Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bakersfield Gets A Look At the High Speed Train

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

The CHSRA is taking their scoping meetings to the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley this week, including a stop in Bakersfield:

As a structural engineer, longtime Bakersfield resident Ed Creswell is thrilled that America's first bullet trains will fly right through his city's downtown district.

"It's a great project," he said. "And I'm excited for our community."

But for Ed, his wife Judy and some of their neighbors there's also a downside: The 220-mph electric rail line is being routed right through his Rosedale-area neighborhood on an elevated track 30- to 40-feet off the ground. And that will affect property values and the quality of life in their horse-friendly tract.

"A lot of families have been out there 35 to 40 years or more," Creswell said. "They're not really anxious to move."

The article doesn't tell us what the Creswells came away from the meeting thinking about the HSR project. Obviously there are residents in Bakersfield who, as in Santa Fe Springs and Palo Alto, to name just a few cities, are wondering how to strike a balance between their desire for HSR and their concerns about how it will impact their communities. I am sure there will be some NIMBYs reading this saying "HA! See, it's not just us folks that are upset about this" - but that would be missing the point of a Bakersfield newspaper's anecdote of ONE homeowner who doesn't seem to be espousing any NIMBY ideas at all.

The rest of the article does a pretty poor job of informing readers about the route and the outstanding decisions left to be made. It does include this colorful quote from CHSRA regional director Carrie Bowen:

While there will be some noise associated with these rolling bullets, there will be no rattling, no clackety-clack of rail noise -- and the on-board ride will be so smooth, you won't spill your beer while walking back to your seat, Bowen said.

All I know is that on the first SF to Anaheim trip circa 2020 - and I fully intend to be on that first train - I'm going to have so much champagne I don't know if I will even be able to stand.

The Bakersfield Californian also had an interesting op-ed from Danny Gilmore, a Republican member of the CA Assembly (who won his seat last November in an extremely close and contentious race). Gilmore expresses strong support for HSR:

Moreover, as California and the state both grapple with a struggling economy, it is important to respond to the areas of greatest need when opportunities for employing our workforce exist. The Central Valley has the highest unemployment rates in the state with areas experiencing a staggering 40 percent of people without jobs. These are not the unwilling or unfit to work, these are former farm workers, mechanics, construction workers and others who have the skills, ability and desire to work.

The Depression-era reality for many rural communities of the Central Valley showcases the greatest need for new jobs that will help buttress the state and local economy as well as put people back to work.

The Central Valley has experienced hardships unlike anywhere else in the state. Restrictions on water to our farms, a crippled dairy economy and the ripple effect of high unemployment and businesses closing their doors have made the Central Valley the epicenter of this recession. When you pair the logic of starting this project, with the Bakersfield to Merced corridor, and the great need for such a project in these areas, the choice to do so in the Central Valley is a clear win-win.

I urge the Federal Rail Authority to award funding to the Bakersfield to Merced corridor as the best option for bringing high-speed rail to fruition in California. I hope that they also see that the intent of this funding is to address the need for good jobs in areas that are struggling to survive.

Kudos to Gilmore for understanding what too few of his fellow Republicans grasp: that federal spending is absolutely necessary to deal with this severe recession, and that HSR is as good a project as any to deliver those jobs.

CHSRA is hosting two more scoping meetings for the Bakersfield-Palmdale segment:

Tehachapi
September 16, 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Stallion Springs Community Center
27850 Stallion Springs Dr.
Tehachapi, CA 93561

Palmdale
September 17, 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Chimbole Cultural Center
38350 Sierra Highway
Palmdale, CA 93550

96 comments:

jim said...

The valley folks are a practical bunch. They aren't spoiled sissies afraid of a little dust, dirt, noise, or progress and the fact that their beer won't spill is a major plus.

Anonymous said...

No rich arrogant PA people there..
can we get ride of PA? the rest of the Bay hates them

Evan said...

Hey, we're not all bad in PA. Sure, some of the neighbors need some convincing, but there's lot of support in Palo Alto.

Fred Martin said...

As a structural engineer, Ed Creswell probably just needs the work. They aren't building anything else in Bakersfield these days. The Central Valley is in a full-blown economic depression, so of course they will take any capital inflow they can get.

Yet going through any residential neighborhood at 220mph is going to fire up the NIMBYs. It was always a bad idea to follow the SR99 corridor, because speed restrictions will be pursued by NIMBYs.

jim said...

It would be funny if palmdale to sac got built and those folks loved it and the bay and la got left out due to all this arguing. The valley would finally pass up socal and the bay and move into the future while we sit here an argue and look on in envy.

Fred Martin said...

The valley would finally pass up socal and the bay and move into the future while we sit here an argue and look on in envy.

Just look at the social and economic indicators of the Central Valley. The Central Valley is one of the poorest parts of the entire US.

BruceMcF said...

Yes, Fred, why he said "finally" rather than, say, "once again". You cannot "finally" pass someone unless you were originally lagging behind them.

That is, like, so totally obvious.

無名 - wu ming said...

i would love if they went to sac first. it's killing me watching the NIMBYs try to slow this thing down, knowing that we don't even get hooked up until the 2nd phase.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

since HSR will be fully grade separated, high speed as such shouldn't be an issue. Vibration impacts are actually lower at high speeds, so noise is really the only thing left to worry about. Unfortunately, it's a major worry.

CHSRA will need to present reproducible data on noise at a significant number of combinations of speed, alignment elevation and distance from the tracks. It will also need to document the effect of mitigation measures at source as well as in the transmission path (sound walls, ballast bags etc.)

In the absence of such data and associated buy-in from nearby residents, there will indeed be resistance to express trains running through at very high speeds - even in the economically depressed Central Valley.

When I was in Berlin last week, I saw plenty of high-speed trains running through the city center along the entirely elevated east-west tracks, which were built in the 1870s.

The alignment features four tracks to support S-Bahn locals, semi-express regional trains as well as long-distance trains. In many locations including especially the S-Bahn stations themselves, shops and cafes have been integrated into the viaduct structure. As far as I can tell, they appear to be thriving.

Unfortunately, property constraints forced planners to construct the alignment with many tight curves that now preclude high speed operations into and out of the newly rebuilt central railway station in east-west direction. However, even at the observed low speeds (guesstimate: 30-40mph) you can clearly hear the difference between the rattling old locals and the much quieter ICE trains. You just have to be close enough (~100ft) to the tracks to hear the trains at all over the background din of road traffic. Optimized wheel profiles, tight geometry tolerances and smooth surfaces do add up to noticeable differences in rail-wheel noise.

Aerodynamic noise is negligible at these low speeds but would dominate at 125, let alone 220mph. The state of the art has advanced tremendously in this regard, but operating trains at high speeds through populated areas remains a major environmental challenge for railway engineers.

