14 June 2015


Caltrain recently published their Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) Request for Proposals (RFP) in draft form, to obtain feedback from potential proposers prior to the formal issue of this document in August 2015.  Here are some initial impressions:

What's Pleasantly Surprising:
  • Level boarding is a serious consideration throughout the RFP.  Caltrain appears to recognize the importance of this issue: it's the Next Big Thing after electrification, and cannot wait until the next round of vehicle replacement in the 2050s.  The RFP shows that Caltrain is starting to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
  • Platform sharing and full blending with high-speed rail is firmly on the agenda with "Option B," a dual boarding height train that enables an eventual transition to level boarding at 48 - 51" height.  This solution has been described and advocated on this blog as the best one available given the constraints of the problem.  Most people who reject this solution ultimately take issue with one of the constraints, but once you accept these constraints, "Option B" starts to make more sense.  Proposers are asked in the draft RFP to further evaluate its feasibility and cost impact.
  • In section 3.3.3, future capability for level boarding is described as ADA-compliant with a 3-inch maximum horizontal gap and a 5/8-inch maximum height mismatch.  Section 4.2.3 specifies a pneumatic leveling suspension to meet the vertical tolerance. It looks like Caltrain  is going the extra inch after all, which is commendable.
  • The vehicle static envelope in Appendix C is a full 3.4 meters wide, enabling the use of extra-wide trains, wider than the conventional AAR plates.  While Caltrain doesn't seem keen on 3+2 seating (something about the "middle seat" situation), extra width that takes full advantage of the static envelope is good for all uses besides seating.  Let's hope the proposers aren't timid about this.
  • While it isn't immediately obvious from looking at the raw numbers, the run times required in section are fairly aggressive and will require some sporty power-to-weight ratios.  This high level of acceleration and braking performance is good for the blended system and will ensure that the most can be made of shared tracks.
  • In section, door controls are required to be installed in the driving cab, offering the possibility of consolidating and automating a task currently performed by conductors.
  • In section 14.4, an automatic station announcement system is specified to automate a task currently performed by conductors.  This isn't exactly surprising for a modern train, but Caltrain and its labor practices sometimes seem stuck back in the 20th century.
  • In section 14.9, the trains are required to be pre-wired (if not yet equipped) for passenger Wi-Fi.  For a rail system that serves Silicon Valley, that's overdue by easily a decade.
  • No trap doors!  That always seemed like a horrible way to achieve level boarding.
What's Disappointing:
  • The RFP is highly prescriptive.  The cost of preparing such a voluminous requirements specification, and then to formally verify such a large number of requirements, will easily run into the millions of dollars.  So much for off-the-shelf procurement.
  • In section 2, no allowance is made for articulated trains (e.g. Bombardier Omneo) or for trains with mixed bi-level and single level arrangements (e.g. Siemens Desiro HC).  The desired EMU is prescribed as a set of traditional bilevel cars each about 85 feet long.  A better approach would be to define a minimum passenger capacity per unit length, leaving more room for creative and unconventional interior layouts.
  • Still no detailed thought appears to have gone into how to transition to level boarding under "Option A".  The height of 24 or 25 inches is intended to match Caltrain's existing Bombardier bilevel cars, which is a bit mystifying since there is no feasible transition to level boarding using these cars.  Section 3.3.3 basically asks for proposers to figure it out for Caltrain: "Heights below 24 inches will be considered for future level boarding if the Contractor can demonstrate conclusively that the height is advantageous for JPB’s envisioned service and compatible during the transition to that envisioned service."
  • Section 12 requires all doors of the train to open at every stop, as they do today.  To reduce wear and tear on the door mechanisms, modern vehicles often come equipped with interior and exterior push buttons for passengers to initiate door opening.  Instead of opening the doors by default, the crew-operated door control station should de-inhibit the doors to be opened only as requested by passengers at each individual door.
  • Section 2 envisions that trains would be lengthened from 6 cars (~150 m) to 8 cars (~200 m) at some future date.  This is far too timid a capacity expansion.  A more flexible and future-proof approach would be to order more 150 m trains and double them up-- after the necessary platform extensions are constructed at stations with the highest ridership.
What's Weird:
  • Section 2 requires shorter 6-car trains to have their performance de-rated (by software) to the same performance as a longer 8-car train.
  • Section 23.2.2 requires the delivery of 200 (two hundred!) 1/50th scale models of each car type for "internal and external distribution"... That's some serious schwag!
What's Missing:
  • "Option B" with dual boarding levels requires level boarding at 48 to 51 inches ATOR but fails to describe the basic platform interface dimensions, including height above rail, offset from track center, and tolerances thereon.  Proposers are unlikely to be able to design against such a critical interface when it hasn't even been defined.  This data should be agreed upon with the California HSR Authority, after some technical decision making that may have to occur sooner than they would like.
  • In section 3.3.3, Caltrain requires that "the entire platform interface system must also be usable during the transition from the current platform height to the level boarding platform height," a stealth requirement that makes "Option A" trains at least as mechanically complex as the "Option B" trains, by requiring boarding capability at two different heights (8-inch legacy and 25 inches with ADA-compliant level boarding).  A requirement of such great importance and design impact ought to be made more explicit, saying what it actually means and using the word "shall".
  • The door control system (section 12) envisions 100% manual operation of the doors by train crews.  This may not properly address the challenge of operating during a platform height transition, when each individual platform may need to be raised in successive construction phases to avoid closing the station or doubling the construction footprint for temporary platforms.  With manual door operation, the risk of human error resulting in opening a door at the wrong platform height will likely be unacceptable, particularly to regulators such as the CPUC.  It may be warranted, at the cost of some additional complexity, to require a platform sensing system that automatically inhibits door opening when the incorrect height is sensed, preventing crew errors and potential passenger injury.
Please use the comment section to add your own review of this document.


