track, any platform" would require Caltrain to convert its own platforms to the same height as HSR. It's one thing to gripe about platform heights, but quite another to pull off the transition without interrupting commuter service. How can it possibly be done?

Here's an idea: (click to enlarge)

The end result would be a desirable center island platform for Caltrain. One could even build it such that the edge could be cut back to a gentle curvature after construction, resulting in the compact "football island" configuration when HSR is added.

Another useful feature of this concept is that it lends itself to phased construction of the four-track stretches where they are most needed. Commuter trains could use the extra track capacity years before HSR enters service, achieving a level of "independent utility" that the framers of AB 3034 might be proud of.

General Order 26-D

ADA regulations mandate level boarding for Caltrain's new electric trains. Since it is impractical to build a rail car with a floor just 8 inches above the rails, at the same height as the existing platforms, this mandate will require all platforms to be raised from their current height of 8 inches regardless of their final height, whether it be the same as HSR or something in between.

Platform edges higher than 8 inches are prohibited under the California Public Utilities Commission's General Order 26-D, which requires an ample clearance envelope to allow the outdated practice of "train men" riding on the side of freight trains.

There are only two ways around 26-D: compliance by way of a complex, failure-prone and maintenance-intensive technical solution that will saddle Caltrain with endless operating and maintenance costs in order to accommodate two freight trains per day, or... a waiver. Caltrain has now demonstrated its ability to navigate bureaucracies and obtain regulatory waivers; why not obtain permission to move one sign (pictured at right) south from San Francisco to Santa Clara?


  1. Great post, especially the bit about the sign celebrating GO 26-D. I had to chuckle at that one.

    I'm wondering if Caltrain could invoke paragraph 8.3(c) of the 1991 contract to "persuade" UPRR that it shouldn't object to a waiver request to CPUC. Btw, shouldn't that sign should be moved all the way to Tamien?

    Some caveats, though:

    (a) CBOSS.must.die. Without integrated signaling track sharing would be a nightmare. This also implies that the locomotives UPRR uses in the SF peninsula must be compatible with the PTC standard that CHSRA selects.

    (b1) Would track sharing be limited to off-design conditions like track work or would Caltrain use excursions onto the HSR tracks to maintain baby bullet service based on the new EMU fleet? If so, what impact would that have on HSR capacity?

    (b2) Would track sharing also mean that in off-design conditions, UPRR trains would run on one or the other of the HSR tracks with guaranteed time separation? If so, would that cause high wear and tear on those tracks?

    (c) If the ultimate track order is to be FSSF, as your post implies, UPRR trains will have to cross the HSR tracks to reach freight spurs. Is that going to be a problem, especially in light of the requirement to fully grade separate at least HSR?

    (d) CHSRA would nail down its target platform height (Talgo 760mm, all other vendors ~1000mm) before Caltrain could select a vendor for its EMUs. How soon can CHSRA pick a hard number?

    (e) Only a few vendors offer bi-level standard-speed EMUs with high level entry and, their gear may not have the acceleration performance or price point that Caltrain wants. Who pays for the difference?

    (f) At Millbrae and the mid-peninsula station, track sharing would imply that all platforms must be suitable for HSR not just in terms of height but also length (1/4 mile) and curvature (>10km?). What would that imply for the candidate locations, i.e. RWC, Palo Alto and Mtn View?

    (g) What happens to Caltrain service out to Gilroy once the low platforms are eliminated? Should it be canceled, forcing Santa Clara county to fund an extension of the Amtrak CC corridor, at least until HSR goes live? What happens to TAMC's hopes for Caltrain service to Salinas?

  2. Rafael: The easiest solution for freight might be to make freight trains use the northbound express track but with restricted axel loads to prevent excessive track wear. At night there should be few enough northbound trains that all of them can use the local track.

  3. This seems like a plausible template of a transition plan for FSSF. For SFFS, the corresponding plan would be to build new platforms outboard of the existing ones, then demolish the old ones and realign the tracks. Once all the high platforms are built, you can switch to high platform trains using bridgeplates or temporary platforms and start demolishing the low platforms and building the new local tracks. So the somewhat simpler transition plan is a bit of an advantage for FSSF. As for track sharing, I think the most reasonable thing is to have the outside tracks be for HSR during the day and freight at night. The first and last few HSR trains can probably run on the local tracks if need be, because there's not going to be much Caltrain service at that time of day, and that leaves the outside tracks free for the local freight train.

