01 December 2019

Three Next Steps

Caltrain's exhaustive business plan effort has resulted in a long range service vision for how to grow the railroad to the year 2040, recently adopted by the board as official policy. This is the mountain we wish to climb. How do we climb it? One step at a time. In fact, with electrified service now unlikely to begin before 2023, there is extra time to plan and execute three next steps.

Step One: Extend Platforms

The biggest short-term constraint to growing Caltrain capacity is  limited platform length. The new EMUs will be 685 feet long when extended to eight cars, too long for many existing platforms. The existing platform lengths are shown in the graphic at right (source), with the required extensions to 700 feet highlighted in orange. The diagram shows the year of construction of each platform, proving that Caltrain is a champion of platform construction, having poured about five linear miles of new platforms over the last two decades. The amount missing is about 3500 linear feet, or a bit over two years' worth of average platform production. There are a couple of tight spots boxed in by grade crossings, most notably Burlingame (767 feet between pedestrian crossings), but most locations have plenty of space.

Longer platforms enable the operation of 7-car diesel express trains, each with about 950 seats. While diesel trains don't feature prominently in future plans, they can still fill an important interim role once they become freed up by the arrival of the EMU fleet. The diesels can easily handle longer trains. It may not look good to continue belching diesel fumes, but it gets the job done at far lower emissions per passenger-mile than by forcing unmet demand to drive instead.

At the recent going rate of 7 to 10 thousand dollars per linear foot of platform, including all capital project overheads, the entire job should cost in the range of $25 - $35 million. For perspective, that's a percent or two of the modernization budget. This project is within reach of Caltrain's existing resources and is now official policy under section (1).E.ii of the service vision. There is no plausible excuse for not undertaking it immediately, to finish by 2023 concurrently with the start of electrified revenue service.

Step Two: Add 8th Car to EMU Fleet

The EMU order currently stands at 19 seven-car trains. The seventh car was ordered in a recent exercise of an option on the original contract, at an average price of $4.7 million per car. Assuming 10% price escalation, another 19 cars to extend this fleet to 8 cars would cost about $100M. This is a large sum, but one that could be scraped together over the next year or so if some high-speed rail funding gets re-allocated to interconnected "book end" projects.

The eighth car represents a significant step up in capacity: since it has no traction equipment cabinets, bike spaces or bathrooms, it has room for a whopping 132 seats, bringing seated capacity per EMU from 667 to 799, a 20% increase. So, for an extra 5% of the modernization budget, you buy an extra 20% capacity. This should be undertaken as soon as possible.

From an emissions point of view, ordering the eighth car is far preferable to ordering additional 7-car EMU formations to displace the diesel fleet sooner. Growing the fleet before fully replacing it provides a short-term peak-hour capacity boost that will remove traffic from roads and alleviate congestion, easily offsetting the emissions of the small remaining diesel-hauled fleet. Going all-electric sooner sounds "green" if you look at Caltrain in isolation, but keeping some diesels in the short term is greener when considering the overall transportation system of which Caltrain is a part, which is what ultimately matters for the air we breathe. Seven-car diesels can be used exclusively in express service, where fewer stops and starts (which are dreadfully slow with diesel) pose less of a time penalty.

There is the small wrinkle of where to park these longer trains when they are not in service. CEMOF, the maintenance facility in San Jose, currently stores two trains end-to-end on four 1200-foot sidings where two longer trains (EMU-8 at 685 ft, or diesel+7 at 664 ft) won't fit. This means at least four trains will need to be stored somewhere else, presumably at San Francisco or San Jose, as was the practice before CEMOF was built. In a real pinch, trains can be stored during the off-peak in the controlled sidings south of Redwood Junction, with certain shoulder-of-peak trains originating and terminating at Redwood City to avoid long deadhead moves.

Step Three: Accelerate Planning for Level Boarding

Level boarding (discussed extensively on this blog) decreases trip times, improves punctuality, increases crew productivity per hour of labor, and increases the frequency of service that can be provided by a train fleet of a given size. While Caltrain's embrace of the concept has been hesitant, it is now policy under the same section (1).E.ii of the service vision adopted by the board. The next step is to get serious about planning how to actually do it, because it is a far more complicated problem than it first appears.

Caltrain staff have decided to forgo boarding using the high-level doors, and recently issued a change order to have the EMU fleet delivered with these doors replaced by plug panels. Level boarding will happen with European-style 550 mm platforms, which can't be a bad thing, although accessibility requirements are more difficult to meet in the United States. The trick is then how to get there, and how to end up with a level boarding solution that doesn't require crew assistance whenever a person of reduced mobility needs to board or alight, in the current inefficient fashion of Northeastern railroads.

The trains will require a boarding step arrangement that deploys to serve either 8-inch legacy platforms (using a drop step mechanism) or to close the gap to newly raised 550 mm platforms, during an extended transition period where some stations may have been modified before others. Due to a lack of foresight on Caltrain's part, this capability is not available on the new EMUs as procured. The EMUs will need to be retrofitted with new three-position step modules (presumably engineered by Stadler's step supplier, Bode / Schaltbau) roughly like this:

The primary engineering challenge is to meet the ADA horizontal gap requirement in Position 2, which is 3 inches maximum (in current law) and is planned to be reduced to 2 inches. The step mechanism must also deploy to the correct height without crew intervention.

The platforms will need to be raised by a bit less than 14 inches, preferably without demolishing and starting over. One intriguing way to do this cheaply and with minimal service disruption would be to re-use the existing platforms as a slab foundation, with drainage, electrical grounding and bonding, and utilities staying as they are. The platforms would first be fitted with prefabricated adjustable edge modules. An adjustable platform edge that can be jacked to the correct height at initial installation and periodically adjusted during maintenance (e.g. after track tamping) is an unavoidable requirement of meeting the demanding ADA gap specifications for unassisted level boarding.

View of a single six-foot-long 550-mm platform edge module installed on a legacy 8” platform
After suitable modifications to platform amenities, the remaining area of the platform would be raised using lightweight expanded polystyrene fill (Geofoam) and modular pavers. The pavers cover the temporary boarding step that is integral to each edge module, which is no longer needed. The resiliency of the resulting platform structure enables periodic adjustment of the platform edge jackscrews to maintain compliance with the ADA gap criteria.

The modular construction technique with edge modules and pavers lends itself to rapid “blitz” construction schedules, since no platform concrete curing is necessary. After each night's construction, the platform can be left in a usable state for the next day's service, avoiding the logistical complications of closing entire platforms during construction.

