16 October 2010

Station Design 101


If you're the poor sucker in charge of designing a mid-peninsula high-speed rail station, here's what you must do: start with the ridership estimates for full 2035 system build-out, and apply Technical Memo 2.2.2 (station design policy) as handed down from above by Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm in charge of the HSR system design. Table 6.1 has all the relevant formulas that you'll need to size the outer concourse, controlled waiting areas, how many restrooms, etc. All that remains is to plug and chug the formulas and presto, you've got yourself a station.

The result of this formulaic approach to station design can be seen in the recent sizing study for a potential mid-peninsula station at Mountain View, which is very similar to the notions also being entertained for Palo Alto or Redwood City. Key statistics: about 8000 daily HSR boardings, 67000 square feet of floor area (not including platforms), and 3000 parking spaces.

Implicit Requirements

While the technical policy and system requirements do contain a variety of clearly stated requirements concerning station design, many of the requirements are not stated, but instead taken for granted. They are implicit requirements. The following is an attempt to make them explicit:
  • The station shall funnel every passenger through a sequence of functional spaces that broadly mimic an airport.

  • The station shall be divided into a public concourse and an access-controlled area requiring possession of a valid ticket.

  • The station shall have a mezzanine, a large access concourse located above or below the platforms that provides the "necessary" floor area to funnel passengers from a grand station entrance (complete with "entry plaza") through "check-in", shops and restaurants, and possibly "security" to a "gate".

  • The HSR platforms shall be used exclusively by high speed trains, and may not under any circumstance be shared with Caltrain. The same track and platform edge may not be served by both HSR and Caltrain. The same platform at opposite platform edges may not be served by both HSR and Caltrain.

  • The HSR platforms shall be fully access controlled with high fences, even if such fence is used to segregate the HSR platform from an adjacent Caltrain platform.

  • Passengers transferring between HSR and Caltrain shall use escalators and transit via the mezzanine. Maximum vertical circulation is encouraged, and convenient cross-platform or same-platform transfers are explicitly disallowed.

  • The station shall have gargantuan amounts of automobile parking (1000 spaces at the station, and another 2000 spaces within 3 miles).
None of these "requirements" make any sense, except to maximize the size and cost (and profit) of building such grandiose but operationally dismal infrastructure. What is being envisioned here is not an integrated rail network, but well and truly a flight-level zero airline.

Another Way

It doesn't have to be this way. In France or Germany, any bum off the street can drag a large suitcase onto a high-speed train five minutes before departure without ever passing through a security check or a fare gate. Tickets are checked on board, using what's known as proof-of-payment or POP: if you can't produce a valid ticket when asked, you are issued a citation. POP obviates all this sterile-area gated fare-paid-only nonsense, with enormous simplification of the process of getting from point A to point B.

Is POP a gaping security hole? Not if you consider that bombs brought on board high-speed trains are a rather unreliable way to achieve mass carnage. That's why over several decades, such an attack has only been carried out once, and then rather unsuccessfully. The target environment will necessarily be far richer over on the Caltrain platform. Terrorists in Madrid knew this when they attacked at Madrid's main HSR terminal; all their bombs went off on packed commuter trains. So, a rational evaluation of threats (one not based on security theater) leads to the conclusion that HSR need not look like a BART fortress on steroids.

In Europe, land of POP, commuter rail and HSR routinely share platforms, leading to far more efficient use of space inside stations. For example: Paris, Berlin, Karlsruhe, Hamburg (on a sacrilegious curved platform, no less!), Brussels, and dozens more.

The graphic below shows the differences between the gargantuan mid-peninsula dial-a-station proposed by the CHSRA (and rightly rejected by Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City) and a mid-peninsula station of far more modest proportions, that could be achieved without any loss of functionality provided that the following simple requirements are adopted:
  • HSR shall use barrier-free fare control
  • Caltrain shall use the same platform height as HSR
  • Stations shall allow any train to use any track to access any platform
  • Stations shall minimize vertical and horizontal circulation needed to access any train
Appropriate station design requirements have an enormous effect on the resulting designs, with overall width dropping from an elephantine 265 feet (as depicted in the sizing study) to a more manageable 122 feet.

At a time when the HSR project is increasingly under attack for being insensitive to peninsula communities, perhaps a reevaluation of station requirements would improve the chances of someday achieving a context-sensitive solution. Mountain View, for example, could have the highly-effective, low-impact intermodal station previously described in this space.

108 comments:

  1. Once again, Clem, thank you for applying common sense to the design process. And once again, the result is doing more with less. As usual, I hope the consultants are listening.

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  2. Nice article, Clem.

    Why are they putting pedestrian access above the tracks? Most smaller stations in Europe (as an example) provide a single tunnel giving access to all tracks. Since people are shorter than trains, this leads to much fewer stairs. This works fine for at grade tracks as well as elevated. It's also easy to run ramps parallel to the tracks. Busier stations add more and wider tunnels.

    Millbrae is a perfect example of why this is such a poor idea: it's a real pain to go up and down those escalators.

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  3. Adirondacker1280017 October, 2010 09:02

    In Europe, land of POP, commuter rail and HSR routinely share platforms, leading to far more efficient use of space inside stations. For example: Paris, Berlin, Karlsruhe, Hamburg (on a sacrilegious curved platform, no less!), Brussels, and dozens more.

    In the US, land of POP, commuter rail and intercity rail routinely share platforms, leading to far more efficient use of space inside stations. For example New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore.... Princeton Junction... obscure places like North Elizabeth or Cos Cob if they were so inclined.

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  4. Actually, I'm pretty sure long distance and high speed trains in France (and likely other places) do NOT operate a POP system. They have a conductor who actually checks everyone's ticket. But that still doesn't mean there are any faregates for HSR trains, even in places like Paris that have faregates for the Metro and commuter trains.

    As a basis for designing the Mountain View HSR station, I suggest taking the current Caltrain station. Once you stop an HSR train there, it becomes an HSR station, just like that! I suppose you'd also want to install a ticket vending machine for HSR or something, but that doesn't seem all that difficult.

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  5. @ Clem -

    you left out the narrowest possible options:

    (a) 2 tracks + 1 extra-wide island or 2 wide partially covered side platforms shared by Caltrain and where desired, by HSR as well. Quality PA system. Markings/patterns/paint on the platform surface to help separate pedestrian flow and wait areas, including for short vs. long consists. One ped/bike underpass for every 100m of platform length. Grooved gullys for bicycle tires next to the walls in stairwells. Single ADA-compliant elevator per platform. Ticket kiosks. Bi-level bicycle parking. Optionally, station staff. No mezzanine. No security theater. This should be default configuration.

    (b) idem plus 2 central overtake tracks.

    Implicit requirements:

    (i) both services would share a common platform height and car width (i.e. Caltrain adapts to HSR specs and operates long, single-level trains with 3+2 or 2+2+wide aisle seat configuration and very high acceleration performance)

    (ii) both services would share common electrification, signaling and traffic management (i.e. Caltrain adapts to HSR specs and HSR pays for the new infrastructure)

    (iii) both services would use a proof-of-payment ticketing strategy. The HSR operator may wish to use a fee structure that includes a mandatory seat reservation surcharge (cp. TGV) to discourage use by short-distance commuters. Note that SNCF allows customers to purchase tickets or passes early and make the seat reservation via SMS at a later date. Whenever passengers waiting to board know roughly where on the 400m platform they are supposed to wait, dwell times and pedestrian traffic along the aisles inside the trains is sharply reduced.

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  6. Earlier comment cont'd.

    (iv) both services make some compromises on service flexibility so they can integrate their timetables. During weekday peak periods, roughly 6-9am and 4-7pm, that would translate to:

    - 90mph line speed for both services

    - minimum scheduled headway 2.5min at all locations along the route

    - Caltrain operates only multiple "limited" stop patterns, each featuring 9 intermediate stops between the TTC and SJ. Four of these would be north of the overtake point for that train and an equal number south of it. At the designated overtake station, dwell time would be 4min instead of the usual 30s.

    - HSR operates multiple "local" stop patterns, each featuring 2 peninsula stops with an intermediate dwell times of 60s each. One of these would be north of the overtake point for that particular train, the other south of it.

    - line capacity works out to 7 tph for each service. If the HSR trains are dispatched

    - the scheduled overtake location alternates between Hillsdale and Redwood City, the two stations closest to the middle of the line that deliver significant Caltrain ridership. If an HSR train is scheduled to overtake at Hillsdale, it must not stop there. However, it could potentially stop in Redwood City (and vice versa).

    - HSR trains could also stop at any other station with sufficiently long and straight platforms, potentially including any or all of 4th & Townsend, Millbrae/SFO, San Mateo, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. The objective is to encourage HSR passengers hailing from or destined for peninsula locations to use kiss+ride, taxis, corporate shuttles, bicycles or local buses rather than their own car for the last mile or two of their journey.

    - Caltrain TTC + 9 stops + SJ in approx 63 min, comparable to current baby bullets but with almost every station served at least once or twice per hour during peak period (some 4-5 times). However, Caltrain would need to offer customers a web-based tool for figuring out the service on offer for any given station pair, this is already standard in many European countries.

    - HSR TTC + 2 stops to SJ in approx 50 min, a penalty of 20 min compared to non-stop service at 125mph. However, the potential loss of ridership at SF would be at least partially compensated by higher ridership at peninsula stations. Total system ridership would likely be reduced by a few percent but total capital investment would be reduced by substantially more than that.

    (v) Not all HSR trains would need to stop in San Jose, even during peak periods. Since Santa Clara will be served by BART as well, it may well be possible to avoid the expense of constructing a bi-level station at SJ Diridon. Ideally, Caltrain and HSR should share the existing dual track through the Gardner district. UPRR only operates approx. 3 trains per day there, it should be possible to accommodate those off-peak.

    (vi) Off-peak and on weekends, Caltrain service can be scaled back and the line speed raised to 125mph when appropriate, e.g. for a single daily "lunch rocket" non-stop run to meet the 2h40m target in AB3034(2008). This may require special solutions (e.g. gauntlet track sections) in tight curves where the superelevation required for that speed is incompatible with UPRR's lumbering freight trains. Or, heavy freight could be banished from the peninsula altogether, as you suggested in an earlier post.

