07 June 2017

Frequent Trains Off Peak

After electrification, Caltrain aspires to operate off-peak service at 2 or 3 trains per hour, instead of the current 1 train per hour. All-local service at 3 trains per hour works out to a fleet requirement of 12 trains in service, far less than needed for rush hour, but still racking up almost 300 train-miles per hour, or triple today's rate. That sort of service level will not be cheap to operate, unless two conditions are met to reduce operating and maintenance costs:

1) Operate Short Trains Off Peak

Shorter trains off-peak reduce maintenance costs by putting less wear and tear on the vehicles and track. The same revenue train-miles can be offered with fewer car-miles. The more off-peak service is provided, the greater the savings: at 3 trains per hour, operating 4-car EMUs instead of full-length 8-car EMUs off-peak results in a huge reduction of 25% fewer weekday car-miles.

Operating and vehicle maintenance
costs of US commuter rail, per car mile
Just how big are the savings? Typical commuter rail costs are available from the FTA's National Transit Database. The operating and vehicle maintenance costs for Caltrain and selected commuter rail operators are shown at right for the year 2015, normalized by the total number of car-miles operated. Some on this list (Metro North, LIRR, SEPTA and New Jersey Transit) operate sizable fleets of EMUs, but their maintenance costs are not significantly out-of-family with Caltrain; therefore, it's fair to assume that maintenance costs will not materially change after electrification. Since the FTA maintenance totals are not broken out by fixed and variable costs, we will conservatively assume that the variable cost (which scales directly with the number of car-miles operated) accounts for half of the vehicle maintenance cost. Squinting at the chart, let's estimate this variable cost at $2 per car-mile.

When you operate 12 hours of off-peak service at 300 train-miles per hour, the variable cost of vehicle maintenance racks up at 12 hours/day * 300 train-miles / hour * 8 cars/train * $2/car-mile = $58k/day. By reducing off-peak train length to 4 cars/train, the savings are half of this, or $29k/day. The savings from shorter trains accrue not just on weekdays but on weekends too, yielding annual savings of roughly $10 million.

Then you might want to factor in energy cost savings. Each car weighs about 60 tons loaded, and is accelerated to about 60 mph between two typical stops. The electricity consumed to accelerate is re-generated into the grid while braking for the next stop, with a round-trip efficiency likely in the neighborhood of 80%. That means overcoming the inertia of one car for one stop (neglecting drag) takes 4 MJ of electricity, or 1.2 kWh in more familiar units. At typical electricity rates of 12 cents/kWh, that's just $0.14/car/stop. Multiplying it up, $0.14/car/stop * 20 stops * 3 trains/hour/direction * 2 directions * 12 hours/day * 8 cars/train = $1600/day.  (Note that drag will significantly increase this figure, but can be neglected for this estimate because the drag of a 4-car train is similar to that of an 8-car train.) By reducing off-peak train length to 4 cars/train, the savings are $800/day. At less than $300k per year, this is just a rounding error compared to the vehicle maintenance, and can be ignored.

The Scharfenberg automatic coupler,
nicknamed "Schaku," linking up two
short EMUs (click for movie)
Offsetting these savings are the costs of making and breaking train formations several times per day, since the entire fleet needs to be available for morning and evening peak service with full length 8-car EMUs. Traditionally, this is a cumbersome operation that involves expensive and specialized labor, with ground crews stepping onto the tracks to connect pneumatic hoses and high-voltage cables. Caltrain is breaking with tradition by using a neat technological trick: the couplers on each end of the new EMUs are fully automatic Schakus, making mechanical, pneumatic and electrical connections in a matter of seconds at the touch of a button in the train cab. Barring any union rules relating to craft distinctions, making and breaking trains can be performed by train crews with zero additional labor cost.

2) Operate With One Conductor

Labor accounts for about two thirds of operating costs in typical commuter rail systems. Operating costs are strongly driven by train crew size. Minimum crew size is constrained by union rules that govern how many conductors must work on each train. Currently, the minimum crew size (dictated by Rule 11 of the agreement with the UTU) is 1 engineer, 1 conductor and 1 assistant conductor for trains up to seven cars, with a second assistant conductor required for an 8-car train or longer.

