26 January 2010

Petition for Waiver of Compliance

Caltrain's petition for a waiver of compliance from certain FRA crash safety standards is on the federal docket as of Monday, January 25th. This marks the start of a 45-day comment period. All documents associated with the petition can be found under docket number FRA-2009-0124.

Obtaining this waiver is key to the transition from Caltrain's existing equipment to the latest European-style electric trains (which meet different but equally effective crash safety standards), and also blazes an important regulatory trail for the peninsula HSR project.

It will be interesting to watch what sorts of comments are received, e.g. from freight customers potentially dissatisfied by more restrictive operating hours (midnight to 5 AM) or from U.S.-based vehicle manufacturers who might fear the market being opened to European suppliers. Stay tuned.

65 comments:

  1. Adirondacker1280026 January, 2010 22:34

    U.S.-based vehicle manufacturers who might fear the market being opened to European suppliers.

    And how many of them are there and how many dozens of passenger cars a decade do they build?

    Does it really matter all that much to Kawasaki if they are building non compliant cars for the NYC subway, semi compliant cars for PATH, fully compliant cars for Metro North or UIC compliant cars for California?

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  2. Where do we stand on getting the platform heights on Caltrain and HSR to be the same?

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  3. Strictly speaking, Caltrain does not have to get permission for temporal separation of freights. It is clear in the application that they plan for FRA-compliant steam trains running alongside the non-compliant EMUs.

    This would also suggest goofy platform heights....

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  4. Curious Onlooker27 January, 2010 00:54

    I read through the documents (perhaps I haven't gone deep enough into attachments, and obviously I'm completely ignorant to the science of train technology, which you'll quickly see from my questions) but I do have some curiosity about the waiver request.

    I don't see in their waiver request any mention from PCJPB that the plan (already in significant progress, including a signed MOU) is not only to combine the Caltrain commuter service with freight, but also with high speed rail, within the same ROW (and perhaps even to some extent yet unknown, with some potential for Caltrain/HSR track sharing (?). Is this HSR variable omitted in this request? Is it of any consequence to the FRA?

    Also, is operation of freight and lightweight electric (high speed), in a ROW this narrow, and this proximate to community structures (homes, schools, parks, expressway) - is this something commonly done in under European standards?

    Also does mixing the operaton of heavy weight and light weight vehicles on same tracks) impact the track itself (even though they promise to separate differnet types into different times of day -does it beset track quality issues?

    Do they have enough information about the proposed types of equipment (caltrain, HSR and Freight) to make a determination that what they're proposing is safe? At least I'm pretty sure they haven't yet determined types of equipment or done testing for the HSR component (not publicly at least).

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  5. "Where do we stand on getting the platform heights on Caltrain and HSR to be the same?"

    We stand in a bent over position, screwed by world-beating levels of Caltrain stupidity.

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  6. Oops! Looks like no more midnight Caltrain service out of SF ... the waiver request talks of "limiting freight movements to the exclusive freight period hours of midnight–5 a.m."

    I guess the last/latest train you could run would have to leave at around 11 p.m. to ensure it's off the line by midnight.

    Also, another boo-boo in the waiver text:

    "JPB, which owns and operates the Caltrain commuter rail service between San Francisco, CA, and Gilroy, CA [MilePost (MP) 51.9] ..."

    Gilroy mileposts are in the high 70s ... 77, 78, 79.

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  7. Adirondacker1280027 January, 2010 13:26

    I guess the last/latest train you could run would have to leave at around 11 p.m. to ensure it's off the line by midnight.

    They could make it 9 PM to 5 AM easily. There will be four tracks. Late at night Caltrain and HSR could share two quite easily leaving one to freight.

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  8. @Adirondacker12800

    Sure, problem is that Caltrain's current view is "no shared platforms". It appears they do not (yet?) foresee working out common/shared platform heights ... and it's not at all clear they ever do/will.

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  9. Adirondacker1280027 January, 2010 14:30

    Sure, problem is that Caltrain's current view is "no shared platforms". It appears they do not (yet?) foresee working out common/shared platform heights ... and it's not at all clear they ever do/will

    Other than vague "there's some nice EMUs over in Europe" where are the plans Caltrain has made about platform hieghts, any platform heights, other than the 8 inch ones they have now?

    Even if they are stupid enough to use different platform heights they would still be able to run half hourly service using one platform at each station. It would be a PITA compared to all the southbound trains Caltrain or HSR on one track and all the northbound trains on another but not impossible.

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  10. Adirondacker: it requires extra money to signal a track for wrong-way operation. By default, two-track lines are not signaled for it, and I believe Caltrain is not, judging by its lack of wrong-way overtakes.

    The reason US train manufacturers have a stake in preserving FRA rules is their chokehold on diesel locomotives, adapted from their freight locomotives. Kawasaki and Bombardier can both make lightweight non-compliant DMUs, as well as heavy compliant EMUs, but neither manufactures compliant diesel trains. If the FRA rules in Caltrain's favor, then it will open the door for a repeal of the crash safety rule, allowing diesel train operators to buy off-the-shelf DMUs instead of shell out money for GE's behemoths.

