Thursday, April 30, 2009

HiSpeed Services and Branding

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

by Rafael

Conventional wisdom has it that HSR in California equals long-distance trains from Northern to Southern California. However, just because trains can cross mountains doesn't mean that passengers will always want to. More often than not, their origin and destination will lie in the same region, i.e. Bay Area, Central Valley or Southern California. Over time, HSR may change that, but it would be prudent to study service models that accommodate a combination of intra-regional and inter-regional trains on the same timetable.

Keep in mind that CHSRA is not a railroad, it is only responsible for planning and constructing the HSR infrastructure. That will be owned by a separate, yet-to-be-created entity in which the various investors, including the state of California, will have equity stakes. This entity will also fund any extensions. If European trends are any indication, a long-term (e.g. 20 year) contract for day-to-day operations and maintenance of the infrastructure will be awarded via open tender. Train operations governed by a timetable defined by the infrastructure operator may or may not be delivered by separate companies that bid for slots at regular auctions, e.g. every 4 years. Note that CHSRA has yet to announce the gory details of all this, so the above is just my personal educated guess.

NS HiSpeed

A useful example from overseas is NS HiSpeed, a relatively new joint venture between the Dutch national railways (NS, 90%) and KLM (10%). On the one hand, this is an umbrella brand and online portal for all high speed trains to and from destinations in Holland, including those that cross borders. On the other, in terms of passenger volume, the most important segments of the HiSpeed network will likely be Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport-the Hague-Rotterdam-Breda, to be served by AnsaldoBreda V250 trainsets.

In part because of teething troubles with ETCS level 2, this Italian manufacturer is late in delivering the equipment to NS HiSpeed and SNCB, the Belgian national railways who will deploy them on the Brussels-Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam route. In addition, the faster but also more expensive Thalys service featuring WiFi on board will remain operational. This somewhat confusing proliferation is a result of the planned liberalization for cross-border rail traffic in the EU in 2010.

This eye candy promo video features text in Dutch, but should be self-explanatory:



A key objective of the expensive HSL Zuid high speed line and the new NS HiSpeed services on it is to decongest the extremely busy motorways linking the dense randstad conurbation, home to about 10 million people. Most Dutch motorways have just four lanes total, though some have been widened to six.

The Dutch railways have long offered deeply discounted traintaxi service at 36 stations throughout the country, provided only that you buy the requisite coupon together with the train ticket. The service operates as a jitney, conceptually similar to airport shuttles in California but typically based on smaller vehicles. The driver selects the route ad hoc, rather than plying a fixed route (cp. dolmush in Turkey).

Caltrain HiSpeed?

The construction of dedicated HSR tracks in the SF peninsula will mean the end of Caltrain's existing "baby bullet" service. However, electrification plus an expected FRA waiver to operate lightweight non-compliant EMU equipment plus a top speed of up to 90mph means that future Caltrain locals will have the same SF-San Jose line haul time (p2) as baby bullet do today.

This is in keeping with Caltrain's traditional role as a standard-speed commuter railroad and also the only service being planned today. However, if there is sufficient demand, there is no reason why there could not be a Caltrain HiSpeed service in addition to the upgraded locals. After all, the PCJPB does own the right of way in the SF peninsula and could easily negotiate the right to run a certain number of Caltrain-branded trains on the HSR tracks there. It will be many years before long-distance trains will saturate the capacity of the new tracks, so why not use the empty slots for a new genuine bullet Caltrain service, running at top speeds of 125mph in the peninsula? CHSRA has yet to define a speed limit between San Jose and Gilroy, it could be higher in that stretch but nowhere near the 220mph expected through Pacheco Pass and in the Central Valley.

That means Caltrain could deliver a HiSpeed service using cheaper, previous-generation equipment. Note, however, that combining relatively frequent HiSpeed with long-distance express trains only works well if the headways are long enough and the HiSpeed trainsets have superior acceleration and braking performance. One option would be embedded asynchronous linear electric motors in the track infrastructure for a certain distance on either side of the stations. Aluminum plates integrated into the underbody design of the HiSpeed trainsets would be used to leverage this supplemental propulsion without adding significant axle load or drawing excessive amounts of power from the catenaries. During acceleration and recuperative braking, HiSpeed trains would then be hybrid electric/electric vehicles.

The primary purpose of any putative HiSpeed service would be to leverage the HSR tracks in the peninsula and especially, the HSR platforms at the new Transbay Terminal in SF. The downside is that there will only be five HSR station on the route: SF Transbay Terminal, Millbrae/SFO, mid-peninsula (RC, PA or MV), SJ Diridon and Gilroy.

An extension to Hollister would be relatively cheap but require San Benito county to join the PCJPB. That might well entail restricting further residential development to transit villages, ostensibly to protect agricultural acreage but really to protect residential real estate values in Silicon Valley. Given the proximity to the San Andreas fault, buildings in such transit villages would need to feature steel frames and at least 7-8 stories. Earthquakes tend to generate ground excitation at frequencies of around 1Hz, close to the typical base harmonic in bending of buildings in the 4-5 story range.

Running HSR tracks out to Monterey county would be much more expensive due to the interceding coastal mountain range. FRA and CPUC rules plus opposition from UPRR prevent non-compliant equipment from using existing track at standard speeds and stopping at existing stations.

Note that AnsaldoBreda already has a production facility in Pittsburg (Contra Costa county) and is planning to open another in Los Angeles. Siemens has a light rail assembly plant in Sacramento.

Metrolink HiSpeed?