  4. @Rafael, I don't think Caltrain could wave 8.3(c) over UPRR's heads, because UPRR and its customers might have the upper hand at the STB.

    (a) mostly agreed, and I will write more about this shortly.

    (b1) any train, any track, any platform. Capacity would be dynamically allocated to market demand. If there is more express commuter demand than HSR demand, then yes, express commuter trains could do overtakes on the express tracks.

    (b2) not sure what you'd do with freight in "off-design" conditions. You sure wouldn't want to tear up the express tracks, and there may be fundamental issues of compatibility (superelevation greater than 5 inches, for example)

    (c) freight trains need to cross HSR tracks under any track arrangement since freight spurs are found on both sides of the corridor. The problem will have to be solved, period.

    (d) The CHSRA can pick a hard number quite soon. The Velaro, AGV, Shinkansen and Chinese copies all have floor heights within four inches of each other.

    (e) who said bi-level was a must? I'll have more to say on this too.

    (f) At HSR stations, the Caltrain platforms would only accommodate a single-length 200 m HSR trainset.

    (g) Gilroy and Monterey are the tail. The peninsula is the dog. The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog. In SJ you would still have some 8-inch platforms anyway, and you could hang on to a couple of diesel Bombardier trainsets with a transfer in SJ.

    One topic I didn't go into very much is that there really are some issues with the dynamic envelope of a freight train running next to a high platform, vs. ADA gap requirements. For example, Metro North's Hudson line has several stations where freight trains pass high platforms, but those are unlikely to meet the present ADA gap standard of 3 inches. That issue would have to be finagled somehow--perhaps by using extra-wide passenger trains (good), deployable steps (OK), or costly solutions like gauntlet tracks or drawbridges (terrible).

    @arcady, the last HSR trains, if they arrive after the freight curfew begins, could be operated with at least one empty track between them and the PTC-equipped freight train. These HSR services would be northbound arriving in SF after midnight, and they could use the southbound HSR track since no HSR service would depart SF after midnight. It goes without saying that a modern train control system allows any track to be operated in any direction.

  5. @ arcady -

    I'm pretty sure CHSRA wouldn't permit UPRR's current, super-heavy freight trains onto its shiny new tracks - even if FRA did.

    Imposing an axle load limit of e.g. 22.5 metric tonnes would entail the purchase of new, lighter diesel locomotives by - or rather, for - UPRR. Electric units make no sense as the freight spurs and the Alviso line across to the yards in the East Bay will not be electrified.

    However, the cars used to hold the actual goods would be the same old FRA-compliant gear - just no longer filled to the brim. I'm not sure how exactly that is enforced on a day-to-day basis, but there are other such "short lines" in the US.

    That gear travels all over the country, perhaps even neighboring countries. Most of it is probably really old and only minimally maintained by its owners, i.e. UPRR's customers rather than UPRR itself. As a result, the wheels on those cars may have flat spots etc. that could damage the brand-spanking new HSR tracks even at reduced axle loads.

    Therefore, I expect CHSRA will only permit UPRR to cross its tracks, not run on them. In theory, that would boil down to including UPRR in the PTC infrastructure for the ROW and, to constructing suitable turnouts across the new HSR tracks.

    In practice, UPRR has warned that it wants full grade separation of its freight spurs against the HSR system. That would imply that Caltrain tracks could not be grade separated along with the HSR tracks throughout the peninsula.

    PCJPB could invoke paragraph 8.3.(c) in the 1991 contract to unilaterally shut down freight altogether, but it would have to compensate UPRR and its customers for that. Some of those customers might well have to relocate or go out of business because trucking is not a viable alternative for them, with jobs lost as a result. Those that stay would generate additional commercial traffic on peninsula roads and freeways. Both outcomes could spark a voter backlash.

  6. @ Clem -

    thanks for your reply. Regarding those "extra-wide passenger trains", do you mean models with 3+2 seating (cp Downer EDi's Millenium Train for Sydney City Rail)?

