Capital Costs vs. Operational Costs: the general state of misdirected anger

Oakland Airport ConnectorRail projects are expensive. Take, for example, the San Francisco Bay Area: Despite the fact that BART is having budget difficulties they moving ahead with a $500 million 3.2-mile Oakland Airport connector, a $3.4 billion rail car fleet replacement and a $6 billion extension to Silicon Valley. MUNI, which is also in the midst of a budget crisis, is moving ahead with $1.58 billion 1.7-mile surface/subway expansion program. It should be no surprise then that the amount general outrage directed at this apparent disparity between these ‘elitist’ projects and the service cuts faced by the same agencies seeking these glamorous expansions is growing.

What is lacking in this debate however is that these rail projects have lower operating costs than the services they are meant to replace. For example BART has one of the highest fair box recovery ratios of transit system in the country! Furthermore these projects increase transit capacity, speed and reliability and thus are able to entice more people to switch modes.

Making a statement with transit

These projects also make a statement – they’re massive monuments to transportation. They’re immovable and permanent. This is important because people who are willing to give up their car need some reassurance that transit is there for them. Switching modes is perhaps one of the hardest and most life altering changes that a person can make; the automobile is almost an extension of a person. To give up one’s car, for many people, is to give up a part of oneself – a part of one’s identity. That void needs to be filled, and a bumpy, impermanent bus route just won’t do it – not even if you label it BRT.

Rail. It WorksNow, I know that there are people out there outraged that I am concerned about people who have cars when there are people out there who barely have access to, or who may no longer be able to afford the bus. There is no excuse for the transit services to be cut, especially when ridership is at such high levels and global warming is peaking its’ ugly head. Everyone should be outraged by this! However, the solution is not to attack the projects that put transit on the right track for the future. These projects will allow buses to be replaced by trains that cost less to operate and simultaneously allow for increased reliability and capacity. These projects are the way forward. We should support them.

No Good.

IMAGE CREDIT: BART; BART; Flickr by ‘Will aims to rage’ and ‘pbo31′; Charles Cushman

© Brian A. Tyler and Switching Modes, 2009.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brian Tyler and SwitchingModes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

61 Responses to “Capital Costs vs. Operational Costs: the general state of misdirected anger”


  1. 1 anonymouse May 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

    You’re wrong. There’s a cost to any project, to any expenditure of money really, an opportunity cost of foregoing the benefit of other things you could have bought with the same money. BART to the San Jose Flea Market means there will be no Alum Rock light rail extension, and probably no light rail extensions at all for a while. It very likely means no VTA funding for Caltrain electrification. The costs of running the thing will probably result in cuts to bus service, as happened with SamTrans. That’s why it’s a waste of money.

    • 2 Switching Modes May 16, 2009 at 9:16 am

      anonymous:
      I disagree. BART to San Jose may not seem like the wisest idea now, but in 10-20 years it will have been a good decision in retrospect. There is no new Transbay Tube coming anytime soon, and with passengers living in the East Bay needing a way to get to their side of the Bay from HSR, BART in San Jose is the best option because it connects to the existing, and very extensive, BART network in the East Bay.

      Additionally. This key piece of infrastructure through San Jose will, ultimately, bring passengers from Diridon Station to downtown, San Jose. It will also bring the East Bay to San Jose.

      This might not seem that important. And there may other alternatives that appear more attractive, but over time these “monuments to transportation” inspire people to build around them and ultimately that is where future growth needs to be centered. That takes a while of course, but transportation PLANNING isn’t about today, it’s about the future. These plans are logical steps forward.

      • 3 anonymouse May 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm

        Except the VTA isn’t talking about building anything to Downtown San Jose. The plan of record as of right now is the Flea Market (Berryessa Station), and on their own, they can only manage as far as Great Mall with no intermediate stations from Warm Springs. The Downtown San Jose subway was planned on the assumption of significant federal support, which is very unlikely to be forthcoming due to the very high expense and low ridership benefit. And if you want to link Cahill Street Station to Downtown, why not a surface light rail on Santa Clara Street? It’d be faster than the current circuitous alignment via Convention Center and much cheaper than BART, plus save people the trouble of going down into the subway and might be more convenient with more stops. But I think Rod Diridon isn’t interested in light rail anymore, he wants his HSR to connect with a BART line at his station, so I guess that’s what we’ll get: a monument to the transportation genius Rod Diridon.

      • 4 Switching Modes May 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

        anonymouse:
        Even though the BART route is circuitous, I’m pretty sure it will be faster than a more direct light rail line. Besides, Berryessa station is not the end of the line, it’s simply a phase. At some point, funding will become available and BART will go to downtown San Jose.

        The plans for BART to go downtown, even though their delayed, will encourage smart growth in San Jose – a dense urban center. That’s the long-term idea (think 20 years out).That’s not to say light rail is a bad idea. However, the benefits of light rail aren’t the same.

        Also, BART can link Diridon station to the the whole East Bay, that’s what makes it a truly great project. Without BART going to Diridon, HSR will rely much more heavily on the Transbay Tube, which is at capacity now, let alone in the future. It needs BART in San Jose to direct East Bay BART traffic away from San Francisco. No rail line can do that like BART, not even a Dumbarton rail line because BART has such an extensive network. Any other connecting rail line would require an extra transfer to BART for most passengers.

        Light rail is great, but the ring around the Bay (with Caltrain and BART), and with HSR, the backbone will be laid for more local transit lines, such as light rial, to be more effective.

      • 5 anonymouse May 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm

        If you’re talking about San Jose Cahill Street Station to Downtown, then it really doesn’t matter if it’s light rail or BART. Light rail is going to take probably 4 minutes, BART about 2, but BART would require a walk to the north end of the station and down to a subway level, and back up from a subway on the other end, so the time difference doesn’t matter. From the East Bay to San Jose, a commuter rail would do better than BART, especially as the Great America station is much closer to the major employment centers of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, each of which has more jobs than Downtown San Jose, and which are full of easily redevelopable office buildings rather than difficult to displace residents as you see around downtown San Jose. Oh and traffic going to the HSR should not be the primary concern for Transbay capacity. You’ve got a potential for something like 36000 passengers per hour in each direction out of which, what, 400? will be going to HSR? It hardly makes a difference and is hardly worth spending 6 BILLION on. That’s 3000 miles of electrification, after all.

  2. 6 The Overhead Wire May 15, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I don’t think anger is misdirected and I don’t think that poor planning should be rewarded with huge wasteful projects. If the projects were beneficial and cost effective that would be one thing. For example, the airport connector could have been free for people to ride in perpetuity if it were done the way Transform wanted to do it. I don’t like rapid bus, but it would have been better than this overpriced people mover. For the price they are paying they could have built an elevated BART spur and ran it Airport to Airport. They wouldn’t have needed more vehicles or a storage bay or anything extra, just track.

    As to BART to San Jose, I was for it just as you are once upon a time, but then people started showing alternatives and ways to spend the same amount of money from a Capital standpoint on much better service. For example, you could build a completely electrified railroad from Monterrey to Sacramento with the funds from BART to San Jose. That is insane! And it would have been even faster between San Jose and Oakland than BART will ever be. For good measure Caltrain could have been electrified long ago. The BART route itself is 1970′s design down the center for a railroad right of way that touches nothing until it tunnels at Alum Rock. That is poor transit oriented design because it doesn’t run where the job centers are. San Jose as it happens has much less of a percentage of its jobs downtown than it does in the northern part of the city where all the tech workers are.

    As for the Central Subway, things like three car platforms were tossed because of cost. what happens when the line becomes so popular that its full. 2 car trains is not very many people, especially when the 30 and 45 are crush loaded all day. Without 3 car trains it is doubtful that the operating costs will be much lower than what exists. Right now Muni LRVs are actually more expensive than the buses, which shouldn’t be the case at all. But its mostly because the N, K, L, M can’t run three car trains to lower costs.

    This is not an argument against spending money on capital transit projects. This is against wasting money on projects that don’t do as much as they could and aren’t designed right.

    • 7 anonymouse May 15, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      By the way, a huge and completely unmentioned cost of the BART proposal that’s already happened is the abandonment of the WP ROW south of Alum Rock. That was a very valuable corridor and could have served as a bypass of San Jose for freight trains, which would have avoided a major bottleneck at the Cahill Street station, where UP Coast Line freights share the ROW with Caltrain, ACE, Amtrak, and eventually HSR too.

    • 8 Switching Modes May 16, 2009 at 10:27 am

      First, your website rocks. Thanks for taking a look at mine.

      A good debate is (almost) always good, so here’s a few points where I disagree with you.

      ONE:

      For the price they are paying they could have built an elevated BART spur and ran it Airport to Airport. They wouldn’t have needed more vehicles or a storage bay or anything extra, just track.

      Not true. A BART extension would have cost more than $500 million. We’d for sure be in the billions for that. Furthermore, that would have provided less service than this tram does; there is no BART line that would have fit in with the existing system as a functional terminus station at the Oakland Airport.

      Take a the Doha Airport train. It uses cables, just like that underneath San Francisco, except much simpler – the cars are fixed griped to the cable. There are just two cars. One-way tracks are used, except where the trains pass. There aren’t many of these in the world, but the ones that have been built are super reliable, low maintenance, and low operating costs. This is because it uses chairlift and funicular technology and parts (except for the train cars themselves) and are driver less automated systems. Because the engine is located at the station and not on the train the cars are lighter and simpler, so construction costs are lower. Because passengers can load from one side of the train and board from another, frequencies are high. These types of trains work best if there are no mid-station because both cars are connected to the same cable, but for short, point-to-point systems they work well. The Oakland Airport Connector is a perfect example. These designs work so well in fact that no storage area (is necessarily) needed for the train cars is needed besides the stations themselves. They’re that reliable. (NOTE ON THE PRICE TAG TO THE LINK ABOVE, $5.5 billion is for the whole airport, not just the train).