Regardless of the technical solution ultimately adopted, level boarding starts with a robust planning process to define the problem and consider all the engineering approaches. This planning process is not expensive, and it needs to be funded and staffed now that level boarding is policy.

State of Good Design

Railroad operating departments work hard to achieve and maintain what is known in industry lingo as a state of good repair (SOGR). If that's all that Caltrain is going to do in the next decade, electrification will fall flat, like a sort of MBTA with pantographs on top. We have a chance to move beyond the narrow commuter-rail SOGR mindset, striving for something far bigger: a state of good design. The three next steps described here are a small way to get started right now on the way to the visionary service improvements described in Caltrain's business plan.


  1. FTA grant funding for SOGR is known as section 5337:

    Here is how SamTrans proposes to piss away $38.827 millions of OUR hard-earned SOGR grants:
    http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/__Agendas+and+Minutes/JPB/2019/South+San+Francisco+Station+Improvement+Presentation.pdf (slide 6)

  2. I can see why going with 700 feet, allows all stops to have 8-car EMUs vs 7-car EMU. But is 700 feet some magic sweet spot?

    If you're pouring cement and moving pedestrian crossings at stations, why not extend platforms to 850 feet to allow for 10-car EMUs in the future? This would give us ~40-50% capacity improvement of 7-car EMUs.

    1. Won't that require street closures, for example at Menlo Park station?

    2. > If you're pouring cement and moving pedestrian crossings at stations, why not extend platforms to 850 feet to allow for 10-car EMUs in the future?

      I don't think you understand how Caltrain does things. They don't do a project just once -- they will do it again and again. Why do 1 signal project when you can do 3? Why do one platform rebuild when you can do 3 or 4? Note that this SSF project will have platforms at 8", so no level-platform boarding at either door.

    3. @DrunkEngineer. That question was at Clem not towards Caltrain. I don't think Clem is suggesting multiple projects, is he?

    4. @Kiwi. Yes Menlo Park is a problem. However, grade separations could certainly address that. This probably wouldn't fly in Menlo Park, but it's worth asking. Could Oak Grove 2-lane crossing be closed to extend the platforms while keeping the 4-lane Ravendale crossing open until grade separations come in?

    5. @Martin: it's Ravenswood Ave. (not Ravendale); in the SP days, a handful of station platforms extended across adjacent crossings, such that longer trains would just block the crossing for the duration of their dwell time. Of course, that implies a zero-inch ATOR platform height ... and I doubt that would still fly politically anymore in Menlo Park or with regulators (CPUC, FRA). Closing Oak Grove will not be popular either ... so this should only underscore the need and urgency for grade separating across downtown Menlo Park. As in Palo Alto and other cities, the decision-making process around Menlo Park grade seps has dragged out for years

    6. @Martin, nothing magic about 700 feet other than it can dock EMU8 or diesel+7. I'm okay with longer, and as @DrunkEngineer said, measure twice, pour once.

      @DrunkEngineer, as I described in the post I think 8 inch platforms can be morphed into 550 mm platforms without a single dollop of concrete.

      @Reality Check: Menlo has just enough space for an 8-car platform. The south end of the station is over 200 feet north of Ravenswood.

    7. The State of California awarded the JPB a $164,522,000 grant in 2018 under its Transportation and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP). The grant will fund the purchase of additional EMUs using options included in the base contract with Stadler. The grant also includes targeted funding for 8-car platforms
      http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Documents/PMOC+Reports/2019-09+September+PCEP+PMOC+Quarterly+Monitoring+Report.pdf (page 17)

  3. "if some high-speed rail funding gets re-allocated to interconnected "book end" projects." From the sounds of it HSR funds planned for the 171 mile segment are not to be re-allocated out of the Valley. However C&T funds are coming in at a higher rate than what's needed which means, assuming C&T holds steady, funds will be available for something outside of the 171 piece. It should be noted there will be a lot of competition for these funds.

  4. The correct train length for Caltrain is 150m. (Convert that to "cars" or whatever BS you people use in your weird AREMA retro 1940s Buy 1940s American Commuter Rail planet -- in the real world "trains" come in units, not "cars".)

    150m allows pairs of trains to (barely) fit into 400m long HS-compatible platforms, leaving (barely) spare for mid-platform crossovers.
    This is absolutely critical at Transbay, and incredibly useful elsewhere (Redwood City, SJ Cahill Street.)

    In the future, once peak 4tph system-wide service (6 or 8tph north of Redwood City) using 150m trains is saturated -- which is a long way from where we are today -- the peak-of-peak Caltrain services can be with coupled 2x150m trains. Therefore 300m platforms (1000 feet) are the correct design allowance at "major" stops, including all stations south of Redwood City, and should be passively provided for during any construction at all locations. (400+m at RWC, Millbrae, Mission Bay, Transbay, of course.)

    This nonsense about "8 cars" or "10 cars" simply perpetuates the 30-year program of utterly shitty, once-an-hour-or-worse "service" (oh oh oh but Caltrain is "at capacity", and Caltrain "needs more funding", and Caltrain "needs stable funding", and Caltrain "needs a new governance structure", and a "new signal system", yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah).

    Running slightly longer crappy trains just as crappily and inefficiently, throwing both sweet sweet capital funding at Caltrain's perma-temp consultant mafia and at Caltrain's hopelessly sandbagged operations -- it's just the same shit, just a little longer, and for decades longer.

    The problem for Caltrain is hideous overstaffing and appalling equipment utilization.

    Pissing away hundreds of millions more on yet more low-utilization, massively-overstaffed, long-dwelling, glacial-reversing, sole-source, double-competitive-market-cost "cars" isn't going to do anything about crap "service", scandalously unaffordable (not to the likes of me, but to actual transit-dependent normal human beings long priced out of shitty "commuter rail") fares, and insanely bloated agency/contractor spending scams.

    1. What is so magic about 150m versus 120m? Is it driven by the "400m long HS-compatible platforms", or by something else?
      ".... in the real world "trains" come in units, not "cars""

      Units of what? Surely you're not engaging in ad-hominem about measurements rounded to a multiple of 10, when in feet versus metres? Are you saying that a length specified as 500 feet is unacceptable; but a length of 150 metres is just fine??

    2. He has also pedantically moaned in the past about the use of imperial units instead of ANSI to describe standard gauge, when the difference between 4 feet 8.5 inches and 1435 mm is approximately 0.1 mm.