  1. This is surely reading way too much into the train performance simulation data in Appendix A, but it's interesting to see what Caltrain planners envision for the built out system (pp. 536-7 in the PDF). Somehow the San Bruno curve, for example, seems to have had its speed restriction increased from 60 mph to 80 mph, though it's a little hard to tell because it's also been moved back about 700 meters (from KP 57.3 to KP 56.6).

  2. It seems 3-car consist option dropped? (Collect me if wrong) 6-car consist is too much capacity for midday and weekend, if it runs BART level of frequency. I am afraid midday, late night and weekend frequency will not be much improved if they choose 6-car.
    BART runs 3 or 4 cars during midday and weekend. Those capacity is much smaller than Caltrain's current 5-car consist.

    1. It is purchasing the trains (determined by peak, not off-peak) and staffing them which is expensive, not so much the incremental power and maintenance of running them off-peak.

      Caltrain's refusal for decades to provide even barely adequate service, especially "off-peak" is due to the agency not giving a shit about customers, not because of the amount of extra diesel or electricity. They're "commuter railroaders", and will be until the day they die.

      The ways to address operating costs are:
      * One person operation, with real POP, not Caltrain conductor-fest.
      Cut train staffing levels by 66+%.
      * Good performance trains, low dwell times (level boarding), fast turnback times.
      Keep trains in service. Reduce total fleet size, which is determined by peak service patterns.
      * Good timetable, turning back trains strategically to deliver most service where it is most effective.
      Again: reduce total fleet size, which is determined by peak service patterns.

      Under Caltrain staff type grand electrical future magic best imaginable end of all time service (all trains SF-SJ, train cycle time SF-SJ-SF about 3 hours, peak departures 05:00-09:00 and 16:00-19:30, bad 6tph peak, sad 2tph off-peak), nearly all train-miles are peak. If you split some trains after peak (only 33% of trains in service at all off-peak) then you save only 15% of fleet train-miles, meaning under 5% direct cost savings .. and no fleet size savings, no crew size savings.

      Conclusion: it is much better to have a smart timetable, lower crew costs, less idle dwell/turnback time than to worry much about minor costs from "too long" trains on a minority of trips.

      Meanwhile, make/break of trains is itself expensive and time consuming, requiring extra "yard" crews if nothing else. It is also an additional source of potential service failures if (when!) train-line controls do not connect properly.

      Also, 2 x 3 car sets = 4 maintenance-intensive, capacity-consuming driver cabs per 150m of train. This is a significant ongoing cost!

      Plus every each cab requires sole-source unique CBOSS equipment, which is guaranteed to fail regularly, spectacularly, and expensively.

      With full-width cabs a train of coupled sets is not "walk through", which is less attractive for passengers and which may have Caltrain union feather-bedding extra crew extra cost implications.

    2. Caltrain doesn't run crap "off-peak" service because of six car trains: it runs crap service because it is run by "commuter railroaders". That's all that matters. Nothing to do with equipment or diesel cost!

      But ignoring that ...

      Breaking peak-length trains into half-length off-peak consists would save maybe 15% of weekday train-miles, maybe.

      That means less than 5% of operating costs, because crew costs don't go down (might increase for yard crews to make/break trains) and because total fleet size, determined by peak timetable, doesn't change.

      The small savings in power/maintenance would almost certainly be disappear once you consider the extra costs of maintaining twice as many driver's cabs (with twice as much failure-guaranteed CBOSS junk), the costs of losing revenue space (ie seats) to unused mid-train cabs, the logistical overheads of mixed fleets, etc. That's why most (not all!) operators don't bother.

      The way to save operating cost is to run trains with one third or a quarter of today's on-board crew; to lower dwell times and turnback times; and to operate a service plan that efficiently matches demand to service. That stuff really makes a difference. Caltrain is doing none of it ...

