13 January 2014

The Dual Mode Locomotive, Elephant of the Rails

Caltrain's revised DEIR for the electrification project is about to be released for public comment.  Meanwhile, California's high-speed rail project has suffered legal setbacks that may end up threatening a $600 million contribution of Proposition 1A HSR funds promised for Caltrain electrification  (the so-called "book-end" funding).  These events have awakened a small but vocal and persistent minority of peninsula residents who believe Caltrain should not electrify, and should seek alternate short-term solutions.

We've seen this pattern before: there was a lot of misinformation circulating about hybrid DMU trains, which were seen as an alternative to electrification when in fact they do not exist and are not capable of meeting Caltrain's requirement for high-capacity, high-acceleration rolling stock.

ALP45-DP locomotive
The new idea now going around at least has the merit of being demonstrated in the real world.  The idea is to replace Caltrain's locomotive fleet with a new type of locomotive known as a dual-mode locomotive.  You can think of it as two locomotives in one, combining a conventional diesel power train with the ability to operate on electricity where 25 kV overhead electrification is available.  To pull off this feat, the locomotive needs to carry not only a diesel power plant and an electric generator, but also a big transformer to bring the 25,000 volt electric supply down to usable voltages.

There is an off-the-shelf example: Bombardier's ALP-45DP, shown in the photo at right.  A small fleet of these beasts operates for commuter agencies in New Jersey and MontrĂ©al, Canada, where certain lines are only partially electrified.  Rather than inconveniencing passengers with a change of trains where the wire ends, these locomotives fire up a pair of 2,000 horsepower V-12 engines and continue their trip beyond electrified territory.

These make absolutely no sense for Caltrain.
  • They are expensive.  Two locomotives in one cost almost as much as two locomotives.  New Jersey Transit paid $8 million for each one in 2010.  Caltrain would require a fleet of about 25.  There goes $200 million, nearly half the amount allocated to the new fleet purchase under the electrification project, and none of Caltrain's aging passenger coaches would be replaced.
  • They are heavy.  These locomotives have the heaviest axle load of any passenger locomotive in the world, at nearly 33 metric tons.  Heavy beats up the track and increases maintenance costs.
  • They are slow in diesel mode.  Even with two 2,000 hp V-12 engines pulling as hard as they can, the million-pound weight of a Caltrain commuter train will hold the train back and limit the trip-time savings of an all-stops peninsula local to just one minute, all else being equal.
  • They are slow in electric mode.  Imagine that some day the funding finally comes together to string up electric wire along the entire length of the peninsula.  The laws of physics being what they are, the power-to-weight ratio and the weight on drivers of a train powered by a dual-mode locomotive does not allow it to accelerate quickly, even if its rated top speed is 100 mph.  In stop-and-go service on a local train, an ALP-45DP running in 100% electric mode would only save four minutes on its entire run between San Francisco and San Jose, compared to today's timetable.
The trip time savings simply aren't worth the high cost of dual-mode locomotives.  Level boarding by itself (even with diesel locomotives) would save more time.  The lightweight and powerful EMU trains that Caltrain plans to purchase would save far more time, and are unbeatable when combined with level boarding.  See chart at left.

The only remote opportunity that dual-mode locomotives might present is the ability to serve the Transbay Transit Center, which is not designed for diesel trains, prior to the full electrification of the peninsula corridor.  The San Francisco downtown extension tunnel, however, won't be completed for at least another decade and will cost two to three times more than Caltrain electrification.  That's an awfully long time to realize the meager benefits of dual-mode locomotives, on a shaky premise that funding won't be available for Caltrain electrification even after the DTX is paid for in full.

For the peninsula rail corridor, dual-mode locomotives are clearly a proven solution looking for a problem.  The better problem to solve is how to fund the electrification project even if the high-speed rail funding is denied.


