15 January 2012

The Bookend Approach

There's a lot of turmoil surrounding the California High-Speed Rail Authority these days.  Some want to forget the whole thing, while most sensible politicians (as well as the peer review group) seem to want to re-plan the project to start with the ends rather than the middle, so as to end up with something useful sooner--not to mention spending the federal money already allocated.  What if this actually happened in the coming months?

The first thing you can be sure of is that a tug of war would occur between the SF Bay Area and the LA Basin, with maybe just a sprinkle of money to placate the Central Valley.  Out of the six billion of federal and state monies currently available, let's assume that $2.65 billion ends up here.  Let's further assume that the money is actually spent in ways that enable high-speed rail, rather than poured down the usual black hole of BART extensions, never to be heard from again.  What could and should be built in the San Francisco Bay Area for $2.65 billion of high-speed rail funding?

The bookend approach, in order of priority:

NUMBER ONE: Deploy ERTMS, the train control system that will be used for HSR.  The peninsula corridor, which happens to be in need of a federally-mandated positive train control system but has nowhere near enough money to pay for it, could serve as the perfect testbed to import this key enabling technology of HSR to the United States.  In exchange for full HSR funding, Caltrain would agree to abandon their unfunded and HSR-incompatible CBOSS project.
  • HSR benefit: pilot deployment of ERTMS standard in the US, ready for expansion to the state-wide HSR network.  All regulatory hurdles cleared.
  • HSR funding share: $150 million (Caltrain can pay for other items such as the backup control facility) 
  • Environmental Clearance: not required 
  • Timeline: easily completed before 2015, following the example of Rio de Janeiro or Auckland.
  • Independent Utility: fulfills federal PTC mandate for Caltrain

NUMBER TWO: Electrify the peninsula rail corridor, exactly as already planned.  25kV overhead lines are 100% compatible with HSR and will enable a one-seat ride to San Francisco as soon as HSR reaches the peninsula.  Out of the $1.2 billion budget for the electrification project, $400 million is for a new fleet of Caltrain electric trains, and $800 million is to string up the wires.  It would seem fair to use HSR money for 50% of the fixed infrastructure, and let Caltrain / MTC come up with other funding sources to pay for the trains and the other half of the shared infrastructure.
  • HSR benefit: one-seat access to San Francisco and SFO, without changing trains in San Jose
  • HSR funding share: $400 million (50% of infrastructure cost)
  • Environmental Clearance: Complete and shovel-ready. Federal clearance is in hand, and state clearance is a simple matter of Caltrain certifying their EIR.  Preliminary engineering well underway.
  • Timeline: completed by 2016.
  • Independent Utility: provides faster, better, quieter, less polluting peninsula commute for over 10 million riders a year, and helps "ring the bay" with electric rail transit, relieving highway 101 congestion

NUMBER THREE: Build a mid-line overtake facility.  This 6.5 mile section of four-track railroad would expand the rail corridor from 9th Avenue through southern San Mateo, Belmont and San Carlos, ending at Whipple in Redwood City, by adding a new pair of tracks outboard of the existing tracks.  This adds just 15 feet on each side of existing grade separations.  The overtake would include new grade separations at 25th, 28th and 31st Avenues in San Mateo, and new stations with central island platforms at San Carlos, Hillsdale and Hayward Park.  Belmont already has a suitable island platform.  The mid-line overtake has already been identified as an important enabler of blended operations, by providing an opportunity for faster trains to pass slower trains.
  • HSR benefit: 20 minute shorter travel time to San Francisco
  • HSR funding share: $600 million (100% of the cost)
  • Environmental Clearance: not started.
  • Timeline: probably not complete by 2017 spending deadline of federal HSR funding, unless environmental clearance is fast-tracked.
  • Independent Utility: provides reliable overtaking of Caltrain locals by Caltrain expresses, at a four-platform Hillsdale station where passengers may conveniently transfer between a local and an express that dwell simultaneously on either side of the same island platform (see diagram above).  This improves service frequencies and trip times for millions of riders a year.

NUMBER FOUR: Build the downtown extension (DTX).  This 1.2-mile tunnel would extend the peninsula rail corridor to the Transbay Transit Center in the heart of San Francisco's business district.  This is a very pricey project at $3 billion YOE dollars, and one additional complication is that MTC recently gave it a very low benefit/cost ratio--most likely to protect BART ridership on the Millbrae line, and future plans to ring the bay with BART.  (A very frank, adult conversation will soon have to be had regarding unspoken aspirations for BART to ring the bay.)
  •  HSR benefit: Direct access to the jobs-rich San Francisco central business district, with excellent transit connections to the East Bay to maximize the HSR ridership catchment area on the first day of service.  Realizes full benefit of $400 million investment of HSR funds already made in the Transbay Center train box.
  • HSR funding share: $1.5 billion (50% of the cost)
  • Environmental Clearance: Complete and shovel-ready.  Both EIS and EIR are cleared, and preliminary engineering is well underway.
  • Timeline: could be completed by 2017 spending deadline of federal HSR funding.
  • Independent Utility: provides commuter access to San Francisco's central business district, where there are more jobs than near all the other Caltrain stations combined.  This would most likely result in a system ridership gain of 25% or more, easily 3 million new riders a year.
Some high-speed rail supporters will doubtless see this as a wish list of projects that benefit Caltrain at the expense of true high-speed rail.  However, these are exactly the four projects you would start with in order to build a modern standard-gauge electric railroad into the heart of San Francisco, just what is needed so HSR can run directly to San Francisco's business district from day one.  Insofar as Caltrain happens to also aspire to become a modern, standard-gauge electric railroad, yes, Caltrain benefits greatly.  But let us not forget that the non-HSR funding share to complete these four projects would be well over $2 billion; this is not a shameless and wasteful diversion of HSR funding, but a cost-effective investment in a compatible system that is more than the sum of its parts.

The very high level of "independent utility" for peninsula commuters should not detract from the fact that each of these four projects is a direct enabler of HSR service to San Francisco, effective as soon as the backbone of the system is completed using later tranches of funding.  In the meantime, the earliest investment would pay off immediately, in a way that it never could if a raceway to nowhere were built in the Central Valley.


  1. The problem is that "Out of the six billion of federal and state monies currently available", almost none of it is available to bay or basin. The federal money is allocated for the Central Valley, and as construction must start this year, I don't see any possible procedure to reallocate it.

  2. If the choice is between bookends or nothing, I believe the law will be twisted / changed to allow this to happen, assuming Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, Brown, LaHood, Szabo et al. end up on the same page. The premise of this discussion is that it is possible to pull the money out of the Central Valley... If the premise is wrong, the discussion is moot. If it is possible, however, a plan will have to be devised quickly, and this is what I think it should be.

  3. It would be better to spend all the money connecting LA with Bakersfield. There are other ways to get riders to the Bay Area, without having to deal with the people on the peninsula. SF has only 800,000 residents, and the rest of the peninsula doesn't want high speed rail.

    The best the peninsula will accept, and only reluctantly, is the "blended system", in which the high speed trains will operate as express commuter trains between SF and San Jose, when there are gaps in the Caltrain schedule. If the "blended system", as laid out in this post, proves to be inadequate, the peninsula will fight any further upgrades tooth and nail. Does high speed rail want to be essentially a hostage to these people? Wouldn't it be better to be far, far away from them?

    Clem's plan is a good beginning, and Clem's has been a constructive voice through the whole process. It's just that everybody's tired of the peninsula - its activists and politicians and intellectuals . The peninsula people have dragged the high speed rail project down to the point of cancelation. It's sheer chutzpah to then ask high speed rail to pay for a Caltrain upgrade.

    Over the past year, the peninsula segment has worked itself to dead last on the priority list - after the valley, valley to LA, valley to San Jose, North to Sacramento, and LA to San Diego. Even the train to Las Vegas is regarded more favorably. There's a reason for that.

  4. Clem, in case more than $2.65 billion ends up on the Peninsula, where should it go? More specifically, how high a priority should be assigned to a Dumbarton tunnel, vs. an HSR line from SJ up to Livermore, Tracy, and Stockton?

  5. Great plan, but just one question: should the timed transfer be at Hillsdale or RWC? I make this point because RWC is a Tier 1 stop (reasonable employment + population), while Hillsdale is a Tier 2 stop (good population, but questionable employment). I believe that all trains should stop at Tier 1 stations, but am more hesitant on Tier 2 stops.

  6. Great thread Clem! As a former Pacheco Pass-only supporter, I extend the olive branch of peace to yah. This bookend approach, starting with an upgraded Caltrain from SJ-SF, should absolutely happen vs a Central Valley ICS to nowhere. Call this phase 1. Phase 2 could be a similar upgrade for ACE from SJ-Stockton; SF bound travellers and commuters could transfer to BART in Tri-Valley in the interim. Phase 3 would be a HSR tunnel through the Dumbarton in conjunction with the CV HSR connector to SoCal. In short, yes to bookends and Caltrain.

