Electric Caltrain

The Caltrain electrification project officially broke ground in Millbrae this morning.

Originally expected to cost $1.5 billion and be operational in 2019, the budget to electrify Caltrain has been upwardly revised to $1.98 billion, including a $316 million contingency fund, and the likely date that the first electric train will be put into service has been effectively rolled back to early 2021 (or by December 2020 if a temporary reduction in the scope of the project and a deferral of a number of elements, which would increase the overall cost and timeline for the project, is adopted for optics).

Keep in mind that in order to accommodate the electrification, sweeping changes for Caltrain’s weekend service, including reducing the number of trains by up to 25 percent and increasing the local service headway (i.e., time between trains) from 60 to 90 minutes, will soon be in full effect.

But in addition to a whole host of environmental, operating cost and other benefits – such as setting the stage for High Speed Rail (HSR) and a downtown extension (DTX) to San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center – the electrification project will significantly increase Caltrain’s capacity and ability to run more trains during peak hours.

UPDATE (7/21): While our groundbreaking story was released yesterday, it was intended to be published today.

111 thoughts on “Electrifying Caltrain News: Project Underway”
    1. Read about the project, it involves grade separation as it would not be very easy to run HSR at grade. You just hear about it in segments because every county has it’s own process for funding and various NIMBY fights.

      1. There’s some grade separation involved. It is not universal. Even if you take out the crossings that are in the substantive planning stages of being grade separated, there are still many for which effectively no planning has been done.

          1. What I understand is that Caltrain electrification will allow HSR trains to run from San Jose to San Fran but it will not run at true HSR speeds because as being discussed, complete grade separation along with stricter curve/grade tolerances would be required.

            Either way, significant capacity increase from electrification as well as faster running times will greatly improve transit situation as well as provide relief to Hwy 101

          2. They are mandated for speeds over 110mph. Caltrain currently tops out at 79 and geometry would allow 110mph in most areas. However, new signal system has to go in to track trains safely at those speeds and the crossing gates have to be upgraded.

            I was reading the 110mph upgrade of the St. Louis Chicago line where to allow a 110mph crossing, the gate has to come down about 90 secs prior to the train crossing the intersection and sensors need to confirm back to the train that gates came down and no cars got stuck. Presumably, at 90 secs away, the train has enough time to stop or approach at slow speed that wouldn’t cause derailment if there was impact.

          3. Just to be clear, the 110 mph figure is correct on the blended part of the system (which I believe also includes the future Metrolink blended section near LA) but is accounted for in the SF-to-LA 2hr 40min trip time for express trains.

          4. IT will not. There are planned at-grade crossings for when HSR comes online. I think the HSR authority wants all at-grade crossings eliminated, but they recognize that is not possible politically or economically.

            They are planning to use beefier grade crossing gates. We’ll see how that goes.

    1. This will help a lot for 40-50 miles of caltrain. DTX is just the last half mile. There are many many caltrain riders that don’t go to SF.

    2. DTX can’t be built without electrification, but electrification can be built without DTX. Reason? You can’t run diesels into such tunnels, so line has to be electrified and Caltrain needs electric trains that can enter DTX.

    3. Not by a long shot. As South Beach/Mission Bay grows, CalTrain to the “Salesforce Terminal” (I will start using the new name just to aggravate those who hate it so) becomes ever less important. When the Crosstown subway goes into service, many riders might even choose to get off CalTrain at 4th & Townsend and take Muni Metro (J or T).

      1. Nah, I completely disagree. It will always be important to have a downtown station, as well as 4th/King. Look at Boston. Back Bay is extremely popular as is South Station.

        Keep in mind we were sold a downtown transit center, not a bus station. Caltrain/DTX/HSR coming to downtown SF was promised, although clearly not made a priority. (Only time will tell if HSR ever comes to fruition.) Electrification and DTX must be built concurrently as a single project, not two different projects. Otherwise, you run into the budget mess we have now with the “Salesforce Terminal” of “Sorry, no money for Caltrain. Maybe next decade.”

        1. All correct – add that people don’t like to make transfers (particularly when the transfer from 4th & King to the Central “Subway” will require a long walk (from platform), across a street, to another outdoor platform. Much easier to take a DTX train all the way in. And the FiDi is not going away; in fact it’s only growing (south of Market) as evidenced by Salesforce Tower (right next to the terminal!) and all the other buildings going up around there … *not* around the area of 4th & King.