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  11. If the "motivation" for the go-it-alone, we'll-show-those-Yurpeens, all-American-know-how, made-in-San-Carlos, damn-the-cost, ignore-the-certainty-of-failure, full-employment-for-life CBOSS castrophe in the making is to address Unique American Conditions, namely freight trains (which after all exist nowhere else in the world), and yet we're going to see no mixed freight-passenger on the peninsula per this petition, and we could easily see none between Santa Clara and San Jose if a single extra track were laid (and even that's unlikely to be strictly necessary), well then ... where exactly does that leave the "justification" for CBOSS? Other than the we'll-show-those-Yurpeens, let's-spend-money-like-drunk-sailors part, let's-fail-again-like-we-did-last-time that is?

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  12. @Alon: Caltrain is fully signaled for bidirectional operation. Wrong-way overtakes are not performed because they consume gobs of track capacity and introduce huge schedule risk.

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  13. Adirondacker1280028 January, 2010 10:16

    it requires extra money to signal a track for wrong-way operation.

    In 4 billion dollar project installing bidirectional signals is annotation to footnote in an obscure appendix of the budget.

    By default, two-track lines are not signaled for it,

    But single track lines are. Why do two track lines have crossovers?

    and I believe Caltrain is not, judging by its lack of wrong-way overtakes.

    They won't be using the current signaling system.

    ...DMUs..

    Unless Caltrain expands it's service territory it would be really really really stupid of them to buy diesel anything. There will be wire hanging over all of their territory.

    ..GE behemoths...

    ...yet when the world goes shopping for diesel freight locomotives they go to EMD or GE....

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  14. Adirondacker1280028 January, 2010 10:21

    is to address Unique American Conditions, namely freight trains

    Hmmm. the P&W uses ACSES successfully. Last time I checked Massachesetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York are in the U.S.

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  15. @ Alon Levy

    A waiver is only applicable to the party receiving the waiver. Other parties are expressly warned to not assume they can receive a similar waiver. There's no reason for GE and others to fear Caltrain getting a waiver.

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  16. @ Reality Check

    If Lick is Milepost 51.8, then the statement is at least partially accurate.

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  17. In other good news, this appears to be finally doing away with the equipment expensive, crew expensive inefficient, highly subsidized, uncompetitive with 101. exurban sprawl serving, unidirectional only, basket case Gilroy trains.

    Good riddance.

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  18. Nah, it just means that the lighter EMUs won't be running south of Tamien. They could still run the FRA-compliant equipment on that route.

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  19. "Does it really matter all that much to Kawasaki if they are building non compliant cars for the NYC subway, semi compliant cars for PATH, fully compliant cars for Metro North or UIC compliant cars for California?"

    Actually yes, it does.

    The US passenger rail "market" is set up with so much protectionist, rent-seeking, competition-excluding regulation and legislation that numerous designs from production lines (ie cheaper, competitive, successful, debugged designs) are excluded, and smaller, innovative, technically proficient but not politically juiced manufacturers (eg Stadler) are outright excluded. Couple that with a culture in which cost is no object and in which failure is rewarded, and in which consultants write their own tickets and you have a perfect storm.

    So despite that fact that Bombardier is a multi-national conglomerate, it is very much in Bombardier North America's interests -- and they have acted in that interest, for example actively and reprehensibly working to keep Talgo out of the country -- to ensure that they don't sell the thousandth copy off a French/Polish/German/Spanish/etc production line to an American transit-cum-welfare operation, but instead to build very small numbers of very very very expensive vehicles, generally designed and specified by local "expert" US rail consultants to be one or two decades out of date.

    For an recent scandalous local example, look at the grotesquely self-serving, public-screwing, shameful, utterly unprofessional way in which the US rail experts at LTK Engineering Services determined that Stadler shouldn't be allowed to offer its wildly successful GTW DMU for the "SMART" Sonoma-Marin startup in the SF Bay Area, but instead that -- surprise!!!! -- LTK Engineering Services surprise! should get a subsequent contract to design and specify an obsolete, tank-weight, energy inefficient, and far most costly all-American FRA DMU. Now perhaps the US domestic sheltered workshop make-work shell subsidiary of a big name like Siemens, Bombardier, Kawasaki, etc will end up building these very very VERY special LTK-unique-American-conditions cars. But because this "competition" and "bidding" and "design" and "specification" is done in the context of a cartel, with existing designs excluded, and with non-cartel builders excluded, it is far more profitable even for the big guys.

    BTW it should come as no surpise that LTK is embedded at Caltrain up to its eyeballs -- failure always breeds further profit in our sick local transit-industrial complex --, and that Caltrain simply refuses to even consider the most corridor-appropriate and market-successful design in the world, Stadler's FLIRT. Because, you know: unique local conditions. And we must have double deck trains because, well, that's what we do. Think inside the box, and always ignore what the people who know what they're doing do.