  1. Clem,
    I have a really hard time believing anyone is pushing ALP45-DP's for Caltrain.
    Who, and where?

    Can Americans really "graduate" from high school without ever being exposed to either kinematics or dynamics? Without ever seeing d=ut + 1/2at^2, F=d(mv)/dt, E_k= 1/2at^2?

    1. Roland Lebrun

    2. https://www.google.com/search?q=roland+lebrun+bi-mode+EMUs

  2. And Montreal bought 20 of these, most of them will run on pure diesel or pure electric lines. There's only one mixed line, which will (hopefully) open this year, with 5 departures each direction. It's so dumb and annoying.

  3. Bombardier is based in Canada, likely political considerations were a factor in the Montreal purchase.

  4. So buy TRAXX locomotives. A mix of TRAXX E-loks and TRAXX diesel-electrics to match the "pure" lines, and two electro-diesels for the "mixed" line. EVen putting them all on ALP-45DP bodies would at least eliminate hauling around all that dead weight; and Bombardier proudly announces that their "modular' locomotives can be changed from diesel to electric, or vice-versa. (Don' tthey? Am I thinking of Siemens?)

    1. Caltrain only has one line. The ALP45s sorta kinda make sense for NJTransit and AMT. At times the trains will be operating under wires for long stretches.

    2. I was responding to Ant6n and Anonymous, who posted "top-level" comments rather than replies. Both were talking about Montreal.
      I agree that electro-diesels make even less sense for Caltrain.

  5. Clem, according to online sources, ALP-45DP's weight is 288000 lbs, lighter than MP36PH-3C's weight at 293500 lbs. Using ALP-45DP on Dumbarton or Gilroy services after Taimen-SF electrification would be an improvement.

    However, whether a Gilroy-SF runs are necessary and whether Dumbarton should be electrified are another question.

    1. Running low acceleration hybrid trains alongside lightweight EMUs could prove difficult, particularly when you throw HSR into the mix. Probably better to have cross-platform transfers at San Jose and Redwood City respectively.

    2. William,

      So a UIC-derived European locomotive design, modifed for FRA compatibility, saves weight over a US design. Gosh, who'd -a-thunk-it?

      More meaningful data-points would come from comparing the weight of a TRAXX EuroSprinter E-lok (e.g., OBB 1016) and a TRAXX diesel-electric EuroRunner (e.g., OBB 2016 or Hercules).

      But most of all, compare the power-to-weight ratios. And don't forget to look at the Siemens Vectron (both electric and diesel).

    3. The power to weight ratio of the locomotive is irrelevant. It's the power to weight ratio of the entire train that matters for acceleration. Remember you're schlepping around 300 metric tons of train cars and passengers, which kind of puts a damper on things unless you've got six megawatts.

      And we're getting lost in the minutiae: the point I was trying to make is that the fleet replacement and electrification are a package deal, and should not be unbundled.

    4. How about that pesky Prop1A law approved by the voters that says that we can't have the money until we have a plan for SJ to SF in 30 minutes?
      Why would anyone in their right mind electrify 4th&King, Bayshore (station and tracks are in the wrong place), SSF (TASI nearly killed a dozen passengers there last year), CEMOF, the Diridon "approach" and, last but not least, my all-time favorite: http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/search/label/caltrain%20incompetence
      Are you saying that we can't have EMUs until this mess is fixed???

  6. 'They are heavy'
    What is to stop the builder from adding axles? Why not a C-C, a B-B-B or even a B-C instead of the standard B-B-arrangment to reduce axle load. You don't even need to have all axles powered.

    'They are slow in diesel/electric mode'
    Then make them more powerful. Heavy as they are already the extra weight of the locomotive will be peanuts compared to the weight of the rest of the train. Or you go with a really radical idea: Along the lines of the Renfe Alvia S730 trains: You build a standard electric locomotive and add a seperate generator car. When you do not need the generator car anymore you remove it from the consist and disable the diesel function in the locomotive software.

    Anyway: Think outside the box, which is something you don't see often enough.