  7. @ Clem -

    regarding your answers (b2) and (d) above:

    - an "off-design condition" might be scheduled work on one of the Caltrain/UPRR tracks or an unscheduled signaling problem

    - Talgo's upcoming AVRIL may be the odd one out here. Afaik, its current top-of-the-line model (350 aka RENFE 102) features a floor height of just 760mm thanks to the company's proprietary wheelset technology.

  8. What about the northern NEC, where Amtrak runs trains at 125-150 mph mixed with diesel commuter trains and the occasional freight train? Internationally, there's the freight service on the high speed line from Channel Tunnel to London, and the new Perpignan-Figueres line? Somehow they manage to run freight trains on tracks shared with high speed trains, and ones that are running at the full 186 mph, not just 125 mph.

  9. Arcady: the Channel Tunnel has a blanket 100 mph speed limit for HSR. Even that is too much for track-sharing with 75 mph freight, so Eurotunnel has to schedule trains so that multiple HSR trains pass through the tunnel one after the other, followed by multiple freight trains.

    Rafael, Clem: the extra-wide trains aren't such a big deal. The issue is running passenger trains that are 3,250 mm wide, just fitting inside the AAR loading gauge, instead of 3,200 mm wide, as existing US passenger trains are. 3,250 is actually more off-the-shelf: it's drop-in compatible with the Velaro.

  10. All? current US passenger trains are 3050 mm wide at high-platform level. They widen above floor level.

  11. I think there's an excellent argument to be made that all high speed trains should be double deck, and that all platforms should be matched to the lower deck of those trains, not to some height above ~920mm diameter wheels.

    After it, it is excess "predicted" levels of HS traffic that are causing many billions of dollars of $uper-$izing at stations and terminals and yards; far better to use the available unconstricted Californian loading gauge and start out double deck, first saving over-build costs and the later avoiding a sub-optimal kludge to make double deckers work with a wrong height (ie high) platform.

    And the best way to do that is entry to the lower level and connecting corridor at the upper level, like TGV Duplex, Swiss IC2000 (unpowered), Swiss Bombardier 200kmh tilting inter-city EMUs (huge order this month), Amtrak Superliners and Capitol Corridor coaches (unpowered), Finnish intercity unpowered coaches, etc.

    And yes, I know all about the duplex Shinkansen and all the other "tri-level" high-boarding double deckers. These have poor, uneven door placement (lengthens dwell times) and waste more interior space on stairs.

    Up to this year I thought 760mm was the correct compromise platform height, but I've changed my mind: 550mm with level boarding into low-floor single deckers and level boarding into the lower floor of double deckers (which includes all HS trains) is the way to go.

    Which makes Caltrain-HSR platform compatability and Caltrain past-future transition a snap.

    Which is why nobody would even dream of making it happen.

  12. Alon: I'm talking about the CTRL aka HS1, which has a mixture of 186 mph Eurostars, 140 mph commuter trains, and now also freight traffic (don't know the speed, but I would guess 75). But the point is not the scheduling, it's the fact that you can run freight trains on the same tracks that are used by trains running at high speeds, and that the track wear issues are manageable.

    Richard: so I take it your change of opinion was caused by seeing that the Swiss do it that way too? Because if a Superliner is designed that way it's an evil outdated steam train, but if the Swiss do it, well, they're the Swiss, they must obviously be right. Anyway, there are advantages and disadvantages to the "high-level" type of train, but for longer distance services they work fairly well. And 550 mm platforms have the advantage of not being incompatible with anything, including, I believe, just about every freight car on the North American rail network.

  13. Richard, your post sounds sarcastic. I know someone of your level of intelligence or knowledge wouldn't seriously suggest a boarding height that no available HSR trainset even comes close to. Honestly, if your post didn't have the last paragraph, I'd have thought you were pulling our legs here.

    Or are you still sarcastic? I can't actually tell at this stage.

    Arcady, the types of freight trains that are allowed to run on HS1 are probably restricted, just like on the LGVs and the upgraded DB lines. They're probably lighter and faster than your average freight train. The platform height issue is a red herring UPRR is waving around to extract economic rent from California, but capacity and track wear aren't.

