Monday, April 6, 2009

East Bay Blues

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

No, that's not Bob Dylan on the left, but it might as well be. Of all the major population centers in California, the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay - Alameda and Contra Costa counties - arguably drew the shortest lot. True, East Bay residents will be closer to HSR stations on the starter line than anyone in San Diego or Sacramento, but there are currently no firm plans for an HSR station in either Oakland or Union City - ever.

Moreover, the new Transbay Terminal in San Francisco will be ~1/3 mile from the nearest BART station, Embarcadero, which gets overcrowded during rush hour. TJPA's plans for a pedestrian passage under Fremont Street are still "optional" at this point and, BART has made no commitment to use any of its $241 million share of the prop 1A bonds for additional side platforms at Embarcadero plus ramps featuring moving walkways connecting to such a passage. Unless that changes, BART passengers would have to hoof it across SF city streets to the HSR station, in any kind of weather, with baggage and perhaps children in tow. AC Transit will operate buses into the building, but its unclear how many HSR passengers will take advantage of that option.

Millbrae will hopefully offer a more convenient transfer, but BART takes it's sweet time getting out to there. Worse, on any given day of the week, only one line runs out to Millbrae, so many HSR passengers will have to transfer twice. Either way, the time lost just getting to and from the nearest HSR station will mean Oakland Airport will continue to offer flights to Southern California for many years to come.

HST/Commuter Overlay

Recently, CHSRA did award a $70 million contract to AECOM, for project-level EIR/EIS work on the awkwardly named "HST/commuter overlay" that is "under consideration" (see the pink bit here). The overlay concept was introduced toward the end of the whole Altamont vs. Pacheco debate as a punt ahead of the November election. The idea is to recycle the work done on the Altamont options studied for HSR into an ill-defined regional adjunct to the core HSR network. The overlay would link Stockton and Modesto to Oakland and San Jose via Tracy, Pleasanton and Union City. There is, however, no money at all for building this overlay in either phase I (starter line) or phase II (spurs to San Diego, Sacramento and Irvine).

Moreover, the originally selected route between Pleasanton and San Jose would have trains emerging from a curved tunnel in Niles and then proceeding south via the UPRR and WPML rights of way, CA-262 and the I-880 median. Now that Santa Clara county voters have voted to add another 1/8th of a percent to their sales tax to actually bring BART to San Jose, the short but vital WPML section is no longer available. Co-operation from UPRR was always an iffy proposition anyhow, especially in Fremont. Note that Parsons Brinkerhoff are the lead consultants on both HSR and the BART extension to SantaClara/SJC. That obvious conflict of interest alone ought to speak volumes about how major transit infrastructure projects are run in Northern California.

Realistically, nothing will come of the overlay concept anytime soon. And by soon, I mean before 2030. The only exception would be if CHSRA were unable to obtain a ROW out of San Jose and down to Gilroy, e.g. because of environmental justice issues or opposition from UPRR in principle. Some observers have characterized that railroad's stance as a negotiating ploy and that may yet turn out to be true: as a for-profit enterprise, money talks even for UPRR. On the other hand, it is a long-standing, profitable enterprise that just might walk away even from a juicy deal if it thinks it could be detrimental to its core business. Time will tell.

Existing East Bay Passenger Rail Services

Meanwhile, there are already several passenger rail services in the East Bay, in addition to BART. First, there's Amtrak Capitol Corridor, which is operated by Amtrak but managed by BART (h/t to anon @ 12:50pm). It connects San Jose to Oakland to Sacramento and Auburn. The core segment between Oakland Jack London Square is served by 16 trains each way on weekdays and 11 on weekends/holidays. San Jose is served by 7 trains.

Second, there are the four daily Amtrak San Joaquins (each way) between Oakland Jack London Square (OKJ) and Bakersfield. There are also two daily Amtrak long-distance trains serving the area: the Coast Starlight between Seattle and LA and the California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville, with a bus connection to San Francisco.

Third, there is the Altamont Commuter Express between Stockton and San Jose, also offering four trains each way but only on weekdays.

However, this isn't quite the transit smorgasbord it may seem to some: Amtrak Capitol Corridor only connects to BART at the OaklandColiseum/OAK and Richmond stations. San Joaquins connect only at Richmond and the other standard gauge services don't connect at all. With some track work, the San Joaquins could have an intermodal station with BART in North Concord now that the Navy has returned the inland portion of the old Naval Weapons Station to the city. However, planners there appear to see no value in an intermodal station and appear to have settled on a TOD concept served by BART alone. That means the questionable eBART project to extend service to Antioch - using new DMU equipment rather than regular BART rolling stock - remains alive and kicking.

Amtrak via new Nelson Mandela Station

In particular, the OKJ station is served by a grand total of just two AC Transit bus lines, with a few more stopping 1/4 mile further west. For a city of 400,000 that is also at the geographic heart of the BART system, OKJ isn't an effective Central Station for standard gauge rail. Unfortunately, running tracks right into downtown (near 12th/Broadway) would require many miles of expensive tunneling.

Fortunately, there may be a more affordable compromise: a shortcut between Emeryville and Jack London Square via Nelson Mandela Parkway. That is a city street, so the alignment would have to run in a mostly covered trench. It has also been lovingly landscaped, something that might have to be re-done at the end of construction. The prize, however, may well be worth it: an intermodal station with West Oakland BART, just one stop from downtown Oakland and downtown SF. In addition better connections into Oakland, the point of the exercise would be to reduce line haul time between SFO, downtown SF, Sacramento and Truckee (in Winter), thus relieving pressure on I-80.

View Larger Map

While not exactly a Central Station in the traditional sense, the West Oakland location could act as a regional transfer hub. The station is currently served by three AC Transit bus lines, more could conceivably be added. There are also plenty of empty lots in the area that could support parking or taxi service if there is demand.

The biggest obstacle to construction, other than funding, would be the UPRR yard next to I-880 and 3rd Street. Passenger trains are not permitted in freight rail yards, so the alignment would have to skirt the terrain while rising back up to grade level. A couple of industrial businesses, one of which looks like a cardboard recycling center, might be affected by eminent domain as a result. Note the single track connector hugging I-880: it would only be used by southbound trains that need to return to Emeryville. There is not enough room for a dual-track loop, nor is one needed. Note that a new "Nelson Mandela" station might prompt Amtrak to reduce service to Jack London Square.

Amtrak CC: WiFi on Board

Like Caltrain before it, Amtrak Capitol Corridor recently conducted a WiFi on Board trial based on terrestrial WiMAX connections to the fixed infrastructure. The service proved much more popular than Amtrak California had bargained for. Nevertheless, the plan is to upgrade bandwidth capacity and still offer it at no charge - something that would be easy enough to do: just print a one-time password good for 2 hours on the ticket. The rationale is evidently that courtesy internet access will help boost seat capacity utilization. Stay tuned.