In much the same vein, SCRRA, which operates Metrolink, owns the right of way between Palmdale and Redondo Junction plus the one between Fullerton and Irvine. Therefore, if it wanted to, it could negotiate the right to run a certain number of Metrolink-branded HiSpeed trains. The stations served in phase I would be Palmdale, Sylmar, Burbank, LA Union Station, Norwalk and Anaheim. In this case, the primary purpose would be to create a sufficiently large catchment area for Palmdale airport, including visitors to both Los Angeles and Disneyland.

CHSRA has already mentioned the possibility of local HSR service between LA Union Station and San Diego once the phase II spur is built. It's not yet clear where such a service would park its trains, given that no HSR yard appears to be planned between LAUS and Burbank. The train parking situation in San Diego is also unclear, it might make sense to run tracks all the way down to a terminus/yard in the Southland via the ROW west of I-5.

Amtrak San Joaquin HiSpeed?

A third possible HiSpeed service could be Amtrak California-branded and connect Palmdale airport, Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced in phase I, with an extension up to Sacramento in phase II. If CHSRA's arm is twisted enough to build a station in Hanford, at least some of these particular bullet trains would stop there as well. However, considering the rather small populations near the stations served and the need to run at 220mph to avoid impeding long-distance express trains between SF and LA/Anaheim, the Central Valley presents arguably the least compelling HiSpeed proposition, at least in phase I.

It might make sense if the Merced county station were at Castle Airport, directly inside a new passenger terminal (same as Palmdale) and Fresno Yosemite plus the blighted land beyond its runways were converted into a new mixed used district with excellent transit connections to the HSR station and downtown area. That, however, would be a huge step for Fresno to take and is not currently contemplated.

Moreover, given CHSRA's preference for Pacheco Pass, it might make more sense to defer any development of Castle Airport into a commercial airport to phase II. By that time, HSR will have had a chance to establish itself as a mode of travel and, both Fresno and San Jose might be ready to close their airports to accommodate population growth and eliminate runway blight. Already, e-ticketing and mobile boarding passes mean that check-in at the airport can boil down to dropping off any bags you may have. For passengers hailing from or headed to Silicon Valley, a comfortable 45 minute train trip to Castle Airport with broadband internet access may be preferable to the risk of fog-related delay and a clunky transfer at SFO.

The arrangement would hinge on making Castle Airport the only HSR station in Merced county, such that all trains to and from Sacramento would pass through it. Note that Sacramento's own airport is somewhat constrained by its location smack in the Pacific Flyway, which means it experiences a lot of bird strikes. In addition, it is nowhere near the future HSR station on top of the new STIF. Plans for a light rail line out to SMF call for 13 stops, none of which would be right at the STIF or either of the airport terminals. An HSR trip to Castle Airport would take about 40 minutes.

59 comments:

Alon Levy said...

I don't think any of these local HSR services is very likely. The key is always to look at how HSR works in countries with experience in this sort of thing. In Japan, there are a handful of Kodama trains running only from Tokyo to Nagoya or Nagoya to Osaka, but on the Tokaido Shinkansen there are only three trains per day that aren't intercity, all going from Tokyo to Mishima, a small city just outside Greater Tokyo. The Sanyo Shinkansen has a couple of interurbans connecting Kokura with Fukuoka, two close but separate cities in Kyushu.

The closest to short-distance service that CAHSR is likely to see is LA-SD locals, getting from Union Station to Santa Fe in about 1:40-1:45.

Rafael said...

@ Arcady -

Santa Fe? 1:45?

Clem said...

Are rumors of the Baby Bullet's demise a bit exaggerated?

Adirondacker said...

will mean the end of Caltrain's existing "baby bullet" service. Why? Metro North, NJ Transit, SEPTA and Amtrak all manage to run locals and expresses all at the same time. I'm sure other railroads in the world manage it too. No reason why Caltrain and HSR can't.

It will be many years before long-distance trains will saturate the capacity of the new tracksDecades if not centuries, if ever.

BruceMcF said...

For cutting the route short of a terminal station, the question to ask is not, "is there a market for these trips", but rather, "is there a dramatic drop off in the market for trips to the next station."

After all, a rail line with stations

A B C D E / F G / ...

is losing 10 station pairs in cutting the route at E rather than at G, and given the distances we are talking about, all of those lost station pairs would be within three hours ... most within two hours, and often within one hour.

The ridership modeling approach would be to set out the all-stations route, expand the service frequency as long as there is a benefit to doing so, and then look to see if there is additional demand on shorter segments where HSR has strong competitive advantages.

The exception to this, of course, is when route is provided connecting what are otherwise alternate terminals. In the context of the discussion of Air/Rail connections, suppose that a heavy rail corridor from LA-US to LAX is established (I am not anticipating that it will be, since that would seem to be offer the best solution for local, intra-regional, and inter-regional transport, but until the decision is finalized, there is always hope).

Then if an SD/LA all-HSR-stations were to come to LA-US along the current alignment instead of in through the new through track, and then connect into the corridor to LAX, a SD/LA-US/LAX would not face the question, "why not keep going", because on both sides there would be nowhere to keep going to.

But SD/LA-US all-HSR stations has an incentive to keep going to Burbank, and then if Palmdale Air/HSR connections are available on to Bakersfield.

A Palmdale/LA/Anaheim HSR service line cannot "keep going" past Anaheim, but stopping it at Palmdale cuts off potential station pairs at the stations it does serve, certainly up to Bakersfield, perhaps as far as Fresno. And then when you are at Fresno ... should that perhaps just be an additional SF/Anaheim all-HSR-stations service, reducing the complexity of the schedule through the CV?

It may well be that there is a sufficient drop in patronage that the all-HSR-stations frequency that can be justified Bakersfield/Anaheim is greater than the frequency that can be justified SF/Anaheim ... but given the network economies available from not breaking routes, it seems unlikely that the frequency that can be justified Palmdale/Anaheim is that much greater than the frequency that can be justified Bakersfield/Anaheim.