    1. The fundamental problem with an electro-diesel is that diesel-electrics have about 1/3 the power-to-mass ratio of an electric locomotive. So. Take any electric locomotive, stretch it, add diesel and alternator. Those add lots of weight. So what you get is *by definition* much poorer performance than a straight electric.

      The weight issue isn't the axle load; its moving all that extra mass around.

    2. Pure electric will always be better, that's true. But if you have stretches of track lacking overhead wires, your pure electric will be useless.
      Like Clem already mentioned: Even though in electric mode the added 30 tons or so for the diesels will reduce performance only marginally, full electrification should be the way to go.
      However when you need to replace your fleet anyway, all around the world EMUs and DMUs are used, because they offer better performance over locomotive drawn trains. A nice example is the Alstom Coradia that's also available in BiMode.

    3. Correct: http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/single-view/view/sncf-orders-electro-diesel-inter-city-trainsets.html. However, as Clem pointed out, a maximum speed of 160 km/h courtesy of six 350 kW MAN diesel engines mounted on the roof "to facilitate access for maintenance" is probably not going to cut it...

    4. "Think outside the box, which is something you don't see often enough"

      Let's start with the Renfe Alvia S730. Watch this video and fast forward 15 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnRaCnqUudE: the lead generator started the derailment and the trailing one contributed to the massive carnage.
      So what is the solution? Here is the first shot at the IEP: http://www.agilitytrains.com/assets/pdf/AT-090205-Key_Facts-Released-1_5.pdf
      The main problem with that approach was that the generators were located in the cab cars and could not be easily removed and replaced with passenger seats at a later date. Here is the final product:

      "Make them more powerful". "The requirement for the engine output power is 560 kilowatts. But if, for example, the train leaves a station behind schedule or an engine fails, the 700-kilowatt Powerpack gives reserves to make up the time where possible."

      "When you do not need the generator anymore you remove it from the consist"
      "From a maintenance viewpoint, we decided that the simplest solution is a module that we can remove and refit quickly and easily – like a pit-stop in Formula 1." So how does that work? Watch this and fast-forward 3 minutes:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7gxvJoOYOo (CEMOF need not apply).

      "They are heavy". Each powerpack weighs 4 metric tons (total 20 metric tons for a 9-carriage train set).

    5. "a maximum speed of 160 km/h is probably not going to cut it..."
      Remember that this model was tailored for France and even though it has jacobs bogies it still has a very low axle load.

      "Let's start with the Renfe Alvia S730. the lead generator started the derailment and the trailing one contributed to the massive carnage."
      Train aren't built for high G cornering, not even tilting trains. At what speed would other models have derailed? It is safe to asume that one or two MP36PH-3C's under the same circumstances would have made a lot more carnage, considering they're almost twice as heavy. So I'm sorry, but the fact that a S730 was in an accident doesn't make it a bad idea.

  7. Two points re this "not enough money for full electrification of the peninsula corridor" business.

    First, and best solution: KILL CBOSS and fire everybody associated with it, and buy ETCS/ERTMS (competitive bidding, unlike CBOSS cartel) at the same price that everybody else in the world pays (eg Auckland). Savings: $100 million, minimum. That buys at least 20 miles of extra overhead wires and transformers. Problem solved.

    Second, worse solution: the suggested "Census-driven Service Plan" could, depending on station stop details, work well with a first phase (no single phase electrification for Caltrain, yuk yuk!) half-electrified corridor. Start with SF to Redwood City, and start with EMUs running the close-stops, many-stops shuttle trains. Relegate the diesel tanks and Bombardier (military-transit-industrial yuk yuk!) to the limited-stop "Silicon Valley Express" where stops are further apart and acceleration matters less. When somebody finds a few hundred million dollars somewhere for more copper wires and more EMUs, finish the job and beat the F40s and bombs into plowshares.

    1. But but but but how will the EMUs get to CEMOF? Impossible!

    2. One of the many advantages of bi-mode EMUs is that they don't need depot electrification (just a single track for pantograph testing). With regards to CEMOF, expect it to follow the last F40 to the landfill (Parsons Brinckerhoff dug a perfectly good $15B hole in the ground in Nevada specifically for that purpose).