    3. Have you ever see BART train couple/decouple at Fremont station? One mechanics crew at train station assist coupling 4-car train into another 4-car train which is waiting south of platform. It is only within 1 ~2 minutes.

  3. Opening doors only on passenger demand interior & exterior door buttons ringed with LEDs to show when they are disinhibited (active) are definitely a nice way to go.

    In addition to preventing unnecessary door cycles, as Clem points out, it also avoid unnecessary exposure to outside noise, weather (hot/cold air, wind, rain, etc.) and possibly unnecessary playing of tedious and/or grating "The doors are about to close" messages at doors which have remained closed.

    I've ridden a lot of trains in a lot of places all over the world, and Caltrain's door closing chimes PLUS "Caution! The doors are about to close!" message ranks up there with the longest and most annoying of them. The best are systems with a short and pleasant warning chime or tone. Spoken voice has the problem of being long and slow and tedious/annoying and being in a language which the rider may or may not even speak. How come so much of the world seems to get by with a pleasant tone or a chime?


      Again. And Again. And Again. And Again.

  4. Caltrain should also use EMU RFP as an opportunity to get super-quiet car interiors, where riders can converse easily while speaking softly with the train cruising at its top speed.

    I just had a look at NOISE section "2.5.1 INTERIOR PASSENGER AREA" and wonder how this compares to some of the world's quietest car interiors.

    It states the car's "interior noise in the passenger area when measured in accordance with ISO 3381 ... shall not exceed equivalent continuous sound pressure level" of 68 dBA when the car is stationary (windows & doors closed, all auxiliaries running under normal conditions). When in motion, on any line at any speed, except in tunnels noise levels shall not exceed:
    70 dBA on the upper level
    75 dBA on the lower level
    76 dBA in vestibules and on "intermediate" levels

    Anyone know how this compares to the quietest rail car interiors from, say, Stadler or Bombardier?

    1. You can bet your bottom dollar that COMMUTER RAILROADING "SAFETY" in the form of "HORN AND BELL" will blast through all noise "requirements". Because SAFETY. Riding in Caltrain cab cars is intolerable because of the non-stop HORN AND BELL.

      HORN AND BELL, Caltrain hell.

      3.2.2 HORN AND BELL

      A horn shall be provided at the cab end of each cab car, with controls located on the cab console. Horns shall comply with 49 CFR 229.129 and shall be located under the car. They shall be tilted to direct sound and be provided with a shield or deflector to prevent accumulation or packing of debris in the cone. Horn volume shall be set by the Contractor and be adjustable by maintenance personnel, and horn control shall allow operation of the FRA required 2 long, 1 short and 1 long blast pattern.

      The cab end of each cab car shall be equipped with an electronic warning bell, the design and location of which shall be provided to JPB for review and approval. The warning bell shall be controlled by a console mounted pushbutton switch in the cab. Pressing the switch one time shall activate the warning bell; pressing it a second time shall deactivate the warning bell. The warning bell shall also activate when the horn is activated.

  5. Interior lighting, section 15.2.2 INTERIOR LIGHTS says: "LEDs shall have a Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) range within
    4,200 to 5,700 degrees Kelvin. The transmitted light shall be neutral white."

    Good to see they're going all LED but I'm concerned that they're going with a cooler than warm color temperature and aren't even saying anything about color rendering index (CRI). A "standard" incandescent light bulb has a color temperature of about 2700K "warm white" and a CRI of 100. A CRI of 85 means colors only look 85% as "natural" or correct as they do with an incandescent light -- which in the world of LED lighting, is still quite good.

    1. So the point of all this was that older/cheaper LEDs had crappy color rendering, so that while they looked good on paper (sufficient lumens and pleasantly warm color) ... their color spectrum was such that colors didn't quite look right in their light. So Caltrain ought to ensure whatever LEDs are used for car interior lighting have a CRI of 85 or better (100 is best).

    2. CRI relates to rendering of eight pastel colors. No saturated colors evaluated. R9 is a measure of how "fire truck red" looks. I think 4200-5700K CCT will look artificial to most people (i would suggest 4000K). If you want LED lamps with CRI>95, and R9>95, look at Soraa (one founder won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-inventing GaN LED technology).

  6. "What's Weird:

    Section 23.2.2 requires the delivery of 200 (two hundred!) 1/50th scale models of each car type for "internal and external distribution"... That's some serious schwag!

    What's crazy-weird-incompetent is 1:50.

    1:87 certainly
    1:160 less impressively
    1.76 whacky-angophilicially (to go with the RFP's inches, miles, pounds, etc)
    1:43.5/1:45/1.48 (so many standards!) detail-riffically
    1.32 garden-compatibly

    Perhaps, like with the rest of their made-up mish-mash spec, they just got totally utterly confused by the whole imperials units business and just wrote down some random number that will drive up costs and guarantee uniqueness?