  7. By the way Clem, why does your "focus on" end in Mt. View and doesn't go south to SJ/Gilroy? Would very much like to know what's going to happen (eventually) with Caltrain in greater Silicon Valley.

  8. Clem, if planning and spending efforts were suddenly refocused to the peninsula, when do you think platform height discrepancy be figured out?

  9. I must say Clem, your dismissal of CEQA is hardly valid.

    The existing electrification EIR did not plan for HSR, it is very dated and CalTrain has been so frightened that they would lose a challenge in a lawsuit, that they have now delayed certifying the EIR for about 2 years.

    Furthermore, there is presently (at least as soon as the Authority de-certifies which court has demanded), no EIR for the HSR project.

    $2.65 billion won't be nearly enough to do a reasonable full HSR segment.

    There is indeed a big push to get enough funds to just electrify, but such a funding plan could not use Pro 1A funds, because of the need to construct in usable segments.

    Would the Feds allow spending of their Funds without State matching? Not likely and certainly to date they have said absolutely not.

    Finally, one really must look at the totality of the whole HSR project, it is now with a $100 billion price tag,for which no foreseeable funding can be envisioned and say, why are we gong down this path?

  10. Finally, one really must look at the totality of the whole HSR project, it is now with a $100 billion price tag,for which no foreseeable funding can be envisioned and say, why are we gong down this path?

    Because with only a marginal amount of critical thinking we could half the price tag.

  11. mid-line overtake facility - How about at Milbrae?

    It cannot be fully 2 island platform with 4 track but Milbrae can be local-express cross transfer point with very small investment.

    How it works?
    (Northbound) Local train arrived at platform 4S (southend of currently unutilized platform) 2 min before arrive the express.
    Passenger want to go SF faster, walk to platform 4.

    2 min later, express arrive platform 4 (current NB platform).
    passenger going to SSF and other local station walk to platform 4s.

    2 min after express depart, local train depart from platform 4s.

    (Sothbound) Add rail east side of current platform. Add crossing to acess to the bus-terminal and downtowm.

    Transfer between local and express is just across the platform.

    (Other benefit) Provide faster service from silicone valley to South Sanfrancisco where has potential ridership with additional revenue into Caltrain.
    Provide faster service between Burlingame, Belmont to SF by transfer express train at Milbrae, not by passed at Bayshore.

    Current VERY POPULAR "regional express = Local south of RWC" can be faster by skipping South SanFrancisco.

    Milbrae is closer to Lawrence, where is another bypass track. This means, train spacing between the express can be shorter.

    We know Caltrain has not enough money to do the improvement. Caltrain need to be more flexible but aggresively seek the opportunity to attract more rider without spending money.

  12. I should have added that the new CHSRA Chair, Richard, has endorsed staying in the Central Valley and so has Governor Brown.

    Here is an interview with outgoing Chair Umberg, done on Jan 13, 2012, 1 day after the major shakeup.


    (about 14 minutes)

  13. @ Anonymous "How about at Milbrae?":

    Disregarding the difficulty, cost and usefulness of re-re-building at Millbrae (third time's a charm!), you should use the force and try messing around with the "Service Pattern Generator" to see whether you ideas are practical. It's educational. Some twisted people might even say it's fun.

  14. So now Peninsula NIMBYS like Morris appear to be advocating a Central Valley ICS (rather than bookend approach) because they feel (rightfully so) that this could be all that we ever get; no HSR on the peninsula ever and Caltrain remains status quo just the way they like it. Unbelievable! Hopefully these people don't get their way in the end.

  15. @Tony D.

    I certainly do not advocate for the ICS in the Central Valley. You wrongly somehow have come to that conclusion.

    I simply pointed out the positions of Gov Brown and incoming Chair Richard.

    I do advocate the project be killed or at the very least a re-vote be taken.

    As for status quo of CalTrain, certainly the blended plan would not improve CalTrain comuter service and it should be a non-starter. HSR should not run on the CalTrain corridor period.

  16. The argument for using Prop 1A funds to pay for a DTX tunnel is very weak. Useful for Caltrain, yes, but definitely not a top priority for HSR right now. Need to fix the first 400+ miles before starting on the last-mile.

  17. If there were more money than I theorized here, you would probably build the RWC grade sep with a four-track elevated station, extending the overtake facility down to Atherton. That would probably cost north of a billion, and as Richard noted the design depends on whether the CHSRA (or the agency that supersedes it) eventually comes to their senses and builds across the Dumbarton. The pricetag is why you don't start with RWC, but use Hillsdale instead.

    Pricetag is also why I had the DTX last, but maybe Drunk is right and it should be deferred even further.

    Morris, the latest endorsements don't mean anything. As you know, in politics, the plan is the plan, until the very last moment when it is no longer the plan. That moment hasn't come yet, but you probably shouldn't assume it won't.

    Level boarding is important too. The first phase of that is for the agencies to agree on a new platform interface, and for Caltrain to procure new electric trains that can handle both heights (8 inch ATOR and whatever the new height turns out to be). I believe this is the key to a smooth platform height transition without any crazy heroics required; it costs a few tens of millions extra up front, but saves hundreds of millions of temporary infrastructure later.

  18. My take is that platforms circa 550mm above top of rail (circa 21-22 inches) are optimal for Caltrain; optimal for HSR; offer a good and low-tech transition, far less low-tech than Clem's proposal; and is the best end result.

    A ~550m Californian state standard platform wins in numerous ways:

    * It's close to the floor/door height of the existing unpowered Bombardier bi-levels of Caltrain and Metrolink.

    * It is widely used in for new suburban and regional rolling stock and stations in Europe and it one of the (two, count 'em, two) standard UIC HS interoperability standards.

    * It's the Swiss standard, just to get that out of the way.

    * There is a variety of modern suburban rolling stock for that height, both single- and double-decker, making for potentially competitive and potentially functional procurement for Caltrain and Metrolink.

    * ADA max step height is 7 inches. The existing Caltrain "platform" is 8 inches. 8 + 7 + 7 = 22 inches = 558mm so a single step built into new trains functions as an interim solution while platforms are progressively rebuilt from 8 inch up to 550mm height.

    * That step up is interim. For new or existing vehicles at existing stations, it's exactly as bad as today. For existing vehicles at rebuilt stations, it's level-ish but may require some sort of gap plate — again, no worse than today. For new vehicles at rebuilt stations, we have level boarding with no fuss and no muss.

    The deployable steps (extremely standard pieces of equipment on thousands of in-service trains) can be simply removed once the platform raising program is complete.

    * Low level platforms with lower level boarding are the best solution for double deck rolling stock, allowing equally spaced doors along the length of the train, an issue with more importance as ridership increases.

    Yes, boarding into a mid level of double deck cars from high level platforms is possible and not the end of the world, but why go with a worse solution when a better one is easier to achieve?

    * High level platforms pretty much guarantee single level HSR, which in the medium to long term increases the number of trains that have to be run to meet demand, which is a potentially massively expensive downside for shared rights of way (Caltrain!) and shared stations (Transbay!!!!!!) Japanese "MAX" don't seem to be successful.

    At least one outside (Belgian) reviewer of CHSRA's plans notes this shortcoming.

    * Yes, the only existing double-decker HS train that is compatible with low platforms (and, note, only with low) is the TGV Duplex. But high speed vehicle procurement for California is decades in the future; and as I cannot tire of saying, I believe this basic design layout (intercity EMU; double deck; low floor entry; low platforms; even door spacing; high level inter-car connection; excellent maintainability and equipment accessibility) is the best thing since sliced bread.

    Summary: low level platforms work best for regional trains; will work best for HS trains; work best for passenger throughput; are supported by existing train designs for near-future competitive Caltrain procurement; provide the most straight-forward and lowest-risk transition path from today's Caltrain-staff-induced platform disaster to a desirable (and legally mandated) future of level and gap-free boarding.

    The only downside is that with one exception none of the HS trains of today, none of which are never going to be bought by anybody in California anyway, are compatible with that platform height. I can live with that, and iI bet f you were to ask Bombardier or Siemens or Mitsubishi or Alstom or Kawasaki they'd not have a hell of a lot of trouble living with it either.

  19. Adirondacker1280017 January, 2012 15:07

    are progressively rebuilt from 8 inch up to 550mm height.

    Progressive as in one side of a station all at once not ten inch platforms then 15 inch platforms and then finally arriving at 550 mm..... Somebody out there on the Internet is confecting a scenario where they add an inch of asphalt to all the platforms once a year....