    3. What is so magic about 150m versus 120m? Is it driven by the "400m long HS-compatible platforms", or by something else?

      More is better, up to a point.

      Yes, no not anything else. A crossover (the same as pair of scisscors crossovers) is 62m long between a pair of tracks spaced at 4.5m. That splits a 400m (ought to be 420m with slop, but we're doomed on that front in SF, and hence on Caltrain and in California) standard HSR platform into 169m platform pieces. That rounds down -- with precise train control, train positioning and signalling -- to barely 6 25m-long train sub-pieces per platform piece.

      Besides the double-berthing advantage (which is a big one for terminus station capacity), 150m is also a fine "just-right" until for all-day operation: not too much, not too little, not too many costly non-revenue driver cabs, not too few. 200 or 250m train units are a lot of excess material to haul around outside a few peak of peak runs.

    4. Ok, I'll buy that 150m length allows for 150m train + 62m crossover + 150m train to fit in a 400m platform with 38m to spare.

      However - and hear me out - what if train length was 200m, and trains going into a station of size of transbay went into a platform track back-to-back. For example:
      1) Trainset A pulls into track #1 in Transbay all the way to buffers
      2) Trainset B pulls into track #1 in Transbay all the way to buffers of train A
      3) Trainset B pulls out of track #1 in Transbay and runs as express
      4) Trainset A pulls out of track #1 in Transbay and runs limited

      While spacing between steps #2 and #3 might need to be between 10-15 mins, the spacing between #1 and #2 as well as #3 and #4 can be limited by signal system, but let's say 5 mins.

      That makes time elapsed between #1 and #4 be 25 mins. Give another 5 mins, and you could repeat that cycle every 30 mins giving you a transbay capacity of 4 arrivals and 4 departures per track.

      Sure, 150m trains with a crossover give you more of a FIFO pipeline with constant turnaround time, but isn't example above with FILO pipeline an improvement of what can be done with 1 train / track in an hour?

      Is that something that's practiced anywhere around the world?

    5. @Richard

      "in the real world "trains" come in units, not "cars""

      The Stadlers are units. You can't uncouple them in the field.

      "In the future, once peak 4tph system-wide service (6 or 8tph north of Redwood City) using 150m trains is saturated"

      5 tph system-wide service with 150m trains is getting close to saturated today with ridership limited on several trains by the crappy experience of standing for extended periods. Growing the tph won't help with reducing staff costs. We need longer trains now, not in the future.

      I think it's reasonable to operate EMU8s right away, especially since the linear seating density is lower (3.8 per m) than existing cars (4.5 per m). For off-peak you can have a sub-fleet of EMU4 that operate frequently (at least every 20 minutes) that can be paired into EMU8 or, in the future, formed into EMU8+EMU4 = EMU12. The procurement cost of deadheading cabs and their pricey avionics (EMU4+EMU4) has to be weighed against the lifecycle operating & maintenance cost of running frequent EMU8 off-peak. Car-miles (fine, unit-miles) aren't free.

      (by the way here is the capacity spreadsheet with the seating densities of all train configs discussed here)

    6. Hideous overstaffing is such a touchy subject that neither the business plan analyses or the organizational assessment dared to even touch the issue of conductors. That probably means I need to do a blog post about it.

    7. I cannot see or think of any reason why Caltrain can't negotiate a work rules change to allow one (1) conductor per train instead of the current two or three. I believe the TASI operating contract is coming up for renewal in the next year or so.

      The current gallery & Bombardier trailer cars require at least one staffer aboard the train to operated the doors. I don't think it's possible for the driver to operate the doors; I doubt cabs have the controls for it.

    8. While two conductors might be a lot, I do find that have 2 conductors present makes resolving issues a lot easier. People just don't seem to want to mess with two guys in uniform with walkie-talkies.

      We know from BART's experience that with 0 conductors, you got people smoking crack right in their seats and other crimes that make for an unpleasant experience. See https://www.facebook.com/groups/442393442578497 for more examples.

      Would 1 conductor be enough of a deterrent on an EMU8? Maybe.
      Would people feel safe on late night trains with 1 conductor on EMU7? Probably.
      How more delays per month will riders endure while train is stopped at a station waiting for police to arrive? Who knows.

      I think a staffing does deserve a post, and putting a price on extra conductors is easy. It's hard to put a price on safety. Would price of contract with County Police go up as a result? Ridership drop as result of crime?

      PS. I think the engineer should absolutely be able to control the doors, and 1 conductor is probably enough on short midday trains or early morning ones, but I'm worried about other times.

    9. @Martin: Most of the world has zero conductors aboard transit trains ... but if we decide we need/want intimidating "muscle" aboard to backup the conductor to help maintain order and increase safety, then a bouncer-security guard type would cost less and probably be more effective.

    10. When you say a "bouncer-security guard type be ... probably more effective", just how much more effective would they really be? Consider that today, Caltrain doesn't have anyone shooting up or smoking crack, I also haven't heard of shootings or stabbings, so just how much more effective could a bouncer be?

      Also, since people committing crimes frequently ride without a ticket, so the current ticket checking also contributes to much lower crime rates when compared to BART or Muni.

      No doubt that between two conductors today, are a big factor with that.

      If we substitute one conductor for a "security-bouncer", will the "bouncer" be checking tickets like the one remaining conductor? Will he have a radio like the other conductor? Will have a Caltrain uniform and something more "police" like?

      Now, to be fair, I don't doubt that salary / hourly cost for a train might be 33% less with one less person on the train, but that savings has to be compared to:
      1) Costs of trains delayed due to more frequent police incidents
      2) Revenue loss from passengers leaving train due to perceived increased crime
      3) Costs of increased security

      I really hate seeing Caltrain degenerate into another BART or Muni system, and when it comes to security, this strikes me as "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it".

    11. @Martin: I'm not advocating a bouncer-security type person, just suggesting that if your stated rationale for having more than one highly-paid conductor is "making resolving issues a lot easier" that that would be cheaper and more effective. Of course, they could (should!) have a radio, Clipper reader and uniform. Why wouldn't they? A big/burly bouncer type is less likely to be assaulted, as occasionally happens when encountering belligerent fare evaders and/or misbehaving riders.

      Homeless man arrested for biting Caltrain conductor in Santa Clara

      Assault of Caltrain conductors caught on tape

      What's "broke" and has long needed "fixing" is Caltrain's needlessly high labor costs. These result in not being able to deliver more service for less money ... and higher fares and/or bigger annual budget deficits for the board to wrestle with.