      TWO:

      The BART route itself is 1970’s design down the center for a railroad right of way that touches nothing until it tunnels at Alum Rock.

      Saying that BART is 1970′s as reason to exclude the use of this technology is like saying streets cars of 1900′s technology so we shouldn’t use them. BART uses steel on rail with a third rail for power. Basically the same as a street car or electrified rail (such as high-speed rail) except for the power doesn’t come from an overhead cable. Unless your talking maglev, BART uses essentially the same technology as all electric trains. Granted there are improvements out there, but those can be incorporated into the new BART cars.

      THREE:
      That is poor transit oriented design because it doesn’t run where the job centers are. San Jose as it happens has much less of a percentage of its jobs downtown than it does in the northern part of the city where all the tech workers are.

      I think that BART in San Jose, when completed, will touch the places where jobs and growth are. Furthermore it connects to Diridon station (Caltrain and HSR), the colleges, the airport (well pretty close), the stadium (HP Pavilion), and allows for transit oriented development. That’s pretty good.

      FOUR:
      As to BART to San Jose, I was for it just as you are once upon a time, but then people started showing alternatives and ways to spend the same amount of money from a Capital standpoint on much better service. For example, you could build a completely electrified railroad from Monterrey to Sacramento with the funds from BART to San Jose. That is insane!

      I agree. Why haven’t we electrified that route yet? We need to, but BART is important in doing that. I like the MTC’s 50 year rail plan which calls on using the rail route as an express alternative to BART and using BART as more metro style service. BART already links up with rail at numerous places along East Bay, wouldn’t an integrated express system work great!

      But, as BART is increasingly going to become a metro service you’re comparing apples and oranges. I think that line you are talking about will work really well with the addition of BART in San Jose – a really good way to get people to where they need to go after they get off the train, and really spread out the benefits of transit-oriented development.

      FIVE
      As for the Central Subway, things like three car platforms were tossed because of cost. what happens when the line becomes so popular that its full. 2 car trains is not very many people, especially when the 30 and 45 are crush loaded all day. Without 3 car trains it is doubtful that the operating costs will be much lower than what exists. Right now Muni LRVs are actually more expensive than the buses, which shouldn’t be the case at all. But its mostly because the N, K, L, M can’t run three car trains to lower costs.

      I agree that the two station platform on the Central Subway may be shortsighted. However, can the T-Line handle three-car trains? (Maybe it can, I can’t recall.) I know we could just expand platforms, but I feel like this would require an upgrade to the whole system. I’m not supporting the short platforms, but the extra cost compared to the reality of making three car trains happen (I don’t know all the details), may not be as bad as it seems.

      Still, that doesn’t mean the whole Central Subway plan is worthless! I see only two lines ever converging along the Central Subway line (the Central Subway and Geary), so low headway times are possible – perhaps low headway times are preferable to larger block capacity but less frequent service (such as BART).

      Also, (and again I may be wrong), the Breda street cars being used have always run as one or two car trains. MUNI would have to train drivers, and create new standard, perhaps even adapt new technology to run three car trains. It would also limit operational flexibility.

      Perhaps a better, more cost efficient idea is to run longer articulated trains during the next fleet replacement. These trains could extend slightly into the tunnel at each end (10 feet or so) if the first and last doors were weren’t right at the end of the cars. By eliminating the coupling and two driver cabs in the center of trains more, a lot more, passenger space would also open up. Three car trains would have even more wasted space.

      The next fleet replacement, I feel, should be accompanied by system wide level boarding platforms so the stairs can be eliminated. This would lower maintenance costs, increase convenience, and decrease dwell times at stations. If MUNI moved to a 3-car LRV standard, doing this would be much more difficult and expensive.

      So lets say it cost $250 million for the longer platforms along the Central Subway. How far would that go to building level boarding platforms at all stops? (I also think that the number of LRT stops should be reduced to make MUNU Metro more of a rapid service).

      SIX

      This is not an argument against spending money on capital transit projects. This is against wasting money on projects that don’t do as much as they could and aren’t designed right.

      My argument wasn’t that. My argument was that (as you can see in comments from this article, many people take this point of view) that we shouldn’t, and for that matter politically we can’t, put capital and operational costs in the same category. *If you support transit and your angry about fare increases and service cuts WRITE ARNOLD or OBAMA, don’t attack capital projects, they’re not to blame.*

      That said. I think the three projects you attacked above are good projects. Perhaps I will change my mind like you, but I’ve looked over the 2007 MTC rail plan in the Bay Area (and over many of the drafts) and I think that it’s pretty well reasoned. I think that having the regional rail network link to every important transportation mode – air, rail, rail and bus – is key. *If people are to Switch Modes this is a requirement – it makes every other transit project more valuable too* The Oakland Airport extension I think is the right way to do that in this location. I think BART to San Jose is good, especially when you put HSR and extensive TOD in the picture and I don’t think your proposal is an equivalent alternative. I think the Central Subway is important, and that there are better alternatives than adding a third car to trains – too much wasted space – the money may be better spent on new trains that have lower operating costs and carry 50% more people, without requiring longer platforms.

      • 9 anonymouse May 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm

        Since you so conveniently enumerated your points, let me do likewise in my reply:

        TWO: I think you misunderstand the point. The argument isn’t against 1970s technology, it’s against 1970s planning. The planning for BART has been summarized as “a rail system to get other people out of their cars”, with giant parking lots at widely spaced stations built along the path of least resistance along existing highway and freight rail ROWs. You can see the problems with this strategy if you compare BART with the Washington Metro, which has more urban lines, and some suburban lines that were built in more expensive subways to allow for more effective development of the surrounding area (Rosslyn-Ballston is the canonical example).

        THREE: Contrary to what the City Fathers of San Jose think, San Jose isn’t really the center of Silicon Valley. A significant part of the jobs are in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, which would require a long and slow ride on the light rail from BART. For that matter, so will all the jobs in the North First St corridor. Downtown San Jose is just not that important in the grand scheme of things, and neither is East Bay to Downtown San Jose commuting. South to North within Santa Clara County is a much bigger problem.

        FOUR: Why hasn’t Caltrain been electrified yet? Because VTA has been saving up the money for BART. 2000 Measure A was a collection of many projects, including electrification and BART, but the VTA treats its passage as voter support of BART rather than any of the other projects. And Carl Guardino has an amazing ability to turn any issue into a discussion about how great it would be to have BART. Also, Caltrain is a kind of sister agency of SamTrans, and the financial woes of the latter agency due to the BART-to-SF extension can’t have helped. I agree though that BART needs to become a more metro-like service. Ideally it would get more infill stations, and the through service would be provided by electric commuter rail.

        FIVE: The Central Subway is a compromise solution that has become a compromised solution through repeated re-design. It’s not going to connect to Market or Geary particularly well, it’s going to be constrained in capacity by the decision to only have 2-car trains, and it’s astoundingly expensive. At this point, it seems like it’s more about solving the political problem of “we need a Central Subway” than solving anyone’s transportation problem of getting from point A to point B quickly and effectively. And by the way, Muni Metro ran four car trains just fine back in the Boeing days. I think the limiting factor for Bredas the power supply (but didn’t they upgrade that?) and the fact that the end doors would overhang the platform at the Forest Hill station. It would be a good idea to bring train coupling back though, as fewer trains in the subway lead to a more reliable service since there’s more slack capacity to recover from any problems.

        SIX: overall, I agree with your point that capital costs and operating costs are separate categories and we need to emphasize the distinction.

  3. 10 dto510 May 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks guys for addressing the blog’s errors. But also, the OAC IS being built with operating funds! The $150m loan is backed by fares, and the $70m stimulus grant would otherwise be redirected to the regional transit agencies for operations (with the largest portion going to BART to help with its operating deficit). Additionally, BART does not only have an operating deficit, it has a capital deficit.

    • 11 Switching Modes May 15, 2009 at 10:55 pm

      No, the Federal Stimulus dollars are not for operational costs. They must be used for capital projects. That’s also true of other non-stimulus federal dollars and state funds that being put towards this project.

      The Regional Measure 2 funds being used for the project cannot be used for many operational costs, although some programs are allowed, but the list is limited and specific – it would not help ease the BART budget. This is also true of the Regional Measure 1 funds going towards the project. The same is true for the MTC SLLP – Resolution 3434 funds going towards the project.

      Alameda Country Improvement Agency (ACTIA) sales tax which is providing $89 million towards the project likewise was approved by voters, “to deliver the new projects and programs,” not fund existing ones.

      The other money, from the Port Authority, $44 million, would not be put towards transit if it didn’t go towards the Oakland Airport Connector (and even though funds aren’t assured).

      The $150 million dollar loan from the federal government will be paid back with operating revenues (so that is not coming from transit). You could argue that this loan could be put towards operating costs, but in that case it would not be approved.

      Find me money in this program that the MTC or BART has discretion to spend on operational costs and I will concede. However, my understanding is that there is no money here being taken from transit operating costs.

      There is risk however. If the project does go over budget, or if operating revenue does not cover the loan payments there may be money taken from transit down the road. However, BART isn’t using any special technology here. Not even their own “special” technology. They will be using a very well tested technology used around the world.

      • 12 dto510 May 16, 2009 at 9:48 am

        No, you’re wrong about the stimulus funds. There is no requirement that ARRA funds be spent on capital projects instead of operations. Here’s an article about the federal stimulus funds, and how the MTC chose to a portion to BART’s OAC connector instead of agency operations (the rest went to operations). http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/02/24/advocates-upset-stim-money-could-still-fund-oakland-airport-connector/

        The $150m loan is paid back with fares, which are normally used to support operation. If the OAC underperforms, that money will be taken from operations for the entire system.