    Bottom line: selling unique, obsolete crap to price-insensitive dimwits in a trade restricted cartelised environment, especially with the prospect of juicy change orders as the incompetence of the domestic designers and the problems of small production lines come up, is more profitable than having to compete in an open market with standard designs. Everybody wins! ... except the taxpayer and train riding public.

    So yes, even if Alstom for example seems like a "European supplier", it is not in Alstom North America's interests to have an open North American market.

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  20. I'm kind of disappointed by SMART's decision to go FRA-compliant as well. Especially in light of the Sprinter in San Diego County, which successfully runs non-compliant trains.

    Also CalTrain's gravitation toward double-decker railcars does seem like an unnecessary technical requirement, though I don't see it as having any long-term adverse effects. It's not like commuter rail lines don't use bi-level cars outside of the U.S. (for instance RER)...

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  21. So just what is the possible justification for CBOSS -- other than full time employment, hundreds of millions spent reinventing the wheel, vendor lock in, and exclusion of competition -- if Caltrain's (increasingly clearly vendor locked in to Alstom) locally consultant specified "European" EMUs aren't going to mixing it up with the mighty, whoops-we-just-derailed-again Union Pacific Railroad?

    Qui bono?

    One might almost be worried that the pork-fest might evaporate except then one remembers ...

    The Coast Daylight!

    That's the ticket! Got to spend a few hundred million of our tax dollars on our own unique in-house-expert-design signal system, because ... they have to accommodate one Amtrak train a day! No way around it. No siree. Don't throw Brer CBOSS in the Amtrak briar patch!

    Phew! Dodged a bullet there. They were nearly in a position of being able to make just one single correct technical decision for anything on the entire corridor, but don't worry, back to business as usual.

    Next up: why Caltrain can't have express trains overtake locals, why HSR and Caltrain have to run on completely separate tracks, why we need two completely separate terminals in San Francisco, why we need two complete levels of separate train service in San Jose.

    There Is No Alternative when America's Finest Railroading Professionals are on the case.

    Thank you, Jebus, for sending us the Coast Daylight!

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  22. Re double deckers on Caltrain:

    There's nothing inherently wrong, other than the fact that operators who can physically accommodate double deck trains and who carry far more passengers, run far more often, far more reliably and far more cheaply than our local little lightly used shuttle line sometimes choose not to.

    Sometimes double deckers makes sense. But clearly it doesn't always, at least outside the US Passenger Rail Wonderworld.

    I guess it's possible that everybody else in the world just needs to learn There Is No Alternative from our local experts, and that the new single deck suburban trains in Sweden, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, etc were all a huge mistake, but it would be nice to be able to harbour a temporary illusion that anybody anywhere in California (present company excluded) were actually thinking through the issues and trade-offs, rather than just doing the same old stuff over again because that's the way we do it.

    And there there's the issue of having fewer vehicle choices from fewer vendors ... but, silly me, that's supposed to be a problem!?

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  23. Anybody here have any idea how to get to a copy of the actual grant text (not the PR release) for 2.2B?

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  24. What's funny is that I was just in Germany last month and took the ICE from Munich to Nurmberg. At that station, double deckers, sincle deck and ICE trains all shared the same platforms and had the doors at the same height. Why the hell cant we do that here? It is frustrating! It's no wonder nothing gets done in this country.

    Oh, Clem. Are there engineers working on the CAHSR project visiting and in contact with you and your board and the ideas that are floated around here? I am just curious. Gives a little hope if they are. Some great brainstorming goes on here and is always enjoyable to read.

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  25. Adirondacker1280028 January, 2010 23:41

    smaller, innovative, technically proficient but not politically juiced manufacturers (eg Stadler) are outright excluded.

    NJTransit must not be on the distribution list for those memos. They run Stadler DMUs on the River Line and have been since 2004.


    they don't sell the thousandth copy off a French/Polish/German/Spanish/etc production line to an American transit-cum-welfare operation, but instead to build very small numbers of very very very expensive vehicles, generally designed and specified by local "expert" US rail consultants to be one or two decades out of date.

    If Wikepedia is to be believed there are 1,172 M7s flitting about Long Island and Westchester. They may not be the bestest goodest newest bright and shiny things but they get the job done. If the foamers on railroad.net have their arithmetic right those cars averaged 2.25 million a piece. DC third rail power supply but driven by AC motors. Definitely have cab signals since some of them whooooosssssss through green leafy suburbs at 90. ( and the LIRR has required cab signals for decades on all trains. ) I can't find anything about the M8s cab signals/PTC/ATC I suspect it's going to be ACSES and whatever Metro North uses on the Harlem Line. Level boarding, air conditioned, doors that open themselves, toilets filled with blue stuff and everything.

    is done in the context of a cartel, with existing designs excluded, and with non-cartel builders excluded, it is far more profitable even for the big guys.