Note that the majority of ICE trains use the straight north-south axis to reach the new central station. It leverages fairly straight tunnel tracks, some quite old, with a speed limit of 75mph.

Anonymous said...

@rafael


Aerodynamic noise is negligible at these low speeds but would dominate at 125, let alone 220mph. The state of the art has advanced tremendously in this regard, but operating trains at high speeds through populated areas remains a major environmental challenge for railway engineers.

At 220 MPH, it is fair to compare the noise to a jet plane at 50 feet or so? Do you have actural volume levels?

無名 - wu ming said...

duck-nosed shinkansen, here we come!

swinghanger said...

@wu ming (or mu mei as we say in Japan)- actually the primary purpose of the duck bill shinkansen nose shape is to reduce shock wave boom on exit from tunnels, rather than general lineside sound suppression. Nevertheless, the Japanese are leaders in reducing aerodynamic noise from HSR trains.

K.T. said...

Anon @5:47 PM

If you have not done so, I recommend watching youtube video clips of high speed rail. Although the sounds levels depend on your computer setting, it will still give you a good idea of the type of sound HSR will generate at its top speed.

Here's some sample clips:

ICE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANB-yZIJP6o

Shinkansen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpylnxRTZhQ&feature=related

TGV
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwM0tWpOYFI

jim said...

no ugly duckling trains.

mike said...

At 220 MPH, it is fair to compare the noise to a jet plane at 50 feet or so?

No. If you stand underneath an aircraft that is touching down, most of the noise you hear is from the exposed jet turbine engines. Electric motors make virtually no noise.

jim said...

VAlley people see the benefits of rail-- many of the deniers overlook the real power of rail to bring economic developement. I works everytime.

Amtrak partnered with the state of Maine a while back and there, just as here, the result was a big success, not just for commuting, but for the big boost inlocal economics. The people in the valley know this and that's exactly why they voted for 1a.

maine

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 5:47am -

I haven't seen any data for 220mph. For steel wheels trains traveling at 100mph, depending on the type of track and mitigation measures, instantaneous sound pressure levels of 80-85 db(A) are typical at 10m (~33ft) level distance and head height. This includes both rail-wheel and aerodynamic noise sources.

While SNCF and many others still prefer conventional ballast track for high speed lines, DB has chosen to invest more up front for ballast-free (a.k.a. slab) track to reduce track geometry maintenance overheads down the road and permit freight traffic at night. Normally, this fancy technology is only used in bridges, tunnels and for streetcar lines, where loose aggregate would present a safety hazard. Ballast is also omitted on aerials (viaduct sections) to reduce weight.

The higher acoustic hardness of a concrete base can be overcompensated by isolating the ties with rubber blocks and/or full mass-spring systems, adding sound deflection plates immediately next to the rails and allowing sod to grow between them (at and above grade only). These measures, especially mass-spring systems, also reduce vibration impacts.

Conventional track is about as stiff as the suspension systems of the rolling stock. Ballast-free track is much stiffer, so deviations from the target geometry must be ironed out by the rolling stock alone. Since it's very difficult to correct such deviations a posteriori, ballast-free track must therefore be constructed to tighter tolerances.

Note that perceived sound levels depend not just on raw sound power but also its spectral composition. The human ear is most sensitive to frequencies in the 1000-5000Hz range common in speech, hence the difference between dB and dB(A).

In addition, there are psychoacoustic metrics that capture tonality, harshness and other parameters. These correlate more directly with human perception but cannot be measured objectively.

For the purposes of environmental planning, therefore, the relevant metric is the equivalent continuous sound level (Leq). This combines the frequency and duration of noise events with their instantaneous A-weighted sound power. Limit values for day and night are usually set by local and/or state governments based on land use patterns.

Anonymous said...

Face it - the hsr will be noisy, especially when maintenance is cut back due to lack of money. Steel is noisy especially when resilient wheels are not possible.

Decades from now it will be obvious that the Palmdale-Tehachapis alignment was a major mistake, just like BART broad gauge. The San Joaquin Valley is likely to remain auto-centric and a poor transit market for years to come.

The upside is that the limits and deficiencies of steel wheel technology will be better delineated and that will focus attention on quieter alternatives. Higher temperature superconductivity has not yet ruled out. That would be a game changer for maglev.

jim said...

Higher temperature superconductivity has not yet ruled out. That would be a game changer for maglev"

sure if you want to wait another 100 years to start solving transportation problems.

One tactic of deniers of anything is to, first, not support any solution and then, once a solution is found, criticize the solution or plan and suddenly become concerned and start suggesting other solutions in order to further delay anything happening.

Peter said...

Other than Shanghai mag-lev, has there been any other revenue mag-lev line since they scrapped the Berlin M-Bahn (to make way for a resurrection of a steel-wheels U-Bahn section)?

AndyDuncan said...

Other than Shanghai mag-lev, has there been any other revenue mag-lev line since they scrapped the Berlin M-Bahn (to make way for a resurrection of a steel-wheels U-Bahn section)?

Nope. Even Shanghai is basically a demonstration/ego boosting line.

The Chuo Shinkansen maglev line, which is slated to cost more than the entire 800 mile CAHSR system, is the only planned maglev line with a chance of making a profit.

As people have mentioned already, aerodynamic noise is dominant over 125-ish MPH. Maglev at 350mph is still very very loud.

Peter said...

When they were planning on building the Transrapid from Berlin to Hamburg, it was defeated in an election partly due to the complaints that it was going to be way too loud. It was going to be on aerials essentially the whole way, if I recall correctly. The farmers, with good reason, did not want it running across their properties. Note that the farm properties there are a lot smaller, and that the trains would be whooshing right past the houses. I don't think they were planning any real sound mitigation with walls or anything, either.
And, lo and behold, what do they use now on the route? Drumroll, the steel-wheels ICE...

Rafael said...

@ anon @ 9:48am -

CHSRA decided against maglev because there was only one viable vendor (Transrapid) and they weren't prepared to put any skin in the game. Yes, steel wheels trains are noisier at the same speed but there are many vendors with proven track records to play off against one another.

As for the Tehachapis, we've gone over this more than once. Cutting Fresno and Bakersfield out of the route was politically infeasible and anyhow not smart - that's where HSR service is needed most given the dearth of (affordable) commercial flights to the Bay Area or SoCal. South of Bakersfield, the Grapevine was considered but rejected due to tunneling cost and risk. Serving the Antelope Valley was a secondary consideration.

Peter said...

