29 June 2009

Draft Scoping Report

The CHSRA just released its Draft Scoping Report on the San Jose to San Francisco segment of the route. This report summarizes and categorizes the numerous comments received from federal, state and local agencies and governments as well as members of the public. Numerous appendices include all the raw input for this process, the so-called "scoping comments" that were submitted a few months ago in response to public scoping meetings held on the peninsula. The CHSRA is taking no chances with the environmental clearance process, leaving an extensive trail of documentation that proves the process was scrupulously followed.

Process Context

The environmental clearance process can be a bit obscure to a newcomer. The CHSRA provides an overview that includes the figure at right.

The process is governed by federal (NEPA) and state (CEQA) law. Due to the large scope of this project, the law allows for tiering of the environmental review, with a statewide program-level environmental review (completed and approved in 2008) followed by a more detailed project-level review of the peninsula, which is now getting underway and is due for completion in late 2011.

The final result of the environmental review process is an environmental impact document known as an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) under CEQA, and an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) under NEPA. A single document satisfies both regulations, thus resulting in an alphabet soup known as an EIR/EIS. When the project EIR/EIS is approved by the board of the CHSRA, any litigation has run its course, and design has proceeded sufficiently far, the project is "shovel ready". That is planned to happen on the peninsula as early as 2012.

What just happened over the last few months is scoping, and you had to live under a rock not to know about it since it was covered extensively in the local press (see archive). As its name implies, scoping determines what will and won't be included in the environmental review. After scoping is complete, it's too late to raise new issues to stop the project under CEQA or NEPA.

Scoping is pretty bland at this point: a giant pile of inputs is collated into broad categories and decomposed into an all-encompassing listing of the issues raised by all the stakeholders. Everything is still on the table at this point. It's mildly interesting to dig through it to see what everyone has to say, although reading the phone book might be more entertaining.

Where Next?

The next step in the environmental review process is alternatives analysis. The CHSRA will describe a broad set of alternatives (based on scoping inputs) and then select those that will be carried forward for detailed analysis. This involves discarding any alternatives that are not considered feasible or practicable, using structured evaluation criteria. This is where design options will start getting taken off the table, and sparks will really start to fly.

You can read an example of an Alternatives Analysis report for another segment of the HSR project, from Los Angeles to Anaheim, to get a flavor of what's coming to us. This project is slightly further along the process than San Jose to San Francisco. The alternatives analysis for the Caltrain corridor is currently expected around January 2010, just six months from now.

27 June 2009

Baby Bullet: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

In June 2004, after a period of falling ridership and revenue, Caltrain began operating a limited-stop express service, known as the Baby Bullet. Express trains used newly installed passing tracks in Sunnyvale and Brisbane to overtake slower local trains (as illustrated in the photo at right by Dan Klitzing). The start of Baby Bullet service marked a turning point for Caltrain, with weekday ridership rocketing from 25,000 to about 40,000 and farebox recovery ratio increasing to the mid-forties.

It was a welcome change to see Caltrain's transformation from a plodding public transit operator to a more strategic, business-oriented organization putting passenger service first. As evident in ridership statistics, Baby Bullet express trains consistently score the highest passenger load factors and are the greatest source of fare revenue for Caltrain.

Meanwhile, the California High Speed Rail Authority intends to transform the peninsula corridor into a four-track operation, with the slow pair of tracks shared by Caltrain locals and freight trains, and the fast pair of tracks shared by Caltrain expresses and high speed trains. The Memorandum of Understanding signed in April 2009 between the CHSRA and the Peninsula Corridor JPB (Caltrain) envisions "mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all tracks".

What exactly does that mean for Baby Bullet service?

Some Numbers To Connect

  • 31% of ridership: Baby Bullets are Caltrain's highest-revenue trains, accounting for 31% of weekday ridership but only 22% of trains. There is a demonstrated market for rapid commutes along the peninsula. Will a private HSR operator attempt to cherry-pick this market away from Caltrain, leaving the publicly-funded agency on the hook to operate less profitable local trains?

