04 June 2023

BEMU Obsession

Barry the BEMU,
Caltrain's new mascot

"Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget—and I'll tell you what you value."

There's a new obsession gripping Caltrain: the Battery EMU, an electric train that can travel without overhead wires using electricity drawn from a large battery on board the train. The BEMU features prominently in Caltrain's recently approved two-year budget, which offers the best way to understand the agency's values. We find allocations for:

  • $80M for a single BEMU prototype train (at a $25M premium over a regular EMU)
  • $3.7M for in-house BEMU research and development
  • $2.5M for operations planning (including BEMU operations)
  • $1.1M to develop a 10-year capital improvement plan
  • $1 million to develop a roadmap for level boarding
  • $0.5 million to study future grade separations

The bottom of this list combines to roughly $5M of planning for Caltrain's entire future, a critically important activity to ensure its continued viability. The top two items in this list are almost $30M to pursue a BEMU obsession that will cost much, much more to scale up to anything resembling a viable service pattern. Going by these numbers, Caltrain values BEMUs about six times more than planning for its entire future!

Going Green by Blowing Green

Recently enacted California air quality mandates will make Caltrain's entire diesel locomotive fleet illegal to operate by 2030. This includes the nine locomotives now being refurbished at great expense and retained to operate diesel service to Gilroy (numbers 920 - 928).

If you start from the premise that rail service to Gilroy must be maintained and expanded at any and all costs (regardless of the much ballyhooed fiscal cliff) then a solution must be found to run trains beyond the end of the wires in San Jose, and soon.

Here is the range of available options, from cheapest and most reasonable to most risky and profligate:

  1. Most obviously, purchase the same diesel passenger locomotive that almost every passenger rail operator now uses in California: the Siemens Charger, used by Amtrak, ACE and Coaster. This is a modern low-emission model that will not be outlawed, requires no R&D, and costs about $8M each.
  2. Slightly more ambitious is to purchase an upcoming version of the same Charger locomotive that will have zero emission capability to operate through densely populated areas, thanks to a bank of batteries built into a permanently coupled passenger car. This is a model known as the ALC-42E and has been ordered in large quantities by Amtrak. As a bonus, it can draw power directly from overhead wires where available. This option requires no R&D and likely costs closer to $12M each.

  3. Yet another possibility, if one accepts the idea of a seamless cross-platform transfer at San Jose Diridon, is to serve the low-ridership Gilroy branch with smaller trains that do not interline onto the peninsula rail corridor. Stadler has an existing BEMU product known as the FLIRT Akku, developed for remote branch lines in Germany that have similar ridership profiles as Gilroy. This option requires little R&D (beyond overcoming American "not invented here" syndrome and shepherding the technology through FRA approval) and likely costs about $20M per train.

  4. By far the most risky and expensive option is to apply the Akku technology to the Caltrain version of the Stadler KISS, turning it into a supersized BEMU to serve Gilroy and points beyond (Salinas, anyone?) with massively oversized 650+ seat trains. This requires new research and development to add very large batteries (likely in excess of 1 MWh) that will be lugged around as giant dead weights whenever the train operates under the wire. Adding massive batteries to the KISS EMU defeats the very purpose of this vehicle: to move huge numbers of people quickly even with lots of station stops. Costing $85M for the first example and likely north of $60M for each follow-on, this BEMU can rightly be described as "the wrong tool for the job."

You'd need at least six trains to run anything resembling a reasonable service pattern, so multiply accordingly: Caltrain is contemplating the expenditure of about 1/3 billion dollars to keep the Gilroy branch steadfastly served by steel wheels on steel rails. We all love Gilroy, but at any cost?

the right tool for the job
(original by Grendelkhan)
Considering that the Gilroy branch generates very little ridership (about 1% of Caltrain's total ridership before the pandemic), a better interim solution, until the HSR project electrifies the tracks, is to transfer the Gilroy branch to a mature, affordable and environmentally friendly rubber wheel technology: the express bus. This would have the added benefit of allowing Caltrain to quickly rid itself of all of its polluting and failure-prone diesel equipment by 2025, with enormous savings in operating and maintenance costs just as the agency reaches its purported "fiscal cliff." Caltrain should go 100% electric now.

Consultant Featherbedding

The root of this insanity is understandable: Caltrain has for many years retained the services of in-house vehicle consultant LTK, tasked with supporting the highly complex procurement and regulatory approval of a new fleet of electric vehicles. Now that the Stadler contract will be winding down as this new fleet enters service, these people's jobs will be finished. They desperately need to justify their continued existence, and an open-ended research and development project to send oversized bilevel BEMUs all the way to Gilroy, Salinas and beyond is the perfectly timed green-washing opportunity.

Sadly, the BEMU is an expensive solution looking for a problem.


  1. Why not just electrify the 40 miles or so to Gilroy? This is century old tech, and would be compatible with the KISS train-sets…

    1. Asking the right questions here! Why increase complexity and cost (even if you get the cheap Chargers)? Much easier to electrify the Gilroy line and use one fleet. Just add 2-3 more KISS sets, done.

      But... my take on what Caltrain should do:
      Step 1: An interim solution is to sell off the current diesel fleet and get a bunch of Chargers. Easy enough to sell these Chargers down the road and keep a few for back up/emergency services. With the remaining few, a shuttle between Diridon and Gilroy, on hourly intervals with timed cross-platform transfers can be easily accomplished with 2-3 sets. Alternatively, just have Capitol Corridor take over the slots and the service between Tamien and Gilroy instead of duplicating service(s) since they're expanding to Salinas, apparently.
      Step 2: In the meantime, they should seriously consider buying the ROW between Tamien and Gilroy (and maybe Salinas) through cost sharing agreements between CAHSR, Capitol Corridor, and Caltrain. CAHSR will need the ROW to get from Gilroy to Tamien, plus this sets up this corridor nicely for grade separations and upgrades. They can keep one conventional track for freight/back up as needed (e.g. 3 track to 4 track corridor?). From a long term operational and capex perspective, it would be way cheaper to buy the ROW to integrate the many things coming down the pipeline and put wires up.

      I wouldn't be surprised as a result of the new air quality mandates that we start to see freight, commuter/regional, and long distance trains take a serious look at putting wires up across the state. In this case, a dual-mode locomotive (Tier IV diesel & pantograph, not batteries or hydrogen) could be a much better solution for Amtrak, Capitol Corridor, etc while the state starts to shift to overhead wires.

    2. Is there enough freight traffic between the roughly 20 miles of Blossom Hill and Gilroy that we'd need a 3rd track? The RoW is straight, so freight running at 45 mph (or maybe 55 mph) wouldn't take too much space to slot in.

    3. It's a matter of track ownership and UP's resistance toward OCS on their tracks (it's the reason why Diridon has a single non-electrified track IIRC). It's a lousy excuse on their part, but it's the way it is. Given the low level of proposed service to Gilroy, in the interim it would probably be good enough to have a single electrified track with passing loops along the way.

    4. Electrifying to Gilroy is completely unwarranted for existing or foreseeable levels of ridership demand. It only becomes viable if the HSR line comes through Gilroy, and that won't happen for years if not decades after 2030. Scaling from project costs on the peninsula, it would likely cost well north of a billion just for infrastructure, and likely require the outright purchase of UPRR's right of way. This is just not remotely a viable solution to Caltrain's diesel fleet becoming illegal in seven years.