  20. Dear "Adirondacker12800",

    "Progressive" means one platform of one station at a time. You know, the way everybody on the entire planet rebuilds old sub-standard stations up to a new standard. They way they even do it in New York State ... or at least downstate. There are pictures. Pictures out there. Pictures on the web. Pictures of progress. Progressivity. Platform progressification.

    One day one has a sub-standard station. On a different day, a "later" day according to the conventions of the single linear dimension of time to which you puny humans are confined, one has a standard station. If you close your eyes (and, for some specially deserving cases, hold your breath) for long enough it all looks like magic!

    Not that anybody could possibly have thought otherwise. Congratulations on successfully maintaining your perfect record in the domain in which you excel.

  21. Adirondacker1280017 January, 2012 21:58

    Dear Richard,
    Far too many Californians have no concept of what railroads do, how they do it, how to use them etc. I assumed f doing the northbound side and then doing the southbound side or some variant all at once. Even SEPTA manages to maintain service on both sides during their once a decade project to convert a station to level boarding. At the rate they are going they should be finished in a thousand years or so.
    But, I can imagine Raphael rambling on for 4 or 5 thousand words about how they could lay a layer of asphalt to make the platforms 9 inches high in 2014 and another inch in 2015 etc.

    And speaking of lovely pictures I especially like the ones of Penn Station in Newark when the western side of the station is complete and they are starting on the eastern side. If I remember correctly the island platform between track 3 and 4 is open to the east... circa 1936, Wasn't until 1937 that they closed Manhattan Transfer where people had been making cross platform transfers between trains since 1910....

  22. As a longtime advocate of Caltrain Electrification, DTX and express tracks with local to express cross platform transfers, I find the notion to use of HSR money for these updates is interesting, but I do not believe that federal funds could be used as such.

    Ultimately, the Bay Area and the MTC need to get Caltrain a dedicated funding source similar to BART. If a fraction of the BART to San Jose funds could be diverted to Caltrain, we could have a top performing electrified commuter rail system with BART frequency and local/express service utilizing timed transfers.

    As for the HSR project, I still believe the ideal first segment is in the central valley as currently planned.

    If another segment is adopted for the initial HSR construction, I would recommend the Bakersfield to LA Basin. As a Northern Californian, this is not a natural selection, but with this segment built, Amtrak could provide dramatically enhanced statewide rail service between northern and southern california while the remander of HSR is built.

    Building this segment first would also help in getting the desert express built to Las Vegas.

  23. Central Valley is still the right place to start construction as nothing else could get environmentally cleared in time to use ARRA funds. And yes, the next step should be Bakersfield to the LA Basin. With a timed transfer from Amtrak to HSR in Fresno (later Merced) we might finally have a functioning SF to LA rail link.

    I think it's very unlikely that CAHSR would be willing to fund upgrades for Caltrain as proposed here, even if it would benefit them many years later down the line. A few billion for 1.2 miles of track in downtown SF, some electronics and some overhead wire will not look like a good return on investment, and instead will look like a commuter rail agency poaching funds intended for high-speed rail. The passing tracks would never be environmentally cleared in time for the ARRA deadline.

    The solution to the Caltrain funding problem is to fold it into BART, with the clear instruction that BART must run it as a standard gauge rail operation with express and local service, compatible with HSR but not necessarily compatible with freight. BART might then be willing to give up a broad-gauge platform at Millbrae, integrate fares and ticketing with their own, simplify the timetable to one local and one express stopping pattern, and improve the transfer at Millbrae and (in the future) Santa Clara. I can imagine the BART map as is with two extra lines added from Transbay to Tamien, one stopping at every station and one stopping just at major stations.

  24. we could have a top performing electrified commuter rail system with BART frequency and local/express service utilizing timed transfers.

    If Caltrain put such roadmap into electrification, more people will support this.

    For example,

    Express train: Every 15 min (Peak) or 30 min (Off peak - Weekend)
    Local Train: Every 15 min (7 Days a week)

    Provide 15min frequency at all the station, except early morning/late night.

    EMU is more flexible with train length to adjust demand.

    I will strongly support Tax ballot for Caltrain if they show us such roadmap.

  25. Trouble is, any Caltrain funding ballot will now be seen by Peninsula NIMBYs as a foot in the door for HSR. Re-branding the service as BART might just give the boost in support needed to overcome the anti-HSR opposition.

  26. Clem: The location of your proposed mid-line over-take-segment is a little south of the center of the series of stations Caltrain expresses would likely skip, somewhat north of the center of the series of stations HSR trains would probably skip but by far the closest together and lowest cost to grade separate and quadruple track of any 4 station segment along the SF−SJ rail route. Combining the ability to schedule an over-take along SBHH stretch with the ability hold a late local train afforded by the current south-of-Redwood City passing tracks or a late express train passing a local at the current Millbrae or Bayshore passing points one could nearly double the number express trains that could be scheduled and sharply reduce mutual interference between off-schedule express and local trains.
    Deploy ERTMS if that will stop Caltrain from developing a custom train separation control system. Even though this blogs’ contributors are generally far too averse to modifying train systems in response to local conditions the inherently complex nature of computer based train control systems has resulted in a sometimes unreliable, expensive, and presently mediocre performance for BART’s current locally developed train separation system; an object lesson on how not to proceed. (Like developing your own computer operating system: unless you have deep pockets, a talented development team, and a compelling need, obviously none of these elements evident for peninsula rail transit, it is far easier to purchase an already developed system.)

  27. Adirondacker1280018 January, 2012 22:14

    Like developing your own computer operating system: unless you have deep pockets, a talented development team...

    Well,... when it comes to OSes there's more than one free one, free in the sense that they are open source and free in the sense that they are free to distribute. Not that you'd want to use some of them - FreeDOS for instance - but there are some that work well, if not better than the paid ones.

  28. @John Bacon Train control systems are not really an "off the shelf" product in that there's always going to be some customization. It's easiest when you can build something out of standard components, whcih is sort of what ERTMS is trying to do. But when you try to just buy an "off the shelf" system, you end up like Muni did with Seltrac: a complete system meltdown, which slowly improved to deliver merely subpar performace. A decade later, London Underground bought a SelTrac system and had pretty much the same terrible results. On the other hand, there's plenty of new-build metro systems that use it with no problems. ETCS is hopefully a bit more standard and easier to get working, but there are still some significant problems with using it as an end to end solution, especially ETCS Level 2 on dense urban networks (and American PTC systems have some of the same exact problems, notably spectrum efficiency).

    1. "But when you try to just buy an "off the shelf" system, you end up like Muni did with ..."
      You have your history and conclusions entirely backward there.

      Muni's failure was driven more than anything by the non-off-the-shelf local customizations, requiring "communicating" automatic control trains and "non-communicating" PTC-enforced but manually driven trains, and a crazy mixed fleet of new and immensely unreliable then and now Breda "light" rail vehicles, a partially "communicating" fleet of Boeings, and a whole pile of "non-communicating" Boeings. It was a mile high tower of turds, all driven by America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

      Muni never needed and still doesn't need a CBTC train control system, but America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals specced that and nothing else. Alcatel didn't want the mixed fleet nonsense, but America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals insisted. Muni's consultants, and in particular Booz Allen Hamilton, made out like total fucking bandits, being rewarded with tens of millions for unmitigated failure, and none of Muni's of the SFTA' grotesquely incompetent staff paid the slightest penalty, personal, fiscal or professional.

      The lesson is that you copy what works, and that local customizations, particularly mixing multiple train control systems are an unending nightmare.

      The lesson from London's Jubilee Line Extension is exactly the same. There again an over-specced CBTC from consultants run amok was ripped out and replaced by known-working legacy signalling in order to actually be able to run trains. (Ironically it was a branch of our local disaster-abetters Bechtel who came in, knocked heads together, threw out the wasn't-going-to-work signalling fiasco, and finally got the project opened.) A decade afterwards the Jubilee line was retrofitted with Seltrac S40 signalling, with few problems.

      The only course for a microscopic little nowhere shuttle line like Caltrain — with absolutely zero (less than zero) in-house expertise, near-zero technical requirements, the least complicated network in the world, a minute fleet, and no legacy train control system requiring complex interfaces — to follow is in fact to buy "off the shelf". Anybody who suggests Unique Local Requirements should have his fingers cut off; it's that simple. Unique Local Requirements solely benefit corrupt rent-seeking consultant mafiosi, and always have huge economic and service deferral and service unreliability costs to the sucker public.

      It's completely cut and dried. Buy exactly what competent grown-ups have already debugged on your behalf. Don't customise. Don't whatever you do voluntarily engage in multi-PTC multi-system miscegenation. And don't under any circumstance hire any of America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

    2. Very well said. If blended operation is to happen, the 2 systems really need to share a common control system too. As new electric train fleets will be required for both services, they both must be specified to share many common standards, from power systems, through platform heights to control system interfaces. ERTMS/ETCS is the way to go, being adopted in many parts of the world not just in Europe. There's no reason why American organisations can't make or market compatible equipment, or supply system engineering and local customisation and certification services either, as all the core performance and interface standards are openly available and not the proprietary property of particular companies, unlike SELTRAC for instance.