    12. @Martin: huh? You're talking about replacing a unionized conductor with a rent-a-cop. Surely that'd mean replacing the conductor with either a unionized rent-a-cop, or a unionized policeman. I doubt the former is significantly cheaper, and I expect the latter would be more expensive.

      @Reality Check: A non-unionized rent-a-cop with a conductor radio, Clipper reader and uniform "is right out".

    13. @Kiwi: I'm fine with just getting rid of all but one unionized conductor ... but since @Martin thought people such as himself might be too scared to ride off-peak w/o one or more extra unionized conductors standing around, I suggested a rent-a-bouncer/cop-like "security guard" would do that job for less. No need for more than one fully-trained/qualified unionized RR conductor ... and with cab-controllable doors on a new all-EMU fleet, you might be able to do like most of the rest of the world and have no conductors at all. Just roving security/fare inspectors.

      I rode the São Paulo Metro and RER-like CPTM trains a lot, and there are no conductors at all (line 4 is completely driverless, as is the new monorail line) ... and what you've got is lots of cameras, call buttons and rent-a-cops roving around.

    14. "I really hate seeing Caltrain degenerate into another BART or Muni system, and when it comes to security, this strikes me as "if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it".

      Charming, "Martin".

      Now, when you express your concerns about "degeneration into another BART or Muni system", just what might you mean by that?

      Because, well ...

      * Grotesquely unqualified and incompetent executive staff?

      Muni? Check. BART? Check. Caltrain? Check, check, check! (Same fat white dude, qualified only by virtue of his largesse to penny-ante real estate interest in small white towns, wearing three hats, drawing three pensions.)

      * Sinkhole for hundreds of millions of capital funding, with negative public benefit outcome?

      Muni? OMG! BART? WTF! Caltrain? STATE OF GOOD REPAIR!

      * Hundreds of millions of slush funding for unaccountable perma-temp in-house consultants, revolving doors, total "public" agency capture by private contractors?

      Muni? Ka-ching! BART? Never done anything else. Caltrain? Just think of 1250 San Carlos Avenue as your second home. No, your first.

      * Operated solely for the benefit of contractors, with any public service as a regrettable byproduct?

      Muni? Don't even think about crossing TWU 250A. BART? See above. Caltrain? Small potatoes, but we're all on the same page, nice little agency, pretty cosy, I think we can all come to a nice arrangement, yes?

      * Operates more than once an hour?

      Muni? Sort of, generally. BART? Yeah, sorry about that, but yeah, we've found we can scam tens of billions if we do, so it's a cost of doing business. Caltrain? FUCK NO. COMMUTER RAIL.

      OK, Martin, so this "degeneration into another BART or Muni system" ... what on ever could you ever be referring to?

      It's a real mystery! Couldn't possibly have anything to do with, oh, class, could it? Or race? No, of course not! It just so happens that Caltrain just happens to only be useful to a small number of white collar workers, and it just happens that Caltrain fares are insanely unaffordable for most of the potential riders in the 50 mile corridor it "serves", and it is happens that, well, the brown people can freely choose to ride the bus. Because, heavens, we wouldn't want anything to "degenerate". Oh no no no no no.

    15. “and it just happens that Caltrain fares are insanely unaffordable for most of the potential riders in the 50-mile corridor it "serves" “

      Oh, but according to staff, Caltrain fares are a “bargain” and the monthly pass is/was “too deeply discounted.” They produced a “fare study” that determined that Caltrain riders are for the most part “inelastic.”

      Fares are a bargain compared to what? Eastern US (non-POP) commuter rail systems that are even more labor intensive than Caltrain?

      Monthly pass is too deeply discounted compared to what? Bus agencies that have significantly lower fares?

      What truly objective data did Caltrain use to determine these “facts”?

      Or is Caltrain just using prejudiced data to support their position?

      Caltrain refuses to provide usage data of monthly passes from other agencies that have higher (multiplier) priced monthlies. From what little survey data, I found available, it seems that monthly pass usage among partner agencies is fairly low compared to cash/Clipper cash.

      Caltrain likes to use “peer” comparisons that generally show Caltrain fares to be average or below average over the years to justify fare increases. How objective is this peer comparison?

      Caltrain Fare Study indicates that customers are generally inelastic. Interestingly it was found that those who can least afford it were more inelastic compared to higher income customers. What the Fare Study failed to address was the elasticity or effects that employer (full or partial) subsidies have on ridership. The effects of Go-Pass and other commuter benefits programs on ridership needs to be fully understood if we are going to understand the true fare elasticity of Caltrain ridership. What would happen if these employer provided subsidies were not in effect?

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Richard. I was thinking of a tiny ~50m signalling block between the two trains. Your suggestion of a hosentraeger (double crossover) in that section is appealing.

    When you use metric lengths for trackwork I assume curved (asymmetric) frogs. Does the 62m Hosentraeger you quote use 1:6.6, 1:9, or something completely different? I recall you citing DB 200km/hr standards from the 1970s in the context of catenary.
    I only have a secondary source for those (Horst J. Obermayer's Taschenbuch)

  6. "The Electrification contractor’s most recent Schedule Update Narrative for August 2019 shows a Substantial Completion date of July 4, 2022, compared to the contractual date of August 10, 2020, or a total delay of 693 days. The July 4, 2022 date represents a further slippage of approximately three (3) months from the date reported in the PMOC’s June 2019 report. The continued slippage has been due to the lack of resolution of the Consistent Warning Time (CWT) issue, which has caused a day-for-day delay based on the contractor’s current schedule logic"
    http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Documents/PMOC+Reports/2019-09+September+PCEP+PMOC+Quarterly+Monitoring+Report.pdf (page 27).

  7. "The JPB is moving forward with a change in performance requirements for train sets 2-19. This change will reduce the 110-mph testing requirement to 90-mph for all but the first EMU trainset. This requirement is associated with the future operation of the EMUs in blended service with the CHSRA trains." WTF!!!
    http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Documents/PMOC+Reports/2019-09+September+PCEP+PMOC+Quarterly+Monitoring+Report.pdf (page 23).

    1. Don’t confuse a performance requirement with a requirement on the method by which it will be verified. This is a change in the latter. The performance requirement is still 110 mph, but only the first unit will be verified by test, and the rest by analysis. No big deal.