      As far as fleet size needed to serve the Gilroy branch, we can estimate the requirements by abusing the service pattern generator, which doesn't model stations south of Tamien, with the following (rough) station equivalencies set by station-to-station distances:

      Tamien = San Jose
      San Jose = Tamien
      Santa Clara = Capitol
      Sunnyvale = Blossom Hill
      Menlo Park = Morgan Hill
      San Carlos = San Martin
      San Mateo = Gilroy

      With 79 mph diesels serving all stops on the Gilroy branch, the resulting service pattern indicates that you need:
      2 trains + 1 spare for hourly service
      4 trains + 1 spare for 30 minute service
      6 trains + 1 spare for 20 minute service
      8 trains + 1 spare for 15 minute service

      The numbers only get larger for extended service to Salinas or Monterey.

      As Nick points out, re-motoring the MP-36s to achieve Tier 4 emissions (right after they're fresh out of mid-life overhaul, yay for advance planning) is possibly cheaper than purchasing new Chargers.

      Unfortunately, the state is practically throwing money at Caltrain and other rail operators in a sort of white collar welfare program to R&D new solutions like the BEMU, so here we are. Caltrain's letter to CalSTA intones: "A BEMU demonstration project could support CARB’s new regulation with the state funding the research and development phase in order to gain FRA approval. This could in-turn allow Caltrain and other rail operators in the state and the rest of the nation to apply for federal dollars to acquire new BEMU fleets as a way to gain zero emission service on railroad lines designed for diesel locomotives, which are almost all railroad lines in the entire country."

      Where have I heard about these unicorns and rainbows before? CBOSS was a Caltrain R&D project that was supposed to provide great benefits to all passenger rail operators in our Nation. It ended in a bonfire of wasted public funds and protracted lawsuits. Which reminds me: closing oral arguments in the CBOSS lawsuit are being made on June 15th at the county courthouse in Redwood City. Bring popcorn.

    5. 1B$ is a lot, electrifying tracks in Germany costs between 1.4 to 3.6 M€ / km (single track), so for 65 km of double track, we are talking 468 M€ maximum… Big difference is that the state owns the tracks.

    6. While electrifying down to Gilroy has low ROI until HSR construction kicks off, there's a decent argument for extending electrification south another 5 miles from Tamien to Blossom Hill. South San Jose has pretty depressing transportation options, and HSR funding could be leveraged to ensure electrification is done in a HSR compatible way - if possible.

  2. Clearly, Caltrans purchasing the corridor with electrification costs shared by Caltrain / Capitol Corridor (Caltrans) / HSR is the wisest path forward from the taxpayer and rider perspective.

    Would it make sense to divide this HSR segment with Caltrain leading the SJ to Gilroy segment while HSR focuses on connecting Gilroy with Merced?

    In the short term, what would it take to raise the Caltrain limits on the track south of SJ from 79 mph to 110 mph? Now that we have figured out how to certify UP's PTC implementation at 110 mph between St. Louis and Chicago, the effort to raise it here should be more achievable.

  3. A likely even cheaper option than purchasing Chargers is converting their MP36s to MP54ACs (something Caltrain should have done during their locomotive refurbishment). That would get them a tier 4 locomotive at the lowest cost, and with better performance to boot. GO Transit showed that this conversion path is feasible as well.

    1. The other option would have at least been a T3 rebuild with 710 or T2 with the existing 645. Getting at least that should have been enough to push the deadline back

  4. Clem, I think you missed an option, Tier 4 compliant DMUs as used by SMART (Nippon Sharyo) or eBART (Stadler), preferably with a cross-platform transfer at Diridon, rather than running them up to SF. ACE has the same issue, in an ideal world, the two agencies would agree on a common solution.

    1. The Metrolink Arrow service down in San Bernadino / Redlands recently opened with Stadler FLIRT DMUs and level boarding on track shared with freight (They got a CPUC GO 26-D waiver). Caltrain should see if they can leverage that DMU order. Metrolink's order also included an option for a Hydrogen-powered DMU for zero-emissions purposes. This sounds just as dumb as Caltrain's BEMU idea, but at least the cost could be shared.
      The fact that both Metrolink and Caltrain are pursuing different custom zero-emission MU solutions with Stadler using 100% state funding makes me wonder if this is all some kind of CA scheme to funnel state money to Stadler.

    2. Reality Check07 June, 2023 10:24

      A Swiss railfan posted this video H2 Stadler FLIRT built for the San Bernardino CTA’s Arrow service he found parked at an out-of-the way little station in Switzerland.

    3. If they were going to do that a battery flirt would have suited them just fine and been slightly more but no need to replace. a 4 car version would offer plenty of capacity and with upto 100mi of wire thats more than enough for gilroy and back

  5. Give Gilroy Service and any future extension south to the Capitol Corridor.

    1. I agree that extending Capitol Corridor makes the most sense to serve Gilroy. However there are a number of complications like needing a new CC light maintenance facility (currently the nearest one is in Oakland). Since this obvious solution would require good faith negotiation between Caltrain (run by SMCTA) and Capitol Corridor (run by BART) this is unlikely to happen due to the unfortunate SMCTA/BART history.

    2. Flipping the service from Caltrain has been discussed here before. Among other things, the Capitol Corridor ALREADY runs a roundtrip on weekdays to Auburn. All that is there is a siding. No maintenance facility there. It can be done, and an assumption of a long ago feud is not a reason to say it can't be.

    3. Reality Check07 June, 2023 10:29

      While like with SFCTA or VTA, SMCTA is not without influence … but it does not “run” Caltrain.

    4. @RealityCheck At least last time I checked, all Caltrain staff are still SMCTA employees. While the JPB is technically in charge of Caltrain policy, in practice it rubber-stamps whatever staff proposes 90% of the time.

    5. Reality Check07 June, 2023 19:14

      @jpk122s: check again. As part of the JPB’s recent lengthy and contentious governance examination revamp, the Caltrain JPB now has numerous of its own key staff (eg: execrable director, attorney, etc.). Their email domain names are being migrated from @samtrans.com to @caltrain.com.

    6. Reality Check07 June, 2023 19:18

      Hilarious (or freudian?) auto-correct typo! Of course, ”execrable” should’ve been executive director ;-)

  6. As already commented, the most sensible would be to electrify and have the high speed project pay a large part of that cost.

    Also since it's the same California state that both mandates clean air and is slow in getting the high speed rail line done, it might be worth looking in to finding an exemption to continue running the existing diesel locos until the HSR project has finished electrification to Gilroy.

    If there is a need to do some sort of research and buy some fancy prototype equipment, I'd suggest looking at building something that for the most part is a regular diesel electric loco but can be coupled to the EMU caltrain is intending to use, in a way that the loco at least is able to be controlled from the cab at the other end of a EMU and can at least feed auxiliary power to the EMU, but preferable power everything including the traction on the EMU.

    Btw, if anyone is really against this battery nonsense, maybe have the fire fighters along the current and future Caltrain route have a look at battery related fires, especially in tunnels which is relevant for the future Transbay station.

    Also, as a side track when discussing Gilroy, IMHO they really did a bad job when rebuilding the area around the station. The lesson learned from all around the world is to add additional stations in the outskirts and have park+ride there. In Gilroy there could be an additional station at the Garlic World thingie, both serving the annual event but more importantly put the park+ride passengers there rather than in the middle of the city. Doing that would make it possible to build higher density mixed use development at the station. Also it would be a reasonable idea to have another park+ride station in the northern outskirts.

    1. Since the root of the air pollution problem is the high-pressure combustion (producing either smoke or NOx), I would suggest that Caltrain look into what may properly be called the external combustion engine. By separating from each other the functions of the thermodynamic working fluid (which needs to be hot and high pressure) and the actual combustion using atmospheric air, which can be kept at low pressure, this technology provides a solution to the fundamental dilemma. A still further benefit of this technology is that, unlike with electric batteries, it is remarkably easy and cheap to include a sizable accumulator of the working fluid into the machinery, thus allowing capabilities akin to the "sprinting" of modern EMUs, or the complete suspension of combustion while running through a section particularly susceptible to air pollution.

