06 October 2010

Juicy CBOSS Tidbits

UPDATE: the Q&A with prospective bidders continues. The latest round includes these gems:
Q #31: The RFP addresses HSR. What assumptions should the proposer make in order to address HSR requirements?

A: Evaluation of the potential for the proposed solution to meet future HSR needs will not be part of the proposal evaluation.

Q #43: [Caltrain] states that "the system will be required to be interoperable with the train control system selected for HSR operation throughout the California High Speed network." Since this train control system has not been identified, how can the contractor ensure that their system will be interoperable by the 2015 implementation date?

A: The Caltrain PTC system must be interoperable with existing tenant railroads by Dec 2015. HSR is not an existing tenant railroad.
There. Just in case there remained even the shadow of a doubt: Caltrain couldn't care less about interoperability with HSR, but is focused like a laser on interoperability with Union Pacific freight trains, a.k.a. "tenant railroad."

Caltrain is betting all its chips on the AAR's Interoperable Train Control (ITC) project, an industry-wide consortium effort to stonewall and delay the federal PTC mandate. If there is any doubt about what the AAR (representing the big freight railroads) thinks about PTC, read their litany of complaints and ask yourself just how likely it is that ITC will be completed on time--regardless of the law. Expect the AAR to slow-walk PTC just as the Europeans run rings around us worldwide!

ORIGINAL POST: Caltrain's planned Positive Train Control system (known as CBOSS) has been out to bid for a little while now, and the Request For Proposal process is continuing with some back-and-forth Q&A between Caltrain and prospective bidders in advance of the November 3rd deadline.

The latest volley of questions and answers includes question #20 from an astute prospective bidder:
What assumptions should me made in terms of HSR? (Interoperability, Operations, sharing track, etc.)
Caltrain's official response:
Under current RFP Scope of work, HSR Operations is not considered for this phase of PTC implementation. Public information is available via HSR webisite. (sic)
It's October 2010, and Caltrain still considers high-speed rail as an afterthought. Shall we give them another raise?

Also, just where is the funding for CBOSS going to come from, and is the undetermined funding source why Caltrain refuses to change the wording of the contract payment terms from "will endeavor to pay" to "shall pay" (see question #11) ?


  1. Deputy CEO Gigi Harrington said the agency has simply had more work to do in its recent time of peril, including outreach, community meetings and balancing budgets. She said the total number of hours billed to Caltrain rose 9 percent in the past three years.

    Interesting...perhaps there is a perverse incentive for Caltrain employee-contractors to continue work on CBOSS simply because they get to bill more hours.

    Figuring out who exactly works for Caltrain -- and how much they get paid -- turns out to be an excruciating task. Virtually all the rail line's 190 listed administrators split time working for SamTrans and the transportation authority in a downtown San Carlos headquarters. The time sheets for employees can be convoluted.

  2. That is just lame. Caltrain needs to pay attention to what is going on around them. This along with compatable platforms. Ditch CBOSS and double decker trainsets (if they are going to be more frequent, no need to have two level trainsets). Use off the shelf ERTMS and high platforms, then everything will fall into place.

  3. Seriously? This is just dumb.

  4. Adirondacker1280007 October, 2010 14:17

    The time sheets for employees can be convoluted.

    That's what payroll administrators and computers are for. This information should be at their fingertips, especially if the labor costs are being divided between the agencies or being billed between the agencies.

  5. @ Adirondacker12800 -

    Never underestimate the appeal of systematic obfuscation to a career bureaucrat. It makes work and tends to insulate decision makers from accountability.

  6. My guess is CBOSS is going to cost so much that Caltrain will "bill" CAHSR for "destroying" Caltrain's plans

    Seems like a good negotiating tactic to me. Once the RFQs come back at $500M, then Caltrain can claim a $500M credit from CAHSR.

  7. So, the transfer between Caltrain and HSR won't be cross-platform? Secaucus, here we come! Maybe you could also put a faregate between the Caltrain and HSR portions?