Admittedly, I think (assume) that they simply upgraded legacy tracks for the ICE from Berlin-Hamburg, without building a new ROW.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

yes, Berlin-Hamburg was upgraded to 230km/h top speed after the maglev project was canceled. Instead, DB employs more conventional ICE-T active tilt rolling stock. The 257km (160mi) trip now takes 90 minutes.

The original line dates back to 1846 but it had already been rectified in the 1930s and rehabilitated at 160 km/h top speed after reunification.

Peter said...

I just saw on wikipedia that there's a free (to ride) mag-lev line in the UK that is pulled by cables? That's ... different?

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

sorry, typo: the distance between Hamburg and Berlin is 297km (185mi).

AndyDuncan said...

FWIW, the Chuo's cost and speed advantages are largely due to all the tunneling. A steel-wheel 360kph HSR line along the newly shorter route would be able to do the run from Tokyo to Nagoya in a little under or a little over an hour (averaging around 180mph end to end), whereas the maglev is slated to do it in 40 minutes (averaging 270mph, end to end). I can't find runtime estimates for the full line to Osaka, but it should be worth noting that the $44b initial cost is just for the 178 mile Tokyo-Nagoya section.

If the CAHSR system proves to be as insanely popular as the Tokaido Shinkansen, I see no reason why we couldn't build a similar express maglev line as a future capacity expansion when the technology is mature, proven, and appropriate.

Rafael said...

@ Andy Duncan -

I don't think a "future capacity expansion" will be necessary for quite some time, at least not in terms of line capacity.

There may a place for maglev somewhere in the US, but not in California nor in Nevada.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

maglev pulled by cables? You're pulling our legs, right?

Peter said...

Ok, I misread one of the articles on wikipedia. The first commercial maglev line WAS an airport shuttle in Birmingham. It was replaced due to obsolescence and difficulties finding replacement parts with a cable-pulled system.

AndyDuncan said...

I don't think a "future capacity expansion" will be necessary for quite some time, at least not in terms of line capacity.

Agreed, I think there will be a market for Maglev between SF and LA around the same time as the technology matures: on the short end: 50 years, on the long end: never.

Peter said...

Hey, it was a funny misread, though. You must admit at least that...

Peter said...

I say BART should use maglev for the Oakland airport connector. If we're already blowing millions of unnecessary cash on the project, why not blow some more?

jim said...

vote today may kill hsr.

jim said...

sendemail

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"Decades from now it will be obvious that the Palmdale-Tehachapis alignment was a major mistake, just like BART broad gauge. The San Joaquin Valley is likely to remain auto-centric and a poor transit market for years to come."

Ouch, there goes the plan for the High Speed Light Rail Transit Line (HSLRTL) from Merced through Fresno to Bakersfield.

On the other hand, for an intercity train connecting origin cities with populations in the 100,000's to destination cities with populations in the millions in under two hours, it is of course not serious problem.

It certainly benefits the HSR to have substantial transit in the destination city, but in the origin city, park and ride works fine, just as it does for airports.

Fred Martin said...

Airports don't actually move that many people. Caltrain moves more people daily than the entire SFO/OAK/SJC--LAX/BUR/LGB/SNA/ONT air market. Some individual bus lines do even better than that.

If CHSRA wants to adopt the airport model of access -- parking in large lots at stations -- the ridership will be very limited. Cars are space-intensive, and you can only pile so many of them at a single station. Downtowns have understood this for a long time. Huge parking lots also ruin the station area's attractiveness for other uses.

This is also the failure of the "commuter park-and-ride" model of transit. The limited capacity of this model fills up very quickly. BART's commuter parking lots fill up quickly in the morning, and their parking-oriented stations struggle mightily to attract any more riders for the rest of the day. No parking is available once the lots are full, and even these large lots only hold a few thousand spots. The outer suburban BART trains are essentially empty during the middle of the day and also during the peak counterflow. It's an enormous waste of the expensively provided potential capacity provided by trains.

jim said...

Clearly, residents in the medium sized, under served cities in the central and antelope valleys will drive and park at the hsr stations and clearly this option will be far superior to those same residents driving 1-3 hours to the nearest airport. This holds true whether they are currently driving to an airport to fly within california ( in which case they now, won't need to fly at all) or currently driving to an airport for an out of state flight ( in which case the hsr will get them to the nearest airport much faster than driving will).

AndyDuncan said...

I can't speak for Bakersfield, but Fresno actually has a downtown. It's struggling to revitalize itself, but it's there. Complete with some high rise buildings and a crap baseball team. They can put in a parking lot for people to "park and ride" there just as easy as they can somewhere outside Fresno, but it makes sense to put the station downtown in "feeder" cities like Fresno just like it makes sense to put it downtown anywhere else.

One of the biggest drawbacks to connecting cities like Fresno and Bakersfield to the rest of CA is that doing so will encourage sprawl. Putting the stations downtown will help alleviate that.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

it's not BART's fault connecting transit at its stations is so patchy passengers prefer to drive there. At least there's now a concerted effort to build more walkable neighborhoods near a lot of BART stations. As for daytime ridership being low, that's inherent in any commuter railway. Still beats being stuck in a car on a freeway.

CHSRA isn't counting on a lot of business from long-distance commuters, though there doubtless will be some of that. Travel times from Palmdale and even Bakersfield will be short enough to LA. Those from Merced and Fresno to San Jose will be acceptable as well. The trick is finding an apartment close to the origin station and employment close to the destination (close in terms of connecting transit time/walking distance).

Folding electric bicycles are becoming available and can be taken along on trains, including high speed trains. The electric drive means you don't need to break a sweat on your way to the office, where you can also park your folded bike. In the evening or on the weekend, you can switch to generator mode for a serious cardio workout if you are so inclined. The biggest issues are safety (lack of bicycle lanes/paths), cost ($1500-$3000) and rain/wind in California winters.

Fred Martin said...

Fresno has a terrible transit system, and getting a better transit system for Fresno will be very expensive. Who's going to pay for that? This is why the cost for CHSRA to be effective greatly exceeds their own construction budget, which has huge funding gaps itself.

AndyDuncan said...

For HSR to be successful, it doesn't have to be some magical, perfect system with feeder rail lines connecting everywhere, it just has to be better than the alternatives. Fresno has no real alternatives. Busses, as I believe you mentioned before, can be quite effective, even if they aren't glamourous.

Fred Martin said...

it's not BART's fault connecting transit at its stations is so patchy passengers prefer to drive there.

Yes, it is BART's fault. BART should not be building such expensive fully-grade-separated rail infrastructure in the boondocks. BART should be a comprehensive transit provider, not a specialist in dysfunctional 1960s rail futurism.

At least there's now a concerted effort to build more walkable neighborhoods near a lot of BART stations.

About time, but it's several decades late.