      Some readers may be suspicious that this is a satire and that I'm describing an obviously obsolete technology. They are thinking of a predecessor of the technology I'm thinking of; perhaps an accurate analogy would be to say that they are thinking of an early 20th century EMU, with rheostatic traction control and brush-commutated DC electric motors, where I'm describing a contemporary EMU with semiconductor inverters and a rotating-field motor. A contemporary implementation would very well avoid throwing away its working fluid into the atmosphere, instead separating the functions of blower fan from that of heat rejection. However, such readers are entirely correct: what I've described above is "Caltrain might as well propose to bring back steam engines".

    2. "[B]attery related fires, especially in tunnels which is relevant for the future Transbay station": Or under the Bay in a new rail tunnel if batteries seriously are tried then. That's another reason to have a service-emergency, including yes, escape tunnel between the two new rail tunnels, much larger than the passenger gallery of the BART Tube now. Make it a rec trail just for fun as well. (blows away NYC in length if not importance)

      "[A]dd additional stations in the outskirts and have park+ride there": It works even in existing suburbs, including on a freeway route now in eastern Dublin and northern Pleasanton.

      But: "Doing that would make it possible to build higher density mixed use development at the station [downtown]": For a small town like Gilroy, why have two stations?

    3. Although a nice idea, I'm not fully sold on the idea to combine an escape tunnel with a pedestrian/bike path open for the general public. I admit that I'm not that familiar with rescue operations but I would think that you'd want to be able to for example drive ambulances and whatnot at higher speeds in a rescue tunnel without having to worry about the risk of running over a pedestrian or bicyclist who happened to use the tunnel when a train accident happened. This might be possible to solve though.

      The point of having two (or even three) stations in Gilroy would be to make it possible to have a walkable neighbourhood around a station in the central area of the city while still having large parking places at a station (or two) in the outskirt(s) for those who live far enough that they have to drive to the station.

      And sure, you can technically have park+ride around a station in the central area of a city, but that is just bad land use and the time it takes to walk across the parking is added to everyone who lives withing walking distance, resulting in that fewer lives within walking distance, adding more car trips (or at best bus trips) to/from the station.

  7. As with the unicorn in Japan, shouldn't this be reserved for Marin and SMART's replacement someday? Maybe about the time we get a new Richmond-San Rafael Bridge with a rail line on it, plus a tube under the Bay for conventional rail, then all that the vehicles need is armored window covers (SuperShutters™ or SuperBlinds™) that cover the windows and protect the occupants when the trains reach the East Bay and uncover the windows once safely past the shore heading back to Marin.

  8. Well, at least it's not battery-powered high speed trains as one Laura Friedman, eager to redistribute high speed rail money closer to her district, had wondered about once. Still, what an embarrassment. Name increasingly worse and more expensive things, and Caltrain must do it, I guess out of BART envy or something.

    1. The logical next step -- to deal with the poor payload to deadweight ratio -- is to suggest staging, as used with rockets.

    2. You joke, and yet... Rocketlab's Electron rocket uses battery powered electric turbopumps to feed propellants to its (not electric) engines. The batteries are jettisoned when used, see 26:20 in this video.

  9. A milestone was finally reached a few days ago: https://youtu.be/e8LzyFO8fV8
    Not sure why they bought those old AEM-7s, if they were willing to risk the first test run with their brand new toys.

    1. However, if you look carefully at the end of this second video, one of Caltrain's diesel switchers was at the very end of the train. It's not clear that they were actually running using overhead power.

    2. Reality Check08 June, 2023 20:30

      The videos Caltrain released also show that the trainset is crawling along a rickety old electrified “drill” track (the soundtrack sounds like its jointed rail) alongside the two electrified mainline tracks. Another image shows what apoears to be a small video camera mounted on the pantograph — presumably to monitor and/or record how the contact wire and pantograph are interacting.

    3. I don't know what shape the AEM7's and ALP44's are in, and what quality they ended up with when manufactured, but the locos that they are based on, the Swedish ASEA (later ABB, later Bombardier) Rc class, are still excellent electric locos and in general all of them and the related loco models are still in revenue service except for that the first Rc got donated to the Swedish national railway museum and also locos that has been involved in severe accidents has been scrapped.

      (The only general scrapping of vehicles related to the Rc loco are the class X1 EMUs (with similar traction electrics, boogies and whatnot) and also some weird cases where the company KEG bought one old Romanian licence produced Rc relative and brought it to Germany intending to convert it from 50Hz 25kV to 16,7Hz 15kV, but eventually it ended up being sold to some company in Sweden where it was used as a spare parts donor to other Rc locos).

      In fact the Rc design is apparently good enough that the Romanian company Softronic produces a modern loco called Transmontana that is partially based on the Rc loco, and tha major rail cargo company in Sweden, Green Cargo, has bought some of those locos at least twice.

      My point is that unless the manufacturing quality on the AEM7 and ALP44 locos were especially bad in parts that can't easily be refurbished, I would say that those are locos that could financially viably be refurbished and continue to be used "forever".

    4. I'll concede that this press release and this Twitter post may have been the work of over-enthusiastic PR people or interns. Testing by pushing an unpowered train set down a short section of track with a diesel switcher is no doubt a necessary step. However, the videos were intentionally edited to obscure what was going on and the Caltrain messaging was deceptive. I'd liked to say I'm surprised by this, but I'm not.

    5. Dang, I wish I could edit these things. This Twitter post.

    6. What's with all the conspiracy theories? The EMU did indeed move under its own 25 kV power as shown in this nicely shot video and seems to have performed five round trips on the drill track.

    7. You're right, that video does finally show unassisted movement during the last 30 seconds. The other videos Caltrain released appear to show the train being pushed by a switcher. I'm glad to be wrong.

    8. It was pushed out the yard by a switcher because the OCS in the yard is not powered on currently.

  10. The problem with this blog is its (unstated) mission to serve the public interest using reason. Unfortunately for your noble efforts, the transit industrial complex could care less about the public interest...

    1. Ugh. Why do so many people get this phrase backward when it’s clear what they meant to say is "could NOT care less."

  11. Caltrain is conducting a survey to get riders’ feedback regarding service from Gilroy to Tamien.

    Caltrain Electrification Service Planning - South County Survey<\b>

    Caltrain is evaluating service changes between Gilroy and Tamien Stations and would like riders’ help to inform these changes. Caltrain’s current schedule includes three (3) daily roundtrips that depart Gilroy at 5:54am, 6:31am, and 6:52am in the morning and arrive back at Gilroy at 5:21pm, 6:42pm, and 7:19pm in the evening (see schedule below). Caltrain is considering adjusting the departure and arrival times and adding a fourth daily round trip.

    Click HERE to begin survey

    Survey closes June 25.

    1. A bit weird that they aren't also asking non-riders for their opinion.

    2. A bit weird they're not asking riders and non-riders ("non" because Caltrain's service is HOPELESSLY INFREQUENT, UNRELIABLE, EXPENSIVE and generally shitty everywhere) north of San Jose, places where non-zero numbers of actual riders actually live and work, what THEY think about Caltrain pissing away yet more of its trains and yet more of its crew hours on zero-passenger dead-end trips to and from nowhere.

      A train and a train crew fucking off on a one-way mystery cruise to Gilroy is a train that could have been carrying passengers.

      But sure, Caltrain. More subsidies. Higher fares. FISCAL EMERGENCY. We get it. We've heard it all before. Again. And again. And again. And again.

  12. Sort of off topic but I recently decided to check what Transdef has been up to in the last few years. It's been a while and I forgot all about them. I see that in 2018 Susan MacAdams a 'Track and Alignment Specialist' submitted a "Request For an Immediate Stop Work Order" claiming a design flaw in the Herndon Overpass structure north of Fresno involving a vertical curve design that is a "public safety hazard and poses a serious threat to derailment".