  29. Richard at Jan 17, 2012 02:17 PM was a little disingenuous.

    The EU has two platform-height standards: 550mm and 760mm.
    550mm is not "the Swiss standard": it's the UIC TSI standard which most of Europe is moving to -- if you include Russia.

    The UK and Ireland, and Spain, are sticking with their own standards. Ireland is an island with isolaed, non-standard-gauge rail. The UK terminal for HS1 has 760mm platforms, and HS2 will be either 550 or 760mm. Extant ex-BR standard plaforms are 915mm.

    As Richard notes, the only extant HSR trainset compatible with both 550mm platforms and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is the TGV Duplex. Which is.. a TGV p-o-s, and almost certainly wouldn't make the LA-SF time mandated by Prop 1A. (Not that contrary facts ever seem to bother Altamontistas.)

    While I sympathize with 550mm, Richard overstates the case.

    ... Richard, having dug deeply into your cross-referenced posts -- for which you have my entirely serious applause! -- I noticed you state that DB standards call for 4000mm track-centre-to-center spacing. Could you give me a source for that? My sources are _old_; Horst J Obermayer's ''Taschenbuch der Eisenbahn,, vol. 2, quotes 4700mm track-centre-to-track-center spacing for both lines > 160km/hr, and tunnels/bridges. Mind you, it's copyrighted in the 1970s.

    I do know that the ICE-1 and ICE-2 had too wide a loading-gauge to run on the then-prevailing LGV track, which is why the ICE-3 has a narrower loading gauge. And 4.000m may be adequate for the ICE-3. But if that's the reasoning, it's entirely possible that the wider loading-gauge called for by CSHRA might legitimately need wider clearance than 4m.

    John Bacon might have something interesting to offer here.

    (oh, and as for 2009 comments about PB employees not being qualifed to run an HO trainset in their bedroom: *For shame*! Anyone meeting *YOUR* unique standard of competence would know that's really an H0 (H, digit-zero; halb-null) model railway.

    .. and Richard: before you ask: yes, the reason I have Obermayer's and Pachl's books (and others) on my bedside table, is so that *my* model railway will be, um, realistic.
    You wouldn't happen to know how exactly how SBB Basel (a terminus station) actually accomplished the locomotive changes for Germany/Swiss TEE traffic in the 1980s, would you?

    1. Wait, I thought H0 vs. HO was just one of these interminable online flamewars, for which there is no real answer. (For the record: Emacs is better than vi, Final Fantasy 7 is the best in the series, and gaming consoles are stupid and people should play computer games.)

    2. Dear Jonathan,

      I hope that you're mis-using and misunderstanding the meaning of the word "disingenuous". I'm often wrong. for any number of reasons, but do try to avoid that one.

      When I propose German practice I'm generally going by either the DB standards (Richtlinie, "RiL", of which the 800.* series is most relevant for track geometry). These conform to and reference the federal law, Eisenbahn-Bau- und Betriebsordnung ("EBO"). To go really nuts there's the fact-checking rathole of the Eisenbahnspezifische Liste Technischer Baubestimmungen (ELTB). I also have most of the relevant bits of Swiss, Austrian, Swedish and Norwegian standards. (Note that I am fluent in none of these languages, nor German.)

      In practice, I usually just refer to a printed copy of the text book Handbuch Entwerfen von Bahnanlagen. There is nothing special about this book, it's just the one I own, and there are several alternatives.

      A ton of practical information can be gleaned from course material and student theses of the technical universities. Studies for various transit agencies can be informative about contemporary planning practices.

      Re track spacing: here in Caltrain-HSR-land we aren't (or shouldn't be) dealing with high-speed standards at all. The German minimum track spacing is 3.5m (with all sorts of corrections depending on curve radius, track speed, superelevation.) On open mainline track 4.0m is the design standard. 4.5m from a station platform track. 4.5m for ≥200kmh (though 4.0m is allowed up to 230kmh with direct fixation track.) 5.5m between a mainline track and an overtaking track, 6.4m if there are catenary stanchions between then. etc.

      Re 550mm ATOR "Swiss Standard". It is the Swiss standard, regardless of it being others'. I only called that out because people get on my case about slavishly copying Swiss railway practices (as if that's a negative!), so I was being tongue in cheek forthright about my transgressive secret master plan.

      Re "wider loading-gauge": I think there's a lot to be said for designing for wide equipment, meaning 2+3 seating even for obscene American buttocks. You won't hear me argue against a bit of reasonable future-proofing and flexibility in the vehicle envelope horizontal department. But it's a spandex-ripping stretch to turn that into a 4.7m full-bore HS spacing for sub-200kmh Caltrain corridor tracks, where as we know ROW can be very precious.

      Re "TEE traffic in the 1980s" I know exactly nothing. I don't have much of a rail history interest, outside of a general enthusiasm for Victorian and Edwardian engineering. (NB includes chooff chooff chooff!) I'd ask on the Yahoo "Swissrail" mailing list, where Markus Giger is 95% certain to provide the answer.

      That you own a copy of Joern Pachl's Railway Operation and Control is great. This book is cheap by the standards of such things, well-written, and extremely informative. It's by far the best comparative overview on the subject available in English, and perhaps in any other language. Everybody: buy this book! Slightly more expensive but equally good from the same author is Railway Timetable & Traffic: Analysis - Modelling - Simulation. Again, understandable, informative, and clear, and provides enough background to allow intelligent discussion.

    3. @Alon
      Troll accepted :)
      CT FTW, FF4great, FF6alsogreat, FF7 is OK.
      Darius robotic fish sashimi... oh yeah.

      Anyway, imagine what all these billions could accomplish for file mile transit and the real impact it would have on our energy consumption for commuting, considering that we commute far more than we travel long distance. I can't help but think all of this transit system development is being approached from the wrong end. Of course, ideals don't matter, reality matters -- I'll take what we can get. That said...

      Has there been any real effort to developed a more unified transit coordination organization to yield coherent solutions to our transit problems? From what I've seen it seems that we need something that can facilitate complete end-to-end solutions instead of half-baked "legs" of the journey. Details about platform height and rolling stock don't matter if the system is broken as a whole.

      Clem has been doing great work in looking at all the problems relating to Caltrain-CAHSR interop, but I wonder if the scope really needs to be broadened.

  30. Richard,

    the Handbuch I have is copyrighted 1977. DB standards for open mainline haven't changed.
    I agree that requiring 4.7m spacing on the Caltrain corridor is absurd. Did someone just pull that number out of thin air? Same goes for the horizontal spacing between masts, er, poles. Why on earth are they so close together? I mean, really, if Caltrain is sufficiently enlightened to get a waiver for UIC equipment, why can't they also get regulatory approval to electrify to UIC (or DB or SBB or SNCF) standards? Surely it cannot be as simple as that the local "experts" don't stand to make any money out of trainsets, but do stand to make money from bizarrely over-engineered electrification? Can it?

    Seems I took your point about SBB using a 550mm platform height entirely backwards.

    1. Adirondacker1280020 January, 2012 20:48

      Same goes for the horizontal spacing between masts, er, poles. Why on earth are they so close together?

      They are designing for the Great Ice Storm of 1998?

    2. It's the thing that accumulates on the sidewalks that they do not remove over here in Lovecraft Country.

    3. Adirondacker1280020 January, 2012 22:31

      That's what studded overshoes are for...


    4. Ooops. Again: if Caltrain has enough clue to get an FRA waiver, why can't they get a waiver from CPUC from General Order 26-D, rule 3.4 and 3.5?
      Or would a common platform height (more than 8in ATOR) for both Caltrain and HSR require gauntlet tracks through all Caltrain stations?


    5. Adirondacker1280021 January, 2012 13:34

      That really depends on your Granddaddy. Mine worked at the concrete plant that supplied concrete for Penn Station in Newark so my Granddady's concepts in include things like AC traction from high voltage overhead catenary, level boarding, cross platform transfers..... any train any platform anytime.... just gotta pick a different set of parents...

    6. I looked up the relevant Russian standards, and it seems that at least for standard double-track lines with speeds of up to 140 kph, the minimum track spacing is 4100 mm (about 13.5 feet) between stations and 4500 mm at stations. And this is on a network with trains that are 3700 mm (12 feet) wide, wider than even American trains. By Russian standards, a four track line would have just under 64 feet between the catenary supports, and adjusting for the difference in train widths, the standards would have just 58 feet between the poles, probably just enough to fit in a 65-foot ROW, and that's with a extra-wide space between the center pair of tracks.

  31. or being in a different state.