    1. 1/50 is a common architectural scale, typically used for models of rooms and building interiors. Perhaps the rolling stock models will have removable roofs or side panels to allow viewing of the interior layout.

  7. Yeah, right, because the cost of building the models is going to drive up procurement costs. *Eye roll*

  8. In section 14.9, the trains are required to be pre-wired (if not yet equipped) for passenger Wi-Fi. For a rail system that serves Silicon Valley, that's overdue by easily a decade.

    I can't help but wonder what's so difficult about just installing WiFi now. It's not exactly new technology and you can't even blame Buy American rules since there are plenty of domestic vendors. When WiFi is finally implemented, quite possibly the greater part of a decade after the cars go into service, will this wiring have to be redone anyway?

    1. What's so difficult about WiFi?

      The main issue is that Caltrain staff always wrap up "simple" projects into massive, over-the-top, high-overhead portmanteau frankenstein contracts involving random unrelated crap and extraordinarily high barriers to entry by anybody except existing contractor insiders.

      So a passenger WiFi contract gets wireless security camera monitoring, wireless intrusion detection, Caltrain-internal broadband, and any other amount of random irrelevant junk added on, and then the RFP is loaded up with so much burdensome agency rigmarole that only specialized feeders on government contracts can even approach it; meanwhile the larger the scope of the contract the more "agency oversight" overhead is "required". Win-win!
      Delivering customer benefit simply sinks without sight beneath the rising seas of pork.

      Another absolutely egregious example of this was the train arrival prediction system, delivered over a decade late, and specified by Caltrain staff so that only the "winner" of the globally-Caltrain-unique Caltrain train dispatching system could be awarded the pork. In fact, they cancelled without awarding an earlier version of the RFP after a first go around after receiving bids from several businesses that actually do transit prediction, electing instead to anti-competitively pork out the dispatch contract by four times as much money.

      (Of course, it's even worse that that, because they could have had train prediction — at least the web if not the signs at the stations — for free before 2008 if they'd just bought 30 iPhones or random GPS-to-cellphone-thingies, placed them in the train cabs (zero operator intervention other than keeping them charged), and had any of several hundred random volunteer students throw together raw-GPS-to-arrival-prediction software prototype in a single weekend.)

  9. "Section 2 requires shorter 6-car trains to have their performance de-rated (by software) to the same performance as a longer 8-car train."

    I suspect this is to allow the signalling system to treat 6-car and 8-car trains the same; IIRC when the Metropolitan Line in London upgraded to S-Stock, which has a slightly lower top speed than the trains they replaced, the old trains were de-rated to match them until the changeover was complete. Now, why an 8-car train would have worse performance than a 6-car train I don't really understand; I thought the whole point of a EMU was that the whole train is powered, thus I don't see why a longer train would necessarily perform worse.

    1. Longer trains take longer to clear limited speed zones (e.g. curves, diverging routes at switches and etc.)

    2. @Unknown, the RFP specifies the optional 7th and 8th cars are to be unpowered except for auxiliaries. (Section 2.3)

    3. "the RFP specifies the optional 7th and 8th cars are to be unpowered except for auxiliaries"
      Caltrain permanent consultants, of course, being the world's authorities on modern rolling stock design and operation.
      As the man said "The RFP is highly prescriptive"

      "Longer trains take longer to clear limited speed zones"
      Obviously true, but irrelevant.

      Train detection and interlocking clearing (safety critical functions) are completely independent of train performance and the higher level signalling, routing, scheduling and energy-optimization systems. (At least for non-CBTC systems. If train positions are self-reported and train integrity is continuously self-monitored we're in completely different world, one of zero relevance to Caltrain.)

      Computed train braking distances (computed by following trains) are affected by train configuration, and any even remotely competent contemporary train protection system is aware of and enforces this.

      The required software derating of train performance -- pulled out their own arses by America's Finest perma-temp Transprotation Planning Professionals -- is all of inexplicable, unjustifiable, insane, and actively harmful. Harmful because it reduces train the "catch up" oomph which can be used to recover from schedule upsets, while delivering exactly zero benefit to passenger or operators. Just nuts.

      Lowest Common Denominator: it's The American Transportation Planning Professional's only level!

      You'd also almost be tempted to think that this is yet more concrete evidence that the well over a hundred million dollars of consultant swill fraudulent expense for CBOSS ($100+m beyond what anybody else on the planet would spend on a simple signal system for an 80km little shuttle line with hardly any traffic worth mentioning) delivered massively negative value, wouldn't you?