ACE via Union City BART

Further south, there is scope for an intermodal station with BART in Union City. There is a little-used single-track freight spur running from Industrial Parkway to Niles via Van Euw Common, right alongside the elevated BART tracks. SMCTA had already identified this possibility in the context of plans for limited commuter service across the 100-year old Dumbarton rail bridge, but this has been postponed by the suspicious 1998 fire that destroyed the western trestle and, by the need to repay a $145 million loan from the BART extension to Fremont Warm Springs that San Mateo county had to take out to pay for cost overruns related to the extension to Millbrae/SFO. Some $54 million is still outstanding, the project time line keeps slipping.

However, one opportunity appears to have been overlooked in this context: with some additional track work and trackage rights, the existing ACE service could in theory make a detour via this anyhow planned intermodal station with BART in Union City, cut over to Union Landing (I-880/Whipple Rd) and back down to Newark, as shown in green on on the map below. In addition to the BART intermodal, there would be two new stations to improve transit options for the army of Silicon Valley worker bees that sleeps in the East Bay. Like the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains, this modified ACE route would still include a stop at Great America in the heart of the "Golden Triangle" bordered by CA-237, I-880 and US-101. BART does not and will not reach that destination.

View Larger Map

ACE to SF via Niles Canyon north slope

Shown in red on the map is the option of a new ACE service direct to additional Silicon Valley employers, Millbrae/SFO and SF 4th & King. In addition to a little bit of access track work north of Sunol and in San Jose, this would involve trackage rights from UPRR or NCRY (whichever now owns the old SP ROW along the north slope of Niles Canyon) plus trackage rights from UPRR along the Milpitas line. At the wye in San Jose, trains would head north up to San Francisco via the Caltrain ROW, in baby bullet mode. That would require trackage rights from PCJPB plus permission from UPRR, which still owns the rights to intercity passenger service on the SF peninsula. One option would be for ACE to accept Caltrain tickets on the peninsula and deduct their value from the trackage fees.

The Milpitas Line is little-used south of 101 but represents a valuable back-up route in case the Alviso line through the salt marshes ever becomes unavailable, e.g. because of an earthquake. However, any passenger rail service on this line south of 101 should implement FRA quiet zone regulations first. Of course, if and when the Dumbarton rail bridge re-opens, there could be scope for further improvements to ACE.

The bigger issues may be in Pleasanton, Livermore and especially, in Altamont Pass itself. Single tracking and slow freight trains mean ACE is at the mercy of UPRR as it tries to stick to its schedule, though it has earned high marks for punctuality recently. That said, the service does take 2h10m to cover 86 miles - not exactly a high speed train.


Anonymous said...

Why do you say it will not happen in near future?

jim said...

As much i was for Pacheco over Altamont for getting from city to LA, this does show the major drawback of not having very good access for the majority of the bay area population who live in the east bay. Long before a high speed commuter overlay is built what you will see is increase in speed and service on capitol corridor ( which is operated by amtrak not bart - bart is involved yes but its amtrak operations) and ACE. For now, one has to consider that however folks get from the various parts of the east bay to SFO and OAK, that will also be the wy they get to HSR. They will drive and park ( mostly) they will get rides from other people, they will use super shuttle, and they will use whatever transit hoops they need to jump through based on what they can afford. those who can drive will drive. In addtional to that the choice will be made like this - bob and sue from danville will plan a trip to socal. they will go on expedia and look for flights from sfo, oak and trains from tbt, they will compare the fares and do whatever is cheapest. then they will figure out of they can drive or get a ride. hey will use bart as a last resort. Thats just the way it is. people complain all the time about having to drag their luggage on bart. I suggest bart to the airport to people everyday, they won't do it - they want a cab. Its only he poor and the hearty, who will do it. The entire area of contra cost and alameda counties not to mention solano wil be choosing between flying out of oakland or taking hsr from tbt. The lack of hsr in oakland is a real problem.

Anonymous said...

Get your facts straight: the Capitol Corridor is operated by Amtrak, and managed by BART. It's funded by the State, which I think also owns the trains, and the tracks themselves are owned by Union Pacific. You have many good ideas, Rafael, I just wish you'd do a little bit more background research beforehand.

jim said...

the loop idea for turning trains back at the imagined mandela station might be helpful for operations. as for the up foreight yard - there is nothing to prohibit passenger trains from using that yardl That was our amtrak yard for decades ( i worked out there) until they built the new facility to the east a couple years ago. It just a matter of UP preferring we not be under their feet. Kep in mind also that the need to trun trains at oakland will be reduced as amtrak is increasing service all the way to san jose so that most trains will run the length from sac to sjc.

jim said...

It would be nice to get the cap corridor speeds up to 110. and teh ace speeds up to 110.
actually its amazing that capital corridor runs so well. there are how many...? agencies... un ccjpa, amtrak, caltrans, bart, and UP, all involved with making capitol corridor happen - that many highly politicized agencies to make a train go from auburn to san jose. Quite frankly the reason it runs so well, I have to say, is because its the amtrak employees, conductors, engineers, coach cleaners, ticket clerks, and mechanical department who are experienced l railroad people who know how to run a railroad who make it a success. UP is always a pain, BART has become a bad joke in the bay area, Caltrans tried to run it in the beginning and nearly killed it. It really comes down to ccjpa management and the amtrak workforce making it a success. just so everyone knows. sorry -Had to say it

Bianca said...

Getting the Capitol Corridor up to 110 mph would be a huge improvement. What would the haul time be from, say, Emeryville to Sacramento at 110 mph? That and wi-fi and I think a lot more people around here would get how great trains can be.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The Capitol Corridor trains are a true success story for California passenger rail. They are a model of how to effectively and efficiently run trains that are popular with the public. And their management has done a very good job of working with Union Pacific, which is no easy feat.

As a somewhat frequent rider on the Capitol Corridor trains, my own preferences for improvement are:

1. WiFi. My iPhone helps to a degree, but true WiFi would make the 3 hour trip from San Jose to Sacramento extremely productive.

2. Speed upgrades through Fremont. I don't quite know what this will require to actually pull off, but Fremont is one of the key slow points on the route. In my experience once you get through Fremont the trains can run at much faster speeds.

3. More service to San Jose, and exploration of an express option. More service requires more cars, and an express option likely requires track upgrades. I don't know exactly where that is required, but it should be a priority for some of the $950 million in Prop 1A that will go to non-HSR intercity passenger rail.

4. I would love to see the long-discussed and frequently studied Monterey extension implemented. I know TAMC wants to put light rail on the Monterey Branch Line to Castroville and use Caltrain to fill the missing link from Castroville to San Jose, but I am not convinced this is actually the best solution for the corridor.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Note: Rafael's earlier post on the Pacific Surfliner route was unfinished and not intended to be published yet. It will be posted later this week.

Anonymous said...

Digging up the newly landscaped Mandela Parkway for a railroad trench simply won't float politically, unless it is cut and covered.

A better idea is perhaps a more evolved intermodal station at Oakland Airport/Coliseum, now that Oakland Airtrain has temporarily been resusitated.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 12:45pm -

there is zero funding for the HST/commuter rail overlay at this point. Expect whatever is available to be spent on the SF-LA-Anaheim starter line for the bullet trains and, on incremental upgrades to existing services.

