- Facing a catastrophic shortfall in its operating budget for fiscal year 2012, Caltrain needs every ounce of good will it can get from peninsula communities in order to survive as a service and as a bureaucratic entity. All this talk of 80-foot wide viaducts tearing through residential neighborhoods is not helping one bit.
- Caltrain's electrification project, cast for years as the key to future improvements in the system's operating bottom line, is being held hostage by (a) uncertainty over the proper phasing of the electrification project with respect to HSR construction, (b) threats of lawsuits over a somewhat stale EIR that tiptoes around the HSR issue, and (c) the funding package unraveling at the seams, on the widely held but mistaken expectation that HSR will pick up the tab.
- Caltrain's $230 million reinvent-the-wheel PTC science project, mandated by the FRA as a sine qua non pre-condition to electric operation, has gone out to bid on a wing and a prayer with no clear source of funding identified other than the remote chance that the peninsula HSR project might receive the entire federal grant allocated for the statewide HSR system.
- Caltrain's own guy, Bob "Father of the Baby Bullet" Doty, propelled into the driver's seat of the joint Caltrain - CHSRA Peninsula Rail Program, valiantly ran interference with peninsula communities, and must now be wondering if the steering wheel really is connected to the wheels of this particular bus.
Another recurring buzzword is "reset button." Californians for High Speed Rail wants to hit one reset button. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo wants to hit another reset button.
What about hitting a big red reset button at the Caltrain bunker in San Carlos?
- Ditch the weak operating plan proposed as part of Caltrain 2025, and plan for smoking-hot corridor operations. A clockface timetable with a mid-line standing overtake, more than any other Caltrain improvement, promises to increase revenue while keeping operating costs under control, because it requires fewer trains and fewer crews to operate a service that will make the Baby Bullet look like a Model T.
- Phase the quadruple tracking for HSR and start by building a modest four-track mid-line overtake facility from Redwood Junction to just south of downtown San Mateo. This avoids most of the NIMBY controversy while delivering the highest possible corridor throughput for Caltrain express service as well as the initial HSR services.
- Ditch CBOSS and specify an off-the-shelf PTC standard that can be expanded to the statewide HSR system. Such a system already exists, and is mentioned dozens of times throughout the CHSRA's system requirements with the contractually-delicate phrasing "The CHSTP train control system will demonstrate Functional and Technical Requirements similar to ERTMS but the System Requirements are being written without specifying an ERTMS system. It is accepted that an ERTMS system may eventually be proposed and accepted." Bonus: HSR funds might pay for Caltrain's PTC.
- Address the issue of level boarding once and for all. To make the most efficient use of San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center, it is crucial that Caltrain and the HSR system adopt a common platform interface. The mantra ought to be "any train, any track, any platform". So far, there is not a peep from Caltrain.