    I am familiar with building officials issuing stop work orders on projects under their jurisdiction but not clear how common it is for outside specialists to file a complaint and be able to act upon it when not otherwise hired to conduct a peer review. She sent her request to CHSRA, was not satisfied with their response and said she would publicize her complaints to the press.

    Strangely enough I don't recall hearing any news stories about this back in 2018 even though bad news about CHSR was already a regular feature. Susan MacAdams report says risky combinations of vertical and horizontal curves occur at multiple locations throughout the line. Is any one familiar with this complaint? Have her concerns been separately validated? As they state themselves I understand Transdef's objective is to kill CHSR so obviously not an impartial player here. Just asking whether the problems Susan cites are as serious as she says or within accepted practice for HSR alignment design. https://transdef.org/high-speed-rail/flaws-in-hsr-designs-disclosed/

  13. Caltrain Seek South County Opinions on New Times, 4th Train

    More service in Gilroy seems politically popular and won't be easy to give up.

  14. Could small DMUs for the Gilroy segment be a cheaper compromise solution?

    1. Cheaper than the high-speed rail project, that's at least true.

      All the way to Salinas and beyond, Monterey Bay, or Hollister


    2. The downside of small DMUs would be that you either have to run a shuttle to San Jose where passengers would need to change trains - not popular, or you would need to mix that small DMU with the higher capacity and higher acceleration EMUs northwards of San Jose, which would result in that you would probably have to prohibit local travel along that part on those trains (or rather require passengers to have a valid ticket to/from south of San Jose to use those trains, no matter what part of the line they are on) and also you would probably have to skip stations to compensate for slower acceleration. Not popular among either passengers and those who plan timetables and those who operate the railway.

      The cheapest would be to do nothing, just continue running existing diesel trains until they are prohibited in 2030 and just apply some hope and prayers that HSR will have electrified the section to Gilroy before that. If most services will anyway be using brand new EMUs the old stock locos and passenger cars could be combined to units that have enough capacity and acceleration to be mixed among the EMUs.

      I wounder if this is just a way to make sure that the general public and state politicians and whatnot realize that anything else than just getting the electrification done is stupid and approve the HSR fundings for doing that part soon enough to be done before 2030?

      Anonymous: A tip: If you select name/URL instead of anonymous you can paste the link as your "URL" which makes it clickable. A bit extra work for you though and you probably need to write something to tell others that the "name" is clickable (perhaps paste the URL as "name" too?) but it would be a great service for readers of this blog :)

      P.S. as a side track, I just had a look on street view at the station in the last picture of that article. There is a long fence along the parking lot side of the platform, forcing everyone to walk up to a full platform length (when your car is in the middle of the parking lot and you enter/exit the middle of the train) instead of there just being say two sets of stairs (in addition to the existing accessible ramps). What's wrong with people who design these things? :O

    3. MiaM, there's the standard embedding method, too, as is used here and elsewhere, but I don't believe it's always a necessity.


      Having to change trains in the Great City of San Jose's Global Transportation Complex would appeal someday to Key People. Stupid? Others, too, want Pacheco Pass, not Altamont Pass.

      SMART rolling stock south of San Jose would at least be consistent with SMART's farther-flung operations beyond Santa Rosa, if also run out to Salinas, Hollister, Watsonville and other Monterey Bay stops. More housing likely is coming later, too.

      Use it to demo that Valley Rail idea, too, etc. Pleasanton and Livermore are still in the Bay Area, but Tracy isn't: How far beyond Tracy to go, that is the question. Hire consultants, no need to ask commuters and employers directly; spend more.

    4. idiot doom spiral18 June, 2023 22:05

      > I wounder if this is just a way to make sure that the general public and state politicians and whatnot realize that anything else than just getting the electrification done is stupid and approve the HSR fundings for doing that part soon enough to be done before 2030?

      i can assure you that our politicians don't have any secret plans, other than to line their pockets with tax payer dollars

    5. MiaM - I noticed your comments about the AEM7 locomotive history a few posts back. I'd like to share and/or exchange relevent information with you on that subject, could you email me at eleclocos@gmail.com

    6. Anonymous: Sent you a mail.

      Perhaps the owner or any admin (if there are any) could remove your comment or rather remove the mail address so you don't end up with all sorts of spam in the future.

  15. The latest JPB finance committee documents suggest that the BEMU will be 100% funded by CalSTA, so it sounds like more of their pet project than Caltrain's. Another important note is that the BEMU option requires that it be built with the same KISS car bodies so the FLIRT Akku can't just be substituted in here.

    1. Reality Check26 June, 2023 15:49

      CalSTA already tapped Stadler last year for up to 29 HEMU FLIRTs at Innotrans, as reported here:

      CalSTA orders 29 hydrogen trains for inter-city services

      … so it’s hardly surprising that they might also be interested in underwriting a California BEMU pilot / proof-of-concept with Stadler to see how well those work here, too.

      Caltrain is the perfect demonstration candidate agency as it’s the only one that already has the necessary catenary for in-motion charging … and an un-electrified ~30-mile branch whose round-trip distance still fits comfortably within a BEMU’s reasonably-expected off-wire range.

      The artist’s conception of what a Caltrain KISS BEMU would look like suggests a cab car dedicated to batteries as it appears to be windowless: see page 7 of today’s "Update on Stadler Contract Option and Rail Vehicle Acquisition".

    2. "Caltrain is the perfect demonstration candidate agency as it’s ..."

      ... the best conduit for cash flow, with the very very very worst oversight by disinterested disengaged morons, an agency staff 100% on the take for decades, a fully embedded cadre of full-time blood-sucking do-nothing consultants, no expectation of results or value for money, ever, never ever ever, and, well, in the end, anything goes.

      PARTY ON!

    3. CalSTA did not order 29 units they ordered 4 with options for 25 more, given that 4 4 car flirt AKKU would have been a perfect comparison and likely been the same cost as this single weird kiss

  16. Reality Check28 June, 2023 12:27

    Meanwhile, in related trainset acquisition news, Caltrain reports it hasnot yet been able to get TJPA to agree to fund an extra 7-car KISS “expansion vehicle” (the +1 in the earlier mentioned plan to order 4 + 1 + BEMU) to support serving TJPA’s “The Portal” before Caltrain’s favorable contact option (~$55m per 7-car EMU trainset) with Stadler expires in mid-August: DTX Master Cooperative Agreement (MCA) Update (PDF, 537.05 KB)

    As also ominously mentioned in the linked DTX MCA update, "There are critical, unresolved MCA issues" (emphasis original) between Caltrain & TJPA …

    1. The rent-seeking sub-human scum (PTG, ARUP, etc) who have taken the public (via the Transbay Joint Powers Authority) for hundreds of millions of DTX "design services", with far less than nothing to show for it, getting in a knife-fight with the sub-human scum at LTK Engineering Services (who have taken PCJPB for tens of millions in EMU "procurement services") for who gets to produce the shittiest outcome? FIGHT! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! May the worst consultant lose! (That means "all of them, without exception".)

      That aside, anybody with an IQ above 1 would be asking why Caltrain would be begging for somebody, anybody, to find "expansion vehicles" at the same time as some fucking lunatic self-serving consultants decided it should be running 7-"car" (175m) double-deck trains, which are both too long for any actual all-day Caltrain any time in the next decades, and are too short to be operated in coupled pairs to any of Caltrain's stations. Morons.