    How much money are they going to make selling four cars to SMART? How much money went swirling down the drain with Tri-Met and Colorado Rail Car? It would be blip on the bottom line at Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom. Something they'd send the new hire sales associate out to pursue.

    Caltrain simply refuses to even consider the most corridor-appropriate

    Have they considered anything other than "There's some nice EMUs out there"?

    and market-successful design in the world, Stadler's FLIRT.

    Hmm if Wikipedia is to be believed 547 of them have been built as of November of 2009. About half as many there are M7s flitting about Long Island and Westchester. Pick 48 inch platform height and 10'6" loading gauge and all the vendors who make commuter cars for the Northeast and Chicago can pop out an order for Caltrain or Metrolink without breaking a sweat. Tweak Shinkansen designs a whole 6 inches and voila a system. Both something Kawasaki could build in Yonkers.

    So yes, even if Alstom for example seems like a "European supplier", it is not in Alstom North America's interests to have an open North American market.

    Even though the parts they are shipping in from all over the world are um um shipped in from all over the world whether the assembly plant is in Yonkers or Yokohama or Vestenbergsgreuth? Shipping fully assembled rail cars across oceans gets pricey. It's probably cheaper to ship the parts to the US for assembly than to do it someplace overseas.

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  26. @Eric M
    I know what you mean about N├╝rnberg Hauptbahnhof -- and it's true at most any major German train station.

    So the folks in charge of planning how HSR will share the same ROW with upgraded Caltrain are treating CPUC General Order No. 26-D like it was carved in a stone tablet by God or something.

    In September of 2009, Clem wrote a detailed entry on the subject entitled Platform Height. You may want to review it.

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  27. Adirondacker1280029 January, 2010 00:29

    What's funny is that I was just in Germany....

    What's funny is that I was just in Newark last month and took the Raritan Valley Line from Cranford to Newark. At that station, multilevels, single levels - hauled by electric and diesel locomotives and electric MUs had the doors at the same height as Acela. The trains headed to New York had cross platform transfers to PATH.

    Why the hell cant we do that here?

    I dunno why can't you?

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  28. yet when the world goes shopping for diesel freight locomotives they go to EMD or GE...

    Not always - sometimes they go to Alstom, whose equipment is much lighter. I think the main questions are what kind of freight they haul, and which country they have free trade agreement with. GE and EMD optimize for heavy freight with little passenger traffic, Alstom for lighter freight with more passenger traffic.

    NJTransit must not be on the distribution list for those memos. They run Stadler DMUs on the River Line and have been since 2004.

    The Stadler DMUs are noncompliant. They run on the River Line with time separation - passenger traffic 6 am to 10 pm, freight traffic 10 pm to 6 am.

    Shipping fully assembled rail cars across oceans gets pricey. It's probably cheaper to ship the parts to the US for assembly than to do it someplace overseas.

    Ir really isn't. The R62's, which had no federal funding and were thus exempt from Buy American, were made in Kobe and shipped to New York. Subsequent orders for New York were made locally but only because they got federal funding.

    It's not like commuter rail lines don't use bi-level cars outside of the U.S. (for instance RER)...

    The RER A runs unique double-deck, three-doors-per-car trains. That's because it is so crush-loaded it needs all that capacity. It gets nearly a million weekday riders. Caltrain gets 40,000.

    In related news, the Yamanote Line has faregates instead of proof of payment. Since it has 3.5 million riders per day (not weekday), it's cheaper that way. But for Caltrain, or for that matter a line with five times Caltrain's traffic, anything other than POP is a waste.

    Look, there's nothing wrong with bilevels. The problem is overbuilding to accommodate them on a line that doesn't really need them.

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  29. Actually bi-levels are not really that much taller than single-level trains. Bombardier's bi-level coach (just as an example) rises 16' above the top of the rail, well within Plate F clearances and lower than they intended to run the overhead wires anyway (especially on the CalTrain corridor).

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  30. Adirondacker1280029 January, 2010 09:51

    The Stadler DMUs are noncompliant.

    That's the point. Maybe it's the lack of palm trees in New Jersey made NJTransit ignore the memo about excluding Stadler.

    The R62's, which had no federal funding and were thus exempt from Buy American, were made in Kobe and shipped to New York.

    In the 1980s - using American components, not many but with American components, by a Kawasaki subsidiary. The R62As were assembled in Barre, Vermont by Bombardier. Budd wanted the contract and sued over the subsidized financing offered by the Canadian government.
    ...Nowadays the parts come in from all over the world - the foamers get all frothy when carbody shells arrive at the Port of Albany from Brazil for instance - and get assembled here. Shipping 4 or 8 cars to Santa Rosa from a Stadler factory in Europe would be much cheaper than assembling them here. Cheaper than buying cars from an untested supplier who has the plans from Colorado Rail Car. When it comes to orders in the hundreds it's probably cheaper to do it someplace that doesn't involve shipping fully assembled cars across oceans.