    (vi) making do with just two tracks except at the new overtake locations would sharply reduce the environmental impacts of constructing and operating the fixed infrastructure. Moreover, in many locations, tracks could be kept at grade and the ramps leading to single-lane underpasses constructed on railroad land (parallel to the tracks) to minimize impacts on properties abutting the right of way near existing grade crossings.

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  7. @ arcady -

    afaik, the conductor on board is the "proof" part of a proof-of-payment strategy. It's an honor system with verification.

    SNCF actually lets you purchase an e-ticket online and print it out yourself. It features a barcode for which the conductor has a portable scanner.

    Clem's point related to the fare gates operated by many subway systems, including BART. Neither Caltrain nor HSR needs those unless the fire marshal insists on them as a means of managing the number of people on a given platform at any given time.

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  8. Sorry, cut-and-paste error in my comment at 16 Oct 10:24:

    - line capacity works out to 7 tph for each service. If the HSR trains are dispatched 15 sec earlier also slowed down a little between their last peninsula stop and TTC or SJ, respectively, for an additional 15 seconds of headway loss, this can be increased to 7.5tph for each service, though Caltrain would have to schedule one of its stops for each train in-between where the associated HSR trains needs to stop and the designated overtake location. Make it 30s instead and you get 8tph. Etc.

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  9. My understanding is that a proof of payment system involves a probability that your ticket will actually be checked on any given journey. Generally, the ticket checkers are not train staff but dedicated fare inspectors or law enforcement. This is certainly what happens on many suburban train systems worldwide, and on light rail systems here. This is similar, but not identical, to the system used on long distance trains and most American commuter rail systems, where a conductor (member of the train crew) WILL check your ticket on any given journey. Caltrain is a bit of a hybrid in this respect, in that ticket checks are done by train crew, but may or may not happen on any particular trip.

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  10. Caltrain adapts to HSR specs

    Oh noes does that mean Caltrain would have to scrap all those shiny new electric trains they have?... oh wait... they don't have any trains will be adapted to anything but maybe service on a new branch of the Music City Star and only if they gave them away to the Music City Star. They have a broad range of possibilities for the stuff they will be ordering in 2017.

    90mph line speed for both services

    Why would they go slower than commuter services go other places, even places in the good ol' US of A? Speed limit for Acela, in the green leafy rich suburbs of New Jersey, is 135. They do that during rush hour. The commuter train in the local tracks .... break the speed limit and go more than 100.

    However, Caltrain would need to offer customers a web-based tool for figuring out the service

    Web based tools would be nice but you may have heard of these things called timetables. You find your origin station and your destination station and see if the train stops at both. It boots in microseconds, never crashes, never loses it's connection to the net and doesn't need a power supply... Some operators even print up specialized timetables that only show the trains that run between two stations. None of that pesky checking of a line timetable, just look up the time you want to leave.

    This may require special solutions (e.g. gauntlet track sections) in tight curves where the superelevation required for that speed is incompatible with UPRR's lumbering freight trains.

    Or run the fast trains on the express tracks where the superelevation is high and run the freight on the local tracks where it's less. Never run freight on the express tracks except under once a decade extraordinary circumstances.

    making do with just two tracks except at the new overtake locations would sharply reduce the environmental impacts of constructing and operating the fixed infrastructure.

    You have just written your schedule in concrete. People move, employers too. Works very well in computer simulations but unfortunately real passengers and real trains don't behave like computer simulations. Trains break down, passengers get sick... shit happens...

    What any of the above has to do with station design is beyond me.

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  11. At the designated overtake station, dwell time would be 4min

    That vaguely has something to do with station design. Is everybody on the train disabled? Does it only have one door? 90 seconds would be excessive. I've watched fully loaded Raritan Valley Line trains unload onto Track 1 at Newark and the platform is empty in 30 seconds. They all melt away onto PATH or the crowd waiting for the train to Penn Station in New York. If the train doesn't come in on track 1 or 2, the little old lady who is the last person to get off the train may take 2 minutes to get to her connection....

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  12. Millbrae is a perfect example of why this is such a poor idea: it's a real pain to go up and down those escalators.

    Millbrae's mezzanine is way higher than it needs to be even to sufficiently clear the tracks.

    Also, why oh why are they trying to put side platforms on the center tracks? It doesn't even make sense in the context of their "requirements"

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  13. The regular TGV has a conductor check everyone's tickets; this is different from actual proof of payment, which keeps costs low by only checking some tickets. The iDTGV, which is presumably cheaper to run, has a bunch of station attendants check your ticket before you board the train, and no conductor on board.

    For reference of how even with faregates the station footprint could be half of what the design guidelines recommend, look at Shin-Yokohama on Google Earth: four elevated tracks, 39 meters of width including platforms, full access control.

    By the way, Adirondacker, it's completely normal for the dwell time to be 4 minutes at overtake stations. The reason is that the local train needs to arrive ahead of time, wait for the express train to overtake it, and only then leave. It's not the same as at timed cross-platform transfer stations, where the trains arrive and leave simultaneously.

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  14. @ adirondacker12800 -

    (a) who is talking about Caltrain adapting any trains? I said adopt different specs. There is the issue of the transition period as the new EMU fleet will not be delivered all at once, but I figure an appropriate solution can be found for that.

    (b) I picked 90mph because Caltrain stations are unusually close to one another typically just 1.5-3 miles. It's more important to achieve high acceleration (e.g. 2/3 m/s^2 average) from 0 to line speed than it is for Caltrain equipment to be capable of extremely high speed. For reference, Clem also suggested 90 mph in his Metric That Matter post.

    (c) An online tool/phone app would merely supplement plain old paper timetables, not replace them. Europeans ride a lot more trains than folks in California do and most of them have both options at their disposal, so clearly not all passengers find timetables easy to read. Caltrain already operates multiple stop patterns, which is somewhat confusing to passengers who use the service infrequently.

    (d) I think you missed the part about not having any dedicated express tracks at all. Except at the mid-line overtake locations and possibly some tight curves featuring gauntlet tracks, there would still be just two tracks shared by Caltrain, HSR and - drum roll please - a handful freight trains scheduled to run off-peak/at night. Mind you, the track geometry may well have to be upgraded and then maintained going forward to permit raising the speed limit to 125mph during certain off-peak periods.

    If UPRR is allowed to continue operating super-heavy behemoths in the SF peninsula, (some of) the track miles might have to be torn up and replaced with expensive floating slab track to minimize wear and tear on the geometry. You'd still end up with just two tracks, though.

    I wouldn't consider this for speeds above 125mph, but that's as high as anyone is proposing HSR trains will run in that stretch of the network. Note that the X2000 in Sweden also runs at 125mph and shares track with heavy freight there. However, that particular equipment is not operated at 220mph elsewhere in the network.

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  15. @ adirondacker12800 -

    response cont'd


    (e) Caltrain's timetable wouldn't be written any more in concrete than is currently the case. It would just be different.

    As for off-design conditions, making do with just two tracks and using those more intensively does of course mean you have to invest more in maintenance and operational excellence. What's your point, that US operators are congenitally incapable of learning from the Swiss or the Japanese, who do manage to stick to their timetables with high precision?

    (f) of course all of the above has to do with station design. If none of the stations except the TTC and SJ Diridon need more than a single platform track each way, the width required for the fixed infrastructure is sharply reduced.

    The number of tracks and the number of platforms is kinda central to station design.

    (g) the 240s dwell for Caltrain at the overtake station allows an HSR train that was originally 150s behind it to end up 150s in front of it. The difference is the time required to brake and accelerate the commuter train.

    If you want to be a pedant about it, you could theoretically minimize the headway loss for train 1 (Caltrain) by cutting its dwell time at the overtake station to the usual 30s and solving the differential equation

    x2 - x1 = dx1/dt * H

    where x2 is the location of the HSR train, given by v1 * t and x1 is the location of the Caltrain, relative to the overtake point. H is the fixed headway, in this case 150s and the initial condition x1(0) = 0, dx1/dt(0) = 0.

    The solution would call for an exponential function for d2x1/dt2, the acceleration profile of the Caltrain, which would then have to be enforced by the PTC system. Afaik, nothing in operation today goes to that level of optimization.

    Another strategy for minimizing dwell times during overtakes is to construct long sidings that span at least two stations, as I discussed on my Caltrain Firebird post over on the CAHSR blog.

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  16. @Rafael: first, gauntlet tracks? You're doing it wrong.

    Second, you don't need advanced math to compute overtake dwell times. Just hop on Hyperdia and look at various interval timetables. Tachikawa-Shinjuku is a good example, because you get to see all the overtake moves at Kokubunji; you'll see that being overtaken delays a local by about three minutes.

    Even if you want to compute this a priori, you do not need differential equations. The data you need is,

    1. The dwell time of the express train.
    2. The minimum headway in normal circumstances.
    3. The minimum headway in the special case of a local following an express, which is much smaller because it includes only stopping distance, not dwell or station clearing time.

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  17. @Ted: consultants may read this, but their hands are tied. The job they get paid for is to carry out PBQD's policies and specifications, period.

    @Adirondacker: I used Europe as an example because HSR (very high-speed rail) is regarded as an alien, entirely new mode here in California. The European examples of very high-speed rail illustrate that it need not be segregated from the rail system. A walk around Gare de l'Est is highly informative.

    @Rafael: you're hogging the bandwidth again; please avoid cut&paste comments and keep it brief.

    @arcady, yup, you're right it's not quite POP. I suppose I should have used a more accurate term such as barrier-free access.

    @all, there is no doubt that a twin-island platform configuration is optimal for performing takt-y overtakes.

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  18. @ Alon Levy -

    pick any two:

    1. only two tracks in tight curves
    2. 125 mph speed limit
    3. heavy freight service the SF peninsula

    Wrt dwell times at overtakes: identify the locations of the point at which braking must begin and the point at which the stopped train once again reaches line speed.

    Next, define the property headway loss as the difference between the time it takes for the time it takes the stopping train to cover the distance between these two points and the one a passing train needs to do so.