  8. Clem,

    This jackable "level boarding" platform looks reminisicent of thee current "mini-high" platforms currenly used for wheelchair access. Except the stairs in your jackable "mini-high" platform are not wheelchair accessible.

    I cannot guess what fraction of the schedule-savings of true level boarding are gained by your mini-high platforms. Nor can I guess the implications for wheelchair passengers, or how that impacts schedule-keeping. Could you speak to these?

    .... And whatever happened to the 7-foot 6-in horizontal clearance required by CPUC General Order 26-D, p.3, sec. 3.4 (platforms 4 feet or less above top of rail; excluding platforms 8in or less ATOR, sec 3.3)? Is that no longer a constraint?
    Your offset of 68in is significantly less than the required 7ft 6in (90 in). Apologies if GO 26-D has been superseded, and I missed it. (Has it?)

    1. I must not have explained the idea sufficiently clearly. The steps are temporary and become covered by the raised platform as construction progresses. The stairs are only used during construction, for a few weeks at most.

      GO 26-D is still an obstacle that Caltrain has made no moves to overcome, judging from filings (or lack thereof) with the CPUC.

    2. Doesn't modern automated MOW equipment have the ability to set track parameters very precisely, with little manual intervention? Wouldn't it be possible to make the MOW vehicles maintain the correct track elevation to interface with the platforms?

      Would using slab track through platform areas make all of this unnecessary? Or would that be a problem for other reasons? (including, perhaps, cost?)

    3. Oh, I see. Knowing Caltrain, I assumed the time between installation of the steps; and changes to platform drainage, utilities, etc, and final platfom raising, could be years-to-indefinite.

      For the interim steps, do you propose steps along the entire length of platforms, or only selected spots adjacent to rolling-stock doors? It wasn't clear from the graphic. (And does your graphic imply concrete ties/sleepers? :) )

      CPUC GO 26_D sec. 3 renders this entire discussion moot. I know you've said Caltrain can just move their "don't hang off the side of trains" sign from outside the SF yard, to south of San Jose. I cannot imagine UP acquiescing to that.

    4. Apparently Caltrain is negotiating with UP to be the short line freight operator north of Santa Clara. Presumably if this happens, UP will no longer care about what rules Caltrain enforces there.

    5. The short line operator negotiations have been going on for almost three years, so we can conclude they're not particularly successful.

      In any event, the precedent-setting nature of a GO 26-D waiver will surely invite scrutiny from UPRR and BNSF even if they are not directly affected, so I don't think the shortline thing will help much.

    6. If Caltrain becomes the Peninsula shortline operator, shouldn't that at least make it easier for Caltrain to allow for max grades to significantly exceed the current freight-dictated 1% standard for various grade sep designs, making more alternatives feasible and/or somewhat cheaper (due to shortened ramping distances).

    7. Freight doesn’t “dictate” anything here. Caltrain sets the standards (derived from freight-centric industry standards, yes) and approves exceptions to those standards, so I’m not sure how the operator is relevant. Has any city working on a grade sep project ever even asked for an exception? Are the cities picking the lock of an open door?

    8. As I recall, the elevated San Bruno grade sep and station project uses a 1.24% grade on the north slope (south of I-380). Not sure who applied for or granted that exception, but I'm guessing it was San Bruno and Caltrain.

      I'm hearing that cities (or their consultants) studying possible grade sep designs are having a hard time getting timely, unambiguous answers (if any) from Caltrain on grade exceptions. I don't have the text of a recent reply at hand, but to paraphrase "well, we evaluate exception requests on a case-by-case basis, depending on our subjective evaluation of a several criteria & factors."

      It seems like there might be a chicken-egg problem: cities are wondering how much effort (time, cost) to put into a grade sep design before knowing if Caltrain will allow the grades, but Caltrain won't say what grades it will allow until they receive a fully baked design and run it through their opaque approval engine.

      What's needed is for Caltrain to publish a clear and unambiguous set of rules / formula / "cookbook" that any city or design/engineering consultant can independently use to know if a particular exception grade will be allowed or not.

    9. They have already published such a standard. What you are suggesting is that they change it, so that no case-by-case exceptions are needed.

    10. No, I'm not imagining a standard that necessarily precludes the possibility of case-by-case exceptions ... only one that makes the need for them uncommon. Would you be so kind as to link to the already-published standard to which you refer? The verbiage I've seen in the past makes it impossible to know if any contemplated exception would be approved without actually going through Caltrain's opaque (unpublished) internal approval process.

    11. Here are the Caltrain engineering standards. Refer to Design Criteria, Chapter 2, Paragraph 7.1.

    12. Yes, thanks ... I'm well familiar with Chapter 2, Section 7.1 (dated 2011). I was hoping you had a pointer to an update staff years ago said they were working on. So I asked a Caltrain engineering staffer what determines "approval of the Caltrain Deputy Director of Engineering" and he enumerated a number of subjective-sounding criteria not shown in that (or any other) part of the engineering standards. So that's what I'm talking about.

    13. Here's where Caltrain "standards" come from and how they're developed:

      1. Coal trains in Wyoming in 1990.
      2. Pennsylvania Railroad in 1890.
      3. SEPTA in 2000.
      3. Pay ignorant insular and utterly unqualified consultants tens of millions of dollars to pull random feet-and-inches shit out of their rectums.

      It all leads to: Delay, ignore, refuse, and spend spend spend. "Can't do that: IT'S A STANDARD'

      1, 2 and 3 are where nearly everything comes from. It's why Caltrian is a miserable pile of hour-headway crap with huge operational costs, insanely inefficiencies, crazy maintenance, comically massively oversized and overbuilt structures, shit train performance, zero-amenity stips-of-concrete-alongside-the-freight-tracks stations, laughable reliability and speed, hideous ride quality, ear-splitting noise, passenger accessibility and convenience always last, and "we're doing great when measured against our Commuter Railroad peers so shut the fuck up you people-who-have-ever-visited-another-country, we're PROFESSIONAL RAILROADERS."

      3 is where the fictional-basis and stupidly costly, delay-inducing, and impact-creating, and contractor-enriching Caltrain electrification "standards" come from.
      And where the (total absolute unmitigated unsalvageable failure of the) SF Downtown Extension and Transbay Terminal came from -- gotta use those tangent #11 AREMA turnouts! And where the laughably disastrously inefficient and costly San Jose configuration is coming from. The grand thing about inventing your own standards is that you also get to paint yourself into "unavoidable" corners. "Can't do that, it's a STANDARD! And the shit thing we're going to do instead, according to our STANDARDS, is going to cost you and take longer, because can't be too careful, so so sorry."