When contemplating a tripling of off-peak service, the cost of this minimum staffing level becomes prohibitive. Conductors are paid about $40/hour, and assistant conductors about $35/hour. Including benefits and other employee costs, the overall cost of these employees is easily double these figures. Additionally, conductors typically spend about half their shift time on board a revenue-producing train, so the necessary staffing levels are roughly double the number of trains in service. We saw earlier that it takes a fleet of 12 trains to operate off-peak service at 3 trains per hour per direction; staffing an assistant conductor on these trains would cost $70/hour/conductor * 1 conductor/train * 2 hours/(revenue hour) * 12 trains * 12 (revenue hours)/day = $20k/day. Again this is big money: the savings from removing the assistant conductor and going to one-conductor operation accrue not just on off-peak weekdays but on weekends too, yielding annual savings of roughly $7 million.

How do you sell this lower staffing level to the union?
  1. EMUs can relieve conductors of some of their workload, after automation of many of their traditional roles (such as stop announcements, door and lift operation, or signal aspect acknowledgement). Fare verification (proof of payment) could even become a separate role carried out by roving fare inspectors.
  2. Conductor staffing levels or pay rates can be renegotiated on the basis of actual ridership, instead of the number of train cars, since the new EMUs will have automatic passenger counters that collect detailed and accurate passenger ridership statistics.
  3. Most importantly, the total amount of work for UTU-represented employees would increase, since one-conductor operation would enable a tripling of off-peak service, resulting in 1.5 times more labor hours even after cutting conductors staffing levels in half.
It isn't a stretch to envision Caltrain and the UTU re-negotiating the labor agreement to allow just one conductor on four-car off-peak trains; there is room for a compromise that can benefit everyone.

Future Fleet Implications

If you zoomed way, way, into Caltrain's
exterior paint scheme concepts,
the Schaku was plain to see
Caltrain's initial fleet of sixteen six-car EMUs (total 96 cars) will not have the ability to split into shorter formations, but once the option for 96 additional cars (total 192 cars) is exercised, and all trains are extended to their intended length of eight cars, the practice becomes not only possible, but necessary for providing frequent off-peak service.

The fleet needs to operate two service patterns:
  1. peaks at 6 trains per hour with a fleet of 8-car EMUs
  2. off-peak at 3 trains per hour with a fleet of 4-car EMUs
To support both service patterns using the planned fleet size of 192 cars (including a rather large spares ratio, to withstand regular grade crossing collisions), the optimal fleet configuration is probably something close to:
  • 16 4-car EMUs for off-peak service, each with one bike car and one bathroom car, that can be coupled in pairs during peak hour service to form eight trains with eight cars each.
  • 16 8-car EMUs for peak service, lengthened from the base order
This results in the following order breakdown for the 96 additional option cars:
  • 32 passenger cars for CalMod 1.1
  • 32 cab cars, for 4-car EMUs
  • 16 bathroom cars (powered), for 4-car EMUs
  • 16 bike cars (unpowered), for 4-car EMUs
This EMU fleet configuration enables 20-minute off-peak service frequency for at least $17 million/year cheaper operating and maintenance cost than would otherwise be achieved with a uniform fleet of all 8-car trains. That's a large amount, easily over 10% of Caltrain's current annual operating budget. Considering that Caltrain struggles every year to scrape together enough operating funds, a stronger way of stating it is that without 4-car EMUs and one-conductor train crews, Caltrain will simply not have the financial means to provide 20-minute off-peak service frequency.

77 comments:

  1. This is, of course, assuming off-peak demand per train is less than half of peak. The latest passenger count report is of no help, as it didn't define which trains are off-peak.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 12 x 8 = 96 ==> No need for Calmod 1.1

      Delete
    2. @William: does it matter? The fleet composition can serve the peak pattern or off-peak pattern indefinitely, for however many hours are warranted by ridership.

      @Anon, can you expand? I don't follow your logic

      Delete
    3. @Clem, the extra maintenance and cost for 4-car EMU would justify this splitting/joining capability be used more than one or two hours per day. With shifting ridership demand and special event at non-peak travel time, the time period that justify 4-car trains may be limited to late night trains only, which would greatly reduce the possible saving of off-peak 4-car trains. So the decision would still rely on a good passenger count and survey.