@ anon @ 12:50pm -

thank you for the correction, post is fixed.

@ Robert Cruickshank -

thanks for catching that, I posted the post on Pacific Surfliner by accident. It's now finished and scheduled for tomorrow.

@ anon @ 3:20pm -

cut-and-cover is what I had mind, perhaps that wasn't clear enough from the text. I said partially covered because the diesel exhaust fumes need to go somewhere.

Note that given the need for an EIR/EIS process and funding, any Oakland Nelson Mandela station wouldn't be ready before 2015 anyhow. By then, strict EPA Tier 4 regulations will apply to new and replacement engines for diesel locomotives, so toxic emissions will be sharply reduced. The main concern would then be getting enough oxygen to passengers while the train is underground. Perhaps regular forced ventilation would be sufficient, enabling full cut-and-cover.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I should add something else to this discussion. I saw @dto510 tweet that this post proves:

"CA High Speed Rail blog outlines how East Bay is totally screwed by wasteful and problematic Pacheco Pass alignment."

That's @dto510's interpretation of this post. I don't think that's what Rafael intended to say. That's not what I personally believe to be the case.

The Pacheco alignment wouldn't have helped most of the East Bay anyway. Oakland would be "screwed" regardless since the HSR trains would only come as close as Fremont or Pleasanton.

I strongly disagree that Pacheco is either wasteful or problematic. It has pros and cons, as did Altamont. But in each case a solution for the East Bay core of Oakland-Berkeley was going to be needed anyway.

Personally I think that BART to Transbay Terminal makes the most sense. It's about a 40 minute BART trip to downtown SF from North Berkeley BART, and only around 15-20 minutes from Oakland 12th Street.

Ultimately the right answer may well be another Transbay Tube, one that can accommodate HSR trains. That's why I think Rafael's concept that he outlined in yesterday's post deserves closer consideration.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

the loop track was intended for Amtrak San Joaquin and California Zephyr.

@ Jim, Bianca, Robert Cruickshank -

tomorrow's post will explain in detail the difference between top speed and line haul speed, express and local/semi-local service.

In the Capitol Corridor, Fremont-Oakland Jack London Square, Emeryville-Richmond and Benicia-Sacramento are straight enough to support operation at higher speeds. What's needed is improved signaling, a higher state of good repair for the tracks, faster UPRR trains and the equivalent of Caltrain's "baby bullet" semi-express service via selective quad tracking.

Fremont is a slow section primarily because of the tight corners in Newark and Niles, plus the fact that Niles-San Leandro is a single track section.

Note that there is a second track between Newark and 98th Ave past Hayward Executive Airport, a remnant of the old line out to Santa Cruz. It features a lot of freight spurs, though, so it makes little sense to consider it for passenger service north of Union Landing.

Avoiding the tight curves in Fremont would basically require trains to use the SPML connecting Niles to San Jose via Milpitas.

That's a narrow ROW with a single track right past residential houses in San Jose. Without a quiet zone implementation and a switch to lightweight non-compliant DMUs with EPA Tier 4 engines, I don't think a service as frequent as Amtrak CC would get permission to use that line, even if UPRR were willing to offer trackage rights for it.

Also, Amtrak CC currently serves Great America in the Golden Triangle - a major reason for its success with commuters from the East Bay.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

people will read into my posts whatever they want to. I agree that Pacheco has zip to do with this post, my main objective was to improve transit times for SF-Sacramento, SF-Truckee and SF-east Contra Costa county-Central Valley.

Spokker said...

Off-topic, but a major earthquake struck Italy today that killed 50. Rail lines, including the high speed line, was running later that day.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

post-electrification, it might make sense for PCJPB to just pay CCJPA to run Amtrak CC trains to Gilroy so Caltrain can get rid of all diesel equipment.

It might even make sense to execute that transfer of responsibilities earlier, since Caltrain will now have its hands full with HSR-related construction plus electrification for quite a number of years. TAMC (Monterey county), SCCRTC (Santa Cruz county) and SBCT (San Benito county) might all find it easier to get commuter rail service from CCJPA than from Caltrain, even if that means some passengers would have to transfer at SJ Diridon.

SCCRTC may want to consider a light rail line from the Santa Cruz boardwalk to Pajaro (near Watsonville). An old single-track alignment still exists, but higher speeds could be obtained with a new dual-track line in the hwy 1 median.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I guess it's not threadjacking when it's your own blog, heh...

To follow up on the Monterey Bay region, Santa Clara County is finally ready to purchase the UP track from Davenport to Pajaro. I believe they've been looking into DMU tech to provide passenger train cars for that route.

TAMC believes it is very, very close to signing the deal to bring Caltrain to Salinas. But another possibility here may be the Coast Daylight, which would basically be an extension of Surfliners 798/799 to San Francisco via Salinas. That would provide another opportunity to link up with a light rail stop at Castroville.

All of this matters under the broad principle that for HSR to be successful, feeder transit services must be bolstered.

arcady said...

Rafael: hm, extending the Capitol Corridor trains as commuter runs to Gilroy might make sense, but would break the existing commutes to/from Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Redwood City. I believe There's also a long-term vision of extending the CC itself to Salinas, which, with enough inter-agency cooperation, could also replace the proposed Caltrain service there.

As for the light rail line from Watsonville to Santa Cruz, SCCRTC is in the process of buying the UP line, but they don't really know what to do with it yet, but I personally want to build a recreation of an electric interurban in the style of the Sacramento Northern, possibly using historic 1500 volt cars. It was a very cost-effective form of transport back then, and may still be as cost effective as ever, compared to the much more capital-intensive light rail.

Adirondacker said...

Perhaps regular forced ventilation would be sufficient, enabling full cut-and-cover.

They have those new fangled electric trains that don't need to burn things underground.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

if SCCRTC is going to stick with the old line to Davenport, there should be no problem in selecting an off-the-shelf non-compliant DMU as long as there will be no freight traffic. That's what NCTD did for the Sprinter service between Escondido and Oceanside.

Single-track lines can support two trains via one bypass at a station in the middle (based on transit time, not distance). Four trains would require two additional bypasses at the midpoints of the two halves etc. That means the capacity of the line can be ramped up over time with selective double-tracking at specific locations, which would hopefully double as useful stations.

1500V DC electrification wouldn't cost all that much, but I'm not so sure folks in places like Aptos would be prepared to accept overhead catenaries near the beach. The Czechs appear to have come up with fairly unobtrusive masts in a similarly scenic environment.

Morris Brown said...

Hot off the press -- Monday 4/06/09

Link to Forbes

The state sold some commercial paper today, and funded the Authority with $29 million to get it back up and running.

No word yet on the interest rate.

Rafael said...

@ spokker -

sadly, the death toll is now 150 and the strength confirmed at 6.3 on the Richter scale. Lots of historic masonry buildings in the Abruzzo mountains. The town at the epicenter, L'Aquila, is about 100km east of Rome. It's been destroyed twice before in recorded history, but Italian authorities don't have or enforce seismic building codes as strict as those in e.g. California.