    4. Look Ma, there goes even any pretense of Caltrain buying off-the-shelf EMUs!

      Contemporary "Regional" EMUs come in trainsets of two, three, or four cars, semi-permanently coupled These sets can then be MU'd. If Caltrain wants a 6-car train, they should buy three 2-car sets, or two 3-car sets. If they want 8-car trainsets, they buy either 4 2-car pairs; or bite the bullet and buy 3 3-car sets.
      If the 9th car can't be used, due to staffing agreements, or beacuse it doesn't fit on some platforms... lock all the doors on the 9th car!

      I mean, ish't the ability to scale their trainsets in small units, whilst preserving the acceleration characteristics, an explicit piece of Caltrain's rationale for switching to EMUs, rather than loco-hauled sets (and "preserving their investment" in the Bombardier cars)?

      Are they truly so incompetent that they don't even *read their own %^!& policy documents*?

    5. I'm not sure what your point is. Bilevel EMUs are commonly procured in longer formations of six or more cars. Austria's Westbahn, Russia's Aeroexpress, Sydney's CityRail, and the French Regions all come to mind as places where longer bilevel EMUs have recently entered service. Are they all incompetent and ignorant too?

    6. Clem, you tell me. Did Westbahn, or AeroExpress, decide to order EMUs precisely with the rationale that power-to-weight raito, and performance, would be the same, for consists of multiple lenghts?

      And *(then8 go ahead and order a mix of vendor-standard EMU sets; *AND* require the vendor to add 33% more cars to the trainset, all unpowered? I don't think so. Do you? Are you defending such a decision as competent?

      And if you mean Syndey Trains, and their A fleet: they bought 8-car sets, as opposed to prior practice of buying 4-car sets and coupling htem into 8-car consists. They are not buying 4-car sets, and then specifying that the vendor *MIUST* offer configurations with two more unpowered carriages.

      Exactly as I said, Caltrain's RFP contradicts Caltrain's own reasons for purchasing EMUs. *That* is prima-facie iincompetent Let the vendor decode how to distribute powered and unpowered cars, in both 6-car and 8-car configurations. that's their expertise, not Caltrain's and not Caltrain's consultants.

      Stating reasonable requirements, and then contradicting them without reason, is incompetent. Why defend it?

      Why defend it?

    7. Clem,
      if i didn';t make my point clearly, then I do apologize. I've been running a fever for the past few days.

      The part i find "incompetent' is Caltrain's RFP, dictating to the vendors, that an 8-car set *must* be a 6-car set plus two non-powered "trailers". *That* should be left up to the vendors.. Requiring that specific configuration directly contradicts Caltrain's rationale for switching from loco-hauled trains to EMUs. I submit that self-contradiction is indeed, incompetent.

      I mean, what if the vendor's basic unit is Bo'Bo' + 2' 2', with either end or none configured as a cab-car?

  10. No more seats facing each other unless there's a table between them. Gonna miss those original Bombardier sets:
    If a seating arrangement includes transverse seats that face each other, a work table must be placed between the seats

  11. Convenience Outlets

    120 Vac duplex convenience outlets at every row of seats shall be provided for the use by passengers with laptops or similar electronic equipment. Outlets in the passenger area shall be limited to a maximum current of 2A per outlet to discourage recharging of electric bicycle batteries or similar high-power applications. Automatic reset shall occur when the overload is


    The Contractor may propose a trainlined intercar auxiliary power supply system, at for example 1000 Vac, 60 Hz single phase, powered by an auxiliary winding of the main transformer. This power trainline would power the APS and LVPS on each car. If this approach is proposed, the auxiliary equipment must be fully functional at all line voltage variations as defined in Sections 10.1.1 and 10.1.2. Additionally, the Contractor shall demonstrate how APS voltage interruptions are avoided due to pantograph bouncing, or other short term line voltage interruptions.

    If the APS is operated from a secondary AC power source, the power factor shall automatically be corrected to be 1, with a maximum tolerance of +/- 1%.

    Alternatively, a solution drawing power from the regulated intermediate dc link between line- and propulsion inverters to power the APSs in each power car may be proposed. This solution shall provide continuous auxiliary power during short line voltage interruptions, while the train is moving sufficiently fast, by means of automatic regenerative braking, converting kinetic energy of the train into electrical power sufficient to maintain the intermediate link voltage at the normal operating range. If such a solution is provided, the 480V ac 60 Hz, three phase ac auxiliary inverter output shall be trainlined to provide auxiliary power to unpowered, trailing cars.

  13. In section 3.3.5 the restroom is spec'ed to have an illuminated "Out of Order" sign visible from the outside when it has been locked with a key from the outside.

    Yet why doesn't the spec go a step further and provide for an illuminated "Occupied" indicator visible to passengers (seated or otherwise) at a distance from the restroom?

    This can be as simple as LEDs above the door which light up red or green for occupancy (lock) status.

    Interestingly, the spec says the toilet "waste retention tank shall be sized for one day worth of waste storage".

