08 March 2009

Freight on the Peninsula

UPDATE (3/18) Thanks to Martha Martinez, PCJPB Secretary, for providing the full text of the 1991 trackage rights agreement that governs freight access on the peninsula.

Freight trains operate daily along nearly the entire length of the Caltrain corridor (San Jose photo at right by Michael Patrick), and make up less than 5% of train traffic on the peninsula. The freight trains move mostly at night, when Caltrain traffic is sparse.

Freight trains have always been part of the traffic mix on the peninsula. The corridor formerly belonged to freight operator Southern Pacific, which sold the 51.4-mile railroad right of way to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) in 1991 for $219 million.

Existing Freight Traffic

Thanks to Kevin Hecteman for the following description of freight traffic patterns on the peninsula:

Union Pacific currently operates three freight trains per weekday, all based out of the yard next to the South San Francisco Caltrain station.
  1. SOUTH CITY SWITCHER: Goes on duty early in the morning: switches industries between South City and Pier 96 in San Francisco. Shippers include Granite Rock, Central Concrete and Pacific AgriProducts in SSF; Sierra Point Lumber near the Bayshore station; Dean's Refrigerated Trucking off Carroll Avenue in SF; Darling International, a rendering plant near Pier 96; and the Waste Solutions Group dirty-dirt concession at Pier 96. Famous for being the last freight train serving San Francisco. A sizable photo archive detailing this operation can be found here.

  2. BROADWAY LOCAL: Goes on duty at 5:30 p.m.; switches industries between SSF and San Jose, such as the Port of Redwood City, after the evening rush hour ends. (One such industry is the Unilever plant in Sunnyvale, as seen here.)

  3. MISSION BAY HAULER: Goes on duty at 6:30 p.m.; gathers up all the outbound cars brought in by the other two locals and hauls them to the UP yard in Milpitas, then returns with the inbound cars for distribution by the locals. This train can easily see 60 to 90 cars.
Freight in the Peninsula's Future

All existing plans for improving the Caltrain corridor (namely, Caltrain's 2025 Plan, including electrification, as well as California high speed rail) explicitly preserve the capability to carry freight up the peninsula, and allow for a possible expansion of freight traffic.

Whether this is justified by existing traffic levels (less than 5% of train movements) is open to debate. If freight service on the peninsula were discontinued, some traffic would likely move by truck over Highway 101, and the rest of it, and associated jobs, might disappear altogether from San Francisco and the peninsula.

Regardless of actual demand, the peninsula freight operator, Southern Pacific (and its successor, Union Pacific) retained trackage rights from Caltrain when the latter acquired the tracks, giving UP the right to operate a certain quota of freight trains on the peninsula. Such agreements are administered by the Surface Transportation Board, and would likely be difficult to terminate not only because of the bureaucratic process, but because UP (no supporter of the HSR project) might attempt to use their rights as a bargaining chip against the high speed rail authority.

So, while freight accounts for only a tiny minority of train movements that is likely to become infinitesimal when Caltrain service is expanded and HSR service begins, all agencies involved are proceeding under the firm assumption that freight trains will be accommodated for all time--regardless of whether or not this makes sense from an economic or technical standpoint.

STRACNET: A Military Twist

The Department of Defense designates a nationwide network of rail links critical to national defense, known as the Strategic Railroad Corridor Network, or STRACNET.

This network provides the readiness to ship materiel from military depots to ports of embarkation in the event of a war emergency. STRACNET was established in the 1970s, when freight railroads were falling into disrepair, and sets rock-bottom minimum standards for:
  • operating speed, with a minimum desired track speed of 40 mph
  • clearance profile, to ensure that track side obstructions do not foul the DOD load clearance requirements defined in MIL-STD-1366
  • weight capability, to allow M-1 tanks to be carried in pairs on 140-ton flat cars.
Why would we care about this Cold War relic? As it turns out, the peninsula corridor is part of STRACNET, or at least it was according to the 1998 update (see California map on page 30), presumably to access the mighty port of embarkation known as San Francisco--never to be outdone by its far bigger rival across the bay. The makeup of STRACNET is updated every few years by the DOD and FRA; there is no guarantee that the peninsula corridor will retain its military designation.

Because the Caltrain corridor already accommodates daily freight trains (see Caltrain's clearance standards, also drawn as a green outline in the figure at right), Caltrain more or less meets the STRACNET requirement (red outline). Its track maintenance standards exceed the operating speed and weight requirements. Beyond the loading clearances shown at right, available structural clearances are much wider than required by the DOD because Caltrain already complies with the draconian clearance requirements of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Bottom line: STRACNET is a yawner, although that is unlikely to stop HSR opponents from making an issue out of the grievous omission of STRACNET from CHSRA environmental impact documents.

Implications of Freight for Caltrain and HSR

Freight service (in addition to HSR) has a few important implications for the future of the peninsula corridor, none of which are likely to be welcomed by neighbors.
  1. More Tracks. The 125 mph speed envisioned for HSR on the peninsula requires tracks to be banked in curves (see the Top 10 Worst Curves for more technical details), with the outside rail raised as much as 6 inches higher than the inside rail. This steep banking is incompatible with slow and top-heavy freight cars and can lead to derailments excessive rail wear. The CHSRA's plan for four tracks along the entire length of the peninsula is likely to be driven just as much by the perceived need to accommodate freight trains (by having one pair of tracks banked, and the other pair not) than any service pattern considerations to allow trains of differing speeds to overtake each other. The need for four tracks may be somewhat alleviated without freight trains.

  2. Taller Electrical Poles. Track improvements are being designed to increase Caltrain's clearances from AAR Plate F to the much taller AAR Plate H. This would allow "excess height" freight cars such as autoracks and double stack container cars--never mind for which supposed customer on our dead-end peninsula! Expanding from the existing Plate F condition to Plate H requires another 3 feet of vertical clearance, which will force the overhead electrification of the tracks to be built at least 3 feet taller, thus increasing visual blight.

  3. Higher Embankments. Freight trains are much heavier than high speed trains or the "non-compliant" EMU trains coveted by Caltrain. In fact, the very high speed trains of the type required to run at 220 mph in the Central Valley are some of the lightest trains anywhere. On the other hand, heavy weight requirements lead to beefy bridge decks, further inflated by seismic requirements. For grade separations where a road crosses under the track, every additional foot of bridge deck thickness adds an additional foot to the height of the rail embankment (or an additional foot to the depth of the underpass excavation, with attendant increase in the length of the approach ramps.)

  4. More Noise. Freight trains are generally not maintained to the same high standards as high speed passenger equipment. Freight trains with diesel locomotives and wheel flat spots banging along the track will be much louder than electric trains, even after horn-blowing is obviated by grade separations. Accommodations that are now being made for freight operations may lead to an increase in noisy freight traffic.
From the point of view of civil engineering companies who will design and build HSR infrastructure on the peninsula, every additional cubic yard of concrete and every design complication is a potential path to extra profit. To this end, the requirements arising from Union Pacific freight service and STRACNET may indeed be quite welcome. After all, if it's profitable, why not let the tail wag the dog?


  1. "This steep banking is incompatible with slow and top-heavy freight cars and can lead to derailments."
    Strictly speaking, I don't think that's true. The issue is more with maintenance than anything else: the heavy freight trains will wear the inner rail, and the more of them there are, the faster the rail wears. Given that freight will be a negligible part of the traffic, there's no harm in designing the track geometry for passenger trains. This is what Amtrak does on the NEC.
    Also regarding wire height, from looking at the Caltrain electrification EIR, it seems the goal is to preserve existing clearances, rather than expand them. That seems like a reasonable enough policy.

  2. It's quite likely that any HSR alignment south of Redwood City will require some underground sections just because JPB may face massive pressure from peninsula towns not to cede part of its ROW to CHSRA if their local environmental demands are not met. There would be pushback from SF and SJ as well as other parts of the state, but at the end of the day, all politics is local.

    Paying for the luxury of undergrounding is a second issue but might actually prove to be less of a sticking point. All peninsula cities and counties voted in favor of prop 1A and, many residents realize that escalating CHSRA's costs might well sink the entire project because every other hamlet in the state will demand equal treatment. Resolution would not come easily, but with a new administration in Washington supporting HSR, perhaps some deal for supplemental funding at the city/county + federal level (+ private equity?) could be struck to close the funding gap.

    Bona fide tunneling (with TBMs, slurry plants, boatloads of 10-ton concrete ring segments, subsidence risks etc.) through leafy suburbs should be avoided. If that's the only solution acceptable to those communities, CHSRA should try to somehow run up to West Oakland BART instead of SF.

    However, some cut-and-cover construction of deep trench sections may end up happening in the peninsula. The alternative is even less appealing: dismantling the old Dumbarton rail bridge, constructing a brand-spanking-new dual track replacement that meets modern seismic code and is tall enough to preserve the shipping lanes - all right next to a national wildlife refuge. And then, running a dozen trains per hour at 125mph across that new bridge while freight continues to rumble down the peninsula because it must not share track with HSR.

    On the other hand, repairing the old single-track Dumbarton rail bridge before HSR construction begins south of Redwood City could make a whole lot of sense, though CHSRA did not bargain for this in its cost estimation.

    For starters, UPRR could use a repaired bridge for its Mission Bay Hauler and relinquish its trackage rights between Redwood City and Santa Clara via the peninsula. It would also no longer need the Milpitas line linking Santa Clara and SJ Diridon to the Fremont Warm Springs marshaling yard. San Jose/Santa Clara county might quite like to buy that ROW if it becomes available.

    If at least the Redwood City-Santa Clara section of the Caltrain ROW is removed from STRACNET as well, its redesign would not need to take freight into account during or after contruction. At all. Two BIG pluses right there.

    Second, there may be short periods (days or weeks) during the HSR construction period when it would be highly advantageous not to have any trains at all running between Redwood City and Santa Clara. A repaired Dumbarton rail bridge would permit limited Caltrain service between SF and SJ via temporary trackage rights on either the Alviso or the Milpitas line. Temporary bus service along El Camino Real could be provided between Redwood City and Santa Clara/SJ Diridon for Caltrain customers headed to and from peninsula employers. Third BIG plus.

    After the remodeling, Caltrain plans to run just half a dozen commuter trains to Union City across the bridge. Add the two Mission Bay Haulers and perhaps a new ACE service to SF and we're talking about perhaps a dozen or so slow trains trundling through the National Wildlife Refuge per day.

    A low speed limit (e.g. 25mph) could be imposed for about a mile east of the east end of the bridge to avoid unduly upsetting our feathered friends - and their influential patrons in the Sierra Club, Audubon Society etc. Enviros can be even worse than NIMBYs when it comes to transportation infrastructure.

  3. Rafael: The San Jose to Warm Springs line has customers on it, as for that matter does the Caltrain line in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, though it still doesn't anywhere in NIMBYland (Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto). And then there's still the Alviso Line that links Fremont to Santa Clara, and which is used by ACE, the Capitol Corridor, and all of UP's through freights to the coast line, which most certainly aren't going anywhere.

  4. @ arcady -

    I wasn't suggesting that freight disappear from the Bay Area entirely, just the portion of the Caltrain corridor that's giving us all a headache (i.e. Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto). You don't want HNTB to over-engineer any expensive underground sections for a single freaking freight train per day. It constrains gradient options, horizontal clearances, load limits on bridges for the news lanes (if FRA insists that all trains must be able to use the HSR tracks if the others are out of service) etc.

    Freight trains are wonderful things when there's a lot of them running on a given line, taking freight off the roads. That does not apply in the case in the SF peninsula.

    Clem didn't mention freight customers in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, but perhaps they could be served by a train other than the Mission Bay Hauler - if that's not already the case anyway.

    If there are still customers with spurs off the Milpitas line, then that ROW won't be up for sale anytime soon. C'est la vie.


    Btw: downtown Mountain View may also require an underground alignment for Caltrain and HSR, to maintain and perhaps dual-track VTA light rail service at grade. There's not enough room for six tracks side-by-side and the Castro crossing needs to be grade separated anyhow unless Mountain View decides it wants to close it.

    Depending on how Caltrain and CHSRA decide to split the ROW (FSSF?), there may or may not be a need to move the VTA platform(s) south a bit so Caltrain customers can safely reach the underground platform(s).

    In that context, VTA will need to decide if it ever wants to run light rail beyond Castro, e.g. out to Shoreline via Stierlin and N Shoreline in streetcar mode. I don't know if that's legal, SF does it but with vintage equipment.

    Underground alignments can be used with diesel engines if there is plenty of forced ventilation, but even with Tier 3/4 emissions regs coming in 2012/2015, the best answer is to force all trains to use electric traction.

    It's not possible to fit both a diesel genset and a honking transfomrer into a single locomotive, but that's what would be needed for dual-mode operation with a 25kV AC OCS. The power electronics just can't handle that kind of voltage.

    Perhaps someone's already designed a tender car with a pantograph, transformer and rectifier plus really thick cable that could feed the loco's thyristors when the diesel engine has to be turned off. Not for the SF peninsula so much as for basis tunnels etc. elsewhere in the world.

  5. "Beyond the loading clearances shown at right, available structural clearances are much wider than required by the DOD"

    Clem, according to your drawing their are MUCH wider requierd clearances. does this translate into any difficulties for squeezing 4 tracks into a 75 foot row, or (for example) putting up sound walls surrounding the outer tracks? Does this create any implications for wider ROW needed, and therefore greater eminent domain required?

  6. @resident: no, the 75-foot figure already takes the CPUC requirements into account.