        So, the premise of your post, that the OAC isn’t the problem because it doesn’t impact the operating costs, is wrong. Also, there are many other problems with the OAC, chiefly that it has no intermediate stops to serve the hotels and other businesses along the 3.2mi route, and that the $12 per-person roundtrip fare is too high. Oakland residents and businesses deserve better.

      • 13 Switching Modes May 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

        dto510 (May 16, 2009 at 9:48 am):
        There’s nothing in that article that I saw that suggests AC transit, or any other agency can use Stimulus Money for to cover operating costs. All they say is that:

        AC Transit, for its part, admitted that the stimulus money would be helpful for combating the $57 million budget deficit it expects to run by end of 2010, but said that the agency has been considering fare increases and service cuts since spring of 2008, well before the stimulus package was a reality.

        Please visit the links I posted above. The location of each funding source is linked. Read about them. The funding sources are mostly voter approved mandates for new services that have strict requirements. The other funds, both state and federal, have requirements that they go to capital projects. The only other two funding sources are the Port Authority and a loan from the federal government – funding sources not available to cover transit operations.

  4. 14 Winston May 16, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I hate to point this out, but the Oakland Airport Connector will be more expensive to maintain and operate than the existing bus system. The AirBART buses are self funding with their $3 fare. To manage the same trick the monorail will need to charge a $12 dollar fare. This is simply a dumb project created to assuage Oakland’s ego.

    • 15 Switching Modes May 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

      You’re confusing covering the cost of the bond to pay for the project (capital cost) and operating costs. Please visit this link to DDC – Doppelmayr Cable Cars.

      I like this technology because it is so simple, quick to construct, automated (no driver needed), and easy to maintain. The engine in fixed at the station(s), so the cars are light and so light construction costs are less for the guide way and the vehicles. The materials are mainly borrowed from mass produced chairlifts and aerial tramways built around the world, so maintenance costs are very low. END RESULT: VERY LOW OPERATING COSTS.

      They also don’t use much power, unlike the gas which requires a lot of fuel (not to mention a driver, etc.)

      • 16 Steve May 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm

        The MacNamara terminal at Detroit Metro area uses a very similar system; three stations, two trains using a cable for propulsion.

      • 17 Winston May 16, 2009 at 9:37 pm

        Wrong.

        The O and M costs are MUCH higher for the monorail than for the existing buses. While you are correct that you don’t need a driver, the maintenance needs costs are much higher. For this situation buses are the most economical solution. IF the corridor had a much higher ridership then a fixed guideway solution would be a good idea, but as it is, the Bay area would be better off buying some better signage and adding queue jumping lanes for the buses and spend the rest of the local share on something useful.

  5. 18 david vartanoff May 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    OAC, Central Subway (as currently planned) and BART to San Jose are all the wrong answers to the transit needs.
    OAC is the classic BART spend like the Defense Dept buy an Osprey style. If this country actually builds HSR and upgrades ATK, we will neither need nor want to have more airport capacity. Making the current shuttles more efficient and reliable on the cheap is the correct maneuver given the general financial situation.
    As to the Central Subway, the current plan has LOUSY connectivity to the Market St Subway, NO bellmouths for a potential Geary Subway, and the uselessly tiny platforms. While I agree that a “standardised” platform height/level boarding scheme would be useful,unless you are willing to jackhammer and rebuild the Muni Metro under Market, we are stuck with the high platforms. So, I think building a really badly designed overpriced subway that will fail its customers is worse than nothing.
    Finally, BART to San Jose; again wrong response to the market. Unless you are willing to dream that BART can magicly increase the capacity of the Transbay tube, we are already close to full in rush hour. So, if you buy the very optimistic ridership estimates, (without which the project is way too expensive on a new riders gained per million$$) either very few of them will be able to go to SF
    unless current riders from the Fremont and Dublin lines decline or they will need to travel somewhere else. Conversely, retracking and electrifying the Capitol Corridor would do just as well to get east bay riders down to SJ, and access actual destinations. In turn funding and implementing the Dumbarton project which MTC embezzled millions from to backfill cost overruns to Warm Springs. would open another bay crossing.

  6. 19 ian May 16, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    i’ll admit, you have some points.

    however, with respect to the three projects, my personal opinion as someone well-read in these issues.

    BART to SJ:
    regional connectivity is nice, but honestly, the kicker that was part of the Caltrain Metro East proposal is that it would be 1) so much cheaper, and provide the same service as BART, and 2) it would be standard rail.

    The second feature is the most important, for providing a greater variety of services. Not only could caltrain provide the same full metro service it could on an electrified peninsula, but opening up that right of way to *standard rail* trains would allow other trains across dumbarton, to sacramento, etc, during commute times, or even high speed rail trains off of the HSR network and on upgraded “rapid rail” tracks. this flexibility (of course with 2015 PTC installed) is really the future of train service in the bay area.

    BART’s wide gauge and associated higher costs is what makes it less than ideal for repeated extensions in (at least, what is now) suburbia, let alone in the city where tunneling is already expensive. If that right of way is given to BART, standard rail can’t travel up the east bay as easily.

    OAC:
    I’d much rather see the proposed network of revived oakland streetcars providing local service and connecting the airport to bart. though it is a transfer, i think in the future a standard gauge rail link to OAK would provide the best regional connectivity. Or a jack london / Oak BART infill (since they like enhancing their “urban core.” in the long run though, i’d like to see BART move to compatible standard-gauge equipment.

    Central Subway
    I dunno. I’m all for *real* subways, but i honestly don’t like how 2 car bredas have such low capacity. they’re always packed. i’d take some lower-floor articulated european EMU subways mimicking BART’s service… maybe the new alstom tram-trains or something, if they go fast enough underground to feel like a real metro, instead of some trams / light rail that just got lost underground.

    my two cents. you bring an interesting viewpoint to the bay area transit discussion though, thank you.

    • 20 anonymouse May 16, 2009 at 9:43 pm

      “In the long run though, i’d like to see BART move to compatible standard-gauge equipment.”

      I think there’s actually a feasible migration path here, if you look from the point of view of the overloaded Transbay Tube. First, you build a second bay crossing, for example over the Bay Bridge with standard gauge light rail, basically reviving the Key System, and you build network of routes around the inner areas of Oakland and such, and extend local lines roughly parallel to the Fremont line. Then, convert the Fremont and Dublin lines to standard gauge, and use them as express bypasses for the light rail network, feeding straight into the new bay crossing. That frees up 8 tph through the tube, which means more service for Richmond and Concord.

      • 21 ian May 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

        ooo i really like that idea! ’cause one of the problems with BART is that being “full metro” and nothing else means it can’t run express trains, which would be the principal advantage of a Caltrain full metro model on the peninsula… (i guess one of the reasons millbrae -> downtown isn’t as traveled on BART as some would have hoped is because it’s not really worth it to transfer to BART when caltrain gets there faster anyway, and if you have to transfer to muni to finish the commute anyway, it’s definitely not worth the extra blocks down to 4th/townsend.)

        anyway. i was thinking it’s not even necessary to convert the old lines, but rather any *new* lines (in SF for example, as urban infill) that BART would create would be standard gauge. although, this would be a problem for how they like to run multiple lines on the same track, but it could be solved with just a third rail so both gauges could run on the same tracks.

        I think MTC should be looking into how it can standardize transit service in the bay area, something that is missing from the current proposals… and i think giving BART this flexibility running local and more metro-type trains would definitely be a useful addition to BART’s service. i’m sure people would love having their commute time cut in half…

        you could definitely do north too, perhaps converting the richmond line (since berkeley had its own key route as well). Local lines could connect to emeryville and other places not served well by BART.

        now, if only MTC would listen.

      • 22 anonymouse May 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

        “I think MTC should be looking into how it can standardize transit service in the bay area, something that is missing from the current proposals”

        Yeah, that more than anything else is the important thing, and it’s completely missing from their transit plans. Of course, the goal of the MTC is really to build more freeways, so they don’t really care about it.

  7. 23 dto510 May 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    SM, I know the source of the funds; two of the sources are coming from operations (the $150m loan and the stimulus funds). I don’t know how the quote you provided about AC Transit couldn’t be more clear: the agency is using stimulus funds to offset their operating deficit. There is no requirement that ARRA funds be used for capital projects.

    • 24 Switching Modes May 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

      dto510:

      please provide an adequate reference before spreading false rumors on this site. THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT (ARRA or Stimulus Funds) cannot be used for operating costs.

      The following quote, taken from your citation, does NOT say otherwise, as you claim. It reads:

      AC Transit, for its part, admitted that the stimulus money would be helpful for combating the $57 million budget deficit it expects to run by end of 2010, but said that the agency has been considering fare increases and service cuts since spring of 2008, well before the stimulus package was a reality.

      Saying something would be useful, is far different than saying that it is possible to use the funds in this way. I think what AC Transit is saying is that “stimulus money would be helpful to cover operations [but we can't use the money that way] and besides…”

      PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITES THAT ACCORD TO THE SPECIFIC BILLS DIRECTLY AND NOT YOUR INTERPRETATION OF SECONDARY NEWS ARTICLES.

      (Yet, to some extent this stimulus funds WILL be useful because it can go towards shovel ready projects. AC transit will get money. Just not for operating costs.)

      That said. THERE IS NO LEGAL WAY FOR THE MTC TO GIVE AC TRANSIT MONEY FOR DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONAL COSTS USING ARRC FUNDS. PERIOD!!!

      Furthermore. The $150 million dollar loan will be re-paid over $20 years using the fair the agency will charge to take the tram ($3 more than current price). In no way does this come out of operating revenue, unless the project goes over budget (which there is no reason as yet to believe) or ridership is far bellow expectations (which NOBODY is claiming).

      You could however properly define your argument by saying that this is ‘too risky’ or something along those lines. But your facts are wrong sir. Please stop blatantly repeating them without providing something to back them up.