    Example: a train traveling at 90mph (40m/s) hits the brakes and decelerates at a constant rate of -0.6667 m/s^2 until it has stopped. This will take 60s and 1200m distance. It then dwells for 30s before accelerating at 0.6667 m/s^2 back up to 90mph. This will take another 60s and 1200m. Therefore, the stopped train will have covered 2400m in a total of 150s. A train running through the station at line speed would take just 60s to cover the same distance, so the headway loss is 150-60 = 90s in this case.

    Now, imagine a train traveling at line speed that switches to a siding and decelerates there at the above rate. The next train is initially 150s, i.e. 6000m, behind it. The second train passes the first, stopped train at the 180s mark, after covering 7200m.

    The first train can begin to accelerate right away (cp. the differential equation above), but a computationally simpler approach is to require that by the time it is back up to line speed, the first train must be 6000m in front of it. This can be achieved at the 360s mark. By then, train 1 will have covered 2400m, a distance the passing train needed just 60s for. Thus, the headway loss for train 1 is 360-60 - 300s. The dwell time is 360-2*60 = 240s.

    You could, of course, have train 1 dwell for a shorter period and accelerate back up more slowly. Ultimately, though, you're going to have to end up 150s, i.e. 6000m behind train 2. The results will change if you fiddle with the line speed, the required headway and/or the braking/acceleration rates.

    Wrt to the Tachikawa-Shinjuku timetable: there's a Ltd.Exp Narita Express that stops at Kokobunji at 05:33. The preceding JR Chuo line train stopped there 3 min earlier. The express train reaches Mitaka station at 5:40, the local at 5:45. That means it was overtaken somewhere in-between.

    Compare this to the times for the JR Chuo line local that ran before it. At Kokobunji, it was 4 minutes ahead. At Mitaka, it is 9 minutes ahead, even though both of these locals both serve all of the stations in-between. Thus, allowing the express train to overtake adds 9-4=5 min = 300s to the schedule, i.e. the additional headway loss is 300s.

    It's just that in this particular case, the operator has decided to distribute this penalty over a longer stretch. It's quite possible the section between Kokobunji and Mitaka is quad tracked, which creates a greater range of options than I assumed in my calculation above.

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  19. @ Alon Levy -

    pick any two:

    1. only two tracks in tight curves
    2. 125 mph speed limit
    3. heavy freight service the SF peninsula

    Wrt dwell times at overtakes: identify the locations of the point at which braking must begin and the point at which the stopped train once again reaches line speed.

    Next, define the property headway loss as the difference between the time it takes for the time it takes the stopping train to cover the distance between these two points and the one a passing train needs to do so.

    Example: a train traveling at 90mph (40m/s) hits the brakes and decelerates at a constant rate of -0.6667 m/s^2 until it has stopped. This will take 60s and 1200m distance. It then dwells for 30s before accelerating at 0.6667 m/s^2 back up to 90mph. This will take another 60s and 1200m. Therefore, the stopped train will have covered 2400m in a total of 150s. A train running through the station at line speed would take just 60s to cover the same distance, so the headway loss is 150-60 = 90s in this case.

    Now, imagine a train traveling at line speed that switches to a siding and decelerates there at the above rate. The next train is initially 150s, i.e. 6000m, behind it. The second train passes the first, stopped train at the 180s mark, after covering 7200m.

    The first train can begin to accelerate right away (cp. the differential equation above), but a computationally simpler approach is to require that by the time it is back up to line speed, the first train must be 6000m in front of it. This can be achieved at the 360s mark. By then, train 1 will have covered 2400m, a distance the passing train needed just 60s for. Thus, the headway loss for train 1 is 360-60 - 300s. The dwell time is 360-2*60 = 240s.

    You could, of course, have train 1 dwell for a shorter period and accelerate back up more slowly. Ultimately, though, you're going to have to end up 150s, i.e. 6000m behind train 2.

    The results will change if you fiddle with the line speed, the required headway and/or the braking/acceleration rates. However, no matter how you slice and dice it, allowing a single overtake will add twice the required headway to the slower train's total trip time.

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  20. @ Alon Levy -

    response cont'd.

    Wrt to the Tachikawa-Shinjuku timetable: there's a Ltd.Exp Narita Express that stops at Kokobunji at 05:33. The preceding JR Chuo line train stopped there 3 min earlier. The express train reaches Mitaka station at 5:40, the local at 5:45. That means it was overtaken somewhere in-between.

    Compare this to the times for the JR Chuo line local that ran before it. At Kokobunji, it was 4 minutes ahead. At Mitaka, it is 9 minutes ahead, even though both of these locals both serve all of the stations in-between. Thus, allowing the express train to overtake adds 9-4=5 min = 300s to the schedule, i.e. the additional headway loss is 300s.

    It's just that in this particular case, the operator has decided to distribute this penalty over a longer stretch. It's quite possible the section between Kokobunji and Mitaka is quad tracked, which creates a greater range of options than I assumed in my calculation above.

    However, all of this is getting pretty far away from Clem's original post on station design, which doesn't make any of my assumptions regarding if/how Caltrain and HSR could/should integrate their respective timetables to reduce the cost, land use and associated environmental impact of the corridor upgrade.

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  21. @ Clem -

    you're hogging bandwidth again

    Yeah, sorry about that. I'll refrain from further comments on this thread.

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  22. You're welcome to comment. Just keep it brief and to the point. To publish longer articles, there is this great thing called a 'blog'

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  23. Rafael: the Chuo Line is two-tracked west of Mitaka. A few local stations have a single extra nonstop track, Kokubunji is four-tracked, and Tachikawa and Mitaka are six-tracked. You can see this on Google Earth quite easily, since Tokyo images are available at the highest level of zoom almost as far as Tachikawa.

    Everyone: speaking of the Chuo Line, its four-track stations can be seen to have a very narrow footprint - about 32 meters on the elevated segment east of Mitaka. And that includes faregates. You can see maps for some stations here.

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  24. I think bandwidth has reached a point where we don't have to count our bytes.

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  25. Thanks Clem for another great analysis. You mentioned the 3000 car parking "requirement" which assumes the same use of automobiles in 2035 that we have today. Considering all of the innovative advances in short term rentals (zipcar) peer-to-peer car-sharing (relayrides), PRT systems (Ultra) and even autonomously driven cars, it stands to reason that some significant fraction of HSR riders will arrive at the station by alternate means.

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  26. Rafael: 4 minute dwell times are not good for ridership. If you have two local stops on the 4-track segment, you can cut down the dwell time at both stations and not have passengers sit through the frustration of waiting 4 minutes at a station for no good (as far as they're concerned) reason. As for tight curves and superelevation, isn't the problem there wear on the low rail? If we're assuming 6 inches of superelevation and 6 inches of underbalance for the passenger trains, the balancing speed for freight trains will be 1.4 times lower than for passenger ones, so assuming a 60 mph speed for the freights, that's 85 mph for passengers, and if we're a bit more generous and assume there are relatively few freights to balance out the wear on the high rail from the passenger trains, the passenger speed limit could be pushed a bit higher.

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  27. Adirondacker1280018 October, 2010 06:01

    By the way, Adirondacker, it's completely normal for the dwell time to be 4 minutes at overtake stations.

    Yes, on lines where they mostly have two tracks. Any proposal I see for the Peninsula has long stretches of four track. The local can toddle along on the local tracks while the express uses the express tracks and then be timed for cross platform transfers. 2 and half minute headways - which they'll never see on the Peninsula - the local needs to toddle along for two or three stops on either side of the transfer station.

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  28. Just because the Europeans do it some way, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best or the most efficient.

    In my observation, the concept of Proof-of-Payment doesn't exist at all in Japan. All railways have fare gates. Unmanned stations in major metro areas will have either automatic gates. Unmanned stations in remote areas will have fare control on board the train: only one or two doors will open, and the conductor (or even the engineer) will check tickets as the passengers board.

    This can be more efficient than POP because it does not require a large number of conductors on board the trains, and conductors cost more than station agents.

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  29. Owen: Japan gets away with not having POP because the traffic density on its lines is immense. You can't do POP on the Tokaido Line; there's no room on board for inspectors to come in and start waving around Suica readers. But on lower-density lines, the equation changes, and POP becomes cheaper than faregates or pay-as-you-board.

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  30. Caltrain is claiming that redesigning their train cars to accomodate higher platforms to match HSR cars is too difficult to revisit because the car specifications have already been approved as part of the FRA waiver. This is issue should be looked into. How much of a pain in the ass would it be to go back to the FRA and get them to allow a change in car design? I can see it being difficult, but given the implications, worth the effort.

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  31. Also given the likelihood of a mid-peninsula station not happening at all, Caltrain does not see a need to worry about shared platforms. Millbrae is being planned as a mess (i.e. one track tunnel, etc. and not retrofitting the BART Taj Mahal station). SF is a terminal station. SJ is being planned for vertical transfers. Caltrain on the bottom and HSR elevated directly above.

    I for one think that getting the platform heights consistent will allow for a lot operational flexiblity in the future, such as stopping some HSR trains at Caltrain stations if demand warrants. Or having Baby Bullets use the elevated SJ station tracks. And if a mid-peninsula station were to happen, the benefits are obvious.

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  32. @ Daniel Krause

    I don't recall platform height being any part of the train specifications for Caltrain that were approved by the FRA... Unless you're not referring to Caltrain's waiver.

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  33. re POP vs fare gates, plenty of cities in Europe and Japan have fare gates at the busiest stations and rely on POP at the smaller stations.

    In England I would regularly take trains from the midlands down to London. My local station was a quiet two-platform station where I'd just walk onto the platform from the street, buy a ticket from the machine and hop on the next train. Down in London, the ticket would get me through the fare gate at the other end.

    The tiniest rural Japanese train lines work like this too--you only hit a fare gate when you transfer to the main JR line.

    No reason Caltrain couldn't use fare gates at the busiest stations--which would also, presumably, be HSR interchange stations. Might help curb some freeloading if you can't get off at desirable stops without a ticket.

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  34. Taiwan's HSR has a separate public concourse and access controlled area. At least, this was the case with their intermodal station in Taipei. You had to purchase a ticket prior to boarding that was either for a reserved or non-reserved seat. The HSR tracks were also dedicated to HSR and required using an elevator to access the tracks.

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  35. @RobBobRob - ditto Japan's Shinkansen, which is presumably what it's modeled after. The dedicated fare gates are there precisely because of the premium ticket--taking a slower local train is significantly cheaper.