    3. I don't believe that "CEMOF" is anything but tongue in cheek(*), but with a small initial fleet of SF-RWC EMU shuttle trains, all that's needed for the first many years is a small shed in which to do pantograph inspection and maintenance and a toilet emptying facility. We're talking just a few lineside acres, a couple tracks, and one small structure. There are maybe half dozen places between SF and RWC that might fit. For the wheel lathe (used less than for existing Caltrain tread brakes, dino-era train controls, and endemic fleet-wide square wheels), diesel haul to Santa Clara and back once every blue moon.

      (*) Yes, CEMOF is a total joke, a really really really bad joke, but that aside.

      Here's the suggested EMU shuttle + F40 Limited scenario. (Actually at twice the level 2tph of shuttle service I believe makes sense in the short term.) For that 4tph one is only looking at 7 EMU consists (perhaps a total starter fleet of 9 three-"car" ~75m trains) in new condition. Unless you Buy American and Maintain American, they'll be in near-new condition for some years even without a Canyonero-grade Central Maintenance Facility.

    4. A: “First, and best solution: KILL CBOSS and fire everybody associated with it. Savings: $100 million, minimum”.

      Q: Agreed but why stop there? Let’s take a closer look at European unit costs: http://assets.hs2.org.uk/sites/default/files/inserts/comparison%20of%20high%20speed%20lines%20capex.pdf (ETCS/TVM430 signaling costs are on page 70).

      The figures are in GBP/KM so we need to multiply by 2.56 (1.6x1.6) to convert to $/ROUTE mile, giving a worst case scenario (HS1) of $3.15M/mile for signaling. Multiply that by 50 miles between Transbay and Tamien and the answer is $157.5M which compares very favorably with the $231M for CBOSS but does not include the $48M “owner’s costs” for the SamTrans gravy train.

      Where things get REALLY interesting is when we start looking at the staggering $785M cost of the Caltrain power supplies, poles and wires. Turning to page 75 of the document, the worst case electrification scenario (yes, you guessed it, HS1) is $2.3M per 2-track route mile which translates to Transbay to Tamien for $115M, a mind-blowing difference of $660M!!!

      Conclusion: FIRE EVERYONE ASSOCIATED WITH CALTRAIN ELECTRIFICATION, terminate the 9-partner MOU which was nothing more than a $600M bribe to blow $8B of Prop1A bonds in the Central Valley and let’s get Caltrain electrified sooner, starting with DTX and the replacement of the ENTIRE fleet with 125 MPH bi-level bi-mode EMUs capable of providing one-seat rides between Transbay, Facebook, Great America, Gilroy and beyond.

    5. Obviously the OUTRAGEOUS "agency overhead" and larger, other pure unadulterated agency/consultant trade-restraint sole-source not-invented-here graft is the leading term for any of this.

      As you very accurately point out, Caltrain's electrification costs are off by a factor or four or more.

      And as you very accurately point out, everybody in any way connected with this fiasco is engaging in systematic, deliberate, outright, and unambiguous fiscal fraud, stealing hundreds of millions from the public in order to reward engineering cartel and mafiosi. Just like CBOSS.

      Not only should heads roll, but prison sentences should be widely distributed.

      That aside ...

      Caltrain electrification also promises to be THE CANYONERO of over-construction.

      If we, for example, look at the San Bruno grade separation, and the zillions of overhead pole supports in place, we learn that Caltrain's standard pole separation, for 79mph design speed on straight track is ... 180 whole feet (feet!) (feet!!!!) or 54.9m

      In contrast, the standard German "Re 200" catenary design system for 200kmh (124.3mph) has a standard pole spacing of 80m (at wind load 26m/s = 85mph.) For higher wind loads, locally unrealistic, this standard straight track pole spacing decreases to 70m (29.8m/s wind = 98mph) and 65m (32.1m/s = 105mph)

      So, corridor-long, Caltrain (AREMA compliant, CANYONERO aspiring) will be placing 45% more overhead poles than anybody with a hundred years of experience would.

