02 April 2019

Eyes on Bikes

The configuration of the new EMU bike cars is controversial because seating and bikes are not currently planned to be located together on the same level, which prevents riders from keeping an eye on their bikes and increases the risk of theft. A workshop is planned to resolve this eyes-on-bikes controversy.

Bike Capacity Shenanigans

Clouding the issue of eyes-on-bikes theft deterrence is another hot-button issue with the bikes-on-board crowd, bike capacity. In 2015, under sustained pressure from bike advocates, the Caltrain board of directors made the unusual decision to override the staff-recommended seat:bike ratio of 9:1, imposing instead a ratio of 8:1 to be written into the Request for Proposals (see meeting minutes, pp 6-15.) The initial six-car EMU order was procured under this requirement, resulting in a configuration with 567 seats and 72 bike spaces. Fast forward to 2018, and an option order placed to stretch the EMU fleet to seven cars did not include additional bike space. The result is a train configuration with 667 seats and the same 72 bike spaces, resulting in a ratio of 9.3:1. While the 2015 board directive concerned only the wording of the RFP and only implicitly established a bike capacity policy, bike advocates are upset about a perceived bait-and-switch, despite the increase in peak-hour frequency from five to six trains per hour per direction.

To have any chance of resolving these two issues, the bike community needs to attack them separately. Tying the reconfiguration of the bike cars for better theft deterrence to a bike capacity increase is a losing proposition, given the increased resistance to more bikes-on-board from staff and the new board. With increasing crowding, it may make less sense to allow passengers to bring bikes on the train.

For now, let's set aside more bikes and deal with theft deterrence first.

Dimensions and Rules
  1. All bike spaces will be located on the lower deck of the bi-level EMU cars.
  2. All cars have an interior width of 2.80 m and must have an ADA-compliant 32" aisle.
  3. The D and F cars (longer unpowered cars) have an available lower deck length of 10.03 m.
  4. The C and G cars (shorter powered cars) have an available lower deck length of 8.37 m.
  5. Eyes on bikes: where possible, seating shall face towards the bikes.
  6. Bike pens (capacity 4 bikes) are sized 2 m long by ~1 m wide.
  7. Double bike pens (capacity 8 bikes, without a divider) are sized 3.85 m long by ~1 m wide. They provide the same interior room compared to two single pens placed end to end.
  8. Bike pens, or at least bike partitions, are required for crashworthiness, if seats are going to be facing towards the bikes for "eyes on bikes." This prevents a pile of bikes from ending up in someone's lap in the event of an emergency stop or collision.
  9. Same-direction seat pitch is 32.5" or 82.5 cm.
  10. Facing seats with a table require 66.9" or 170 cm (note the table uses less than 2 extra inches!)
  11. Back-to-back seats require an additional 6" or 15 cm of clearance to accommodate the slight recline of the two seat backs.
  12. Two wheelchair spaces must be provided in each car.
  13. One wheelchair space may overlap with a bike pen (dual purpose space, priority to the wheelchair user) per precedent in the existing layout.
  14. It is preferable to minimize the number of different car configurations.
With these rules in place, one can go about re-configuring the bike cars.

One key consideration is that it is not possible to re-distribute 72 bike spaces between three cars, while also providing 72 seats that are in view of the bikes. If one desires enough seating capacity on the lower deck to allow 100% eyes-on-bikes, the only way to proceed is to have four bike cars, including the recently-ordered 7th car. Like this:
Suggested EMU lower deck layout to achieve 100% eyes-on-bikes.
Bonus: an extra two seats. (click to enlarge)
The bike car reconfiguration represents an opportunity for Caltrain. On one hand, it allows Caltrain to claim they are responsive to stakeholder input, and on the other hand, it gives a legitimate pretext to add a bit of delay to the EMU order, thus opening up some breathing room in the program schedule for electrification construction, which is falling badly behind.

Towards a Compromise Bike Ratio

It has always been the intent, as funding allows, to extend the trains to 8 cars. Should the bike ratio continue to be controversial, the eighth car could be configured exactly as the D and F cars in the diagram above, providing another 20 bike spaces for a total of 92 per train. The seating capacity of the entire train would be 778, yielding a compromise ratio of 8.5:1, halfway between the preference of Caltrain staff (9:1) and the preference of bike advocates (8:1). The best compromise is one with which everybody is equally unhappy.