As for daytime ridership being low, that's inherent in any commuter railway. Still beats being stuck in a car on a freeway.

Then stop building nose-bleed expensive commuter rail systems! This is why Caltrain should want to become a rapid metro system: to get away from the commuter peaking problem. If you want to run a park-and-ride commuter transit system, go with more flexible buses. Buses can make a park-and-ride system actually work. They can actually be re-routed for other services during the off-peak lull.

CHSRA isn't counting on a lot of business from long-distance commuters, though there doubtless will be some of that.

The long-distance travel market isn't that substantial. The elephant in the room is that CHSRA will be relying heavily on intra-regional trips, which will involve a lot of commute trips. This is where the ridership actually is, not in the Cambridge Systematics bought-and-paid-for fantasy.

Rafael said...

@ Andy Duncan -

simply stating that HSR will promote sprawl in places like Fresno does not make it true. CHSRA has clearly stated that parking at its stations will not be free but rather, subject to the prevailing rate in the area.

In the Central and Antelope Valleys, it's up to local planners in those cities to curb sprawl (i.e. car-centric low-density growth at the edge of town) via transit-oriented medium-to-high density "smart growth" near their stations. It's not really CHSRA's job to nanny them into protecting nearby farmland, especially if drought becomes a semi-permanent feature of life in the Golden State.

Long-distance commuting between transit-oriented developments in different cities is actually an example of exurbanization, not traditional sprawl.

Lots of people fail to make the distinction because the only thing they actually care about is the value of their own homes, which are currently propped up by zoning laws mandating low density development, poor transit connections and heavy congestion on the freeways. HSR could prevent another real estate bonanza by giving buyers new choices.

mike said...

If CHSRA wants to adopt the airport model of access -- parking in large lots at stations

Obviously the interior stations (e.g. Transbay Terminal, Union Station) will be transit-oriented and the outlying stations (e.g. Gilroy, Palmdale) will be park-and-ride oriented. Each station will be designed around its strengths, not its weaknesses. Some will be a mix of both (e.g., SJ, Fresno).

BART's commuter parking lots fill up quickly in the morning, and their parking-oriented stations struggle mightily to attract any more riders for the rest of the day.

And yet park-and-ride oriented stations such as Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Fremont, and Dublin/Pleasanton each attract between 6,000-8,000 daily boardings, which matches or exceeds CHSRA's projected boardings for any non-urban-center station except Palmdale and Anaheim (I'm defining the three urban center stations as SF Transbay, LA Union, and SJ Diridon).

gabe said...

"Yes, it is BART's fault. BART should not be building such expensive fully-grade-separated rail infrastructure in the boondocks. BART should be a comprehensive transit provider, not a specialist in dysfunctional 1960s rail futurism."

Ok, let's do more transit along existing corridors. How about high speed rail on the peninsula using the Caltrain tracks?

Peter said...

Have any cities along the HSR corridor made any concrete plans to improve their local mass transit and incorporate them HSR? Such as, plan a new light rail corridor, etc?

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

BART isn't authorized to operate an integrated public transportation system. That's not its fault, it's that of county-level transportation officials jealously guarding their own jobs. The Bay Area simply doesn't have integrated transit planning, fare structures or operations. Wish that it did!

As for intra-regional trips on HSR, nothing wrong with those as long as total average seat capacity utilization (paying pax/seat-mile) is in the 65-75% range. Who knows, perhaps a subset of trains will ply just LA-San Diego, some just Sylmar-Anaheim, some only Sacramento-Fresno, others just SF-SJ. So what? Railways adjust service patterns to real-world demand all the time.

There will still be plenty of passengers traveling between the state's three major regions: SoCal, Bay Area and CV. Based on the experience in other countries, new travel patterns are likely to emerge over time precisely because HSR is a game changer.

AndyDuncan said...

simply stating that HSR will promote sprawl in places like Fresno does not make it true. CHSRA has clearly stated that parking at its stations will not be free but rather, subject to the prevailing rate in the area.

All I said was that putting the station downtown would help prevent sprawl versus putting it in an area only accessible by car. You seem to recognize that CHSRA is taking steps to mitigate sprawl, so I guess we agree that station location is one of those steps.

jim said...

hsr will also allow large employers to located in cities like frenso, and employ people there so they don't have to commute to work while at the same time, giving them quick easy access to the bay and LA.

There will be a subset who will move from the bay to fresno, to have the good job and lower cost of living but who don't want to give up the bay area perks. hsr will keep them connected.

its a win for everyone no matter how you slice it.

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

yes, SF, SJ, LA and Anaheim all have concrete plans for enhancing local/regional connecting transit or at least minimizing the transfer hassle. So do Sacramento and San Diego. Roughly 10% of prop 1A(2008) is reserved for capital investments in connecting transit.

No one city is planning a new light rail line specifically for HSR, but the chosen station sites already are or will eventually become local/regional transit hubs. There are still a number of loose ends, such as LA Metro's Green Line terminating well west of the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink/HSR station and, a grade-separated pedestrian walkway between BART/SF Muni and the TTC in SF.

Fresno, Bakersfield and smaller towns with HSR stations may rely primarily on buses, perhaps BRT routes, rather than build connecting rail services. Streetcars are popular in Europe, but emerging technologies like Autotrams cost less to implement.

Fred Martin said...

Ok, let's do more transit along existing corridors. How about high speed rail on the peninsula using the Caltrain tracks?

I support improvements to the Caltrain corridor; however, even though it has become a cliche, let's actually do it right.

-- That means two-tracks (not four!) with strategic passing tracks. That's plenty enough capacity for both Caltrain and HSR. HSR will never have more than 4 tph on its inter-regional trains.

-- Shared tracks and platforms for Caltrain and HSR. Caltrain and HSR trains should be completely inter-operable. It's completely foolish to build two incompatible systems, but the contractors will build anything, professional ethics be damned!

--Get rid of the limited heavy freight trains, and develop a light freight system. Lots of construction and NIMBY headaches avoided.

--Extend Caltrain/HSR to the SF financial district, but in a two-track tunnel (not three!!). It would have been much cheaper if the DTX had gone along the surface Embarcadero on the old State Belt, but that historical opportunity was missed.

--Connect the improved Caltrain to a genuine regional rail system with a restored Dumbarton rail bridge and vastly improved ACE services from San Jose to Stockton. Improve the congested Altamont Pass corridor incrementally, which has significant potential when combined with service to Sacramento, not the empty Pacheco Pass corridor which screws connections to Sacramento.

--Improve local bus service along the Peninsula to create a genuine transit network. Let's not have another BART-SFO disaster that cause Samtrans to slash its bus services.

Peter said...