And, further, there would be scale economies in the service provider that is offering SF/Anaheim all-HSR-stations to be the one that adds the additional service.

Rafael said...

@ arcady -

all of the HiSpeed services I described would be intercity, so I'm not sure what your point is.

The low number of Kodama trains in Japan probably has more to do with the fact that after 45 years, there is enough long-distance traffic to ensure adequate seat utilization rates in every segment of the network.

My argument is that California HSR will not be there on day 1. True, there will be substantial demand for Bay Area - LA service, competing against short-hop flights. There will also be significant demand for travel between the three major regions in the state, competing against long car trips.

However, I contend there will also be strong demand for fast travel strictly within those regions, competing against shorter car trips on highly congested freeways - especially during rush hour.

If CHSRA decides to plan for trains that stop at every station between SF and LA/Anaheim, they may well find that certain segments, e.g. Gilroy-Fresno/Merced, will feature both low seat capacity utilization and high operating costs.

Perhaps the more salient point here is that HSR represents an opportunity for established standard speed rail providers to expand into a premium market that can cross-subsidize the slower services.

Japan had a monopoly owner-operator (JR) that was later broken up into regional monopolies. It's not clear to me that model is appropriate for California. For example, some airlines might decide to operate or buy blocks of seats on express trains between SF and LA to free up slots for more profitable long-haul flight out of SFO and LAX. A competitor could decide to pick a cheaper airport, e.g. Palmdale, as its hub to serve just LA and Orange county. And then, individual counties may decide to beef up existing regional commuter train service to deal with congestion on the roads. One size does not fit all.

jim said...

I think these are good ideas. I think it will take time to get that point so we are talking pretty far into the future considering construction hasn't even begun but getting all the ideas out there is helpful. I think that this type of thing may evolve eventually but the first we need to get the infrastructure built and a basic train system running. The state will take bids for operations of ( whetever the thing winds up being called -"the high speed rail" isn't very creative but rest assured californians will call it that... just they call it "THE amtrak" and "THE Bart') in any case, some one is going to get the contract for operations and will provide the the branding, and staff, etc. Caltrans will choose, and I imagine what they will be looking for is a company that may or may not have a good existing working relationship established with the caltrans division of rail already, a large well trained pool of railroad employees, conductors, agents, engineers familiar with high speed, and electric trains, large well trained mechanical department with electric railroad experience and so forth and a company/agency that may be able to come in with a competitive bid by bringing additional federal money to the table. A company lsuch as that rom anywhere in america may have a better chance than some fly by night consortium that californians have never heard of. In my opinion. I'm not sure where one might find such a company.

BruceMcF said...

On "the demise of the Baby Bullets" ... how plausible is it that Caltrain will leap from a three-tier, Baby Bullet, Station-skipper, local type schedule to an all-locals schedule? What is the source for that?

A far more plausible scenario that could be mis-represented as a "demise of the Baby Bullet" is if the shorter trip times of both the locals and station skippers support the move to a simpler two-tier schedule.

So, again, what is the source for moving Caltrain to an all-locals service?

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

I'm not suggesting the HiSpeed services should replace Bay Area-SoCal semi-express service. Rather, it would supplement it such that the combination provided an optimal mix.

The distance from Palmdale to Bakersfield (pop 250,000) is 84 miles along the chosen route. The distance from Palmdale to Anaheim is 87 miles, but there are many millions of potential customers along that segment. Your argument regarding city pairs is theoretically sound, but you don't actually apply it.

Alon Levy said...

I'm not Arcady... and I meant the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego. CAHSR estimates LA-SD nonstop in 1:18; with 7 intermediate stops, all in relatively low-speed areas, 1:45 is reasonable.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

sorry about referring to you by the wrong name. My bad. Thanks for clarifying the statement regarding Santa Fe.

jim said...

The overlapping of services usually happens where there is enough demand and population within a region. Along the cap corridor route, another level of service, a new agency, will somewhat duplicate service between solano and placer county serving the sac market with addtional commuter trains to fill in the gaps. I think that the way things have developed here in cali is that existing agencies and regional services will continue to improve and serve the markets they were designated to serve and teh hsr will be the statewide overlay and itll likely be that simple for a long time.

Rafael said...

@ Adirondacker -

in the SF peninsula, Caltrain's standard-speed locals (15 stops) will average perhaps 40mph.

HiSpeed trains with 5 stops would average perhaps 80mph. HSR express trains will average close to 100mph between SF and SJ. Those two would be compatible on two dedicated tracks if the headways are large enough, even without fancy linear electric motors to boost acceleration/brake rates.

Maintaining the current standard-speed "baby bullet" service would entail ducking and weaving in and out of the HSR tracks to overtake standard-speed locals. It might be feasible very early on when HSR train frequency is still low (2-4 tph) but it doesn't sound like a sustainable model during rush hour in 2030.

jim said...

What I'd like to know is why isnt the CAhsr getting vids like this one out there for people to watch. They need to start marketing this better and they should use popular music stars in different markets.

Alon Levy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alon Levy said...

If CHSRA decides to plan for trains that stop at every station between SF and LA/Anaheim, they may well find that certain segments, e.g. Gilroy-Fresno/Merced, will feature both low seat capacity utilization and high operating costs.

I don't think these sections will have very low seat capacity utilization. Most HSR ridership is for intercity trips, not commuter trips. In principle it's possible to offer SF-SJ as a commuter line given a low enough cost, but the capacity would be better spent on higher-fare SF-SJ-LA trips. To say nothing of the fact that SJ-SF isn't that popular a market compared with SJ-SV (which is better served by local trains anyway) and San Mateo County-SF (which HSR would not serve at all).