      What Caltrain needs is

      * a 100% EMU fleet (meaning, for now, more "cab car" end cars, to make more trains, not more intermediate passenger cars, to make too-long trains operating too empty and laughably too infrequently);

      * 100% level boarding (meaning, fire everybody working for Caltrain or Caltrain's consultants, retroactively 25 years, with extreme prejudice);

      * 100% One Person per train Operation (Just Like BART! That has to mean it's good, right? Meaning Caltrain can operate trains to serve passengers, instead of incinerating piles of cash to appease a few dozen 19th Century Old Tyme Casey Jones Railroad union members (literally! — the make-work do-nothing "jobs" of a few dozen conductors have been fucking over Caltrain service for decades past, and decades to come!)

      What Caltrain doesn't need is "LTK Engineering Services" (nobody needs that fuckage, ever, under any circumstance), "expansion vehicles", "7 car trains", mixed fleets (except for superficially different Stadler trains with common Stadler technology, maintained by Stadler), "innovation", "research", "American Railroading environment", "unique local circumstances", "nobody else has grade crossings", "nobody else has an agency CEO with zero outside experience", "nobody else has freight trains", etc.

      PS Perma-temp consultants LTK Engineering Servives, in addition to fucking over and skimming millions off the top of the Caltrain EMU disaster (your regular reminder: Caltrain is paying over 60% more for Stadler's "we can do this in our sleep, how many do you want this year?" products than any remotely competent rail operator anywhere else in the world. SIXTY PERCENT OF PURE GRIFT AND GRAFT AND CORRUPTION RIGHT OFF THE TOP OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS) but is also 100% responsible for the shitty one-off high-floor conductor-infested SMART DMU train joke. Death is far too kind a fate.

    2. Reality Check10 July, 2023 12:17

      Yes, Richard (as usual) is sadly correct.

      Being stuck with a fleet of all 7-car trainsets is nuts. They’re too long for reasonably frequent off-peak service and far too long (not too short!) to be run as coupled pairs.

      A longtime member of the Caltrain CAC recently said as much to the board & staff at a recent board finance committee meeting. He pointed out that in much of Europe, best practices are to have and use shorter trainsets that can be run as married pairs during peak demand periods. He went on to urge, for example, that instead of rushing to order four more 7-car sets under the soon-to-expire Stadler contract option that Caltrain really ought to be seeking to order seven additional 4-car sets.

  17. Reality Check28 June, 2023 13:03

    Longtime fellow Peninsula transit advocate / observer Andy Chow has blogged an interesting melancholy history of the dysfunctional Millbrae BART/Caltrain terminal & intermodal transfer station opened 20 years ago this month as part of the politically fraught "Rube Golbergian" BART SFO/Millbrae extension: Millbrae Station – 20 years later

    While there’s so much more to remember (or forget) about the politics and interagency squabbling, ruinous financial, operational, and practical ill-effects of the extension and station design, it’s worth a read.

    1. Longtime transit advocate / observer Andy Chow also has an incorrect SSL certificate for the web site you reach if you replace blog by www in the url.

    2. Don't forget that joining the BART-Caltrain party "will be" the state's high-speed rail project. At least, that's intended by the project, to the extent that it intrudes on the city's mass housing efforts .

    3. You can read all about the Millbrae HSR station plan in the approved EIR for the SJ-SF segment, which included a reduced footprint option. The city of Millbrae blaming this plan (which has been known for decades now) for their inability to meet state housing goals citywide is laughable.
      Extending BART to Millbrae was a terrible mistake. A joint BART/Caltrain station at downtown San Bruno with BART terminating at SFO would have been so much better from a cost and utility standpoint.

    4. Conceptually, without getting into the inches/cms of it, there are currently 5 tracks and three platforms at Millbrae. What is needed is 6 tracks and two platforms. What was shown in the CHSRA plans is 7 tracks and three platforms. Since proposing to completely rebuild the existing mess at Millbrae would have opened an incredibly complex can of worms in the EIR, pulling BART operations into play, the CHSRA plans consider adding on to the existing station. It would take a lot of political will to look at a complete rebuild.

      So, how with 6 tracks and two platforms?

      hsr ct ___ ba ba___ ct hsr

      BART would be slewed while still below grade north of the station to come up in the middle of the Caltrain/HSR tracks. Through tracks for either Caltrain or HSR would be on the outside, stopping tracks for either Caltrain or HSR would be on the inside, sharing a platform with the BART trains. BART would have a layover facility between the tracks south of the station.

      If HSR must maintain its security theater, with separate secure entries, the platforms could be dumb long, extending north of the existing station area. Separate facilities on a new mezzanine could be set so HSR passengers could descend close to their mid-platform point. BART could maintain a fence and fare gates down the middle of the platform to keep its sanctum holy from the transferring Caltrain and HSR infidels.

      Of course, like in so much else, a world without barriers would make this whole idea work much better.

      Could it happen? Sure. In the small print in SFO's latest master plan, it mentions their desire to extend the AirTrain to Millbrae in the future and provide baggage check at Millbrae for transferring passengers. This would be the time to use that planning process to set the ball in motion to rebuild Millbrae AND rationalize BART operations.

    5. Yeah so that topic came up back in 2011. Things haven't changed much.

    6. InfrastructureWeak17 July, 2023 20:36

      I don't think that's right - as of the Final EIR (reference pages 84 and 85) they've placed all four tracks at grade:


    7. The revised plan for the Millbrae station is in its own section of the Final EIR/EIS and shows a reduced station footprint to reduce the impact to the proposed development the Millbrae council is so upset about.

      Millbrae Station Reduced Site Plan Design Variant

      As @InfrastructureWeak says they have managed to fit in 4 tracks at grade without impacting the BART facilities.

  18. Reality Check20 July, 2023 16:06

    Caltrain staff yesterday announced that they have just learned that their $80m Stadler KISS BEMU demonstration train proposal will be fully funded by the state. Details will soon be published HERE in a staff report to the Caltrain Finance Committee for their meeting at 2:30 pm this Monday, July 24.

    1. Good news everybody! The system is working exactly as intended!
      Enjoy your one train per hour per direction ... forever ... and ever ... and ever ... and ever.

    2. Reality Check22 July, 2023 13:48

      Staff report on the Stadler option order of 5 additional trainsets begins on PDF page 42 of the Finance Committee meeting agenda lackage: https://www.caltrain.com/media/31244/download

      Four more 7-car KISS EMU trainsets for $220m (80% state funded) and one 4-car KISS BEMU for $80m (100% state funded as a “demonstration project”).

      Disappointingly, Caltrain staff says electric power rates have risen 67% since the electrification project’s 2017 FFGA and that ”electric costs are expected to eclipse Caltrain’s annual wage & benefits annual costs within the next two years”: https://www.caltrain.com/media/31251/download

    3. "Disappointingly, Caltrain staff says electric power rates have risen ..."
      Caltrain has always known that costs of electrified service would be higher! They came right out and fucking promised this in their EIRs. As they never had, do not have, and will never have the slightest intention of bringing the system's construction, maintenance, and operating procedures into the 20th century, let alone the 21st, electrification is a billion dollar sinkhole that just adds more crap (overhead and power supply) that Caltrian promises to "maintain" as expertly and efficiently and sub-third-world-ly that it does all of its structures, track, signalling, and rolling stock.

      Yeah sure been the job of dipshit "transit advocates" and mendacious Caltrian PR dickheads to bleat on and on about entirely imaginary "quieter" (no, not a chance, what with the endless fucking horn blasting and the endless INSAN bell ringing, all the time, everywhere, forever) and "cheaper" and "more efficient" (not a single fucking chance while anybody who has worked for or contractred for Caltrain any time ever has anything to do with it) or "greener" (sure whatever, that's the sound of my eyes rolling out of their sockets.)

      Electrification was a pure jobs for the boys scam. Anybody who claims otherwise is either on the take or an idiot. (And you're an idiot if you're not on the take!)