    Not convinced that's the best way to go--the scramble from local trains to Shinkansen lines at interchange stations gets crazy, often involving a series of escalators, multiple fare gates and hordes of people moving in every direction.

    btw, been enjoying reading this blog for a few weeks. I hope someone at the CHSR or Caltrain is listening!

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  36. Ultimately, I care less about what fare system is used and more about CalTrain and HSR being on the same (or at least a compatible) fare system. It's not going to happen though...

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  37. Wow. Just wow.

    If anything ever screamed "GABRAGE IN, GABRAGE OUT", it's this.

    Wow. Just wow.

    Or as Richard Mlynarik used to ask here, "Where do they find these people?"

    Seriously.

    Fantastic work by Clem. Not that a station done right is fantastic original — the world doesn't need "original" when there is so much good stuff to copy — but this is fantastic work showing just how out of touch, in outer space, from the land of garbage inputs, these people are.

    So is anybody listening to what's been said? Clearly nobody from Caltrain gives a flying f****, but surely every city from San Francisco to Palo Alto to San Jose to San Diego should sitting up and paying full attention to the fantastic clear diagram in this posting. I don't know how anybody could make it clearer (OK maybe some 3D action!) just how garbage out f***ed up this whole CHSRA business is.

    CHSRA is not here to help your city! They're here to erect the biggest and most expensive monstrosity they can, right where you don't want it and don't need it!

    The talk is all "transit oriented" and "station" and "downtown"; the reality is all "The Empire's Concrete Armada Terraforming Fleet Lands its Interstellar Battle Cruiser in the Middle of Your City."

    Pay attention, city councils! This is really what HSR "for" your towns is all about. For reals.

    Everybody: you owe the biggest possible "thank you" to Clem, who has more sense in his little finger than any of the HSR-Caltrain dudes will ever accumulate among them all.

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  38. Not to defent the CAHSRA, but I think the engineers have all the pieces sitting in front of them and are just starting to put some together, like a puzzle. Sometimes when engineering something very large (exceptionally large in the case of CA HSR), it takes a while and a little farther on in the design/implementation to start finilizing important things, ie stuff that has been brought up on this blog.

    The focus is on completing the EIR, be that with an overbuilt station, right of way, ect., or not. Things can be trimmed way down as you get farther past the 30% design phase. Right now you take for the most part, large generic values.

    I think it's too easy to get upset about things done wrong (but I agree constructive criticism is good ((no pun intended)). Initial design always shoots for the stars, then is brought back into reality. Now if we were at 75% design, then I might think otherwise, but for now, relax a little bit and keep it senseable. Engineering takes time.

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  39. I assume the reference to the FRA is that the FRA approved the mixed-traffic waiver based on a specific train design, which has low platform boarding, and that a different train design with high platform boarding would need a modification to the waiver. Which is a bit silly: Caltrain gets low platforms because Switzerland needs their trains to be compatible with the legacy 8 inch platforms that are too expensive to upgrade all at once. As far as I know, FRA doesn't regulate platform heights per se, that's a CPUC issue, and I don't know how Caltrain and CHSRA are dealing with that.

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  40. @ arcady

    The FRA waiver was simply based on crashworthiness, and essentially permits Caltrain to purchase any trainsets that are UIC compliant, if I understand it correctly.

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  41. Eric: I think the problem is that there haven't been a whole lot of real engineers involved yet. The project has been driven largely by the board, which is a bunch of politicians, and the consultants they hired, who are more than happy to sketch out conceptual monstrosities for the politicians.

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  42. Adirondacker1280019 October, 2010 18:11

    .... based on a specific train design...

    When Caltrain gets around to doing whatever fantabulous stuff they are planning... the manufacturers would have to get designers and assembly plant workers out of retirement to build it. It's like planning on buying a brand new 1998 car in 2020.

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  43. Where do they manage to find those people?

    Those engineering "criteria" and the resulting "designs" are surely the works of the dimmest technical minds on our planet. Who could even have imagined?

    I certainly didn't. I mean, no matter how I slagged off the morons at Caltrain, even after seeing the limitless catastrophe of Transbay/Mission Bay, there was still no way I could remotely to imagine what they came up with for something as simple as Mountain View.

    Bottom Of Barrel Dangerously Overscraped, Experts Warn.

    Glad to oblige,
    -- Richard

    PS Simply incredibly good and clear work, Clem. Even if you accidentally screwed up on the FSSF in your final configuration illustration. Even if nobody with any control gives a damn about doing things remotely well.

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  44. I still personally prefer controlled access to the platform for HSR and local trains. I may be biased though since I'm currently living in Japan. But I like that there is no POP hassle once you're in the system, except of course for seat-checking on the HSR, and I just like the idea that the system is self-enforcing instead of just relying on everyone's honor. (Ask muni how effective their payment collection scheme is!)

    I think it could work quite well for Caltrain, using a system I've seen here for the smaller stations. Namely, put full gates at all the big stations, and have an attendant there during business hours. For the smaller stations, have ticket machines and IC-card swipers, but you don't need gates, because most riders will be either travelling to or coming from a major station that has the access-control there. Well, I guess it's still not perfect, but it's not bad.

    One advantage Caltrain could get from this system is to get rid of the "zone" pricing scheme. I always thought that was strange and confusing and gives randomly weird rewards or punishments based on where your favorite stations are in the various zones. With access control, you can set individual prices for each station pair.

    Regarding the design memorandum floated by P-B, it says a lot of things that make sense to me. It says stations for HSR should be designed to handle predicted passenger levels in 2035. Sounds right, doesn't it? It says HSR stations should have a consistent look and feel to create a familiarity for the riders. I'd say not required, but a good suggestion on its own. And the last note in the memo is a good reminder for anyone judging the content therein:

    "It is recognized that ridership forecasts will be updated throughout high-speed train project
    development. It is the responsibility of the designer to ensure that station design is based on the current available ridership figures."

    That said, I would agree with the assertions that they are requiring too much parking at the HSR stations. I wouldn't mind a little intentional under-design in this area to attempt some social engineering to encourage folks to stop driving so dang much.

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  45. Dan, the problem with this station design is that those suburban Caltrain-HSR stations are planned to be much wider than Shinkansen stations. In Japan, the only stations that are 80 meters wide are major stations with many more than 4 tracks, like Tokyo and Shinagawa.

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  46. Ask muni how effective their payment collection scheme is!

    Sounds like you've been in Japan too long. Muni has installed new faregates, which are a complete and utter fiasco.

    Regarding the design memorandum floated by P-B, it says a lot of things that make sense to me. It says stations for HSR should be designed to handle predicted passenger levels in 2035.

    Two problems:
    1. The predicted passenger numbers are nonsense.

    2. The use of faregates (which you seem to love so much) drastically constricts passenger flows coming through the station.

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  47. Alon, if I made a point about the width of this station design then it was inadvertent. That Japan can design relatively narrow HSR stations with controlled-access to the platforms, though, does raise the question in my mind if it is really a strong gating factor to the overall station width situation. (Okay, pun intended.) But I grant that it clearly does affect passenger flows between HSR and non-HSR trains.

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  48. Hey Drunk,

    "Sounds like you've been in Japan too long. Muni has installed new faregates, which are a complete and utter fiasco."

    Hah, that makes it sound like I've been in Japan too long? Okay. ;-) True that the underground muni stations have faregates, but not so on the street-level ones or the bus stops, right? Those were really what I was referring to, along with the culturally-insensitive fare evasion crack-down they tried recently! I think they'd still admit that fare evasion is a big problem, especially given the 2-hour free transfer deal.

    "Two problems:
    1. The predicted passenger numbers are nonsense."


    I agree, that's why I included the quote from the memo that states that someone else is responsible for those numbers and that they need to be tracked and revised as the project continues.

    "2. The use of faregates (which you seem to love so much) drastically constricts passenger flows coming through the station."

    I guess I love them, I hadn't really thought about it before. But I prefer them, as stated, so perhaps I stick out a little here. If by drastic constriction you mean that there has to be just a handful of entrances to the platform area instead of one continuous 1/4 mile approach, I suppose you're right. But as far as being able to walk right up and get on your train without waiting in a slow line of people, modern faregates don't constrict movement appreciably, IMHO.

    Speaking of love, I might have missed your response to Richard's marriage proposal over on the other blog. Still mulling it over?

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  49. I think the engineers have all the pieces sitting in front of them and are just starting to put some together, like a puzzle

    It doesn't take an engineering degree to figure out that choosing incompatible platform heights from the beginning results in redundant platforms and is generally a really, really stupid idea.

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  50. Mike, I whole heartedly agree with you on that. Caltrain really needs to take its head out of its ass. This CBOSS and different height platforms is sooooooo stupid!!!

    I say close down Caltrain as it is today and rebuild it as a new entity (NO, not BART) completely compatable with current proven rail technology. This way things would run seemless and be interoperable. It's no wonder their boat is sinking!!

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  51. Didn't Muni's internal audits show a 5% fare evasion rate? (For the record, New York's MTA spends 15% of its revenue on fare collection. I don't know if it's true for other faregated agencies in the US; it could be, since by US standards the MTA isn't unusually inefficient.)

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  52. Alon, keep in mind that some of the expenses of fare collection exist regardless of faregates. For example, keeping all the vending machines running, supplying the fare media itself, and collecting all the revenue from the machines by armored truck (or, in NYC's case, by train).

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  53. I suppose I ought to soften my stance on fare collection somewhat. It doesn't absolutely have to be barrier-free, but it DOES have to be consistent between HSR and Caltrain, with the same fare collection methods (if not the same actual fare structure) used for both systems. This is a key feature that allows the platforms to be shared, which is the overarching goal. The way they propose to do it is a huge waste of land, concrete, escalators, etc.

    By the time the HSR system opens for service, actual fare media (tickets, cards, whatever) are likely to be going obsolete anyway, replaced by mobile payment systems.

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  54. Why "soften your stance" to stupidity?

    Barrier enforced fare collection is, except for the most crush-loaded metros in the densest cities with the best-developed underground access warrens, purely a mechanism to inflate the capital (and ongoing operating) costs of transit projects, to the sole benefit of contractors.