    Richard, I've read Clem's articles. I _read_ your little rant text the first time you posted it on Robert's blog. I replied to brsk's reply to you. Metrolink didn't get a waiver. So either Metrolink is equally incompetent, or Boxer's aide was wrong.

    So, some serious questions: *Why* is Caltrain proposing 50 yards between masts, er, poles? (DB uses 80m spacing, and DB gets heavy snow and ice some winters. Don't even ask about SBB). *Why* does anyone think electrification down the Peninsula, at not more than 200km/hr, *needs* track-to-track-center spacing of 4.7m, suitable for 330 km/hr?
    *Why* do they stick with for 203.2mm ATOR platforms forever?

    I want to know *why* they arrive that these requirements. That's the first step toward getting them to *change* those alleged requirements. And no, rants about corrupt or monopoly-rent-seeking contractors is not an answer.

    1. A lady once asked him how he came to define 'pastern', the knee of a horse: instead of making an elaborate defence, as might be expected, he at once answered, "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."

    2. Metrolink has not asked for a waiver that I know of. It has no plans to modernize, or to pseudo-modernize as Caltrain does; the only thing about it that Caltrain can learn from is the lower cost of its PTC implementation, and that's because it's going for regular freight compatibility rather than developing its own new system.

    3. Metrolink also operated with only one conductor, not two. That's sort of an improvement over Caltrain, and their signalling department's designs are a little closer to modern. Also, they're showing some tendency in the direction of at least acknowledging other railroads like Amtrak in ticket machines and timetables and coordinating with Coaster, even venturing south of Oceanside.

      Anyway, I suspect getting CPUC waivers isn't quite that easy: a significant amount of the problems with LA's Expo line are due to somewhat arbitrarily imposed CPUC requirements, like having cab signals at the junction with the Blue Line, or the crossing at Farmdale. But then again, I don't especially trust the Expo Line Authority's competence on technical matters. Either way, I imagine a coordinated technical and political effort by a competent agency would be able to succeed in changing at least the platform height regulations, given that there's precedent on the East Coast for just this sort of thing.

  32. Anonymous: yes, the East Coast is a great precedent to argue. The CPUC regulations still have paragraphs about clearance fo ricing platforms. Took me a while to realize they meant manually pitchforking ice into ice-cooled wooden refrigerated cars.

    The only justification for clearance seems to be wide loads, and so train-men can ride hanging off outside the normal vehicle envelope. Obviously, neither one would work on the East Coast 48in platforms. So just how prevalent *is* the practice of riding the steps on a freight train, hanging outside the vehicle envelope?? Changing 19th-century (or first-half-of-20th-century regulations: (CPUC General Order 26-C is dated Feb 1, 1948!) which are now patently irrelevant, really should not require *that* much effort...

    So. Other than Richard ranting at them uncivilly, and this blog, what does PJPB and Caltrain management actually *know* about level boarding? And that mini-high platforms are not an option for new construction and new trainsets? Let alone dwell time
    Do they nkonw? Do they *care? The Board members are political appointees; don't they care? Are there no repercussions on the elected officials who appoint them??

    1. So. Other than Richard ranting at them uncivilly, and this blog, what everybody is waiting for it for KIWI JONATHAN to come in and politely point our the problem which somehow got overlooked and to politely suggest a constructive solution which might otherwise have escaped the attention of the parties involved, given how involved they were with more important matters of state. It's the least you can do, and the world will be eternally grateful.

    2. I suspect it'd carry more weight if someone who can actually vote made the suggestion... I can't vote Did I miss a kiloton of sarcasm?

      i havn't attended any of the Board meetings. I read Mike Rosenberg's march 2011 piece in the Mercury News. I still find it incredible.

      "affairs of state"? Like working to get CBOSS funded? Bletch.

  33. Re: Threaded comments... turns out they don't quite work in Internet Explorer. Until the mad scientists at Google fix this bug, I have reverted back to the old system.

  34. Clem, in the CAHSR technical documents, doesn't CAHSRA cited one of the advantage of wide-body HSR transets (i.e. Shinkensen width, 3.38m) is that it can meet CPUC regulation for freight trains without gauntlet tracks and meets ADA requirement for level boarding?

  35. Adirondacker1280023 January, 2012 12:32

    doesn't CAHSRA cited one of the advantage of wide-body HSR transets

    You mean the trains that are a few inches wider than the ones running all over North America right now? Shinkansen are nominally 11 feet wide. Standard North American passenger cars are nominally 10'6".

  36. @ William

    Unfortunately, no, widebody trainsets do not solve the problem. CPUC G.O. 26-D (from 1948!!!) requires a minimum of 7 feet 6 inches from center line for any platform between 8 inches and 4 feet TOR.

    So, unless we make the cars more than 14 feet across, it won't work.

  37. News Flash!!!

    100 homes and numerous businesses destroyed in San Bruno!!!

    Caltrain recently built two additional “shoo-fly” tracks next to the existing Caltrain tracks and is now operating on the shoo-fly tracks. This brings a total of FOUR tracks at grade in San Bruno. The two original Caltrain tracks are being ripped up to make way for the San Bruno grade separation. The new shoofly tracks have lead to a path of destruction of homes and businesses along First Avenue and Huntington Avenue in San Bruno. Homeowners and business owners fought a valiant battle but to no avail, in the end their homes and businesses were lost and they now have nothing…..

    Copyright 2012, Peninsula NIMBY News Services.

    Well, Peninsula, Morris, Nadia, Elisabeth, Burlingame City Council, Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblyman Rich Gordon, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, can you tell us why all these home/businesses in San Bruno have not been destroyed during the construction (and now operational) of the two (additional) shoo-fly tracks?

    Inquiring minds want to know…

  38. @Anonymous:

    why defend the decision to blidly stick to regulations from 1948, regluations which even in 1948 were unjustified? The NEC doesn't heed these crazy clearances.

    If Caltrain is smart enough to get a waiver for UIC equipment --hopefully off-the-shelf UIC equiment, then why not get a waiver for platforms which allow level boarding? Or get the myopic, pointless, 1948-ice-coold-wooden-refigerated-cars regulation *changed*?

    Is Mr. Anonymous defending Caltrain, PJPB, or their engineering consultants? Or the CPUC of 1948?

  39. Re: Threaded comments... turns out they don't quite work in Internet Explorer.

    Wouldn't de-supporting IE be a net benefit for the internet?

    1. Threaded comments are turned back on. Google claims to have fixed the issue with IE9, if not with earlier versions. If it still doesn't work for folks, what can I say, use a modern standards-compliant browser like Firefox or Chrome.

      There will be another bigger change coming to the blog shortly, known as dynamic views. It's a very nice way to dredge up oldies but goodies, that get buried in the ancient geologic layers of the current format. It's not quite ready for prime time yet... stay tuned.

  40. Fun fact: if you look at the Caltrain mini-low platforms, you can see that the platform edge is exactly 7.5 feet from the track centerline. There's also railing perpendicular to the track, and at the top, where the horizontal part meets the vetrical support, there's a slight bit that's at a 45 degree angle. That bend is actually required by the CPUC's clearance regulations.

    On the topic of East Coast precendent, there are a few lines that have high platforms and some freight service and no gauntlet tracks/retractable platforms/express tracks: Boston to South Attleboro and Poughkeepsie to Croton Harmon (outside of NY). The level of freight traffic and general significance of these lines to the national freight network is probably about the same as that of the Peninsula Corridor, if not slightly higher. And there are definitely a few other lines in California that either only have passenger operations or are mostly focused on that and that could benefit from level boarding into Bombardier bilevels.

  41. Clem;

    what do you mean by "adult conversation abour ring-the-bay"?

    1. I mean that the powers-that-be aspire to a new BART line between Millbrae and Santa Clara (they have for decades!), something that clouds their judgment for decision-making on peninsula rail corridor investment matters. The adult conversation boils down to this: the long-term choice for the peninsula is between HSR or BART, and to choose is to renounce.

  42. The Worcester Line, which was owned by CSX west of Framingham until last year, has a car-length high platform at every station on the western half of the line. I do not remember seeing gauntlet tracks, and there were definitely no express tracks.

  43. Re "Fun fact: if you look at the Caltrain mini-low platforms, you can see that the platform edge is exactly 7.5 feet from the track centerline ..."

    In living black, white and red: Caltrain Design Standard (v2! new and never-to-be-improved!) Drawing SD-3101 "STATIONS AND FACILITIES / MINI-HIGH PLATFORMS / PLATFORM CONFIGURATIONS". Proof, yet again, that it is possible to operate a CAD system without having possessing single functioning decision-making neuron. ("Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.)

    America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, on the job.

    (PS Bring back threaded comments. Or ditch blogspot.com, whose maintenance clearly doesn't even rate Google's Z-grade Software Professonals' attention.)