  8. 25 Switching Modes May 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Why is everybody so harsh on BART? Do you really think BART is so bad that we should rip up the tracks and start over?

    Look at Paris. Great Metro system. In fact, it could be argued that France created the Metro. However, they went out of their way to make sure that the Metro trains couldn’t run on normal rail networks so that the subway would be for ‘people’ and not freight. How’d they do this? – they had the trains run on the right, whereas all freight runs on the left. The RER fixes that problem by running on the left, not by replacing the whole system, but providing a complementary express system alongside it.

    BART needs to spend $3.4 billion on new cars. Perhaps they could save a billion or so if these cars didn’t have to be custom made. But that’s all. Replacing all the track… much more than a billion. Besides the wider cars work well. If all rail was standard like that it would be great…

    Proposing we replace BART with standard electric train would also require an over head wire. Do people in the Bay Area want that? No.

    —-

    How about getting rid of freight along the Peninsula (not much freight is used anyways) and bringing BART to San Jose from the front and the back? HSR would then use Caltrain ROW with BART mostly running along side it. HSR (or we could call it BART-X) would then link with BART along the Peninsula at few locations to offer express service. Cross platforms and ticketing would be set up for this.

    This might even save money (sort of), because BART can easily be elevated or put under ground for SHORT stretches. BART can also take on larger grades, and adapt the conditions at each crossing much better than standard rail can. It might even be a way to appease the Peninsula residents (somewhat).

    This isn’t that crazy… and doesn’t BART have their ‘eye’ on this anyways? I mean why ‘trap in Caltrain with at Millbrae and San Jose at location that are immediately along the Caltrain ROW? (inter-modality, yes, but perhaps…)

    Just saying, BART is nice. Pricey, yes. But with those new BART cars… who doesn’t want that in their town? I do! I want MORE BART, not less.

    • 26 ian May 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

      i think the point is that BART saves a billion (and lets not get jaded as to how much a billion is), *every* time they replace trains in the future. and it’s all about future planning, as you said. better would be to have future lines (not connecting ones though) use standard equipment, and make the transition gradual. and hey, the entire south converted from broad to standard gauge in 36 hours. where’s that workforce today? hah.

      so yes, BART chose to run wider tracks so freight couldn’t use them. the problem is that we don’t fund transit like france does, and therefore having more flexible tracks is a great advantage, since we won’t come up with the money to build two systems, and PTC can allow the two systems to run on the same tracks (though 4 tracking would help for express / commuter trains, as it will be on the peninsula) (Washington metro learned this and uses standard gauge).

      overhead wire? there are elegant solutions, and san franciscians have endured the far less elegant trolley bus overhead wires for a long time. not a big deal, i would venture to say.

      I’d also say HSR and BART are too different to provide the same-branded service… again BART’s problem is that it’s full metro, it stops *way* to much to go long distances. caltrain, once electrified, will be as effective, or more than BART, providing the full metro *and* extremely effective commute express services. I guess, the point is, if you want more BART, why not more caltrain, which has a much brighter and cost-effective future? we won’t have the unlimited funds to keep expanding BART. we don’t even have enough cash to maintain it as it is.

      the point is, that BART isn’t cost-effective. don’t get me wrong, i love it and use it all the time. it provides great service. 99% of riders wouldn’t know though, if that new SF line down geary and up to the presidio (hahaha lets keep dreaming) is actually 1435 mm, not 1676 mm, and used cheaper, off-the-shelf railcars that saved $X million in capital and operating costs. but i’d be in the 1%.

    • 27 anonymouse May 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm

      BART’s non-standard gauge and non-standard power supply are significant technical handicaps, because you can’t use standard track tools and designs, nor standard bogie designs and parts in many cases. Imagine if your car was built with pentagonal nuts and Y-head screws: there’s not much functional difference, but you and your mechanic would have to have an entirely separate set of special screwdrivers just for this car. And hey, a standard railway can use third rail too: just look at the LA Metro Red Line, or BART’s predecessor the Key System. And by the way, if you want to compare the Bay Area to Paris, Muni would be sort of like the Metro, whereas BART is very much an RER system. Except the real RER mostly runs on existing suburban lines shared with outer-suburban trains, long distance trains, and TGVs, while BART doesn’t share anything with anyone.

      The other fundamental problem with BART is that it’s a hybrid of a commuter rail and an urban metro, and hybrids are bad at high utilizations, and there is a fundamental tension between the two parts. On a relatively lightly used system you get the advantages of both, but on a more heavily used system you start running into limits, and you get the limitations of both. For example, commuter rail favors trains with more seats and fewer doors, while an urban metro needs more standing room and more doors. BART’s choice of few doors and many seats was okay while the system wasn’t too overloaded, and SF riders got a cushy seat for the ride from the Mission to downtown. But now the Transbay Tube is hitting its limits and the number of doors is the constraint on dwell time (and therefore train capacity), and the ability to pack more people into the trains is the constraint on passenger capacity. But getting rid of seats would mean that commuters from further out might have to stand for extended periods of time. Another example is the tension between the commuter rail need to go fast and the urban metro need to serve the urban area with more stops. BART, like an urban metro, stops at all stops, but it has long distances between stops to increase average speed, and that means vast park and rides, together with all the problems those entail. A pure commuter system that doesn’t aim for metro-style service could just run express trains (as Caltrain does), while a pure metro would have frequent stops and not try to serve the outer suburbs.

    • 29 Switching Modes May 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

      I think BART is cost effective, look at the fair box recovery ratios in relation to other systems. (I think it’s better than Caltrain – not sure though).

      And the extra fleet replacement cost of BART because non-standard equipment is used, while not negligible, only occurs every 25-50 years. The cost of putting in new gauge rail isn’t justified for cost on that basis.

      How would making the BART system more like Caltrain help solve the problem of it being hybrid commuter/metro system? You still couldn’t run skip stop or express service if you converted it, unless you built more tracks…

      I only see making the system more like Caltrain worse, because the trains would be 12″ or so narrower and there would be less space for passengers.

      Part of the way BART solves the problem of long suburban commutes competing against urban commutes is by charging for distance, rather than a flat fair. I think more of that would be good.

      Another way to solve this problem is build more turn back tracks. I think turn back tracks in Oakland and in San Francisco would be good.

      Also, the new cars will probably use a modular design. This means that they can move seats around, or take them out, more easily. This can, partially address the issue of a hybrid system.

      Initially when BART was built they emphasized speed a lot. However, studies shows that headway time is more important – people just want to know their getting somewhere. Now that BART is at capacity, headway times are low, so that has been addressed. The extra speed, while excessive at the time, isn’t that fast for metro systems any more. Alstom is building metro systems that go 150 km/hr. That’s faster than BART.

      If BART were used on the Caltrain corridor I think that it would be better than any other rail systems that could be put in, because it is more flexible. It can take steep grades, for example. It can be elevated too. – Imagine if it just tunneled under Palo Alto (at the cities expense), but just went above HSR, elevated BART, for most the way. Perhaps in a few areas it could go off the Caltran ROW to better locations for a station.

      BART and HSR are not incompatible. The Capital Corridor for example is run by BART. They do an alright job at it too. In that sense, I think BART should become a regional wide agency responsible for all rail rather than have competition between BART and Caltrain. I think that along the Peninsula and East Bay, inter-modal stations, with standard tickets and cross platform stations would work well. There are three reasons for this. 1.) to allow BART to become more of a metro service with more infill stations 2.) speed up long distance commutes 3.) allow BART to take out seats for metro service and allow longer distance riders to get a seat on an express train that runs 100+ MPH. It’s not that crazy. In fact that’s pretty much what’s in the MTC 50 year rail plan for the Bay Area – SWEET!

      And as far as not having the right screw for your car analogy, that’s totally bunk. Every train set uses special parts. We’re not talking about just one train set here, but 700 train sets. It’s not too hard to make some screw drivers to service 700 trains. If Caltrain were replaced by BART (which I’m not for say proposing) we would need just one less different type of ‘screw driver’ for maintenance in the Bay Area. The fact that BART went with wider trains is only a downfall for fleet replacement and some parts that wear out, but as we’ve seen with the fair box recovery ratios the latter is not big of a problem apparently.

      • 30 anonymouse May 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

        BART trains are narrower than Caltrain? O RLY? Standard clearance on all US railroads is 10’8″, and passenger cars are generally built to 10’6″ over the outside of the carbody. As for compatibility, I was talking about physical compatibility. With Caltrain as it is now, the exact same tracks can be used for Caltrain, HSR, the Coast Daylight, potential Dumbarton Bridge service, and so on. BART tracks can only be used for BART. It’s a less flexible system, which is sometimes GOOD: when you have a busy urban metro for example, you want to run as homogeneous a service as possible, but a suburban commuter rail with 20 minute off peak headways is not such a system, nor is Caltrain with its peak service of 5 tph and an elaborate system of local and express services.

        Oh and about standardization: there are 450,000 miles of standard gauge track. BART has 100 miles of non-standard track. Every single piece of track maintenance equipment has to be custom-made. Things as trivial as concrete ties have to be custom. It’s just extra cost. But the expense and disruption of switching over is tremendous and very unlikely to be worth it, unless it’s something like the scenario I described above where newly standard-gauged segments become part of a much larger standard network.

        As for BART replacing Caltrain: I think it would not be a net benefit. Consider a trip from SF to Mountain View. It’s 44 minutes from 4th/King to Mountain View in the morning, and it would be 70 minutes on BART, a net loss even if you take into account saving a transfer from 4th/King. Plus of course you lose the ability to squeeze both Caltrain and HSR down to two or three tracks through narrow sections like downtown San Mateo or that bit in Palo Alto.

      • 31 Switching Modes May 18, 2009 at 1:59 pm

        anonymouse,
        *I believe I said BART trains are wider than standard trains (although I may be wrong).