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  31. Shipping fully assembled cars across oceans is not hard in the slightest. Shipping to market is astoudingly easy and a comparatively cheap part of the production process. Efficient heavy manufacturing requires large scales of production. Call it Factory Lesson 1.0.

    The whole "local railcar manufacturing jobs" political angle for any rail transit project is a farce. Politicians like it because it looks like they are promoting economic development in their area and preserving well-paid manufacturing jobs. It's certainly not genuine economic development, since the taxpayer subsidy for each of these manufacturing jobs is immense. These jobs are ephemeral and are not contributing to any real industrial base. The scale of production is often extremely low, so the labor productivity is also extremely low. The handful of jobs do tend to be well-paid, but it's certainly not due to productivity and efficiency. This small handful of jobs is extremely heavily subsidized by taxpayers and a drag on regional economic competitiveness. The subsidies would be better targeted elsewhere, say, for actual transit operation.

    It's much better to buy cheaper off-the-shelf rail equipment from a company with large scales of production and then pocket the considerable savings.

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  32. Adirondacker: there's no way River Line could run noncompliant DMUs under the current regulatory regime if it hadn't restricted its hours so severely. Caltrain is not going to, so it has to get the waiver.

    And, yes, the R62A was assembled in Barre. But that was because there was some federal financing angle that forced the final assembly to be done in the US, if I'm not mistaken. The R62 order, which had no such restriction, was assembled in Kobe.

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  33. Adirondacker1280029 January, 2010 23:00

    Shipping fully assembled cars across oceans is not hard in the slightest.

    It's not difficult. EMD and GE do it with much heavier locomotives all the time. So does Bombardier, from Germany to the US, for NJTransit Shipping 400 cars across an ocean isn't going to be cheap and will be a consideraton when the manufacturers who have plants all over the world, including locations in the US, bid on the contract.

    Shipping to market is astoudingly easy and a comparatively cheap part of the production process.

    Shipping a tiny batch of trolleyless trolley cars across an ocean is cheaper than building a factory or retooling an existing one. An order of 400 HSR cars might have different economics, considering that there are existing factories in the US that can assemble things like HSR cars.

    Efficient heavy manufacturing requires large scales of production.

    Those kind of places exist in the US. Places where people assemble railroad passenger cars in significant quatities. They can ship parts from all over the world to Japan or Germany or France and ship the assembled cars to the US or ship parts from all over the world to the US and assemble the cars in existing plants that have experienced staff. Shipping costs are going to be an consideration in the decision whether to assemble in the US or overseas.

    It's much better to buy cheaper off-the-shelf rail equipment from a company with large scales of production and then pocket the considerable savings.

    There are people assembling railroad passenger cars in the US to standard designs on a large scale at competitive costs. They are more than capable of assembling cars from a standard design for California's HSR system. Have I mentioned that there are plants in the US where people assemble railroad passenger cars?

    ...River Line.... restricted its hours so severely.

    When was the last time you looked at a River Line schedule? Trains are running after midnight, not by much and not over the whole line but it's carrying passengers more than 18 hours a day. I don't know if the thriving nightlife of Camden and Trenton justifies running it much later. How late does BART or the T run? How about the London or Paris subway? How late should the River Line run?

    Caltrain is not going to, so it has to get the waiver.

    The River Line operates under a waiver, one for temporal separation. The waiver Caltrian evetually gets will either be temporal or physical or a combination of it depending on what they do and how you want to look at it. They have a lot more options considering that they will have four tracks to work with.

    But that was because there was some federal financing angle that forced the final assembly to be done in the US, if I'm not mistaken.

    No mention of "Buy American" in the article on nycsubway.org, and assuming the article is reasonably accurate, much more complex than "Buy American". That was 25 years ago. Most of what happened, whatever it was, has little relation to what's going to happen when California orders cars ten years from now. It's still going to be expensive to ship fully assembled railroad cars across an ocean.

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  34. No mention of "Buy American" in the article on nycsubway.org

    Which article did you read? I'm asking because the ones about the 1970s and 80s specifically mention Buy American as a restriction NYCT had to contend with up until the R46 order, and specifically mention that it was no longer in effect for the R62 because Reagan stopped paying for transit, forcing the city to make the order with 0% federal contribution.

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  35. Adirondacker1280030 January, 2010 10:50

    http://www.nycsubway.org/articles/chiasson-r62.html

    I think you are reading

    http://www.nycsubway.org/articles/history-nycta1980s.html

    You can read a lot into either. Two or three ( or four ) different ways to look at why it was R62/R62A. Chiasson says Kawasaki bid for the R62A contract was too high. Feinman says they weren't interested. There were other things going on besides "Buy American" including technical considerations and attractive financing being offered by Bombardier.

    It was 25 years ago. Things have changed since then. Things will be different when California announces the bidding process.

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  36. My understanding was that the R62A was a separate contract because Kawasaki wasn't willing to do a larger R62 order for the same price. This reopened the bidding, introducing the Buy American issue.