      And oh boy, PBQD/WSP DBA "California High Speed Rail Authority" is the billion (no not just tens of millions, tens of hundreds of millions) champion of "Pay ignorant insular and utterly unqualified consultants tens of millions of dollars to pull random feet-and-inches shit out of their rectums." It's basically all they've ever done for over twenty years. The good news: Caltrain gets to be "required" to be "compatible" with WSP/PBQD's "standards" as well. So much more stuff that can't be done, and can only not be done for even higher cost.

    14. Don’t forget the CBOSS fiasco, where a rather unscrupulous consultant convinced Caltrain they could re-invent the PTC wheel and sell it to other railroads. Caltrain and the consultant claimed that CBOSS is pretty much off-the-shelf, and will be compatible with UP freight, HSR, and other commuter rail systems. And the internet bloggers don’t know what they are talking about. Well, history proved that the bloggers were right.

      They are still stuck up in the “commuter rail” mentality, what a joke! Caltrain is unique in that there is high demand compared to the eastern US commuter railroads. Plus, there is demand in the off-peak and evening, yet Caltrain runs crappy service. And as long as Caltrain continues to run crappy (commuter rail) service, with ultra-high fares, Joe Public sees BART as the panacea for transit on the peninsula.

  9. A few months ago I made a post about battery tenders for railroad locomotives and a certain someone laughed at me over it. Anyway, the Air Resources Board has determined that battery-electric locomotive tenders warrant more research and development for use here in California. Feast yourselves:


    " Staff also believes aftertreatment-equipped locomotives could be augmented with
    on-board batteries to provide an additional 10-25 percent reduction in diesel fuel
    consumption and GHG emissions. On-board batteries could also provide zero-emission
    track-mile capabilities in and around railyards to further reduce diesel PM and the
    associated health risks. "

    General CNG converson and carbon capture sytsems (including an IRL demonstration of it by UP) is covered as well. Also h2 cell vehicles, which could in theory operate as a sort of tender to a traditional battery cell.

    A slightly older presentation that led to it:


    H2 cells and outright freight electrification are considered too.

    " ARB staff’s interest in freight rail electrification is the potential to eliminate locomotive exhaust emissions at railyards and in line-haul operation. This would address the primary source of the highest exposures to toxic diesel PM and the associated health
    risks in California. If locomotives operated with zero emissions, California could support
    mode shift from truck to rail (with its inherently greater efficiencies per ton of cargo
    moved), without the current concern about worsening localized health risks in railyard
    communities. "

    Perhaps this might become a thing over the next decade. There's a lot of juicy tidbits in there about the whats, whys and hows California would electrify freight - it would start in the LA Basin and Caltrain is explicitly used as a model. I suspect this will become more pertinent as SJ-Merced HSR work begins, and UP trains start getting very close to catenary and as LA legislators look to wire Metrolink.

    1. The ARB doc @aarond referenced also talks on PDF page 128 of freight RRs needing 50kV or 100kV electrification. Why such high voltages? Caltrain is only installing two substations for feeding ~50 route miles of OCS ... so maybe they're assuming even longer distances between substations.

      The estimated capital costs for Caltrain’s electric infrastructure, and smaller electric passenger locomotives, referred to as electrical multiple units (EMUs), are about $1.5 billion, or about $30 million per route-mile.

      ARB staff believes the Caltrain electric passenger system represents the low end of the spectrum with respect to freight railroad electrification capital costs in California for the following reasons:

      • Caltrain is designed with a 25 kV catenary electrification system. Freight railroad electrification in the South Coast Air Basin would at a minimum require a 50 kV system, and projecting for future increases in rail activities in 30 to 50 years, may require up to a 75 kV or 100 kV system.

    2. Does anyone in the world use more than 50kV?

    3. Not that I've ever heard. Wikipedia lists 4 freight-only lines not connected to the "normal" rail network, of which only 2 are still operating: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_railway_electrification_systems#AC_voltage (bottom of table)

      Saldahna Bay may connect to the rest of the South Africa network, but it's operated as a standalone mine-to-ship line.

    4. What would be the benefit of 50kV or greater over 25kV?

    5. More power delivered over greater distances using less copper and aluminum.

    6. Higher voltage reduces the current (amps), conductor (wire) cross-section and line losses to deliver the same amount of power. The lower line losses allow for greater distances between power-feeding substations.

    7. .. the challenge being that higher voltages have a tendancy to arc across longer distances, thus requiring greater clearance above, below, and around the wire. For that reason I would think that 100kv through any sort of tunnel would be pretty much an automatic non starter.

    8. I've been doing more reading (and e-mailing) on battery-electric locomotives and BNSF seems to think they can get a prototype running by next year; halfway through the decade they should have enough data to make a production vehicle (ditto for the existing H2 cell #1205 which will turn 10 this year).

      A theoretical setup would be similar to an F-4 with two B units: A unit has the transformers/flywheels, B1 batteries and B2 H2 cells. Energy moves from B2 to A during acceleration and from A to B2 during braking. This would give the maximum range although considerations are also made for a rear "booster" cab car/battery/flywheel at the end of the train... a caboose. ARB seems to think these would be needed for hazmat (read: gas&coal) unit trains. A B3 unit could add under-wire capability with NJT's dual-modes listed an analogous example.

      The guys I talked to seem to think Socal is where any deals would happen and I'd be used on the I-40/I-35 corridor, since Nevada and Colorado get too cold and would require larger flywheels instead of battery banks.

    9. If 25 kV is good enough for the Transsib, and 15kV is good enough for the Iron Ore Line in Sweden, then 25kV should be just fine for LA area traffic as well. If there really are particularly troublesome spots you can put the substations closed together, or double up the contact wire, but I don't think I've heard of such a thing being necessary on a 25kV system. I think the 50kV systems were motivated by the remoteness of the lines making it hard to site substations.

      Besides, if you think about it, Caltrain will basically have a 50kV system (voltage between the contact wire and the feeder) with only 25kV actually going to the train.

    10. If they're so committed to looking at idiosyncratic, unique in the world technology, why not go all the way and do 25 or 50kV DC?

      Sure, your circuit breakers are more complicated, but if you run MV traction inverters at the line voltage you could dump the transformer weight from the train. I believe SNCF's 9kV DC study found some real potential regenerative braking advantages gained by paralleling a bunch of DC converters together with fewer breaks in the cat. The converters are a lot closer to a COTS product now that Siemens et al are pushing MV DC for solar and utility subtransmission applications.