  7. The Caltrain/SP agreement provides an explicit out for Caltrain should there be a "technological" change in the type of service in the corridor.

    Obviously this was put in because of PBQD and Bechtels's ambitions to extend the BART "tail tracks" at Daly City to "tail tracks" at Colma (tail tracks that somehow needed an expensive bridge and an expensive tunnel...) to "tail tracks" at Millbrae (tail tracks that somehow need a 70mph design speed and reach to the Burlingame border ...) but there's every reason it could and should and must be applied when Caltrain gets the hell out from under the dead hand of the brain dead FRA.

    Co-existence with the FRA simply isn't an option: look what they've done to Talgo and Acela and NJT and Austin Capital Metro and many others. The agency not only is technically incompetent, but it is also irrational, inconsistent, and has repeatedly changed its mind (always in the direction of added expense and added weight) after having given go-aheads. Die die die die die!

  8. @Clem, Rafael, Arcady

    Some questions: Do you know the terms of the agreement between the JPB and UPRR when the 1991 sale was made and UPRR retained use rights?

    Could UPRR take a position on the Caltrain corridor like the one it has imposed on the rail authority elsewhere (on ROWs that they do own) to prevent ROW sharing for safety and liability reasons?

    In the MOU recently signed by both Caltrain and the rail authority, did UP have any voice in those discussions and agreements?

    (Yes, I am aware of the conspiracy theory about UP holding out for big payoffs to let HSR use their ROW.) (Also, I am aware that you are aware of what I'm getting at here, and that's OK)

    Now, some legal questions: The rail corridor is not owned by Caltrain. It is administered by the PCJPB on behalf of the three owners; that is, the three Peninsula counties. Is that correct?

    And, are the residents of the three counties therefore the rightful owners?

    Do we have jurisdictional power over this right of way (if we exercise it) even though we could expect to be discouraged by both the rail authority and Caltrain?


  9. @ Clem -

    for argument's sake: if freight traffic could be eliminated permanently between Redwood City and Sunnyvale, would the CPUC horizontal clearances still apply?

    Could Caltrain/HSR then legally make do with smaller horizontal clearances? Would that depend on the ROW configuration (FSSF vs. SFFS), with F=125mph and S=90mph max (less when approaching must-stop stations like Palo Alto)?

    Even 5' less would make a difference, as it would eliminate or reduce a few eminent domain candidates and/or facilitate recessing embankments/viaducts/sound walls etc. Existing bike paths and some of the old trees could be spared etc. It would help defuse the anguish over a possible at-grade alignment.

  10. BROADWAY LOCAL: Goes on duty at 5:30 p.m.; switches industries between SSF and San Jose, ...

    Every wonder why freight cars are hauled from Milpitas to South San Francisco, sit around for a day or two, and then are hauled back to their destinations in Redwood City, Sunnyvale or San Jose?

    Every wonder why Caltrain's half-assed South San Francisco station reconstruction plan is years late, tens of millions over budget and will not result in any additional operating benefit (beyond the end of the hold-out rule; there will be no track quadruplication for example)? (Parenthetically, of course the SSF platforms will be constructed at the guaranteed-wrong-under-every-possible-scenario height of 203mm (8") ATOR, just like every other failure-to-think-ahead Caltrain station reconstruction of the last decades -- tens of millions wasted!)

    The answer of course is BART and the VTA -- meaning of course the people who profit from the actions of those "public" agencies.

    The Santa Clara Newhall freight yard, which is where Caltrain's limitlessly insane CEMOF yard should have been sited, rather than causing a 40mph slalom and getting in the way of everything, is of course slated for the biggest and baddest and most over-the-top gold-plated BART yard that PBQD (surprise! the CHSRA consultant Pacheco deciders!) could possibly dream of.

    A significant amount of the freight traffic up and down the Caltrain line is simply make-work shunting, burning fuel and causing disruption simply because of the outright corruption of our regional transportation "planners".

    Amazing, but true.

  11. Clem,

    Thanks for looking at the freight issue along the Peninsula, excellent work as usual.

    It certainly does not sound like there is much economic rationale for maintaining the freight traffic since we are looking at 3 trains per day or less than 5% of train traffic on the route. However, ancient right of ways and easements are often very difficult to overturn.

    As for STRACNET, I seriously doubt that the DoD cares one iota about the environmental impact of running a diesel locomotive towing tanks through a tunnel otherwise intended only for electric rail, so long as it would physically fit through the tunnel. After all, war emergency is a pretty rare occurrence and the naval presence in the SF Bay is a tiny fraction of what it once was.

    It does not seem to be much of a problem to maintain the limited existing freight service on the route, so long as FRA does not then require train sets to weigh as much as Acela for "crash worthiness". Frankly it seems like Acela's brakes' cracking and wearing out constantly is a bigger risk to riders than the theoretical possibility of hitting a freight train (which would not be pretty even at Acela's current weight).

    So, when do we find out if FRA will actually give the CAHSRA a proper waiver from their irrational weight rules for passenger trains? In the meantime, how do we best lobby FRA to be open-minded on this critical issue?

  12. Richard: yeah, the SSF yard and station configuration make no sense to me. That yard doesn't make sense as the base of Peninsula freight operations. It's in a constrained location, and I suspect its original, much more logical purpose was to collect traffic from local industry (much, but not all, of which is gone). Caltrain needs the space much more for a four-track station, and it would really help reliability to extend the four-track passing section. Meanwhile, Newhall Yard has much more room, and would make much more sense as a location for a freight yard, rather than its current use as a vast empty lot. That or if the Dumbarton Bridge is rebuilt, they could just get the cars straight from Milpitas to the customer without too much trouble. And who knows, maybe if freight service is sped up and improved, there will be more customers. For example, why not get vegetables from the Central Coast area to SF by train?

    Oh and Richard, I completely agree that the 8" ATOR platform standard is wrong and needs to change no matter what , and preferably soon. The only question is what it should change to: low floor (~16"), high floor (~48"), or something in between.

  13. National Security sometimes deals with things other than war does it not. Such as natural disasters like Katrina, or... "The Big One" perhaps?

    The emergency response agencies in the SF Bay Area might might have a word or two to say about whether retaining freight capability and/or STRACNET designition is a big waste or not.

  14. National Security sometimes deals with things ...
    Don't worry your little heads about it! The National Security Appraratus is heere to help you!

    NatSec will be able to ship M-1 tanks to San Francisco through the 1904 train tunnels after The Big One renders all roadways impassable.

    Good grief.

  15. @ Martin Engel -

    PCJPB owns the peninsula corridor between SF 4th & King and SJ Diridon. UPRR has its own parallel ROW in the south as well as limited easements to run freight trains in the peninsula corridor. Those were part of of the deal struck with SP, which UPRR later merged with.

    CHSRA's sole counterpart in negotiations regarding the use of part or all of the peninsula ROW is PCJPB, a body that is either directly or indirectly answerable to voters in SF, SM and SC counties. It is not answerable to individual cities beyond general obligations between county and city level administrations. Caltrain operates passenger rail service on PCJPB's behalf.

    It is PCJPB's obligation to ensure that any deal it decides to cut respects UPRR's easements as well as applicable STRACNET and CPUC specifications. None of them is party to negotiations with CHSRA in this part of the route.

    The Dumbarton rail bridge and its approaches on either side are the property of San Mateo county, not PCJPB. It was built to support freight operations and if its western trestle and two swing bridges are repaired or replaced and, the necessary EIR/EIS clearance is obtained at the state and federal levels, SM county could choose to offer UPRR limited trackage rights across the bridge. This would be in return for forsaking its easement in the stretch between Redwood City and Mountain View where it no longer has any customers. However, UPRR would be under no legal obligation to accept such an offer - it's a business decision.

    Eliminating the Mission Bay Hauler from this stretch would increase the values of properties in the area by some amount. If that is accomplished first, it would also create more flexibility for the design and construction of HSR implementation. It's possible to do track work and construct grade separations while maintaining a high level of service, but it's faster, safer and cheaper to do if all rail traffic can be diverted.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is a framework MOU between PCJPB and CHSRA but no final agreement on sharing the ROW. Also, afaik county voters will not be given a chance to approve or reject the negotiated deal in a plebiscite. Perhaps one could be secured via a signature drive as at the state level, you'd have to ask a lawyer about that. Fwiw, I think that politically, it would be a good idea.


    However, if PCJPB ends up driving too hard a bargain, the most likely outcome IMHO would be a decision to run tracks up the East Bay to an intermodal station with West Oakland BART instead, rather than consider a new bay crossing at Dumbarton that would be suitable for HSR service. Securing a ROW in the East Bay would be more difficult now that the WPML ROW between hwy 262 and Fremont Irvington will definitely be used for the BART extension to Santa Clara/SJC.

    However, I've identified at least one potential alternative route that would not impair UPRR's freight operations. Like the route CHSRA originally studied, it would require stitching together multiple sections of ROW. There would also be other downsides.

    An East Bay route would be inferior: analysis showed that northern terminus in West Oakland would likely generate lower ridership and, it would do essentially nothing to alleviate congestion at California's second busiest airport, SFO. True, Oakland airport would be served via a shuttle service of some type, but it only has a single long runway. Point Alameda is not even suitable for commercial long-haul aviation.

    These considerations are why the peninsula ROW is the preferred route for HSR as far as CHSRA and a majority of voters in the state - indeed, all peninsula counties and cities - are concerned. I don't know if CHSRA has spent any time whatsoever on hatching a plan B for the route within the Bay Area.


    As you have rightly pointed out, the preferred route out of it depends on securing a ROW down to Gilroy. UPRR isn't exactly receptive to CHSRA's overtures anywhere in the state at this time. Iff Gilroy cannot be reached, the fallback position for HSR really ought to be Altamont-via-SantaClara/SJC (for run-through tracks), rather than Altamont-via-Dumbarton.

    Because of the aforementioned ROW conflict with BART in Fremont, the original idea of a curved tunnel across to Pleasanton Bernal Ave. is no longer viable, but there is an alternative that just might be. The biggest issue is that the obviously active Hayward and Calaveras faults really ought to be crossed at grade.

    By all means, lobby PCJPB to insist that CHSRA show it has secured a ROW out of the Bay Area before signing on any dotted line regarding the peninsula ROW. After all, AB3034 says the starter line is supposed to go from SF to LA and Anaheim. No mention of SJ in there, no doubt to the chagrin of Rod Diridon and Major Chuck Reed.

  16. Rafael-

    You are not an expert yet you speak like one on this blog. Where do you come up with stuff like this? I think this post is actually detrimental to getting HSR happening.

    "It is PCJPB's obligation to ensure that any deal it decides to cut respects UPRR's easements as well as applicable STRACNET and CPUC specifications. None of them is party to negotiations with CHSRA in this part of the route."

    UPRR has no easements. UPRR has a right to run a certain number of trains over the right of way. Caltrain is working on new CPUC regulations, as electrifying a railway at 25kv is currently illegal in California. I am certain that they (working with the CHSRA) will get the CPUC regulations that they need to run modern, level-boarding trains. STRACNET? That's a level of detail I don't think anyone has an answer for yet.

    "However, if PCJPB ends up driving too hard a bargain, the most likely outcome IMHO would be a decision to run tracks up the East Bay to an intermodal station with West Oakland BART "

    So we invalidate the Program EIR/EIS and start over? What is the bargain that you think the PCJPB is trying to get? Billions of dollars? Please explain.

    "To the best of my knowledge, there is a framework MOU between PCJPB and CHSRA but no final agreement on sharing the ROW. Also, afaik county voters will not be given a chance to approve or reject the negotiated deal in a plebiscite. Perhaps one could be secured via a signature drive as at the state level, you'd have to ask a lawyer about that. Fwiw, I think that politically, it would be a good idea."

    So, every county should vote on HSR plans? No final agreement on sharing the ROW?

    There is a MOU that has been approved for negotiation by the CHSRA. The TJPA (Transbay JPA) will be approving the same at their next meeting. I assume that the Caltrain Board will come last, at the beginning of April, as their Board meeting happened at the same time as CHSRA's this month.

    This MOU should lay out and answer all the things that you and others have been guessing about all the time. Rather than guessing this or that, why not assume that the CHSRA and Caltrain are going to work together to design the best adaptation of the current Caltrain line for the railways and the communities on the peninsula?

  17. @Rafael

    "These considerations are why the peninsula ROW is the preferred route for HSR as far as CHSRA and a majority of voters in the state - indeed, all peninsula counties and cities"

    While Peninsula voters did support Prop 1A with roughly 65% of voters in favor in both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, exactly one city on the Peninsula actually voted against Prop 1A.

    The Town of Atherton, with their town council fomenting against HSR early in the process voted against Prop 1A. Atherton rejected the measure with 46 percent in favor to 54 percent against, a margin of about 300 votes out of 3,918 cast. [Reference]

    Despite Menlo Park's official city opposition to HSR, their constituents supported it by a wide margin (57% in favor, 46% opposed), as did Palo Alto.

  18. Just wanted to remind everyone that the entire Town of Atherton had less than 4,000 people vote in a major national presidential election back in November.

    The NIMBYs remain delusional about the breadth of their support. Lack of funding due to the recession and financial crisis are probably larger risks to the progress and success of HSR than all the NIMBYs combined, but they do still concern me here in Palo Alto and in our neighboring towns since they are increasingly organized and seemingly unresponsive to fact and reason.