I also think you define intercity trips too broadly. SF-SJ-Gilroy is a trip that stays entirely within one metro area; it's no more intercity than a commuter rail line from Tokyo to Yokohama. You should remember that Japan draws its metro boundaries more loosely than the US, and Mishima's commute ties to Tokyo and Yokohama are weaker than those of Merced to Santa Clara County.

In addition, in Japan, the intercity lines that are used for commuting are not the Shinkansen lines, but the old narrow-gauge networks; I believe the busiest in Tokyo is the Chuo Line, which goes to Nagoya but sees very few trains between the Tokyo and Nagoya commuter belts. The other lines see too much intercity traffic and have station stops spaced too far for it to be profitable to operate commuter rail on them.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

since when does intercity mean travel between MSAs?

Caltrain's existing and very popular baby bullets make either 6 or 8 stops, with either 4 or 5 in-between SF 4th & King and SJ Diridon.

That would compare to just two for a Caltrain HiSpeed service, but there could be timed transfers at the mid-peninsula station just as there are at Redwood City today. Provided CHSRA and Caltrain manage to agree on a common platform height (with a waiver from CPUC), that transfer could be cross-platform.

resident said...

"The construction of dedicated HSR tracks in the SF peninsula will mean the end of Caltrain's existing "baby bullet" service."

Why would you say this? What's your basis for this statement?

FYI, the MOU says Caltrain service stays in tact and take precedence. Why would HSR think it was going to supercede Caltrain baby bullet service (which will be MUCH cheaper and responsive for daily local commuters)

"Maintaining the current standard-speed "baby bullet" service would entail ducking and weaving in and out of the HSR tracks to overtake standard-speed locals. It might be feasible very early on when HSR train frequency is still low (2-4 tph) but it doesn't sound like a sustainable model during rush hour in 2030."

Well, that's tough s*** isn't it? too bad CHSRA didn't think about the fact that they were not going to be allowed to destroy the LOCAL COMMUTE purposes of Caltrain just because they showed up and demanded the Caltrain ROW.

Local daily short distance commuters are not going to get on long distance, luggage carrying, security laden, 3X expensive, HSRs. Its absolutely nonsense ridiculous garbage to suggest such a thing.

Another gross miscalculation by the arrogant kopp/diridon chsra Its not going to happen, the local daily commute needs of millions of Peninsula residents are not going to be sacraficed for faster train rides to disneyland. NOT HAPPENING.

And the concept that CHSRA isn't a railroad, just installing the line. Bullshit. That's CHSRA's attempt to wash their hands and walk away from the absolute MESS that they're negligently and INTENTIONALLY trying to create by ramming in the HSR tracks along side the Caltrain line.

You can be sure that Caltrain services will now and will in the future take precedence on Caltrain tracks. HSR can go to freakin hell on steel wheels if they thing they're going to steal that line.

jim said...

i don't think baby bulles would go away because they will serve stations that hsr doesn't serve. They may be adjusted but not eliminated. hsr is there to serve a different market and will have a different fare structure that is likely to discourage close in local travel.

Clem said...

HiSpeed trains with 5 stops would average perhaps 80mph .

Why don't you call 'em Baby Bullets? That's what a 5-stop train is.

Maintaining the current standard-speed "baby bullet" service .

Nobody is suggesting such a ridiculous idea. It's your straw man.

without fancy linear electric motors to boost acceleration/brake rates .

What on earth are you going on about? This isn't a roller coaster we're talking about, it's a garden-variety skip-stop express train. No need for rocket science or gadgetbahn solutions.

Seriously, where do you get this stuff?

Anonymous said...

How about a pig logo for all the porky spending this requires?

Spokker said...

I got swine flu at a public meeting for California High Speed Rail.

Spokker said...

"HSR can go to freakin hell on steel wheels if they thing they're going to steal that line."

Which is why Caltrain is pretty much cooperating with them in order to get someone else to pay for electrification and grade separation. Yeah, the CHSRA can go to hell! You tell 'em, Fred.

Adirondacker said...

Seriously, where do you get this stuff? .

I suspect Popular Mechanics circa 1970.

resident said...

Spokker - will be interesting to see if Caltrain's version of 'cooperation' is the same as CHSRA's, is the same as the Peninsula consortium of cities, is the same as the neighborhood grass roots groups, is the same as...

Morris Brown said...

Rafael's statement that HSR will mean the end to CalTrain's baby bullet is common sense and a statement many of us have been making to CalTrain for quite some time.

CalTrain's lust for electrification and grade separations, something they have been unable to secure funds to accomplish on their own, has led them to this courting of the Authority, which promises such funding as well as eminent domain authority.

CalTrain keeps preaching that they are the kingmaker in any agreement with the Authority, since they own the corridor. I really wonder if they internally believe that or if this is just propaganda for public consumption.

CalTrain doesn't even own the inter city track rights, which are still owned by the UPRR. If they can't get those rights, they have nothing to offer the Authority.

For the most recent past, CalTrain has been boasting how the baby bullet has improved their bottom financial line, although they are no where near to operating on a break even basis and all budgets into the future continue to show large operating deficits. Take away the baby bullet income stream, and they are back to much larger operating deficits.

Finally let me add this, quote from Rod Diridon that appeared in the SF Examiner yesterday:

While the two sides are working toward the right-of-way agreement, nothing is set in stone yet, said CHSRA board member Rod Diridon. If the rail authority’s environmental review studies indicate that underground tunnels would be the best route for the system, then a contract agreement with Caltrain would likely be unnecessary, he said.If accurately reported, it was news to me that CalTrain can be ignored.

mike said...