  • 4.8 million passengers: The CHSRA is under great pressure to show that its business plan "pencils out" and will allow funding of system extensions (to Sacramento and San Diego) partially through revenue bonds. The Authority estimates in its ridership and revenue forecasts that by 2030, 3.7 to 4.8 million passengers a year will ride HSR between peninsula destinations (San Francisco, Millbrae, Redwood City / Palo Alto and San Jose), accounting for about 9% of the entire system's ridership, and 2% of its fare revenue. That level of intra-peninsula ridership amounts to nearly half of Caltrain's entire 2008 ridership. Does this imply HSR intends to take over Caltrain's express commuter service and associated revenue?

  • 9 or 10 tph: According to the same ridership and revenue forecast, which serves as the foundation for the analysis of design alternatives, the peninsula corridor will be sized for a traffic of 9 or 10 high speed trains per hour, each way, by the year 2030. When all trains travel at the same speed, a pair of tracks can support about 20 tph each way, but when speeds differ (as they might between HSR and express commuter trains) the capacity can drop into the low teens. With little spare capacity assumed for express commuter trains, will the CHSRA conclude that sharing tracks is not beneficial after all?

  • 2'1" platforms: The CHSRA and Caltrain have so far shown no intention of coordinating on the crucial issue of platform height. Quite the contrary, details emerging from the Transbay Transit Center project in San Francisco indicate that the two systems will operate with different and incompatible platform heights (3'6" for HSR and 2'1" for Caltrain--a difference of two steps). The implication is that high speed trains will be unable to use Caltrain platforms, and vice versa. Will this restrict the number of locations where express commuter service can be provided?

  • 2 dedicated tracks: The environmental impact work in southern California is a bit more advanced than on the peninsula, and a design alternatives analysis has already been released for the Los Angeles to Orange County section. (By the way, we should see one for the peninsula before 2009 is out... that's when the can of worms officially gets opened!) The LA - Anaheim route is similar to the peninsula in that it will have a mix of HSR and commuter traffic. The CHSRA analyzed several scenarios involving mixed commuter - HSR operation, and rejected them all in favor of dedicated tracks for HSR, stating on pages 36 and 37 that "the Dedicated HST Alternative was identified as the only alternative capable of accommodating the peak demand forecast for all classes of train service at acceptable levels and on-time performance." In other words, commuter trains can't be allowed to gum up the HSR timetable. In case there was any remaining doubt, they really drive it home: the dedicated alternative "provides for a safer environment (no mixing of FRA-Compliant and Non-Compliant trains), and does not require a waiver from the FRA." The result is a train-size Jersey barrier between the high speed tracks and lesser trains, as shown in the figure at right. Will the same, unimaginative "Dedicated HST" logic be applied on the peninsula?

  • More than 4 tracks: Before the wording of the MOU between the CHSRA and Caltrain was altered, it stated that the peninsula corridor would be four tracks wide and that "In some places the corridor may consist of more than four tracks." Does this amount to leaving the door open for the possibility that HSR tracks could be completely segregated from Caltrain, with additional tracks (beyond four) as required to operate express commuter service?

  • 70 minutes: If Caltrain service were operated by electric multiple-unit (EMU) trains, an all-stops local would need 70 minutes to travel between San Francisco and San Jose. (Refer to a presentation describing Caltrain's Project 2025, made by their "Rail Transformation Chief" Bob Doty last September: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) While this is much faster than 91 minutes achieved by diesel locals today, it is still 13 minutes slower than today's best Baby Bullet timing of 57 minutes. Express service will be needed even with the fanciest EMU technology if today's run times are to be preserved, let alone improved upon. Might Caltrain settle on 70 minutes as "good enough"?

  • 9 board members: The nine-member board that governs Caltrain is composed of appointed county officials with little knowledge of rail operations and greater allegiance to the interests of their home county than to the specific interests of Caltrain. In practice and through no fault of their own, their accountability to current or potential commuters is limited to little more than good will and personal dedication. Furthermore, funding sources for Caltrain are unreliable. In political clout or financial wherewithal, the PCJPB is far outclassed by the CHSRA. Supposing they tried, could Caltrain protect its own interests with much vigor? Will the CHSRA wave the electrification bill over their heads to get whatever they want?

  • 30 days: while the MOU signed between the CHSRA and Caltrain envisions "mixed traffic from Caltrain commuter rail and the high speed train service capable of operation on all tracks," either party can unilaterally cancel the MOU upon 30 days' notice.