The high speed lines are on the west side of the Appenines, quite far from the epicenter. It's good to know they were undamaged, but I am curious if FS and NTV have installed earthquake detection and response systems similar to those developed independently by the JR and SNCF.

Rafael said...

@ Morris Brown -

thx for the update. $29 million isn't as much as they asked for, but it will tide them over for a while. Leaving the project-level EIR/EIS processes in limbo would have created a bad situation for homeowners close to the Caltrain ROW, for ROW negotiations with UPRR and BNSF etc.

Once a project this big gets underway in the sense of having real impacts on property values etc., you really want it to continue on schedule as much as possible.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker -

overhead electrification of the entire Capitol Corridor would be nice but there's no money for it right now. Dual-mode locomotives might be an option but there aren't any on the market for 25kV AC.

I'm not sure Amtrak would want to retrofit their existing locomotives with pickups for 1500V DC (OCS or third rail) just for one short section of tunnel in Oakland.

An interesting option currently in development for non-compliant DMU equipment in Europe is a parallel hybrid drivetrain with battery banks to support recuperation and zero emissions operations for short distances. Unfortunately, it's probably a moot point for the US because FRA-compliant passenger trains need much larger diesel engines.

Anonymous said...

*Oakland resident here*

Look, insisting that the HSR stop in every city doesn't make any more sense than building BART out to greensfields in exurbia just because they happen to be in counties that joined the BART district in 1960-something.

Oakland has BART; downtown SF is a 15-20 minute BART ride. That's a MUCH more efficient use of HSR funds than duplicating a BART route and delaying extensions to San Diego or Sacramento.

Now, I can say this because of the ASSUMPTION that there will be some sort of connection in downtown SF, not a HSR that terminates at 4th and King, or God forbid Millbrae, or San Jose, or in some cosmic screwup MODESTO...

Alon Levy said...

How does Amtrak power its trains that use the NEC but then continue to areas without electrification, like the Pennsylvanian or the Regional trains in Virginia?

Spokker said...

They stick a diesel locomotive on them.

Spokker said...

Here's the Pennsylvanian under some catenary cable.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 6:49pm -

I don't think HSR duplicates BART at all. Caltrain to Point Alamenda and downtown Oakland would duplicate the service to a small extent, but many commuters who use BART to go to work in SF board trains well beyond Oakland. Alameda is famously opposed to additional road traffic, but a rail link direct to SF might be something that city would welcome. It depends mostly on what it ends up doing with the large patch of still-contaminated landfill that is the former NAS.

As for pedestrian connections between BART and the Transbay Terminal as planned by TJPA: there's an "optional" 800ft underground pedestrian passage under Fremont Street to Market Street. Note the absence of a BART station there. Plans are not specific about moving walkways. That's the sum total of TJPA's and CHSRA's planning to date for integrating with BART in SF.

I've suggested on this blog that the state legislature could insist that BART use the $241 million allocated to it from the $950 million reserved for HSR feeders by prop 1A on fixing its #1 problem: rush hour pedestrian flow capacity in the downtown SF stations. Otherwise, it'll probably be lost between the cushions in the effort to extend BART to Santa Clara, Livermore or Antioch.

One idea would be to add side platforms to Embarcadero station, with ramps featuring moving walkways connecting to a concourse level under Market and Fremont/Front. This would permit trains to open doors on both sides at the same time. Trains would have to stop at exactly the right spot because the side platforms would be behind the tunnel walls, perforated only where the doors are supposed to be.

If BART builds the side platforms and ramps to a concourse at Market and Fremont/Front Street and, TJPA build a passage to the TBT (preferably with moving sidewalks), that would greatly improve the prospect of attracting HSR ridership from BART. Otherwise, your best bet would be to take an AC Transit bus to the TBT and walk to the train box in the basement.

The topic of yesterday's post, an elongated SF Central Station under Mission Street with two levels and eight platforms, would also use pedestrian passages to connect to both BART and the TBT. However, because the station's concourse level would itself be a pedestrian passage with moving walkways, it could connect directly to the existing concourse levels at Embarcadero and Montgomery BART, thus spreading the throughput load.

Still, it would have been far better to design a Central Station at 7th & Market, served by all five rail services: HSR, Caltrain. BART, SF Muni subway and SF streetcars. The transbay buses could have reached the location via the 7th/8th Street on- and off-ramps. Real estate developers go wherever there is land and demand for commercial or residential space.

Unfortunately, SF didn't start with the least flexible element, rail-based transportation. Instead, they started with a bunch of parking lots, some ramps and a bus terminal building that needs to be replaced because it doesn't meet seismic code. Forcing rail to come to where the buses are is a textbook example of a tail wagging a dog.

Anonymous said...

I thought CHSRA already had more than 29M in previously incurred, unpaid expenses. Does 29M allow them to continue or just to pay their current bills?

BruceMcF said...

To bad UP does not have the attitude of CSX ... they don't like passenger rail on their freight lines, but are happy enough with the idea of double or single track rapid rail lines added alongside in their right of way that they put the idea forward as part of their angling for Federal money to fix up their main southeast trunk.

Certainly UP cannot use the excuse of non-heavy-rail-compliant rolling stock to object to adding 10mi:50mi passing track or dedicated single track line to a ROW with existing space ... if that is in service of bringing the Capital Corridor up to speed using heavy rail compliant rolling stock.

Rafeal: "cut-and-cover is what I had mind, perhaps that wasn't clear enough from the text. I said partially covered because the diesel exhaust fumes need to go somewhere."

... ah, so that is supposed to be cut and cap. How many trains per day would be using that route?

Wouldn't it be cheaper to sling an Aerobus or similar suspended light rail under the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge to connect the TBT to BART West Oakland, Oakland Amtrak, Oakland Coliseum, and then terminate at the Oakland Airport?

I realize that suspended light rail is much less interesting, because there are so few alignment challenges, but you can buy a lot of track on suspension cable for a mile or two of cut and cover.

As someone has recently noted, there is something to be said for the strategy of taking the high capacity heavy rail through where it is more convenient for it to go through, and bring the more flexible modes to the heavy rail.

jim said...

It's all very exciting but keep in mind I'm sure most of us will be in the home before anything comes true. As for gilroy monterey salinas - I have heard the following buzz floating around for years... any of these options or any combination of these options may happen 1) the surfiliner buses are a huge success and could be replaced with surfliner train that travel further north from SLO up to say SNS. CCJPA may work on running train as far south as SNS but that would be a much lower priority than getting more service to Placer and county and reno. ( the capitol corridors regular ridership in placer county can and will get what they want before any one else - they have the proven political capital to make sure of it) 3) the coastal gap may be filled by the long awaited revival of the coast daylight into SF from LA. ( this is a dream of train buffs across the land) any of those options will fill the gap. which one is best depends on who you are and where you live.

jim said...

personally I don't think any further south but just concentrate in increasing existing service to a level of perfection. and surfliner furter north makes some sense, but I have to say I like the coast daylight option best. And remember part of the appeal of pacheco is that it brings HSR down the coast a ways which also fills a gap - as central coast people have even worse air service than central valley people.wiht a hsr stop at gilroy - you give santa cruz, monterey, salinas, even pasorobles , reasonable access to hsr.