  44. As an aside, the fact that we are yet to see (or I am yet to hear of) severe injury caused by the mini high platform nonsense itself — those being huge tripping and mobility hazards placed in the immediate vicinity of deadly moving industrial machinery, and generally at the point of maximum platform congestion and in the direct path of highest pedestrian flow — is fortunate and a little miraculous.

    Deliberately place barriers and tripping hazards at the points of maximum danger: excellent thinking, that!

    I mean, just look at it! (This for just one example.) It's worse than insane, it's an active danger.

    I'd just love to see somebody pay and pay and pay for this bullshit "solution" (with their pathetic "career", with all their assets, with their pension, with their non-incacerated liberty) ... but naturally without seeing somebody innocent (innocent of membership in the fraternity of America's Finest Transportation Planing Professionals, that is) suffer horribly in the process.

    1. I once saw a guy nearly get killed by an express, as he sat on the mini-high and realized a bit late that the train would pass within inches of his knees. He jumped out of the way with seconds to spare after I yelled.

  45. Regarding the mid-line overtake suggestion. Scoping out the Caltrain ROW suggests that use of eminent domain and reconstruction of existing tracks and grade separations would be minimized by adding two tracks to the west side of the two existing tracks, rather than adding one on each side as you suggest. To the east side of the existing tracks are businesses from F St in San Carlos north to 42nd Ave in San Mateo, and a highway most of the rest of the way. Freeway supports are also a constraint near Hayward Park. To the west side there is mostly empty land, or parking lots.

    If you added two tracks to the west side you would need to take a few businesses (mainly auto dealers) just south of Hillsdale station, and just north of Whipple Ave you would need to shift the existing tracks slightly east to avoid taking businesses. You would also need to move the 'historic' San Carlos depot, but I think that would have to be done in any case.

    Adding two tracks to the west is no problem for a SFFS configuration- you just demolish the southbound platform, add two tracks and rebuild it as an outboard platform. As Belmont already has an island platform it might be easier just to add another island platform and use it as the mid-line timed transfer station instead of Hillsdale. For a FSSF configuration, things are trickier- at each station you would need to demolish both outboard platforms and re-align the existing tracks into the space where the northbound platform was, creating the 'wow' around the newly constructed central island platform.

    In summary, if CAHSR goes with SFFS, build two tracks to the west and use Belmont for the timed transfer station for minimum construction headaches.

    1. Intriguing suggestion. By the way, Samtrans already owns all the land around the Whipple crossing. That grade separation was supposed to be built back in the Ralston/Brittan days, but got de-scoped after the land was acquired. The businesses that operate there would not need to be "taken" other than revoking their easement.

      One little issue is the Transit Village plan in San Carlos, which will encroach on your western tracks. Strangely enough, this plan is being aided and abetted by SamTrans / Caltrain.

  46. @Alon from what I recall seeing on the Worcester Line, the mini-highs have flip-up platform edges. The ones on the Providence Line do not, and the Upper Hudson Line has full-length high platforms on both tracks at all the (real) stations.

    @Everyone else: on the topic of ETCS, I found out that the Berlin S-Bahn is installing a train control system "based on" ETCS Level 1, using the same balises but different onboard software, and thus not actually interoperable (but it doesn't need to be). So basically, they take the approach of using the same well-tested hardware where applicable, and writing some software to adapt it to their actual requirements. Basically the same process that led to ACSES, and using the same standard balises too.

    1. Here's a shave and a haircut in Ossining, NY. Big bad freight train encounters high platform and nothing happens.

    2. You mean to say that the platforms are positioned just outside the loading gauge of the trains passing by them? Blasphemy!

    3. This looks like a great opportunity for Kiwi.Jonathan to politely and conscientiously make Caltrain aware iof this marvellous and unexpected solution. Antipodean power to the rescue!

      The qualified, competent, professional, motivated and highly successful Program Director of the "Caltrain Modernization Program", Marian Lee, can be reached at leem@samtrans.com. Do let her know: this could be a real game-changer.

    4. PS Happy Australian Day to all our West Island brethren.

  47. A few billion more about to be abstracted to backfill BART (aka PB's northern "bookend" black hole in "urban" San José, Capital of Silicon Valley):

    ED GOLDMAN: This train's going somewhere

    Sacramento Business Journal by Ed Goldman, Columnist
    Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 8:45am PST

    I’m in an eighth-floor office at 770 L St. on a blustery day chatting with the bluster-free Dan Richard. Since Richard is the new board chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority. I ask him if the new-and-improved business plan that Gov. Jerry Brown wants on his desk any minute now will have any surprises in it. “Yes, there’s a very big surprise,” Richard says, calmly removing his classes and rubbing his eyes. And that is…? “I think it will surprise everyone that we’ve actually listened to our critics for a change,” he says with a fraction of a smile. About what, specifically? “We simply can’t ignore urban areas when we build this thing,” he says.


    This isn’t Richard’s maiden voyage on the dangerous seas of public transportation. He was board president of the Bay Area Rapid Transit district for 12 years, where he helped secure the financing for $4 billion worth of capital improvements (mainly seismic retrofitting and the system’s expansion to San Francisco International Airport. ...

  48. @Richard Mlynarik during your advocacy for 550 mm platform heights dated 17 January, 2012 you said:
    “The only downside [to 550 mm] is that with one exception none of the HS trains of today, none of which are never going to be bought by anybody in California anyway, are compatible with that platform height. I can live with that, and iI bet f you were to ask Bombardier or Siemens or Mitsubishi or Alstom or Kawasaki they'd not have a hell of a lot of trouble living with it either.”
    What ever happened to the sensible notion ‘any train on any track’? Surely you don’t mean adjustable height platforms or short trains stopping at appropriate boarding heights available on a long platform; an approach I observed in Cleveland.
    Clem’s September 2009 posting on platform heights indicates for all high speed rail systems listed boarding platform heights range from 1069 to 1250 mm with the highest level platform, for the Japanese Shinkansen, is for a system whose design was least constrained by a need to be compatible with a legacy rail infrastructure. With no legacy constraint the Shinkansen designers were free to optimize floor height in order to minimize air resistance and leave enough room to install and, more effectively than most installations, cool large high density heat producing components such as traction motors and transformers. A large high bogie helps accommodate a long travel suspension system a fast train requires unless you are willing to tolerate the cost of maintaining a near perfectly smooth track. Over 94.7% of mechanical energy losses per unit distance for a Shinkansen 300 at @ 270 km/hour on a level route (derived from this raw data: 12,000 kw @ 296 km/hour balancing speed, 710 tonnes, rolling resistance L/D = 1000) is air resistance which sharply declines the farther a train’s underbody is from the track-way. In any case the degree a high speed train’s energy efficiency declines and the need to mitigate the discomfort due to track imperfections with longer travel suspension systems increases by 4 times over that required for a regional train running at half HSR speeds on similar quality track.
    Because a HSR train designer is far more constrained by immutable physical realities, such as a tendency to be unstable and to run inefficiently at high speed, the lower performance rolling stock design, Caltrain’s, should follow the CHSR lead where common interfaces are useful.
    The CHSR Authority should consider the Alstom single level TGV’s 1069 mm platform height which is remarkably close to BART’s 1067 mm platform height. Convenient transfers and track-way and station cost sharing synergies would result from an-any-track-way-any-train unity at heavily patronized inherently expensive to construct subway connection stations for CHSR, Caltrain, and BART under San Jose’s Market Street, its Airport Terminal, and San Francisco’s Market Street.

    1. In the 1960s, when the Shinkansen was built, low-floor trains had not yet been invented. At the time, level boarding meant high floors. Even after low-floor light rail and mainline trains and buses became available, the initial designs were only partially low-floor, with higher floors in parts of the interior; fully low-floor vehicles are a very recent invention.

      None of this means that 550 mm is the correct choice (1,220 all the way), but the problems with it are not exactly "It'd not what people did in the 1960s." They're close - they're more like "There are no high-speed trains for it and won't be because it's not what people did in the 1960s and now they're used to high platforms."

      On three other notes, the Shinkansen underbody is a few inches above the tracks; the floor is high, but all the electrical equipment is under it. The single-level TGV is a technological dead-end. And BART compatibility is pointless given that gauge differences mean no track sharing.

    2. Single-level TGV may be a dead-end, but single-level AGV (or Velaro) most certainly are not.

      AGV entrance requires two 200mm steps. Does that mean ADA-compliant level boarding would actually require a ~950mm platform height?

    3. Hm. The Alstom presentation to the CHSRA says internal height of the AGV is 1155mm. Two 200mm steps downward from 1155mm would mean a ~750mm height platform, not 550mm. And true level-boarding would require ~1155mm platform height.

      1067mm (3ft6in need not apply ;). 550mm seems like a loser _for HSRA_, too.