If Caltrain really wanted to maintain its current Baby Bullet service exactly as it is, there is enough room for 6 tracks at the current 4 track section south of Bayshore and between MP 42.4 and MP 44.2 (i.e., just south of the current 4 track section that runs through Lawrence). That would allow Caltrain to operate the exact same bullet schedule it does now without ever having to use the HSR express tracks.

In reality, of course, Caltrain could just operate semi-express trains that use the express tracks for passing when necessary and/or run on the express tracks for long stretches. Just like they do on 4-track railways everywhere else in the world.

mike said...

Rafael's statement that HSR will mean the end to CalTrain's baby bullet is common sense and a statement many of us have been making to CalTrain for quite some time.
Yes, HSR will mean the end of Caltrain's Baby Bullets as we know them. Just as the development of turbofans meant the end of commercial flights with piston aircraft, the development of the diesel locomotive meant the end of the Southern Pacific's GS-4 Daylight trains, and the development of the automobile meant the end of horse and buggy service almost everywhere. Cry us a river.

What it will not mean is the end of express and semi-express service on the Peninsula. To the contrary, it will mean a great expansion in this type of service.

Clem said...

CalTrain has been boasting how the baby bullet has improved their bottom financial line, although they are no where near to operating on a break even basis .

I think you'll find very few (if any) US metro / commuter rail operations that turn a profit. Both Caltrain and BART have farebox recovery ratios in the range of 0.4 - 0.5. Holding that against Caltrain as some sort of operating inefficiency or managerial incompetence is a canard worthy of the Cato Institute.

Take away the baby bullet income stream, and they are back to much larger operating deficits .

That's exactly why Baby Bullet service (known elsewhere as skip-stop express service) should be maintained after HSR is built. Running at a deficit does not absolve Caltrain of pursuing income streams, or any other instinct of a well-run business.

there is enough room for 6 tracks ...

Four will do just fine! HSR will never reach 12 tph on the peninsula. 6, maybe. The rest of the track capacity goes to waste unless Caltrain uses it for overtaking moves.

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said..."
HiSpeed trains with 5 stops would average perhaps 80mph. HSR express trains will average close to 100mph between SF and SJ. Those two would be compatible on two dedicated tracks if the headways are large enough, even without fancy linear electric motors to boost acceleration/brake rates.
"

What matters for the HSR headways are the average speed while occupying the express tracks ... but when stopping at an Express station that is not an HSR station, that means switching over to the local track after passing the preceding all-stations stop. So the time when the Express is not keeping pace with the HSR is when the Express is not on the Fast line.

"Maintaining the current standard-speed "baby bullet" service would entail ducking and weaving in and out of the HSR tracks to overtake standard-speed locals. It might be feasible very early on when HSR train frequency is still low (2-4 tph) but it doesn't sound like a sustainable model during rush hour in 2030."

6tph peak HSR that can be readily foreseen plus 2tph HSR to spare, as I suggested previously, would still mean 4 free slots at 5 minute headways, and 12 free slots at 3 minute headways ... plenty of space for six locals per hour (a "don't check the schedule" frequency one every 10 minutes), and six expresses and semi-expresses.

BruceMcF said...

jim said...
"hsr is there to serve a different market and will have a different fare structure that is likely to discourage close in local travel."

This is an important point. If HSR services have a certain proportion of their seats that are normally emptied at San Jose, they'll want to refill those seats ... but they won't want to be waiting to refill them at the Peninsula or Millbrae, if there are higher value SJ/SF tickets to sell.

Of course, someone willing to pay the same amount for Peninsula / SF as someone SJ/SF would not risk the HSR operator losing any money ... so a fare structure of the same San Jose / San Francisco fare for any trip inside the the San Francisco / San Jose corridor might well make sense.

Alon Levy said...

My point is that existing HSR services rarely, if ever, travel within a metro area. It doesn't really matter how you define "intercity"; even the occasional local HSR service goes outside the traditional commuter belt, within which people can just ride commuter rail.

A timed transfer at RC will ruin ridership, to say nothing of the fact that RC isn't even the best or likeliest HSR station. Commuter rail is like HSR in that it abhors transfers. Its main appeal is that its riders can relax and/or work the entire trip without interruptions; that's how it manages to fill trains running for over an hour, when every other mode of transportation has a Marquette window that closes at 45 minutes (for subways and buses) or 30 minutes (for cars).

BruceMcF said...

Rafael said...
"I'm not suggesting the HiSpeed services should replace Bay Area-SoCal semi-express service. Rather, it would supplement it such that the combination provided an optimal mix."

"The distance from Palmdale to Bakersfield (pop 250,000) is 84 miles along the chosen route. The distance from Palmdale [pop 150,000] to Anaheim is 87 miles, but there are many millions of potential customers along that segment."

How many of those customers are originating in the LA Basin and headed to Palmdale? The primary reason to go through the tunnel is to offer Palmdale, pop. 150,000 additional trips into the LA Basin. If its possible to attract trips from the LA Basin to Palmdale airport, that's handy, because counterflow patronage is always handy for the bottom line, but Palmdale is primarily a bedroom community for the LA Basin.

Adding Bakersfield, pop. 250,000, as an additional trans-tunnel origin costs an additional 31 minutes. And, of course, if Palmdale has an airport terminal station, 31 minutes to Bakersfield makes it, in effect, Bakersfield/Palmdale airport.

"Your argument regarding city pairs is theoretically sound, but you don't actually apply it."

Station pairs, not city pairs. Palmdale may be in LA County, but its not in the LA Basin.

Brandon in San Diego said...

I don't think Caltrain service will go away.

However, I can envision a scenario having CHSRA run Baby Bullet trips on Caltrains behalf... under an agreement. And, that over time that the number of trips could increase and potentially become 100% operated by CHSRA.

How could that happen?

… if CHSRA operated trips providing a better value to the public. That means providing as-good or better service... at a lower public cost.