        Why is compatibility of BART so important with all of the trains you mention? There isn’t extra capacity on the core BART system during the PEAK HOURS (PEAK HOURS ARE WHAT MATTER) so those trains couldn’t run on those tracks anyways.

        We’re using flexible in different ways. I am saying that standard rail is less flexible in terms of the requirements it must meet. For example, standard rail is heavier, taller and can not able take the grades that BART does. You are saying that BART is less flexible because it can’t use standard rail trains. (See above why I think that isn’t too important.)

        The extra cost of BART not being standard gauge is relatively limited. Saying that there is ‘X’ times as much track of one type over another is only relevant to a certain point. BART is ordering 700 plus cars. The extra cost is very high for the first few cars compared to a standard rail service, or metro service. But after you get going building the new cars, each additional car is not that much more expensive than a standard rail car. Specially made concrete ties are a very small part of the extra cost. YES- in retrospect using standard rail would have been a better idea than developing proprietary technology. But, since we already have BART, it makes sense to make a loop around the Bay rather than using special train cars, and maintenance facilities for just one train line, Caltrain.

        The time savings is irrelevant for the Silicon Valley to SF we’re talking about, because you’re talking about Baby Bullet and/or limited stop service. This would be possible with BART all the way down the Peninsula, if passengers could transfer to a HSR train. For example: From Mountain View to SF, one could simply transfer at Redwood City from BART to an Express train running on the HSR tracks and save time far more time than what you are talking about.

        Also, HSR will have its’ own tracks all the way to SF, even through Palo Alto. That is there will be 4 tracks from SJ to SF at 4th and King. In NO situation will HSR use the same tracks as freight. So there isn’t much of a cost savings by sticking with Caltrain as far as quide-way construction is concerned. In fact, as I have said before, I think sticking with heavy rail would actually be more expensive because the standards for elevated tracks, and the possibility of having elevated tracks (for appearances) is very difficult for a system built for such heavy trains.

        I just want to make it clear what I am saying (even though it won’t happen)

        COST SAVINGS:
        1.) If HSR was built from SJ to SF only two *standard gauge* tracks would be needed for this system (rather than 4 with Caltrain alongside HSR). This would lesson the need for Caltrain to widen the ROW and decrease costs.

        This is especially apparent in places where BART and Caltrain share a ROW, such as a Millbrae and the end of the BART extension in San Jose AND from Millbrae to SF, because no additional tracks would need to be built there.

        ALSO, the Transbay Terminal could handle all the HSR trains, so the 4th and King station would not need a retrofit.

        NOTE: BART passengers could still use the Millbae to SF route by boarding a regional express train that uses the HSR tracks.

        2.) If the above situation was carried out, BART would be needed along the Peninsula to replace Caltrain, but there could be additional cost savings (compared to a standard guage 4-track ROW) beyond just reduceing the number of tracks in places.

        This is because if BART was built from Millbrae to SJ, rather than widening the Caltrain ROW, there could be a cost saving because BART can be elevated at a lower cost and put into a subway at a lower cost (the tunnels don’t have to be as tall) than heavy rail can. BART can also run next to HSR just as easily as Caltrain can. BART can also switch between at grade, tunnel and subway rather easily because the trains can ascend and descend steeper grades. This type of flexibility, which standard rail does not have, would allow BART to use the most cost effective method that is appropriate for each part of the Peninsula.

        Additionally, it is more likely that elevating BART would be acceptable to local municipalities than elevating heavy gauge rail because no overhead wires would be needed. This could avoid costly battles over eminent domain because BART could travel above HSR, and it could save even more money if it can be used as an alternative to tunneling where cities demand tunnel for HSR.

        HOWEVER, the BART stations would be more expensive. There are trade offs: BART stations are nicer and safer. But since Caltrain will have to re-do most, if not all, of their stations when HSR comes, the extra cost of BART stations wouldn’t be that much.

        3.) Operationally BART could be less expensive to operate than Caltrain. This is because standard maintenance facilities could be used for both systems as rolling stock would be standardized with the system used throughout the BAY Area. BART trains are lighter and thus have less wear and tear on tracks. And, the next generation of BART cars will likely be fully automated (no driver needed), whereas such a system is not possible with Caltrain.

        4.) Lower administrative costs would be possible by combining agencies.

        BENEFITS TO PASSENGERS
        BART would be better for passengers along than Peninsula than Caltrain when coupled with HSR commuter trains because:

        1.) Fewer transfer would be needed for passengers going from downtown San Jose to places like SFO and any place that BART goes but Caltrain does not.

        2.) A standard system throughout the Bay Area is easier to use, especially when a standard fare system is used.

        3.) Information system would be better integrated, and train schedules would be better integrated.

        4.) Travel times would be reduced because passengers could transfer to HSR commuter trains that run along the Peninsula.

        5.) The negatives aspects of the hybrid nature of BART (being a commuter rail and metro service) would be reduced; passengers going a shorter distance would hop on a BART metro train. Longer distance passengers would transfer to a regional express train that would provide more seats.

        OTHER BENEFITS
        This type of model, where BART serves as type of local service, and the adjacent HSR tracks are used for express trains, could become the model for the Bay Area. If it works on the Peninsula it could be easily expanded to the East Bay where, at several points, commuter rail and BART share common stations. This would allow more infill stations for BART.

        Dumbarton rail could also be part of this network, however, it would be considered an express train, NOT BART. This way HSR commuter trains and HSR long distance trains, to places like Sacramento, could use the same bridge. Also, the bridge is fairly long, so speeds above 80 MPH makes sense, and BART cannot reach those speeds.

        DESIGN OF BART-TO-COMMUTER-EXPRESS TRAIN TRANSFER STATIONS (Millbrae, Redwood City and/or Palo Alto)

        <–Track 1: Commuter HSR <–
        PLATFORM 1
        <–Track 2: BART Track 3: BART –>
        PLATFORM 2
        –>Track 4: Commuter HSR –>

        *NOTE: Diridon would have more tracks because other trains stop there

        *NOTE: that the commuter Express Trains (I like to call them BART-X trains) would use the same ticketing system as BART. This would allow for simple cross platform transfers.

      • 32 Switching Modes May 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm

        On replacing BART with standard gauge rail:

        On further thought, I realized why BART trains use wider gauge rail but or not wider than standard gauge trains – Comfort and safety. This might sound like a luxury, but it’s not. Metro service that use standard gauge rail must have more narrow cars because people stand. A car that hangs out to much from the rails will sway side to side, and with standing passengers than cannot happen

        So yes, for the suburbs, not a great design, but by using standard gauge rail, BART would have to use narrower cars because people do stand on BART. This then would lower capacity either for seated passengers from the suburbs, or for all passengers.

        Maybe, I’ve been slow to the realization in the argument on this thread. But I nonetheless content that we should not replace BART with standard gauge rail, even if we could magically blink our eyes and have standard gauge rail throughout the BART network.

        The fact that I believe this, also implies that I’m glad BART uses non-standard rail – that for the Bay Area and the service that BART is meant address, BART works well. Think about it: if you only had one subway line in you city, and you never knew how long it would take to get another one, wouldn’t you want a system that serves urban passengers in your city as well as commuters?

      • 33 ian May 20, 2009 at 12:21 am

        interesting idea, but i’m still not convinced.

        the wide-gauge argument was originally to allow the lighter cars to withstand winds (when crossing the golden gate bridge, perhaps, which got scrapped anyway). BART cars are 10.5 ft wide, and NY subway cars, for example, are 10 ft. the savings aren’t substantial, and the 22″ wide seats are extremely generous for transit, so that’s likely where the extra space is wasted. since standard-gauge rail is used on the majority of all the world’s subway systems, i think it’s probably a moot point.

      • 34 anonymouse May 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

        On further thought, I realized why BART trains use wider gauge rail but or not wider than standard gauge trains – Comfort and safety.

        It’s a common impression, but it’s just not true. The Shinkansen runs at speeds much higher than BART, and uses wider trains (they’re just over 11 feet wide, I believe) on standard gauge tracks. Above 4.5 feet or so, it really just doesn’t matter what gauge you choose, so you might as well choose the standard one for reasons of compatibility. And ride comfort has much more to do with the train’s suspension than with the track gauge.

      • 35 Switching Modes May 20, 2009 at 11:23 am

        Width:
        True, the wider gauge rail used on BART was designed to handle high winds, BUT also it also provides higher levels of overall comfort and safety.

        All you have to do is ride the train to realize this: try standing on Caltrain, the transfer at Millbrae and stand on BART just for fun. The difference is significant. So much so that I don’t think Caltrain could safely having large numbers of standing passengers (though I may be wrong, I’ve never ridden it at rush hour).
        —–
        Freight:
        Any good plan for HSR/Caltrain/BART (whichever combination) would take freight into consideration. I think that if BART was used that it should be built in a way that would not eliminate the possibility of a wider corridor later on. That way if in 100 or 200 years the demand for freight is high enough, then we could add it.

        I should also say that, there is one other flaw nobody has yet to bring up with my plan… what about non-HSR trains?

        There truly are a lot of kinks in this plan. Yet I nonetheless back BART. We have it in the Bay, and it’s here to stay. Being ‘anti-BART’ won’t get us anywhere. It’s a mute point.

        On the other hand, BART on the Peninsula is not a mute point. I’m positive, that although not expressed publicly, BART planners have, even in recent years, penciled in a plan or too. I’m somewhat dismayed that it has not been looked at more seriously with the arrival of HSR. However, it makes sense that it hasn’t been announced publicly, there would be too much negative press – after all, BART isn’t even in San Jose yet. BUT, if BART was in San Jose already, it’d definitely be on the drawing board.

        I think this debate highlights the overall problem of competing bureaucracies and impossibility of expressing long-range plans without angering one interest group or another.