      I mean, nobody in California should do any of this, but, like, they can't even come up with good crackpot ideas.

    11. SNCF is studying 9 kV DC; FS (now TrenItalia) did study 6 kV DC for the Direttissima high speed line, but it is now 25 kV 50 Hz…

      in order to have sufficient mechanical strength of the wire, higher voltages do not bring any advantage. 25 kV is a very manageable voltage, and it allows without any problems to transmit 20 to 25 MW through one single pantograph (with a contact current of 1000A). Insulations are manageable, and, because of the 50 Hz, the transformer won't be such a monster.

      Even if the SNCF studies are kind of leading to some success, I am still very sceptical about the practical use of 9 kV DC. Rolling stock-side, it does require way more insulation and equipment, and getting the voltage down to a reasonable intermediate circuit (today, 3 kV DC), can become a serious issue.

  10. In case you missed the two most recent Ralph Vartebedian articles in the LA Times about CAHSR, here are short summaries (not behind a paywall):



    1. Let me see if I got this right. Authority needs 119 mi track (minus catenary) put down in 3 years or lose ARRA money. It can't put out a track bid that doesn't include future catenary work, work which would take an additional 3-4 years and make the authority miss the ARRA deadline. Construction of guideways and structures won't be completed until 2022. Authority is required to work with 5 mile increments to lay track due to the incomplete guideways and structures. FRA won't extend timeline. And now FRA is objecting to 5 mile increments.

    2. It's not meant to make sense, it's meant to tie it up in the courts and subvert the project from the inside. Especially when you look at the meeting with Pelosi where all this began, the President is throwing a temper tantrum. He is going back on an agreed contract because this is how he runs his businesses. It's not going to work here, or ever. This sort of below stupid logic doesn't work in courts and it doesn't worth with most of Congress, who has already proven unwilling to assist Trump's attempt to destroy Amtrak itself.

      CHSRA's concerns are immediate: getting money for Gilroy-Merced. Pending the altercation with Trump, this will require a new deal to be struck in Sacramento. It'll be interesting to see what happens - personally I think ACE/VL will get cash up front for a major build while Metrolink is given enough money to begin separating passengers and freight. And if the CARB documents are anything to go by, a larger deal struck for general Socal electrification might open up more sources of money.

      And in a general government operations sense, Trump's actions have seriously called into question the sustainability of competitive grant programs. If the President is going to treat these as a joke by changing the rules, then Congress has to step in and write rules that are easier to just put in through a preset grant program managed by USDOT as part of a national transportation plan. The sort of plan that (sort of) exists for Amtrak.

    3. @aarond, I think Caltrain has real issues with completing ARRA-funded construction by 2020. They've only acquired 78% of the required titles in over 6 years. That's 13% per year. If they continue at that rate they won't be finished until sometime 2022. That end-2022 construction date has already been extended by the FRA.

      And if you want a "preset grant program managed by USDOT", sort of like Amtrak, then Amtrak will likely eat all the rail funds. There are a lot more Senate seats on the NEC than there are in California.

    4. @les: your precis sounds like https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article238317708.html, except it doesn't say anything about a fight over 5-mile segments. Where did you find that?

    5. "5-mile segments" was discussed in the Authority's Dec 10th meeting.

    6. "To help speed up construction, California wants to lay down track in non-continuous 5-mile sections, but the FRA is against the idea."


    7. which opens, "The California High Speed Rail Authority is acting like your typical teenager. "....

    8. “HS2 has been planned around a specification which is unnecessarily high and expensive for the services needed and for a country much smaller geographically than France, Germany or Italy. HS2 Ltd has designed the scheme for 360/400kph, higher than any other high-speed line in Europe or Japan, and for 18 trains an hour in each direction, when the company itself admits that no other such high-speed line is able to run more than 12 to 14.”

      “HS2 Ltd then appears to base its forecast revenue and other benefits on this excessive specification to achieve benefits more than twice costs, according to the 2017 Economic Case, suggesting that the scheme provides value for money. However, even before taking into account the much higher scheme costs, the ratio of benefits to costs in the 2017 case is totally false, based as it is on more trains than any other high speed line can operate, on higher speeds, and on trains running full all day with high fare paying passengers than any other high speed line can operate. Thus, my best estimate is that the HS2 project has a BCR of less than 1, possibly as low 0.6 and therefore ranks as poor value for money when using the Treasury Green Book.”

      “HS2 Ltd then appears to base its forecast revenue and other benefits on this excessive specification to achieve benefits more than twice costs, according to the 2017 Economic Case, suggesting that the scheme provides value for money. However, even before taking into account the much higher scheme costs, the ratio of benefits to costs in the 2017 case is totally false, based as it is on more trains than any other high speed line can operate, on higher speeds, and on trains running full all day with high fare paying passengers than any other high speed line can operate. Thus, my best estimate is that the HS2 project has a BCR of less than 1, possibly as low 0.6 and therefore ranks as poor value for money when using the Treasury Green Book.”

      “If ministers are minded to help improve the rail network and services in the Midlands and North, this can be achieved by integrating the HS2 Phase 2B lines within the NPH area into the existing network, and improving the Network Rail (NR) lines in the NPH and MC areas by track quadrupling to what it was before the Beeching era cuts. The aim must be to give these areas the same standard of commuting services as there is in the southeast whilst, at the same time, improving the existing lines from London northwards. This option would save around £50bn compared to the cost of HS2.”

      He also advocates scrapping the Euston terminus in London, terminating instead at Old Oak Common, saving £8bn.


    9. Video: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hs2-costs-high-speed-rail-train-report-lord-berkeley-a9270951.html

  11. BB in the News: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7829165/Construction-firm-Balfour-Beatty-sacked-MI-headquarters-refurbishment-lost-plans.html

  12. Meanwhile, in China:

    World's first 350 km/h driverless bullet train goes into service in China

    "Taking about four years to build, the line, also referred to as the Jing-Zhang high-speed railway, connects Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, all three of which will host events during the upcoming Winter Olympics [...] Carriages are equipped with 5G signals, intelligent lighting and 2,718 sensors to collect real-time data and detect any operational abnormalities ... each seat has its own touch-screen control panel and wireless charging docks. Though the trains are autonomous, a monitoring driver will be on board at all times. The trains can automatically start, stop and adjust to the different speed limits between stations At stations, robots and facial recognition help passengers with directions, luggage and paperless check-ins. [...] train interiors have been designed with the needs of athletes and journalists in mind: some cabins feature larger storage areas for winter sports equipment, which can be accessed by QR code. Special storage spaces have also been created to house athletes' stimulant test samples. The dining car can be converted into a media center during the Olympics, with adjustable seats and tables making it easier on journalists traveling with lots of equipment. The car will also offer a live-broadcast service and charging outlets underneath each table. Car four features removable seats for passengers traveling with wheelchairs during the 2022 Winter Paralympics."