  8. Adirondacker1280008 October, 2010 21:06

    ...well Secaucus deals with a few problems they won't have on the Peninsula. 26 trains an hour in peak direction for one. ( more trains in the future. ) That the lines are more or less perpendicular to one another. At least, if was possible, and it will be one day, for trains to transfer between levels they could use any platform. And someday the lower level will have cross platform transfers, NY Bound trains to Hoboken bound trains ( or vice versa, think Newark Broad Street with two island platforms ) on the former Erie lines.

  9. Cross platform transfers? What kind of crazy talk is that? The kind that comes from people who actually take and/or run real trains, rather than people who know how to draw lines on maps and play with their imaginary trains. Even Amtrak gets this cross-platform idea: this is exactly what happens at New Haven between NEC mainline trains and Springfield shuttles. And at Trenton, the NJT-SEPTA transfer is often cross-platform or even same-platform (with one train in front of the other). So even the much-maligned NEC gets this right sometimes, where HSRA and Caltrain just can't. But then again, what do you expect from an agency that can't even figure out the concept of a departure board at either of its main stations?

  10. Adirondacker1280009 October, 2010 14:52

    Arcady, get off at Newark NJ sometime. Cross platform transfers from Acela, Amtrak regionals, NJTransit locals and expresses using both electricity and diesel and inbound, cross platform transfers to PATH. The outbound transfer from PATH is down a flight of stairs or a ramp. From all that cross platform hilarity you can go down another level and transfer to buses, taxis, private cars etc. on street level. If you don't want to go through the station there are stairways directly to the street or the bus lanes. Yet another level down is a light rail station though most locals call it the ( Newark City ) Subway. Silly Pennsylvania RR and the city of Newark coordinating projects including a wide boulevard going east/west through downtown.....

  11. Last time I needed to take the Raritan Valley Line, the transfer at Newark required us to go down a flight of stairs, exit the station building, reenter from another door, climb up a flight of stairs, and settle in the train, which left about 10 or 15 minutes later. Carless Manhattanite schlubs like my ex-girlfriend and me endure it; people with other options drive.

  12. Adirondacker1280009 October, 2010 20:01

    Someone is going to be unhappy in a station with 8 tracks. ( 6 conventional and 2 for PATH ) It's a much better solution than taking the ferry to Jersey City, which would have been your alternative before the Aldene Plan or changing trains in Elizabeth.

    There must have been something extraordinary going on or you are confusing the concourses with the street. Or you went down one of the staircases to Market street or Raymond Blvd.

    Most of the time it's on track A or track 5. Designed for the trains going to Jersey City. Most people on the trains to JC wouldn't be transferring at Newark, they used the Spanish Solution for the H&M track instead. "change at Newark" goes away if the ALP45s work out and the new tunnels are built.

    If people with cars drive why does NJTransit run 4 trains an hour at peak? And in the traditional peak direction? From the green leafy suburbs where everybody has a car to the city whether that city is Newark or Manhattan?

    All of it on level boarding platforms in Newark. For decades. In a station that opened in 1937... that could and did serve steam trains....

  13. Yes, I did go down a staircase to the street. That was the only option - there was no in-station transfer.

    A 6-track mainline station could quite easily have cross-platform transfers off-peak, when approximately 4.5 of those 6 tracks are not needed.

    As for why people ride anyway? I don't know. Maybe the rush-hour transfers are better thought out. Or maybe rush hour driving is even worse. I wouldn't know, I neither own a car nor live in Jersey.

  14. Adirondacker1280010 October, 2010 06:39

    Yes, I did go down a staircase to the street.

    Unless there was some extraordinary emergency, you did it wrong. The concourses are open 24/7/365. There's waiting rooms on track level that share the space with the escalators and another staircase, should have used them. The main waiting room and the track level waiting rooms close down in the dead of night. As do the stairways to the street since only PATH is running in the dead of night. PATH doesn't have stairways to the street from the topmost track. Never checked but the subway probably shutters it's doors in the dead of night too since it's not running. Penn Station in Newark would be more than adequate for San Jose, maybe the Californians should take a field trip. ... nah they'd then find 47 reasons why putting PATH between track 1 and 2, with cross platform transfers, is a bad idea....

  15. Anaheim and Caltrain are acting like HSR doesn't even exist.