  14. Alon: no, I'm not sarcastic. Why not look at what I say and argue with that rather than what you might imagine I might mean? I've changed my opinion based on further consideration of more information.

    Any board into lower level train is going to have a door height that is in the ballpark of what I suggested. (Hint: that includes TGV Duplex, and any duplex follow-on to it.) I wouldn't have suggested it otherwise.

    The lower decks of existing furrin vehicles tend to be lower than 550mm, but I'm informed that's less structurally optimal than it is due more to the constraints of fitting two decks into a lower profile than we can offer locally.

    I suggest two things: first that the board into lower level, gangway on upper level (or on both, if you want to go all Talgo-21 vapourware on us) is the best engineering solution for a two level intercity train, for passenger circulation, dwell time reduction, and interior space optimization; second that HSR should be designed around two level vehicles from the outset, and get it right from the outset. We know that the demand for double-length double-height trains will come (otherwise why build anything?) so why not engineer around that rather than around historical train-platform interfaces?

    You can bet anything that you want that CHSR will not be buying anything off the shelf -- we're Too Damned Special for that -- so why not try to the right thing while doing the wrong thing?

    Dear tiresome Arcady: this doesn't have lot to do with slavishly emulating Switzerland (nevertheless nearly always a good idea) because I've known about and have ridden the IC2000 coaches for over a decade now. You'll have to try harder.

  15. Since level boarding requirements are being driven in part by the need to comply with ADA, it might be useful to look at the standards the European railway industry has developed in this context:

    Passengers' Accessibility of Heavy Rail Systems

    This extensive document covers everything from platform access to on-board restrooms to lighting and signage. Unfortunately, it does not specifically mention high speed rail.

  16. Here's the best info I could find on HS1 restrictions:
    For freight trains, it's 140 km/h and a 22.5 tonne axle load limit. I'm sure if you dig around, you can find the Sectional Appendix and get the restrictions for the WCML and ECML, both of which are 125 mph railways full of 75 mph freight trains.

    And Richard, for once I think you've got the right approach: if you're going to build something new, you might as well do it right, without feeling too constrained by historic restrictions that may not even apply, or restrictions that don't apply here. And incidentally, the platform standards in Europe do have a lot to do with maintaining compatibility with lots of legacy stations that haven't been converted yet.

  17. Even if the ADA applied in Europe, which it does not, the European rail operators are in a very different position, since they have large existing networks, which would be grandfathered. And also, if the HSR trains have cafe cars, which they almost certainly will, and the double deck low-entrance train design is used, the cafe car attendants will have to provide at-seat service for anyone who can't walk up a flight of stairs.

  18. Richard: honestly, I didn't want to argue first because I wasn't sure you meant that.

    Anyway, it's not as clear to me as it is to you that CAHSR won't buy off-the-shelf products. On the contrary, CAHSR's past statements suggest it will: the runtime simulations are based on the Velaro, rather than on some abstractly defined train, and one of the authority's high-ups (Doty, maybe? I forget...) said the train control system will be ETCS.

    Obviously, a board-onto-lower-level train should have a boarding height of about 550 mm, because that's the standard. But most available technology isn't board-onto-lower-level. So few existing HSR trains are low-floor, and so many are at or just under 17 tons/axle, that it would require too much work to modify them.

    CHSRA's incompetence isn't some general abstract principle. It has a certain logic to it: one that wants HSR because that's what the cool kids have, but doesn't care for local transit integration or for cost control. So far, Kopp, Pringle, and Diridon haven't tried to impose globally unique technology on CAHSR, as opposed to the connecting transit. That's why you see the authority promoting ETCS and Velaros. The idea is to copy European HSR, modulo the location of intermediate stops. Even the TBT station throat is not that bad for HSR; it's Caltrain that's getting shafted.

    As for dwell reduction, there's little need to speculate on this. Just go to areas that try to minimize dwells, and see what they do. In Japan, double-deckers have had limited penetration on the busiest lines, partly for this reason. (They don't say so, but I suspect weight is another reason.) They're used mainly on limited express trains (mostly legacy but also on the Tohoku Shinkansen), with no intercity Shinkansen or high-volume commuter runs. And on the Paris RER, they use split-level double-deckers with three sets of doors per car.