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 8:46pm -

the $29.1 million is enough to let CHSRA to pay its bills and operate through the end of June.

@ BruceMcF -

the point here isn't connecting the TBT to West Oakland BART. This is about connecting Amtrak trains to that station to avoid a long and slow BART ride.

The slow sections of the Capitol Corridor are where there's no room for additional tracks (except Niles-San Leandro), so it's not really a question of UP blocking the construction of additional tracks for the benefit of faster passenger service, it's a question of rustling up money for some tunnels and tracks. Between Richmond and Martinez, one option might be to switch to the BNSF alignment up to Hercules (uphill and single track, though), then run some fresh tracks in the CA-4 median before cutting through them thar hills to get back to the UPRR ROW and across the Benicia rail bridge.

The idea of running rails across the Bay Bridge once again was considered when plans were laid for the new east span. The options considered were slinging regular tracks to either side of the west span or else installing them in cages underneath the lower deck. The latter would have required Coast Guard approval because it would have reduced the height of the shipping lane. Either way, it would have cost about $3 billion which no-one had at the time. Therefore, the option to one day support light rail service on top of the east span was also discarded.

Quentin Kopp was in charge of planning the new east span, but various East Bay politicians didn't like the affordable but effective original design, so they grossly inflated costs by adding a "signature" suspension bridge element late in the process.

The idea of using a hanging monorail underneath both the west and east spans never occurred to anyone. It's also unclear to me how that would run into the TBT. The new east span descends to an at-grade toll plaza.

As it is, I think a BRT approach might be the cheapest option for beefing up transbay commute traffic capacity between Oakland/Berkeley/San Rafael and downtown SF.

Germany's Fraunhofer Institute and commercial partners have developed a similar concept called AutoTram that features bi-directional operation, doors on both sides, multi-axis steering and ad-hoc reconfiguration capability. Maximum vehicle length is 3x12 = 36m (~120 ft).

Automated guidance is provided via vision software and differential GPS (vs. permanent magnets embedded in the road in the simpler Dutch system). In both systems, the driver's primary job is to watch the road and deal with off-design situations.

Note that a BRT shuttle directly from Emeryville Amtrak to the TBT, 4th & King and on to SFO via 101 would also make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, there is no bus/carpool lane on 101 in that stretch and there are always traffic jams during rush hour.

An alternative route would be 3rd Street - Bayshore Blvd - Airport Blvd - Airport Blvd - McDonnell Road - Rd 18 - SFO Int'l terminal - SFO domestic terminals - Rd 18 - Mc Donnell Rd - Millbrae Ave - Millbrae/SFO station.

Adirondacker said...

overhead electrification of the entire Capitol Corridor would be nice

I suppose the Keebler Elves using magic shovels to dig the hole are going to be using pixie dust instead of concrete and steel to build the tunnel.

Let me make sure I understand this. Passenger volume is going to be so low it doesn't make sense to electrify. So you are making a very expensive tunnel even more expensive by running diesels through it. ( It's going to need more ventilation, whatever that method turns out to be ) To bring people to a subway stop on a system that is so overcrowded they may not be able to get on a train so they can get to stations that are so overcrowded it's difficult to get off the platform. So that the train can then run down the middle of the street through the rest of Oakland. . . not an occasional grade crossing but full blown street running like a streetcar.

You are attacking the problem, that everybody for 30 miles out from the Ferry Building is going to be sitting in traffic, by nibbling at the edges. Go find some foamers. They might have some ideas.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "the point here isn't connecting the TBT to West Oakland BART. This is about connecting Amtrak trains to that station to avoid a long and slow BART ride."

Connecting Amtrak trains to what station to "avoid a long and slow BART ride". Providing a faster alternate connection is also a way to obtain a faster ride from the Amtrak trains to the TBT.

"The slow sections of the Capitol Corridor are where there's no room for additional tracks (except Niles-San Leandro)"

They are all slow sections ... for the Oakland / Sacramento connection, taking a half hour off anywhere off the route gives about the same patronage benefit. If that can be done by bringing the interurban stretches up from Amtrak speed to proper interurban express speed, for less money than the tunneling / elevating, then an incremental upgrade strategy will do the cheapest per minute gained upgrade first.

Doing the upgrade based on dollar capital investment per minute gained means that less capital spending up front is required to gain the same ridership benefit, which translates into support for more services running closer to operating break even, as well as to better cost benefit ratios in the funding application for the tunneling when it comes time to apply for Federal matching funds in support of that.

What is the indicative cost of the cap and cover tunnel, per minute saved?

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker, BruceMcF -

I didn't say the money for any tunnels on the Capitol Corridor was lying around. All I'm saying is that connecting to BART at Richmond isn't an attractive option for anyone traveling between Sacramento and SF or SFO, for that matter. And I don't know where you got the streetcar idea, as I said the alignment down Nelson Mandela Parkway would be underground (cut-and-cover, not a bored tunnel)

BART takes 35 minutes to get from Richmond to Embarcadero in SF and can't be sped up because it has no express capability.

The transfer at Richmond is timed, the BART train to SF leaves 2 minutes after the Amtrak from Sacramento does. That probably means passengers have about five minutes to transfer. The two island platforms are next to one another, evidently that is usually enough time to walk between them via the underground passage. However, if the Amtrak train is late, you have to wait up to 15 minutes for the next BART train.

On-time performance for Amtrak CC is around 89%. According to the Glossary of Terms link off that page, a train covering less than 250 miles is considered "on time" if it's no more than 10 minutes late at the final destination. In other words, if you have an appointment to keep, expect the transfer at Richmond to take 15 minutes.

So that's a total of 50 budgeted minutes from Richmond to Embarcadero. If you're lucky, it'll only actually take 40.

Amtrak CC currently takes 15 minutes from Richmond to Emeryville and 33 minutes to Jack London Square. Nelson Mandela should take no more than 22 because trains would get out from under UPRR's thumb just south of Emeryville.

The transfer time from an underground platform at Oakland Nelson Mandela to the West Oakland BART platform depends on how intelligently it is laid out but 5 minutes should be plenty - less if a direct elevator is installed. West Oakland BART is served not by one but four lines into SF, so there's a train every 4 minutes or so and hence, no need to plan for a timed transfer. On average, the wait will be about two minutes. The trip from West Oakland BART to Embarcadero BART takes 8 minutes.

Ergo, Richmond to Embarcadero via a Nelson Mandela station would take about 22+5+2+8 = 37 minutes. Constructing the Nelson Mandela station would therefore shave off about 13 minutes off the time a business travel would have to budget for getting from Sacramento to SF by rail.

The shortcut (minus the optional loopback track) would be 2.3 miles long. The missing piece of information is the cost of constructing it. Redoing the landscaping on the Parkway would cost a pretty penny and so would the eminent domain against the two businesses, but on the other hand virtually all of the land is public streets in an industrial neighborhood.