  1. I think the strongest argument in favor of adding more bike cars is that boarding will be quicker, so it's worth considering for that reason alone. However, I don't think it's necessary to have a 1:1 ratio of bikes to seats in the lower bike cars. To address the bike security concerns, they could just replace 8 of the bike spots with 6 flip seats on the 2 existing bike cars and add some bike spots to the new car to compensate. Honestly, if the train is crowded, it is only fair that people who bring bikes are the most likely to need to stand.

    By the way, the latest PCEP Report says the critical path is already building and testing the EMUs. But maybe it's the lack of available track that is delaying testing? I heard they are looking into testing the EMUs in Pueblo, CO instead of using their own track.

    1. I'd be shocked if testing didn't happen in Pueblo. Even Amtrak purchases get tested there even though there's plenty of infrastructure out east.

      Nice catch on the PCEP report. Looking closer, there's another weird item:
      CHSRA Early Pole Relocation: Relocation of 196 OCS poles as part of PCEP. Implementing these pole relocations minimizes future cost and construction impacts. This scope is funded by the CHSRA.

      What is that referring to? Potential facility location in Brisbane perhaps?

    2. The PCEP Monthly report linked to above has the first Caltrain EMUs being delivered to Pueblo for testing later this year, well before they can begin any testing on the Peninsula.

    3. @Martin: I think the pole relocation item is referring to UP's late demand for greater clearance between the poles and their track between Diridon and Santa Clara.

    4. No, I'm pretty sure it has to do with relocating pole foundations inside certain curves (say, the top ten worst curves) so that future curve flattening to increase speeds to 110 mph will not require replanting the poles.

      You are of course entirely correct that UPRR, despite not owning the corridor, lords over every small change that Caltrain wishes to make.

    5. Clem, that's a clever way to go make me look it up.

      From page 413 of the August JPB meeting agenda:



      The scope of this change to the electrification contract consists of UPRR-required modifications to the electrification pole clearance, or set back, from the UPRR-owned track between Control Point (CP) Coast just north of the Santa Clara Station and CP Lick about three miles south of Tamien Station in San Jose.

      In 2017, UPRR indicated that it would require a 15-foot clearance, or setback, for all poles along the UPRR-owned MT-1. This request was received after the electrification contract award at the July 2016 Board meeting.

      The UPRR clearance request came after the technical process beween Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP), UPRR, and CPUC to define and the CPUC to adopt the Caltrain Operating Rules had been concluded. These Operating Rules define
      the electrical requirements for the future electrified Caltrain Corridor. One of those requirements is pole clearance, or setback, of which the Operating Rules required a nine-foot-six-inch clearance between track and pole. The Operating Rules were adopted by the CPUC in November 2016.

      After multiple engineering discussions and a joint field visit, the PCEP team was unable to convince UPRR to waive their 15-foot offset requirement along the UPRR-owned MT-1.

      This change order will allow the electrification Contractor to proceed with the design of the OCS foundations within the UPRR-owned MT-1 between CP Coast and CP Lick.

      Potential construction costs due to the pole location changes are currently being evaluated and would be the subject of a subsequent contract change order

    6. Ah, I should've looked at the status report ... turns out there are two separate pole relocation change orders.

      I was remembering the SJ-Santa Clara one done at UP's late insistence on 15-foot pole clearances:

      9/28/2018 BBI-053-CCO-016A UPRR MT-1 Pole Relocation - Design Changes $903,000

      The more recent one appears to be the one @Martin and @Clem are talking about:

      1/17/2019 BBI-053-CCO-029 CHSRA Early Pole Relocation (Design Only) $625,000

      • CHSRA Early Pole Relocation: Relocation of 196 OCS poles as part of PCEP. Implementing these pole relocations minimizes future cost and construction impacts. This scope is funded by the CHSRA.

    7. $3200 of design per relocated pole. That's like 16 hours of engineering labor, each! And that's just to update the drawings.

    8. "$3200 of design per relocated pole."

      Caltrain has always had in place and will always have in place the most excellent of Business Plans.

    9. You mean the most excellent, for Caltrain's transport-industrial-complex contractors?

      What did they do? Send out someone to inspect each relocation site, complete with FRA-compliant flaggers?

  2. There's a subtle conflict between providing more seats for the "eyes" and allowing bikes to be loaded efficiently. Since bikes are stacked you can't just store any bike in any rack. You must avoid placing a bike on top of a bike that is scheduled to get off at an earlier stop, otherwise it creates the need for an awkward shuffle to sort bikes by destination.