      I see Clem spelled this all out here at http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2009/09/platform-height.html (2009/09/platform-height.html). But one thing that gets wrong is the CPUC regulations which lead to 8in ATOR platforms with dangerous "mini-high" platforms. As I read the CPUC General Order 26-D, the clearance envelope is only required _for lines carrying freight_.

      In that light, the CHSRA's focus on "separate and unequal" dedicated-to-HSR tracks makes some sense.
      Much _less_ sense than getting CPUC to allow level boarding on commuter lines, without expensive silliness like gauntlet tracks. But that's another story.

      Clem, do you have any estimate on how many $$$ gauntlet tracks would add to the cost of electrifying the Peninsula? With the current regulatory regime, that's the only really safe (passive) way to get level boarding. Adding gauntlet tracks to all the grade separations sounds really expensive, at first sniff.

    4. Adirondacker1280026 January, 2012 20:46

      As I read the CPUC General Order 26-D, the clearance envelope is only required _for lines carrying freight_.

      Only for railroads and their unions that allow employees to dangle from freight cars.

    5. CPUC doesn't distinguish between railroads and unions. All freight-carrying railroads require the ... well, the envelope described by the mini-high platforms on Caltrain.

      Look at CPUC General Order 26-D. Section 1 is definitions. Sections 2 through 7 apply to "standard gauge railroads and street railroads carrying freight cars". Section 8 applies to narrow-gauge railroads carrying freight cars. Sec 9 and 10 apply to railroads NOT carrying freight cars. (SEctions 12 and 13 sections, defining minimum tangent tracks, and roads/highways/streets crossing rails, aren't relevant here.

      However, Section 11, Exceptions, has two clauses. Here's the first:

      11.1 Minimum clearances prescribed in Section 9 and 10 of this order may be reduced along passenger platforms subject to approval by the Commission.

      Now, Sections 9 and 10 are those applying to railroads not carrying freight cars. So, assuming the CHSRA plans to ask the CPUC for approval of reduction to meet ADA level-boarding. In that case, it's perfectly rational and sensible, given the current regulatory environment, for CSHRA to plan for its own, sole-use tracks. That way CSHRA can guarantee that freight never runs on those tracks, and thus CPUC GO 26-D Sec 11.1 applies.

    6. Adirondacker1280026 January, 2012 21:53

      The envelope was defined because at one time railroad workers would dangle off the sides of cars. They don't do that anymore. Just like they don't fill the reefers with ice anymore.

    7. Riiight. But no-one has told California Public Utilities Commision that, so they haven't updated their rules since 1948.

      Point remains: given the current regulatory enviroment, CSHRA;s otherwise-inscrutable requirement for "separate and-non-equal" HSR tracks acutually makes sense.

      To you, and me, and Clem, and anyone with a clue, there's a huge failure of imagination there. As I've said elsewhere: why on earth is Caltrain, and CHSRA, blindly following the 1948 special-rule-for-gantries-to-dump-ice-into-wooden-"refrigerator"-car rulebook?

  49. @Alon: just because BART technoloogy is technologically crippled doesn't mean that Caltrain or HSR have to be.
    Australia used to have lots of dual-gauge track, 3ft6in (1067mm) and standard-gauge. So I don't see a compelling reason why one couldn't lay dual-gauge track which would work for both BART and HSR/Caltrain. Physically, there should be room between the rail webs to lay three-running-rail, dual-gauge track. (Not with BART-style baulk laying, of course.)

    Clearance for both overhead catenary and BART-style mid-height, well-outside-the-loading-gauge 3rd-rail paddles might be more of a challenge; less so for catenary suspended from a high-roof tunnel or trainbox. Not to mention turnouts!
    But if someone really, really wanted to run BART into TBT, and they could find a route for BART to get in and out, it _could_ be doable. Like anything else: is it worth the cost? Especially the track-maintenance cost?

    1. It's not just track gauge. BART's loading gauge is proprietary, too.

    2. Plenty of other incompatibilities. As Peter mentions, loading gauge. Also platform height (BART's being a 100% unique 42"), signalin, and probably a bunch of other stuff I'm forgetting right now.

    3. Yes, BART cars are lower than UIC or Caltrain, but they're stll 10ft6in wide.

      As for platform height: how is 1067mm platform height any different of a constraint than eventual HSR platform height?

      As for signalling; how is integrating COBSS with BART signalling any harder than integrating CBOSS with ETCS, or with UP's version of Wabtec's system (V-ETMS)?

      Or to turn it around -- which was sort of my point -- how is unifying Caltrain and HSR platforms and tracks, any more or less difficult than unifying HSR and BART? Aside from the obvious track-gauge issue, which was solved technology 100 years ago.

    4. The most obvious difference is that both the future Caltrain EMUs and HSR trains are currently purely imaginary, and thus have considerably more flexibility in their design to find some mutually-acceptable compromise for both. BART's trains and platforms are what they are and everything else would have to adapt to it. And for what benefit? Nothing other than BART trains will ever be able to fit in BART tunnels. And even if you have three-rail dual gauge, you're really constrained in how you can fit both BART and HSR/Caltrain trains up against the platforms, and also keep the latter clear of the BART third rail. Dual gauge also involves all sorts of mechanical complexities and accompanying restrictions, though probably a little bit less so between standard gauge and 5'6" than with Irish Broad Gauge as used in Australia.

    5. "Or to turn it around -- which was sort of my point -- how is unifying Caltrain and HSR platforms and tracks, any more or less difficult than unifying HSR and BART?"

      To turn it around -- name one problem that you're solving with this "solution". One.

    6. Anonymous: One problem with peninsula rail transit is that the competing I280 and SR101 freeways carry 14 times as many people as Caltrain’s weekday passenger count. If Caltrain’s Downtown San Jose Station was in a Market Street Subway Station close to the center of downtown commercial activity and a less than 10 minute walk from San Jose State University Campus where 30,000 students are enrolled more people would take the train. Also extending a common right-of-way to an SJ Airport Station a short escalator ride to the San Jose Passenger Terminal would tap a substantial captive passenger source.
      What is an example of a captive passenger source? Consider the transit sustainability implications from BART’s recent SFO station experience tapping a from-out-of-town-passenger-source; a set whose members often rent a car immediately upon arriving by air? BART’s fares to and from their San Francisco Airport Station include a $3.85 surcharge applied starting about a year ago. Simultaneously BART’s last four quarterly SFO Station exit totals compared to quarterly totals exactly one year before have risen within the 8.5% to 13.4% range. Total BART System exits for the same time frame increased 4.2% to 6.5%.
      The powers that be in Santa Clara County are clearly determined to extend BART to Downtown San Jose in a subway. A downtown San Jose BART branch should diverge from the East San Jose BART extension from a point near the 237 to form a nearly straight route through the ‘Golden Triangle Industrial district on a route parallel to and ¾ mile southeast of the First Avenue Light Rail Line. The Downtown San Jose branch should then jog to the right across the SR 101 Freeway to the San Jose Airport Terminal Station. A cross-platform opposite direction connection between BART and Caltrain plus CHSR trains on separate sets of tracks should be made available at the San Jose Airport Terminal Station. Separate BART and Caltrain-CHSR tracks should continue south on a surface or elevated trunk line parallel to the 87 freeway until a duel track gauge subway is required in order to connect duel-gauge-track for each direction to a Market Street Subway Station.
      Recorded historical experience with dual gauge track and my own rail switch measurements suggest that the gauge difference on duel gauge track-ways should be at least 8 inches. A 4 track common centerline duel gauge, 56.5”-66”, track with 4.75” between rail head centers appears practical for short distances with few switches at moderate speeds.
      The train approach speed to a station in order to attain maximum train frequency through a station while respecting BART’s current safety margins is 46.4 mph. Shorter trains require even lower speeds when approaching a station if maximum train throughput is be achieved. Therefore possible duel gauge track safety concerns mitigated by requiring low train speeds may not significantly reduce peak train frequency potential.
      It would be in the community interest many Golden Triangle property owners to form a commercial development district in order to trade BART right-of-way land in exchange for close-together GTID BART stations serving customers and business collaborators arriving by air and commuting employees.

  50. #anonymous:

    To turn it around: It's not so much solving a problem. t's underscoring the magnitude of issues which Clem's blog tends to minimize.

    In Unix ed-speak: 1,$:s/BART/Caltrain/g -- if you are the Anonymous I suspect you to be.

    Dammit, at this rate I'm going to have to start my own blog.

  51. I got yer "bookend approach" right here, in glowing 1982-style fax resolution pixel-vision!

    Without doubt the same shovelling of a billion tax dollars into an FRA freight-based Olde Tyme Commuter Railroading black hole of pointlessness will be coming within a month or two to a criminally incompetent agency in Northern California, another tasty nine-digit reward for the people who brought you such hits as San Bruno and CBOSS.