    The idea that barriers and gates "prevent" all fraud is a complete myth, as all of us -- and it is all of us -- who have "worked around" such systems can attest.

    Exactly likewise, the idea that random ticket inspections deter all ticketless riders is a nonsense.

    The question, the real world question, is what the real level of fare evasion is, what the real costs of deterring it are -- including fully amortised capital cost -- and what results in the lowest total cost of doing business.

    Rational engineering is about rational cost-benefit analyses and real world trade-offs: it isn't saying "OMG! SOMEBODY IS GETTING AWAY WITH SOMETHING! MAN THE BARRICADES!!!!". It isn't saying (as nearly all British and Australians do in my experience, from their lack of experience) "barriers works just fine. What's the problem. And ZOMG! Somebody might get away with something!"

    What needs to be looked at are the real, very concrete costs of systems based on barriers, which include and are not limited to:

    * Reduced station throughput. (The best highest tech widest far gate barrier in the world will always, unquestionably, be slower to negotiate than an unimpeded corridor.)

    * Reduced station accessibility.
    Fare gates are expensive. As few as possible are deployed. Humans to supervise banks of fare gates and prevent jumping (so much for reducing human wage costs...) are expensive and as few as possible are deployed. All this leads to stations with as few as possible access points, which leads to slower walking times to and from the station to and from the surrounding neighbourhood, from other transit, and even from parking lots. People quite literally end up walking half the length of a train to get to the point where they're allowed to go through a barrier to be allowed near the platform, from whence they can walk half the length of the train again to get the seat they wanted.

    Please note that saving several minutes per trip, every trip, simply by making getting on and off the train faster and more convenient at every station, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars if it were done by making the trains run faster instead.

    * Hugely, massively increased station construction costs.

    Mezzanine levels.

    Completely separate "land side" and "air side" circulation systems through the station footprint.

    The costs of walling off all access points, and the costs of ensuring that the costly walls aren't active fire and evacuation hazards while still somehow penning in the untrustworthy cattle who have had their travel papers inspected by machines, each and every one of them.

    * The costs of paying Cubic, Inc, hundreds of millions for their snake oil machines, and then paying tens millions more to maintain them.

    * And so on. And so on.


    There's really nothing that can possibly be said for fare gates and mandatory checkpoints for a moderate use system (by any real stsndard, even in my wildest dreams) like CHSRA, or a moderate use suburban railway like Caltrain.

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  55. "One advantage Caltrain could get from this system is to get rid of the "zone" pricing scheme."

    For some reason I don't understand, people really really REALLY fail to understand that:

    1. The time period for which tickets are valid;

    2. The geographical area in which which tickets are valid;

    3. The mechanism by which ticket validity is checked; and

    4. The mechamism by which tickets are issued

    are completely separate matters.

    Caltrain has a zone system because some people (I know them personally) decided that having per-km distance point-to-point fares differing for all station pairs was "too complicated".

    This has NOTHING to do with on-board Proof of Payment fare verification. Just think: it's as easy to check that the ticket holder is on a train that is located between Station A and Station B as is is to check that she or he is between Zone A and Zone B.

    This has NOTHING to do with the ticket vending machines. Just think: the machines have buttons and run little programs that can look up little numbers in little tables to determine the cost. A 20x20 table is no different from a 4x4 table to them.

    This has NOTHING to do with whether Cubic, Inc, manages to scam hundreds of millions of dollars to install barriers at Caltrain stations sometime in the future. Whether a human on a train looks at a printed ticket, whether a human on a train uses a machine to verify a machine-only-readable "smart"(!!???) card, or whether a machine in a ticket gate reads a machine-readable ticket before allowing access to THE SACRED HOLY PLATFORMS is all completely, utterly independent of the size of the zones on the Caltrain line.

    Caltrain's management made a decision that would be few zones and that they would span multiple stations and that the zones would overlap. They could equally well (technically) have chosen that each zone would cover exactly one station, in which case the point-to-point fare for a single ticket would resemble BART's model (and numerous other systems', including some in Japan.)

    But again this is independent of whether the ticket is good for one use, for 24 hours, for one month, whether it is inspected by a policeman, a conductor, a fare inspector, or a robot, and whether the ticket holder is forced to negotiate a set of detours and avoid perimeter security barricades in order to get to the train.

    Why do people get so confused about this stuff? I wish I knew. And it matters, because illogical thinking results in absolute f*cking disasters like Transbay and these "mid peninsula HSR stations", designed by clowns according to "garbage in" criteria including ZOMG FARE EVASION MUST BE ELIMINATED AND PROOF OF PAYMENT IS CRAZY GERMANIC NO NO NO.

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  56. Except for the busiest metros where fare inspection is almost impossible, faregates are a scam for well-connected contractors. Look at Cubic Corporation, a San Diego electronics company that couldn't ever compete in the private market but relies on special connections in the public sector for bloated, over-priced defense and mass transit contracts Just like PB. Mass transit and defense largesse have much closer connections than most realize.

    For a good example of how faregates constrict and befuddle station circulation and ease of access, look no further than the 19th Street BART station in Oakland. Most BART stations are poorly designed (remember, this is PB-Bechtel at work), but this one is a particular circulation nightmare!

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  57. As far as smartcards and faregates go, Cubic has a trivial market share. The dominant implementation is Sony's FeliCa, and the second biggest is NXP's MIFARE. Even in the US, the dominant subway, New York, is planning a MIFARE-compatible MasterCard kickback called PayPass.

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  58. Adirondacker1280022 October, 2010 16:50

    ...AND PROOF OF PAYMENT IS CRAZY GERMANIC...

    Doesn't MUNI use proof of payment? Maybe I was imagining things when the fare inspectors came on board and we had to produce our proof of payment.

    ... and that two hours to transfer thing is sweet. I can squeeze up to four bus trips into one POP....

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  59. @Dan S. But I like that there is no POP hassle once you're in the system

    How is occasionally showing an inspector your POP more hassle than having to fish out your POP every time you enter or exit the system while going out of your way to shuffle though faregates with the herd like so many cattle? You are under much greater time pressure (late for the train, people waiting behind you, etc.) when at the faregate and may have your hands full with an umbrella and juggling parcels or bags at the same time ... while with an inspector, you can leisurely fish out your POP with no time pressure while standing/seated comfortably aboard the train while making progress toward your destination (no time lost, no hassle at all) ... and on many POP systems, you probably won't encounter an inspection on most days at all ... vs. having to go out of your way 4 times a day (for a round-trip) to do the faregate shuffle.

    There's absolutely no contest from a passenger convenience perspective.

    People who don't understand how POP (implemented competently) can be optimally effective (but people can get away with riding free!!) probably don't understand how casinos or lotteries or statistics work either. Sure, you can beat "the house" (inspector) here and there or for awhile, but the house (transit agency) always comes out ahead in the longer run. (Unless, of course, they're utterly incompetent at what they do, that is.)

    Oh, and as Richard quite correctly and painstakingly detailed, POP works just fine with whatever scheme you like: flat fares, zones or point-to-point (i.e. distance-based).

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  60. Best industry practice for faregates doesn't require this scuttle. You can get your Octopus Card in multiple forms, such as a keylock, a cellphone, or a watch, making it much easier to tap and go. The service level can be comparable to that of barrier-free transit systems. The issue is not convenience as much as that Caltrain would need more than a full order of magnitude more traffic for such a system to be cost effective.

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  61. @ Alon : apart from adding to station design complexity/size and construction and operating cost, faregates offer no advantages for riders or the agency (if they half-competently run their fare inspection program). Unless you're in the faregate manufacturing/maintenance business, exactly what is the case for faregates over POP?

    Ok, so I suppose faregates ease ridership data collection and/or rider (pass use) tracking ... but that doesn't come close to offsetting all their downsides.

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  62. Why is it that Florida HSR can build curved platforms and not violate ADA, but we can't?

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  63. Quite an interesting blog here. With all these non compatible (signal systems, station design, platform heights, most Caltrains remaining at the current 4th & Townsend, etc.) issues between Caltrain and HSR, why are you not bringing these issues before the Caltrain Board or Citizens Advisory Committee?
    I have been to every Caltrain Board and CAC meeting for over 25 years, and I don’t remember anyone named Clem speaking before the Board or CAC on such issues. One familiar name on here, Richard M. used to come to all the meetings some years ago; he was always too self righteous and ad hominem abusive.

    I spoke to the CAC regarding this blog on Oct 20, 2010, and staff said CAC should have the HSR /PRP folks come speak to the CAC.

    If these compatibility between Caltrain and HSR problems are going to be such a big issue, you need to follow the example of the bicycle coalitions and the anti (loud) horn folks. They are well organized and they speak loud and often, therefore Caltrain listens. Caltrain has made more space for bikes; Caltrain has lowered the volume and changed to positions of the horns, not once, but twice, over the last 15 years…

    In reading these blogs, it would appear that both Caltrain and the HSRA have problems. How do we solve these problems?

    Is HSR going to be a huge gold plated ‘Big Dig’ project?

    Do we need to hit the reset button and start over?

    Why are so many rail advocacy groups against HSR?

    The advocacy groups do make some valid points regarding the routing (A more direct line through the central valley and Altamont looks to be the better route) and other aspects of HSR. However some of the HSR criticism looks to be personal ad hominem attacks. Personal attacks get us nowhere and lead our public servants to not take the attacker seriously.

    The silent majority needs to speak up, we need the true facts on HSR, rather than the fear mongering lies and misinformation put out by the Nimbys. These clueless city councils cow-tow to the nimbys. They are painting a grossly disingenuous picture of HSR, the Burlingame ‘story pole’ fiasco being the most recent.

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  64. Self-richeous or not, if everyone listened to Richard we would get twice the benefit at half the cost.

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  65. @Reality Check: at very high ridership levels (way higher than Caltrain will get), the cost of running the inspections exceeds the cost of maintaining faregates and employing station agents. You can POP-inspect lines with 300,000 riders, like the Stadtbahn; you can't POP-inspect lines with 3,000,000, like the Yamanote Line.

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  66. Lost in the predictable hyperventilation were some good points that I wanted to respond to. One is that zone pricing really is orthogonal to the use of faregates. I agree, and I hadn't really thought of it before.