      2. A one seat rode for those living and working in the Financial Dist and around the new Salesforce Terminal. Lots more office buildings and condos going up around the new terminal in the future.

        The J does not run past Embarcadero Station. How can riders transfer to it at 4th and King? The T will stop running on King St and the Embarcadero and will be the only line running up 4th and Stockton Sts when the Central subway opens.

      1. Slow progress indeed. The Jetsons brought flying cars to the public imagination in the early 1960s. 55 years later and self driving cars are still not ready for prime time. Heck not even electric cars are ready for widespread adoption.

  1. Let me be make some predictions. High speed rail is NEVER going to happen, as it will be abandoned due to cost considerations. The tunneling alone could well cost over $100 billion. A Caltrain extension to the $2 billion dollar bus station MAY happen, but not for at least 20 years. And by that time, self driving Uber may make public transit virtually obsolete.

    1. How does self driving Uber make PT obsolete in dense cities? Roads have a carrying capacity and I imagine the congestion would be awful

      1. Becuse safety will be vastly increased, self-driving cars used for city taxi service can ultimately be much smaller than current automobiles. You would just select the car you need based on the number of occupants. 1 person and no luggage? Something the size of a Smart Car or smaller would be fine.

        Also, with the car-to-car and car-to-X communications, it’s possible to fit a massive amount more vehicles on the same roads and decrease congestion at the same time. Imagine a virtual train of cars and trucks driving on I-5 at 80 mph with only 12 inches between cars.

        1. That’s not possible because the reaction time for a computer is non-zero, and roads are not always dry. Your proposal is a recipe for a 30 car pileup.

          1. Self driving cars are having difficulty in adverse weather. A bunch were tested in Sweden or maybe Norway this past winter and heavy snow, ice and sleet effectively voided out the sensors the cars didn’t work.

            We have always to go.

          2. The point is self-driving cars can communicate with each other. So if something goes wrong 10 cars ahead, the car 10 cars back knows about it in milliseconds. The entire train of cars can slow/stop in sync. 12″ between cars might be an exaggeration, but the idea is correct. As for rain and other weather issues, sure, but it’s only a matter of time before the computers perform better than humans even in adverse conditions.

            That said, I still don’t see self-driving entirely replacing rail for long hauls.

        2. I would need to see the data on this to believe it. Not that I disbelieve that self driving cars are more efficient and would reduce congestion per vehicle mile but how many new tips would this entice to downtown SF all at the same time? And where would these hundreds of thousands of cars go off peak? Seems a massive road capacity issue to me

          In my mind I would see self driving cars eliminating suburban transit but complementing as a feeder to fix route higher capacity transit at peak hours

        3. You can fit more self-driving cars than human-driven cars on a road, but you won’t get as much usage out of roads as you can with a bus. A bus would take up the same road space as 3 self-driving cars 12 inches apart, but can carry about 4-5x as many passengers (assuming the cars are fully occupied). Plus a bus would be more energy efficient per passenger than lots of small vehicles.

        4. In addition to what van nessident wrote, relying on “car-to-car and car-to-X communications” to facilitate “massive amount more vehicles on the same roads and decrease congestion” assumes that the only vehicles on the road are self-driving cars with these capabilities. That isn’t going to happen in a dense city like San Francisco any sooner than HSR will.

          For one, in real S.F., lots of people commute on bicycles, and those people on bicycles won’t be part of any car-to-X communications network, so you won’t be able to fit massive numbers of more vehicles closer together like you theoretically would be able to in the simulators that self-driving car proponents are so fond of playing with.

          Also, what makes you think privately owned vehicles are going to just disappear in one fell swoop? What happens to your hypothetical self-driving car when Billy Bob, who drove into S.F. from Frisco, TX in his manually-operated Hummer, switches lanes in the middle of an intersection and rams head first or sideswipes your city taxi the size of a Smart Car? Would that be fine for you as a passenger?