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  37. Adirondacker1280030 January, 2010 19:36

    Whatever happened back in the 80s isn't going to be particularly pertinent in 2015 or so.

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  38. "There are people assembling railroad passenger cars in the US to standard designs on a large scale at competitive costs."

    No there aren't.

    Just think about it for an instant!

    If there were such a thing, then the US would be exporting its wonderful, cheap passenger rail vehicles made by its efficient, highly productive production lines using its highly skilled workers to other countries which aren't cesspools of hyopcritical cost-inflating protectionism.

    Do you see that happening? Even with the US dollar worthless?

    No.

    The only reason that high-cost, low-quality, low-skilled, low-production US shell companies get to screw together -- at legally mandated enormous cost -- the parts designed elsewhere and largely produced elsewhere is because of political intervention.

    And the result isn't something that you put on the tracks and drive off, as you could for foreign production -- no it has to be tested for Unique Local Conditions and run around FRA test tracks for months and have all the local mis-assembly problems identified and rectified at extra cost. And so it goes.

    The bottom line is that this is a way to transfer public wealth into the pockets of a small number of politically juiced operators who know how to play the system. A few blue collar manufacturing joes get some short term work as a side effect, and of course will show up on command to provide a patina of blue-collar political whitewashing (union jobs!) for the real profiteers.

    All this does is disguise kickbacks for the jobs for the usual suspects as "public transit". It's a wretched deal for nearly everybody.

    It isn't Joe Sixpack who sets up "US owned" sheltered workshops to "partner" with foreign companies who are perfectly capable of assembling their own damned trains -- it's far more likely to be some sort of sleazy military contractor type with the inside line, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, on government contracting.

    The US should stick to manufacturing what it's good at, which seems to be cruise missiles.

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  39. Indeed, the "transit industrial complex" -- and it most certainly does exist -- is remarkably similar to the "military industrial complex" in its corrupt behavior and even its corporate membership.

    So when some fanboy tries to excuse some brutal cost overrun in the latest transit capital project by claiming that defense spending is even more wasteful is missing the obvious similarities. It's the same sort of waste.

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  40. Adirondacker1280002 February, 2010 12:05

    No there aren't.
    Just think about it for an instant!


    I thought about it for about ten minutes, broke out the calculator and let Google do some exchange rate calculations for me. Since you brought up FLIRT I used that as a comparison.

    If I did my arithmetic correctly a nice new FLIRT car costs 400,000 dollars more than an M7. There's twice as many M7s in the world as there are FLIRTs in their infinite variety. One M7 is nearly indistinguishable from another. Therefore M7s are built to a cheap standard design. You may not like the design of an M7 but in comparison to a FLIRT it's cheap and standard.

    Utah decided it wanted to try out commuter rail. They determined that refurbishing Comet cars from New Jersey would be a good idea. They had excess cars that they leased to Metrolink. Nice standard design. You may not like the design but it's one that can be used anywhere in North America. Try doing something similar in the EU. Umpteen different platform heights, different loading gauges and many different mutually exclusive signaling schemes, not that signal systems matter to unpowered cars like the Comet. How many different kinds of cars are similar to the different versions of Comets? Off the top of my head Amtrak has some and Shoreliners in Connecticut are similar. You may not like the design but it's standard. Nobody has built any lately so determining if it's cheap would be difficult.

    The only reason that high-cost, low-quality, low-skilled, low-production US shell companies get to screw together -- at legally mandated enormous cost --

    But M7 cars are cheaper than FLIRTs so you argument that US assembled cars cost enormous amounts falls apart.

    the parts designed elsewhere and largely produced elsewhere

    Why is gathering together parts designed and built all over the world and assembling them in the EU, Japan or even China different than gathering together parts designed and built all over the world and assembling them in the US?

    And the result isn't something that you put on the tracks and drive off, as you could for foreign production

    I doubt operators in other parts of the world take something that came off the production line on Monday and put it into revenue service on Tuesday. There's acceptance testing done, either at the manufacturer's facilities or on their own facilities or both. I'm sure the testing for the first part of a order is extensive.

    no it has to be tested for Unique Local Conditions and run around FRA test tracks for months

    If being able to operate a car anywhere in North America can be called "local". The months part may be overkill. Rumors about the ALP46a is that they will be running tests on revenue tracks soon - six weeks after arrival in Port Elizabeth. So I'm not so sure about the months part either.

    and have all the local mis-assembly problems identified and rectified at extra cost.

    That may have been true in 1979 less so today. The overseas vendors didn't have a stellar reputation in 1979 either.

    The bottom line is that this is a way to transfer public wealth into the pockets of a small number of politically juiced operators who know how to play the system........It isn't Joe Sixpack who sets up "US owned" sheltered workshops to "partner" with foreign companies who are perfectly capable of assembling their own damned trains -- it's far more likely to be some sort of sleazy military contractor type with the inside line, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, on government contracting.