  • Zero: the CHSRA's desire to navigate the byzantine process to obtain from the Federal Railroad Administration a "mixed operations waiver" is likely zero. Such a waiver would be required if HSR service were operated on the same tracks as heavy trains that are fully "compliant" with FRA crash safety regulations. Caltrain is taking the lead on this complicated issue and making good progress, but what if this effort falters? Will the lazy answer be dedicated HSR tracks, strictly off-limits to Caltrain?
Implications for Peninsula Commuters

One doesn't need to wear a tinfoil hat to view the above points as possibly suggesting a "Dedicated HST" scenario on the peninsula corridor, with high speed trains operated entirely separately and independently from Caltrain. Why would this be bad for peninsula commuters?

  • There would be no flexibility in adapting the stopping pattern of express trains to actual demand. If express service were taken over by HSR, the intermediate stops would be Millbrae and Redwood City / Palo Alto, due to platform incompatibility. Need to get from San Mateo to Mountain View in a hurry? Today, there's the Baby Bullet. Tomorrow? Forget about it and take the local.

  • The opportunity to create transfers between local and express commuter service, across a common platform, would be lost. The HSR tracks would occupy a large portion of the right of way, making it difficult to create a four-track, cross-platform commuter interchange station. Cross-platform transfers are extremely useful in creating feeders for express service and cutting journey times even for riders who do not live or work near an express stop.

  • Any spare capacity of the HSR tracks, such as might result if the ridership forecast was optimistic, would be wasted since it could not be taken up by other services such as express commuter trains.

  • Incidents (e.g. suicides) would cause more disruption and reduce operational flexibility, since commuter / HSR trains could not use each other's tracks to circumvent the location of the incident. "Single-tracking" around an incident is far more disruptive to a timetable than detouring four tracks into three, as would be possible in a shared-track scenario.

  • A common fare system where a single fare covers the trip from point A to point B, regardless of the transit operator or speed of service, would be less likely.
Anyone who cares about flexible and efficient express commuter service--regardless of who provides it--should hope that shared HSR / Caltrain operations on the peninsula corridor aren't just empty talk. Making it happen will require more coordination and possible regulatory complication, but failing that, the Baby Bullet's days may be numbered.

15 June 2009

The Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) recently published a Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy, shepherding together various competing interests (CHSRA, TJPA, Caltrain, SFCTA, San Jose, VTA) to ensure that the Bay Area presents a unified front in its pursuit of a $1.8 billion slice of the $8.0 billion of ARRA stimulus funding available for high speed rail.

The MTC report contains a few surprises. But first, here are the projects contained in the $1.8 billion peninsula funding request. Also refer to pie chart at right.
  • $400M for the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center "train box"
  • $516M for Caltrain electrification
  • $230M for Positive Train Control (automatic signal enforcement) for the peninsula (*)
  • $212M for Caltrain's San Bruno grade separation project
  • $205M for a newly revealed TTC train box "Rail Platform Extension" (*)
  • $149M for reconfiguration / HSR modernization of Caltrain's Diridon station in SJ (*)
  • $98M for reconfiguration / HSR modernization of Caltrain's 4th & King station in SF (*)
  • $52M for DTX (SF downtown rail extension) design (*)
Projects with an asterisk (*) are funded nearly entirely out of the stimulus. Those without an asterisk have additional sources of funding already allocated.

A Two-Phase Approach

ARRA stimulus funds are targeted for so-called "shovel-ready" projects that can create short term jobs. That puts the California High Speed Rail Authority's San Francisco to San Jose HST project out of the running; the high speed rail project on the peninsula is in the early stages of an environmental clearance process that promises to be highly contentious, to be completed in 2011 at the earliest. While design work is already well underway, the controversial quadruple tracking, the numerous grade separations, and the wholesale reconstruction of nearly every Caltrain station planned by the CHSRA are not even close to shovel-ready.

That evidently pushed the MTC to split the construction of high speed rail on the peninsula into two phases. The first phase (as listed above) consists of a patchwork of projects that were already in the planning / environmental clearance pipeline before Proposition 1A was passed and HSR became a realistic prospect. It's definitely a pragmatic approach, with some caveats discussed below.