    For CAHSR, dwells would probably be a more pressing capacity issue than train space. The connecting transit is so bad that almost all intercity boardings will be at LAUS, SJ DIG, and TBT. In that case the optimal rolling stock should be single-level trains with doors placed one quarter the way from the end of the car, like on the Shinkansen (or the Javelins).

  19. @ Richard -

    SNCF didn't even ask Alstom to develop Duplex until capacity on the Paris-Lyon line looked likely to become a constraint. And of course the Duplex conforms to the same platform height as the single-level models.

    One concern SNCF had was that passengers would not accept bi-level seating for long-distance travel. This turned out not to be the case.

    The TGV Duplex trainset design features tractor cars at either end and unpowered cars in-between. The latest version is rated at an impressive 200mph (320km/h) top speed and, SNCF has ordered more of those instead of the faster new single-level AGV.

    They've told Alstom that they'd be interested in a bi-level AGV. However, the axle load limit of 17 metric tonnes means distributing traction while maintaining seat count per trainset will require even lighter body shells. Afaik, Alstom is working on those already.

    CHSRA has a mandate to build a system for 220mph (360km/h) top speed. Right now, only a few single-level designs can meet that target, so I assume that CHSRA is proceeding on the conservative assumption that it may have to purchase those for the initial fleet. They're in contact with Alstom, though, so stay tuned.

  20. Dear Alon,

    "For CAHSR, dwells would probably be a more pressing capacity issue than train space."

    Reducing the number of trains to provide the same (completely hypothetical, crack-smoking) number of seats per hour is by far the cheapest way to reduce pressure on the constrained terminal(s).

    Running 2 trains instead of 3, for example, buys you vastly far more throughput (for other trains), saves you more capital cost (stations, yards and trains), and saves you more direct operating cost than reducing turnaround dwell from 20 minutes to 10. I'm not saying the latter is unimportant -- in fact, I've said basically nothing else except that it is critically important and free for 20 years now -- just that there are even lower hanging fruit.

    The argument about favouring per-train capacity over headways is very much stronger for long distance than for regional trains, and it the exact opposite of what the Caltrain+CHSRA cretins are up to: they maximize the number of HS trains gumming up the corridor and the terminal, and then they restrict the operating pattern of and exclude the station stops of the most heavily used and headway-sensitive trains (= Caltrain). Madness. Utter, criminal madness.

    As for existing RER MI2N, Shinkensen duplex, etc: of course I know and acknowledge that they exist in the configuration they do and that they function quite acceptably. They are also very much designed around inter-operating with existing stations which are designed for other generations of rolling stock.

    I'm just throwing out the idea that since we have, for practical purposes, no constraints and no pre-existing service and no pre-existing infrastructure and no backwards compatability issues in Calfironia, both for Caltrain and for HSR, it's interesting to consider how things might be done right differently and perhaps even optimally when freed from hysterical/historical compatibility.

    Objective risk mitigation or cost control or just good engineering analysis might deliver a different answer from what I've persuaded myself of, but is there any evidence that anybody is doing the (re)thinking or analysis? Hah!

    PS For the record, through it just reinforced what I've been thinking for some time anyway: I can't deny being impressed by the Bombardier design which won the huge Swiss inter-city contract this month. It may end up being a turkey, of course, and there are many informed people who disagree strongly with the client's "technically ambitious" requirement of 2 degree tilt, and yes, no need for anybody to tell me that 200kmh is less than 350kmh or 300kmh, but it looks like a clever piece of engineering and packaging. Moreover different or better choices are possible when not constrained by the small-to-us Swiss loading gauge.

    Reported selling points included low promised energy consumption (= large life-cycle cost saving), high passenger density (= minimized wasted space), and, significantly for me, the even spacing of doors along the train (not lumpily distributed towards car ends) which promised lowest dwell times.

    The SBB press images site is a nightmare (Javascript madness + ZIP = no URLs!), so in case anybody else is interested I've downloaded the PR images. The IR200_Blatt*.jpg train schematics are the interesting ones.

    Drifting way off topic once more.