    Yet even with all the graft corruption and featherbedding they manage to deliver M7s cheaper than a FLIRT f.o.b. in Europe. Hmmm.

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  41. There's twice as many M7s in the world as there are FLIRTs in their infinite variety.

    Are you confusing trainset for railcar? The wikipedia entry for FLIRT says "547 units", which if you read the rest of the article, suggests units means trainset (which can be anywhere from 4 to 6 cars).

    If I did my arithmetic correctly a nice new FLIRT car costs 400,000 dollars more than an M7.

    For such a large order, Stadler would most likely give generous discount off the retail price.

    Why is gathering together parts designed and built all over the world and assembling them in the EU, Japan or even China different than gathering together parts designed and built all over the world and assembling them in the US?

    Caltrain and the CHSRA should definitely not be making that kind of decision. Put the train order out to bid and let the market figure that out. If manufacturer calculates that it is more cost-effective to assemble locally, then so be it.

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  42. Anon: no, the analysis was per car, but it's wrong because it fails to account for cost of living adjustments.

    On the one hand, the M-7 cost $2.25 million per car; the Norwegian FLIRT costs $2.74 million per car.

    On the other hand, the M-7 order was in 2002, so adjusted for inflation it cost $2.68 million per car. In addition, the Krone and the Franc are overvalued, both by factors of about 1.5 relative to the dollar. The Norwegian FLIRT costs $2.74 million per car in exchange rate dollars, but in PPP it costs $1.9 million per car.

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  43. Why is that each railcar is a multimillion dollar purchase? It certainly isn't the cost of shipping the block-shaped objects! Railcars are a very mature technology, so it's not as if they involve complex, bleeding-edge engineering. A big reason is the small scale of production, but why isn't railcar production more centralized? It's the local jobs political angle.

    Just consider what is going on with the NUMMI automobile plant in the Bay Area. It's shutting down due to the struggles of GM and Toyota, but the plant has 4700 workers producing over 300,000 cars in several different styles each year. An average car these days has a lot more R&D innovation invested than a comparatively simple railcar.

    Quentin Kopp is now pandering to the displaced workers by proposing the NUMMI plant be retooled to manufacture CHSRA vehicles. Think about that: the total order of roughly 400 CHSRA railcars required a decade from now will somehow make use of NUMMI's production capacity of 300,000 cars a year!! The comparison draws the stark contrast of automobile manufacturing being vastly more efficient than railcar manufacturing. If a "rail-volution" is ever genuinely going to happen in the world, the unit cost of railcars must be dramatically reduced.

    Another example: an individual BART car currently costs $4.5 million. Hmmm, I can buy certain new business jets for less. Which vehicle do you think is more technologically advanced and harder to manufacture?

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  44. Caltrain First: railcars always cost a lot, though $4.5 million is a whopper. In New York, new subway cars cost about $1.5 million apiece; as far as I can tell those prices are in line with global prices - Paris is slightly cheaper, Singapore is slightly more expensive. HSR trainsets cost $3 million per car in today's money, at least on the Shinkansen.

    In either case, the unit cost of railed vehicles is much smaller than that of automobiles when you take passenger numbers into account. First, a train can hold many people, and second, it can make multiple trips per day. This results in much greater efficiency. For example: replacing the entire New York City Transit subway and bus fleets would cost about $11 billion, most of which is subway cars, which last 40 years. The cars NYCT keeps off the road would collectively cost $70 billion and would last 15 years.

    New York uses more rolling stock relative to its ridership than other major cities, such as London, Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo. So the analysis done for those other cities would make subways look even better.

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  45. Adirondacker1280003 February, 2010 12:31

    The Norwegian FLIRT costs $2.74 million per car in exchange rate dollars, but in PPP it costs $1.9 million per car.

    Stadler would want to be paid in exchange rate dollars. The argument was that cars in North America cost enormous amounts. Compared to FLIRTs they don't.

    Few hundred thousand difference in costs means you have to start looking at the different options each one has. For instance do the Norwegian cars have the same sized air conditioners that the Metro North cars have? Do they air conditioning? ....

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  46. Single Norwegian FLIRT "car" (ie 106m long articulated, 10 door per side, train): 296 seats; 206t; 0.70t/seat.

    Pair of MNCRR (AC apples to apples) M8 cars: 182 seats; 143000lbs + 141000lbs = 129t; 0.71t/seat.

    Marginally back on topic: Europeans are very happy to buy diesel freight locomotives off the Canadian production line, with no "buy UK" or "buy Dutch" or "buy Germans" laws. Americans sell heavy haul high axle weight ore/coal equipment and expertise around the world.

    But oddly enough neither the Europeans, Asians, Africans, Indians, nor South Americans seem to be buying very many of those cheap, advanced, passenger friendly, latest technology, free trade US passenger rail cars we keep hearing about.

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  47. @Anonymous: Don't forget that FLIRTs have low-floor weight (and price) penalty. Desiro UK has 0.58 t per seated passenger.