Caltrain is not fully funded by passenger fares... it requires a public subsidy to fully fund the cost of operations. If it can be illustrated that similar services could be operated at a lower cost to local jurisdictions... that may be something the Caltrain Board of Director’s could get behind… if they ever entertained the question.

----

Which brings me to... any rail service that 1) is not the responsibility of CHSRA and 2) requires a public subsidy (b/c fare revenue is insufficient) will have its services capped by the availability of the local subsidy.

In such instances, the objective of a planned rail service would be to do as much as possible while remaining within the fiscal limit of that local subsidy.

Maybe we're assuming these services will not require a subsidy because CHSRA is expected to have an operating surplus??? I don't think that should be assumed with these services. They are much more local... relatively speaking. Furthermore, the closest comparable services do not operate with a surplus… so why should the ones cited in the blog post?

For comparative purposes, using the FY 2007 National Transit Database... Caltrain's farebox recovery was 43%; Altamont Commuter Express 36%; San Diego Coaster 36%; Metrolink 49%.

Granted, the services described by Rafael would be faster and likely more attractive. They may also be cheaper... because trips would be faster and require less time to complete. The markets served are something else.

jim said...

Well in the East Bay we will have amtrak and bart serving the richmond to san jose corridor. too levels of service and two different fare structures. The same in San Diego County with Coasters and Surfliners, and and elswhere with amtrak and metrolink ( in that case they use a "rail to rail" program of shared revenue) And in the northwest you have sounder and cascades sharing a corridor. I don't know but I think sometimes there is toomuch micro managing and micro worrying about the details around here. im mean unless any here is a decision maker at the agencies involved all we are doing is engaging in train porn fantasies.

Spokker said...

"… if CHSRA operated trips providing a better value to the public. That means providing as-good or better service... at a lower public cost."

California High Speed Rail will operate at a surplus because it can charge a premium for express trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

If the CHSRA took over Caltrain service they would be back in the same boat Caltrain was, that is, requiring public subsidies to operate local trains.

Mass transit is a public good and it should not be expected to make money. The positive externalities more than make up for the subsidy.

Which means that this:

"Which brings me to... any rail service that 1) is not the responsibility of CHSRA and 2) requires a public subsidy (b/c fare revenue is insufficient) will have its services capped by the availability of the local subsidy.

In such instances, the objective of a planned rail service would be to do as much as possible while remaining within the fiscal limit of that local subsidy."

...is just plain wrong and will hurt mass transit in the long run.

jim said...

oh and eventually there will be solano-placer service overlay with amtrak between auburn and suisun. so hse and caltrain will co exist in whatever way then wind up co existing. There will be community input. And there will be common sense from the railroad operations who, lo and behold, actually know how to run railroads - ( probably more than any of us posting g here) I say leave tot the railroads to do the railroading because I doubt they are worried about or even reading anything here. donit get me wrong- this is a lot of fun.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Spokker,
No it's not. A public agency cannot ignore fiscal realities and must remain within its budget.

Maybe you do not understand? More service may generate more ridership and more fare revenue. But, if those new riders and fares cover teh cost of operations... it has to be provided by a local subsidy. If there is no subsidy provided... then service is unable to expand.

Brandon in San Diego said...

^^ Should have been...

But, if those new riders and fares DO NOT cover the cost of operations...

Spokker said...

"Spokker,
No it's not. A public agency cannot ignore fiscal realities and must remain within its budget."

The fiscal reality is that a subsidy will be paid to maintain a public good.

"Maybe you do not understand? More service may generate more ridership and more fare revenue. But, if those new riders and fares cover teh cost of operations... it has to be provided by a local subsidy. If there is no subsidy provided... then service is unable to expand."

But the subsidy can and should be provided in order to provide an alternative to the automobile, which itself is the beneficiary of major subsidies and a national, public policy that favors using the personal automobile over most forms of transportation most of the time.

jim said...

" A public agency cannot ignore fiscal realities and must remain within its budget."

lol. read that again. is anyone else chuckling.

Spokker said...

From a study called "You Ride, I'll Pay: Social Benefits and Transit Subsidies."

"The critical issue is whether there is any justification for the subsidies. The argument that transit systems should not run at a deficit assumes that riders are the sole beneficiaries and should be made to cover full marginal costs through their fares. As noted by Patrick G. Marshall in a 1988 report for Congressional Quarterly, "The key to achieving a more efficient transportation system, say many transportation experts, is to make sure that each mode carries its own weight, with users fully funding the infrastructure, and let the market decide which are the most efficient modes for given purposes.

But consider the implications of closing down the transit systems. Immediately more automobiles will take to the roads. Traffic accidents will increase, congestion will worsen, air quality will deteriorate, and more land will be gobbled up by parking garages. According to the Urban Institute, in 1988 some 14.8 million traffic accidents, involving 47,000 deaths and five million injuries, cost the nation $334 billion. If public transit systems helped avoid accidents equal to 1 percent of that total, the nation saved about $3.3 billion, nearly half the total public operating subsidy m 1989. And in his 1988 report, Marshall, quoting Robert A. Poole, Jr., of the Reason Foundation, noted that the time and gasoline wasted in Los Angeles County traffic jams each year could be valued conservatively at half a billion dollars. Even if public transit carries only a fraction of rush hour commuters--in the Philadelphia metropohtan area, for example, about 20 percent of the total, but about 70 percent of those traveling to jobs downtown--congestion and congestion costs would be substantially greater if transit riders got back into their cars.