A Sudden Caltrain Bounty

Caltrain, with its appointed three-county board of directors, has historically held very little clout in getting its major capital improvements prioritized by the MTC. As recently as a few months ago, the MTC re-allocated $91M of Dumbarton rail (a.k.a. Caltrain) funding over to BART. Caltrain's biggest capital improvement project, planned for decades but with an ever-receding construction start date, is the electrification of the peninsula corridor with 25 kV overhead wires to provide quicker and more modern service. (artist's concept at left).

In the Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy, Caltrain projects are suddenly front and center, thanks to their relatively advanced state of shovel-readiness and some new-found political support. This is a welcome change from the usual BART ΓΌber alles funding strategy.

Caltrain electrification was always considered an unwelcome fly in the BART-around-the-Bay ointment. Now that billions of HSR funding have materialized, the Bay Area transportation-industrial complex is seemingly more attracted to HSR than to BART, if that is even possible. This changes everything: far from being an impediment to BART, electrification is now a "foot in the door" for bringing high speed trains into San Francisco and undertaking some very juicy construction projects during Phase 2--including several billion dollars of grade separations.

For thousands of Caltrain commuters, it should be welcome news that electrification has gone from problem to solution. Nevertheless, one question comes immediately to mind...

Is The Cart Before The Horse?

Does it make sense to electrify Caltrain in Phase 1, only to rebuild the corridor once the HSR project is environmentally approved and construction begins for Phase 2?

  • Commuter improvements are not beholden to HSR Phase 2 schedule, which may be delayed pending environmental review and inevitable litigation
  • Electifying in Phase 1 conveniently coincides with the timing of Caltrain's unavoidable need to replace their obsolete train fleet
  • Electrical substations and other lineside equipment can remain as-is for Phase 2 (Caltrain's planned 25 kV system is world-standard and fully compatible with HSR)
  • The overhead contact system (basically anything above the rails) is made of modular components, easily reused or reconfigured
  • Electrifying in Phase 1 allows testing / commissioning and possibly even limited high speed train service prior to Phase 2 completion
  • Building temporary "shoo-fly" detour tracks during grade separation construction becomes marginally more complicated
  • Since vertical and horizontal alignment of tracks will be altered in many places, pole footings will need to be reconfigured. This is probably just a footnote on the demolition orders, considering that nearly all existing Caltrain station platforms and most existing grade separations will be entirely rebuilt in Phase 2.
Not that any of this matters, since the agenda is more political than technical--but thankfully, the pros do seem to outweigh the cons on a purely technical basis.

Bang for Buck: High

Go-Go Gadget Train Box!

A few months ago, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (the agency charged with building the new Transbay Transit Center) got into a tiff with the CHSRA over the adequacy of their train platform layout. Entrenched in conflicting positions, the TJPA designed a 150-meter radius curve (extremely and impractically sharp) into one end of their platforms, while the CHSRA adamantly insisted on perfectly straight 400-meter platforms. We didn't hear any more about this little mind-the-gap issue, until now.

The Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy asks $205 million for a "Rail Platform Extension" which would extend the train box north-eastward from Beale St. to Main St., as shown in the figure at right, to enable the sacrosanct straight platforms.

Sadly, it's another design by committee. The CHSRA's straight platforms are not a valid technical requirement. The underlying requirement concerns the admissible gap between the platform and a train's doors... and any reasonable value of that gap will still allow for some amount of curvature, however slight. For example, a 1 km radius will produce an additional gap of 5 cm (2 inches) at most. As if proof were necessary, high speed trains stop at curved platforms in nearly every county that has them.

Extending the train box has enormous potential for the Transbay Transit Center, for other reasons than making the platforms perfectly straight. That potential would be fully exploited by a proper design of the train box, to be discussed another time. And why does a 250-foot extension cost another 50% more than the basic train box?

Bang for Buck: Medium (for reasons unrelated to platform curvature)

San Bruno Grade Separation

A worthy project provided they do it right and straighten the darn curve.

Bang for Buck:
Zero (if built as Caltrain designed it)
Medium (if they straighten the curve)
High (if they straighten the curve and build an island platform)

Fourth and King Terminal

Caltrain had unfunded plans to modernize and expand the 4th & King terminal in San Francisco, as part of their Project 2025 plan. They even have a track layout in mind. For this, a design totally removed from system-level optimization of San Francisco rail operations, they are asking $98 million.

If somebody cared enough to configure the Transbay Terminal correctly, perhaps the 4th & King station wouldn't need to make up for Transbay's glaring lack of capacity.