  19. In the MOU recently signed by both Caltrain and the rail authority

    @Martin, are you sure an MOU has been signed recently? There was an old MOU concerning the sharing of data to support design efforts, but I understand that the MOU now being negotiated between the CHSRA and PCJPB is much broader.

    Do we have jurisdictional power over this right of way (if we exercise it) even though we could expect to be discouraged by both the rail authority and Caltrain?

    I think we would be discouraged by several of the PCJPB members who represent, or align with, San Francisco and San Jose interests. I believe that is why some peninsula cities are trying to band together and exert pressure outside of the confines of the JPB.

    would the CPUC horizontal clearances still apply

    @Rafael, CPUC regulations are the law, no matter how inconvenient or ill-conceived.

    After all, war emergency is a pretty rare occurrence and the naval presence in the SF Bay is a tiny fraction of what it once was.

    @Andrew Bogan, no matter what, the Port of Oakland is a far superior choice if the need ever arises to ship M-1 tanks (or, as Richard M. would say, crates of Tactical Hot Air)

    Regarding the STRACNET thing, I think this might just be a matter of Judge Kopp calling the right General and getting the peninsula designation dropped. In fact, I don't have any evidence that the peninsula is still part of STRACNET post-1998.

    why not assume that the CHSRA and Caltrain are going to work together to design the best adaptation of the current Caltrain line for the railways and the communities on the peninsula?

    @MOU for you, I'm not so sure that's a good assumption (the "best" part).

  20. @ MOU -

    the bargain I was referring to would be a more expensive HSR implementation in (certain parts of) the peninsula than CHSRA had anticipated, something that the PCJPB would need to be lobbied for to begin with. Tunneling under Palo Alto etc. would indeed amount to additional billions paid in kind, unless cities and counties agree to rustle up funding to close the gap from sources not already dedicated to HSR construction.

    The peninsula route is the preferred route, others - including an alignment between SJ and Oakland - were studied in the context of the EIR/EIS.

    If the Caltrain ROW is not made available, that would be a huge setback but it would not at all invalidate the entire program EIR/EIS nor that for the Bay Area to the CV. It would just mean reverting to one of the other options already studied, possibly making some adjustments to take into account changes that have occurred/constraints that have been added in the interim.

    In my humble opinion an HSR alignment via Dumbarton is not feasible because of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. But that's my personal opinion.

    That would indeed leave going up to West Oakland BART and possibly someday extending that to SFTT via a second transbay link as the only options that have been studied already, precisely to avoid going back to square one.

  21. Richard Mlynarik:

    Funny you should mention that. I was going to bring up Newhall Yard and what became of it, but you beat me to the punch.

    The Broadway Local, IIRC, was based out of Newhall till UP sold that prime real estate to VTA for a mess of BARTage. Why that train was shifted to SSF rather than Milpitas, I don't know.

    In any case, I think the fate of freight on the Peninsula may be tied, at least in part, to the fate of the freight trains' remaining customers and their needs. (Note: I am not talking about the Port of SF and its delusions of grandeur. Just the people using the service now.)

    I can see HSR perhaps forcing those customers to either go trucking or move elsewhere. Not sure I want to see any jobs, especially of the exceedingly scarce blue-collar middle-class variety, go away right now. I think I like Rafael's idea of reviving te Dumbarton bridge at least in part as a freight cutoff.

  22. @ Kevin Hecteman -

    yes, re-routing freight out of SF across the bay at the first possible opportunity was exactly what I had in mind. That would create more technical and financial breathing room for the design and construction of an HSR alignment between Redwood City and Sunnyvale.

    Limited Caltrain service between Redwood City and Santa Clara/SJC and points south would be possible via the bridge if affordable HSR construction requires that there be no rail traffic at all on that section of the Caltrain ROW for a few days or perhaps weeks during some critical periods.

    Re-routing freight would also make the investment in restoring the bridge more worthwhile than its only currently intended use of supporting three weekday Caltrain runs to Union City each way.

    However, there are engineering caveats: while the Dumbarton rail bridge was originally built for freight, it is already 100 years old, not up to modern seismic code and susceptible to fire damage as a result of lightning strike/arson.

    The western trestle burnt down in a 1998 fire during a driving rainstorm, but the speed at which the flames spread along the creosote-soaked timbers in spite of it prompted the fire chief to characterize the incident as "very, very suspicious". The root cause of the fire was never resolved because the event destroyed the evidence.

    There are also two swing bridges that preserve shipping lanes. They have been welded permanently open. I believe SMCTA's plan is to replace them with new bascule sections.

  23. Re: Dumbarton freight (replacing use of the Caltrain line)

    That simply makes no sense at all.

    Firstly because what industry is left is closer to San Jose than it is to San Francisco.

    But mostly because the idea of (re)constructing an incredibly slow and low-capacity and East-Menlo-Park-NIMBY-arsonist-attracting route and low-speed, mechanically fraught, low-capacity bridge for almost zero traffic just doesn't pass any sort of financial sniff test.

    (Which of course is why it would be happening ... if even more disastrously unjustifiable scams such as BART WSX, BART SJX, Muni Central Subway weren't pushing it aside.)

    What DOES make perfect sense in the corridor is a high-speed (check out the route sometime -- it is perfect), double-track, eleectified, trenched line on the Peninsula connecting to a bored tunnel to Newark and Fremont.

    The geography is perfect, the geology will be perfectly understood as a result of construction of nearly identical (except for size) tunnels for Hetch Hetchy within a couple hundreds metres of the Dumbarton rail route -- hence the construction risk will be nearly zero and the construction estimates spot-on.

    Such a project would have real value.

    But an early 20th century nostalgia trip, throwing hundreds of millions at a route and structure with no clear utility and no possible cost justification? I'll pass, I'm afraid.

    This really is a case of the not-so-good being the enemy of the perfect.

    Freight up the Caltrain line makes much more sense than that. Which is saying something.

    PS My argument has never been that there must be no freight on Caltrain, but that the costs and benefits should be objectively examined in order to make an informed decision, and that any freight service must be on Caltrain's terms in terms of equipment, signalling, times of operation, liability, infrastructure cost, etc.

    Until freight comes back on Caltrain's terms it is a prudent and wise immediate choice to do without the fatal regulatory costs of attenmpting to accommodate it. Should an advanced race of hyper-intelligent futuristic regulatory beings evolve in the coming millennia (or should they evolve elsewhere and visit Earth), and should axles loads of over 20t and should North American wheel profiles be inter-operable with the European- or Japanese-specification passenger-primary infrastructure that ought to be constructed on the Peninsula and beyond, then we can reconsider the decision then.

    But for now, we're dying and just need to stop the haemorrhaging.

    FRA, go away, don't come back until we say.

  24. Caltrain functionary to attend heavy haul seminar:

    New Jersey Transit's Nicole Pratt and Caltrain’s John Cockle have won free first-round "scholarships" from Progressive Railroading to attend portions of Wheel/Rail Interaction '09, which will be held May 4-7 at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare.

    Chief at rail operations for NJ Transit, Pratt will attend the Rail Transit Seminar on May 4; manager of rail operations for Caltrain, Cockle will attend the Heavy Haul Seminar on May 6 and 7.

    I for one welcome our new ore mine to port heavy haul overlords.

  25. MOU for you:
    Given the history of bad transit planning along the Peninsula, I am not willing to just trust CHSRA and Caltrain to work out what's "best".

    Caltrain from its very beginning has been a weak, orphaned institution, even after the formation of the Joint Powers Board in 1991. Because it lacks a dedicated funding source, Caltrain/PCJPB has always been compromised by its "beggars can't be choosers" role, playing second fiddle to more powerful institutions such as BART, VTA, and now CHSRA. Caltrain has a great deal of performance potential, but it has always lacked the political clout of BART. Caltrain was even supposed to be a placeholder for BART on the Peninsula, which lead to some truly stupid design decisions.

    Andrew Bogan:
    The NIMBYs are a very serious issue, not by how they can stop the project by dictat(they can't), but by how they can delay the project and force dramatic cost escalations. The NIMBYs can play a key role is disrupting how CHSRA gets its funds. Funding is going be an enduring issue for CHSRA, despite the $10B bond, and squeezing CHSRA's funding sources is how to influence CHSRA.

    While I think some wiggle room still exists in changing the routing from the Pacheco Pass to the Altamont Pass, going to San Francisco was specifically on the ballot, and the PCJPB is too weak to assert itself otherwise. PCJPB desperately needs the money for the Caltrain upgrades and the Transbay extension. SF and SJ interests on the JPB could also drown out the Peninsula voices.

    Another transbay link between SF and Oakland is extremely unlikely. Even Kopp has said as much: another tube is a non-starter. The Dumbarton rail crossing is actually the best way of achieving another bay crossing. Rail service excels along congested bridge crossings. Just as BART is built around the Transbay Tube, a restored Dumbarton rail crossing could revolutionize regional rail. Of course, San Jose doesn't like how the Dumbarton crossing "cuts them off", and perhaps the arsonist can be found in San Jose.

    As for the industrial sink and salt ponds called the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, this was always an environmental straw-man to demonstrate how "destructive" the Altamont Pass would be. I know the BCDC and Save the Bay can be influencial, but seriously, the Dumbarton Rail Bridge is the "greenest" way of having another crossing of the Bay.

  26. Richard M:
    Why would you want an extremely expensive bored tunnel to cross such shallow water with hardly any water traffic? Frankly, a viaduct and causeway would do. Bored tunnels are for difficult terrain, and the Dumbarton Rail Bridge was the first crossing of the Bay for a reason: it was technically easy. Keep it simple.

  27. Why would you want an extremely expensive bored tunnel to cross such shallow water with hardly any water traffic?

    * Environmental impact. (Those of us who don't work for corrupt agencies such as VTA, MTC, BART actually care about environmental quality.

    * Cost.

    * Avoidance of regulatory hardship. (ie "navigable waters" -- USGC has it all over FRA in terms of histrionic-historics-beating-practicality intransigence.)

    * Traffic transit speed.

    * Traffic capacity.

    * Vastly superior, low environmental impact approach routes.

    * Vastly superior, low-NIMBY approach structures.

    * Technical feasibility.

    * Global technical precedent.

    * Micro-local technical precedent in the form of Hetch Hetchy Bay Division pipeline replacement.

    * Construction cost and construction risk containment.

    * Avoidance of costly third-rate half-assed non-solutions (ie reconstruction of existing, inadequate, historical clank-clank-bang-bang bridge and approaches to historical US railroad standards.)

    There's absolutely nothing to be said in favour of the Dumbarton bridge except (a) foaming nostalgia (no shortage of that) or (b) sleazy erection of "environmental" staw men by sleazy actors with long records of environmental depredation (eg City of San Jose, Quentin Kopp, Metropolitan Transportation Commission) (and there's absolutely no shortage of such sleaze)

    Redwood Junction-Dumbarton-Newark-Fremont-Sunol-Dublin-Livermore-Tracy is a routing of such technical excellence and straightforward constructability it just makes one's eyes tear up with the beauty and waste of it all.

  28. The Altamont HSR line could meet BART in Livermore (near the Livermore Airport?) and/or the Heavy Rail BART extension (through Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Discover Bay) in Tracy.

  29. Avoidance of regulatory hardship. (ie "navigable waters" -- USGC has it all over FRA in terms of histrionic-historics-beating-practicality intransigence.)

    Boy is that ever true. One of the most annoying bottlenecks on the northern NEC is a drawbridge between Old Saybrook and New London, where the USCG decided to put a limit on rail traffic so as to make sure the boats can go through. This meant that the local commuter rail, Shore Line East, had to severely curtail service to New London, with only a single round trip left (and cross-honoring of passes on Amtrak). And NJT had to fight pretty hard for the right to keep the Portal Bridge open to rail traffic through rush hour. This bridge is on what is probably one of the busiest double track railroads in the world, the approach to Penn Station and a bottleneck at the heart of NJT's rail operations, and yet, a garbage barge could stop rush hour, because USCG says the boats get priority because they were there first.

    As for the actual Dumbarton corridor, certainly either a high level crossing or tunnel would be preferable to a drawbridge, and which one is the better option depends on local topography and geology. Certainly a tunnel is not an unreasonable option, since a high level crossing would have to be quite high, although the tunnel would have to be quite long to get across both the bay and the wildlife refuge.

  30. I notice that Arup estimates the cost of single bored tunnel at $350M per mile, and we are talking at least 7 miles here.

    Any surface crossing would be much cheaper.

  31. Boats have priority over rail for the same reason that rail typically has priority over cars at at-grade crossings: history. The San Francisco Bay was a major transportation corridor, as a navigable inland waterway, long before the rails were laid on the Peninsula. Similarly, the rails predate any other vehicle transport besides the horse.

    While I do think having an operable rail route from the Peninsula to the East Bay is a good idea longer term, I doubt resurrecting the rail bridge is feasible for many reasons. I also doubt that tunneling under the Bay would stand up to a proper cost/benefit analysis.

    Sadly, the likely outcome is that the existing burned-out and rusted bridge remains as a neglected blight across the Bay and trains don't cross the Bay for the foreseeable future.

  32. As for the actual Dumbarton corridor, certainly either a high level crossing or tunnel would be preferable to a drawbridge

    What about a pair of sunken locks under a straight railroad trestle? Sort of like an upside-down drawbridge, to reflect our relative priorities ;-)

  33. @ Richard M, Andrew Bogan -

    does Cargill Salt or anyone else (USGS, park rangers) still use ships tall enough to warrant keeping the shipping lane around?