    Perhaps they can use it to strategically fund half their far-worse-than-useless $1.9 billion tunnel under Millbrae? Or compensate their very very very very very special contractor friends to cover the first several rounds of "unexpected" problems with CBOSS? How about 15% preliminary engineering for a six level terminal in San Jose? -- a billion might just about cover that work. The sky's not the limit: it's just the beginning!

    Politically balanced fiscal and technical black holes for both halves of the state.

  52. I wouldn't really call Metrolink/Surfliner a black hole of pointlessness, and there are still many very cost-effective investments to be made there. Regardless of whether your trains are Olde Tyme FRA trains or fancy new Swiss trains, there are going to be bottlenecks caused by the single-track sections of your lines, and that's what Metrolink is looking to address here, in order to be able to increase service. It's actually a somewhat timetable-driven approach, and unlike Caltrain, most of the recent Metrolink improvements have had a direct impact on service levels, running times, or reliability. And as far as operations go, Metrolink has the smallest train crews of any US commuter railroad: just the engineer and conductor. Also, unlike Caltrain, Metrolink can't just secede from FRA-land, because many more of its trains run on heavily-trafficked freight lines. The only line it can really separate from the FRA network is the San Bernardino Line, and even there, there's probably more local freight traffic than on the Caltrain line, and not much more of a night window for freight.

  53. Why Metrolink can operate single conductor but Caltrain cannot? Is this because of stronger Labor union, or less nagotiation power with Caltrain management?

    1. My guess is they never even thought of asking about it. Remember that Caltrain doesn't actually operate any trains, Amtrak does that, and at various points in the respective agencies history, Amtrak has been responsible for both Caltrain and Metrolink operations. One key difference is that I'm pretty sure Metrolink was a POP system from the beginning, and probably a one-conductor system, while Caltrain needed two conductors in order to sell tickets on board, which they no longer need due to PoP. But if Caltrain wanted, they could specify one conductor in their contract instead of two, and Amtrak would reassign the now-redudant assistant conductors elsewhere.

  54. Clem, may I offer a suggestion on how you can accomplish #1 on your list (ERTMS instead of CBOSS)? This is the most difficult (and unlikely) of your four points, because so few people understand rail operations, much less PTC systems, and everyone just rolls over when Caltrain asserts that its unique operating conditions require a unique solution. What I'd encourage (and plead with) you to do is:

    1. Take Caltrain's list of PTC requirements and check off each and every one. Either as a function of ERTMS, a change in operating practices, or something else.
    2. Estimate how much money and time would be saved by ditching CBOSS.
    3. Get this document to Dan Richard (no doubt you know people who can manage that).

    Whatever you (or Richard M) think of Dan and his history at BART, he's currently on a mission from god (aka Jerry Brown) to turn the CHSRA stinkpile into something that Brown be proud of and take credit for. Part of that game plan is to find savings that can be used to do additional stuff. (Yes, of course, there's huge piles of potential savings that Dan isn't going to dig into, but here's one that you obviously care about, know a lot about, and can make happen)

    1. Well, you can attend the PTC World Congress and ask Caltrain staff yourself. They will give a presentation called (I swear I'm not making this up) Operator Insight: Effectively managing cost during PTC projects and maximising long-term return.

      And worldwide signaling expert Rod Diridon Sr will give a talk (I swear I'm not making this up) called Leading Association Insight: Balancing PTC investment in the current economic climate and the impact of high-speed lines of PTC funding.

    2. Drunk Engineer,

      That's simply amazing. Amazing.

      This "PTC World", that would be the same "World" as in the "World Series" of the noted global activity of baseball, yes?

      And is there be any field of endeavor in which Rod Diridon isn't the least qualified human?

    3. Wow, just wow. I nearly choked on my drink.

      Sounds like these be some of the most self-serving presentations in, well, the entire history of presentations.

  55. The Chronicle has learned that officials with Bay Area transportation agencies are in negotiations with each other, and with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, to craft an agreement that would fund an advanced train-control system, electrify the rails on the Peninsula and eliminate some of the rail crossings - perhaps as soon as 2016, five to 10 years earlier than previous estimates.


  56. Re: DTX - I looked into this, and found out that the reason it scored so abysmally in the MTC's draft Transit Sustainability Program analysis is that the "benefit" didn't take into account increase in ridership resulting from running the train to Downtown San Francisco. Oops, only the main point of the project. I'm told that the analysis is being updated to take this into account, but I haven's seen the new report yet.

    The reason to keep DTX in (in addition to the benefit of getting to where more travellers want to go), is San Francisco's political leverage. I'd rather have Feinstein & co on the side of getting more money to the Bay Area sooner. Even if the cost-benefit math comes out worse, the political math comes out better.

    1. Adina,
      MTC consultants are world-class experts at gaming models. If DTX ranked low then it is because that was the political outcome desired.

      Note that freeway expansion projects ranked at the top for cost/benefit, while the Bike Plan ranked dead last in the study, with negative(!!) cost benefit. This for a model that was supposed to prioritize projects based on emission reductions.

    2. But "Honest Carl" Guardino told us it was so!

      We <3 Honest Carl. Lots and lots. xoxo!

  57. Clem,
    Have you looked at SkyTran? It could replace the entire Caltrain line for $800-900m. I just did a simulator of the 40,000 ridership and came up with an average trip time of 12min:10sec with an average speed of 95 mph. Average wait time is 16 seconds during the peak and shorter off peak. Fare would be the same as Caltrain and the system would pay off in 5 years if ridership increased to 80,000 per day. Mountain View is considering a small starter system to connect downtown to North Bayshore and the office park. Each town along the line could elect to have a feeder system to help increase ridership. The best part is that it would save taxpayers $100m per year. More funding for teachers and police. Let me know if you would like to audit the simulation. I'd like to get your thoughts.

    1. Adirondacker1280021 February, 2012 00:13

      According to Wikipedia Skytrain's maximum speed is 56 MPH. In local suburban service - station spacing of 1 or 2 miles - acceleration is more important than top speed. Top speed of 70 with good acceleration gets you there faster than 90 with slower acceleration. You don't want to have an average speed of 95 in local service, the passengers wouldn't like it.

    2. Warning, Adiron, the OP is pushing a pod people scheme (PRT), not a legitimate system like Skytrain, which is an ATO rapid transit system.

    3. Adirondacker1280021 February, 2012 14:29

      ah I didn't catch the missing "I". PRT has been just around the corner for at least 30 years if not longer.

  58. SkyTran along the Caltrain corridor would have average wait time of less than one minute (compared with 15-30 minutes for SkyTrain or traditional rail). Even if SkyTran travelled at 80 mph top speed, the average speed would be more than double the average speed of any ATO train system. The average speed of Caltrain is currently 30 mph. People will continue to drive unless a transit system can deliver average speeds of at least 50 mph. Cars have been providing "on-demand" travel for 100 years. A elevated PRT system could match that performance and provide a path to profitable transit systems. It would improve property values along the corridor by eliminating the horns, at-grade crossings and even allow repurposing of one of the rails for a trans-peninsula high speed bike lane (the other track would be kept for freight). Silicon Valley is the world center for innovation, it is time to try an innovative transportation system instead of pouring billions into a system that will increase ridership from 40,000 to perhaps 60,000 per day. Meanwhile 101 carries 400,000 rising to 600,000 per day. Add 280 traffic and riderhip exceeds 1,000,000 per day. Caltrain might be proven but it is a very expensive way to move a tiny fraction of Bay Area commuters.

    1. But will the never-built, proposed in 1990 maglev SkyTran turn out to be as fantastic as those top secret 100 MPG carburetors Detroit and/or big oil were suppressing?

      I mean, what's not to love that these AirTran pods scoot around at 150 mph on a cushion of air using only the energy equivalent of only 2 hand-held hairdryers! What a great unit of power! How many hairdryer-equivalent is Caltrain, or a TGV? I'll bet SkyTran theory will totally put them both to shame!!!

  59. Such as shame that the evil FRA won't let us use lighter rail cars found in all the enlightened countries of the world, like say, uh, Argentina...

    1. Passenger trains crashing into solid objects has relatively uniform results regardless of rated "buff strength" (perhaps the word Chatsworth rings a bell...). Until more data is available on that particular incident, it is impossible to comment on what specifically went wrong (though evidence points to break issues), but really the only way to prevent disasters is to prevent crashes altogether.

    2. The stupid FAA allows passenger transports that disintegrate upon perfectly controlled flights into terrain.

      They obviously to learn a thing or two from The World's Finest Transportation Professionals, who, amazingly enough, all just happen to work in the US rail and urban transportation sectors.

      PS You forgot the "regulations written in blood" line. As well as the "unique local conditions" one. Must Try Harder.