    What was the other one? Oh yah, the one that there is a good argument for the point where ridership rises to the level that it makes economic sense to deploy faregates. It may be cheaper to say you are "POP" and forego the faregate expense. That's probably true. I wouldn't be surprised if the Caltrain system fell below this point, but the CA-HSR system should have plenty of ridership to make it a reasonable expense, I believe.

    Yes, make fun of me if you like, but I do value the feeling that me and all my compatriots made it onto the train through some barrier that "proves" to some level of certainty that we all paid. Call me crazy. (Wait, you already did?!)

    I do find it to be an intrusion when I'm questioned for my ticket on the train. Not exactly the highlight of my day! I always pay for a ticket, and I don't mind putting one through a faregate (or slapping my wallet on the IC reader as I slide through), so I'd prefer that to being questioned about it en-route. Actually not something I get too worked up about either. But feel free...

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  67. Caltrain will always have more ridership than any HSR service along the Peninsula, yet Caltrain's ridership will never be large enough to justify the expense and design obstruction of faregates.

    Long-distance travel just doesn't generate that much ridership. Look at the air travel markets: far fewer customers than a decent bus system. The current Caltrain line with all its dysfunction has a higher ridership the the Madrid-Barcelona HSR line.

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  68. Dan S,

    CHSR ridership in the San Francisco Bay Area is certain to be a quarter to at most a half of regional (Caltrain) numbers. Especially if we're talking real world numbers based on real world inter-city lines between real cities with real existing air and highway travel figures upon which to base them and real-world precedents of real-world existing HS service between real-world cities.

    The proposal that therefore Caltrain can get away with POP while HSR requires the fare gate business is ... a puzzling one.

    My prejudice is that this sort of thinking comes from people who have deeply internalized the "HSR equals airline surrogate" model of travel, and cannot expect anything but the queuing, inspections, passports, cancerous government security apparatus, only authorized personnel beyond this point, X-rays, you may now proceed to the gate, etc, business.

    I am very aware that this is not the case with the Shinkansen (which I have used extensively in business travel), but I do suggest that the internalization of this model is very much the case in California and most of the western world. (If I were forced to engage in outrageous speculation about you, I'd hazard that you have internalized a "Shinkansen = Tokyo metro" model, in which faregates are just a natural part of everyday life in a crush-loaded system.)

    I think people really owe it to themselves to travel to central Europe (ie Germany and neighbors) and carefully observe how their system works.

    I'm not claiming that you will come away convinced that this is the only way the world can be run, but it really ought to be eye-opening to see just how much infrastructure spending can be avoided and how passenger-, neighborhood- and transfer-friendly transportation stations can become when the whole business of barrier-separated "paid" and "unpaid" circulation areas is avoided.

    There really is more than one way to achieve a given outcome, which, for the sake of argument, we'll pretend is "building and operating the most attractive system at the lowest cost." (Careful observers will note that this is unrelated to CHSRA's goals.)

    My personal belief is that lower-footprint, easier-access stations are a good thing in their own right, that some manageable level of fare evasion is inevitable and indeed must be (tacitly) accepted under any system, and that in the particular case of long-distance travel versus regional trains, the higher levels of on-board crewing and fewer stops of the former mean that non-intrusive on-board ticket inspection can be done at nearly zero incremental cost.

    So for Caltrain there are huge capital savings for stations plus and extra passengers gained by faster station access and fewer staff required to supervise and maintain the stations; all traded against the ongoing operating cost of random ticket verification.

    For HSR there are the same advantages, but the ticket verification cost might be quite close to zero, meaning no downside at all.

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  69. @Richard @22 October, 2010 09:07
    It isn't saying (as nearly all British and Australians do in my experience, from their lack of experience) "barriers works just fine. What's the problem. And ZOMG! Somebody might get away with something!"

    After all, the average rail-transit-using Brit or Australian is using a rail transit system with a longer history than Caltrain or BART, combined with the dreaded soul-deadening aspects of higher daily ridership, more frequent services and, gasp, integration with other transit systems. An obvious lack of experience on the barrier vs non-barrier question!

    Psst, they tend to use barrier systems at high-throughput stations, and basic non-barrier platforms elsewhere, with POP inspectors occasionally roaming the trains.

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  70. thatbruce wrote "Psst, they tend to use barrier systems ..."

    Pssst, Bruce, I know all about it, what with having grown up there and all.

    Psst, they also can't manage to get train floors and platform tops to match up after a century despite uniformly "high" platforms, and they can't build trains except to lilliputian dimensions (OK any place east of Bourke, or CTRL.) So colour me underwhelmed.

    The difference is that I've travelled a bit, read a bit, thought about what I've seen when I've been away from my natal Anglophone cocoon, and decided that perhaps the old ways aren't always the best after all all of the time.

    (It's kind of like being a self-important right-wing little libertarian shit at the age of 14: some are lucky or smart enough to avoid it, some if us get over it, and some stay stuck in a state of arrested political development through their adult lives.)

    So been there ( London, Sydney, etc), done that, discovered better, moved on.

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  71. Adirondacker1280025 October, 2010 16:49

    Richard....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irCA0zPvGjs

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  72. Hello Jeff Carter, nice of you to stop by, and I hope you come back often.

    Advocating for better planning for the future of Caltrain is more challenging than immediate issues like bike car capacity or loud horns. The issues you cite have a direct negative impact on individual people, so it is no surprise that you see them at JPB meetings. Same goes for the NIMBYs. The issues you cite also have simple solutions (more bike racks, some horn plumbing).

    On the other hand, bad planning is a victimless crime: it is not intolerable to any specific person, especially not before something is built. It is suffered unknowingly by legions of taxpayers who never even know they didn't get the best project that could have been. And it is extremely difficult to alter the course of bad planning because entire bureaucracies become entrenched in their way of doing things. Caltrain is exhibit A.

    You don't see me at JPB and CAC meetings because work and family commitments make it impossible to attend at those hours. I'm also not sure how effective it would be, since the board is not necessarily cognizant of the nuts & bolts discussed on this blog. A public comment would take too long to explain and would never get to the punch line.

    One of my target audiences is Caltrain staff, and I do know that some of them visit the blog on occasion. I know it must be uncomfortable for them to see so much criticism of their work, but I do try to keep it constructive. Maybe I am mistaken in my hope that some day, something written here might cause a lightbulb to turn on somewhere in the Samtrans bunker.

    Since you are able to attend every meeting, I dearly hope you would be able to carry the message, to the extent that you might agree with it. This goes especially for the CAC, where there is an opportunity for discussion.

    We can all do our part. My part is blogging about these important and often complicated issues.

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  73. Speaking of the Caltrain JPB CAC ... ex-Brisbane mayor and current city councilwoman A. Sepi Richardson is among the rarely-riding members taking up space on that toothless body.

    (Caltrain riders are ill-served by rarely-riding CAC members for whom the position appears to function primarily as a sinecure, taking up space that could be filled by regular riders who can truly represent and effectively speak for their fellow riders.)

    Interestingly, based on quotes in recent media stories, Ms. Richardson appears to be a key player in Brisbane's recent decision to join the HSR-hostile Peninsula Cities Coalition (PCC).

    Why is tiny and station-less mighty Brisbane joining PCC now?

    Brisbane was upset to learn HSRA/PRP views the old SP Bayshore yard as the leading site for a SF/Peninsula HSR maintenance yard -- the same brownfields site that Brisbane and developers have been eying for over a decade for a series of evolving and thusfar un-funded mega-development plans (the current one is Brisbane Baylands).

    So Brisbane is suddenly a HSR NIMBY city and joins anti-HSR PCC in hopes of keeping HSRA from "taking" SP's old Bayshore Yard site out of play for their big development dreams. And while Brisbane joins PCC to fight a HSR yard, we've got Central Valley cities vying to win a HSR yard.

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  74. Pssst, Bruce, I know all about it, what with having grown up there and all.

    Good for you.

    Psst, they also can't manage to get train floors and platform tops to match up after a century despite uniformly "high" platforms,

    For much the same reasons that California trains don't have level boarding outside subway-like systems; ``If it was good enough for my pappy, it's good enough for me''. Good job that more recent infrastructure buildouts have started to fix that, much like is being (strongly) suggested for this HSR/Caltrain (re)buildout.

    and they can't build trains except to lilliputian dimensions (OK any place east of Bourke, or CTRL.) So colour me underwhelmed.

    UK cats are smaller after all.

    The difference is that I've travelled a bit, read a bit, thought about what I've seen when I've been away from my natal Anglophone cocoon, and decided that perhaps the old ways aren't always the best after all all of the time.

    No, they're not. That's part of why this and other blogs exist; to point out which particular aspects of 'the old ways' are stupid, and which are worth carrying forward.

    For what my opinion is worth, I've seen stations go from having no inspections to manned barricades to automatic faregates, and worked out the cost recovery aspects of each. Above a certain volume of passengers, automatic barriers (faregates) pay back their initial investments and maintenance relatively quickly, and are worth putting in as it frees up personnel to do trivial stuff like sell tickets, help people or keep the toilets clean.
    Most stations along the Caltrain corridor don't need faregates as they're not expected to have the requisite traffic volumes.

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  75. With regard to the Station Design, I believe posters here fail to see the writing on the wall: this platform arrangement is exactly how one would go about designing a BART-HSR intermodal station.

    Redwood City (now promoted as the utterly nonsensical "Mid-Peninsula" HSR stop) has always been regarded as the next milestone for BART -- following Santa Clara.

    VTA now has a dedicated BART tax, a stub line ending in Santa Clara, and a deep aversion to Caltrain financial support. Meanwhile, Caltrain shows no interest in running trains into the TBT, or even remaining financially solvent.

    It is so obvious where this is headed.

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  76. Drunk Engineer: Bingo. Hole in one. Jackpot. We have a winner.

    "Millbrae Done Right"

    (For the most wrong values of "right".)

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  77. Exactly, D.E., I've noticed this for a while. BART's long-standing plans to usurp the Caltrain ROW for itself have never been abandoned. PB and Bechtel know that BART is their golden ticket for porkfat. Notice how BART-SJ gets priority over HSR with regard to Altamont?