    Btw, depending on how deep and polluted (methyl mercury from SJ Aladen cinnabar mines dating back to Gold Rush days) the Bay mud is, a sunk tube might be cheaper than a bored tunnel. The mile-long section inside the DENWR could also be implemented via cut-and-cover to minimize the permanent impacts.

    However, the notion that you can just blithely cut through Fremont doesn't hold water. For starters, there's a nasty kink in the existing ROWs and a bunch of residential and industrial buildings blocking rectification. Second, UPRR owns the ROW through Fremont and it doesn't look wide enough for four tracks - assuming UPRR would even be willing to cede any of the land. Running on an aerial above the UPRR tracks is not possible because of the BART line, tunneling across to Niles dicey because of the Quarry lakes (fresh water reservoirs for 100,000 people) on the one hand and the active Hayward fault on the other.

    Your best bet would be to head down to the I880/hwy 262 interchange on a causeway through Cargill Salt's remaining active salt ponds, skirting the DENWR. Cut across to Calaveras Rd, up to Sunol and then avoid the rampant NIMBYs in Pleasanton by tunneling straight through that hill south-east of the city. Continue underground past Stanley Blvd, UPRR, BART toe Livermore and the airport runway (it's just GA, not commercial jets) and hop onto the 580 median.

    Dublin lies north-east of the 580/680 interchange, which HSR should stay far away from. BART already occupies the 580 median there anyhow.

    Note that the I-880/hwy 262 interchange could also be reached via Santa Clara/SJC and the available I-880 median in case a ROW to Gilroy cannot be secured. That would yield a non-forked, run-through alignment with stops in both SF and the south bay, just not SJ Diridon station.

    Altamont-via-Dumbarton would yield a shorter SF-LA line haul time but fork the route in Fremont Warm Springs. Since HSR trains are composed of semi-permanent self-propelled consists called trainsets, fewer of them would serve each end of the Bay Area because otherwise the seat capacity utilization down to LA won't be high enough.

    Splitting/combining trainsets is easy enough to do, but not relevant until the trunk line begins to saturate. That's a problem we'd like to have, but it won't crop up for a few decades yet. The starter line needs to be profitable long before then or phase II to Sacramento, Irvine and San Diego won't happen.

    Ergo: don't fork the starter line. At all. Anywhere.

  34. Here is the nautical chart of the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay. Note that the vertical clearance of the Dumbarton Bridge is 85 feet above mean high water. It is likely that a similar clearance would be required of any new fixed rail bridge structure. The current swing segment of the old rail bridge is permanently open, as you know. Otherwise, it would have to be opened somehow (swing, draw, etc.) for any boat traffic. Realistically there is very little boat traffic this far south in the Bay, but since the existing bridge only has 13 feet of clearance when closed, even small craft, like a sailboat, might require it being opened.

    Note the height requirements are lower near the Dumbarton than up at the San Mateo span, which is 135 feet at the highest point in the shipping channel. (I have actually kite boarded under this span, kite and all, quite safely.)

  35. More than you ever wanted to know about salt ponds.

  36. The water is so shallow around the Dumbarton crossing that a sunken tube would essentially be a causeway! The water is only around 45 feet in the Dumbarton "shipping" channel, and it's around 15 feet in most other places.

    I never saw the problem with having trains from LA going directly to either San Francisco or San Jose with the Altamont-via-Dumbarton alignment. Further direct services including LA-Oakland and LA-Sacramento could eventually be developed. The LA region is certainly a big enough destination, and Oakland with its great transit connections is badly neglected in the current plan. Sure, not as many trains go to EACH part of the Bay Area, but the travel times are better. It is more directly competitive with air travel, and low-density SJ Diridon doesn't have the travel demand to justify its central position in the entire system. Isn't the Transbay Terminal supposed to have capacity problems? Another reason why Altamont is better: TT capacity problem solved!

    The HSR system may eventually operate at a profit (the current alignment doesn't look promising with the loss of Bay Area-Sacramento traffic), but CHSRA is not going to recover its enormous capital costs. I want to see an effective HSR system for its knock-on effects for energy-efficient travel and encouraging compact urban development, but let's not be blind to the heavy public subsidies involved. It is revealing how these major rail projects always promise operating profits to seal the public financing deals (BART-SFO, the original BART system), yet they very rarely deliver even on the operating profits. I will be shocked if CHSRA actually finds a private investor, and I am not talking about one of those tax-dodge sale/leaseback deals. I am worried that is what CHSRA has in mind when it is talking about "private investment".

  37. @ High Tech Crossings -

    as Andrew points out, a causeway would need to have a bascule section or two for the shipping lanes. Now, if those are hardly ever used, it wouldn't be a problem. But who knows, maybe 20, 30 years down the road someone decides Silicon Valley absolutely, positively must have a marina and suddenly all your HSR trains are cooling their heels so some 23-year-old Intertubes CEO can trundle through with his yacht.

    Any HSR link across Dumbarton would have to be tall enough to avoid bascule sections or else run under the water with enough draft to allow boats to pass unhindered. Neither is likely to be feasible, this is a national wildlife refuge, not a state park.

    Altamont is not the same thing as Dumbarton and there is no significant capacity problem in the SFTT trainbox. It's a canard CHSRA has put out there because they can't get along with TJPA. Lots of egos involved.

    SJ Diridon is a piddling little station today, but San Jose has plans for transit-oriented development in the area as well as over near the future Beryessa BART. So does Santa Clara in the vicinity of its Caltrain and future BART station. SJ is also proactive in developing a purple pipe network for non-potable recycled water.

    I don't buy into south city's inferiority/Napoleon complex ("Grand Central of the West" my backside) but neither do I think SF is the ornament of the world. No comment on Oakland. Fact is, none of these by itself can support a significant number of HSR trains per hour, there just aren't enough people living there.

    HSR trains are not like little bitty 737s, each one has the capacity of at least one jumbo jet. The really big ones 3-4 jumbo jets You need fannies in seats, otherwise you're not going to operate profitably. That means collecting passengers at multiple points in the Bay Area, because no one location is as central as LA Union Station - which still has a ways to go before it has enough transit capacity to fully develop its ridership potential.

    Afaiac, it's either SF-SJ-LA-Anheim via Pacheco or, plan B, SF-SJC-LA-Anaheim via Altamont (takes a whopping 8 minutes longer). Reserve Dumbarton rail for commute/freight traffic please.

  38. s/b SFO-SJC-LA-Anaheim via Altamont.

  39. there is no significant capacity problem in the SFTT trainbox

    @Rafael, there is a HUGE capacity problem if you include Caltrain (which you MUST!) and assume reasonable turn times. I know you've laid out plans for an army of cleaners to descend on each train as soon as it arrives, but come on, let's get real!

  40. Here's Nancy Pelosi opining that the Transbay Terminal can't possibly require more than one train every 15 minutes. I quote:

    Well, I know San Francisco, and there ain't going to be a train that gets in and out of there in five minutes. So I'm worried about how realistic the planning is. It used to be (one train) every 15 minutes, which is much more reasonable.

    We're in good hands!

  41. I was just pointing out that a sunken tube at Dumbarton would be sticking out of the water. I recommend a new, simple two-track bridge being built upon the old rail bridge, most of which will have to be removed sooner or later. Some useful parts may be salvaged if we use some ingenuity. Hopefully, the clearance issues for the rare boat can be resolved -- I like the sunken locks idea. Regulatory hurdles are a pain, but they are worth the political fight: hire some good lobbyists.

    A restored Dumbarton crossing doesn't have to be used by HSR, but another bay crossing is fantastic for regional rail regardless. The Peninsula has lots of economic activity and jobs, but the NIMBYs severely restrict affordable housing. Connecting the East Bay and Livermore/Stockton (where housing is affordable) directly to the economic activity of Silicon Valley makes enormous sense. I am amazed the business lobbies don't recognize the potential of such a connection, and MTC is also complicit in this ignorance. Instead, they slavishly worship the expensive and slow BART extensions that go nowhere near the 'real' Silicon Valley.

    The LA region is at least twice the size of the Bay Area, so it makes sense that multiple northern destinations should be directly available from LA. I can picture the LA Union Station northbound schedule board now:
    SAN JOSE 5:45
    OAKLAND 6:15
    SAN JOSE 6:45
    OAKLAND 7:15
    SACRAMENTO 7:30...

    Fact is, none of these by itself can support a significant number of HSR trains per hour, there just aren't enough people living there.

    This is exactly why super-frequent service at every station is a bad idea: trains will be running mostly empty. Having separate trains going directly to San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland will make the individual services faster, but the trains will be less frequent at each terminus. This is a good thing, because SF doesn't have the terminal capacity and SJ doesn't have enough demand. At the start, trainsets will be small until demand is built, so running lots of small trains to multiple destinations makes sense to use the excess system capacity.

    With the Altamont-via-Dumbarton alignment, the demand is such that two-thirds of trains will be going SF and only a third going directly to San Jose. This is what San Jose interests distinctly do not like. They know that the travel demand at SJ Diridon is weak, but they want to secure all this extra train service. San Jose should earn the extra service by putting butts in seats, not by a political fix.

    Oakland is often unfairly disparaged, but its density and transit connections are second only to San Francisco in the entire state. Oakland perhaps has even greater long-term transit potential than SF due to its central 'hub' position in the Bay Area. Oakland is a genuine-article "transit metropolis" that should be encouraged by HSR. HSR is only going to work effectively with great transit access to the stations. I laugh at VTA's futile efforts in San Jose.

    By the way, travel times between the Bay Area and Southern California are critical to compete with air travel. Just wait until these new large, fuel-efficient turboprops start offering direct service between the smaller airports and airfields with plenty of capacity. Flying 747s and A380s (as opposed to the 737s right now) along the SF-LA air corridor will also relieve runway capacity constraints at the big airports. Competition is real, and HSR and the California public can't afford to make politically-motivated design mistakes.

  42. @ High Tech 23:55

    "CHSRA is not going to recover its enormous capital costs."

    As has been discussed on this blog, capital costs can be considered to be offset by delaying the need to add a lane or two to I-5, reduced carbon emissions, improved service to central California, the time value of not having to sit in a car all day. The HSR capital costs are not wasted if, as you point out, the project is based on good technical, operational, and business solutions, and not of bad political solutions.


  43. "As has been discussed on this blog, capital costs can be considered to be offset by ... "
    You go tell that to the bondholders and the private investors. They don't care about I-5, they just care about getting their money back, and that means that not only will HSR have to run an operating surplus, it will have to at least be able to service the debt on its capital costs. Just a 4% interest payment on $20 billion of debt is $800 million a year.

  44. With the Altamont-via-Dumbarton alignment, the demand is such that two-thirds of trains will be going SF and only a third going directly to San Jose. This is what San Jose interests distinctly do not like.

    Sorry, but way less than 1/3 trains are going to San Jose. Even the proposed CAHSR timetable says so. (http://www.
    cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/images/chsr/20080117121342_Plan_8.pdf, page 8).

    What this shows is that the San Jose "interests" were really only interested in subdividing ranchland out in Los Banos.

    In fact, it was the Altamont that would have provided much faster and more frequent service to San Jose -- by providing passengers a well-timed, cross-platform transfer. Imagine the HSR system map as a big 'X' centered on Fremont. Travelers going to San Jose take the SF train, get off at Fremont, and make their timed-transfer to the Sac-SJ line.

  45. There will be NO A380s or 747s size aircraft flying between LAX/SFO ever. bolth have a big problem with runway/taxiway spacing with that large of aircraft
    I have read that when A380 lands at LAX all taxiways have to be clear due to wing clearence..more than 2 or 3 and its going to cause big issues

  46. There will be NO A380s or 747s size aircraft flying between LAX/SFO ever. bolth have a big problem with runway/taxiway spacing with that large of aircraft

    LAX and SFO operate numerous 747s a day with little difficulty. In Japan, 747s are common on domestic short hops between major cities (no, people don't always take the shinkansen). Many US airports, wanting to relieve congestion, have been quietly agitating for carriers to consolidate short-hop 737 flights into fewer flights using 747s.

    A380s are a problem, mainly because they generate so much wake turbulence that they cannot be closely followed on takeoff by other planes. But 747s have been around for decades and major US airports are well-equipped to handle them.

  47. Well the issue is more with the A380 in LAX and yes it is the runway
    taxiway issue..google it. anyway we are getting off topic..

  48. @ Clem -

    come on, what exactly? Adding more platform tracks to SFTT would be ruinously expensive. I don't think HSR will ever run 12tph into the belly of that beast, which is why giving 4 tracks to it is overly generous. Frankly, 3 would be enough for 9tph.

    Once you get to those kinds of numbers, you'll have enough ridership to terminate some trains in SJ, perhaps Oakland if that spur is built by then. Some trains out of SF could then zoom through SJ Diridon. The hard part is building ridership up to that level in the first place.

    As Jim, who actually works on the trains for Amtrak, points out: deep cleaning/provisioning of HSR trains may not even be necessary in SF, doing that every other run at the southern end of the line would be good enough. So hiring an army of cleaners in SF to get everything ship-shape in 9 minutes may not even be needed to deal with light housekeeping duties. Ten minutes to alight and ten to board should be enough IFF you manage pedestrian flow onto the platform, on the platform and inside the trains.

    Caltrain is going to have much more trouble than HSR in supporting 10tph and three times the current ridership into SF, because it's only getting a measly two platform tracks. It could squeak by with switching to 300m consists and turning its rush-hour trains around in 9 minutes, but that again requires managing pedestrian flow off/onto and on the platforms. Fortunately, commuters usually have little baggage. Cleaning would have to be done in San Jose.