        For example, when SF appealed for New Starts funding to be used on the Central Subway, they had to say it was ‘just’ to China Town, when anybody in their right mind knows that the route would ultimately be extended – it just makes sense. However, if the plan were to be to later extend the system, they would have to included it in the New Starts proposal. If they planned to extend it and did not include the extension in the plan, that would be considered misrepresentation on the part of SF planners and the project would be rejected.

        It’s ridiculous to say that BART planning does not include the Caltrain Corridor. All it takes is one look at where the line ends in Millbrae and in San Jose (planned) to make the connection. I think that may also be why the MTC hasn’t been forthcoming with electrification funds.

      • 36 anonymouse May 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

        All you have to do is ride the train to realize this: try standing on Caltrain, the transfer at Millbrae and stand on BART just for fun.

        Except the Caltrain gallery cars have notoriously poor suspension. If you compare BART to the Bombardier cars, or Amfleets, there’s not much difference. Seriously, the Caltrain gallery cars have the hardest suspension and bounciest ride of any train that I’ve seen in this country. When you get a Bombardier train, it’s like you’re on a whole different line.

        Anyhow, the real question about extending BART down the peninsula is why? I think Caltrain does an adequate job of servicing the Peninsula commute, and can be electrified and upgraded incrementally to support 6 tph (four expresses, two locals), plus two HSR runs per hour (that’s peak service on the Madrid-Barcelona line, by the way), without even full four-tracking or grade separation, and that’s pretty much enough to serve current demand, especially if they go to 10 car trains. If we’re going to be building heavy infrastructure and inducing more demand, why not do it in the urban center? There’s still plenty of demand for housing in SF, and it can accommodate a higher density in places like the Geary corridor. If you want to do something for Santa Clara County, I think it makes much more sense to address intra-county demand before inter-county, and a network of light rail (especially north-south along roads like Lawrence or Mathilda/DeAnza) would provide much more benefit for the investment, because San Jose just doesn’t have the kind of job density that makes BART so successful in San Francisco and even Oakland.

  9. 37 anonymouse May 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    BART trains are not wider than mainline commuter trains. They are definitely wider than light rail, and marginally wider than standard subway trains of the LACMTA Red Line or NYCT B-Division variety. Also, Caltrain signed an MOU with HSRA saying that the idea going forward is a shared corridor with HSR and Caltrain sharing tracks. The bit about a four track wide line was removed, presumably at the request of Menlo Park and friends.

    Anyhow, I think I see what you’re proposing: have BART be the local train and Caltrains running on the HSR tracks the express, which is a solution that often makes sense. I don’t think it does in this situation though, for several reasons. First off, you lose significant operational flexibility by having separate and mutually incompatible pairs of track, a tradeoff that only makes sense if the metro-type service is so frequent that its tracks can’t be used for anything else anyway. That’s definitely not the case with BART, and not going to be the case with a potential peninsula service with its likely 15 minute headways. If you have four tracks and they’re mutually interchangeable, you can keep more service running in case of a disruption and during maintenance, meaning, among other things, that all night service would be feasible technically (though there may be other reasons preventing it). The other problem is that the problem of a custom Caltrain fleet only gets worse. You really don’t want to use HSR trains for commuter service, as they’ve got interiors optimized for long distances, and a drivetrain optimized for high top speed at the expense of acceleration. So you’d end up with a custom Caltrain fleet of, what, 8 trainsets just for the peninsula express commute, whereas the current caltrain proposal is for rather more trains.

    And I would beg to differ that “PEAK HOURS ARE WHAT MATTER”. Off peak service is important too, if for no other reason than to make as much use of expensive capital as possible. And going back to the topic of “switching modes”, I think to get people to truly switch, you need an end to end solution rather than something that’s just a bypass around a congested freeway, because that means that when the freeway stops being congested (like off peak), people switch right back to their cars. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens with BART, and with Caltrain as well. So what we really need is not a massive investment to replace Caltrain with BART, nor to bring BART to San Jose, but to build more viable local networks, including some kind of urban metro in Oakland (maybe from infill stations on BART, maybe with new lines), and a light rail network in Santa Clara County that’s actually aligned with commute patterns and gets people where they want to go at a decent speed.

    • 38 ian May 18, 2009 at 9:51 pm

      Switching Modes, i applaud the detail in your proposal. My thoughts:

      1) you provide no place for peninsula freight. we want to increase freight into SF, so that it will replace longer-distance trucking, since it is much more efficient and less trucks means better, less congested roads. your proposal would force freight to use HSR tracks, which it can’t do.

      2) the flexibility that’s so important in BART using standard gauge *isn’t* in other trains using BART’s tracks, but rather in BART (or, Caltrain, actually) using the other tracks. On the peninsula, for example, the caltrain baby bullets can run the “slow” tracks, and then more to the HSR tracks when passing other local trains. a commuter rail service that ran “local” for 5 stops near SJ, then went straight into SF wouldn’t be possible if it was just using HSR tracks. Freight, of course, goes on the caltrain tracks at night. mixed traffic is no problem because it’ll be all PTC’d by then anyway.

      3) the combining management and standardization of transit rider experience in fares / maps / etc is a really big can of worms. hopefully MTC is looking at this soon (and i hear they might be, to save money). I’m not sure BART management is the right to choose for this, since they have rather suburban interests, but even MTC could administer all transit for the bay area in a direct manner. someday. they need to just combine all the transit agencies, while they’re at it. such is bureaucracy.

      say we give a general model for bay area rail, in suburbia: use existing right-of-way, and with low headways, you can manage 2 tracks with mixed services. as demand increases, add a 3rd and 4th track, so that you can eventually run freight, regional, long-distance, freight, in addition to more dedicated metro service. you can use the same stations for commuter rail and metro, instead of having to have intermodal transfer stations. that’s a more elegant and standardized solution than having two fully different BART and “other” train networks that you must transfer between… hope that makes sense.

      otherwise though, great thinking through BART on the peninsula. at this point though, i think caltrain is winning out. once it adds EMUs, i’m afraid peninsula BART can be signed off on.

      • 39 Switching Modes May 19, 2009 at 1:59 am

        No doubt, the proposal is just fantasy. I wrote to it to play devils advocate; to say that more BART would be better than less.

        I think the design is possible, given that the commuter rail stations had bypass tracks for long-distance HSR.

        Additionally, I think this is the most elegant solution possible. I don’t think any (remotely feasible) solution could do anything better. Not even 4 tracks standard gauge tracks. Not only do you have easy to use cross platform transfers at stations to get to express trains, but if you need to go somewhere Caltrain doesn’t go but BART does, you have BART. BART goes, in this scenario, goes everywhere Caltrain does (except for say Gilroy, and a couple stops not heavily used in SF)… win win. You only have additional advantages for commuters: ie. they can go into Market Street in SF and directly through downtown San Jose (planned extension already in existence). If you need to go far, like SJ to SF there would be express trains with reasonable headway times, timed to BART trains, and with easy cross platform transfers.

        As far as freight, I’m all for it, just in not in this location. So little freight is used on the peninsular that it is hard to justify maintain an entire ROW for freight in this location.

      • 40 anonymouse May 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

        Sure there might not be much freight now, but are you so sure that this will continue to be the case for the next hundred or two hundred years? Because if you replace the standard gauge tracks with BART and HSR, that’s a fairly permanent decision, one that is likely to stay with us for a century or two. And there’s simply no other corridor where a freight railroad can be built effectively, while there are certainly other options for BART.

      • 41 Adirondacker May 23, 2009 at 8:20 pm

        I don’t think any (remotely feasible) solution could do anything better. Not even 4 tracks standard gauge tracks.

        … If you’re doing this for the comedy value you are doing a very good job.

        Some of the other things you wrote made me laugh so hard I had trouble catching my breath But that made me laugh so hard it brough tears to my eyes. Go look at the shedules on the Northeast Corridor between Trenton, NJ and New York CIty. During rush hour at least 4 levels of service happening. Antrak running expresses and Acela, Amtrak running regional trains that stop at the NJ Transit major stations, NJ Transit expresses and NJ Transit locals Three line merge together between Rahway and Newark, one and half diverge off and two merge in.

        Go look at the schedules on other four track or even three track systems. They run all sorts of services. BART runs all local all the time.

      • 42 Switching Modes May 25, 2009 at 6:45 pm

        Adirondacker:

        Go look at the schedules on other four track or even three track systems. They run all sorts of services. BART runs all local all the time.

        The Peninsula won’t really be a 4-track system in the same way the NE Corridor is. The HSR tracks will be just HSR tracks. There won’t be any crossing over the tracks. HSR requires this for safety.

        The only advantage of using standard gauge over BART is 1.) Freight and 2.) Non-HSR services, like Amtrak can use the tracks…

        As it exists now, hardly an freight is moved along the Peninsula and there are no other passenger rail services besides Amtrak. So all that would be lost would be some freight. That’s not much.

        What would be gained by replacing one set of tracks with BART? For transit, a lot. And it’s not like you couldn’t use the HSR tracks for express service.

        What I propose is an express service with stop at the Transbay Terminal, 4th/King, Millbrae, Redwood City and/or Palo Alto and San Jose. These would use true HSR trains, but not 200+ MPH, more like 140 or 150 (much cheaper).

        BART would thus be able to run all local, and HSR would be used for long distance and medium distance regional travel.

        For passengers traveling within a region, say from *within* San Jose to Mountain View, the current plan does not offer the same level of service.

        The current plan also overbuilds, by using 6 tracks to Millbrae. HSR will increase the Caltrain ROW capacity (even for commuter rail) and yet BART has additional capacity from Millbrae to SF. This extra construction is unnecessary.

        The money would be better put towards building 4-bore standard gauge rail transbay tube to allow HSR and other Amtrak lines, such as those going to Sacramento, Tahoe, Reno, Utah, Chicago… to use the tunnel as well.