I looked up "autotram" on wikipedia and got the City of Dresden. They currently have what is referred to as "CarGoTram". This is basically a light rail train for freight!!! Amazing what people outside of the US can come up with...

AndyDuncan said...

I looked up "autotram" on wikipedia and got the City of Dresden. They currently have what is referred to as "CarGoTram". This is basically a light rail train for freight!!! Amazing what people outside of the US can come up with...

It's a large, segmented, low floor bus.

Peter said...

@ AndyDuncan

No, that's the AutoTram.

The CarGoTram is a modified light rail/streetcar for hauling freight for Volkswagen.

Peter said...

From what I saw, the AutoTram is still in the conceptual phase, whereas the CarGoTram simply used modified old tram vehicles to haul freight, and is actually in service.

lyqwyd said...

Wow, that CarGoTram seems pretty cool. I work on 3rd St & Cesar Chavez in SF and there's the 3rd st light rail as well as some old abandoned freight rails on nearby streets. It would be great to have a system like that serving this area, it would take so many trucks off the streets!

Peter said...

Talk about "light freight", eh? Maybe a similar light freight solution could be found to deal with freight on the Peninsula? Then transfer the freight at a facility further south to regular UPRR?

Peter said...

I think, though, that the CarGoTram only works well in its current setup because it solely serves Volkswagen at two destinations. Might be a little complicated for it to serve a number of customers at different locations. But no reason to immediately dismiss it for that reason alone. Maybe the concept could be modified and applied here.

Anonymous said...

The Dutch are working on a similar sort of urban light rail freight system that combines small local delivery trucks/vans hauling pods than can be moved longer distances on light rail, say to a major freight yard or port.

It's much more context-sensitive way of moving freight to/from urban markets, getting rid of both the large trucks and lumbering heavy freight trains in urban areas.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

"That means two-tracks (not four!) with strategic passing tracks. That's plenty enough capacity for both Caltrain and HSR. HSR will never have more than 4 tph on its inter-regional trains."

The speed mismatch between Caltrain locals and HSR express trains is quite substantial. UPRR's FRA-compliant switcher trains aren't even allowed to share track with non-compliant HSR trains. Planners cannot assume that regulatory relief will be forthcoming.

None of the three organizations appears willing to reconsider its service model to facilitate a line that is basically still just two tracks with bypasses. Also, don't forget that high-speed switches are extremely long and mechanically complex. I'm not aware of any that support speeds in excess of 100mph.

Also, I don't think it's wise to assume HSR traffic will never ever expand beyond 4tph. It will be extremely difficult to add tracks at a future date, so now is the time to widen the ROW and build the grade separations properly. Remember Bill Gates' famous line "640KB should be enough for anyone"?

Getting UPRR and its peninsula freight customers to accept reduced axle loads and higher gradients would be a good idea, but only the PCJPB has the legal authority to force such a change. It isn't spoiling for a fight with UPRR because it still needs trackage rights down to Gilroy unless the peninsula counties decide otherwise.

Basically, neither PCJPB nor CHSRA are going to even suggest messing with freight in any way until city- and county-level politicians provide the necessary cover. It's a Catch-22, most of those politicians probably don't have a clue how badly heavy freight constrains the vertical elevation of the grade separation effort.

Note that UPRR is demanding full grade separation of every one of its freight spurs against the HSR tracks. With proper signaling (PTC functionality) and ballast-free track technology, it would be straightforward to accommodate UPRR switcher traffic but they don't want the liability and CHSRA hasn't done any serious operations planning yet. It doesn't help that UPRR doesn't know how to spell "timetable".

Rafael said...

@ Peter -

the Dutch have an operational BRT system similar to the Autotram. It's called Phileas and runs in dedicated lanes with optimized traffic lights in the city of Eindhoven. However, the service has suffered from a number of teething problems with the hybrid-electric drive trains.

Peter said...

Sigh, I miss living in Europe. No reason why we can't have these things over here though.

BTW, did anyone else hear about the DOT granting funding an environmental review for an Atlanta-Chattanooga-Nashville maglev line a few days ago?

AndyDuncan said...

Sigh, I miss living in Europe. No reason why we can't have these things over here though.

We do, there's one in LA called the Orange Line.

BRT was needed because the Valley cities had passed a law banning above ground rail transit, and the funding and ridership weren't there for a subway.

The line was over capacity pretty much as soon as it started, and now we're stuck trying to figure out how to run even longer busses (DOT exemption required as they would have to be illegally long), or how to convert it to LRT.

BRT can work, but it has limited capacity.

Fred Martin said...

The speed mismatch between Caltrain locals and HSR express trains is quite substantial. UPRR's FRA-compliant switcher trains aren't even allowed to share track with non-compliant HSR trains. Planners cannot assume that regulatory relief will be forthcoming.

A Caltrain local can be held at a local station while the HSR express can pass. This is not much of a delay for a slower local train, considering the enormous cost savings. The Caltrain expresses can a decent job keeping up with HSR expresses. The system can also be up-and-running much sooner.

Regulatory relief for both inter-operability of tracks and platforms is easy compared to funding incredibly expensive and NIMBY-enraging infrastructure to get around the stupid, obsolete regulations. The better way to look at it is: "Planners cannot assume that the funding and political consent will be forthcoming to massively expensive four-track grade-separations (or even tunnels!)." Only so much money is available, and it will have to spent very wisely. Spent it on some lobbyists to get the regulations changed. It's worth it!

None of the three organizations appears willing to reconsider its service model to facilitate a line that is basically still just two tracks with bypasses. Also, don't forget that high-speed switches are extremely long and mechanically complex. I'm not aware of any that support speeds in excess of 100mph.

Then this is why they will fail, but not before the the contractors have depleted the funds with very little to show for it. Long switches are much cheaper than entirely new tracks, and smart system engineering -- is Bob Doty capable of it???-- can make two mainline tracks work with minimal disruptions to the community. Even the HSR expresses will only be averaging about 100mph along the Caltrain corridor. You don't build expensive and community-disruptive extra tracks just to increase speed very marginally. That's misunderstanding the design problem and very wasteful.

Also, I don't think it's wise to assume HSR traffic will never ever expand beyond 4tph. It will be extremely difficult to add tracks at a future date, so now is the time to widen the ROW and build the grade separations properly. Remember Bill Gates' famous line "640KB should be enough for anyone"?

Trains are not computer processors, and you add capacity to individual trains before running trains more frequently than every 15 minutes. A single HSR train can accommodate well over 1000 passengers, so at least 4000 passengers per hour each way is abundant supply for the intercity market on the Peninsula for 50+ years. That's about 30 full 737s an hour each way! Running more intercity trains than that will be mean inefficient empty trains. The contractors want to inflate the service tph and ridership to justify their overbuilding.