    Bob Doty himself has strong ties to BART and Bechtel. He got his start with BART as a train "driver": he pressed the button to close the doors before the train left each station. Best of the best for Caltrain, right?

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  78. Starting off operating trains (I have no idea whether this anecdote is true or not) is hardly a disqualification from being developing into a good systems engineer in general.

    Back in your grand-daddy's day, that was where many of the great practical engineers came from, in large part because there were few alternate routes, but also because that's where some talent lay (and may still lie) "buried".

    All said, however, the odds that somebody had attended a technical university and ended up with an excellent academic and practical work experience of systems management, project control, global best engineering practices, etc, is much greater than the odds that a world beating technical manager will emerge from the blue collar ranks.

    And note also that in the US you can't even GET a technical education which would qualify you for even an entry level job laying out a single turnout or working out the timetable for a two station two train rail line elsewhere. We're just not set up for it.

    The US of course can and has and does produce some spectacularly good senior transportation management people, but without the most rudimentary backing of rudimentary technical skill in the ranks (God you wouldn't believe that laughable crap that Caltrain's so-called "engineering" department comes up with all by their little old insular ignorant overpaid selves), the mightiest far-seeing strategic direction setting will fall apart immediately for want of any organizational ability to implement and operate.

    In Caltrain's case, of course, we have grotesque failures of both highest level management and of mid-level technical skill, so this is all academic.

    Anyway, you can't dismiss a man just because of ancient history. You can, however, wish him fired, jailed, bankrupted and publicly pilloried based on his outrageously incompetent contemporary actions.

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  79. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  80. @ Drunk -- "It shall be BART-ready" may well be one of the unwritten station design standards too.

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  81. 1. For security a transit station slightly below grade can be constructed to be more completely visible to anyone at grade level than an above-grade station. Fare gates, roofs, and ramp side barriers can readily be made largely transparent so that anyone nearby at grade, where the highest concentration of people are usually present, can observe a passenger being abused.
    2. A trench bottom surface is likely to be a far more stable foundation for high speed rail than packed fill. After construction is complete most of the heavy concrete structures such as overhead crossing bridge piers and earth retaining walls would be to the side of the present rail structure. Current tracks could remain in place while concrete bridge piers and retaining walls could be constructed and have time to cure with no significant interference to rail service. Then during a long weekend earth and tracks between the retaining walls could be removed and the trench floor tracks constructed. If the required open trench is shallow enough initial construction costs and certainly track maintenance expense would be lower than a retained fill track-way design.
    3. The weight of Caltrain’s proposed EMU is 44% heavier per seat offered than current BART rolling stock. Of course much of this higher weight is due to the FRA high end strength passenger train requirement applied when traveling among freight trains. One solution is to run San Francisco bound freight over the Dumbarton rail bridge and down the 101 center to an inter-modal yard south of the Bayshore Station. Time sensitive San Francisco bound freight to such a terminal would not be delayed by any proposed passenger rail expansion.
    4. Six to eight per cent of Caltrain’s proposed EMU weight is due to the voltage conversion transformer for changing 25,000 volt AC to near 1,000 volts DC. Note: A designer of semi-conductor controlled power supplies, as I am, soon realizes that semiconductor power control transistors increase resistance more rapidly than input voltage stand-off ability increases. In order to avoid constructing extraordinary heat dissipation structures sensible engineers go around such problems when developing variable frequency AC traction motor drivers by accepting the transformer weight penalty and reducing traction motor driver input voltages to levels approaching the 600 to 1,500 VDC levels seen by urban local transit systems. Thus two voltage levels exist within probably all HVAC driven train sets. Energizing HSR trains in urban areas from a 1,000 volt third rail would require adding only a third rail contactor and a passive component only power isolation network. This approach makes a significantly lighter weight local service train fleet that only runs in 600 to 1,500 VDC territory possible compared to a minor HSR rolling stock complexity and cost increase.

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  82. 5. Would Public Utilities Commission of the State of California allow a significant height clearance reduction? Consider the CPUC Resolution No. S-1040 signed November 12, 1963 from file:
    General Order No. 26-D.
    A. Clearance in Tunnels, Subways, and Tubes. … 3. The minimum vertical clearance above the top of the lowest rail shall be not less than 12’ 6”.
    D. Passenger Equipment Dimensions… 1. The minimum vertical clearance authorized herein shall apply to the operation of passenger car equipment of 10’6” in width, 11’3” in height above top of rail…
    6. A low vertical clearance requirement (12.5 feet) combined with a 3.5 foot platform height would allow the station platform surface altitude to be within ten feet of an overhead pedestrian crossing level. Therefore many of ADA compliant ramps directly to sidewalks at grade become practical rather than fewer expensive to construct and maintain elevators and escalators. An urban territory HSR low overhead clearance design would allow the following desirable route features to become feasible: moderate cost open trench grade separations, a Market Street San Jose HSR subway station, HSR subway stations beneath the San Jose and LAX Airport Terminals, a tunnel to flatten the Sierra Point Curve, and the use of the Muni’s Market Street Subway encompassing the Montgomery and Embarcadero Stations. Thus a direct HSR connection from San Jose through San Francisco to Oakland and Sacramento would become possible by constructing a dual gauge track in BART’s Transbay Tube. Note: A Moving Block train position detection and control system meeting typical urban rail transit separation safety standards in tunnels would allow a 46 second close-up time for 400 meter trains. Therefore a 60 second average dwell time would permit 34 trains per hour on each station track.

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  83. Adirondacker1280029 October, 2010 14:13

    Six to eight per cent of Caltrain’s proposed EMU weight is due to the voltage conversion transformer for changing 25,000 volt AC to near 1,000 volts DC

    Nobody is putting DC motors into trains anymore unless the customer has some overriding need for them. They are far too maintenance intensive. The train can haul around a transformer or the system can have a substation providing 1,000 volt DC current every mile or so. No overriding need for third rail either, no reason why they couldn't use catenary. No need for third rail shoes then.

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  84. John Bacon -

    2 - perhaps slightly more stable, but not significantly. It's not like retained fill is known for being problematic. Also, you need room to bring construction equipment in to build retaining walls, and excavating that much earth will take much more than a long weekend. Streams, utilities, etc also complicate trench construction.

    3. BART's trains are (perhaps surprisingly) some of the lightest in the business. They're really metro cars anyway, which tend to be lighter than commuter rail cars. Also consider the fact that they're single deck and only about 85% as long as your typical commuter railcar.

    4. No one uses DC motors anymore. Even BART switched their fleet to AC traction motors when they refurbished their cars.

    5 and 6. That's not realistic. Single level trains could probably cope with overhead wire heights around 12 feet, but that (a) eliminates the possibility of bilevel cars. CalTrain's bilevels measure to about 16' ATOR currently. (b) essentially allows no freight (not that it would be a huge loss) and (c) The tensioned catenary required for moderate to high speeds takes up additional room. You also need aerodynamic clearance in tunnels if you want to go reasonably fast. Oh, and even by modern signaling standards, BART has almost no capacity left in it's transbay tubes, even if it were technically feasible to install dual gauge tracks and catenary in them (which it's not, and even if you could, you'd have to take the entire thing out for a couple of months or so).

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  85. Um... John Bacon actually knows what he's talking about. ALL electric and diesel-electric trains have some DC in them somewhere. The incoming high voltage AC is stepped down in the main transformer to a lower level, generally around 700 volts, rectified to DC, and then converted to variable-frequency AC to drive the motors. In a diesel-electric locomotive, the prime mover drives an alternator, which is connected to a rectifier to produce DC, which is fed to a power converter. A DC powered train omits the transformer, which is quite heavy. Of course, the downside is that DC voltages are low, and thus currents are high. Both 1500 VDC overhead and 750 VDC third rail systems have had problems delivering enough current to power long, air conditioned suburban trains running at close headways, and a 1500 VDC system means the DC link voltage inside the train has to be higher. Plus of course you need many more substations: Caltrain was planning only two substations and something like 6 paralleling station for the entire electrification project, while the South Shore Line (a 1500 VDC system) has substations every 2-4 miles in the heavily used parts of the line. Perhaps a 1500 VDC third rail would be good for delivering enough current, but it would still pose some clearance issues for freight.

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  86. @ arcady

    So, what you're saying is that every electric train has the "added" weight that john bacon is implying is unique to Caltrain's as-yet-non-existent design.

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  87. Adirondacker1280030 October, 2010 20:53

    Perhaps a 1500 VDC third rail would be good for delivering enough current, but it would still pose some clearance issues for freight.

    How high does this wonder have to be to prevent arcing to the ground ?

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  88. About half an inch. If the required clearance for 25kV AC is 10 inches, and and arc length is proportional to voltage. Plus of course divide by the square root of 2, because 25 kV is RMS voltage, but for dielectric breakdown it's the peak voltage that matters. The problem is not so much arcing to the ground but insulating the structures supporting the third rail. But 1500 VDC third rail has been done in China, so clearly that's a solved problem one way or another.

    And if you look at what John Bacon is saying, he mentions nothing about Caltrain being "unique", he's just comparing AC powered Caltrain cars to DC powered BART cars and wondering why the former are so much heavier per passenger. The EMUs in Switzerland (and Germany and Austria and Sweden) have even heavier transformers, because they use 16.7 Hz power, rather than 50 or 60, and transformers get lighter and more efficient at higher frequencies (that's why airplanes have 400Hz power).

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  89. On-EMU transformers aren't strictly necessary for 25kVAC. There are solid-state solutions for handling high voltage AC power conversion.

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  90. Adirondacker1280031 October, 2010 10:56

    But 1500 VDC third rail has been done in China, so clearly that's a solved problem one way or another.

    There are many solutions to dragging trains around. One of the original ones, and very usable in tunnels, is using a horse. You wouldn't want to do that in 2010. There's also fireless steam locomotives. There's even odder solutions - during World War II the Swiss had trouble getting fuel for steam locomotives or electric locomotives that could run on hydropower. So they converted some of the steam locomotives to boil the water with electricity.

    Third rail looked like a good idea when suburban railroads were electrifying in 1900. It may not be the best idea in 2010.

