Besides regurgitating much of the same information already available in the various EIRs and technical memoranda, the peer review document states a number of operational assumptions that have far-reaching implications for the peninsula rail corridor. The first one on the list:
1. The HST system is assumed to operate on dedicated tracks, independent of any other passenger or freight rail services, except in the following locations:Note the added emphasis, that only the approach tracks would be shared, namely north of Brisbane. And then, this:
a. Peninsula Corridor – approach tracks leading to the two terminals at Transbay and 4th and King Streets (shared between CHST and Caltrain commuter trains)
8. (...) Train operations at the San Francisco end of the network will be complex, linking the two terminal stations, each with mixed HST and commuter traffic, with the San Francisco‐area storage and maintenance yard, as well as the four‐track main line that has high‐speed trains on two dedicated tracks and commuter trains on the other two tracks.While the document does briefly entertain the alien notion of shared platforms, as well as a "proof-of-payment" fare system where POP must be provided in the paid area of the station (talk about not getting the concept!), what is abundantly clear here is that high-speed rail is being planned on the peninsula without regard to integrating operations with Caltrain--in flagrant disregard of the MOU with Caltrain, and of many successful shared corridors around the world, including even in New Jersey. In this vision, Caltrain is confined to two tracks, and relegated to the role of an operational nuisance on the approach into San Francisco. Any synergy that might arise from Caltrain express trains sharing tracks with high-speed trains is wasted.
Change The Assumptions, Before It's Too Late!
These operating assumptions have dire implications for local commuter rail service on the peninsula.
Caltrain has so far demonstrated a total lack of ambition on the operations front, and has utterly failed, ever since Proposition 1A passed in 2008, to think outside of the two-track box known as Caltrain 2025. There are ways to provide better service with fewer trains, provided that integrated planning is performed up-front by the Peninsula Rail Program, pursuant to the memorandum of understanding (which the above operating assumptions directly contradict).
The high-speed rail program management team is also uninterested, in the first place because their charter is to provide high-speed long-distance service, not commuter service, and secondly, because the same firm built BART. While this can only be alleged, Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas likely has zero interest in improving Caltrain, and every financial interest in receiving another several billion dollars of taxpayer's money to complete BART's manifest destiny to ring the Bay.
Foreign peer reviewers will have little interest in questioning the operational assumptions, since doing so might rock the boat and compromise their future ability to obtain contracts to build and operate California's system.
So just who does that leave to do the right thing, hopefully before any concrete is poured?
Residents and city governments should push hard for Caltrain to integrate its operations with the high-speed rail system, going for maximum flexibility, striking the appropriate balance between local and long-distance services, and enabling the optimal allocation of scarce resources, (such as track capacity at rush hour, platform space at terminal stations, station area footprints in developed areas, etc.) in response to actual demand patterns as they develop. For planning purposes, that means any train should be able to use any track, and stop at any platform.
If peninsula communities are going to bear the considerable disruption of HSR construction and operation, they should have every interest in getting at least a little bit of trickle-down service benefits in return. Otherwise, they may become the rail equivalent of fly-over country.
(thanks to CARRD for obtaining the O&M peer review document)