Basically, neither PCJPB nor CHSRA are going to even suggest messing with freight in any way until city- and county-level politicians provide the necessary cover. It's a Catch-22, most of those politicians probably don't have a clue how badly heavy freight constrains the vertical elevation of the grade separation effort.

Again, then this is why they will fail. I hope Bob Doty is considering his legacy as either a hero or a goat.

Anonymous said...

They are assuming $3 a day parking in Fresno.

Anonymous said...

Just for fun, spot the improvement in Bay Area traffic from HSR:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/19823160/Travel-Condition-Forecast-Bay-Area

Peter said...

"A single HSR train can accommodate well over 1000 passengers, so at least 4000 passengers per hour each way is abundant supply for the intercity market on the Peninsula for 50+ years. That's about 30 full 737s an hour each way!"

Your comment implies that only SJ-SF commuters will be riding the trains on that stretch. That is simply not true. Many of them will be travelling to and from other regions.

Caltrain will still be moving the bulk of commuters between SJ and SF in some manner, that is as yet still undetermined.

AndyDuncan said...

Regulatory relief for both inter-operability of tracks and platforms is easy compared to funding incredibly expensive and NIMBY-enraging infrastructure to get around the stupid, obsolete regulations.

Do you honestly think the peninsula NIMBYs would be any less vocal if the retained-fill, grade separated, electrified tracks were skinnier? I haven't heard any rallying cries from the NIMBYs shouting for fewer tracks.

AndyDuncan said...

A single HSR train can accommodate well over 1000 passengers, so at least 4000 passengers per hour each way is abundant supply for the intercity market on the Peninsula for 50+ years.

Caltrain runs more than 4000 passengers per hour today along that route during peak hours. I don't think it's unrealistic to think that will go up significantly once the TTT and the central subway are completed.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

Actually, one of the NIMBY issues is the potential of eminent domain along the Caltrain ROW. This could possibly be avoided with only running 3 tracks.

However, I'll let the experts determine whether 4 tracks are necessary (and they appear to have come to that conclusion).

Adirondacker12800 said...

This is basically a light rail train for freight!!! Amazing what people outside of the US can come up with...

After reading the history of streetcars in the US... The traction companies carried freight. There were even specialized cars for carrying specific freight.

mike said...

You don't build expensive and community-disruptive extra tracks just to increase speed very marginally.

The extra tracks are no disruption at all except in a very small number of locations (primarily downtown San Mateo).

The only "disruptive" things are the grade separations (albeit on net they are disruptive in a positive way), and those are necessary regardless of whether you are building 2, 3, or 4 tracks.

Alon Levy said...

This is also the failure of the "commuter park-and-ride" model of transit. The limited capacity of this model fills up very quickly.

Except that two of the busiest commuter rail stations in the US are park and rides: Princeton Junction, and Metropark. Together, they rank 3rd and 4th in ridership among the suburban stations of Greater New York, trailing only White Plains and Stamford.

Californiality said...

How exciting for us in California! I can't wait to see us zipping up and down the Golden State. Go, Bakersfield!

AndyDuncan said...

@Alon, I'd say the six year waiting list for a parking permit at Princeton Junction supports the "limited capacity" argument against park-and-ride.

Fred Martin said...

Do you honestly think the peninsula NIMBYs would be any less vocal if the retained-fill, grade separated, electrified tracks were skinnier? I haven't heard any rallying cries from the NIMBYs shouting for fewer tracks.

Yes. By removing the need for heavy freight and going with two mainline tracks at the choke points (use four tracks where it easy to do so, but not where it is constrained or expensive), the level of disruptive construction is greatly reduced. You can also maintain existing Caltrain service during construction without too much disruption to the locals. Eminent domain is almost certainly not necessary, and two-track grade separations are simply cheaper than four-track grade separations. Two-track tunnels are dramatically cheaper than four-track tunnels (think roughly $1 billion a mile).

The project is also cheaper and can fit within a reasonable budget. It is a project that is achievable yet still provides plenty of capacity for a line that ENDS in San Francisco.

Fred Martin said...

However, I'll let the experts determine whether 4 tracks are necessary (and they appear to have come to that conclusion).

These same "experts" produced the BART-SFO Extension. How did that turn out???

Fred Martin said...

Caltrain runs more than 4000 passengers per hour today along that route during peak hours. I don't think it's unrealistic to think that will go up significantly once the TTT and the central subway are completed.

Caltrain will be carrying more people than HSR on the Peninsula. No more than 4 HSR trains per hour in each direction will be necessary at full build out. For the first decade, it will be 2 HSR tph each way during the peak.

You don't seem to understand that two tracks can carry a great many trains, and strategic passing tracks can easily handle the speed differences. The capacity of four tracks is ENORMOUS, far more than the Peninsula would ever need. It's a 50-mile line with no crossing lines, ending in San Francisco. Even if they build another Transbay tube, it will become a loop, relieving capacity at the SF terminal.

Alon, compare the ridership at 72nd/Broadway with Metropark or Princeton Junction. What's the maginitude of difference? What's the ridership at Jamaica? Once a parking lot is full of commuters, these stations struggle to attract additional riders. It's a distinctly suboptimal model for fixed rail.

Alon Levy said...

more than 4 HSR trains per hour in each direction will be necessary at full build out.

Why do you think LA-SF demand will be lower than Paris-Lyon demand, which is currently 4 tph?

Alon, compare the ridership at 72nd/Broadway with Metropark or Princeton Junction. What's the maginitude of difference?

72nd/Broadway gets 36,000 riders per weekday, Princeton Junction gets 7,000. But 72nd/Broadway is in an area with higher travel demand - more Upper West Siders work in Manhattan than Middlesex or Mercer County residents. You should be comparing Metropark not with subway stations, but with nearby commuter rail stations, such as New Brunswick, Rahway, and Edison.

Alon Levy said...

The capacity of four tracks is ENORMOUS, far more than the Peninsula would ever need.

Only if Caltrain's modal share remains puny. If its modal share for suburb-to-SF commuting grows to LIRR or Metro-North suburb-to-Manhattan levels, it will need about 30+ tph peak. In principle mainline tracks can be signaled for 30 tph, but in practice the upper limit is usually 24. Commuter rail lines in Tokyo and Paris that set world records for crowding are limited to the mid-20s.

Fred Martin said...

If your demand exceeds 4tph on standard rolling stock, you simply increase the capacity of the individual trains. No need to offer inter-regional service more frequently than every 15 minutes, especially if you want to fill trains. For environmental reasons, you want to fill the trains. A double-decker 10-car train can easily handle 1500 riders. That's 6000 intercity passengers an hour in each direction, more than enough to serve SF, a city of only 800,000 people.