      Delete
    4. Someone else just expanded: https://twitter.com/SVLeadershipGrp/status/876946067249537024/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.caltrain.com%2Fabout%2FMediaRelations%2Fnews%2FCaltrain_to_Hold_Community_Meeting_on_South_San_Francisco_Station_Improvement_Project.html

      Delete
    5. @Anon (Roland) is back to substituting URLs for his own (failing?) ability to explain himself.

      Delete
  2. If this consideration (running 4-car trains) is getting serious, it would really be worthwhile to change the whole fleet to 4 car units, and run them in double when the bigger capacity is needed. This would mean a homogeneous fleet.

    The main problem is the limitation to 200 m long trains; if the platforms would be lengthened to 300 m, one could easily operate a mix of 8 and 4 car units, and achieve even better granulation (peak 12 cars, shoulder 8 cars, off-peak/night 4 cars). A compromise would be lengthen for 250 m, and have a mix of 6 and 4 car units.

    (in fact, the latter combination is what SBB operates their KISSes.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am assuming that cab cars are more expensive (train control "avionics") and have less passenger space, so you only want to buy as many cab cars as you strictly need.

      Your point about thinking beyond 8-car trains is a good one. Look at what they run into Manhattan these days.

      Delete
    2. Correct, cab with equipment is extra cost. However, it might be possible to reduce the number of different vehicles, which would make the economy of scale kick in (very simplistic, it could be reduced to end cars (motorized), toilet car, bicycle car). This could at least compensate partially for the higher number of cabs.

      Until they got the 6 car KISSes, the Zürich S-Bahn operated with sets of 1 to 3 100 m long 4 vehicle units (around 120 trains of the first generation plus 51 trains of the second generation).

      Well, the NJTransit train referred to is nice, long, and underpowered (for a stop-and-go operation).

      Delete
    3. Typically the cab cars in an EMU set are non-powered (no motor or pantograph/transformer), or at least the outermost bogies are not motorized, as in KISS case, unless there are some special need, such as Shinkansen 800 series are full-motorized to cope with hilly terrain.

      Delete
    4. It all depends. In FLIRTs, the end bogies are powered, and have their own drive train. Longer units may have an intermediate powered bogie with its own drive train.

      SBB class 514 (aka DTZ) have powered end cars. Also, the "classical" KISSes (for SBB and bls) have fully powered end cars, and the "low power" Kisses, for example for CFL have one powered bogie per end car.

      Alstom's TER 2N NG (aka class Z24500 or 26500) have one powered and one unpowered bogie per car, no matter whether end car or intermediate car.

      So, that statement does not hold per se. It all depends on the way the vehicles/trains are configured.

      Keep in mind that there is no need to have transformers and power electronics in the same car as the driving bogies.

      Delete
  3. Just as a side note: it's routine in Britain to split and join trains while they are in revenue service with passengers on board. Takes about a minute. They close the doors, do the split or join, and then reopen the doors. For example, 8 car express trains between King's Cross & King's Lynn will split/join at Cambridge because north of Cambridge some of the platforms can only handle 4 cars. This happens every hour, all day long.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I guess that's USAn exceptionalism… The KISS is designed (and operated in regional services) for single-man crew.

    It has all safety features required for (literally translated from German / DB usage) "technology supported departure commands". This essentially means that the train can only leave when all doors are closed, and it has sufficient means for the driver to verify that the doors can be closed (in form of cameras). It is also not possible for a passenger to jump on and hold on the train when the doors are closed (aka smooth skin).

    That said, with modern EMUs, conductors are superfluous under the operational point of view. There may be a reason to be for conductors for commercial purposes (tickets, bar, etc.).

    Just to point out, single-man operation has been common for regional/S-Bahn operation in Germany and Switzerland for years (I am actually tempted to say "decades"). Most arguments against this kind of operation is and has been propaganda by the unions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell, single man operation has been common for years on four fifths of the Bay Area's regional rail network in the form of BART

      Delete
    2. Brendan, BART has ATO (Automatic Train Operation). Single man is not engineer, just pressing Train start/stop button, door open/close button and announcement.
      In reality of Caltrain should be one Engineer in Front, one conductor in rear. No need for assistant conductor.

      Delete
    3. Why is there a non-labour-relations-related need for a conductor period?

      Delete
    4. I would argue making conductors more useful instead, such as deputized them so they can enforce misdemeanors aboard the trains, not just fare evasion...

      Delete
    5. @Anonymous: What would the role of the "conductor in rear" be? operational or commercial?