    When cars are organized with multiple racks together (the "IS" diagram) it becomes easier to select the right place to store a bike without forcing a shuffle. There's just more racks to choose from leading to a greater chance that there's already a suitable rack for your destination.

    When racks are distributed across more cars (the "SHOULD BE" diagram) it reduces the chance that there's an appropriate rack already, increasing the need to shuffle and sort bikes in a cramped space. In this sense the older gallery cars (10 racks in one big area) are better than the newer Bombardier cars (one set of 4 racks separated by seats from another set of 2 racks).

    As for eyes on the rack, I don't think a 1:1 ratio is really required. The important point is that there are *enough* eyes in the bike compartment to create a deterrent against theft. And anyone who really is concerned about theft but cannot find a seat in view of their bike can simply park as if they are parking on the street: use a lock and strip the expensive removable parts. It is a small hassle but almost every bicyclist uses that technique already. But you can't lock your bike if it might be shuffled later in the journey, hence the need to reduce the chance of shuffles.

  3. Clem,
    adding an unpowered 8th car reduces the power-to-mass ratio, which means lower acceleration. How much does the lower acceleration affect run time and timetables?

    1. According to the Stadler data sheets, there is a little bit of a weirdness, that the 6-car Caltrain trains are supposed to have an acceleration of 1 m/s2 with 12 of 24 driven axles, whereas the 6-car SBB train with 8 of 24 driven axles reaches 1.1 m/s2.

      The difference must come from the weight (unfortunately, the datasheets do not say anything about that). But if I remember correctly reading that the 7th car has at least one driven bogie, it should not be that bad.

      And, "tuning" the vehicles is not thaaaat difficult, as it would be done via software.

    2. The 8 car train has the same power-to-weight ratio as the 6 car train.
      EMU-6 2B+BB+22+BB+22+B2, 6000 kW
      EMU-7 2B+BB+22+BB+22+BB+B2, 8000 kW
      EMU-8 2B+BB+22+BB+22+BB+22+B2, 8000 kW

      @Max, the starting acceleration is the same, but it can be sustained to a higher speed thanks to the higher power-to-weight ratio.

  4. Bullet train CEO has new plan to reach San Jose, center of rail system's 'universe'

    Kelly said the project update that's coming at the start of May will detail a modified version of the rail authority’s strategy under predecessor Jeff Morales to get high-speed trains running in the Central Valley as soon as possible.

    Developed by the U.S. arm of Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s government-owned rail operator and a project consultant for 16 months, the strategy involves opening a 170-mile Central Valley segment from Merced to Bakersfield as early as 2027 as a demonstration line, even though it’s unlikely to cover its operating costs.

    That line would be 51 miles longer than the 119 miles now being built in the Central Valley. It also would require that construction money envisioned last year to build simultaneously from San Francisco to Gilroy to be used for those extra miles.

    “I know what I really need to show is (Silicon) Valley to (Central) Valley,” Kelly said. “And I want to build Valley-to-Valley. But I believe we have options under the law that will allow an interim service before we get to Valley-to-Valley that will allow us to demonstrate the power of high-speed rail and what it can do.”

    Once that's done, he said, it will unlock financing to tunnel beneath Pacheco Pass to reach San Jose's Diridon Station, the jobs surrounding it, connections to Caltrain for intermediate Peninsula stations on the way to high-speed rail’s terminus in San Francisco, VTA light rail and buses, and BART connections to the East Bay.

    Understanding high-speed rail's logic in avoiding San Jose — for now

    For the near term, San Jose is more important to high-speed rail than high-speed rail is to San Jose.

    That’s notwithstanding the project’s construction timelines between San Francisco and Gilroy — a plan that's been scrapped for the time being while the California High-Speed Rail Authority pours its few remaining billions into getting trains up and running between Merced and Bakersfield ASAP, which means 2027 for now.

    It will be difficult for such a rail line to cover its operating costs, CEO Brian Kelly conceded in an interview with the Business Journal, because there’s nothing along that 170-mile stretch of railroad that compares to San Jose. Connections at the city's downtown train terminal, Diridon Station, will become the surface transportation gateway to Silicon Valley as well as Bay Area business and jobs.

    The Central Valley line is intended as the rail system’s tease, convincing the public of the potential for fast trains and the additional funding the project needs to reach San Jose, which is supposed to prove high-speed rail’s worth with real financial performance.