  21. Richard -

    1. keep in mind that european standard 550/760 mm ATOR was born out of necessity to harmonize the old mess in range of 200-840 mm (compare these pics - position of platforms relative to buffers).

    2. every current off-the-shelf european train is a hack in one way or other to get maximum of EU infrastructure, burdened by enormous backward-compatibility problems. The partial exceptions from this rule is Paris RER (platform height) and Scandinavian networks (loading gauge width)

    3. high-platform double-deck trains do have better space utilization because they can fit seats under upper flight of stairs, where low floor designs have dead space. The same goes for circulation, because door space doesn't bite into passenger space

    4. high-platform double-deckers allow more door length per train lenght than low-platform (google Altéo - feasible only with high platforms)

    5. double-deck TGV accomodates the same number of seats as single-deck Shinkansen or Regina/CRH1

    Rafael -

    Unfortunately, it does not specifically mention high speed rail.

    There's no reason why it should - HSR is integral part of heavy rail network.

    1. The major disadvantages of high-platform double-deck trains have lack of level entry and lack of wheelchair space.

  22. Richard, the whole point I'm making is that there's plenty of backward compatibility - namely, the requirement for off-the-shelf trainsets. The HSRA is actually doing this the right way, by accident: there are only about 5 designs, all from major companies that the HSRA and Caltrain are already in touch with. There's no Stadler design here to regulate out of existence.

  23. I have no idea how they do it. But they do it. NJTransit and the MTA install high level platforms. Even SEPTA is thinking about it. It's not rocket science, especially along a line that sees an astounding 6 trains per hour in each direction during peak and then closes down for the night.

    I don't think Caltrain could wave 8.3(c) over UPRR's heads, because UPRR and its customers might have the upper hand at the STB.

    The STB isn't the ICC. No one has a unlimited right to rail service.

    any train, any track, any platform.

    Scary ain't it but that's the way the Northeast Corridor has operated since the Hell's Gate Bridge opened. Get on a train in Boston and never get out out of your seat until you get to Miami.

    The CHSRA can pick a hard number quite soon. The Velaro, AGV, Shinkansen and Chinese copies all have floor heights within four inches of each other.

    And within four inches of the stuff running in the Northeast. I hear SEPTA will have some clunker Silverliners available soon. Caltrain might be able to pick them up cheap to use during the transition.

    At HSR stations, the Caltrain platforms would only accommodate a single-length 200 m HSR trainset.

    That's not any train, any track, any time. It's probably not worth it to build 400 meter platforms at low use Caltrain stations but at Caltrain Express stops full length platforms for everything probably makes sense. While long trains can't stop at short platforms easily short trains can stop at long platforms without any problems.

    In SJ you would still have some 8-inch platforms anyway, and you could hang on to a couple of diesel Bombardier trainsets with a transfer in SJ.

    Or when the clunky old Silverliners have served the transition well, gut the electrical system and convert them to trailer cars that get hauled by locomotives. Just because the suburban stations have low platforms doesn't mean the main station has to have them. They have been hauling trains that serve suburban stations with low level platforms to high level platforms in New York and Chicago for a century. Or an even more radical concept, put high level platforms at the outlying stations.

    For example, Metro North's Hudson line has several stations where freight trains pass high platforms

    The foamers get a cheap thrill when the freight comes through the station. YouTube has hours of 2 minute videos of it all over the metro New York region. They especially like it in the places where there are gauntlet tracks. Search for Roselle Park freight. There are gauntlet tracks at Union too but they are harder to find among the videos of Union Pacific stuff.

    Electric units make no sense as the freight spurs and the Alviso line across to the yards in the East Bay will not be electrified.

    Freight doesn't get particularly upset if it's trip is 15 minutes longer than it would be without and engine change. They can change engines where the electrification ends. Changing engines is something railroads are good at. Electric locomotives since they don't have to carry around fuel, a diesel engine and a generator are much lighter than diesel locomotives.