      Delete
    6. I see this practice in Japan. Conductor stays in rear cockpit most of time. Majority of responsibility is customer safety. Door open/close control from rear of trainset makesure monitor all the door safely. If there is not good visibility, there is monitor located the rearend of platform.

      https://panasonic.biz/cns/prodisplays/examp/vol101/img01.jpg

      Delete
    7. Amtrak conductors not only collect tickets, but will occasionally turf unruly passengers off the train at the next station. I've seen it happen a couple of times on the Surfliner.

      Delete
    8. "Why is there a non-labour-relations-related need for a conductor period?"

      Safety. Really, the conductors (and in the case of BART, train operator) is there in case of a breakdown or other failure that requires the train to be evacuated.

      Delete
    9. If the train brakes down, the engineer, who is no longer on the wrong side of a locomotive, can perform those tasks

      Delete
    10. Keep in mind we're only talking about one conductor operations, down from two conductors. Zero conductor operation is a bridge too far and is not likely to fly with the unions.

      Look how far we've come since the 1980s:

      The SP uses a standard crew of four people: an engineer, a fireman, a conductor, and a brakeman. The standard crew is used on minimum three-car trains. An extra trainman is assigned to the crew for each additional two cars. A second conductor is added for four- and five-car trains, and a second brakeman is added for six- and seven-car trains. A seven-person crew is
      used on eight-car trains which are the longest commuter trains operated by SP


      From this 1983 report on commuter rail costs.

      Delete
    11. Why did diesel locomotive need a fireman and a brakeman? In 1980's there was not Steam Locomotive in Peninsula line.

      Delete
    12. Those titles were carried over from the steam era. That's what it used to be, and I was trying to provide some context to the claims being made that even one conductor is too many. As someone stated very well, this is about planning around what is feasible. One step at a time.

      Delete
    13. Clam, I agree with you. Next step will be One conductor. With twice the train frequency, there will be no workforce reduction.

      Delete
    14. "Clam, I agree with you. Next step will be One conductor. With twice the train frequency, there will be no workforce reduction."

      POP QUIZ TIME! For you! For Clam! For everybody you know! For your friends! For your family! For the entire world wide interweb!

      Q: What prevented Caltrain from operating twice of four times its off-peak frequency A DECADE AGO?
      A: NOTHING!

      Q: What's holding Caltrain to its insanely high "at capacity" level of FIVE ENTIRE TRAINS PER DIRECTION PER HOUR today?
      A: NOTHING!

      Q: What motivation does Caltrain have to increase mid-day frequency after WAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS have been spent on "Caltrain Modernization" (1.0! 1.1! 2.0! NT! XP! NG!)?
      A: NONE!

      Q: What motivation does Caltrain have to increase evening frequency after WAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS have been spent on "Caltrain Modernization" (1.0! 1.1! 2.0! NT! XP! NG!)?
      A: NONE!

      Q: What plans does Caltrain have to increase transit service after spending WAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS have been spent on "Caltrain Modernization" (1.0! 1.1! 2.0! NT! XP! NG!)?
      A: NONE!

      Q: Does Caltrain plan to decrease maintenance costs after spending WAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS have been spent on "Caltrain Modernization" (1.0! 1.1! 2.0! NT! XP! NG!)?
      A: HELL NO! Those diesels AND new-fangled electriks and all that electrikisikashun don't come cheap!

      Q: Does Caltrain plan to decrease operating costs after spending WAY MORE THAN TWO BILLION DOLLARS have been spent on "Caltrain Modernization" (1.0! 1.1! 2.0! NT! XP! NG!)?
      A: HAH HAH HAH HAH!

      Bunch of fucking suckers. Thanks for the cash, losers.

      Delete
    15. Are you suggesting that Caltrain (the agency) is the root cause of all the mediocrity and cost inefficiency we get to enjoy as riders and taxpayers? If so, do you think that (for example) painting the trains blue and having BART run them would be an improvement? Trying to find the constructive part of your critique...

      Delete
    16. Anything other than S-A-M-T-R-A-N-S and the San Carlos mafiosi would be an improvement.

      Delete
    17. This is why infrastructure is so expensive in the USA

      “That check will be written in a system where nearly everyone involved will be compensated more the longer the project takes and the more expensive it becomes.”