    “It's vital,” Kelly said, “because San Jose is both the economic engine for California — it's got acute housing issues that we can be part of the solution on — and ultimately, with BART's extension, Caltrain’s electrification and our arrival in there, it becomes a very important transit hub in the western United States. There's just no question about it.”

  5. How Gov. Newsom's revised high-speed rail plan would link 'train to nowhere' to somewhere

    But Brian Kelly, the CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said this truncated first operating segment called for by Gov. Gavin Newsom in his February state-of-the-state address will still be able to link the two valleys — Central and Silicon — while the search continues for the money needed for fast trains to run valley-to-valley themselves.

    It would be slower and less convenient than uninterrupted high-speed rail, but it would be competitive with what exists via freeway now — about four hours by rail from Bakersfield to San Jose plus layover between trains at Merced. High-speed rail would cover the 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield in about an hour, including stops.

    By the time the first high-speed train is scheduled to arrive in Merced in 2027, the first Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train may be waiting at the platform to carry connecting passengers over the Altamont Pass to San Jose, according to ACE’s timetable. Or to Sacramento. State-operated Amtrak's "San Joaquin" trains already stop in Merced, from which they run to and from Oakland or Sacramento.

    "We have a lot of excitement and buzz surrounding that concept," said Matt Fell, transportation manager for the Merced Council of Governments. "That does seem like a good way for folks to be able to travel by rail to the Bay Area and Sacramento."

    ACE already has $400 million committed from SB 1, the 2018 gas tax increase bill, to add a new line south from Lathrop to the Stanislaus County town of Ceres by 2023. In fact, said Chris Kay, ACE’s marketing and outreach manager, it may be enough cover the cost of the second phase of the extension to Merced by 2027 as well.

    ACE’s plans are not new tracks but new stations and improvements to already existing freight railroad, which is the same way it operates its current trains from Stockton to San Jose.

    With $500.5 million awarded a year ago by the state, ACE also plans to extend its service north from Stockton to Sacramento paralleling the San Joaquin route. That money was created by SB 862 in 2014. It draws money from California’s cap-and-trade market, which regulates greenhouse gas emissions, to fund the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program.

    Under that program, direct or connecting service between Sacramento and San Jose on ACE trains would begin by 2023, at least four years before connections with high-speed rail would be established.

    “The current idea is we would have one train start in Sacramento and go all the way to San Jose and one train start in Ceres and go all the way to San Jose,” Kay said. “And then you'd have a few of those trains that were coming up from Ceres or Merced would meet our other trains going to San Jose (in Lathrop) and have a platform-to-platform transfer. And then those trains (from Merced) would continue on up to Sacramento.”

    1. A compelling business case: "It would be slower and less convenient than uninterrupted high-speed rail, but it would be competitive with what exists via freeway now — about four hours by rail from Bakersfield to San Jose plus layover between trains at Merced"

  6. This is straightforwardly logical. I assume the seating is attached via a modular track system, so the placement of seating is just a bit more complicated than spreading chairs around a lawn. The rules to distribute the seats and bikes give a structure to the design that is "transparent". I can't see why this can't be accommodated. Great work and well described.

  7. HSR update from NorCal Regional Director Boris Lipkin

    The direction laid out by the Governor is similar to what the Authority had put forth in our 2018 Business Plan. Where we are building today in the Central Valley, the Governor wants us to finish the entire 171-mile [Bakersfield-Merced] Central Valley stretch to connect the three largest cities, totaling nearly one million Californians, and provide new economic opportunities to the region as we get trains rolling.
    We are also continuing to pursue an agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad that would allow us to utilize the existing rail corridor from San Jose through Morgan Hill to Gilroy while extending electrified Caltrain service to Southern Santa Clara County. By advancing the environmental clearance and project development efforts in Northern California we will be prepared to utilize any new federal, state and/or private funding that may become available to complete the system in Northern California and connect to the Central Valley and eventually to Southern California.

    1. Hmm. Tastes like nothingburger.

    2. What's interesting is that together with the Silicon Valley Business Times articles, what's news (to me, anyway) is that HSRA will be focused on building and operating Bakersfield-Merced ASAP, and before spending money on constructing anything else until that's done.

      Which means forget about any SJ-Gilroy additional tracks on/along UP's ROW (or electrification of the same) happening anytime soon ... unless a huge new unforseen tranche of cash falls into HSRA's lap.

    3. They have to operate something -- otherwise Federal money would have to be returned.

    4. Would a "test track" suffice, or does the stimulus money require revenue service? (I thought the requirement was date of completion of construction)