  13. Meanwhile in Switzerland, the SBB is beginnng acquisition of 325 new single-deck EMU sets: https://groups.io/g/SwissRail/message/27326.

    Contributor/owner(?) there , someone with amazking knonwldge of SBB's roster and operations, states that:
    "SBB thinks that EMU should be used during 25 years and then be replaced."

    I have zero insight into SBB 's operations and capital-expenditure vs. maintenance. But 25 years is about half the lifetime of SBB locomotive-hauled coaches and the locomotives hauling them. (cf: SBB EW II, Re 420), [[ Max, or anyone else more knowledgeable, please correct me]].

    What lifetime does Caltrain plan for their Stadler EMU sets? Have they thought that far ahead?

    1. "does Caltrain plan"? "Caltrain" and "plan" in the same sentence?


      Anyway, here's a nice little summary -- from way back in 2007, when Caltrain's FLIRTs ought to have been in service, running to SF Transbay, and there is ZERO REASON AT ALL that was not so --; see page 11 of this PDF (was originally http://www.litra.ch/dcs/users/2/Infofahrt_2007_Referat_Blumenthal.pdf but bitrotted away, and invaluable archive.org isn't helping.)

      The breakdown for over 25 years is given as:

      * Purchase price: 56%
      * Vehicle maintenance: 25%
      * Power (ie electricity): 11%
      * Cleaning(!): 8%

      Up-front capital cost is little over half. (Der Beschaffungspreis macht nur gut die Hälfte der gesamten Lebenszykluskosten eines Regionalzuges aus.)

      Maintenance (by professionals, not shade-tree; scheduled, not wait-until-it-breaks; 95% availability, not sub-70%; give-a-crap about performance, not USA; give-a-crap about costs, not USA) is a quarter of the total.

      Since then power costs have risen, meanwhile train energy efficiency and train revenue availability have also risen. Well, outside the USA they have. We can't have nice things. BUT CALTRAIN NEEDS MORE MONEY!

    2. "The vehicles shall be designed to have a minimum service life of thirty (30) years for the car body and truck frame and twenty (20) years for all other systems and subsystems, unless otherwise specified. The achievement of design life assumes Caltrain compliance with the approved maintainability plan specified in Section 21.5.1, and assumes conventional JPB maintenance practices and normal industry-accepted operating procedures. For design purposes, the annual average operating distance per car is 90,000 miles (144,841 km), at an average service speed of 40 mph (64.4 km/h)."

    3. It is both, technical, but also economical to give simple EMUs a 25 year lifespan. For one, the power electronics probably barely make it for that time span, and the passenger requirements may change considerably over that time span. (for the latter, the Japanese give many vehicles 15 years or so). One possibility would be to do a complete in-depth overhaul after 20 or so years, but that may at the end of the day cost almost the same as a new vehicle.

      Now, those 325 single deck EMU sets are intended to replace several fleets:

      • about 130 GTW (Thurbo belongs to SBB), which were built "cheaply", and will be at the end of their life in 10 or so years

      • about 100 "Domino" push-pull sets, where the EMUs and cab cars are already 30 or so years old (but got a complete overhaul in the last 10 years); they too will be at the end of their life in those 10 years

      • first generation of FLIRTs (yeah, they are already that old…)

      Also note that those 325 trains will be procured over a rather long time span (15 years, give or take a few). One can expect that there will be several subgroups, and it may also be that the whole order goes to more than one supplier.

      Now, about the lifespan of locomotives and hauled coaches: again, there is a complete overhaul after 20 to 25 years. The Re460 "Lok 2000" are undergoing that right now (including replacement of the power electronics), and the IC2000 bi-level stock has just started theirs. For this, SBB decided to do a mid-life overhaul, probably because the depreciation time for the locomotives is 30 years (or so).

      EWI/II are almost all gone; Besides of some locals trough the Simplon tunnel, Re4/4" + EWI/II sets are only used for standby trains coming into operation when a scheduled train gets excessive delay or a technical problem. But when the IC Dostos (Bombardier TWINDEXX Swiss Express) bi-level EMUs finally (only 6 years delay) become operational in quantities, the standby trains will be replaced with Re460-EWIV push-pull sets.

      One last note about the lifespan. Aluminium has no limited long-time strength; the strength diminishes over the whole lifespan. So, in order to create a 50 years lifespan, you will need a sturdier (heavier, more expensive) design than if you build for 25 years.

  14. @richard: I didn't mean to prod a sore spot. My question was more about: what _Caltrain_ expects, given the lifetime they're used to -- which are as long, or longer, than European coach and locomotive lifetimes of ~40 years.

    Off-topic: I do know that European and North American expectations of rail vehicle "maintenance" are incompatible. Southern Pacific's experience with Krauss-Maffei diesel-hydraulics was that the manufacturer's maintenance schedule was treated as a 'hangar queen", and they wanted to operate them like US diesel-electric. (wikipedia: "Maintenance requirements had exceeded the average levels of comparable domestic locomotives,")

    Yet another thing Caltrain could screw up by following Ye Olde Freight Railroade practices...

  15. Bye-Bye Baby Bullets. Hello San Mateo omnibus:

    1. I couldn't tell from the presentation: are there going to be southbound trains in the morning south of Tamien? Are there going to be northbound trains in the evening from Gilroy? Or is Caltrain going to be scheduled only for people working in San Francisco and The Peninsula?

    2. @Reedman Caltrain only has 4 slots per direction to use on UPRR tracks so expect them to be used in the SF commute direction only. i.e. NB AM and SB PM. More trains would require negotiation and paying $$$ to UP.

    3. Also, I believe VTA solely covers the Gilroy extension operating expense not covered by fares ... so in addition to the need for more train slots from UP, I think you’d need VTA’s willingness (eagerness?) to push and pay for “reverse peak” Gilroy service.

  16. Breaking News: