1) Operate Short Trains Off Peak
Shorter trains off-peak reduce maintenance costs by putting less wear and tear on the vehicles and track. The same revenue train-miles can be offered with fewer car-miles. The more off-peak service is provided, the greater the savings: at 3 trains per hour, operating 4-car EMUs instead of full-length 8-car EMUs off-peak results in a huge reduction of 25% fewer weekday car-miles.
|Operating and vehicle maintenance|
costs of US commuter rail, per car mile
When you operate 12 hours of off-peak service at 300 train-miles per hour, the variable cost of vehicle maintenance racks up at 12 hours/day * 300 train-miles / hour * 8 cars/train * $2/car-mile = $58k/day. By reducing off-peak train length to 4 cars/train, the savings are half of this, or $29k/day. The savings from shorter trains accrue not just on weekdays but on weekends too, yielding annual savings of roughly $10 million.
Then you might want to factor in energy cost savings. Each car weighs about 60 tons loaded, and is accelerated to about 60 mph between two typical stops. The electricity consumed to accelerate is re-generated into the grid while braking for the next stop, with a round-trip efficiency likely in the neighborhood of 80%. That means overcoming the inertia of one car for one stop (neglecting drag) takes 4 MJ of electricity, or 1.2 kWh in more familiar units. At typical electricity rates of 12 cents/kWh, that's just $0.14/car/stop. Multiplying it up, $0.14/car/stop * 20 stops * 3 trains/hour/direction * 2 directions * 12 hours/day * 8 cars/train = $1600/day. (Note that drag will significantly increase this figure, but can be neglected for this estimate because the drag of a 4-car train is similar to that of an 8-car train.) By reducing off-peak train length to 4 cars/train, the savings are $800/day. At less than $300k per year, this is just a rounding error compared to the vehicle maintenance, and can be ignored.
|The Scharfenberg automatic coupler,|
nicknamed "Schaku," linking up two
short EMUs (click for movie)
2) Operate With One Conductor
Labor accounts for about two thirds of operating costs in typical commuter rail systems. Operating costs are strongly driven by train crew size. Minimum crew size is constrained by union rules that govern how many conductors must work on each train. Currently, the minimum crew size (dictated by Rule 11 of the agreement with the UTU) is 1 engineer, 1 conductor and 1 assistant conductor for trains up to seven cars, with a second assistant conductor required for an 8-car train or longer.
When contemplating a tripling of off-peak service, the cost of this minimum staffing level becomes prohibitive. Conductors are paid about $40/hour, and assistant conductors about $35/hour. Including benefits and other employee costs, the overall cost of these employees is easily double these figures. Additionally, conductors typically spend about half their shift time on board a revenue-producing train, so the necessary staffing levels are roughly double the number of trains in service. We saw earlier that it takes a fleet of 12 trains to operate off-peak service at 3 trains per hour per direction; staffing an assistant conductor on these trains would cost $70/hour/conductor * 1 conductor/train * 2 hours/(revenue hour) * 12 trains * 12 (revenue hours)/day = $20k/day. Again this is big money: the savings from removing the assistant conductor and going to one-conductor operation accrue not just on off-peak weekdays but on weekends too, yielding annual savings of roughly $7 million.
How do you sell this lower staffing level to the union?
- EMUs can relieve conductors of some of their workload, after automation of many of their traditional roles (such as stop announcements, door and lift operation, or signal aspect acknowledgement). Fare verification (proof of payment) could even become a separate role carried out by roving fare inspectors.
- Conductor staffing levels or pay rates can be renegotiated on the basis of actual ridership, instead of the number of train cars, since the new EMUs will have automatic passenger counters that collect detailed and accurate passenger ridership statistics.
- Most importantly, the total amount of work for UTU-represented employees would increase, since one-conductor operation would enable a tripling of off-peak service, resulting in 1.5 times more labor hours even after cutting conductors staffing levels in half.
Future Fleet Implications
|If you zoomed way, way, into Caltrain's|
exterior paint scheme concepts,
the Schaku was plain to see
The fleet needs to operate two service patterns:
- peaks at 6 trains per hour with a fleet of 8-car EMUs
- off-peak at 3 trains per hour with a fleet of 4-car EMUs
- 16 4-car EMUs for off-peak service, each with one bike car and one bathroom car, that can be coupled in pairs during peak hour service to form eight trains with eight cars each.
- 16 8-car EMUs for peak service, lengthened from the base order
- 32 passenger cars for CalMod 1.1
- 32 cab cars, for 4-car EMUs
- 16 bathroom cars (powered), for 4-car EMUs
- 16 bike cars (unpowered), for 4-car EMUs