      It gets even worse when any sort of curve is involved. For example, the criminally, unnecessarily, ridiculously tight 728m radius curve north of the all-new FSSF-incompatible San Bruno station, with its permanent 75mph = 120kmh corridor speed restriction, features pole spacing of 120 to 150 feet (feet!) or 36.6 to 45.7m.

      In contrast, the extremely widely deployed German "Re 200" standard suggests 59.8m spacing at 700m radius.

      In the 670 feet (204m) of track curve between the misdesigned crazy San Bruno station and the Hwy 380 underpass, Caltrain will be paying somebody to procure and erect 6 overhead support poles, whereas your average German professional using a non-Canyonero standard OCS CAD package would place 3 or 4.

      Now obviously the materials cost for steel and concrete for the overhead system (and the transformers, and the switching gear, and the SCADA, and ...) are going to be pretty much rounding errors in the context of Caltrain's $785 million pork swill-fest of out of control contractor cash handouts, but even these "little" things — like 50% too much material purchased and installed — do add up over time.

      Incredible, no?

      No, not incredible. Standard business practice.

      America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, doing exactly what they do best.

      Now pay up, or children will DIE OF DIESEL CANCER.

    6. We are just using the AREMA standards in case there is an ice storm or a hurricane. You never know. My favorite example is this one in Boston.

    7. Caltrain Performance Simulations:
      Assuming 3,000 horse power is applied to the rails for a 5 car consist, a 25 % engine traction co-efficient, a 77 mph peak speed (only for stations greater than16,442 feet apart), a 50 second average dwell, and a 3.3 % schedule pad one can simulate an 83 minute trip for the 22 run segment 45.6 mile northbound trip between the SJ Diridon and 22nd stations. This run time and stopping pattern is the same as the Feb 2000 schedule when station mile posts were included on printed schedules. (Current weekend schedules show the same stopping pattern but indicate 88 minutes being consumed while operating between these two stations. Continuing to meet the wheel-chair accommodation requirement from mostly 8 inch platforms is apparently becoming increasingly impractical.)
      My train performance simulation approach assumed Isaac Newton’s Second Law of Motion, F = M*A and wind resistance being proportional to the square of the speed as true. I applied high school level algebra and calculus with the aid of an HP 33s pocket calculator’s numerical integration and equation solving capabilities. A Microsoft EXCEL spread-sheet proved useful for combining results.
      Start with Newton’s Second Law of Motion: F = M*a = M*(dv/dt). Multiplying by velocity (v) we have v*F = M*v*(dv/dt) = P or dt = (M/P)*v*dv. ‘P’ is the traction power (P) available for acceleration. The following section derives an equation that expresses traction power available for train acceleration as a function of speed (v).
      A 1992 model 710 metric tonne Shinkansen HSR train when applying 12,000 kw of traction power can achieve a 296 km/hr balancing speed on a level track. The power absorbed by major parasitic components is expressed with the equation P = V*(R + W*(V^2))*M*G. Railway rolling friction (R) on straight smooth track approaches a 1,000 to one lift/drag ratio. Setting R = 0.001 and solving for W we obtain W = 274*E−9/(ft/sec)^2. For an electrified Caltrain’s blunt end shorter consists performance simulations I have chosen a wind constant (W) that is 57 % higher than this computed Shinkansen wind constant. The net traction power available for train acceleration is the difference between the traction motor power output (Po) and the train motion parasitic losses as expressed in the previous power (P) equation:
      P = Po – {V*[R + W*(V^2)]*M*G
      From the previous section where dt = (M/P)*v*dv is an equation that expresses the incremental time (dt) required for a power-limited-train to accelerate from a given speed (v) to an incrementally higher speed (dv). In order to find the total time need to accelerate a power limited train from one speed to another one can integrate the incremental time function (dt) with respect to speed (v). Therefore total time T = ∫dt = ∫(M/P)*v*dv, where the limits of integration are usually defined as between the maximum achievable linear acceleration speed possible {Vi = P/(M*A)} with the available power and the maximum speed (Vf) allowed on that line section. Therefore: T = ∫dt = ∫(M/P)*v*dv from Vi to Vf. The distance (S) traveled is the product of time (T) and velocity (v). Therefore S = v*T = ∫(M/P)*v*v*dv. Since power (P) available for acceleration is a complex function of ‘v’ computer generated numerical integrations is by far the most practical solution method. MATHCAD is lightning fast but my HP 33s pocket calculator normally takes less than 20 seconds in order to converge to a numerical integration solution for the time and distance functions listed above.