    2. I like your prediction because it is specific and has a definite time frame. It is falsifiable if

      – High speed rail begin operation
      – Tunneling complete and cost less than 100 billion
      – Caltrain extension happen in less than 20 years
      – Uber self driving car is not widely available in 20 years
      – Public transit is not obsolete in 20 years

      By the way, HSR’s initial operation in Central Valley is estimated to begin five years from now in 2022. I will keep my finger crossed.

    3. Ugh this “self-driving will save the future” shill is getting old. You seriously think that it’s more efficient to deliver 60,000 or 70,000 workers by 60,000 or 70,000 individual self-driving vehicles, than via mass transit?

      Take Salesforce Tower, just by itself. It’s estimated that it will house 10,000 employees. Let’s say those 10,000 employees arrive over the span of 100 minutes (an hour and 40 minutes – a fairly generous timespan, IMHO). That’s still 100 cars needing to drop people off EVERY MINUTE, to deliver those 10,000 employees.

      Now multiply that by all the workers in all the buildings downtown – seriously, how can anyone possibly say with a straight face that self-driving cars are the commute solution of the future?!

      1. self-driving cars could be a viable commute solution for spread-out suburban areas, like silicon valley. They aren’t going to work in downtown SF or manhattan or other similar dense places.

        1. Where do all these self driving cars go when nobody needs them at say 11 am? And how are they able to provide service to everyone again at peak commute hour?

      2. I actually think that self-driving mass transit will be the solution. Chariot sized vehicles could ply a much greater range of routes than large buses can. Also the routing could be much more efficient. For example, a vehicle could pick up a dozen people way out in the avenues and then zip all the way downtown without intermediate stops. With improved access and speed, mass transit would be much desirable than it is right now. And by eliminating substantial labor costs, it would be much cheaper. If you add in some congestion pricing etc. the number of cars on the road would also be reduced. The effect could be smoother, faster, less expensive commutes for the vast majority with just a few paying a premium to have their own car.

    4. You are making a lot of assumptions. Muni alone carries 700,000+ riders a day. Accounting for round trips that’s several hundred thousand people in how many extra cars on the road? In SF? Please cite a source for the $100billion cost of tunneling.

    5. Currently Muni alone has appx. 700,000 boardings. And you think another couple of hundred thousand self driving Uber cars will be able to swiftly navigate SF’s narrow already clogged streets with all the non self driving cars that many will refuse to give up? You must love air pollution.

  2. And while I am on a roll, why doesn’t Caltrain have adjustable lighting like Amtrak? It’s really very unpleasant to be riding the train late at night under 5 times too bright lights.

    1. Many cars were made in 80’s before LEDs allowed for what you’re asking.

      Electric trains are certainly likely to have options and dimming abilities that are inherent/easy with LEDs

  3. Also, 1 1/2 hours between trains on weekends? The usual hour between trains is bad enough. Yeah, I know they have to do it. Ugh!

    1. Well, look at it this way and maybe it’ll cheer you up. Before, we had 1 hour headways for no good reason. Now, we get 90 minute headways for good reason.

  4. So $2 billion plus tax payer dollars to increase the total seat count on CalTrain by only 855 seats per hour on the peak commute hours.

    Also there are NO funds in this budget to increase the grade separation so CalTrain riders will continue to experience regular LONG delays from the almost weekly incidences on the tracks which disrupt service.

      1. That is for standing room which would have to suck as those isles are so narrow already and most times I have ridden CalTrain during commute hours people are not standing and you can still find a seat.

        1. Some of the Caltrain bullet runs are SRO from the very first station. And then they get more crowded as they make their way down the tracks. Electrification will be successful on day one simply for addressing congestion.

      2. The third column on the above chart is dependent on additional funding, which is currently TDB.

        The $2 billion gets us to the blended diesel/electric fleet in the middle column. That is ~400 more seats and ~2,200 more capacity. The $2 billion only lays the foundation for the 100% electric fleet.

        1. Even 2200/hour is huge.

          One lane of highway can carry 1000-1500 cars. So this is like putting more than an extra lane on 101, which would be way more expensive.

  5. I suppose baby steps are always in play, but wouldn’t it really be better (or not) if BART circled the whole Bay Area? So, trains continue past Millbrae to San Jose and then connecting to that Warm Springs station. Then one can go pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area in either directions.