    Long Caltrain consists would imply big knock-on effects on platform length for stations all down the line, but that's ok: HSR will force most/all of them to be reconfigured anyhow, even the ones that HSR just zooms through. Yet another reason for FSSF configuration.

    Like HSR, Caltrain could have assembly areas on the concourse level of SFTT, where passengers would wait for permission to descend and board. That will be given only after passengers alighting have (mostly) cleared the platform. Use moving walkways at a slope and reverse direction as needed. Voila, platform width is simply no longer an issue.

    Let's not create fake capacity problems by insisting that passengers will never ever be prepared to behave as anything other than Italian soccer hooligans, impervious to instructions from railroad staff.

    When they see tens of thousands of people flowing through the SFTT concourse level on a busy holiday weekend (Thankgiving 2030?) they will actually appreciate orderly procedures. People complain about security checks at airports, nobody minds submitting to a boarding procedure.

    SWA already subdivides its queuing area by groups of seat rows to speed up traffic down the aisle of the aircraft later on. No-one complains about that either, quite the contrary - it makes eminent sense.

  49. Caltrain is going to have much more trouble than HSR in supporting 10tph and three times the current ridership into SF, because it's only getting a measly two platform tracks.

    If Caltrain cannot maintain 3 minute headways even with modern signaling, EMU, and level-platform boarding, then we may as well give up on the project right now.

    Like HSR, Caltrain could have assembly areas on the concourse level of SFTT, where passengers would wait for permission to descend and board. That will be given only after passengers alighting have (mostly) cleared the platform....When they see tens of thousands of people flowing through the SFTT concourse level on a busy holiday weekend (Thankgiving 2030?) they will actually appreciate orderly procedures. People complain about security checks at airports, nobody minds submitting to a boarding procedure.

    Oh. My. Goodness. Where do you come up with this nonsense?

    Experiment: try visiting Montgomery BART and picture station agents handing out Boarding Passes to all the BART passengers.

  50. If Caltrain cannot maintain 3 minute headways

    Headways aren't the constraint. Turnback capacity is: can the terminal realistically turn around 20 trains per hour using only 6 tracks?

  51. can the terminal realistically turn around 20 trains per hour using only 6 tracks

    Fenchurch Street station in London handles this volume with only 4 platform faces. However, these are all fairly short commuter trains serving points to the southeast of London (and of course it only terminates a few of the lines in the vast SE England rail network).

    There's no way it could mix in long haul HSR trains. Also, during peak periods it runs at absolutely maximum capacity and any delays have cascading effects on other trains. The station is over 100 years old - if it were being built today from scratch no one would advocate building it at its current size.

  52. Basic train question - Caltrain's today often (esp rush hour) runs frontwards and backwards - engines in back pushing - doesn't look to me like they turn them around.

    Do HSR's have to be turned around when they get to the end?

  53. @resident

    No, high speed trains are pointy on both ends and can run equally fast in either direction.

    Caltrains have the locomotive on the south end. Always.

  54. Headways aren't the constraint. Turnback capacity is: can the terminal realistically turn around 20 trains per hour using only 6 tracks?

    BART is able to turn around 8 trains per hour at 2-track (and no trailtrack) Fremont during peak commute hour.

    Admitedly, they don't always stick to the schedule. A badly situated crossover blocks the line everytime a train is switched into the Hayward yard.

    Is there any service scenario where 8tph is not sufficient for Caltrain?

    As for (totally theoretical) requirement for 12tph HSR:

    Given the ongoing litigation regarding EIR for Pachecho routing, it is curious that CAHSR now says Transbay Terminal does not meet their requirements. One would think this totally invalidates conclusions of the EIR. After all, Altamont does not have terminal capacity issues (since some trains would terminate at Diridon).

  55. annoying bottlenecks on the northern NEC is a drawbridge between Old Saybrook and New London,

    I know this is never going to happen but high speed rail could abandon the 1870s track through all the quaint little villages on the shores of Long Island Sound leaving them to SLE service. Sorta like what happens on the other side of the sound - there is no Amtrak Station on Long Island after all. Or only have every other regional pass that way.

    The existing track parallels the Connecticut Turnpike and then passes under it in East Haven - just east of New Haven, a major stop for Amtrak. East of there the squiggly bits of track that alternate with unimproved grade crossings and temperamental drawbridges continue until New London. The ROW for Amtrak and the Connecticut Turnpike run parallel crossing the Thames River/New London Harbor. Put Amtrak express trains in the Connecticut Turnpike ROW.

    Only problem is that there is no median between New Haven and Old Lyme. A narrow median appears between Old Lyme and I 395.
    The median is very wide between the interchange with I395 and New London, in most places. So most of the way there's no place, at grade, to put anything other than Jersey barriers.

    The water is so shallow around the Dumbarton crossing that a sunken tube would essentially be a causeway!

    Sunken tubes don't sit atop the silt at the bottom, they are in a trench that is filled over them after they are sunk. If there wasn't something on top of them they would become big long pontoon bridges - they float. Typically they build the tubes in a shipyard, and tow them to the site, They position them over the trench, flood them, they sink, they bury them and then pump them dry.

    It doesn't have to be all bridge or all tunnel. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is both. could be used across San Francisco Bay.

    HSR on the Caltrain ROW doesn't need to be tunnel or retained fill. It can be in an open cut or at grade or all four.

    I know you've laid out plans for an army of cleaners to descend on each train as soon as it arrives, but come on, let's get real!

    Amtrak doesn't clean Acela when it's in Penn Station New York between Boston and Washington. The plan for Transbay is to have tail tracks, The train will arrive, It will empty out, The cleaners will board, to tidy and maybe swab down the bathrooms - the same thing that happens on airplanes that make a stop. They will clean while the train moves onto the tail tracks to switch to the departure platform. "Cleaned" by the time it gets back to the departure platform. The cleaners then go back to the arrival platform where another train is arriving. 12 trains an hour does mean that one leaves every 5 minutes, it doesn't mean that every 5 minutes a train pulls up to the platform opens the door, has everyone board and leaves.

    SAN JOSE 5:45
    OAKLAND 6:15
    SAN JOSE 6:45
    OAKLAND 7:15

    Oy. It's 5:20, I'm in LA, I live in Walnut Creek. I have to get on BART to get home when the train arrives in the North. Do I get on the 5:30 to SF or do I wait 45 minutes to avoid a few stops on BART?
    It's 6:10, I'm in LA and I live in Daly City. Do it take the 6:15 to Oakland or do I wait until 7:00 to avoid a few stops on BART?
    It's 6:35 I live in Redwood City or Palo Alto or where ever they decide to build the mid Peninsula station. The train to San Jose is a local that arrives at the Mid Peninsula station 45 minutes after the 7:00 express to San Francisco arrives at SFO. I check my Caltrain Schedule and see that I can connect to a Caltrain local that gets me from SFO to Mid Peinsula 30 minutes before the train from LA to San Jose gets there. I normally commute to SF on Caltrain so I have a monthly ticket. Do I get on the train to San Jose or do I get on the on to San Francisco?


    It's 5:20 and I'm in LA, I live in Walnut Creek but this applies to anyone who would be using either San Francisco or Oakland. They haven't built out the HSR system yet so the only service right now is LA to Oakland or LA to San Francisco but not both. The 5:30 is a local that arrives in the North 45 minutes after the the 5;45 departure which is an express. Do I get on the 5:30 or do I get on the 5:45?

    It's 6;10 the 6;15 departure is an express and I make a rude comment when someone asks me if I'm going to take the express to the North or the local that leaves later than the express.

    It's 6:35. I live at the Mid Peninsula station. The 6;45 is a Limited that gets to the Mid Peninsula station 10 minutes after the express that departs at 7:00 whizzes through because expresses don't stop at Mid Peninsula. The 7:15 is a local that gets to Mid Peninsula an hour and half after the Limited at 6:45, which train do I take?

    It could squeak by with switching to 300m consists and turning its rush-hour trains around in 9 minutes

    Doesn't take 9 minutes to empty a train and fill it up again. Not all of the trains arriving will have passengers on them either. Move an empty train to a platform and it boards fast.

    PATH system moves more than 12 trains an hour through Newark, They do have the luxury of discharging passengers on a different track than they receive passengers.

    ... FSSF configuration...

    Ewww. it means the express track goes from being nice straight-ish runs in the middle to undulating in and out between stations, all of the stations local and express . . . because those island platforms are going to be nice and wide aren't they? and means the ROW has to be much wider near each and every station. Side platforms mean the ROW only widens out at the stations. . . and I can't think of any four track system that uses locals in the middle. There's gotta be a good reason for that.

    Oh. My. Goodness. Where do you come up with this nonsense?

    I'm beginning to think he's never been on a train or inside a train station. Civil engineers have been thinking about this for over 150 years, There are big thick manuals that have complex formulas in them to calculate this stuff....

    Experiment: try visiting Montgomery BART and picture station agents handing out Boarding Passes to all the BART passengers.

    Or try getting on an southbound Amtrak train in Newark NJ, one that has more than coach in it. People milling about the platform with an empty track. The public address system starts to blare instructions about what location to wait at. The coach passengers arrange themselves at locations B through D. The business class passengers are apparently deaf and get on at the wrong place.

    Or try Newark during morning rush. Raritan Valley Train arrives on track 1. Everybody gets off because RVL trains are hauled by diesel locomotives and terminate at Newark. Half the people pour through the turnstiles onto the PATH trains. The other half stand on the platform waiting for the next train to Penn. Sta. New York. A train to Penn. Sta. arrives, half the people get off and pour through the turnstiles for PATH, The people from the RVL train board. Takes 60 seconds if that.

    Or the PATH terminals at 33rd or Hoboken. Everyone at 33rd gets either gets on the train to Journal Square or the train to Hoboken. At Hoboken they get on the train to 33rd or the train to the World Trade Center.

    can the terminal realistically turn around 20 trains per hour using only 6 tracks

    NYC subway does it on the Carnarsie line at 14th and 8th with antiquated signals and less than optimal switching arrangement on two tracks. The schedule doesn't have specific times but between 4:59 PM and 6:31 PM there is a train departing 8th and 14th for Carnarsie " every 4 minutes " which is 30 trains an hour - 15 arrivals and 15 departures. http://www.mta.info/nyct/service/pdf/tlcur.pdf

    No complications with locals and expresses because the Carnarsie line is only two track and all local all the time.

  56. "and I can't think of any four track system that uses locals in the middle. There's gotta be a good reason for that."
    They definitely exist, for example the Metra Electric in Chicago or for that matter the north side El. All the tracks are straight there, and they just waste the space between the local tracks. The stations are so close together that it doesn't really matter, and they had plenty of room when they were planning the line. Other examples can be found, but they are either on fairly curved lines, where the swinging apart of the tracks is just part of the general curviness of the line.

    As for turnaround times, a comparison to subways, even BART, is not really valid, after all, most subway trains have many more doors per length of train, probably more per passenger, usually different loading patterns (HSR trains are likely to be 80% full at Transbay, which is not remotely the case with BART at Fremont), and the most important thing: HSR passengers will have luggage. So it will take longer to board or empty an HSR train than a Caltrain or BART train. The key thing is to optimize the process, for example by ensuring that the stairs and station exits do not become the bottleneck.

  57. I am aware that sunken tubes are placed in trenches, but they are rarely flush with the bottom. The dredged material is usually used to cover the tube, creating a mound. In such shallow water, that's a causeway. Anyway, bay environmentalists are not going to like all this dredging, especially when a cheaper bridge would easily do.

    The more I think of it, a low viaduct with some sort of drawbridge would work fine. Not having to worry about a high clearance maintains the train performance at a low cost. Small craft can get under the bridge, and the very rare tall boat can use the drawbridge at a specific set time. It's so shallow, so what are big boats doing down there anyway? The drawbridge would be closed over 99% of the time, so it wouldn't affect train schedules.

    I certainly hope CHSRA will use yield managment techniques in pricing their train services. Express trains should cost more than limited service, just as non-stop flights tend to cost more than connecting flights. Also, walk-up tickets should cost more than reservations well in advance. So passengers will not just be selecting trains by what's immediately available, but by service type, time of reservation, and price.

    Having LA-origin trains going to multiple Bay Area locations creates a network effect of multiple train options with respect to time and cost. You actually WANT to have lots of train service options! Suppose you live in Walnut Creek. If you have booked in advance for returning from LA, you would likely have chosen an Oakland-bound train. That will take you closest to the BART connection to Walnut Creek. If you are just walking up to the LA station, however, you realize that the Oakland train is not leaving soon, so you think about the fastest immediate option, an express to San Francisco, where you can also connect to BART to Walnut Creek. You feel cheap though, so you elect to take a more affordable limited stop train to San Jose, which is still leaving earlier than the train to Oakland. Since we are considering a system with the Altamont Pass and a transfer station in Fremont, you would get off the San Jose-bound train in Fremont, switching to BART to Walnut Creek.

    If you lived in the mid-Peninsula, you could still take any of the SF, SJ, or Oakland trains from LA. The SF-bound and SJ-bound trains will take you to local Caltrain service on the Peninsula, but the Oakland-bound train will still take you to Fremont, where you can board a new Caltrain service across Dumbarton to your local Peninsula stop. You have lots of flexible options, which is precisely the point. Forcing everyone through San Jose diminishes overall service quality, and it harms the overall Bay Area transit network, placing too much stress at specific points.