      The boys are gonna keep doing exectly what the boys always do, which is incinerating cash and not running trains. They've been doing it for decades, and they're not going to change just because power is more expensive (surprise!) and maintenance costs increase (THEY PROMISED THEY WOULD, DUH!) and all their other negative-utility capital programs (fucking grade separations) are widely, utterly out of control and unaccountable.

      Big surprise!

      PS Level boarding has a negative cost and could have been completed 20 years ago, except negative costs aren't in Caltrain's interests.
      One person trian operation has a negative cost and likewise could have been implemented decades before now (even with crappy diesel locomotives and unpowered Bombardier trains) but of course negative costs aren't remotely anything anybody at Caltrain will ever be interested in, ever, for any reason.

    4. The units costs are interesting.

      Base contract (2016): $551M for 96 cars (including non-recurring engineering) = $5.7M per car
      First option (2018): $183M for 37 cars = $4.9M per car
      Second option (2023): $220M for 28 cars = $7.9M per car
      BEMU (2023): $80M for 4 cars = $20M per car (including non-recurring engineering)

      Between 2018 and 2023 prices went up 60%, which seems like a rather steep escalation, about 10% per year. Who is padding the numbers?

      Also as of 2018, these were the Stadler unit costs:
      Powered middle car = $4.89M
      Unpowered middle car = $3.28M
      Cab car = $5.04M
      The first option order was 6 cabs, 6 unpowered, 25 powered = $172M plus $5M bond & contingency + $5M Caltrain lard.

    5. More data: in 2016, the 96 option cars were priced $390,294,450 before escalation ($4.06M/car averaged across all car types, per a pricing sheet that I do not have.)

      The escalation is based on the index value of a specific Producer Price Index category established from the PPI Detailed Report, published monthly by the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, specifically using Industry Code 336510, Product code 336510-3Z, Passenger and freight train cars, new (excluding parts) as shown in Table 11, Producer price indexes for the net output of selected industries and their products, not seasonally adjusted, as of the month and year of the NTP.

      I couldn't find the stats for the 3Z subcategory, but the parent category (Railroad rolling stock manufacturing) was at an index value of 227.498 in June 2023, up from 189.9 in June 2016. That's a 20% increase.

      Option 2 (now being exercised) is additionally subject to a Re-mobilization and Project Management Fee. I don't know the amount, but it must be quite large (of order $75M) to explain the overall option cost of $220M for 28 cars, since $4.06M/car * 28 cars * 1.2 = $136M.

    6. Yep, those unit costs certainly are "interesting". But good news, everybody! Nobody at Caltrain cares! And better news: Caltrain's consultants and Caltrain's staff skim percentages off the top, so more expensive = more gooder!

      BTW somewhat re my earlier comment https://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2023/06/bemu-obsession.html?showComment=1688953007724#c2150532640770241381 on the bat shit insane LTK rent-seeking wanker consultant 7-car Caltrain consists: what they're buying is so bad it's almost impossible to recover.

      If I have it straight, they're buying rocket-overpowered 2'Bo' + Bo'Bo' + 2'2' +
      Bo'Bo' + Bo'Bo' + 2'2' + Bo'2' (which I'll simplify to "2b+bb+22+bb+bb+22+2b") sets.

      Anybody rational (one arbitrary example: SBB-CFF-FFS) buys either 150m or 100m consists for this sort of thing, and operates coupled sets only at peak-of-peaks. (I've always said Caltrain should have been be planning and incrementally constructing for 2x150m, allowing 2x "6 car" 150m sets to double-berth at constrained Transbay and SJ Cahill Street, with 100m "4 car" sets as initial order starting point. I was right then about this, and I'm right now.) One starts with shorter trains operating frequently, and then, when demand rises to match service (as it would have!), incrementally spend the cash to lengthen the trains that are most over-subscribed. What one wants is plenty of trains in service, with lower (ONE PERSON OPERATION!) per-train costs. But instead, the sub-cretinous Olde Tyme Commuter Railroaders of Caltrain just want to run one train per service pattern per hour even at peak hours, and one train per hour tourt court outside "peaks", maximizing headways, minimizing fleet size (as measured in "trains", not "cars") and so they built their sub-cretinous Buy American fleet order around their 1tph peak hour peak direction train loading, and here we are, with too few too long trains costing far too much to run. Meanwhile somebody's sucking down 60% costs premiums. Somebody.

      The LTK scumbags have backed us into a corner where there are far, far too many Bo'Bo' powered intermediate cars under contract and under construction, and basically no way to recover. Do the math! Even if all 28 "cars" in the 2023 option were "cab cars" (theoretically allowing 14 more "trains"), there are so many excess rocket-powering Bo'Bo' non-cab cars in the pipeline that there simply isn't a way to have chopped down the 19 2b+bb+22+bb+bb+22+2b 7-car sets into any useful mixture of 2b+bb+22+22+22+2b (150m 6 "car") and 2b+bb+22+2b (100m 4 "car") trains — and note the second "bb" is a fixed given due to ADA toilet. There's just no way to recover.

      LTK Engineering Services is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Death is far too kind a fate for anybody involved.

    7. Hey Richard can you please cut out the death comments? It's about as funny as the guy joking about bombs in the TSA screening line. I've put too much time into this blog to have it blown off the internet by a complaint from someone taking your sense of humor a little bit too literally. Thank you.

    8. I agree the option selections have gone off the rails. The pre-pandemic goal was to have 8-car trains, as revealed by the car numbering on the 7-car EMUs delivered so far which are missing the xxx4 cars.

      To build up from 6-car trains (with 50% powered axles) to 8-car trains (also with 50% powered axles), they should first have ordered unpowered cars as the 7th car (resulting in 43% powered axles, more seats, and less expense) rather than powered cars resulting in what we are going to live with for the foreseeable future: 57% powered axles with a rated power of 8 MW. Rocket-powered indeed.

      My position has always been we should have had a mix of 8-car and 4-car trains (100 m and 200 m long) operating as 4+4 at peak times, like so.

      Of course none of this stuff is nearly as egregious as keeping a non-zero number of diesel consists around until 2030 and beyond.

    9. 2x150m can double-berth at split (via central crossovers) at 410m max length platforms at super-super-constrained Transbay, while 200m trains can't.

      And look around! 200m units are fundamentally too long in regional service — note that S-Bahn Zürich operates 150m double-deck sets (2x150m peaked), and, tragically, there's no way retarded Caltrain is getting to Zürich passenger levels any time in the next 60 years.

      Yes, cab cars cost more and carry fewer passengers than intermediate wagons, but there are downsides, most particularly fewer cabs = fewer trains = longer headways (such downsides are what Old Tyme Commuter Railroading 19th century relics at Caltrain actively promote) and the cab car costs are exaggerated by the same Caltrain consultant scumbags (ETCS/ERTMS signalling could be delivered off-the-shelf and in-house by Stadler, but nooooooo .... gotta deliver obscence billion-dollar payouts to sleazy subhuman American Exceptional contractors.)

      Another point: the "off-peak" short trains (in your terms, in other terms these are the SF—Redwood City shuttles of the only Caltrain service plan that makes any sense) should have could have been single-deck, articulated Stadler FLIRTs. Not really much lower capacity than Caltrain's hideously mis-specified double-deck KISSes (because so very much of "double deck" car capacity s lost to electrical cabinets on the intermediate level, due to both gross over-powering of the trains and non-use of larger US loading gauge and of roof-mounting), faster to load and unload, nicer in pretty much every way, and perfectly inter-operable with KISSes. Same train guts, different package. Coulda, shoulda, should have been in service a decade ago, but here we are, with the planet on fire.