    1. How do you figure. Electric EMUs are way cheaper than BART and provide better service. BART to San Jose thinking is part of the problem

    2. Maybe if we were building infrastructure from a clean slate. But BART isn’t on the peninsula, Caltrain is and it’s already packed.

      1. Japanese, Swiss, Germans or anyone else really would not put BART on the Peninsula or Concord or many other places so it’s the wrong answer. We actually are doing it wrong

          1. Think ridership density and cost. In other countries they solve transit problems with the appropriate solution

            The rest of the world builds subways in dense cities and electric trains for intra-city travel

            And the worst part is modern trains that skip stops are faster and more comfortable than BART. A 45 minute ride on BART stopping at each stops is not efficient

          2. On Zig’s comments

            BART Is an electric train. The big difference is the broad gauge use and third rail versus overhead. So I don’t see your point as BART has significant acceleration and stopping capabilities as any other electric train for which Caltrain on the peninsula currently doesn’t have. The broad gauge approach I believe creates the bigger issue of ride quality and noise. A big mistake but a huge cost to correct

            BART is also Intra City. However, your point about stopping at every station and city is a great one. BART with added and longer train sets needs to consider a new approach as dollars flow into to expand rail car numbers.

          3. Your welcome zig,

            I think you make a great point that BART really does need to reconsider or think how it should operate it trains with new railcars, larger train sets especially during peak hours. Its almost as if they want to be light rail just as you see some light rail built with street running stops as if it wants to be a streetcar line if that makes sense.
            BART’s final push into downtown Jose near Google’s now planned campus will be a much needed plus for East Bay in my opinion just as Caltrain electrification will be for the peninsula.

    3. San Mateo and Santa Clara counties both bailed out of BART in the 60s, saying that caltrain (actually southern pacific as it was back then) was good enough for them. Santa Clara kept the tax and built the expressways instead. So a bit late for doing that now it seems.

      1. SC was never really part of the Phase I proposal for BART; the Peninsula line was going to terminate somewhere near Stanford, so it might have technically touched the county, but it would have been like the relation BART had to SM for years, w/ a station in Daly City.
        It WAS part of the long term (Phases II and III) expansion plans, but those were just lines on paper…little/nothing to do with reailty.

        1. Also, Santa Claras County’s peninsula cities of today were pretty much covered with ….orchards in the late 50’s, early 60’s when BART was being planned.

      2. Yeah, I am aware that local jurisdictions pulled out the NIMBY card but conceptually I think it is the future. Why have two separate systems in a stretch of land that is becoming quite congested? I don’t think it is far fetched at all. Shoot, Donald Trump is President of The United States. Far fetched enough for ya?

      3. It was San Mateo and Marin but Marin was not really viable

        BART on the Pennisula is really slow on the detor around San Bruno mountain and stopping at each stop. If BART was all the way down to San Jose that trip would very long

        If Caltrain ever get trains downtown BART will lose ridership.

      1. Not exactly true…one can drive to Daly City station from the Sunset at least fairly quickly. Next gripe?

        All I am saying is that conceptually it is more efficient (god, I am equating that with BART…) to have ONE transit system that circles the entire Bay Area. Why not? Let’s think outside the box for once. Don’t do like our pathetic leaders and just whine and do absolutely nothing in office….

        1. You’re conflating “simple” (one) and “efficient.” Employing the right tool (i.e. mode of transportation) for the job at hand (i.e. intra versus intercity transportation) yields the best outcomes, even if it’s a complex network that might hard for some to conceptually understand. Having a single body to manage the system, with aligned goals, budgets and priorities, however, is a different matter altogether.

          1. Honestly, if people in the past thought like that completely we wouldn’t have all the advances of society that we do have today.

        2. Yes, conceptually there would be advantages to merging BART and Caltrain. Might as well also add AC Transit and VTA.

          In practice, though, it’ll never happen. They already exist and have completely different governance. It’s impossible.

          1. What would the advantages be (other than to execs who could claim that their vast new responsibilities demanded even vaster salaries)?? The biggest nuisance to most people, I would think, was a lack of thru ticketing for long journeys, but the Clipper Card eliminated that glitch.