  24. Yes, commuter service is way more headway-sensitive than intercity. I doubt that anything more frequent than hourly off peak and half-hourly peak service really makes much of a difference for ridership, because HSR is fundamentally not a "turn up and go" kind of service in the way that an urban rail or commuter rail system is. As for high-level trains, one weakness of the Amtrak California Cars is that there is very little seating on the lower level, and it has to be reserved for those who are physically not capable of climbing the steps. Also, climbing the steps with luggage is a pain, and luggage left on the lower level competes for space with bikes. Another problem with bilevels in general is that they have a higher axle load than single-level cars, and if the TGV Duplex is pushing the boundary on that, an MU version (AGV Duplex?) almost won't be able to fit within the constraints.

  25. How sure are you that the platforms at Caltrain's "upgraded" stations will have to have level boarding? Seems to me like there are plenty of opportunities in the ADA "guidance" document you cited where Caltrain could invoke an exception to this requirement. To start, it only applies to "new" stations. Seems pretty simple to consider these are simply "existing" stations on a commuter line that is undergoing a technology upgrade.

    Not to mention the "it's too hard" exception that is in that doc as well:

    "In… commuter rail and intercity rail systems where it is not operationally or
    structurally feasible to meet the horizontal or vertical gap requirements, mini-high
    platforms, car-borne or platform-mounted lifts, ramps or bridge plates, or similar
    manually deployed devices, meeting the applicable requirements of 36 CFR part
    1192, or 49 CFR Part 38, shall suffice."

    Also, off-topic, what do you think about using turnstiles at Caltrain stations? I like the whole system of turnstile access on a train line because it removes the conductor from the equation, especially when combined with an automatic payment system like the new Translink card. I presume it goes against the grain at Caltrain because it might require a station attendant at every station?

  26. Arcady, the practice in much of the world is to run intercity trains at frequent headways. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all make an effort to run many trains per hour, even when the trains are not the longest they could be. The ICE uses timed transfers to increase the effective frequency.

    While intercity rail is not show up and go, it still benefits from high frequency. It makes it less painful to miss your train. It allows selling more show up and go tickets to business travelers. It makes it possible to run trains at hourly frequency within each class (local, semi-express, etc.).

  27. It might be possible to knock out GO 26-D
    completely due to the fact that federal law preempts state law in many situations. The ADA quite likely makes GO 26-D invalid, period -- I wonder if one of the federal agencies would be willing to take it to court.

    It would be best if CPUC just repealed GO 26-D, of course.

  28. Looks to me like the 1991 Contract allows Caltrain to simply kick UP off of the corridor from San Jose to San Francisco if they don't play nice.

    Caltrain should implement ERTMS/ETCS. They should tell UP that it can either provide electric locomotives which are ERTMS/ETCS compliant, or, so sorry, the new form of commuter service is not compatible with freight service, byebye freight.

  29. Clem:
    "(c) freight trains need to cross HSR tracks under any track arrangement since freight spurs are found on both sides of the corridor."

    Are there *ANY* on the west side? I can't find a single one.

  30. There are a couple near Lawrence I think. Might be one in South SF, but I'm not sure if it's used anymore.

  31. Kevin Hecteman01 June, 2010 22:44

    As one who's learning to be a trainman, I have a couple of observations:

    1) In switching, freight trains sometimes need to make reverse movements. Since the engineer can't see where he (or she) is going, it's necessary for a trainman (be that a brakeman or the conductor) to ride the end car and act as the engineer's eyes and ears. Which is what this fellow is doing.

    (Mind you, he's riding the end, not the side. You can get away with this on a tank car, but if the last car is a boxcar, autorack or the like, the trainman has to ride the side ladder. But the essential point is the same -- the practice exists for a reason.)

    2) From studying the environment around the sign, it seems to me the platforms are not the reason for the sign -- it's there on account of the freeway pillars and tunnels. If the platforms were the reason, it would stand to reason that you'd see them at every Caltrain station.

    That said, given the options Clem laid out, I'd vote for the waiver. An updated Caltrain, freight service and HSR can coexist if it's done right.

    Just my $2.

  32. The sign at 22nd St must warn of the fence between the tracks? At other stations with between-tracks fences the two tracks spread slightly, but not at 22nd St?

  33. Reality Check02 June, 2010 16:21

    @Tim: 22nd Street has tunnel portals near both ends and the tracks may also be further constrained by I-280 supports, etc. -- so it seems the decision was to post signs rather than spreading the tracks away from the center fence line.