San Francisco isn't that big, but at least it is dense. San Jose is essentially a big low-density suburb.

For all Peninsula trains, the demand will never exceed what will be required by 12 tph in each direction, which can easily be accommodated on two mainline tracks with strategic passing. Again, go with bigger trains rather than more trains, because service every 5 minutes is more than plenty.

I am criticizing the entire commuter rail model, of which park-and-ride is a typical feature. If you are going to make massive investments in a rail corridor, you want to carry more that just commuters in and commuters out. This has been Caltrain's traditional model for well over 100 years (formerly known as the "Peninsula Commutes", but it was a sideshow to the real money-maker for SP: port-freight, which is now long gone), but Caltrain wants to become more like a rapid transit metro with counterflows and off-peak riders.

K.T. said...

For All discussing about train capacity:

FYI, Tokaido Shinkansen (between Tokyo and Osaka) is a 2-track system and runs max. of 14 tph/track in 3 different services (nozomi, hikari, and kodama). The stations with 4 tracks are used as the passing points in this corridor for Nozomi to pass Hikari and Kodama.

Also, speed-restricted section between Shin-Yokohama and Tokyo Station handles 13 tph each way during rush hour (due to the tight curve, maximum speed at this corridor is restricted to 130 km/hr).

If 2 tracks+strategic passing point is implemented, I think 13 tph/track seems to be the absolute maximum capacity available for Caltrain and HSR combined. Would that be enough for future Caltrain and HSR demand? That I honestly do not know.

MISC.Info
E4 Trainset in Japan has seating capacity of 817 people with 8 trains. Although this is enabled by having 3x3 unreserved couch (ouch!). In comparison, TGV-duplex has seating capacity of 516 with 10 cars (3 cars-1st class, 4 cars-2nd class, 1 car-buffet, and 2 locomotives)

300, 500, 700, and n700 series has seating capacity of 1323 (1123 passengers on 2-3 configuration, 200 passengers on 2-2 seating configuration) with 400 meter, single-story 16-car trainset. To fit around 1,500 passengers in one trainset, you need either 2-3 or 3-3 seating configuration. If not, two TGV-duplex with 1,032 passengers (can add more passengers if buffet car is replaced with 2nd-class) would be the maximum passengers carried by the High Speed Rail.

matt said...

I agree with Fred Martin that four tracks throughout the peninsula may not be necessary. Caltrain EMUs could share track with HSR and some narrow ROW areas could be reduced to 2 or 3 tracks. Also If the whole corridor has PTC then FRA may allow mixed (compliant and non-compliant) traffic, this again should explored. If this is something that eases the concerns of nearby homeowners then it should be explored.

Just as it is important for nearby residents to work with the HSRA and to be flexible (not stick by the tunnel or nothing), It is important for the HSRA to work with the residents and not stick by one design no matter what.

Fred Martin said...

Yes, the Tokaido Shinkansen is a clear demonstration that two mainline tracks are sufficient for any future demand of Caltrain and CHSRA. If it's good enough for the Tokaido Shinkansen -- the mother system -- it sure as hell is good enough for the Peninsula, dinky in comparsion.

The whole four-tracking-all-along-the-Peninsula idea is due to the greedy contractors'(PB, HNTB notably) desire to build, build, build, resulting in project costs to bloat, bloat, bloat. The contractors don't care as long as they are getting paid. It's time to hold them accountable.

Travis ND said...

Does anyone really think they'll be able to use the UPRR through the Central Valley? I really have my doubts about it though I know certain cities, like Modesto, would really prefer the UPRR alignment since it would allow them to have a downtown station right next to an existing major bus terminal.

By the way, I loved the awesome looking cable stay bridge over the Kern River in the CAHSR simulations for Bakersfield. I really hope we can get some signature structures like that out of the system.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

you keep forgetting about freight. Right now, Caltrain traffic is light during the mid-day hours so UPRR can run its switchers without bothering anyone.

HSR will run all day long and it needs to be punctual. Also, FRA does not hand out waivers for mixed traffic like candy and CHSRA quite rightly does not care to repeat the Acela Express fiasco.

Unless and until someone actually confronts the issue of freight on the peninsula, two tracks + bypasses simply isn't on the menu. It doesn't really matter if four tracks all the way is overkill in capacity terms or not. The FRA is stuck in the 1950s because the freight rail industry wants it there. Until that actually changes, CHSRA and Caltrain have no choice but to plan for dedicated HSR tracks.

Alon Levy said...

Yes, the Tokaido Shinkansen is a clear demonstration that two mainline tracks are sufficient for any future demand of Caltrain and CHSRA.

No, the Tokaido Shinkansen is a demonstration that two tracks are sufficient for CAHSR. It says nothing about Caltrain, the equivalent of which, the Tokaido Main Line, is a separate two-track commuter line.

Fred Martin said...

Unless and until someone actually confronts the issue of freight on the peninsula, two tracks + bypasses simply isn't on the menu. It doesn't really matter if four tracks all the way is overkill in capacity terms or not. The FRA is stuck in the 1950s because the freight rail industry wants it there. Until that actually changes, CHSRA and Caltrain have no choice but to plan for dedicated HSR tracks.

Then this is why they will fail with four-tracks-all-the-way. Mark my word. They don't have the budget for it, and they are only growing their NIMBY problem. Rafael, you obviously like to be wildly creative, but you are not considering the root design problem. You don't think about how to get around silly regulatory obstacles. You would rather allow them to create impossibly expensive designs.

I am not forgetting about freight, but I hope Bob Doty forgets about freight. The dribble of heavy freight needs to be removed in order to allow an efficient design with steeper and shorter grade separation elements for two mainline tracks. What is the current freight volume on the Peninsula? About 50 freight cars a day at most? Catering to 50 measly daily freight cars is going to dramatically escalate costs.

At the very least, the freight should be time segregated to late night to allow for two mainline tracks with strategic passing. 50 freight cars a day can't do too much damage to the tracks.

No, the Tokaido Shinkansen is a demonstration that two tracks are sufficient for CAHSR. It says nothing about Caltrain, the equivalent of which, the Tokaido Main Line, is a separate two-track commuter line.

Um, the Tokaido Shinkansen moves more than 400,000 passengers daily on two tracks. That's more than the entire BART system ridership. It handles 12 tph each way easily on two tracks, and BOTH Caltrain and HSR will never exceed 12 tph. 4 HSR, 4 Baby Bullets, and 4 locals are all you would ever need at peak hour. Why would you want more than 4 locals per hour? The small local stations would struggle to produce enough riders every 15 minutes. 4 Baby Bullets would be plenty of frequent service, as would 4 HSR trains. By the way, the Peninsula corridor is NOT the Tokaido trunkline and never will be, yet the Tokaido Shinkansen's design of two mainline tracks with strategic passing at stations is more than sufficient for the Peninsula's comparatively modest goals. Why are we prosing to build MORE capacity than the Tokaido Shinkansen????