            Of course there might be an advantage to some areas, who could use a greatly enlarged revenue base to expand their own services, at the expenses of outlying areas… much as BART has never serviced the outer areas of the Eastbay; not that I’m going to suggest where those areas might be, though.

          2. There are regional advantages to consolidated transportation and other public systems. Other areas have done it – Seattle and Tacoma (the 2nd and 4th busiest ports on the West Coast) not too long ago merged into one port authority. It can be done with another example being the Washington DC metro system that is pushing further and further out into the suburbs with business, retail and housing complexes springing up along the new lines. Unfortunately, the Bay Area is perhaps too balkanized for similar things to happen here.

          3. I’m not questioning that various local agencies DO merge; and when you have a bunch of them duplicating services in pointless competition, such probably makes sense.

            But in this specific situation – BART and Caltrain, or even BART/Caltrain/AC/VTA – what would be accomplished by merging them? They’re physically separate and incompatible, and for the most part serve different areas. OTOH, in 1933, The Key System and SP effectively merged their operations by eliminating duplicated routes, now THAT made sense.

          4. Notcom – Though Clipper is capable of thru-ticketing it hasn’t yet been implemented. You still need to tag off from transit agency A and then separately tag back on to agency B when transferring. So far our transit agencies have not prioritized thru ticketing, but when they do Clipper has the technology to accommodate it.

            My prediction – Clipper is replaced before the transit agencies get their act together.

          5. OK, but isn’t this kind of a minor issue? Wouldn’t it make more sense to adjust the Clipper procedures than to merge all the systems together…at least if rationale for doing so is to avoid having to extract one’s wallet every 20 miles or so?

            As for your prediction, I’ll agree with you on it.

          6. There should be only public transit agency in the Bay Area, similar to many metros around the world, like PTV in Melbourne, TfL in London, RATP in Paris, etc. That, to me, is the simplest way to achieve some semblance of efficiency in timetables, planning, and operation—not to mention that it it’s much easier for customers to understand one network rather than several.

          7. Notcom – Yeah, you would think it is a minor issue. But it does require coordination across agencies and I’d bet that it will be hard to find anyone in BART, Caltrain, AC, Muni, etc. who’s job entails cross-agency fare coordination. One slippery issue is how funds are redistributed for a journey that starts on one agency and ends on another. It is often not as clear-cut as simply summing the fares, especially if there’s a short connecting leg that really ought to be thrown in for free to the rider, yet the agency running that short connector also deserves some compensation. This could all be resolved simply by agencies making coordination a priority. Then there’s the issue of timetable coordination: a lot more complex but also necessary to produce a functioning aggregate transit system. It is frustrating to see that we already have the hardware in place and all that is missing is coordination.

            Brad – Yeah, having one org cover it all would make the most sense. This is an even greater political problem to solve considering the patchwork of how funding is acquired. If you look into how some of the Bay Area agencies operate, many have goals beyond providing effective transit. Some function as an extension to local social welfare programs. That whole mess needs to get untangled first before any merger can occur.

            BTW, the massive Tokyo-Yokohama conurbation is an even bigger mess than the SF Bay Area with dozens of independent providers and ticketing schemes. I think the only reason it remains that way is because driving is not an option for most people so they just deal with it. They do have the Suica card which is kind of like Clipper but even with Suica not much is integrated. It is mostly just a stored cash card.

  6. More or less agree with Mark F. – HSR is unlikely to happen and, if it does, it will be routed up the East Bay into Oakland and not up the Peninsula. Too much big money opposition on the Peninsula and it’s well connected politically.

    Is there a new date for DTX? IIRC it was set for 2027 or so but with this delay it’s probably a bet that DTX is pushed out to 2030 or later.

    In the interim massive office developments have been approved with just minimal transportation upgrades in sight. More and more of downtown/SOMA will be in gridlock. Per the comments above the CalTrain upgrade won’t add that many net seats. The Brisbane/HP/CP area should be telling. With Brisbane adding a massive office project and no housing and HP/CP adding almost as much office space and less than 1/1 housing, those two developments alone could overwhelm the modest gain in seats. The answer is obvious by the PTP in SF, the Peninsula and SV won’t go there.

    1. If HSR is routed up to the East Bay, it will need to go before the voters of California once again. The Bond money approved by the voters specifically stated it will run between LA and SF. Second phases will include San Diego and Sacramento.