    The problem with that is what sort of day's worth? Sized for an average day's worth? Sized for post-special event service ... think post game, post Pride Parade, post New Year's Eve partying, etc.

    You, or anyone you love or care about, do NOT want to be on a train when that retention tank reaches capacity mid-run.

    1. The 3.3.5 Restroom specs really ought to ensure that the soap dispenser is placed such that any soap that misses the user's hand drop into the sink. I've seen too many soap dispensers whose thoughtless placement needlessly create a slippery gooey mess on the floor. The sink faucet ought to be of the variety that shuts off automatically after a few seconds after being actuated. The sink spigot water flow should be diffuse shower head style which breaks up flow into several thin low force streams of water. I've seen too many sinks which either shut off unless held open such that one hand cannot easily and efficiently wash & rinse the other. I've seen too many sinks whose water flow is so forceful and voluminous that they both waste water and make a mess because the flow bounces off the sink or the user's hands and splashes out onto the floor, the user or surrounding walls.

  14. Add to the weird file: a globally unique trolley OCS crossing for 16th Street in San Francisco! MUNI plans to reroute the 22 Fillmore trolley line across tracks at that location. See section

    The Caltrain alignment will have a unique wayside configuration, wherein the 25 kVac overhead catenary system (OCS) will physically cross a 600 Vdc trolleybus line. The trolleybus overhead wire alignment will cross the OCS at an angle of approximately 50 degrees, as can be seen in Figure A at the end of this section. This allows crossing this intersection with the pantograph raised, but not energized. The OCS through this intersection will be isolated for 15m to 30m. The wayside location will be provided to the vehicle controls by the onboard PTC equipment. The crossing speed of this intersection will be approximately 10 mph. The track alignment in this area follows a slight curve, resulting in a higher rolling resistance. As a result, coasting through this intersection may not be a reliable solution in all cases.

    1. Nah. Slovaks have done it twice.
      So not unique, just rare.

    2. http://transphoto.ru/photo/267985/

    3. Not 25kv AC.
      Slovakia is 3kv DC.
      That crossing is not all that different from very common tram/trolley bus crossings.

      Caltrain/Muni's scheme/scam is completely demented.

      The road crossing should not exist at all!

      Worst of all, the bus is being rerouted in order to create the problem. It does not cross the tracks at grade today.

      Many other places this is illegal!

      It's obvious that everybody involved is seeking to maximize design cost, maximize capital cost, maximize maintenance cost, maximize service unreliability, and decrease safety.


    4. Holy crap! It is so much worse than anybody could imagine. Anybody but America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

      They require powering through phase breaks! (Oh, sorry, "Brakes".)

      This means they also require operation with two pantographs up!

      The incompetence is without bounds. Trolley Bus Crossing


      The crossing speed of this intersection will be approximately 10 mph


      The Contractor shall propose an automated control of the train’s carborne 25 kVac equipment in order to safely cross this intersection without accidently energizing the isolated section. It shall not be possible to stall the train with the active pantograph in the isolated section. The controls shall automatically coordinate the corresponding VCBs and pantograph, allowing the second pantograph to raise and provide power to the train from the pantograph which is outside of the insulated section. It is acceptable if such a switch over sequence will occur only if the train speed is determined to be too low to coast through the intersection. After passing this intersection the train shall default back to the normal operating configuration. OCS Phase Brakes

      The approach described above for the trolley bus crossing shall also be applied when crossing
      OCS phase breaks
      . The wayside location of the phase breaks will be provided by the PTC.

    5. @Clem, does the CPUC/CHSR 25kV OCS regulation allow for this kind of junction? From Caltrain's Electrification RFP Caltrain/Muni already agreed on this solution, with CPUC approval pending.

    6. No-one is going to put a trolley-bus route, at grade, over an actual high-speed HSR line.

      Last I heard, CPUC's rule for CHSRA was specifically for HSR; CPUC didn't grasp that 25kV AC is the world stnadard for all "greenfield" train electrification, whether freight, passenger commute, regional passenger, or HSR. IIRC< the CPUC draft rules were solely for HSR, and excluded lines shared with Ye Olde RailRoade drag-freight.

      IMO, it's utterly crazy for Caltrain to allow this. If Muni wants to extend their trolley-bus route over Caltrain line whihc is in the process of being electrified, then Muni (or SF) can pay for the underpass or overpass to cross the electrified line. I mean, whatever happened to Richard M's "concrente-first-and-always" cabal of America's Finest Transportation Professionals? How'd they miss this opportunity for pouring concrete? :)

    7. @William, the new CPUC rules are now on the books as General Order 176.

      Due to the scope restrictions demanded by the freight railroads, there is nothing in there to govern grade crossings, let alone the highly unusual case of a trolley grade crossing. The topic is approached obliquely in section 5.12 by reference to "paved areas in maintenance facilities, yards and workshops" with a minimum clearance of 20' 4".