      “Our infrastructure incentives are all wrong. Until we fix them — until we go through the system and rip out the inefficiencies root and branch — throwing more money at this system is simply pouring good money after bad.”

      Delete
    18. Exactly. Wishing for costs to come down, and getting angry about it, is like tilting at windmills. Even supposing you could, there would be far more effective targets than tiny backwaters like Caltrain/Samtrans. The only practical way to get better value is to increase the bang, not decrease the buck. Level boarding is an example.

      Delete
    19. The big problem with only having a single conductor on board is security. Does anybody here want to be alone working on a train trying to deescalate a violent situation with a group of rowdy passengers? There's been over a 1000 instances when Caltrans conductors had to call local police this year alone, more then doubling previous years. Caltrans has no police, and therefor is at the mercy of whatever local prescient they happen to be travelling through. If Caltrans wanted to run 3 trains an hour with single conductors, then they should put in their budget a full time police dept do deal with the inevitable crime that is likely to take place. This will obviously cost more money then the extra conductors.

      Delete
    20. Vancouver has enjoyed zero-on-board-staff rapid transit for thirty years. It works in the rest of the world, why not the Peninsula?

      Delete
    21. @Brendan
      Vancouver has rapid transit, which means fully segregated ROW with restricted access- Caltrain is a suburban commuter service on ROW mainly at grade that has numerous points where people and motor vehicles may impact (literally and figuratively)the running of trains. Full automation is not done in those environments.

      Delete
    22. @Ziggy: what is the source of your Caltrain police call statistics? Caltrans has long had nothing to do with Caltrain anymore, so there's no way "Caltrans conductors" on Caltrain had to do anything. Further, Caltrain has had its own police force for as long as I can remember. Further, most police calls are triggered by conductor confrontations with defiant riders; vanishingly few of which are truly urgent situations in which anyone's safety is threatened ... and in which riders can, would and should just call the police themselves if there were no onboard staff to summon. Trains without roving staff also typically have button-activated "call box" intercoms to notify the operator in the cab or in the control center of any problem aboard the train.

      Delete
  5. One connection the Scharfenberg coupler wouldn't do is the high-voltage connection between the two power units. The six-car Caltrain KISS, and presumably the future eight-car, has two pantographes feed to two independent power units. The power units are connect to each other and each of the cars with motors with high-voltage connections on the roof of the cars, as shown in Stadler's diagrams, providing redundancy in case parts of the system failed. Without this high-voltage connection, both power system on the 4-car train would need to be functional and both pantographes would need to be raised. This also meant reduced redundancy for the 4-car sets if designs were not changed from 8-car sets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The EMUs are self-contained, which means that there is no transfer of high voltage between units; only, as stated correctly within an unit. Depending on the type, there is not even a high voltage connection along the train, because the main reason for reducing the number of active pantographs (or keeping them as far apart as possible) is not given with regional EMUs … (the wavelength of propagation of disturbances from a pantograph close to the distance between the pantographs; something which only becomes a serious issue in high speed applications).

      Delete
    2. Since the two 4-car sets cannot share high-voltage connection when coupled together as in one 8-car set, each of them needs to be a complete trainset with its own redundant systems as industry wide practice, akin to two people riding a tandem bike than two half-person riding a single bike.

      Delete
  6. Only slightly related to fleet usage, but I hope if we see a second offpeak train per hour, the extras aren't run as all-stops. The current all-stops timings are abysmal, and while electrification will certainly help that, it still won't be competitive with driving. The second hourly train should do something similar to the current weekend bullet pattern, maybe adding Menlo Park as well - those top 10 stations represent almost 80% of ridership, and more competitive timings are crucial for the midday trains to competitive (IMO).

    Related to costs, faster services mean (ideally, timetable depending) lower staffing expenses, and likely lower train wear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many people around Caltrain to expect same level of frequency as BART/VTA light rail, at least major station. I would like to see both local and express runs every 30 minutes in midday and weekend.

      Delete
    2. 4tph would be amazing, but realistically, I think even the 3tph that Caltrain has been proposing won't happen. As such I think its important to plan around what is feasible.

      Delete
  7. An electrified Caltrain could just rent some VTA light rail vehicles and run them at night. One operator, low cost, and zero capital. VTA can use the the cash, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, unless VTA has suitable TramTrain vehicles, there might be some little issues…

      Delete
  8. The other side of the equation is how much pent-up ridership and additional revenue there would be with the additional frequency

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an interesting but totally irrelevant question if the agency doesn't make the strategic changes to enable (a.k.a "not to preclude" in their parlance) frequent service.