    8. Let’s apply the foregoing analysis approach to various possible forms of Caltrain electrification between SJ Diridon and 22nd Street with EMUs able to achieve 4.4 feet per second maximum in-service acceleration and braking rates. EMUs operated with a 25 second average dwell time and a 3.3% schedule pad will yield the following run times: With maximum speeds restricted to 100 mph a 10 kw/tonne train will require 60 minutes to call on all 22 stations. Skipping half the intervening stations, the top 10 ridership stations on this segment plus California Avenue for example, running time between the same two points will take 45 minutes. Raising traction power to 20 kw/tonne will save 6 minutes of running time on an all-stop schedule but skipping half the stations will only produce a 4 minute running time reduction, to 41 minutes, on an express schedule. Raising maximum speeds to 200 kph (≈124 mph) with all intervening curves rebuilt to accommodate 124 mph will reduce running time by one mph for all stop trains. However under these conditions an express train skipping half the stops can make the same trip in 38 minutes or the same incremental time improvement, 15 minutes, as a 10 kw/tonne shifting from a local to an express schedule with a 100 mph speed restriction. Compare this 71 mph average speed performance level, for a 38 minute run, to today’s 31 mph average weekend all stop schedule between the same two points. Note: Transit industry ridership models often assume that that demand will be inversely proportional to speed. These higher average speeds could be significant when competing for the 600,000 daily SJ to SF parallel freeway users.

    9. With regards to "Now pay up, or children will DIE OF DIESEL CANCER", see http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/newsroom/Authority_Applauds_Release_Prop1A_Funds_Local_Rail_Improvements_Final.pdf: "The $8.5 million allocated on Wednesday allows Metrolink to purchase three additional high powered Tier-4 locomotives for their commuter rail service. This is part of an $89 million investment of connectivity funds allocated through Senate Bill 1029 (Budget Act of 2013) to repower and/or purchase 20 to 30 stronger, faster, and GREENER locomotives"

    10. In today's news, Network Rail awards $3.2B's worth of "electrification framework agreements" for the electrification of 2,000 track miles ($1.6M per track mile): http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/infrastructure/single-view/view/network-rail-announces-electrification-framework-agreements.html. So, assuming 3 electrified tracks between the Transbay terminal and Tamien, the grand total would be $230M, not $785M. Note that Network Rail awards electrification DESIGN contracts first (not PORK-LADEN DESIGN/BUILD CONTRACTS)
      "to define the detailed scope, programme and target prices": http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/infrastructure/single-view/view/edinburgh-glasgow-electrification-design-contract-awarded.html

    11. In today's news, ADIF awards a $38.5M contract to "design, supply and maintain 25 kV electrification" for 27.5 miles of track in the Pajares tunnels (http://www.railwaybulletin.com/2014/02/pajares-tunnel-electrification-contract-awarded), taking the cost of electrification down to $1.4M per track/mile. This would appear to price poles at around $200K/track mile which sounds about right.

    12. It's double-track, so it's $1.4M per route-mile. At those prices, the overhead contact system and traction power supply would cost about $80 million for Caltrain.