For reference, Amtrak CC takes 85 minutes from Sacramento to Richmond (per schedule). A business traveler would currently have to budget at least 135 minutes for the trip, a new intermodal station at Nelson Mandela Parkway would cut that by about 10%.

jim said...

Sacramento has their own airport so why would any one travel from SAC to SFO. Anyway all of thee agencies are going to put their own interest and their riders interest ahead of any long term big picture goals as in placer county service will be a higher priority than transbay or monterey for instance.

Rafael said...

@ jim -

how many international flights does Sacramento offer vs. SFO?

As for Placer county, we know already. TAMC is going to have to wait a while for service from either Caltrain or Amtrak CC, even if they've scraped together the funding and got UPRR to sell additional trackage rights. Both operators have other priorities.

A Coast Daylight wouldn't do commuters from Monterey into Silicon Valley much good.

jim said...

There is a demand for the coast daylight. I know how useful it would be to have this option for passengers. I'm not really thinking about commuters form souther santa clara county but clearly the solution there is to increase service to gilroy.

Adirondacker said...

Sigh. The places near Jack London Square where it runs down the middle of the street. Those shiny things you can see embedded in the pavement on Google's satellite or street views. While I was on the satellite view I surfed over to the West Oakland BART station. It's elevated. You can see the tracks. The ones that cross over the current alignment of the current services from Amtrak at 7th and Bay.
Here's a concept. Why not build stations where the two lines already cross and use the money you save getting the current services off the street.

Rafael said...

@ adirondecker -

there may be some old heavy rail tracks embedded in some Oakland city streets but they're no longer used. In the Bay Area, only SF still has heavy rail in streetcar mode.

The only place where the BART tracks cross over the active standard gauge in Oakland tracks is just west of I-880 (near 7th & Bay).

Moving the BART station there is not a good idea because the tracks begin to descend pretty quickly after flying over I-880. Both the BART and the standard gauge through tracks hugging the freeway are curved in that location, so it's very suboptimal for platform layout. Finally, the land nearby is not available for parking lots.

Basically, the choices are living with the status quo, a new underground heavy rail station at Nelson Mandela Pkwy/7th or, a fast and frequent BRT shuttle from Emeryville to the Transbay Terminal and on to 4th & King, all the SFO terminals and Millbrae/SFO station.

Note that the latter is a block and a half from Market Street, so there might be value in offering a separate BRT that bypasses the TBT and heads directly into the heart of the financial district via Fremont and Front Streets (return via Clay, Drumm, Washington, the Embarcadero and Harrison).

Rafael said...

@ jim -

there may well be demand for a daily Coast Daylight train but TAMC wants direct commuter service into Silicon Valley an up to SFO/SF 4th & King. As in, several trains in the morning and several back in the afternoon/evening.

jim said...

From Emeryville there is already bus service for every train in both directions - a 15 minute trip from emy to sf. you can't make it much faster than that.

BruceMcF said...

7th and Bay ... you mean, here (jpg)?

I have to point out that this would be an application of the "Rafeal principle" ... work out the connections between the less flexible, higher capacity transport modes first, then if you want you can tack on the more flexible transport modes after.

Four platforms, four ramps, and there's the intermodal station.

Having a pure BART/Amtrak transfer station there would not do anything about the issue of service congestion, but it would avoid adding to platform congestion.

Plus something along the lines of an Aerobus or similar system that would provide faster and more convenient express connections between TBT and Amtrak/connections at 7th and Bay, Jack London Square, the Coliseum, and the Oakland Airport for less money would not be killed off by the massively over-engineered project burning through massive amounts of public resources for marginal public benefits.

So I do like 7th and Bay Rail Intermodal much, compared to over a mile of cut and cap.

Rafael: "Moving the BART station there is not a good idea because the tracks begin to descend pretty quickly after flying over I-880. Both the BART and the standard gauge through tracks hugging the freeway are curved in that location, so it's very suboptimal for platform layout."

I don't see the problem you are pointing to ... maybe you can take use Google satellite to take a snapshot of the curves that you see as problematic.

"Finally, the land nearby is not available for parking lots."

So? Its not like you have to close West Oakland to add an intermodal platform station. Don't provide station parking there ... parking problem solved. The less the intermodal solution costs, the fewer bells and whistles you have to add to justify the cost, especially when the cost is in the 100:1 range like this.

jim said...

this says east bay people will be expected to walk:
from teh tbt website: ....."Serve AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, MUNI (including paratransit for seniors and the disabled), SamTrans, WestCAT, Greyhound, Caltrain, and future High Speed Rail under one roof, with walking connections to BART and MUNI Metro, linking San Francisco to the rest of the region and State"

jim said...

and no mention of amtrak in there. ( which is a sigh of relief) I think that east bay bart folks can walk one block from market to mission. I think the capitol corridor folks can choose the emeryville bus or the richmond transfer as they already do. who am I forgetting? alameda county will have bart to san jose for a direct hsr connection. I think that's enough. I suppose we could cover the sidewalk on 1st street for the rain.

Brent P. said...

Parsons Brinkerhoff is not the lead firm on the BART to Silicon Valley Project. They are a design consultant but the lead is a joint venture between HMM/Bechtel

jim said...

some central coast deatilas about filling in the gap--from the Central California
Coast Rail Council and San Luis Obispo
Council of Governments, addressed the sta-
tus of a revived “Daylight” train between Los
Angeles and San Francisco, efforts to revive a
“Lark/Spirit of California” overnight coast rail
service, Surfliner service expansion to San Luis
Obispo, and improved buses on the San Luis
Obispo - Bay Area route.
The San Luis Obispo Council of Govern-
ments is the Region’s Metropolitan Planning
Organization, with one-eighth of the agency’s
resources dedicated to rail services. One of
the agency’s endeavors is revival of the Coast
Daylight, projected to cost $12 million and gen-
erate $7 million in revenue. While this service
still needs more equipment, a railroad owner-
ship agreement, and additional funding, plans
for this 21-stop train are in progress.
This train would leave San Francisco at
7:20 a.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 7:00
p.m., with extended service to San Diego
arriving at 10:00 p.m. It would then leave
Los Angeles at 7:50 a.m. and arrive in San
Francisco at 7:20 p.m. The study estimated
216,200 passengers per year.
Rogers announced the November 17 start of
a second Pacific Surfliner service Los Angeles
to San Luis Obispo, noting that it has a San
Francisco bus that could eventually become a
train. A comparison with the Coast Starlight
times is available at the SLOCOG website

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

you're zoomed in too far on your pic. BART trains are 7 cars long and Amtrak's probably 5 or 6. You're not going to get sufficiently straight and level platforms for both gauges at that location. If it were that easy, they'd probably have done it long ago.

Btw, adding a station so close to an existing one isn't something BART would be prepared to do. They don't do cheap stations and all of them have parking nearby. Lots of people drive to BART in the East Bay because they want to avoid the nightmare that is the Bay Bridge during rush hour.

But perhaps it's a moot point either way if frequent, dependable bus service gets you to and from Emeryville fast enough.