      With big crews and long trains, there is no equation!

      Delete
  9. It wouldn't help much with energy and maintenance costs, but a lot of east coast commuter lines simply block access to a few cars on off peak trains so they don't have to pay more than one conductor, rather than split trains.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caltrain did this too years ago. It was common to see lightly patronized night and weekend trains running with one or two cars blocked off and blacked out.

      Delete
    2. Does this mean crew cost higher than fuel cost?

      Delete
    3. In FY2016 Caltrain's farebox recovery was 74%. If 3 counties pay the difference between Eco pass and Monthly pass, AND, Caltrain operate with staffing level of European or East Asian standard, can it reach to 100%?
      Source: page 7 of FY2017 operating budjet presentation.
      phttp://www.caltrain.com/Assets/__Agendas+and+Minutes/JPB/Board+of+Directors/Presentations/2017/2017-05-04+Preliminary+FY2018+Operating+Budget.pdf

      Delete
    4. In theory yes, but the incentives to cut costs (such as by operating with crew levels consistent with non-US practice) drops off as farebox ratio increases. You'll never see 100% in a public operation like Caltrain; all the structural incentives are set up against it. The recent approaches by a private operator (who clearly understood the business potential of improved rail service) was very firmly rebuffed by entrenched interests that prefer the fluffy bedding just the way it is, thank you very much. I hope to be able to blog about this at some point.

      Delete
    5. East Asian rail lines that have similar or more ridership than Caltrain were able to run with two crew members (one engineer and one conductor) because most of the stations have fare gates and station agent. As one of the primary function of conductors is to check tickets, I don't see how Caltrain can have fewer conductors on trains unless they are replaced with station agents and fare gates, just like most rapid transit systems that Caltrain will find more in common after CalMod.

      Delete
    6. Ticket check function can be replace by fare enforcement staff as VTA do in light rail. However, installing fare gate into high volume station like SF, Milbrae, RWC, Palo Alto, MTV, Sunnyvale and SJ makes sense if express train can run one conductor. Many of rush hour express train is so clouded, ticket inspection is very difficult for conductor.

      Delete
    7. It's proof-of-payment (POP), so all that's needed is that there's a reasonably non-zero chance of being hit with a random surprise fare inspection every long once in awhile. As anyone who has ridden POP systems around the world can tell you, fare inspections are relatively rare and spotty. That, by design, is the beauty of POP ... there's really no need to consistently check everyone's ticket.

      That said, I like the model common in Germany ... a relatively small staff of plain clothes fare inspectors that ride the system, conducting surprise fare inspections and issuing citations where needed. If they run into trouble, they summon security/police with more muscle and power of arrest. It works, and should make one-conductor operation an easier sell.

      Delete
    8. POP enforcement is not easily done by conductors, since their primary task is to ensure safe operation of the train. That involves unavoidable interruptions every couple of minutes, which makes it difficult or impossible to take the full five minutes of undivided attention that it takes to properly nail a fare evader. The flexibility to step off the train as needed is also valuable for enforcement.

      Delete
    9. Actually, the fare inspectors ARE conductors. Transposed that to Caltrain, the "conductor whose task is to ensure safe operation of the train" will NOT have the role of fare inspector. The conductors whose role is "fare inspector" will also not ensure safe operation of the train.

      Fare inspectors may or may not be in uniform. In the places I am aware of, it is up to the individual whether to wear uniform or not when being on fare inspection duty.

      Delete
  10. It looks like Caltrain is going to "need a bigger boat" (more & longer trains, level boarding) sooner than later!

    Google plan for massive campus at SJ Diridon Caltrain/BART could grow even larger to 8m sqft

    Google's plans at SJ Caltrain could get even bigger than previously indicated, potentially reaching 8m sqft, according to a new city memo.

    That could boost Google’s already massive development plan 33% by 2m sqft, equaling roughly 5 major regional shopping centers the size of SJ's Valley Fair Mall. “... basically the size of all of downtown San Jose’s office market,” said Mark Ritchie, president of Ritchie Commercial Development.

    “Diridon Station will become the Bay Area’s transit hub and the premier location in the Bay Area for significant transit-oriented job growth,” the city staff report said.