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  91. The line in China was opened sometime in the past decade, I believe in Guangzhou. I have no idea why they went with third rail for that one, as all the rest of their lines use overhead. But an aluminum third rail does have a pretty high current carrying capacity, and isn't as susceptible to wind as overhead wires are, and it's easier to install on an elevated structure than an overhead contact rail. So which solution works best really depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

    As for the Swiss electric kettles, that was a very logical solution: they were surrounded on all sides by enemies, and getting petroleum or coal into the country was quite a problem. But they had lots of hydropower, and all the mainlines were already electrified, but not all the sidings. Plus, they had a fleet of steam locomotives that were still perfectly good aside from not having any fuel. Presumably the electric boiler solution wasn't too inefficient, and it was certainly cheaper than building a fleet of battery locomotives (which would probably require lots of fancy metals) or wiring all the sidings (which would take lots of time, and also require lots of copper).

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  92. Adirondacker1280031 October, 2010 18:12

    The line in China was opened sometime in the past decade, I believe in Guangzhou. I have no idea why they went with third rail for that one, as all the rest of their lines use overhead.

    They must have had an overriding technical reason. Or the designers were BARTophiles and wanted to make the line as BART like as possible. What's the overriding technical reason to use third rail on the Peninsula, other than to make it BART like?

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  93. There isn't any. Was that what we talking about? I thought we were just discussing the technical possibilities of DC versus AC power collection systems. So theoretically, it's plausible to make a reasonable DC power system for Caltrain, but I don't see any compelling argument one way or the other for Caltrain in isolation, and combined with HSR, I think AC wins over DC pretty handily, since the HSR mainline pretty much has to be AC, and having just a single standard for mainline electrification is much, much better in lots of ways even if it's slightly suboptimal in some specific cases. If nothing else, there's a pretty big pool of 25kv-powered locomotives on the East Coast, and a large amount of expertise adapting models from the much larger European fleet to operate in the US.

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  94. Adirondacker1280031 October, 2010 23:24

    Was that what we talking about?

    I thought so. Silly me thinking "Caltrain" on a blog titled "Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog"

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  95. Any railroad’s externally applied electrification system has a highly inductive load from its traction motors and, especially on long power supply lines, its power source. The practical effect is if the power circuit is broken the collapsing magnetic fields in the circuit’s inductive sections will instantly produce a voltage across the break that tends to drive current across the expanding break at a magnitude close the same level that existed before the break was initiated. I have observed extremely bright flashes likely generated by such locally produced voltage spikes on an 84 mph third rail powered train in rainy weather and in another case during a 15% power application on trolley busses across breakers. These observations suggests these voltage spike magnitudes were many times their 600 VDC power supply. Thus for electric system integrity or personal safety distance and/or insulation effectiveness must be well in excess of that required for nominal voltage supply levels.
    William D. Middleton’s book The Pennsylvania Railroad Under Wire says on page 34 that during an 11,000 VAC electrification during the early 1930’s overhead bridges were raised as much as “3 feet to provide adequate catenary clearance”. Clearances required for the proposed CHSR 25,000 VAC electrification would be greater than 3 feet because of the higher nominal voltage and today’s greater concern for safety enforced by more stringent regulation. The cost of excess vertical clearance in the present case appears to be quite high. On October 28, 2010 a $715 million federal stimulus grant to build HSR infrastructure was offered for a stretch down the center of the San Joaquin Valley. With the availability of enough money to complete construction of the current CHSR proposal in serious doubt a well-constructed but isolated electrified passenger railway section at this location would be of little use to anybody.
    If that $715 million was used to construct passing tracks along a central portion of Caltrain’s SF to SJ right-of-way, for example continuous passing tracks through San Carlos to Millbrae, a material improvement in service speed and reliability with less noise at the same operation cost with currently used rolling stock would become feasible. But no doubt people in Washington have heard about Peninsula Community law suits objecting to the present CHSR proposal. The motivation behind this opposition is the appearance and noise emanating from an elevated right-of-way, Open cut grade separations would sharply reduce these esthetic objections and a lower track overhead clearance requirement would reduce the construction cost in proportion to the square of this clearance height.
    In one important aspect the interest of Nimby’s and rail transit advocates are the same. The more attractive or less repulsive the rail structure is the more likely people will build high density communities near the right-of-way. Therefore more passenger traffic is likely to appear to pay fares and support tax subsidies.

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  96. "Clearances required for the proposed CHSR 25,000 VAC electrification would be greater than 3 feet ..."

    Somebody take a look at the clearances above NJ Transit's 25 kV catenary. Isn't it a foot or less at Summit, e.g.?

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  97. John, you can look up clearance standards for 25kV electrification somewhere on the UK Network Rail site. I think it's somewhere under a foot for wire to structure clearance and similar for wire to train roof clearance. The issue of arcs from the inductive load of the motors is simply not addressed by the train-wire interface: that's the job of the main breaker in the train. For neutral sections and the like, there are trackside magnets to open the main breaker automatically at the appropriate time. If an AC-powered train lowers its pantograph under load, there's actually a pretty good chance that there will be a pan-to-wire arc that will persist until it melts the wire in half. That's one of the reasons for all the grounding requirements for structures around AC electrified lines. And the main breaker on an AC locomotive is a pretty fancy device, which literally blows out the arc using compressed air.

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  98. No need to look at UK practice. You can look up the CHSR requirements in the resources section of this blog. SR 6-09.1 requires 320 mm of static clearance / 220 mm for dynamic clearance.

    Or in God's own units, 1 foot and 19/32 inch.

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  99. If you feel you need turnstiles, it's quite common to use turnstiles which accept any ticket, as a supplement to POP.

    The number of people willing to bother to buy a commuter ticket in order to attempt to ride free on a intercity train is miniscule.

    I think your proposals do not preclude that. At all.

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  100. According to The California High Speed Project System Requirements Data Base Report the 25,000 VAC contact wire’s required nominal height above the rails is 17’0” (page 852). The recommended clearances between energized and grounded parts are 12.6” static plus 8.7” dynamic (page846). Allowing for a 0.7” contact wire diameter the required nominal clearance between the rail surface and the bottom of an overhead bridge would total 17’ + 12.6” + 8.7” + 0.7” = 18’ 10”. The rail car heights of CHSR selected train sets are 9’ 10”, 10’10”, 11’6”, and 11’10”. Assuming that for open cut rail grade separations the cost of providing for a given rail clearance is proportional to the square of height of that rail clearance the cost of open trench grade separations for a 12’ 6” rail clearance approaches 44% of the expenditure required to construct a 18’ 10” rail clearance open trench grade separation.
    Is the cost of below grade road rail separations actually proportional to the square of the rail clearance height? If a circular tunnel is applied the amount of material removed is directly proportional to square of the diameter. The length of the tunnel wall per linear foot is proportional to the diameter plus the added tunnel liner strength needed is also proportional to the diameter. So the liner thickness must increase in proportion to the tunnel diameter. Therefore a function describing the tunnel liner mass and expense will likely be close to proportional to the square of the tunnel diameter. Will open cut grade separation costs exhibit the same square of the rail clearance height expense function likely for tunnel structures? More heavily constructed plus higher retaining walls are required the deeper the trench. The distance required to climb above stream crossings rise the deeper the trench. Water table and underground streams rapidly become problems the deeper the trench. Another aspect of shallow trench grade separations is that retaining wall and overhead bridge pier construction and removal of center fill without significant delays to weekday rail traffic is more likely to be accomplished.

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  101. As of today, the CA High Speed Rail website has a banner showing cross-platform access between HSR and (presumably) Caltrain, copied at http://flic.kr/p/92nvsZ

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  102. That's a (rather dated) rendering of the inside of the Transbay Terminal. And if you look closely, HSR and CalTrain aren't even on the same platform.

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  103. The trouble with POP is that it's almost impossible to set a penalty that is at the same time high enough to stop chancers from preferring to pay the penalty every time they're caught, while low enough so that passengers making innocent errors don't feel like they're being gouged (in some cases even a request for the full ordinary fare is enough to attract the attention of the media!),
    unless you have nearly complete ticket inspection anyway. (Not that fare gates prevent dodging, they just make the dodgers buy a one-stop ticket for each end instead of no ticket at all...)

    If you try to have a higher penalty for deliberate fare dodging, you'll quickly find it difficult to enforce, as this higher penalty will require that intent be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Worse, normally-honest passengers who forgot or made a mistake end up saying the wrong things to the inspector, and end up convicted, while habitual dodgers tend to get away with not paying unless extreme measures (e.g. detectives, skipping certain stations, or special ticket inspections at certain stations) are taken.

    I'm not sure what the right solution is. Full ticket inspections after every station are unlikely to be tolerated (and "tickets from X" calls are routinely ignored by dodgers, especially on busy trains) and don't (except on very quiet trains) stop passengers buying a short distance ticket and travelling much further. Prosecution for wilful fare dodging doesn't help much as you have the same problem with proving intent.

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  104. I'm really not sure why one needs to prove intent when fining someone for not producing proof of payment.

    "I didn't know" just doesn't cut it.

    Does a cop need to prove intent to exceed the speed limit? Intent to park beyond the two-hour limit? No, of course not. You get fined, and you suck it up unless you want to go through the rigamarole of showing up in court.

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  105. The aim of Proof of Payment enforcement isn't to be perfect.

    It's to be good enough.

    So ... once in a while somebody somewhere gets away with something. Oh dear.

    So .... so what?

    If you're saving millions of dollars a year in maintenance costs and if you're saving tens of millions a year (or much more!) in capital opportunity costs from not having wasted billions on the concrete "architecture" of fortress barrier stations, and if you're gaining revenue and riders because trip time, that includes station entry and egress time. becomes faster, well, you're a long way ahead indeed.

    Good engineering and good design is about being good enough, about delivering more benefits than costs, about when to pay attention to more important things, and about how to understand orders of magnitude of effort and cost.

    PS Everybody knows how to dodge BART's fare gates, and many do. What measures do you propose implementing to reduce the evasion rate down to the only acceptable figure of 0.00000%?

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  106. Clem is correct. It's called strict liability, and intent is not required.

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  107. While you guys were talking about it, the French would have had the stations built already. The right way.

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  108. A common platform for trains with different platform elevations above tracks can also be achieved by putting tracks at different levels, i.e. caltrin tracks some half-meter above HSE tracks.

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