      For those interested, the above-mentioned Slovakian trolley crossings can be visited in Google Street View here and here.

    8. Crossings between trolleybus lines and DC rail lines are not uncommon; the example in Slovakia has been mentioned; I personally know (and have passed on either way of transit) one in Zürich between the VBZ line 32 and the Uetlibergbahn (… hmm… I wonder what they are going to do when they re-electrify the Uetlibergbahn to 15 kV 16.7 Hz…).

      There are also crossings between AC and DC electrified train lines (again in Switzerland, Uetlibergbahn in Giesshübel, SBB/AAR in Suhr, etc.).

      However (again in Zürich), they did not extend the VBZ line 32 beyond the rail line in Seebach, as long as there would have been a level crossing; after they built an underpass for the road, the trolleybus line got extended. It was considered too risky to have the 15kV / 600V crossing.

      What kind of makes me wonder is the speed at which the trolleybus crossing should be passed. This is very slow…

  15. This proposal may some objection but Caltrain should seek two type of EMU, one for express the other for locals.
    Since majority of ridership comes from express and bi-level EMU makes sense.
    On the other hand, single level EMU looks fit for local train which have smaller capacity but cheaper to operate. Ridership ratio between local and express, it is difficult to justify frequent local train under bi-level equipment.
    Caltrain line have shorter station to station spacing compared with BART. Caltrain should build more station in between the existing stations along with transit oriented development. New station should be local only with 3~4 car long platform. Broadway and Atherton can be re-constract same shorter platfrom as those station will not stop express train.

    1. The only reason for different kind of rolling stock would be two very distinct operation environments.

      The biggest disadvantages of bi-levels is that the station dwelling time is inherently high; it can be improved by extra wide doors in a middle level section, but passenger exchange is still slow. This would speak in favor of bi-levels for express services.

      Single level trains would be more suitable for high-density, short distance, short distance between station, very frequent service applications. In that scenario station dwell times are critical, and the more doors there are, the shorter the station stop can be. That's why there are some trains in Japan (and elsewhere) with 5 doors per side per car. It is obvious that these trains won't offer many seats.

      Operating cost (if there is no overstaffing) are essentially the same whether you have bi-level or single-level trains.

    2. In the best corridor service pan that's anybody has come up with, there's a good potential split into two different fleets: something FLIRT-y (Desiro-y, TALENT-y, etc) for the "San Mateo local" with more and closer stops, and something more KISS-y (OMNEO-y, Desiro-HC-y, etc) for "Silicon Valley Express".

      At times of lower demand, the FLIRT-ier trains could operate more of the service with the higher-capacity service cut back.

      Another reason for procuring different kinds of rolling stock, as well as for not buying the entire fleet in one tranche, is to avoid "vendor capture", where the manufacturer gains economic power and "wins" future non-competitive fleet expansion, maintenance, parts, modifications, etc contracts. (At least in Alternate Reality USA that would be a good reason.)

    3. On the other hand, maintenance cost is actually a reason against different kinds of rolling stock, particularly from different vendors (unless the order is in all cases big enough, and includes heavy maintenance for a considerable number of years).

      If common components can be used, spares can be shared, which reduces cost as well.

      It has to be calculated whether the advantage of a bigger fleet beat the advantages of two smaller fleets.

      In many cases nowadays, orders come with a rather high number of options, just in order to not have to do the whole procurement spiel (which is not cheap) over and over again.

    4. It's even worse when one of your sub-fleets is diesel locomotive hauled, and the other EMUs. Which is Caltrain's plan, since they're short of funds to replace the entire fleet.

    5. Clem, If Caltrain have not enough money, replace local train from diesel to EMU first. Currently, Caltrain need add more express train, however slow local train and long distance of by-pass track location (Lawrence to Bayshore) makes difficult.
      There will be significant traveling time improvement of local train from diesel to EMU.

    6. @Anonymous

      I believe the plan is indeed to replace the locals with EMUs, and keep the diesels for Baby Bullets. They'll need the diesels for Gilroy service anyway (whether it is wise to maintain Gilroy service or not).

    7. "Caltrain's plan, since they're short of funds to replace the entire fleet"

      10% overhead paid to LTK Engineering Services -- scraping the very very very bottom of the America's Finest Transportaion Planning Professionals barrel there -- adds up to plenty of real missing revenue rail cars. The wild consultant trough-swilling takes real money that could purchase real rolling stock and incinerates it.

      And the planning to operate the worst possible "all skip-stop, all the time" batshit "blended" timetable forever, as Caltrain intends, doing so with unpredictable long dwell times and extended turnback times, maximizes all of fleet size, non-revue time, crew requirements, peak/off-peak imbalance, and empty seat-miles. Synergy!

      In contrast, a timetable based on efficient service provision can have surprisingly low fleet and crew requirements.