    ReplyDelete
  11. That could boost Google’s already massive development plan 33% by 2m sqft, equaling roughly 5 major regional shopping centers the size of SJ's Valley Fair Mall. “... basically the size of all of downtown San Jose’s office market,”

    Wow. We always joke about downtown SJ having a small economic footprint, but I had no idea it was that microscopic. Five whole regional shopping centers....why that's bigger than Emeryville!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, do try to keep up. Ever been there? What on earth made you think it was anything more than microscopic :-)

      Delete
    2. San jose primarily grew by annexation, not urbanization. San fransisco has 85% of the population as SJ in 25% as much land. San Jose has as much land as Philly and Boston combined, with fewer than half as many people.

      Delete
  12. What's under Pacheco Pass and what's it mean for HSR tunneling? (with photos)

    High-speed trains don’t mix well with the steep grades and sharp turns of conventional mountain railroads, so what will become North America’s longest rail tunnels at completion will maintain a relatively level and straight path in their 13 miles underground. A shorter 1½-mile tunnel is also planned at the Gilroy end to lift the rail line into the valley near the Casa de Fruta.

    It will cost about $400 million per mile to build the tunnels, or something north of $5 billion depending on what the rock samples reveal that are being drilled up from the mountains’ interior by Kleinfelder, an international engineering and construction management company with offices in Pleasanton, Hayward and Salinas.

    Two Kleinfelder drilling rigs have been working their way this week along Highway 152, the 70-mph route over Pacheco Pass that most South Bay residents are familiar with as the way to Los Banos and Interstate 5.

    The rock beneath that road is turning out to be what was expected, part of a formation along the California coast known as “Franciscan mélange,” which is geology speak for hardened mud that once lay on the Pacific Ocean floor with harder chunks like quartz captured in it like nut bits in frozen chunky peanut butter.

    It is “fairly competent rock,” said Byron Anderson, no relation, Kleinfelder’s principal engineering geologist on the project, which means it is not highly fractured, and it’s mostly about a 7 on a hardness scale in which diamond is 10,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hopefully none of those quicksilver and asbestos deposits found a bit further south

      Delete
  13. KISSes are next: http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/traction-rolling-stock/single-view/view/electro-diesel-flirt-unveiled.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are they? In what major market that justifies bilevel MU rolling stock (signifying heavy underlying demand) would the tracks not already be electrified?

      Chances of an electro-diesel KISS seeing the light of day are pretty much zero. It is technically possible but it's an answer to a question nobody is asking.

      Here in the Bay Area, the money would be far better spent electrifying to Blossom Hill (and paying UPRR to put up with it)

      Delete
    2. Is China considered a "major market"?

      http://www.mec-railway.com/productdetail.aspx?id=157

      Delete
    3. I seriously doubt it. However, purely speculatively, they might add a "engine car" (aka locomotive) to the KISS; with the takeover of Vossloh Spain, Stadler would have some pretty good diesel locomotives available. The problem is, however, that for a sufficiently powerful diesel motor, the whole width of the vehicle is needed, which would prevent a passageway. There would be no need for a passageway if the "engine car" were at the end of the train, and then, there is absolutely no difference between an individual locomotive and an "engine car…

      For the Bay area, there could be some kind of interesting combination with electrodiesel FLIRT and a KISS (if the platforms were long enough.

      Delete
    4. Being located or based in a country containing major markets is not the same as operating or selling a particular trainset in any of said major markets. From their projects page, MEC looks like a relatively small time supplier.

      Delete
    5. Do note that that page is only their /export/ orders. It does not include production for the chinese market.

      It's worth noting that china is ... strange ... in terms of how their manufacturing works, particularly for rail vehicles.

      Once a design for a rail vehicle is created, it can be built by any manufacturer. It isn't owned by an individual manufacturer in the way we'd assume.
      When manufacturers build for export, different export locations are allocated to individual suppliers, so one chinese manufacturer is never competing with another chinese manufacturer for a given export contract. Thus their export volume versus other chinese manufacturers is very much dependent on what their allocated countries want.

      What's actually important here is how many of those DMUs entered service (regardless of which manufacturer built them), not the details of how much this particular supplier exports.

      If China uses a lot of these, it would imply the design is viable. If only a few were built and they went out of favour, that would imply the opposite.