      The budget for those two items as of 2003 was $210 million ($62M for traction power supply, $148M for OCS; see Chapter 2 of the 2004 electrification EIR). That inflates to $267M today. The TPS and OCS account for about 60% of the infrastructure cost, which was last estimated at $785 million in 2009... so the TPS and OCS have increased to about $465M (2009) or $500M (2014).

      So we're looking at about a factor of SIX more expensive than Spain. Nice.

      And that's before the estimates are updated, presumably upwards, for the upcoming DEIR...

    13. Oops, the $785M figure was in year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars. So maybe a factor of FIVE.

    14. No, no, no: see bottom of page 3 in http://www.sfcta.org/sites/default/files/content/Executive/Meetings/pnp/2013/10oct/Capital%20Projects%20Update%20-%20Caltrain%20Early%20Investment%20Program.pdf: "Caltrain plans on updating the budget sometime in 2014, once its consultants are on board. ESCALATIONS ALONE COULD BE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $150M".
      If that does not result in the immediate arrest and indictment of America's finest transportation professionals for fraud and/or criminal incompetence, what will???

    15. Who but Richard M. talks about "America's finest transportation professionals"?
      Exactly what statutes have they violated? If you can't point to reasonable grounds for arrest, there's no justification for arrest.

      You *do8 realize that crying for the arrest of "America's finest transportation professionals", without evidence showing probable cause, is *exactly*, I repeat *exactly* like GOP members of Congress saying that President Obama should be impeached, also without any mention of law-breaking??

    16. "I see nothing! I see nothing!" </sergeant shultz>

    17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34ag4nkSh7Q

    18. In yesterday’s news, Caltrain published the March Board meeting agenda: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/__Agendas+and+Minutes/JPB/Board+of+Directors/Agendas/2014/3-6-14+JPB+Agenda.pdf.

      One item worthy of mention is #11 Award an independent contractor agreement to DConsult, LLC of Conroe, Texas for the services of Director, Project Delivery for the Caltrain Modernization (CalMod) Program in the amount of $4.3 million for a term commencing April 1, 2014 and expiring in six years" (an eye-watering annual salary of $716,667 or nearly half as much as the SamTrans/Caltrain Executive Director compensation after unaudited “perks” AKA “the Mike FY14 bucket”).

      According to the staff report, "there was unanimous agreement that David Couch Sr. of DConsult was the most qualified candidate and was the most suitable fit for the CalMod Program and the JPB... He successfully led major capital programs at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Houston, Texas and at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit District (WMATA) in Washington DC" as follows:

      - Houston MTA: Last Monday, Mr. Couch abandoned a troubled $900M light rail project slated to start operation in September WITHOUT ROLLING STOCK (prototypes sprang leaks during testing and are overweight): http://www.isiahfactor.com/2014/02/24/a-metro-big-wig-resigns-from-his-post-at-a-crucial-time/ http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/transportation/article/Railcar-delay-means-crowded-trains-Metro-says-5147117.php

      - WMATA: Mr. Couch was in charge of capital projects when a newly installed defective track circuit went undetected for 5 days until the infamous June 22 2009 Metrorail accident which killed nine and injured 80 passengers: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/01/AR2009070102369.html

      Should the Board approve this resolution and should history repeat itself, we can expect Caltrain to be running F40s under the wire many years after “electrification”.

    19. Note the typical overhead rates are 250%, so Mr Couch would actually pocket about $200k/year.

    20. Caltrain RFP Checklist of Qualifications:

      1. United States citizen?

      2. Unbroken record of failure in project delivery?

      Yes and yes? Break out the cigars and commence the back-slapping!

    21. In a career-defining moment, America's finest Transportation Professionals gave the Mercury News an early glimpse of a Strategic Plan bordering on contempt of Court: "We have to hurry up and spend the money, because if they (High Speed Rail) disappear, they disappear with the money. Then we are half short." http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_25244905/caltrain-releases-draft-report-rail-electrification-project.