It is too often forgotten that transit riders are not the sole beneficiaries of mass transit. Society as a whole benefits as well. The question is how the benefits and the subsidies measure up. With public budgets under increasing scrutiny, urban infrastructure aging, and demands for funding of social programs growing more pressing, the billions of dollars spent to subsidize public transportation will surely be a target for cutbacks. If the social benefits derived from public transportation are demonstrably smaller than the subsidy, it may be time to reallocate resources away from transit subsidies. If the social benefits actually outweigh the subsidies, a case can be made to defend the subsidies. (This is not to argue that the existing level of subsidy is warranted since it is also true that subsidies may promote inefficiency. With improved efficiency, the same level of benefits could be achieved with lower subsidies.

...

WORTH EVERY PENNY

If the repeated and rancorous battles over transit subsidies succeed in seriously dimimshing transit service, the loss may extend beyond those who rely on commuter rail. In Philadelphia, at least, and perhaps in New York and Boston and other cities as well, the general public gets more than its subsidy's worth from the fact that others ride the commuter trains."

Not every transit rider has their own car, of course. But without transit they will borrow cars or make car purchases they can't afford in order to get to work. There are a significant number of people who do own a car and ride mass transit as demonstrated by the 2003 transit strike in Los Angeles that shut down Metro bus and rail for 35 days. Without the transit system up and running average speeds on local freeways dropped as much as 40 percent during rush hour. The Hollywood freeway saw some of the worst results, which runs parallel to the Metro Red Line subway.

It's clear that public transportation is a public good that should continue to receive some sort of subsidy.

jim said...

I think Ill forward that to sacramento cuz they seem to be under a different impression...

Andrew said...

@Rafael:

As kind of an aside that carries over from your last post about airport service, electrifying the aforementioned Metrolink lines would allow for a conceptual LAX Express train to serve not only LA Union Station, but also the Valley and Orange County by decoupling at Union Station. The N'EX in Tokyo does a similar thing at Tokyo Station, with half of the train headed for Shinjuku and points east and the other half headed to Yokohama.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

"So, again, what is the source for moving Caltrain to an all-locals service?"

The source is Caltrain's handout on project 2025, dated Jan 2009. Page 2 spells out how lightweight, non-compliant EMUs will allow locals to provide the same SF-SJ line haul time as diesel-powered FRA-compliant baby bullets do today.

Granted, Caltrain does not explicitly say that baby bullets will definitely disappear, but that's because a few things are still up in the air.

For one thing, they haven't received the requisite mixed traffic waiver from FRA yet. The likelihood that it will be granted has been reported (p5) as "closing in on 90 percent".

Caltrain's electrification plan calls for SF-SJ in phase 1 and SJ-Gilroy in phase 2, so there will be a transition period during which some FRA-compliant diesel trains will continue to operate alongside the new non-compliant EMUs.

Also, the details of exactly how HSR and standard-speed service will co-exist in the Caltrain corridor are still subject to negotiation.

Caltrain's primary concern is that it will face capacity constraints as it increases both tph and train length to accommodate the ridership growth expected through 2025. During rush hour, it will become ever more difficult to maintain multiple classes of service, so the primary objective appears to be to improve line haul times for local trains.

Alon Levy said...

Most people in Antelope Valley traveling to the LA Basin are not going to ride rail; they're going to drive. Again looking to Japan for guidance, we see that even at 300 km, trains are used less than cars. At 100 km, the distance between LA and Palmdale, the difference is so large it's not worth running special trains. JR Central runs three trains a day from Tokyo to Mishima, a distance of 111 km, on a line that sees 14 trains an hour.

arcady said...

Rafael: the comparison is not actually to the Baby Bullet (4 intermediate stops), but rather to the limited-stop trains (9 intermediate stops) or "semi-local" (12 intermediate stops). Indeed, everything I've seen from Caltrain indicates that the end-to-end time for an all-stops train will go from 91 minutes to around 70 minutes. It's still worse than the Baby Bullet's time of 57 minutes, and considerably worse than the same EMU rolling stock running a Baby Bullet stop pattern. Caltrain's Baby Bullet isn't going anywhere, and HSR service is DEFINITELY not replacing it, for many reasons which I'm too lazy to repeat.

Brandon in San Diego said...

Spokker,
Comeon... you cannot ignore the nuts and bolts of funding an operating service.

Yes, if a service is worthy of public support... the public should pay for it. But, there are competing uses of limited public funds.

Public funding is not in-exhaustible... it is finite. Our elected officials and the voting both is the decider. No?

Stepping back... if local officials and public want to fund a public service... they should take the steps to secure the funding. In the face of a finite revenue stream... service levels must remain within that envelope.

Jim,
Please note... I am not defending Sacramento. Or the City of San Diego. On the other hand, some of the challenges faced in both are a set of cards that they keep on trying to get their hands around... and doing the best that they can while there are competing interests for those limited funds; education versus health care, pot holes versus transit.

Adirondacker said...

How many of those customers are originating in the LA Basin and headed to Palmdale? .

Surprisingly many, I would say the vast majority, of people going to LA from greater Palmdale, will someday return. It's this thing called a "roundtrip" in North America.

Well in the East Bay we will have amtrak and bart ...San Diego County with Coasters and Surfliners... and and elswhere with amtrak and metrolink.... northwest you have sounder and cascades sharing a corridor. .....

And the CTA and Metra and Amtrak. Or WMATA, MARC and Amtrak. Or NYC subway, Metro North and Amtrak. Or PATH, NJ Transit and Amtrak. Or SEPTA, SEPTA and Amtrak. The trip between NYC and Philadelphia via NJ Transit and SEPTA is so popular that there are timed transfers in Trenton and schedules for Northeast Corridor trains include the other agency's schedule. When I lived in Northern New Jersey there were three rational ways to get to New York City from my suburban bus stop. Once Midtown Direct opened, four.

non-compliant EMUs will allow locals to provide the same SF-SJ line haul time .