  58. @ bikrider, adirondacker -

    do the math. Caltrain is supposed to get the two outside platform tracks at the SFTT. If they want to run 10tph into that station, that means they have 12 minutes to turn around any given train.

    Considering the ridership forecasts, each train would need to be quite long, e.g. 300m. So that would mean up to 750 passengers alighting and up to 750 boarding. Since Caltrain will only have half an island platform to work with for each of its platform tracks, having hundreds of people already waiting on the platform while arriving passengers are alighting is going to create pedestrian flow problems along the platform.

    Hence the idea of keeping passengers waiting to board up on the concourse level until most of the alighting passengers have cleared the platform. No need for boarding passes, I never suggested that. Restricting passenger flow in any way is not something any trian operator would ever want to do, but that is the consequence of how TJPA, CHSRA and Caltrain appear to have set up the capacity at the SFTT.

    And please, spare me the John Boehner theatrics and the reference to thick civil engineering manuals. The SFTT design does not adhere to them.

  59. Everyone keeps saying existing freight; get that out of your head. If we are planning for the future of passenger service then we must also plan for the future of freight. Currently less than 1% of all goods are transported in and out of SF by rail. The remaining amount is by truck with another tiny slice for ship or barge. This is ridiculous. We need more freight to travel by rail on the Peninsula just as we need more passengers to travel by rail. If we only value the movement of passengers and squander all freight then we are no different than GM when they bought all the passenger rail lines in the 1940’s and put busses in their place. Need I mention the Key System or how about the NWP which at one time had an extensive 3rd rail electrified passenger system in the North Bay. How about Pacific Electric in Los Angeles? The highway system is a dinosaur and the fact that almost everyone on this blog sees no value in maintaining freight is not only short sighted it is stupid. I support rail in general and that include everything from the 2 car freight local to the 300 k Japanese Bullet Train. The peninsula is tight quarters and we have to move a lot of people and a lot of freight up and down that narrow corridor whether we like it or not. Freight already runs mostly at night so the NIMBY’s are already used to it. Need I mention the Granite Rock train which on average is 100 cars out of Logan (near Watsonville) 5 days a week? This train keeps 400 trucks a day off of our highways. Not to mention the environmental benefits of shipping by rail (one ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of diesel). There are an additional 25 shippers on the Peninsula that rely on freight rail and deserve the right to continue using it! We all benefit from freight rail!

    The peninsula needs to accommodate not only all types of people but all types of freight. The line must have 22.5 feet of clearance and must accommodate freight and HSR! If not then build a separate right of way that will allow for only freight or only passengers. I am sure all of the property owners will love that idea!

    To the anonymous person that mentions the Caltrain contract and stated let the FRA die, you are an asshole! You are the modern day GM! You are a hypocrite! It is not a technological change. That was put in there so the line could be changed over to the piece of shit, wide gauge and overly expensive BART! The tracks are still standard gauge. Freight can still run at night. Besides Caltrain is still planning to run the standard diesel train sets they use now to Gilroy. Those locomotives are the same as a freight engine. What would be the difference? Why would FRA allow those to run with HSR and electrified Caltrains and not allow freight?

    In an ideal world passenger trains would have their own right of way and so would freight. Why the hell would HSR want to build on an existing freight infrastructure anyway? Our freight system was built over 100 years ago. HSR needs its own dedicated right of way. If it must share then it better accommodate everything!

    Let’s not be hypocrites, let’s support rail and what it is meant to do: move freight and people!

  60. New York Penn Station, which very clearly is the only model that untraveled or unobservant or ignorant Americans have of a train station SIMPLY DOESN'T WORK.

    Wide, free-flowing, unimpeded platforms and non-circuitous, barrier-free, obstacle-free (including "mezzanine level", "security screening", "fare gates", "please you must detour via our Great Hall and our Hong Kong Clone no-design-expense-required office edifice even if you're not headed that way) routes to and from urban destinations are the names of the game.

    Building unpleasant underground holding pens for humans on ruinously expensive subterranean mezzanines and having trains sit around just because you were too fucking stupid to provide enough space on the platforms and too fucking stupid to allow trains to get into and out of the stations quickly and reliably is wrong on so very many levels it is impossible to know where to start.

    Now of course -- OF COURSE -- the lunatics at the TJPA and their so-called architect and their so-called engineers are throwing away $4 billion tax dollars on another non-functional, zero-capacity Penn Station style pit. But that doesn't mean that was the only thing that could have been built, or the only thing that can be built, or that such a wretchedly ignorant/incompetent/unprofessional course of action is desirable from any point of view.

    "Freight on the Peninsula", indeed.

  61. @all, please keep your posts free of profanity. I'm sure there are better ways to make a forceful argument. At least Richard has the class to sign with his name, unlike anon.

    As for freight, I think that today's 17 feet is sufficient. 21 feet is just overkill and will worsen the visual blight of electrification.

    You'd be amazed how tightly HSR rolling stock is packaged; making the pantograph reach another 6 feet higher could really mess with a 'standard' design.

  62. Much of the freight that the Peninsula line once carried was due to the Port of San Francisco in its heyday many decades ago, but those days are long gone and are not coming back. The economic nature of San Francisco and the Peninsula has fundamentally changed. Major cargo shipping and heavy industry have essentially been replaced by a large tourism industry, financial and management services, informational industries such as electronics and biotech, and amenity services. Heavy shipments of raw materials and basic commodities have been reduced to a small handful of vestigial industries on the Peninsula. What is left of this low-value, 'heavy' freight can be handled on the rails at night.

    Now an argument does hold for 'fast freight', which is more compatible with HSR and can even use relatively light equipment. The Peninsula does have a need to move high-value, time-sensitive freight such as UPS/FedEx/DHL packages, fresh flowers, specially packaged epicurean food, etc. This can be carried either on dedicated light, fast freight trains or even on special segments of HSR trains. I suspect HSR or fast freight will carry most mail from SF to LA. This is what will take trucks off the road, but the idea of many long, hulking trains carrying bulk freight is nostalgia.

    Using freight as the justification for four-tracking the entire Peninsula is a costly mistake. Caltrain, HSR, and 'fast freight' can certainly co-exist on two tracks with strategically placed third and fourth tracks for passing. The amount of community disruption avoided is considerable, yet CHSRA seems determined to stir up as many hornets' nests as possible in building the most expensive system possible.

  63. Response to Clem: "17 ft is enough" That is not enough! Double stack trash trains are 20' 2" and the garbage company is already studying the idea of moving trash trains out of SF. As long as SF creates garbage they need to figure out a way to move it. I guess we could be like NYC and have no rail to haul it out and store garbage on barges. NYC is finally getting smart and reinvigorating freight rail specifically for trash trains. SF would be short sighted to only go 17 feet. At 17 ft you can’t even run the standard high cube box car that is exactly 17 ft. Do you want the rail cars to skim the wire all the way down the peninsula? As for the auto business the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach are planning to close their auto unloading facilities and go 100% container. That means no break bulk either. If that happens, they need another port and SF could be that port. They have the deep draft with out dredging to accommodate those ships. In fact the ports have discussed that with each other! Rail cars are getting taller and heavier and the clearance is not only necessary it is mandatory! I guess we could be more like Europe and only value the movement of people where only 14% of cargo goes by rail! As far as the so called blight, that is the sacrifice. It is only going to be taller but still look the same. We as a society need to make sacrifices and this is one we need to make!

    Response to High Tech Crossing: I love the idea of high speed freight! That would be great. I know that even BART is looking into moving FedEx and UPS between the Oakland and SF airports. As far as the old nostalgic hulking freight trains, we still need them. As long as the city continues to build we will need Granite Rock trains and standard manifest trains carrying Cemex, Hanson and Bode cement, ash and aggregate. How about drywall, steel, sand, perishables, beer, wine, waist products, paper, lumber and many other commodity types that would go in the so called nostalgic clunky freight trains. These are not nostalgic and if you want the ideal railroad business model look at Canadian National Railroad and you will see that their bread and butter is the old school manifest trains that you call nostalgic. They are the most efficient and profitable railroad in the world! In fact the rest of the world looks to our freight railroads and are modeling our freight railroads. Look at China, Australia and India which are building or have already built world class freight railroads modeled after North American railroads.

    To summarize the wires need to be 22.5 ft per CPUC G.O. 95! Freight needs to be built into the system from SF to San Jose. Freight is as valuable to move by rail as it is to move people. The only reason freight has dwindled along the peninsula is because of the lousy contract that SP signed with the JPB. The contract makes it very expensive to move freight on the peninsula so UP just jacks up the rates to wipe away the customers. There is plenty of freight business to be moved by rail if Union Pathetic and Caltrain are more accommodating. CHSR can be built on its own network south of San Jose where freight is not an issue since they will have a brand new right of way but anywhere they want to share the right of way with freight they need to share in clearances too and not put more trucks on the roads!

  64. Thanks Clem for getting the 1991 agreement. I'm no lawyer but there was one thing that jumped out at me:

    UPR retained the rights to intercity travel on the Peninsula - Caltrain only had Commuter rights. Does anyone have information on this? Is it a red herring because of the way that Commuter line is defined or is this part of the discussion?

  65. It looks like section 8.3(c) on page 30 is what various hopes have been pinned on at various times. (Probably hopelessly, given how insanely and capriciously and technically inconsistently and self-aggrandizingly consitently and anti-environmentally and anti-economically the FRA rules on what is or isn't under its thumb as a 19th century railroad.)

    8.3(c) In the event that Owner demonstrates a reasonably certain need to commence construction on all or substantially all of the length of the Joint Facilities (including User's Cahill/Lick Line) of a transportation system that is a significant change in the method of delivery of Commuter Service which would be incompatible with Freight Service on the Joint Facilities (other than User's Cahill/Lick Line), Owner may, at its sole cost and expense, file no sooner than nine months prior to the commencement of such construction for permission from the ICC to abandon the Freight Service over the portion of the Joint Facilities (excluding User's Cahill/Lick Line) upon which the construction is to occur. User shall not object to or oppose such a filing; however, it shall be allowed to participate in the abandonment proceedings.

    Thanks yet again for all your excellent and hard and thoughtful work, Clem.

  66. @Anonymous! @10:50!

    How! can! one! argue! against! so! many! exclamation points!

    SF logically should never have been a major port, and in future it never will be, with Oakland right across the bay with natural transcontinental connections. There's definitely justification for local rail freight service on the peninsula, but that doesn't need double-stack containers and the like.

  67. @Anonymous 3/19, looks like 8.3(c) is simply the BART clause. I doubt that in 1991 (when the world's first 300 km/h service was mere months old, with the recent opening of the French TGV Atlantique) the parties to this agreement had anything other than BART in mind.

    @Susan, that clause means UPRR can extend trackage rights to Amtrak over PCJPB tracks if they so desire. In an example of this arrangement, Amtrak already operates numerous trains over a short stretch of PCJPB tracks in San Jose and Santa Clara-- presumably by agreement with UPRR and not the PCJPB.

  68. @Susan, on second thought, you may be on to something...

    What if UPRR were to veto (or merely threaten to veto) an agreement between the PCJBP and CHSRA as violating section 2.7 of the agreement ? That would give UPRR some leverage in negotiations over HSR's planned use (commandeering!) of their right of way south of San Jose.

    A lawyer, which I am not, could probably parse this more completely and figure out UPRR's leverage, if any.

  69. Eric - The Port of Oakland is great I am not advocating competition between the ports. The Port of Oakland is a nitch port. The Port of Oakland's nitch is containers. The Port of Oakland no longer is in break bulk or auto business. Where is that to go? San Francisco is the natural choice. You claim there is no need for double stacks, what about garbage? New York City, Chicago, Seattle and Boston have double stack garbage trains. This is the most efficient way to pack trash by compacting it in containers. Until SF eliminates trash they need to transport it to a landfill. Are you advocating that all trash be trucked to Oakland? According to a 2005 study by US DOT there are over 50,000 trucks daily in and out of San Francisco. That is really great for the environment. Rail is meant to accomodate both freight and passengers and it needs to stay that way. We can not as a society only advocate to move people, it makes no sense. If you consume you need to transport it. If the heights are shortened what about larger passenger cars? Who is to say that is never going to exist in the future? By the way no exclamation points.

  70. @Anon, garbage is hauled just fine in regular-height freight cars. There are covered (roll-top) hoppers as well as double-stack dumpster cars for this purpose. Your trash argument is a red herring: it does not bolster the case for excess height clearances on the peninsula.

    Again, Plate F will do just fine.

  71. Freight Trains are Mass Transit too.

  72. Clem - F plate is not adequate for the future. If you are a rail advocate you would know this. Is F plate okay in San Jose where UP runs daily auto trains?

  73. Nobody is ever going to be delivering motor vehicles by rail to or form San Francisco.

    Nobody is ever going to be delivering petrochemical cracking towers by rail to San Francisco.

    Nobody is ever going to be delivering aircraft fuselages by rail to San Francisco.

    Nobody is ever going to be delivering 300000 kVA power transformers by rail to San Francisco.

    Elephantine UP freight, whatever there may be of it, running through and south of San Jose is never going to be running on Caltrain or HSR tracks.

    The port of San Francisco, by virtue of the most blindingly obvious geography, will never be of economic value other than to the staff of the agency and to marginal enterprises that continue to exist solely through unwise and unwarranted public subsidy.