      "Short of funds" in the context of Caltrain is a condition 100% created and perpetuated by those who profit from wasting funding, no more and no less.

      Just look at the size of the fleet Caltrain's professionals seek to purchase in the RFP (90 "cars" base plus 48 plus 58 "car" options) -- the amount of idle or empty or out of service revenue equipment will be something to behold.

    8. The concept of the Siemens Desiro HC in combination with the Desiro ML is therefor very interesting for Caltrain. It puts all the high tech in single deck (end)cars with the either a simple single deck of double deck in between. So choose both and the commonality is so extreme that extra cost are very very low. The amount of seats per meter for an 8 car is also pretty similar to a complete double-deck train. Also it will be very cheap to procure, so you would have more money to immediately start with level-boarding construction.

      It is not very ease to do dual height door solution (but it sucks anyway) but certainly not impossible.

  16. Caltrain electrified car design needs improvement

    "Caltrain staff’s recommendation for car design is deficient in two main ways: staff is recommending no bathrooms and no increase in bike capacity. A bathroom is an important amenity for joyful Giants fans and Friday afternoon party cars, and space for more bikes onboard is already needed."

  17. How is one bathroom per train legal? What if someone with mobility issues is in a car other than the one with the bathroom?

  18. We know zero bathrooms per train is legal ... so it'd be kind of weird (but arguably plausible) that having only one would be an ADA violation.

  19. Just published: Caltrain EMU RFP staff report (agenda item 9)

    1. Staff will obtain option prices for vehicles with two different door designs:
    a) A vehicle with two sets of doors, in which the higher doors would be sealed and seats would be placed adjacent to those doors until such time as the needs of and plans for the High Speed Rail/Blended System are further defined and future evaluation of the interior of the EMUs, as it relates to the deployment of the previously sealed doors, is warranted; and
    b) A vehicle with a single set of low-level doors.

    In the event that the vehicle with two sets of doors proves to be more expensive, a contract award based upon this option will depend on the ability and willingness of the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to pay for the additional costs required to procure the double door vehicles.

    2. EMUs will be designed to enhance the safety and comfort of standing passengers.

    3. EMUs will maintain an onboard ratio of nine seats for every one bike space. To complement onboard bike storage, there will be a parallel effort to modernize wayside bike facilities to be accomplished through significant investment including funding, staff time and station space, to establish modern bike facilities and amenities.

    4. One Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bathroom will be provided for each six car EMU train. During the vehicle design phase options for replacing ADA bathrooms with seats and/or standee space may be considered if warranted.

    1. re 1.b) 2nd paragraph:

      ....which CHSRA won't do; why would they want to stop at non-fare-gated, non-flight-level-0-airport, platforms?
      That contravenes their Technical Memoranda on station design.

      So in reality, Caltrain is *NOT* investigating dual-height doors, not unless a Santa-Claus pays for the difference.
      It sounds to me as if the contractors got paid more for going-through-the--motions.

    2. Santa Claus did offer to pay for the difference, at least verbally. The latest EMU procurement update from Caltrain reveals that industry estimates for the cost difference fall in the range of 3 to 5 percent. On an estimated $458M contract with the vehicle vendor, this amounts to an extra $14M - $23M. This is a rather small price to pay for compatibility, and I doubt that Santa Claus will be stingy about it.

    3. Personally, I don't see how paying Caltrain's cost for dual-platform-height Caltrain rolling stock, could possibly pass muster for use of Prop A1's HSR dollars. Do you? Electrification, maybe, if the CalMod project met Prop 1A's requirements. But it doesn't. Only the kooks and liars who say that 40-something minutes is less than 30, claim that.
      Even the Authority's own throw-passengers-from-the-door-of-a-train-moving-through-San-Jose simulation cannot stand, not now that the Authority has agreed that its trains have to fit within Caltrain's operating schedule, not the other way around.

      Prop 1A connectivity money sure, but wasn't the bottom of that barrel already scraped clean for this "bookend" project?

      Are sufficient cap-and-trade dollars available soon enough to substitute for the Prop 1A HSR dollars *and* the cost blowout, *AND* the near-certain multi-hundred-million-dolllar overruns and delays of CBOSS?

  20. 'Factory on wheels' delays rail electrification by a year

    [...] the under-performance of the High Output Plant System, a factory train made up of 23 vehicles, has, according to rail observers, made a big contribution to Network Rail falling at least a year behind schedule and going £900m over budget on the Great Western electrification project.

    Yet the train was supposed to make the job of erecting thousands of electrification masts much easier. Two years ago, Network Rail was boasting about how it would slash years off the project.

    Network Rail would not comment on the performance of the train, but admitted there had been "hiccups" on what is the first major rail electrification project in the UK for a generation. Rail insiders paint a more calamitous picture.