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  48. The argument was that cars in North America cost enormous amounts. Compared to FLIRTs they don't.

    They don't, but only because the franc is overvalued. It has the same effect as a 50% tariff in the US on Swiss goods.

    In other words: for a buyer, Swiss-made FLIRTs and American-made M7s cost about the same; however, if the M7 were built using the same techniques in Switzerland, or if the FLIRT were built in the US, the FLIRT would cost about one third less.

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  49. Adirondacker1280004 February, 2010 11:59

    I give up. Americans can't do nothin' right and everything is cheaper and better everywhere else.
    Buy FLIRTs that can't go fast enough to use the express tracks. Be sure to get a different platform height and loading gauge than HSR to assure that you are truly screwed. Different signaling systems to make everything more expensive. Might I suggest getting in touch with the people thinking about starting Metrolink-hsr and putting in into their mind to push for Metrolink to be mutually incompatible with Caltrain and HSR. It will give you something other than Altamont versus Pacheco to bitch about in 2045. I'll be dead by then.

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  50. You do realize that the people advocating FLIRT are exactly those who make the biggest stink about platform heights, right?

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  51. Adirondacker1280005 February, 2010 11:34

    Un huh. How many FLIRTs go to the same platforms as HSR trains? Apparently the "standard" FLIRT is built for 550mm platforms with an option for 760mm platform. HSR trains have a variety of floor heights but it clusters around 1100mm. Hmmm.

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  52. Meh. The point is, Stadler and other small European manufacturers can make trains more cheaply than the North American branches of Alstom and Bombardier. High-floor equipment is cheaper, not more expensive.

    Caltrain will either go with quality and buy foreign or with local jobs and force the vendor to set up a factory in California. It's not going to turn into a public works program for Yonkers.

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  53. Adirondacker1280005 February, 2010 13:21

    Caltrain will either go with quality and buy foreign

    The MTA publishes MTBF figures on their website. How do they compare to FLIRTs?

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  54. I have no idea. But it's important to compare MTBF at the correct point in time. The R160s and M-7s have much higher MTBFs than the R62s and M-3s, but they'll not be so good when they're as old as the R62s and M-3s are now. Maintaining high MTBF is an important quality metric, too. So are cost, axle load, minimum safe maintenance interval, and number of people and amount of equipment required to perform maintenance.

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  55. Adirondacker1280005 February, 2010 14:56

    I give up. Americans can't do nothin' right and everything is cheaper and better everywhere else.
    I hope they buy FLIRTs or whatever car is making everybody's foam all frothy in 2016 when they announce the request for proposals.

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  56. Meh ... non-compliant multiple units aren't really available domestically anyway. I guess the real question is where they are manufactured.

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  57. Adirondacker1280005 February, 2010 21:49

    non-compliant multiple units aren't really available domestically anyway.

    The people on the NYC subway, once they figured out what a non compliant MU was, might disagree. And the ones on DC's Metro and Boston's Red line and Chicago's El and.... BART....

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  58. Yeah, sure, for metros and light rail. That goes without saying. But not in the world of commuter rail.

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  59. The MTA publishes MTBF figures on their website. How do they compare to FLIRTs?

    Can't speak to MTA, but in general America's globally-unique transit system have had poor reliability record.

    For example:

    It took more than a decade to debug BART's train control system.

    Washington Metro is still debugging its system.

    The Boeing Vertol LRV's (used in Boston and SF) were notoriously unreliable.

    Acela required a number of fixes, and even had to be taken out of service.

    Portland Trimet had to get additional DMU cars, as backup for unreliable Colorado Railcar units.

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  60. Yeah, unfortunately, the most reliable solution seems to be to use European signaling, with European trains, on a system probably designed by Europeans...

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  61. Adirondacker1280006 February, 2010 09:50

    In 1979 crappy expensive stuff was being built in North America. It's not 1979 anymore.

    What part of "I give up" is hard to understand?

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  62. Adirondacker, there's a difference between subway cars and mainline rail cars. No company in the US currently makes noncompliant mainline trains. Using a subway vehicle is a nonstarter, as those vehicles are optimized for low-speed operation - the R160 is limited to 90 km/h.

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  63. Adirondacker1280006 February, 2010 18:49

    there's a difference between subway cars and mainline rail cars.

    What part of "I give up" was unclear? There's an amazing amount of commonality between subway cars, commuter cars, intercity cars and HSR cars. You want to get all frothy over the minute differences between them. Have a good time. Just be sure get all spatters when you clean up afterwards.

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  64. You want to get all frothy over the minute differences between them.

    Yeah, the fact that subway cars' motors are designed to go about half as fast as Caltrain wants is minute.

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  65. Adirondacker1280007 February, 2010 16:07

    Yeah, the fact that subway cars' motors are designed to go about half as fast as Caltrain wants is minute.

    There's at least three things in that statement that could be discussed. But then I remembered that

    I

    give

    up

    and I went skiing.

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