    Now maybe somebody wants to deliver a couple cars of lumber or a dozen cars of gravel to San Francisco, but that is not a public benefit that has infinite priority and it is not one that should be undertaken regardless of cost, no matter how much some of us like watching big old slow clanky smoking swaying trains go honking and screeching by. But this has all been said here a hundred times already -- cost-benefit analysis isn't going to alter a deeply held religious convictions dating back to boyhood.

    And the last people in the world anybody should listen to are "rail advocates".

    (Disclaimer: I love steam locomotives. There. I said it. But I don't love them infinitely.)

  74. Richard Mlynarik - There is no value in freight trains. Move everything by truck up and down the Peninsula and over the bridge. The public benefits when Granite Rock stops using rail and runs over 400 trucks daily between Logan and South San Francisco. It is only valuable to move people by rail up and down the peninsula. The 16,000 to 20,000 annual rail carloads that move up and down the peninsula by rail now should be trucked. The 64,000 trucks that would be needed to replace the trains would be much better for the environment. That is also really good for the oil companies since they will have a larger market to sell their oil.

    In case you haven’t noticed the Port of SF is aggressively looking at transporting automobiles and windmills in and out of Pier 80 with out subsidy and as a viable business. If existing technology does not allow high speed rail on the same tracks as freight trains when the freight is only going to run at night then we had better change the technology.

    Let’s shut down Caltrain and only run freight. This way the 20,000 daily riders can drive.


  75. the Port of SF is aggressively looking at transporting automobiles and windmills in and out of Pier 80 with out subsidy

    Without subsidy? Building them bigger tunnels isn't subsidy? Building them taller grade separations (bridges and underpasses) isn't subsidy? Maintaining track for 30+ tonne axle loads (with wear proportional to the fourth power of axle load) isn't subsidy?

    Give me a break! Some subsidies pass the smell test, but this one doesn't.

  76. Are we running out of capacity to off-load cars from ships in the Bay Area or is the Port of SF just looking to undercut the Port of Richmond or Benicia and take business from them? If so, what is the gain? I don't see an advantage of taking business from one part of the region to another just to pretend that the Port of SF is still relevant as an industrial entity.

    Trash is not a time-sensitive cargo. It could be loaded in SF as single stacks then taken by rail to a second transfer station and have a second level of container added on top for the long journey to wherever it goes. That eliminates the tunnel and catenary clearance issue on the CHSRA/Caltrain line.

  77. @Clem
    This web site is the one most focused the ongoing saga of Caltrain/HSR and all of us on the Peninsula who will be affected by them. (Thank you for that.) Therefore, although all the technical discussions are valuable parts of my course in Railroads 101, I encourage you to raise a number of other issues germane to this topic. For example, the substance and merits (or lack thereof) of the current lawsuit, the draft MOU between Caltrain and the rail authority, and the development impact differential among the three counties, all the cities on the corridor, and various natural groupings thereof.

    Another issue of concern, and usually neglected, is the construction process itself, its duration, the impact on each city outside of the rail-corridor, with eminent domain takings, construction easements, and especially with shoofly tracks and “temporary” train operations. All of which is to say, I’d appreciate your casting a wider net.

  78. Containerized shipping: a "nitch" market for nitch ports, nitch shippers and nitch logistics. It will never catch on!

  79. @Anon.
    Containerization has revolutionized cargo shipping. Today, approximately 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide moves by containers stacked on transport ships [8]; 26% of all containers originate from China.[citation needed] As of 2005, some 18 million total containers make over 200 million trips per year. There are ships that can carry over 14,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), for example the Emma Mærsk, 396 m long, launched August 2006. It has even been predicted that, at some point, container ships will be constrained in size only by the depth of the Straits of Malacca—one of the world's busiest shipping lanes—linking the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.


  80. Perhaps FRA would allow it

    I've never looked at it closely. The way I understand it either the track exclusively runs non FRA compliant equipment and the FRA doesn't care what you run. Or there is temporal separation. Either the tracks are running non compliant equipment or the non compliant equipment is off the track so freight can move through. They never get on the same piece of track at the same time. HSR is going to want to run on the local tracks so that when the express tracks are out of service they still can get to SF. All the non compliant equipment will run on all the tracks.

    Running freight over tracks beats them up. I suspect freight will be limited to one track except under extraordinary circumstances. And, this may take a special waiver from the FRA, that late at night freight will be on one track, the east most lets say. And the last Caltrain train of the night will pass through on the westmost. With a few HSR trains running for people who want to be in LA at 6 in the morning and the people from Fresno who have a 7 am flight at SFO. If the CPUC doesn't change regulations they'll design the ROW so the only obstructions are platforms at SFO and the Mid Peninsula station. There will be a gauntlet track there so the freight is away from the platforms.

    Getting that implemented interoperably will be painful.

    Thanks I needed a laugh. I remember that the negotiations between the LIRR and Amtrak and NJ Transit took a very long time when they changed signaling. But whatever they picked they agreed on something... Amtrak operates in MBTA territory, SLE, Metro North, LIRR, NJ Transit, Septa, MARC and VRE territory. If they could pull it off I'm sure Caltrain and HSR can. And that they will get together with the commuter rail in Los Angeles and pick a system. And that anybody else who decides to operate in their territory will use their system, Or they won't operate in their territory. UP is going to have to have a few locomotives that meander up and down the track late at night. I don't know if they will even have to use Caltrain/HSR signalling. At a train an hour they could probably use a dispatcher and line side telephones. Or teach everybody morse code.

    If HSR is given the outside tracks, Caltrain will need new island platforms at all of its stations on the peninsula - a perfect opportunity to increase their length.

    HSR will have the innermost tracks. It keeps all of the tracks as straight as can be. The ROW isn't wide enough to put island platforms all up and down it. Almost none of the current Caltrain platforms will around for the day the first revenue HSR passes them by because most of them are where the new track will be laid. Since they are rebuilding all of them they will make them long enough. They will do it instead of building a short platform now and ripping out in 15 years. Or having the front half of the train serve some stations and the back half of the train serve others and everybody grumbles about it over the 25 years it takes them to fix it. Even though level boarding platforms are more expensive than track level platforms they will be at most if not all stations. It speeds up the commute and then you aren't delayed when they use the wheelchair lift. Since level boarding makes the platform and not the train ADA compliant I'm willing to go out on a limb and say all the new platforms will be level boarding with long platforms because over the years it's cheaper. They are going to select the same platform height as HSR so that when there are operational problems HSR can use Caltrain platforms or Caltrain can use HSR platforms.

    with workers hanging off the side.

    I don't know why workers hang off the side, outside of a siding or a yard. Or why the railroad lets them do it. It's just seems bizarre to me. Change the regulations before you go and spend hundreds of millions of dollars so a flagman doesn't have to get to a safe place on the three car freight train that passes through once a week.

    two platforms at the Transbay Terminal limits tph count into that station for Caltrain

    But that is higher than 10 an hour. Not that they are ever going to have ten an hour if they have reasonably full seats on reasonably long trains. They will have moderately long trains with full seats because it costs more money to run short trains or empty seats or both.

    6 trains would go to TBT, 4 would go the 4th /King. Those going to TBT would bypass 4th/King (i.e. Y before 4th/King)

    I can't imagine a service pattern where that makes sense, not from the passenger's perspective. Unless they are doing that to keep the number of trains down at Transbay. Which if I was a commuter watching the train that only stops at Transbay fill up while I have to wait 15 minutes for the one that stops at 4th... I'd want to know why they don't both go to both stations. Because you can move ten trains an hour.

    They are NOT thinking of going faster than 70 MPH.

    70 average over a trip or top speed of 70? To get from San Jose to San Francisco in an hour and make a few stops means you have to go faster than 70 to get an average around somewhere near 60.

    Top speed of 70 then they are not going to be able to use the express tracks. There's no room in the ROW for five tracks so they won't have passing sidings. Good bye Baby Bullet and probably Limiteds too. That has to be an average speed during a trip with stops .

    I can't find anything on Caltrain's site about it. I can find a presentation about electrification where they talk about 90 MPH speeds with the possibility of upgrading to 125 MPH speeds. . . The limit on the NEC between New Haven and DC is that the antique catanery is not constant-tension. It has a speed limit of 135. The constant-tension newer infrasturcture east of New Haven can do 150. I wonder why they are saying 90. or 125..

    Thanks Jathnael, I've seen other ones, I haven't gone searching for TGV or ICE videos. The US railfans like Kingston RI. Here's one that shows the radar gun checking the speed.


    If it's a problem with trucks near the tracks you grow some very tall bushes around the guardrail that breaks up the bow wave.

  81. Clem - I have not heard the Port ask for any subsidy. They are only asking for the right to upgrade the tunnels. The only thing that is holding the autos from running on the Peninsula is the tunnels. There are no bridges or any other ubstructions that effect the movement of autos. The bridge in Palo Alto is being replaced anyway. "30+ ton axle loads" auto trains are lighter than traditional freight trains so auto trains would run on the existing Caltrain right of way with out a hitch. Los Angeles and Long Beach are discussing moving the autos out of their ports and looking to San Diego and San Francisco to take up the slack. Richmond and Benicia are at capacity and have no more room to add any more auto facilities. Honda was the latest to move in and took up all remaining real estate.

    How about those tunnels!? Built in 1906 and sprayed with shotcrete in the 90’s. Does the shotcrete make everybody feel all warm and fuzzy? Everybody is expecting those 1906 tunnels to accommodate 100 commuter trains a day high speed rail and freight trains. Did everybody forget about earthquakes? This is what needs to be done to make everybody happy and keep everybody safe. Undercut the tunnels to get the port the height they need now. This can be done on the weekends at night over several months with out affecting Caltrain service. Build 4 new tunnels next to the original ones that will accommodate 2 main lines. Run all trains on the new tracks and through the new tunnels that are able to handle an earthquake of 8.0 or larger (Japan does this now). Make them tall enough and wide enough to handle any type of rail car. Rebuild the old tunnels to handle an 8.0 earthquake and accommodate all types of rail cars. I know everyone is going to say it is easier said than done but it is the right thing to do. The California High Speed Rail plans call for 4 main lines anyway between San Francisco and San Jose.

  82. I have not heard the Port ask for any subsidy.

    But increasing the height and the width of the tunnel does cost money. And if the only reason you are doing that is to accommodate freight from the port either the port should pay for it or it's a subsidy to the port. The port isn't going to volunteer to pay for it... Since they will only need one track to handle all the freight they don't need to make all the tunnels high and wide. Two might be nice to have for redundancy and to ease operations and maintenance. . . we are talking about have four parallel tunnels aren't we? Not two tunnels in series going north and two in series going south....

    They do need at least three tracks out on the line to run service when HSR starts. So that the expresses whether they are Caltrain expresses or HSR, can pass the Caltrain local. Since none of the trains will be stopping in the tunnel, they don't need four tunnels to begin service. Two will probably be adequate for years if not decades. They can get service started, build the third tunnel, take one of the old tunnels out of service to replace it and when the second new tunnel comes into service replace the remaining old tunnel. But that can be completed when HSR has been running for ten years. And when they project they need four tunnels in ten years start building the fourth tunnel. Fourth tunnel doesn't need to be started until 2020 or later. If they ever need a fourth tunnel. NJ Transit and Amtrak share two into Manhattan and can move 23 or 24 an hour. Three into SF might be overkill. And when it becomes wildly popular and they project they need another tunnel in ten years they can start that project ten years ahead of the need.. in 2075 with completion in 2086.

  83. [...] They do need at least three tracks out on the line to run service when HSR starts. [...]

    Perhaps they do ... if you're the one being paid to design and build tunnels.

    But neither Caltrain, HSR, nor Caltrain+HSR requires passing tracks between Mission Bay and Bayshore.

    Just think about it for an instant: there's only one stop (22nd Street -- and no, don't set up the nutty SFCTA-aggrandizing Oakdale Sewage Plant/Greenhouse/Junk Yard station strawman), most trains aren't going to stop there, and it is a trivial timetabling/dispatching matter (at least for a competent operator) to ensure that a stopping train isn't running less than 3 minutes ahead of a non-stopper. (Hint: if it is, and if it would cause an unacceptable delay by proceeding, it waits and is passed at Bayshore or Mission Bay before causing a delay.)

    The only possible justification for a new tunnel or tunnels is life safety ... and we know that is an issue that is ripe for open season rent-seeking by the engineering profession. (The fire/earthquake equivalent of "throw infinite money at us or we'll kill this puppy" and "a noun, a verb, and 9/11".)

    Now perhaps there is an unmitigable seismic engineering issue with one or more of the tunnels -- I don't know, I've not see anything technical on the matter, and I'm not qualified to judge.

    And perhaps if could be argued by some -- and it is just an argument about comparative risks and costs -- that there is a life safety (emergency evacuation) issue with the longest tunnel, Tunnel 4 (1081m). (It's a harder argument to make for Tunnel 3 718m, and a ridiculous one for Tunnel 2 331m or Tunnel 1 547m.) Certainly none of these structures would be built with the same side clearances today, but just as assuredly tens or hundreds of thousands of vehicles daily and safely pass through much riskier structures.

    I can remotely imagine a new double-track tunnel parallel to and west of Tunnel 4, with the existing tunnel single-tracked for safety and aerodynamic reasons, but that ought to be a really hard sell, and anything beyond that ought to require an extaordinarily high and rigorous level of technical and economic justification.

    But to claim that the astronomical expense of redundant parallel tracks in tunnels is required for rail operations is to completely fail to understand how rail systems are managed and designed in advanced first world industrialized democracies.