Tony D. said...

Tunnel, or trench, HSR and Caltrain in all Peninsula communities that oppose. In return, said communities will have NO HSR or Caltrain service, and freight service would remain at-grade (just the way they like it). How's that for compromise!

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal "Btw, adding a station so close to an existing one isn't something BART would be prepared to do."

After looking at the station spacing in that area, I take it that you mean that they've done it so much in this area that they would not be prepared to do it any more?

"They don't do cheap stations and all of them have parking nearby. Lots of people drive to BART in the East Bay because they want to avoid the nightmare that is the Bay Bridge during rush hour."

But you have to put the 7th and Bay intermodal in the same universe as your tunnel. Where there is sufficient benefit from the intermodal between Amtrak and BART to justify hundreds of millions of dollars for a cut and cap tunnel to reach the train station ... there is more than enough benefit to justify adding a pure intermodel stop to those BART services.

If the benefit of the BART/Amtrak intermodal does not justify an extra stop for for BART, than how can hundreds of millions of dollars (if merely that) for tunneling be of any conceivable sane benefit to cost ratio?

Indeed, you put your finger on the flaw in your basic concept: "Lots of people drive to BART in the East Bay because they want to avoid the nightmare that is the Bay Bridge during rush hour."

That implies that BART capacity from West Oakland to a block from the TBT is particularly valuable capacity, and that Amtrak/BART intermodal for the purpose of going to the TBT is the wrong direction.

Consider, for example, an Aerobus loop TBT / Amtrak Emeryville / BART Macarthur ... that improves the connection of Amtrak to the TBT as well as to BART away from the tunnel crush, toward Berkeley or Pittsburg.

Indeed, given the way that the Bay likes to spread its various modes of transport out to avoid making an excessive number of mode choices available, there's likely some additional transport connection it could make on the SF side of the TBT ... maybe 4th and King, to get to the Caltrain Express services blocked out of the TBT by bad design, and the light rail down that side.

Adirondacker said...

there may be some old heavy rail tracks embedded in some Oakland city streets but they're no longer used. In the Bay Area

Go to 90 Alice Street, Oakland, California - using Google Maps. Drag the little yellow person icon to the intersection of Alice and Embarcadero or First which every you want to call it. You can see the pedestrian overpass to the Amtrak station. Click on the arrows until you are up against the fence for the railroad. Then click on the arrows to go west to Webster, keep going. The vehicle they used to photograph all of this travels over the tracks - parallel to them - as if it was a rail vehicle. Google Jack London Train and there are all sorts of pictures of the Amtrak trains in the middle of the street. Not even painted lines separating them from automobile traffic. Now I realize that the images on Google either the satellite view weren't taken yesterday but they are reasonably recent.

I Googled "Jack London Train" the fourth image I looked had a date. It was of an Amtrak train meandering down the middle of the street dated 2006. I followed a few links around and found a picture of a freight train on the same tracks dated March 10, 2009. There are trains running in the streets of Oakland. So you are going to build this tunnel so that trains that go past the West Oakland station can then run in the street. I can see how well thought all of this is.

Moving the BART station there is not a good idea because the tracks begin to descend pretty quickly after flying over I-880.

I assume west of 880. Put the platforms over and east of 880.

Both the BART and the standard gauge through tracks hugging the freeway are curved in that location, so it's very suboptimal for platform layout

The BART tracks are running perpendicular to the highway and are very very straight. Put the BART station east of 880, Or over it.. Straighten the track for a few hundred feet for Amtrak and the commuter service when it starts. They will probably have to re-lay things halfway back to Emeryville to do that. Diving into a tunnel wasn't going to leave the tracks as they are either. Lots and lots of switches and maybe even a flyover/flyunder...

Finally, the land nearby is not available for parking lots

The whole point of this exercise it to take passengers from the Capitol corridor train, whether it's Amtrak or some sort of commuter train and put them on BART. I know Californians have a prediliction to cart around vehicles but I doubt many people will be taking the automobile on an Amtrak train and the be looking for parking in when they get off the train in Oakland.

When I look at the Google satellite images there's all sorts of room for parking there. Over 880, over the railroad tracks. Where all the trucks are parked feet away from the tracks. Plenty of space. Still don't know why they would need parking for a transfer station.

Bruce - the Bartilicous extravganza in Fremont and Union City is even better. The tracks the ACE trains use cross under BART east of the Fremont Amtrak station. ( Or BART crosses over the ACE tracks north of the Fremont BART Station however you want to look at it.) It's near where he has the ACE train diverting north over sidings to get to Union City. Follow the line east, it appears that the trains get over the mountain on the same lines as trains from places like.. Union City, There is a wye where some trains head west to Union City and some head west to Fremont. So he has the train come west, diverge at the place you can go to Union City or Fremont, choosing the Fremont tracks and very shortly after that diverging off the tracks to Fremont to get to the tracks to Union City. I almost banged my head on the desk.

Keep following the tracks east. Apparently there is a tunnel. I assume the passenger trains use it but it could be out of service. He has them going over the mountain on the at-grade tracks. ... I may have the wrong tracks since I apparently live in an alternate universe where trains do run in the street in Oakland and where I never think of how much parking there should be at station designed for people who are there to transfer between trains. . .

Of course if they built a commuter rail tunnel from Oakland to San Francisco getting people onto BART becomes less important and they don't have to go north to Union City to get south to San Jose so they can go north to San Francisco....

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "The idea of running rails across the Bay Bridge once again was considered when plans were laid for the new east span. The options considered were slinging regular tracks to either side of the west span or else installing them in cages underneath the lower deck. The latter would have required Coast Guard approval because it would have reduced the height of the shipping lane. Either way, it would have cost about $3 billion which no-one had at the time. Therefore, the option to one day support light rail service on top of the east span was also discarded."

Yes, until we can take back road lanes because gas prices are cutting down on private car use, laying track on bridges will be very expensive. Why do you think I specified something like Aerobus technology? I was talking about what could be done with less money than would be required for your cut and cap tunnel.

When you lay light rail track on suspension cable, with electrical supply integrated and the vehicle suspended beneath, the supporting structure becomes much less expensive. If suspended from pylons spaced along the sides of the bridges, the pylons could be spaces every 300 feet. Its a lot cheaper per mile than conventional EL track.

At $15m to $30m per mile, the ten miles from TBT to BART Macarthur would be $150m to $300m ... I tried to bring it in under the cost of your tunnel, which is why I did not keep it going to the Oakland Airport.

I don't know whether Aerobus itself is still in business, but if they've folded, the technology ought to be available.

BruceMcF said...

Adirondacker: "Bruce - the Bartilicous extravganza in Fremont and Union City is even better. ..."

I didn't get as far as the physical layout. Looking at the ACE route map, clearly the reason they were willing to go a round about around Fremont was to get to the Dumbarton bridge and from there access to the Caltrain corridor ... the "U" bus from BART Fremont to Stanford that connects at ACE Fremont is their number one featured intermodal connection.