      Sadly I don't know how widespread these particular units are in China.

      Delete
    6. From what I've been able to determine, these bilevel DMUs have been out of service for a long time, and were never in wide-spread use.

      Delete
  14. SNCF has begun work on semi-autonomous TGV trains

    "The goal is for trains to improve their regularity and consistency, especially in the crowded Paris region. As any commuter familiar with light rail can tell you, slightest delay can set forth a domino effect of other ones. "We are going to go from 180 seconds to 108 seconds between two trains," says Alain Krakovitch, the director of the SNCF Transilien network, to FranceInfo. "Up to 25 percent more trains can travel on a line with autonomous trains" with the help of autonomous braking and acceleration. A human driver will still deal with unexpected situations, the type that can lead to crashes."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a bit of a confusion with various reports. It seems that they indeed want to get semi-autonomous operation on the LGV Sud Est (essentially Paris - Lyon), which is actually running at capacity with the current signalling system; with some tricks, they were able to squeeze in 18 trains per hour and direction. But with the opening of the line towards the Bretagne (and maybe a little bit less so towards Bordeaux), there is the demand for additional run-throughs. But at peak time, there is no more space…

      However, it looks as if the semi-autonomous operation is primarily intended for the RER commuter network around Paris; that's why the director of Transilien is quoted.

      Semi-autonomous operation is, on the other hand, not really new. It does require a continuous communication between the train and the control center. That's what the DB has on their HSLs, and they call it LZB, Linienzugbeeinflussung. That system consists of a "radiating cable" laid between the rails. This allows to know where the train is at any time, and then allows the control center to calculate the distance between two trains. In a manual operation, the control center sends speed recommendations which the driver should follow. In semi-autonomous operation, these speeds are fed directly into the train control unit. LZB is not only implemented on the HSLs in Germany, but also on very high-density segments, such as the München City tunnel with around 30 trains per hour and direction.

      Semi-autonomous operation is not new at all; I remember some good 40 years ago, when BBC (before turning into ABB before turning into Adtranz, before turning into Bombardier) set up a prototype operation. They did have some demonstrations open to the general public, and it was quite impressive to see the train automagically slowing down for a switch on deviation, with a speed limit of 40 km/h, and reaching that speed just a few meters before the switch, and resuming speed a few meters after having cleared the switch.

      Delete
  15. Yes, autonomous isn't new and was considered for BART, which ultimately opened as only semi-autonomous in 1972.

    ReplyDelete
  16. More Google Diridon hype:
    Google’s San Jose renewal plan: ‘Grand Central of the West’

    Google’s development would be at the heart of SJ's grand plan to make Diridon Station a central hub of stops for every major rail service in the region: BART, Amtrak, Caltrain, ACE, VTA light rail and planned HSR.

    “The fact that it's a transit hub is very important to Google, and the size of the potential development is attractive,” a Google representative said.

    SJ has estimated that its plans to bring all those transit links to Diridon will increase transit trips to downtown eightfold.

    “The only reason Google is coming into the downtown is that transit hub,” said Carl Guardino, president of Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “Diridon Station is absolutely going to be the Grand Central Station of the West. We will see 600 trains a day going through there.”

    “This is critically important for downtown San Jose,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “But far more than people realize, this is critically important for the future of Silicon Valley.”

    The potential renovation of downtown’s Diridon Station area evokes parallels to San Francisco’s Mission Bay, which until an official groundbreaking in 2000 was a 303-acre windswept shoreline dominated by old rail yards, ship piers, warehouses, industrial buildings, marshes and waterfowl.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Slides for the upcoming June 29 SF-SJ HSR Local Policy Maker Group meeting in San Carlos

    (Note, they're still showing viaducts and elevated HSR platforms though SJ Diridon station.)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Poll: 74% back 3-county 1/8-cent Caltrain sales tax: SVLG, legislators look for new revenue to expand capacity

    • 74% backed the tax if it would more than double Caltrain’s capacity
    • a Caltrain sales tax has long been considered
    • a 2011 poll showed there wasn’t sufficient support
    • following the SVLG’s survey this year, they asked Sen. Jerry Hill to act
    • SB 797 is being ushered through Sacramento by 9 Bay Area lawmakers
    • Caltrain is eyeing funding options and what improvements would expand capacity

    ReplyDelete