These are the stakes... Either we design an efficient, lean system that can actually be built on time and at a reasonable cost or we can try to satisfy every obsolete design criteria with a project that will never be completed.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

I actually strongly favor eliminating heavy freight from the SF peninsula, e.g. by turning it into a short freight line (axle load limit e.g. 22.5 metric tonnes) or by permitting light freight (axle load limit 17 metric tonnes) on the HSR tracks.

It's just that unless and until someone with actual clout steps up to the plate and makes that happen, you're whistling dixie. You dismiss regulatory hurdles as "silly" without understanding just how huge a mountain you have to climb to get FRA to make any exceptions at all to its rules on mixed traffic. Its full name may be "Federal Railroad Administration" but it might as well be "Freight Railroad Administration".

If SF peninsula residents want to create the flexibility needed to even consider 2 tracks + bypasses instead of 4 tracks all the way, THEY will need to convince PCJPB to invoke he "nuclear" clause 8.3(c) of its 1991 contract with SP (p30 PDF).

First, though, SF residents will need to convince the few businesses that still depend on heavy freight to make do with medium/light freight, to relocate or to switch to trucks.

Restoring the 100-year-old Dumbarton rail bridge would only be a partial solution: even if permission to once again run freight - as opposed to just commuter - trains across it were given, it would do nothing to relieve the south SF - Redwood City section of heavy freight traffic.

Fred Martin said...

The very fact that Caltrain and CHSRA have not been proactive about tackling obsolete regulations regarding weight requirements and other inter-operability issues such as sharing platforms and tracks is terribly disturbing. One even gets the impression that the contractors would like to leave the regulations in place, because it makes a lazy justification to build more stuff, regardless whether it is efficient or useful. Follow the money.

Dealing with the regulations -- no matter how backward FRA may be -- is infinitely easier than finding the funding and political consent (yes, that includes the locals) for massive infrastructure, much of which is overkill. This is how you kill a project: burden it with expensive requirements when you have limited means to finance it.

How was BART going to get built along the Peninsula? Let's not kid ourselves: BART's goal was to replace the Caltrain tracks with its broad gauge all the way to San Jose. This is why several Caltrain staff came from BART: to facilitate the transfer. It was the disaster of the BART-SFO project and the success of the Baby Bullets that nixed those plans. BART would have need to replace the freight on the Peninsula, so BART had to deal with these silly regulations too. Indeed, Clem Tillier identified a clause in the PCJPB buyout of SP that could facilitate the abandonment of freight traffic on the Peninsula. No doubt that clause was inserted for the impending arrival of BART, but Caltrain/HSR should follow through on this. They need the will do so.

BART could only have had two tracks along the Peninsula as well, but BART's control system can't handle passing tracks (another huge BART design flaw). Caltrain/HSR can make use of passing tracks while still relying on the plenty of capacity provided by two mainline tracks. Caltrain and HSR have to share platforms too. It's absurd to think they are going forward with two different platform heights.

The few freight trains that run on the Peninsula right now don't actually carry that much freight. Their axle loads aren't particularly heavy at all. Essentially, they already are light/medium freight, but as it stands, the design engineers will be treating the requirement as one for heavy freight.

Dealing with the regulations is a central part of the planning process, and it has been sorely neglected to date. Until these restrictive regulations are properly encountered, the project is bound to fail.

Alon Levy said...

4 HSR, 4 Baby Bullets, and 4 locals are all you would ever need at peak hour. Why would you want more than 4 locals per hour?

Capacity. Metro-North moves about 90,000 people per day into Manhattan; it needs 50 tph peak. The LIRR moves a slightly higher number with 41 tph. New Jersey Transit moves 60,000 people per day into Manhattan on 22 tph, but it's critically crowded.

Now, compare that to Caltrain, which needs to move 79,000 people per day just from the Peninsula into San Francisco. It can't be done with 8 tph.

Fred Martin said...

Managing capacity wisely is the name of the game. It's not wise to spend mega$$$ to build enormous excess capacity that is unlikely to be used.

BART must move close to 300,000 riders daily through the two-track Transbay Tube, which is the critical keystone of the whole BART system. At max peak, BART can run about 24 tph through the Tube, but that's only during the limited peaks and collecting from several lines. BART could theoretically move more people through the Tube if the peaks were longer and the trains had more capacity. BART has historically followed a commuter-oriented model, but it is trying to evolve away from such unidirectional flows to make better use of its capacity. The "commuters in, commuters out" model generally involves a lot of wasteful dead-heading and empty midday trains. It's not efficient.

Could Caltrain handle 158,000 daily passengers on two tracks (with strategic passing) with 8 tph? Yes, absolutely. Keep in mind that Caltrain weekday ridership is currently just under 40,000, so that would be a four-fold increase. It has taken almost 20 years for the ridership to double from 20,000.

The trick would be to spread out the load as ridership developed. Caltrain seeks to move away from its commuter model to become a genunine rapid transit metro, where boardings and alightings are more evenly distributed throughout the system. It's also much more 'green'. The Caltrain corridor is actually a good candidate for such an evenly developed system, because it has both major employment centers and residential conglomerations up and down the 50-mile line. San Francisco will continue to be an attractive end-point destination, but the goal is to get away from such inefficient one-way peaking.

You might be thinking: "Can a 8 tph Caltrain system dump 79,000 unidirectional riders into San Francisco in a single three-hour morning period?" No, Caltrain couldn't do that with only 8 tph, but this is not the system Caltrain seeks to be. Given the increasing dispersal of jobs along the Peninsula, it's not even realistic.

Caltrain has already developed an interesting reverse commuting trend that evens out the directional peaks.

Rafael said...

@ Fred Martin -

the Siemens Desiro bi-level EMU trains Caltrain wants to switch to have 378 seats in four-car and 550 seats in six-car configurations. No doubt longer consists could be assembled if desired.

After electrification and gaining access to downtown SF, Caltrain intends to double the number of trains per hour from 5 to 10 (each way) during peak periods in order to triple passenger volume. That implies either that seat capacity utilization is currently still low or, that trains will grow in length.

Note that the Talgo t22 EMU would offer level boarding and level aisles on both decks throughout, passive tilt and avoid wheel squeal in the very tight curves into the TTC via independent axles. Propulsion options permit top speeds of 90-125mph, so provided they don't stop very often, these trains could even keep up with long-distance HSR trains in the SF peninsula. The snag: Talgo gear costs more than Siemens equipment.