    Unless your goal is to maximize expense this just doesn't pass the laugh test. (Expect to see it listed by the world-class CHSRA consultants as operationally required.)

    And what does this have to do with freight on the Peninsula? Answer: freight is economically and environmentally irrelevant to this, as it is to anything else. It's all downside and no upside. It's all expense and no revenue. It's all empty promises and no delivery. It's all institutional posturing and with no meaningful constituency. It's all foam and no beef.

    Come back with some plausible and quantified and justified story about how revenues (and even quantified externalities) can possibly justify the incremental capital and maintenance and operating costs, and then we can talk. (After all, this is what the pure as the driven snow freight railroads require of Amtrak.) But until then: die die die, dinosaurs!

  84. Clem - When has Caltrain ever made a profit? The only one making any money on the Peninsula is the Union Pacific. If your talking environmental benefits. Passenger trains and freight trains both benefit the environment and the economy. Since what year has a passenger train ever made any money in the United States? Now I know that has everything to do with the wonderful federally subsidized automobile. HSR plans to operate with out subsidy once built? No way not as long as the feds keep funding the auto and trucking. "Die Die Die!" You really want the freight train to die? Wow!? Get all the freight on the highways! That is a great idea!

  85. Clem - I know your really smart, how come you didn't address the tunnels and earthquakes?

  86. @anon, did you intend to address Richard?

  87. Sorry Clem I did mean Richard or anyone for that matter. What is the plan with the 100+ year old tunnels?

  88. Adirondacker - Yes one side of two tunnels would be adequate for the Ports needs (tunnels 3 & 4) and yes I am talking about a parallel tunnel with two tracks in each tunnel. I know that next to Tunnel 2 is a second portal. The right of way is there for a new tunnel next to 1, 3 & 4. The Port of SF would only need one track to accomodate its freight needs from SF to San Jose and they would run at night when no passenger trains are running. I am sure if it was feasable that two tracks would be built to accomadate their needs for North and South moves. Especially since the windows will be so small (midnight to 5 am).

  89. Regarding Dumbarton Rail Bridge ... I don't think anyone has noted that San Jose interests and ferry fans are pushing the feds to study a passenger ferry terminal in Alviso. They're in for lots of really costly dredging to make that deam come true ... either that or they're going to let sea level rise to take care it :-)

    Here's the story from BATN:

    Ferry fanatics ask feds to fund SJ (Alviso) ferry terminal study

  90. They do need at least three tracks out on the line to run service when HSR starts. [...]

    Perhaps they do ... if you're the one being paid to design and build tunnels.

    Out on the line meaning someplace south of the two tracks that run through tunnels. Not more than two in the few miles between the southernmost tunnel and the terminal in San Francisco not until sometime in the future, far in the future. It's hard to get the HSR train that's at San Jose to SF in a half an hour, on a two track system if there are three Caltrain locals ahead of you dwelling for five minutes at every little suburban station because people aren't bright enough to leave their bike at the station and use Muni when they get to San Francisco. Stations where Caltrain didn't install level boarding because that would make it faster. And is still running four car trains instead of eight. Which is the scenario some people here paint. 22 trains an hour, which is projected for sometime far in the future and which I think is overly optimistic, especially the part about there being ten trains per hour on Caltrain.... it's less than what goes through the North River tunnels today. They would probably be adequate for more years if NJ Transit hadn't added Midtown Direct service which is busier than all of Caltrain. South of Market is never going to become Midtown Manhattan, two tracks is probably more than adequate for a very long time.

    NJ Transit and Amtrak manage to do it on what is essentially two tracks between New York and Newark everyday. With a phase change on the Morris and Essex trains and diesels meandering between Newark and Hoboken. With Seacacus Transfer in the middle. With an active yard in Kearny. I'm sure there are other places that are equally active that get by on two tracks,People will say "But Caltrain is so very extra special and different from railroads all over the world we need to do things differently" If I use the Northeast Corridor as an example, they can relate to it. Well some of them because others say things that tell me they have never been on a train except for the steam excursion they took when they were eight.

    Apparently the current tunnels while old, are in a state of good repair. Not in the kind of shape you would want for HSR service in 2275 but good enough for a while. And if the big one hits in 2023 before the first replacement is finished they build temporary track and platforms at Bayshore and borrow buses from LA and Seattle and bus people to Transbay where there are suprise, surprise, bus platforms. It will be crowded and slow but still better than the bus from the airport. The taxis that normally pick up fares at 4th and Townsend will be at Bayshore because nobody is getting off at 4th while the replacement tunnel is built. Or they terminate at SFO for a few years where everybody changes to BART. BART runs enough trains that the overcrowding isn't too bad.

    I can't find ridership figures for 22nd Street. I'm shocked that it's even there. It would be like having a station on the LIRR at the East River .... that served Penn Station. Or having Metro North stop at 86th street. They don't. People that close to the city take city transit. One solution is to explain to the 37 riders who use 22nd that the nice streetcar two blocks away gets them to the Embarcadero two minutes faster than taking Caltrain and in about the same time to Montgomery Street. ... and close the station,

    Look at the satellite view of 22nd on Google there's enough room to put in two sidings so the local can dwell while people with bicycles board and twice a year the crew uses the wheelchair lift because that's the only place where there are low platforms. Whether or not there's enough distance between the tunnels to put in the switches and still have a siding that is usable isn't something I've looked at. Which I'm not going to pursue because looking at the street view on Google there's a forest of support columns for I280 there that prevents it. It's too much to hope that when they built I280 they spent an extra million dollars to make it easy to put four tracks of railroad through there. Because they looked at it and decided that before they need a four track railroad through there South of Market has to become the Loop and San Mateo county has to become Hudson County New Jersey. And before that happens I280 will be so old it needs to be replaced anyway.

    Looking at pictures on Google it already widens out to four tracks south of the southernmost tunnel and is four track through Bayshore. All they have to do is raise the platforms before the first Caltrain car that can't use low platforms, arrives. Not something they have to do for years and something that will be a trivial amount in the overall budget for the upgrade of the whole line. The platforms will be the same height as HSR so when something closes down 4th and Townsend for a few hours once a decade they can call Muni and Sam Trans who sends over 40 buses to get the passengers off HSR and to Transbay. In the meanwhile BART runs rush hour levels of service to SFO. Everybody else farther down the line gets off there and takes BART.

    Right now, while a northbound Caltrain is slowing south of Bayshore, the express whether it's Caltrain or HSR can pass it enter the tunnel and be at Fourth and Townsend before the local moves into the tunnel. Three minute headways gives them 20 trains an hour in each direction. Their problem is going to the commuter who can't figure out Muni so he dragged his bicycle along, trying to get off first, slowing things down. Or scheduling conflicts across the interlocking. Which shouldn't be a problem since Amtrak, NJ Transit and the LIRR manage it. As do other railroads all over the world. . the problem is going to be platforms at Transbay and idiot commuters before they need 3 tracks.

    As for freight north of Bayshore. There's never going to be significant amounts of it from the port. There's not enough land to support it. Not unless they start buying $500,000 houses on 1/8 acre lots in a big way. Before that happens it's cheaper to build a port in Oregon and ship the stuff to and from Nebraska from there. Same thing for the rest of the peninsula. The land around the tracks is too expensive to support large amounts of bulk freight. And they aren't going to be opening a coal mine under Golden Gate park so freight, other than garbage, isn't going to originating on the Peninsula. All of the garbage on the Peninsula could all be shipped out by rail and that could be accommodated on one track late at night. And if San Francisco wants to use double height garbage cars to do that they build the transfer station south of the tunnels.

    Now perhaps there is an unmitigable seismic engineering issue with one or more of the tunnels

    I doubt it, I suspect you do too. They wouldn't have spent millions on shotcrete and steel if there was, they would have closed them. And they spec'd high strength shotcrete and over spec'd the steel a bit. I don't know if they did that to get 5 more years out of them, which I doubt, they would have closed them, or 75 more years out of them. If they weren't safe they would be running around like their hair was on fire, screaming to replace the tunnels for Caltrain even if HSR was a pipe dream.

    What is the plan with the 100+ year old tunnels?

    Use them until they are replaced? Sometime far in future?

    I am sure if it was feasable that two tracks would be built to accomadate their needs for North and South moves.

    Especially since the windows will be so small (midnight to 5 am).

    More like 9 PM to 6 AM. The commuter traffic will die down to one local once an hour or half hour. That leaves lots of time on three tracks for HSR to be running every ten minutes in each direction, which they probably won't do because who wants to get to LA at 2 in the morning? Two or three HSRs an hour in each direction and you schedule them around the Calrain local. You could probably do passenger service with one track and passing sidings.

    If there wasn't passenger traffic on the line UP would be doing it with one track. There isn't enough traffic to justify two. If UP owned the tracks they would be looking at abandoning it because the property taxes on it would be more than they make on it.

    Whether or not the trains run through one big tunnel four tracks wide deep under everything ( which they won't do ) or in 16 single track tunnels under the four hills on the existing right of way, isn't what's important to the operation of the railroad. It's the number of tracks you have. Two should be enough for the next ... decade or two at least. If they ever need more than two.

  91. Adirondacker - Wow you are super smart I am glad you have it all figured out!

  92. "I can't find ridership figures for 22nd Street. I'm shocked that it's even there."

    You noticed in the morning all the southbound expresses stop there, no northbounds, and the other way around in the afternoon. When I ride a northbound express in the afternoon a good 100 people get off at 22nd St-- maybe 150. No idea whether they're walking home or getting in their cars to drive home-- maybe there's plenty of street parking there?

  93. If you type "Caltrain" and "ridership" into Google, you will find what you're looking for. 22nd street boards roughly 900 passengers per weekday.

  94. Thanks Clem. Type that in for certain NJ Transit stations and you get ridership figures for Amtrak Stations on the Great Plains. Finally asked a NJ Transit board member why they aren't easily available and he had no answer other than to agree that it should be easy to find. Showed him how easy it to get at least annual ridership for Amtrak. So I've been trained to ferret this out by asking strange questions of Google to find the place where a newspaper or a blog mentions ridership. Not only for NJ Transit but almost all of the places I try. I didn't try the obvious because the only time that works for me is if I want to know annual ridership on Amtrak.

    So I looked at the maps and noticed that the streetcar line doesn't stop on 22nd. And that the station is surrounded by things that look like they are warehouses. So unless they have been filling the warehouses with call centers there aren't a lot of people working there. And there aren't a lot of houses around. And Caltrain says there is no parking there. The amenities are a ticket machine and a public phone. Just like a bus shelter might have. Checked Muni there's a community bus serving 22nd which means there isn't a whole lot of bus service and the the only place it connects to is the streetcar. I looked at the schedule and saw someone scheduling rush hour to go a minute or two faster by skipping an underused station. ....

    I went back and read the blogs. Apparently the main station amenity is the taco lady. That sometimes the walk from the on street parking can be from blocks away. That there is no mass transit that gets you there in reasonable amounts of time. That the station has many Eastern European qualities that aren't charming.

    So it's mostly reverse commuters who are using it because there are no better alternatives. Electrification is going to attract more as will 5 dollar a gallon gas or another boom in Silicon Valley. If ridership increases from the 450 or so to 1500 roundtrips you wouldn't want to close it. Or even at current levels. Keeping it open and digging a billion dollar tunnel so that HSR can get around the train stopped there... 20, 25 years from now wouldn't make sense, not if you are digging the tunnel only because of those 1500 round trips. 1000 or 1500 roundtrips at the station and the only person who is happy with it is the taco lady.

    If ridership increases that much there are going to parking problems before stopping a train there causes problems. I can see people who live and work in the neighborhood banding together and getting the city to change parking regs during the day, two hour parking or four hour parking lets say with permits for residents and employees - like they do in other parts of the city forcing the reverse commuters out.

    So even if ridership on HSR and Caltrain never get to the point where the station needs to be closed for operational reasons, people might want to consider alternatives.

  95. Where does all the freight go?

  96. "If ridership [at 22nd St] increases from the 450 or so to 1500 roundtrips..."

    He said 900 boardings per day, which presumably means about 900 roundtrips.

  97. This is a very interesting agreement.

    I suspect certain portions of it are illegal and unenforceable. UPRR does not have the right to prohibit Intercity Passenger Rail (2.7c) since it joined Amtrak, and even if it did it would be subject to eminent domain (for acting against the public interest to suppress intercity rail traffic on tracks it doesn't even own).

  98. Is it in everyone's best interest to wipe the frieght off the peninsula and onto the road? Is it in everyone's best interest to cut off the Port of San Francisco and the Port of Redwood City from rail service?

  99. Hah! Found the best legal way to get UPRR to shut up about their supposed passenger rights.

    1.15 in the UPRR trackage rights agreement. "Intercity passenger rail" for the purposes of the agreement only includes transport provided by (a) NRPC (Amtrak), or (b) a company contracted with UPRR to provide such transport.

    In other words, if Caltrain contracts with the High Speed Rail Authority, it isn't intercity passenger rail for the purposes of the agreement and UPRR has no exclusive rights over it.

  100. The CHSRA is a runaway mismanaged politcal money train. It is a needed system, but has been designed as a gold plated contract generation machine. it is ubelievably poorly managed, with no public accountability or real oversight. Until this is resolved, it will be difficult to work out any real solutions and build anything that will not be a boondoggle.

  101. you self proclaimed experts, have way too much time on your hands, let the
    real railroasd people get on with their business, and quit second guessing