        Glad you could have a laugh, but the plan isn’t a joke – even though it’s not going to happen.

      • 43 ian May 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm

        switching modes:

        i can’t the entry anymore, but there *will* be crossovers (for express caltrain and maintenance diversions), and i’m almost positive caltrain will be allowed on the “express” tracks that HSR runs on, since its equipment will also allow 125 mph usage (speed limit on the peninsula). it was either on CAHSR blog or caltrain HSR compatibility blog… i could see amtrak also using the peninsula express/hsr tracks since the equipment would be capable of 125mph.

        losing freight, i’d say, is a problem, especially with fuel prices increasing. ideally most of the freight coming into SF would come by train, instead of truck. i heard the SF port authority is looking into increasing freight, so that would be good for the safety and condition of roads up the peninsula… you can’t shut it out right when it’s about to be used more.

        i guess the point is, the existing 4 track standard gauge design allows for local and express service on Caltrain, (though not at 140 since the peninsula won’t allow it) and regional amtrak, freight, and HSR service. truly flexible

  10. 44 ian May 23, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    i agree, again. PTC (mandatory by 2014 i believe) will make this moot, and allow for the same mixed use and frequency here. and i do believe i addressed other services, such as amtrak medium distance regional service, and commuter rail, as a point in why all standard gauge is better.

    oh well, that’s a wrap

  11. 45 Adirondacker May 27, 2009 at 12:21 am

    The Peninsula won’t really be a 4-track system in the same way the NE Corridor is. The HSR tracks will be just HSR tracks. There won’t be any crossing over the tracks.

    Oh stop. I can’t laugh that hard anymore.

    It’s going to be like any four track railroad anywhere else in the world. The local commuter agency runs locals and expresses and some times things that’s aren’t local or express. The intercity trains wedge themselves into the express schedule.

    • 46 Switching Modes May 31, 2009 at 9:30 pm

      It’s going to be like any four track railroad anywhere else in the world. The local commuter agency runs locals and expresses and some times things that’s aren’t local or express. The intercity trains wedge themselves into the express schedule.

      This corridor won’t, “be like any four track railroad anywhere else in the world” because it will be regulated by the FRA. The only comparable corridor then would be the North Eastern Corridor and the Acela train that uses those tracks.

      This has also been confirmed by Quentin Kopp and what he has stated at HSR Scoping Meetings in response to questions about the Metroliner LA accident. (That accident occurred because tracks in different directions did have cross-overs and a driver mist a signal.)

      The Acela express is an odd HSR train because it was made to be heavy (just the opposite of every other HST) to meet FRA regulations. It even has a separate crash cabin to protect the driver in case of an impending accident. These types of modifications were necessary to meet FRA regulations.

      The CAHSRA is not trying to duplicate the Acela, it is planning on using standard HSR equipment (European/Japanese). As such it will not meet FRA regulations. Thus, the HSR corridor on the Peninsula will be a separate corridor.

      The reason that the CAHSRA is sharing the Caltrain ROW is because most of the corridor has space for another line and widening a corridor is easier than building a new one.

      There may be some cases where the HSR trains connect with the other tracks, but this would be limited to very slow speed areas, such as the approach to the Transbay Terminal. There may be some other areas too, but this would only be used to clear a broken train, not for passenger operations.

      This isn’t just to prevent accidents. It’s also to prevent wear and tear on the HSR tracks. The lighter HSR trains do less damage to the tracks and must be maintained to a higher standard than the other tracks.

      The two adjacent, but separate, corridor design is also being used to maintain the on-time performance of the HSR system.

      If Caltrain runs an express train on the HSR tracks these will be new trains that meet different crash safety standards, and these trains too would not be crossing between the corridors.

      In my opinion this is a good thing. The last thing we need is for an accident to happen in the US on the first real HSR line. In fact, even if an accident never happened, but other engineers considered our system not as safe as other HSR system (which generally only use only dedicated HSR track, with few exceptions), there would be a major PR problem.

      (Funny huh?)

    • 47 ian May 31, 2009 at 11:00 pm

      interesting. i thought caltrain would for sure be switching between. i’ll ask quentin kopp next time i see him…

      the peninsula would probably be compared to normal lines in europe, since their normal trains run at the 125 mph limit that the peninsula has… so it’s not really a *true* true HSR line, in that it’d prolly be okay for mixed (lightweight standard) passenger traffic.

      so you can’t compare to the metrolink accident, since PTC will be in effect and signals that caused that accident will be completely obsolete. the fact that no HSR trains have crashed in france, for example, is *not* due to dedicated lines (because HSR trains run all over existing tracks, with mixed traffic, on the way into cities), and is rather due to the advanced signalling systems (ie PTC) that they use.

      either way, problem’s solved. i’d be willing to bet that caltrain express service crossing over to “express” tracks will be happening though.

      • 48 ian May 31, 2009 at 11:08 pm

        FOUND IT! haha!

        thank you to the caltrain / HSR compatibility blog. they will be sharing tracks (and platforms) along the peninsula. it’s long, but a great read / analysis of track configuration:

        http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2008/12/slow-traffic-keep-left.html

      • 49 Switching Modes June 3, 2009 at 6:39 pm

        I didn’t read that whole article, but I believe that was just a suggestion. In fact, the article began by saying that:

        In all the existing plans for running high speed rail up the peninsula to San Francisco, the additional pair of tracks required for HSR traffic is invariably shown in the center of the right of way, with Caltrain local service running on the outside pair of tracks.

        I agree with the article in that, if there were to be any sharing of the tracks, slow traffic keeping to the center would be the safest.

        However, my current understanding of HSR will be that the tracks won’t be shared. This isn’t to say Caltrain couldn’t run on the HSR tracks, but that they won’t be able to just switch over to the HSR tracks at whim. Besides, what would the benefits of that be? Merely to pass broken down trains?

        Caltrain, can will probably go with two seperate sets of rolling stock. One will be for the higher speed Baby Bullet trains and one for the slower trains that stop more frequently.

      • 50 ian June 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

        benefit is that they can run high frequency local service on the “slow” tracks, and use the same platforms and the “fast” tracks for baby-bullet / commuter express service passing the slower trains on the “slow” tracks.

        the article also covered how HSR trains could also use the same caltrain platforms, as well. it’s much more than mitigation of congestion when there’s a broken down trains, the four-track system is how you mix all the different types of services (caltrain local, express, coast daylight, HSR, freight.) caltrain will probably be using all EMU trains by then, so they can get high frequency, and use the existing trains for south of SJ, non-electrified service.

        again, i’ll ask quentin kopp about the track sharing next time i see him.

  12. 51 Adirondacker June 4, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    benefit is that they can run high frequency local service on the “slow” tracks, and use the same platforms and the “fast” tracks for baby-bullet / commuter express service passing the slower trains on the “slow” tracks.

    …like every other four track railroad in the world….

    use the existing trains for south of SJ, non-electrified service.

    Why would they do that? the track is going to be electrified all the way to Anaheim. The equipment they have now is near the end of it’s useful life. Electric equipment is cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain and cheaper to run.

    • 52 ian June 5, 2009 at 1:43 am

      oh, i just meant the SJ to gilroy service, on caltrain, not HSR haha… there was talk of using on non-electrified caltrain metro east as well, but that’s a whole different story.

  13. 53 anonymouse June 5, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Caltrain, can will probably go with two seperate sets of rolling stock. One will be for the higher speed Baby Bullet trains and one for the slower trains that stop more frequently.

    That’s rather unlikely. Instead of one small fleet of unique-in-the-country trains, they’re going to have two small fleets of different trains and have to worry about which one gets used where. And what about potential zone-expresses (all stops San Jose-Palo Alto, express to Millbrae and SF)? What do you use there? And when you want to change the mix of services? It might make sense if Caltrain were part of a much larger network or at least capable of pooling rolling stock with other commuter agencies and have decently sized fleets of standardized “fast” and “slow” trains. And really, it’s the same issue as using different rolling stock on BART for more urban versus suburban lines.

  14. 54 Switching Modes June 5, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    It would be tough for Caltrain to share platforms with HSR.

    For example, Caltrain redesigned the Palo Alto station so that there would NOT be a center platform. This was in order to allow two trains to stop at one time at the station (which cannot be done for safety reasons with center platform).

    If platforms are shared there would probably have to be some kind of a wall between each side of the center platform… again for safety reasons. This would largely mitigate the benefits of having ‘slower trains’ keep to the left.
    ——–
    The reason for two sets of rolling stock would be that there are two sets of FRA safety requirements that need to be met.

    The HSR trains will be lighter and will not meet FRA safety requirements – so they won’t be able to ravel on tracks where the FRA imposes their standard guidelines.

    The ‘slower’ track trains will have to meet FRA requirements, but because they will have to be heavier they will be a safety hazard to the lighter HSR trains.
    ——-
    CHSRA is not going up the Peninsula to benefit Caltrain. Caltrain will benefit from grade crossings. Caltrain may also get to run SOME trains on the HSR tracks. But by no means will the CHSRA be bending over backwards to accommodate Caltrain beyond this. The CHSRA is ‘using’ Caltrain in order to get a RoW to San Francisco.

    Why would the CHSRA want to help Caltrain beyond this? Would HSR trains run on Caltrain’s ‘slow’ tracks? Could they? NO. Freight runs on those tracks and they will not be kept to the HSR regulations.

    125 MPH might not seem that fast, but look at the train accident in Germany- slower speeds, but very disastrous results. (Referring to speed of accident, not cause)
    ——
    And really, it’s the same issue as using different rolling stock on BART for more urban versus suburban lines.

    Sort of, but I DO NOT think this is that big of a deal. The problem with BART is a planning flaw – not a technical flaw. BART was designed to function as a subway AND a regional express rail system. The problem is that it does neither especially well.