Bang for Buck: Low (if only they fixed Transbay instead!)

Positive Train Control

The Investment Strategy calls for fully $230 million (!) to implement positive train control on the peninsula corridor. While PTC would finally bring the corridor out of the 19th century, why is Caltrain in the driver's seat to define the system for all of California? And why are they re-inventing the wheel by "defining the requirements" for a "new signal system" when this technology is a solved problem, sold as a commodity off-the-shelf item by countries that already have modern railways? Buy a fully debugged ETCS Level 2 system from your choice of several established vendors, and be done with it already! This is sure to become another disastrous R&D project.

Bang for Buck: Low

Diridon Pan-Galactic

San Jose's naked ambition to become the Grand Central of the West is on full display, with a $150 million grab to build a new station whose grandiose architectural configuration is rooted more firmly in a civic inferiority complex than any realistic transportation need.

Bang for Buck: Very Low

In closing, can we really expect $1.8 billion dollars (more than 20% of the nationwide high speed rail stimulus) to land in the Bay Area? Probably not. Whatever the Bay Area may score in Washington, the Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy reveals a great deal about the region's evolving funding priorities.

13 June 2009

Future Transbay?

Could this be the future look of the Transbay Transit Center?

Sadly, no. It is a photograph of the underground level of Berlin's main railway station, opened in 2006 (photo by Ephemeron1). This is a state-of-the-art station that handles 1,800 trains per day. Note the following salient features:
  • Airy, open feeling
  • Escalators are not blocked by six-foot concrete columns
  • Departing passengers can readily see their destination (the trains)
  • Arriving passengers can readily see the path out of the station
  • Trains are an integral part of an architecturally finished space
Unfortunately, San Francisco's TTC will feature an underground mezzanine level, an oppressive underground waiting space not unlike Penn Station in New York City. Passengers will navigate through vestibule doors to escalators hidden behind six-foot concrete columns, with no view of the trains, arriving on the platform squarely in front of another six-foot concrete column. The platform level will be a semi-finished, non air-conditioned space... in other words, a basement.

How visionary.

UPDATE 6/14/2009 - great material showing up in the comments section. First, Richard Mlynarik takes the TTC architectural blueprints and whips up some 3D renderings of what the oppressive underground environment will actually look like:

Mezzanine LevelCenter PlatformSide Platform

Architectural design values are often rooted in cultural habits, developed over many decades. When it's time to do something differently, we Americans can't-- and commenter arcady puts his finger on why:
There's a big difference in philosophy between European and American station design. In Europe, the trains are within the overall architectural space defined by the station, in the grandest examples a big steel and glass arch covering the tracks and platforms. In America, the station is separate and distinct from the tracks, which are off to the side in what is basically a train yard. In Europe, passengers wait on the platform, and it's not unusual to see, say, a coffee shop right on the platform. In America, probably because of the tradition of low platforms and train-yard style stations, trains and passengers are kept separate until it's actually time for boarding, at which point the passengers go out of the station and to the train, oftentimes walking directly across other tracks. Hence, in even the grandest of US stations (Grand Central for example), the track area is generally ugly and utilitarian.
Excellent socio-architectural analysis. Can we break out of the mold?

06 June 2009

Build Me A Train Box

The San Francisco Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), charged with building the new Transbay Transit Center, is now pursuing $400 million of federal stimulus funds to build the underground "train box" that will eventually serve as a downtown station for HSR and Caltrain.

The train box had been descoped in a phased approach adopted in June 2006, whereby the above-ground bus terminal would be built first in Phase 1, followed by a "top down" excavation of the train box below in Phase 2. This plan deferred the greatest expense until later: Phase 1 was estimated at $1.2 billion, compared to Phase 2 at $3 billion--for which few funding sources were identified. The availability of stimulus funding, and in particular an $8 billion slice allocated to high speed rail, has altered the TJPA's equation.

In its next board meeting on June 14th, the TJPA board will formally direct the design team to proceed with the train box included in Phase 1. Train box finishes (tracks, platforms, escalators, etc.) will be added later in Phase 2.