    10. When the Swiss nicknamed the RABDe 12/12 as the Mirage due to its high traction (bb+bb+bb), that was an expression of affection. (The Swiss military bought Dassault Mirage jets at about the same time.) Perhaps Californians should do the same out of derision?

    11. Since when is 8MW for an 8 car train "rocket powered"?

      I admit that I don't know the length of each car, but in Europe that would probably not be considered overpowered for a commuter train? As an example the old commuter trains introduced in Stockholm in the late 1960's had 1.2MW per two cars.

      So sure, it's on the high end but on the other hand it's a commuter train with frequent stops and you save a lot of time by having great acceleration. With regenerative braking a bunch of that energy can be recycled when braking so the electricity cost doesn't have to be that high.

  19. Reality Check28 July, 2023 01:09

    ÖBB awards Stadler “framework agreement” worth up to €1.3bn for 120 BEMU FLIRT “units” (cars? trains? 🤷‍♂️):
    ÖBB selects Stadler to supply battery trains for partially electrified routes

    1. "The first deployment will be on the 44 km Kamptalbahn linking Hadersdorf am Kamp with Sigmundsherberg."

      Hadersdorf has 1981 inhabitants, and Sigmundsherberg has 1651 inhabitants.

      Compare with Gilroy, 59k inhabitans, San Martin, 7k inhabitants, and so on.

    2. I wonder, could it possibly make a difference that Hadersdorf and Sigmundsherberg are not already linked by a six-lane freeway?

    3. What difference? The situation is perfectly analogous, taking into consideration that in America, everything is bigger. The Austrian villages are linked by a one-lane-per-direction road, and their cute/dinky DMUs are getting replaced by cute/dinky BEMUs. The Californian towns are linked by a six-lane freeway, and their diesel-loco-hauled train is getting replaced by a battery-hauled train ...scratch that, a "train-sized" MU with a locomotive-sized battery pack.

      (Not to give anyone deliberately poor ideas, but it's moderately surprising they didn't propose to replace/turn the old engines with/into battery-electric locomotives and hauling unpowered coaches with them. It's so stupid, it would be entirely "on brand" for them.)

  20. Replies
    1. @InfrastructureWeak18 August, 2023 18:02

      "The current demonstration plan will have the BEMU charge while in operations between San Francisco and San Jose, and then operate using battery power on non-electrified tracks between San Jose and Gilroy..."

      "The 4-car vehicle consists of three passenger cars and one battery-head, which houses the battery and power equipment."

      Caltrain had better not use this thing's acceleration profile as a constraint for all their trains when they make the new schedule.

    2. Caltrain still claims they’re on schedule to begin running electric revenue service by late next year … so the battery beast likely won’t even be delivered & ready until much later to even have the potential to serve as a scheduling constraint.

    3. Oh, and Caltrain has long said they’ll be threading some diesel hauled trains into the schedule for years to come to run one-seat ride service to/from Gilroy and because even with the 19 (now 23) KISS EMU sets on order they say won’t have enough electrics to completely replace diesel trains. So there will long be lower-performing trains to serve as scheduling constraints.

  21. In September 2023 BART is going to all-day uniform 20 minute headways on all lines.
    (On weekdays before 9pm there is an additional 3tph on the Concord line; with 7/13 minute headways rather than 10/10 for timed transfer reasons due to suboptimal BART infrastructure.)

    Same exact service on Saturdays.
    Same exact service on Sundays.

    Every station, every 20 minutes or better, same minutes past the hour, every hour of service.

    Also train lengths are going from wasteful mostly 10-car (215m) on most services today to uniform 130m (6 car) with 170m (8 car) on the Concord line.

    This rejiggering to a 7 day uniform 3tph on every line every hour is designed to be revenue neutral compared to existing not-shabby operation, and is going to offer far better service.

    Meanwhile, at Caltrain, there never "planning" to do anything, ever, except the insane stupid wasteful inefficient, rider-hostie mess of failure that is all that anybody who works at the agency (including the CEO, who has zero experience of anything except Caltrain, having been brought on-board with zero transit experience of any type while the "Baby Bullet" timetable from twenty years ago, that has never been substantially improved of changed from its hour or worse headways in twenty years of utter failure to improve anything, anything at all.

    Meanwhile, at Caltrain, where mind-boggling poor train procurement driven by the sub-bottom-of-the-barrel unqualified self-enriching rent-seeking proven failure losers of LTK Engineering Services and allied consultants, the "public" "passenger rail transit" agency is saddling itself with 175m (7 car) double-decker elephants for everything, forever, which are guaranteedd, by explicit agency "planning", to spend most of their days sitting around empty not carrying passengers, just depreciating away.

    1. FYI here's what Caltrain running at 3tph, even with ridiculous 45 second station dwells (about 3x BART's because no level boarding on Caltrain, because thirty years without implementing level boarding by Caltrain, by choice of Caltrain's worthless agency lifer staffers), even with outrageous 15% schedule padding (because no level boarding on Caltrain, because thirty years without implementing level boarding by Caltrain, by choice of Caltrain's worthless agency lifer staffers:

      Caltrain 3tph KISS 45s dwell 15% pad: 11 train revenue fleet, 81.6% fleet utilization, , 115 Taktulator score for whatever that is worth.

      Same thing but with today's (and tomorrow's, and yesterday's, and last century's, because 30 years of negative achievement at Caltrain) diesel-hauled fleet:

      Caltrain 3tph diesel 45s dwell 15% pad
      : 12 train revenue fleet, 82.7% fleet utilization, 92 Taktulator score, which is about comparable to the sub-shit Baby Bullet hour-headway "timetable" of 2023 (2023!), but requiring 25% fewer trains and 25% fewer crews.

      As you can see, the "investments" in electrification and CBOSS has yielded almost exactly nothing! Good work, America's Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, good job sucking down two billion and delivering nothing except for higher maintenance and operating costs!

      Same electrified thing but with 20 second station dwell times, 7% timetable padding, 10 minute train turnback times, level boarding (hypothetical backwards world in which anybody, anybody at all, at Caltrain had given a shut about delivering public service and value for public money any time at all over the last three decades):

      Caltrain 3tph KISS 20s dwell 7% pad level boarding
      : 9 train revenue fleet, 84.6% fleet utilization, 101 Taktulator score for whatever that is worth.

      Bottom line: all Caltrain has done for three decades is incinerate dumpsters full of public cash.
      Zero service improvements.
      Constantly increasing costs.
      Out of control operating costs.
      Out of this world capital (= more or less only grade separations purely for cars, driven by solely by consultant cost maximisation) and construction costs.

      Scandalous. Criminal. Burn it all down.

    2. Typo in "Caltrain 3tph KISS 20s dwell 7% pad level boarding" scenario: 115 Taktulator score (for whatever that is worth -- but far better than Caltrain has ever offered or even plans to offer, ever, because America's Finest are in charge, and will be in charge, forever.)

    3. Why can't Caltrain run more offpeak trains? Just have a locomotive pulling one car

    4. who can you write to to stop this?

    5. John Ramsbottom25 August, 2023 03:56

      Why cant the group that are hell bent on taking HSR to court for anything they can come up with be encouraged to do the same for the waste of taxpayers money that seems evident in much of Caltrains projects.

    6. @John: as a way of kneecapping HSR shared-use of the Caltrain line, the group to which you allude had opposed Caltrain electrification in favor of either clean diesel or battery powered trains!

    7. "as a way of kneecapping HSR shared-use of the Caltrain line, ..."

      Caltrain the public agency has a 100% perfect record of kneecapping everything about service on the Caltrain line. No outside help needed, though they're very happy to accept it. ("Oh no, don't make us build grade separations for only two tracks! Oh no, don't make us stop at the same platforms as HSR trains! Oh no, don't make us run diesels in mixed traffic! Oh no, help, please won't somebody stop us from doing all the terrible things we're forced to do?")