That doesn't mean they won't run limited stop trains or expresses. It just means that the local will be faster than today's limited stop.

Caltrain's electrification plan calls for SF-SJ in phase 1 and SJ-Gilroy in phase 2, .

Does that plan account for HSR? They are going to electrifying the line all the way to LA.

During rush hour, it will become ever more difficult to maintain multiple classes of service .

Amtrak and NJ Transit manage it, Amtrak and Metro North manage it. I'd have to go look at schedules but I think SEPTA runs expresses on the Northeast Corridor too.

Rafael said...

@ adirondacker -

re Caltrain electrification:

South of SJ Diridon station, UPRR owns the ROW. Afaik, VTA (Santa Clara county transportation authority) is focused on the stupendously expensive BART extension and has not yet chipped in a dime toward Caltrain electrification.

That effort, like just about everything else Caltrain is planning, will substantially change now that HSR is actually going to happen. Perhaps CHSRA will install the OCS above the HSR tracks and PCJPB will pay the delta to have it done for the Caltrain locals as well while they're at it.

UPRR has no plans to use the OCS, but it may well insist on AAR plate H clearances for tracks that it uses or has to cross, especially the ones it owns outright.

re express trains:

Part of the conservative stance both Caltrain and CHSRA are taking is due to their preference for non-compliant rolling stock. In the North-East and elsewhere, everything is FRA-compliant so track sharing is a non-issue.

Also, keep in mind that Caltrain's station are quite close to one another, just a mile or two in some cases. On the other hand, CHSRA wants to run its express trains as close as possible to 125mph down the entire corridor. The speed mismatch is quite severe.

Clem suggests that some of the tightest curves in the Caltrain ROW, e.g. the one in San Bruno, would be eased for the benefit of HSR. The Palo Alto chicane was also on his list of the top 10 worst curves; easing that as well would be even more controversial.

jim said...

wouldnt a solution be to make the entire corridor fra non compliant and seal it off from any outsside interaction?

Alon Levy said...

Jim: no - UPRR has limited but perpetual trackage rights over the corridor.

Adirondacker said...

South of SJ Diridon station.... .


Nice explanation of who is going to pay for what. Doesn't explain why a train that operates north of San Jose won't be able to operate south of San Jose. Those new fangled electric trains will be running on all of the tracks north of San Jose, there's no reason why they couldn't run all the way to Los Angeles.

I'm assuming they are going to electrify two tracks south of San Jose. If by some miracle they somehow manage to get 12 trains per hour for HSR there's plenty of time and space to run Caltrain to Gilroy.

Part of the conservative stance both Caltrain and CHSRA are taking is due to their preference for non-compliant rolling stock. In the North-East and elsewhere, everything is FRA-compliant so track sharing is a non-issue.


If they are both running non compliant equipment it's also not an issue. They can run non compliant Caltrain cars over the same track that non compliant HSR cars travel over. . . all the way to Los Angeles.

Also, keep in mind that Caltrain's station are quite close to one another.


Yes, just like commuter rail systems all over the world. Which is why commuter rail systems all over the world run locals and expresses. Many of them concurrently with intercity services.

The speed mismatch is quite severe.


The expresses won't be stopping at every station, which would slow them down. That's why they call them express.

I used to live in Northern New Jersey. I've been in Penn Station Newark at the peak of rush hour. Daily, doing this odd thing called commuting. Amtrak and NJ Transit merrily run at least four levels of service on a four track system between Newark and Trenton. NJ Transit locals, NJ Transit Expresses, Amtrak regionals and Acela. Raritan Valley line and North Jersey Coast line trains also share the corridor on the northern end. Between Newark and New York the Morris and Essex trains merge in and the North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley trains diverge or terminate. If NJ Transit and Amtrak are managing it, there are other systems in other places that are more complex than that. All the fun along Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn comes to mind. Caltrain and HSR are relatively simple in comparison. I don't see where Caltrain running expresses, skip stop and local service will be a problem.

jim said...

@alon one thing I don't get about the UPRR part of the equation - whre will the freight trains run? if the ROW is only four tracks and HSR need two and caltrain needs two.. where does the the fifth track go for freight? Freight trains are notorious for tearing up track so you wouldn't want them on hsrs track. and with an increase over time in caltrain sevice how do they plan to squeeze freight in there too?

Alon Levy said...

UPRR is going to use the Caltrain tracks. It only runs three freight trains a day so it won't interfere too much with operations. The problem is with building the tracks to freight-friendly specs.

jim said...

well that kinda sucks. I imean it doesn't seem like the best way to do it. they need a separate track for freight. a few freight trains a day means the whole thing won't be built to the full potential it could be. You know UP is a general pain in the ass all around.

Clem said...

South of SJ Diridon station, UPRR owns the ROW .

Make that south of Tamien station.

UPRR has no plans to use the OCS, but it may well insist on AAR plate H clearances for tracks that it uses ...

Yup. UPRR routinely runs auto racks (same height as plate H, 20'2") through Santa Clara / San Jose, i.e. over a few miles of the PCJPB ROW.

they need a separate track for freight ...

@jim, a whole entire separate track for four movements a day? I think not.

jim said...

roud a day now, who knows what kind of business they'll do in the future. That can be addressed later though. There is a plan for a lossan/alameda type corridor for northern cali freight but I don't know if it will connect to the west bay.

BruceMcF said...

Queried I: "How many of those customers are originating in the LA Basin and headed to Palmdale?"

Adirondacker said...
"Surprisingly many, I would say the vast majority, of people going to LA from greater Palmdale, will someday return. It's this thing called a "roundtrip" in North America."

Relabeling return passengers as originating passengers is a fine word game, but does not actually turn them into originating passengers.