Thinking Inside the Box

The good news is that building the train box now undeniably saves money in the long run, since digging a cavernous hole underneath a fully operational bus station is no mean feat of engineering. Advantages of building the train box in Phase 1 include:
  • $100 million of construction costs saved
  • The opportunity to locate HVAC systems below grade, freeing up ground-level space and circulation
  • No difficulty with shifting foundations as the train box is built
  • Easier waterproofing (in an area with a high water table)
  • Faster construction timeline
  • $12 million of design costs and 4 months of design schedule saved by carrying only one option forward (dropping the "top down" option) allowing the project to reach "shovel readiness" before the stimulus funding deadline
  • More jobs in a time of economic recession
The bad news is that rushing the train box component of the project to achieve "shovel readiness" threatens to lock in certain detailed design features that may later turn out to be ill-advised when someone actually tries to build an efficient, functioning, workable train station inside the box in Phase 2.

The problem basically boils down to reinforced concrete columns. The entire weight of the above-ground portion of the terminal building is carried into the train box foundations through a dense forest of concrete columns, typically 5 to 6 feet in diameter, spaced every 42 feet. These columns were placed in such as way as to prevent a reasonable layout of the tracks entering the station. As discussed in Focus on SF Transbay Transit Center, the TJPA's design for the station's "throat" is a disaster that urgently needs review by competent rail professionals before any concrete is poured... and the columns peppered throughout (see diagram at left) will literally set the design in concrete.

Building the train box and its concrete columns now, while deferring the detailed design of the train station to phase 2, presents a high risk of permanently screwing up the station design. By the time the TJPA gets serious about rectifying the design of the train station, it will be too late.

A Coordinated Plan?

The TJPA's agenda item mentions a Peninsula Corridor Investment Strategy, presumably hammered out among the TJPA, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Caltrain and the CHSRA, to keep inter-agency conflict at a minimum in the methodical pursuit of stimulus funding. This strategy was likely included in the Bay Area Council's Economic Recovery Work Plan, which is said to request $3.4 billion for Bay Area high speed rail improvements under the following headings:

192: Caltrain electrification (~ $1.5 billion)
193: Caltrain positive train control
194: Caltrain San Bruno grade separation (told you so! ~ $300 million)
195: Caltrain North Terminal station improvements
199: City of San Jose, Diridon Station "Grand Central of the West" (~ $500 million)
205: TJPA Phase 1 train box (~ $400 million)

The dollar amounts are rough estimates, since they are not mentioned in the Recovery Work Plan. If the Bay Area secures even a fraction of this funding, get ready for quite a bit of construction, undertaken without a single cent of Proposition 1A high speed rail funds. Who would have guessed, last November?

03 June 2009

Crass NIMBYism

Last night, for the second time in a month, a 17-year-old Palo Alto Gunn High School student committed suicide by Caltrain at the Meadow Drive grade crossing.

Not even 24 hours later, Palo Alto HSR opponents are turning this tragedy into another tunnel-or-nothing rant. On the Palo Alto Online forums, one of the leaders of the Palo Alto anti-HSR group expounds:
Lets not let these two poor kids have died in vain (plus the ones last year, year before, year before that, and on and on..) I think it would be a very powerful message to Obama administration, FRA, and California legislators if the kids banded together to write letters or something asking for laws to require the trains to be undergrounded, kept out of neighborhoods. (...)

If they can't get the trains out of here all together (which they probably can't, or won't), they need to put them underground, sealed off and away from access to cars, pedestrians, bikes. Fences along the tracks are going to be useless to prevent people, especially kids, who have the intention of using trains for this purpose.
This is wrong on so many levels.
  • Using this tragedy so soon to advance a long-held tunnel-or-nothing agenda is opportunistic in the extreme, and betrays a profound lack of respect for the victim and those she left behind

  • Implying that trains routinely kill children and using kids in letter-writing campaigns deliberately sidesteps the root cause of these tragic events

  • Downplaying the fact that the California High Speed Rail Authority has plans to grade-separate this crossing--a measure nearly as effective as tunnels for safely separating trains from pedestrians--and demanding tunnels as the only secure solution is intellectually dishonest

  • On a cost-benefit basis, demanding tunnels that cost hundreds of millions more than the proposed grade separation, in an attempt to save the lives of suicidal pedestrians, is an enormous waste of money that could save many more lives if spent more wisely.
My apologies for the temporary deviation from more substantive blog material. May she rest in peace.