The BART intermodal is certainly worthwhile if you are going that way anyway ... but unless there is a reason to go that way, doing it just to take a slower trip to San Jose makes no sense. Catching the "U" bus the "wrong" way suffices to connect to BART Fremont.

So I didn't worry about the details.

Anonymous said...

Rafael: there may be some old heavy rail tracks embedded in some Oakland city streets but they're no longer used. In the Bay Area, only SF still has heavy rail in streetcar mode.

What? The approaches to Oakland Jack London Square station most certainly run at grade right down the middle of Embarcadero West. These tracks see upwards of 40 passenger trains per day.

Adirondacker said...

Bruce it's not nice to tease them like that. I followed the link for Aerobus. I didn't spend much time there. It looks like they built two systems, the last one completed over 25 years ago. Neither of which are still in operation. PRT on steriods? Aerial tramways gone high tech? Hey! extend the cable car lines across the Bay. Make them watertight and the only thing you need is a really long cable. Since the cars are watertight they would float. Then you'd have a truly intermodal station, regular rail, BART and the cable cars!

How about a nice XBL
Nah, that wouldn't work on the Bay Bridge, the curves on the approaches aren't as tight as those on the Helix, the Lincoln Tunnel doesn't use the same gauge as BART, the Port Authority Bus Terminal doesn't have a HSR station and there's no parking on Yerba Buena . . .

jim said...

Oakland jack london - yes all of amtraks' capitol corridor trains, san joaquin trains, and coast starlight use those tracks in the street and share them with very active UP freight as those are the only tracks the leave the UP yard southbound.

Rafael said...

@ adirdondacker, BruceMcF -

my apologies regarding the tracks on West Embarcadero in Oakland, looks like I was wrong about those. Considering the level of rail traffic, I'm absolutely flabbergasted that is still a city street at all and that the intersections don't even have gates. That situation is dangerous, almost criminally so. Those tracks ought to be in a trench, but there's probably not enough run length for freight trains to make the grade transition. The alternative would be to close W Embarcadero (except to vehicles with a special permit) and at implement quiet zone grade crossings.

Wrt ACE, I suggested two separate ACE services. Right now, ACE has zero intermodal stations with BART. Fremont Centerville is served by Amtrak CC but the various planning geniuses decided against an intermodal station in Fremont Shinn where the BART tracks fly over those owned by UPRR. Livermore does not have a BART station (yet) and the one in Dublin/Pleasanton is miles from Bernal Ave.

The detour north to Union City would be a modification to the existing service. It would enable an intermodal with an existing BART, making it easier for commuters who live close to BART but far from Amtrak to get into San Jose. The Union Landing and Newark areas currently don't have easy access to rail transit into the Golden Triangle or downtown San Jose. The rationale for extending BART to SantaClara/SJC is to take traffic off the horribly congested I-880. This would support that effort well before the BART extensions is operational.

The second, new ACE route would afford folks in the Amador and Central Valleys direct service to Milpitas, Silicon Valley north of San Jose, Millbrae/SFO and SF. Right now, that requires a transfer to Caltrain in San Jose. There is currently no passenger rail traffic on UPRR's Milpitas Line and no traffic at all south of 101. Running ACE there would help preserve the ROW. Once the BART extension to Fremont Warm Springs is complete, passengers would have an intermodal with BART on both ACE routes.

Note that the single UPRR track on the south flank of Niles Canyon does not connect to the active SPML line. The WPML just east of that was abandoned donkey's years ago and is now owned by VTA, the transportation authority for Santa Clara county. South of Fremont Irvington, it will be used for the extension of broad gauge BART to Santa Clara.

The old SP single track on the north slope of Niles Canyon is still used, but only by the NCRY tourist railroad. It has a wye with the SPML just north of the creek, but would require restoring a turnout to the south. Longer term, the objective would be to use the two single tracks to isolate east- and westbound traffic through Niles Canyon or else, to isolate freight and passenger traffic. An electrified new tunnel directly between Niles and Pleansanton and dual-mode locomotives would be really nice but I don't see who would fund that at this point.

So, the idea for ACE would be to get maximum utility out of minimal capital improvements to the legacy tracks. The $15 million it will get out of the $950 million reserved for HSR feeder services in prop 1A aren't a whole lot of money.

At some point the old Dumbarton rail bridge is supposed to be repaired - its western trestle burnt down in a suspicious fire in 1998. That would then permit a much shorter direct ACE route between Stockton and SF, but Dumbarton rail has been a manana project for a very long time.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "The detour north to Union City would be a modification to the existing service. It would enable an intermodal with an existing BART, making it easier for commuters who live close to BART but far from Amtrak to get into San Jose. The Union Landing and Newark areas currently don't have easy access to rail transit into the Golden Triangle or downtown San Jose. The rationale for extending BART to SantaClara/SJC is to take traffic off the horribly congested I-880. This would support that effort well before the BART extensions is operational."

"So, the idea for ACE would be to get maximum utility out of minimal capital improvements to the legacy tracks. The $15 million it will get out of the $950 million reserved for HSR feeder services in prop 1A aren't a whole lot of money."

But you are always on slippery ground when you divert to a longer route to make an easier connection (in this case, replacing a double transfer with a single transfer), because the benefit to those that receive the connection is offset by the cost imposed on those who are passing through the detour on the train.

Its not clear that there is a net benefit there. At the very least you need to know the ridership arriving into Fremont toward San Jose and leaving Fremont away from San Jose, to get an estimate of the patronage that will be driven off the train by the increase in travel time. And then the increment in patronage for the BART line over the patronage provided by people east of the Dumbarton bridge getting on the AC "U" bus to BART Fremont.

I was under the impression that they were reasonably well patronized services ... what you proposes looks more like a strategy to save a dying service by going out to get more riders.

If there is the demand, you might gain that increment in ridership without losing any patronage from further west on the ACE and without losing the existing service through Milpitas by establishing that as a route in its own right.

But completion of BART to San Jose would draw off transfer patronage, and it might revise its service into a loop anchored on San Jose, using the Caltrain Corridor and the Dumbarton Bridge to close the loop and, hopefully, interchanging with BART at a station designed to interchange. Then the ACE could take over the Union City bypass to get to Dumbarton to get toward San Francisco, as originally planned.

That would make the Union City bypass a permanent feature, even if it passes in use from one service to another, which would warrant further investigation on the precise alignment ACE was proposing to get to the Dumbarton bridge.

As far as $15m goes, the first thing ACE ought to look for are capital improvements that can increase its reliability of service and reduce its travel time. Slice 15 minutes off its end to end time, and it will be reaping permanent rewards in terms of services that can be supported on a given operating subsidy.

jim said...

re: the tracks in oakland: people in cars who don't pay attention get smacked on a regular basis down there...but it's because they don''t pay attention not because the tracks need to be in a trench. General rule of thumb is to look both ways before you cross the tracks and if there is a train coming don't get in front of it.

BruceMcF said...

Of course, that means that you want a train that can lay a good solid smack on Darwin's Volunteers without sustaining any damage to the train or the self loading freight.

Heavy freight compliant trains shouldn't have to much trouble with that.

jim said...