    22. That's not contempt of court, not even close. How on Earth do you make that stretch? The last two paragraphs of the article say:

      Asked if there's any danger of Caltrain not receiving the state money if the high-speed rail project is killed in the courts, Lee offered a pragmatic response.

      "We have to hurry up and spend the money, because if they disappear, they disappear with the money," she said. "Then we are half short."
      CHSRA's misuse of Prop 1A funds hasn't yet been killed in the Courts. How can something be "contempt of court", if the Court has yet to make the hypothetical ruling?

    23. This article gives some insight into Mr. Couch’s M.O. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_operandi):
      http://www.asce.org/cemagazine/Article.aspx?id=23622329440 (the train in the picture is one of the 2 overweight prototypes with the water leaks).

      “The projects have a single designer/build contractor—HRT (Houston Rapid Transit). HRT is a joint venture comprising Parsons’ transportation group, of Pasadena, California; Granite Construction Company, of Watsonville, California; Kiewit Texas Construction L.P., based in Irving, Texas; and Stacy and Witbeck, Inc., of Alameda, California.

      “Couch explains that constructing three simultaneous expansion projects concurrently presented METRO with several benefits: “By having everything under one design/builder, with them putting the same system and the same components in for all three of the lines, it gives you an economy from a financial standpoint and it also helps you from a standpoint of not having to integrate disparate systems. It works very well,” Couch says.

      Indeed it does:
      - The first, the North Line, is a 5.2 mi extension of the Red Line: $756M
      - The second is a 6.3 mile extension of the Southeast Line: $822M
      - The third extension, the East End Line is literally “up in the air” after this fiasco:
      http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/transportation/article/Contaminated-soil-sinks-Metro-underpass-plans-for-5219781.php which is quite remarkable considering that “City, state and transit officials have known about the toxic dirt for two decades”

    24. That last link is only available to "digital subscribers of the Houston Chronicle"...

    25. Try Googling "Contaminated soil sinks Metro underpass plans for Green Line"

    26. When i do that, I get a piece by Dug Begley, the same author, dated Feb 9 2014.

      What that piece says is that Metro was using data from 1996. metro was prepared to do mediation for what was known. But when they took fresh soil samples, they found a much larget contaminated area. The fresh samples also showed benzene at 1,400 times the allowable level for discharge into the local water supply, and MBTE at 1,000 times the allowable level. Putting in an underpass would redirect groundwater -- but the article doesn't say anything about the groundwater going into the local water supply.

      So, *no*, the authorities did not know about the *current* contamination 20 years ago. Yes, the authorities knew there was contamination 20 years ago. But under Texas law, they're not required to do anything about it whilst the contaminated soil just sits there; only if they dig, do they need to remediate.

      What do you think that says about Mr. Couch's modus-operandi?

    27. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kqyev46qyI

  8. Why not use Duel Mode locomotives to continue the Gilroy extention service after the full Caltrain electrification south to Tamian Station in San Jose? You would only need three Dual Mode locomotives, because only three trains run to/from Gilroy. The Gilroy train riders would still get direct access to Silicon Valley Catrain stops, without tranfering trains in San Jose. The dual mode trains could even terminate at the Port of Redwood City unelectrified spur line with a station that serves the Dreamworks tech campus, Googles Ferryboats and the future Saltworks development. Alternatly they could terminate at an East Palo Alto station, across the street from the Facebook campus, using the unelectrified Dumbarton track.

    1. I think the best reason not to do that is because it would be a waste of scarce resources. The Gilroy branch has insignificant ridership and very little upside potential (compared to the rest of the corridor) due to its sparse population and jobs density. Caltrain should run all service to Blossom Hill but no further, and hand off the Gilroy service to Amtrak California's Capitol Corridor trains. The peninsula corridor and the Gilroy branch are two different animals, certainly far too different to justify the same high-capacity solution (bi-level EMU + electrification)

    2. http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/06/07/union-pacific-sells.html

    3. UP has no use for the dead end Hollister branch. I suspect they'd be somewhat less inclined to sell the rest of the ROW between Gilroy and San Jose.