    HSR should be designed for HSR, so that it does HSR well. NOT for Caltrain.

    Also, HSR uses the standard gauge rail so that it can travel, primarily into the same stations, and the same lead in tracks. Not much more. Granted, on some lines, improved track can accommodate HSR at lower speeds (like 100-150mph), but that takes a lot of upgrades.

    The HSR system that work well use only HSR tracks. On the main California line, it’s undesirable to have Caltrain share the tracks. It’s not safe. It’s unreliable. It’s not what it’s being built for.

    For example, Quinten Kopp says that Caltrain “MAY” use HSR tracks. That’s the extent of it. And that’s OK.

  15. 55 ian June 6, 2009 at 10:49 am

    “It would be tough for Caltrain to share platforms with HSR.”

    i believe they removed the center platform at palo alto because it was at track-level. i think the assumption would be that if they were sharing platforms, caltrain would have the updated EMU equipment with level boarding platforms, which may or may not happen. in any case, with HSR the center platforms will be like BART’s, with underground access, so that is definitely not a safety issue…

    “The reason for two sets of rolling stock would be that there are two sets of FRA safety requirements that need to be met.”

    i sincerely hope that by the time HSR is running, the *severely* antiquated FRA standards are updated. no HSR country has standards like ours. they’re old. they don’t work. PTC *will* be installed in ~5 years, which should make the FRA standards obsolete. that’s how all other countries avoid crashes: not by trying to make the train strong enough to withstand one, by not having a crash in the first place.

    “The HSR system that work well use only HSR tracks”

    that’s not too true. the “lead in” tracks that you mention go a long way. i think almost every HSR system in the world uses existing, upgraded tracks when going into cities, for sure in europe. (i guess the peninsula would count as an urbanized area) there’s no way they built a set of *only* HSR tracks all the way into Paris and Lyon. the Ligne à Grande Vitesse only starts once you’re out of the city. when you get close to Lyon or Paris, you decrease speed as you travel on the older (though still upgraded) tracks going into the city. Furthermore, TGVs serve cities without HSR tracks at all. I would guess this is *one of* the reasons there is a 125 mph speed limit (there are definitely other reasons). if HSR was really getting a set of HSR tracks up the peninsula, why aren’t they traveling 220 mph express right into the city?

    • 56 Switching Modes June 6, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      that’s how all other countries avoid crashes: not by trying to make the train strong enough to withstand one, by not having a crash in the first place.

      Yep. But that only supports my case that the tracks won’t be interchangeable. HSR will have its’ own tracks to keep things simple and avoid crashes from things like broken switches or mistakes made that would cause a train to veer onto other tracks.

      i believe they removed the center platform at palo alto because it was at track-level.

      What does that have to do with anything? The platform was removed for safety reasons – they couldn’t have two trains in the station area at any one time. Thus, even trains going in the opposite direction had to wait for any train in the station to clear the station before the next train could enter.

      How, given this situation, could Caltrain share a platform with HSR? Won’t work – *unless* there is some kind of wall in the middle of the platform – which would take more space. At that point – what is the benefit of sharing a platform?

      “The HSR system that works well use only HSR tracks”

      that’s not too true. the “lead in” tracks that you mention go a long way. i think almost every HSR system in the world uses existing, upgraded tracks when going into cities, for sure in europe. (i guess the peninsula would count as an urbanized area) there’s no way they built a set of *only* HSR tracks all the way into Paris and Lyon. the Ligne à Grande Vitesse only starts once you’re out of the city. when you get close to Lyon or Paris, you decrease speed as you travel on the older (though still upgraded) tracks going into the city. Furthermore, TGVs serve cities without HSR tracks at all. I would guess this is *one of* the reasons there is a 125 mph speed limit (there are definitely other reasons). if HSR was really getting a set of HSR tracks up the peninsula, why aren’t they traveling 220 mph express right into the city?

      Sure, they can share tracks and RoWs, but sharing tracks doesn’t work well. Freight and other heavier passenger trains contribute to more wear and tear on tracks. Even if HSR goes slower, sharing the tracks would not be good for HSR – it could reduce reliability and make maintenance and maintenance standards more complicated. Having too many agencies share the same tracks would also reduce reliability and safety.

      Yes, HSR *can* run on standard, upgraded tracks. But doing it for any distance (like the 70 mile Caltrain RoW) doesn’t work as well as having a separate RoW for all of the above reasons.

      When countries use standard, upgraded tracks in other countries for any distance they do so in areas that don’t have high rail traffic and thus have extra capacity. I don’t think the Caltrain corridor qualifies as that.

      BOTTOM LINE: there are major downsides to having the tracks on the Caltrain corridor be interchangeable (safety, reliability and maintenance), AND the benefits are negligible (reliability?, Caltrain has more flexibility?).

      THUS, they probably won’t be interchangeable and advocating that they are is counterproductive.

  16. 57 ian June 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I was talking about positive train control, not using separate tracks. PTC allows multiple types of traffic to share tracks. It works in every other country, so there’s no reason that we *need* to separate them on different tracks here. unless you’re really paranoid.

    Let me be clearer: they removed the Palo Alto center platform because to get off of it, you had to walk across the tracks. (that would be a safety reason.) it had nothing to do with the fact that it was in the center. any center platform on the HSR / upgraded caltrain system would be like BART, where you go up stairs/escalator/elevator to get to it. it’s not that center platforms are *unsafe*, if you read that blog post i mentioned earlier, you’d know they are actually safer, and more cost-effective, and more convenient for passengers. go read that entry again to understand why center platforms are better. your wall argument sounds like the peninsula NIMBYs’ berlin wall, wtf? your so-loved BART doesn’t put walls in the middle of platforms! no one does!

    again: sharing tracks works with positive train control. a better rule is “only light trains (including lighter caltrain EMUs) on the fast tracks, anyone on the slow tracks”. you can get HSR / caltrain express on the fast tracks, and coast daylight, amtrak, freight, caltrain EMUs, HSR when needed, on the slower ones.

    for center-platform reading: http://caltrain-hsr.blogspot.com/2008/12/slow-traffic-keep-left.html
    PTC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_Train_Control
    and Europe’s PTC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Train_Control_System

    hopefully that will clear things up a bit

  17. 58 Anonymous June 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    You’re telling me that, in the US, we’ll be OK with platforms shared with commuter trains and HSR where a commuter train is stopped and a HSR train may be whisking across at 125MPH on the other side. I’v personally seen it in Europe and its’ scary. I personally know a friend who lost a friend in a tragic train accident at a station like this in the alps. It won’t work here.

    Two. Why do it? The benefits are very small. Caltrain will continue to have areas for trains to pass. They can run their baby bullets on the HSR tracks too. So operational flexibility is kind of a mute argument when you already have sufficient operational flexibility in the design.

    And I don’t think I’m being paranoid. Please read up on the Metro-link disaster. And switch gone aerie, any mistake, even with positive train control, and you can have an accident. HSR will be a separate track system, even at *just* 125 MPH.

    This is nothing like the Berlin wall approach. All I’m proposing is that, given the cost benefit ration, using all tracks for mixed flow doesn’t make sense. The costs are decreased reliability, increased track maintenance and decreased safety. Any benefits are dubious – you’re already increasing increasing Caltrain capacity by allowing them to put the Baby Bullet trains on HSR tracks. What else do they need or want and how would that provide any benefits (or cost savings)?

    If you could have normal speed trains on HSR tracks there are many downsides. Track maintenance. Risk of broken or mis-switched switches. Decreased reliability and safety concerns… WHY DO IT???

    The ‘Berlin Wall’ has major benefit – costs. Since that is not an issue here there is no validity in your comparison.

    AGAIN: look up the metrolink accident. Those types of switches that caused the accident should not be used at high speeds for safety. Train control systems can help that… but not entirely. They use blocks to schedule traffic. They have detectors on switches, etc. and all that helps. BUT the best way is just not to have trains crossing in and out of HSR tracks.

    We have a new standards. We my not. The CHSRA is not banking on new FRA safety standards… they’re building their own system and expecting wavers in a few areas. BOTTOM LINE: we can have super heavy train going on the same tracks at high speeds. Not even Europe does that.

  18. 59 Adirondacker June 8, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    we’ll be OK with platforms shared with commuter trains and HSR where a commuter train is stopped and a HSR train may be whisking across at 125MPH on the other side.

    Ya mean like this YouTube video? Acela goes past at 148 with nothing more complex than a yellow stripe painted on the platform edge?

  19. 60 ian June 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    yeah that’s why they build passing tracks, like the center-through tracks at lyon satolas… in a FSSF configuration, the passing trains are on the fast tracks, away from the platform (on the slow tracks).

    again, i think a better way to phrase it is “only light trains on the fast tracks” and “anyone on the slow tracks”. caltrain EMUs (and let’s dream, next-gen light amtrak equipment) could all go 125 mph on the fast tracks.

    i’m not following the argument about the metrolink disaster… With PTC, the train (which went through a red signal) would have been alerted as such and wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the same block as the freight train. plus that was a single-track line! we’re talking about 4 tracks here.

    oh well. we’ll just have to see how they plan it.

  20. 61 David Pelfrey July 9, 2009 at 12:37 am

    First – thank you for providing the blog and forum Switching Modes.

    Second – a thank you to everyone who has posted comments demonstrating such a command of the technological aspects of how these rail transit systems work.

    I am not an expert on rail transit systems; however, I have always viewed the BART use of existing rail right-of-way and different rail guage as a major drawback for expansion, particularly into smaller municipalities lacking funding to join into the line.

    I note that the discussion so far has not really touched on the BART extension from Pittsburg/Bay Point to Antioch that utilizes LRV (I believe). How does the junction between these two different systems function? I seems at first glance that this type of expansion holds promise to exend rail transit systems into more thinly funded outer metropolitain areas.

    Cheers!


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