      OK, they don't kneeecaps freight service. They fucking love freight trains, and base everything around keeping one freight train a day or something trundling along, serving no economic or environmental purpose. Nice healthy kneecaps for you if and only if you don't serve any practical purpose and cost billions to pander to! Baseball bats to the knees if you do.

      Yeah, so "kneecapping HSR shared-use of the Caltrain line"? Hard to imagine antyhing worse than what Caltrain has come up with:

      * Pacheco Pass, never ever ever even whisper ... "Dumbarton";

      * Preventing quadruple-tracking at almost every single location along the line, when nearly the entire line could have been quadrupled before they did their worst vandalism;
      everything designed not just for freight trains, but for the longest heaviest ore trains;
      two track "blended" system that fucks over Caltrain service anytime any fictional HSR trains does anything;

      * non-shared platforms.

      * Hour headways.

      * World's most expensive KISSes

      * Decades late with electrification.

      * CBOSS and its bastard offspring.

      * etc etc etc.

      Impossible to blame the big bad boogeyman of Atherton NIMBYs for any of this.
      100% self-inflicted damage.
      100% Caltrain's fault.
      Occam's Razor has no need of any "group ... hell bent on taking HSR to court" when you've got Caltrain fucking over Caltrain for recreational fun and profit at every opportunity.

    8. @John Ramsbottom: If it's the PAMPA gang you likely mean, the one-in-a-thousand actual, real NIMBYs, they're neither the most enlightened nor, as you might guess, the most prepared, either.


      Never mind they're at what most consider the new centroid of "Silicon Valley" insofar as the industry's activity and leadership goes, and otherwise are fortunate. They also want two tracks and trains in a tunnel or trench, if not removed completely. Not bright.

      So it is with the opposition there, not straw when it's very real.

    9. PS also re the new nice uniform every day 20 minute BART Takt with its shortened trains: this enables them to completely retire their old train fleet and operate their uniform service with a uniform fleet. Crazy stuff, huh?!

      Meanwhile, what are the criminal sub-morons at Caltrain doing? NEVER retiring the old fleet! In fact, they put out contracts for mid-life overhaul of the Bombardier passenger cars and MP36 locomotives, because 20 more years! 20 more years! 20 more years! 20 more years of Baby Bullet, random shit-stop service patterns, diesels 4eva, 3x-4x over-crewing, hour headways, inflexible oversized unfixable fixed-length 175m-200m bi-level over-crewed monster trains, and never level boarding. Never.

    10. Richard: Wait, wtf? I thought the idea was to retire existing fleet to meet 2030 emissions regulations. If they refurbis the existing fleet why would they need any new non-electric trains?

      (Don't know about their locos in particular but I assume that a refurbishment probably pays off in second hand value so might be a good investment even if they then decide to sell off the locos. Not sure if there is a potential buyer for the Bombardier passenger cars though? Perhaps any of the other transit agencies that uses similar cars might be interested?)

  22. Caltrain is likely to survive into 2080 before high-speed rail arrives then.

    Yes, obsolescence and so much more a concern, stupidity, and all that.


    You're supposed to whisper "Altamont Pass." That's the real act of war.

    1. As far as kneecapping goes...it is curious that the BEMU procurement is not getting more news. The Merced-SJ was supposed to be the next segment built by CHSRA. If they (the state) are now looking at battery trains, that suggests this is no longer the case. Normally, a trainset procurement is for 15-30 years, which suggests the SJ-Gilroy electrification isn't happening anytime soon -- if ever.

    2. Or maybe the goal of procure BEMUs is simply the procurement itself? I.E. a bunch of people getting to play with trains, and/or getting a nice bribe.

      (As said earlier in this discussion, it's the same California state that owns Caltrain and sets the emissions rules, so they could just give an exemption for the 2030 rule for the existing Caltrain diesel trains to be able to run them to/from Gilroy after 2030. Or they could simply buy one or two new locos compliant to the after-2030 regulations. Such locos would most likely be way easier to sell of after any electrifiaction to Gilroy than the BEMUs).

    3. @Drunk: I see it more as Caltrain having successfully lobbied the state (CalSTA) into forking over $80m to have Stadler build them the world’s first KISS BEMU as a one-off “pilot” proof-of-concept.

      CalSTA/Caltrans has already committed to 4 FLIRT HEMUs (CA orders 29 hydrogen trains) and so might also be interested to let Caltrain serve as their guinea pig and show them (and the rest of the electrification-resistant/reluctant world) how well BEMUs will (or won’t) work.

    4. @Reality: Could it maybe be that Caltrain is actually smart and had made a deal with Stadler where the cost of the regular trains is lower due to Caltrain being able to milk the state of money for the one-off BEMU? I very much doubt that this is the case, but would be great if so.

    5. @MiaM: no, the 4 additional EMUs were part of an expiring option to Caltrain’s original EMU purchase contract with Stadler. Their price was set before it was known whether Caltrain would win a state grant to fund the separately-proposed BEMU pilot.

    6. "Could it maybe be that Caltrain is actually smart"


  23. Caltrain Q4 FY23 Capital Projects update report … level boarding “roadmap” planning has commenced.

    1. Yes, yes, it's what else, Study time.

      Meanwhile, if Valley Link is going to get hydrogen, will Caltrain want hydrogen, too, for its SJ-Gilroy Technological Utilization Facility™?

    2. Incentivized & judgment-skewed by state & federal politically-fueled hydrogen hype and “free” (grant) money, Valley Link is probably making a big mistake. As Germany discovered with its homegrown Transrapid maglev, multiple reports & studies out of Germany are revealing HEMUs to be an uneconomical bust compared to BEMUs.

      An excellent Climate Center sponsored seminar this week goes into damningly compelling detail on how and why hydrogen hype is already posing a serious setback to global efforts to cut warming emissions: Hydrogen’s Role in the Clean Energy Economy

      The TL;DR is that green hydrogen (currently far less than 1% of world’s H2) production, storage, transportation and utilization (via fuel cell) unavoidably wastes somewhere around three quarters of the green electric energy used in its production (because physics!) … to make up for that, its cost per kg is prohibitively high!

      In essentially all cases, you’re much better off just using the green electrical energy to either charge batteries or to directly displace fossil fuel energy uses (eg. RR electrification).

    3. To anonymous from 01 september 2023, 12:26:

      So, it depends. Can batteries power your vehicle with the same performance as an H2 fuel cell? If yes, then great, use them. If not, H2. I don't accept the answer that we have to dramatically decrease our standard of living. Efficiency loss is fine, if battery technology can't do it. Just remember H2 stores more energy per unit mass than do batteries.

      There are other reasons to generate green H2: power storage, ammonia (for farms), green SAF, hydrogen fuel cell for aircraft, etc.


  24. Both 25kV substations are now “dual feed” … meaning both feeds have to go down for the substation to go down … and only one substation is sufficient to power the entire SF-SJ overhead catenary system (OCS). Caltrain is saying all 4 feeds would have to go down to stall their new electric trains.

    Caltrain, Balfour Beatty and PG&E Celebrate Major Milestone with Energization of Second Traction Power Substation

  25. About batteries:

    • Weight: for transit applications, 200 kWh correspond to about 1 tonne (metric); therefore, 1 MWh corresponds to 5 tonnes. While this is a big issue for a bus, it is much less so for a train. In other words, it could be worse.

    • Fire hazard: Indeed, Li-ion batteries used in automobiles do involve a fire hazard, and if they start to burn, the firefighters have to know what to do. However, for transit applications, there are other chemistries, which are much better in this respect. In many Battery Trolleybuses with In Motion Charging, they are using LTO batteries, and of them, they say that you can hammer a nail through an element, and… nothing happens…