      HSR is expected to run between the Central Valley and San Jose in 2025. If the DTX starts their EOIR by 2020, it is possible to have the extension by 2027 with HRS included.

    2. Gov. Brown just ensured a lot of funding for HSR with his “Cap&Trade” legislation and a Gov. Newsom would continue it (for 8 years?) so a lot of money will have been spent on HSR by the time there’s a serious opportunity to derail (pun intended) it. And by then the need for it should either be completely obvious or more/less refuted.

      1. And I anticipate the “sunk cost fallacy” will be brought up. We’ve spent $10 billion on this, so we have to spend another $200 billion! I’m sure the ridership from Fresno to Bakersfield will be impressive, however. People on days trips to shuttle between these world class cities.

        1. Laugh if you will, but the Central Valley is one of the last remaining bastions of Republicanism in California: it’s BOUND to become a tourist attraction.

          1. The tracks built in Central Valley can be used by San Joaquin trains. All “Operating Segments” were supposed to have independent value, the “sunk cost fallacy” won’t be as strong. Whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen.

      1. If built to the 5 million potential square feet of office space there would be about 22K jobs. Only 10K units of housing is being added so a jobs/housing imbalance – 2/1. At least it is not 7/1 as with the Central SOMA plan. The Brisbane development so close by is what makes this a potential transportation nightmare. That development will have more jobs than HP and no housing. If HP/Lennar leases a big chunk of the space to educational institutions much of the HP workforce won’t be able to afford the condos there or a home in SF at all. Adding to the commute to the East Bay. The Brisbane jobs are likely to be more concentrated techy positions so higher paid. Many of those employees could take the lion’s share of HP housing. So SF is potentially supplying housing for the Brisbane project. Either way, the massive increase in jobs between the two developments will overwhelm CalTrain and the freeway. There seems to be no real effort to improve transportation to HP/CP – let alone co-ordinate transportation upgrades needed to support the two projects.

        [Editor’s Note: Planning for a Southern Neighborhoods Transit Hub Underway.]

  7. I voted for Measure T in 1996 which enabled the Devil’s Slide tunnel that opened in 2013, only 17 years later.

    I’ve been hearing about electrifying CalTrain since I moved here in ’84, so if it rolls in ’21 that will be 35 years to get it done.

    HSR has been in real progress (if that’s what the train to nowhere is) for only a few years; it being a much larger project than a hole in the ground + a bridge or electrifying a forty mile strip I would guess it might be complete by 2050, but probably somewhat later.

  8. I have a different take than Mark. Caltrain electrification will be a big step forward even without DTX. However,
    I think Transbay Transit Center is meaningless without building DTX. In other words, Transbay Transit center becomes one huge oversize glorified bus barn without DTX and the capacity/influx it can bring to the center. At that point calling it Salesforce transit center might not be a bad way too put it.

  9. My two bit prediction for HSR. At a minimum it will get built from Central Valley to San Jose. Caltrain electrification will get HSR train sets from San Jose to at least San Fran Fourth Street Station at 80-110 mph on the peninsula.

    – A big piece of the Central Valley portion is already underway and cost is significantly less.
    – Cap & Trade extension as noted by others gave a significant boost to keep building rail north before making the turn towards San Jose.
    – Getting into San Jose will be less of an engineering challenge as well as less costly. In other words, path of least resistance
    – Google by planting a flag in downtown San Jose and host of silicon companies will flex their political muscle to make HSR happen from Central Valley to Silicon Valley. Too many jobs, too much wealth on one end and untapped labor & relatively cheap land on the other end.
    – Central Valley in its own right is already has population of a significant metro area and most states. Connecting it with either the larger Bay Area or LA or both is worthwhile infrastructure endeavor

    The wild card is Central Valley to downtown LA. LA area passed a tax for $120 billion alone in transit/transportation funding over the next several decades. Will So Cal put another tax to get HSR into LA is the question?

    What doesn’t get talked about is how many dollars it will take to add highway lane miles/capacity to add similar capacity to move people up and down the valley between the Bay and LA. A number of $100 billion or north is also floated for increased highway capacity as well because securing real estate will be hugely expensive and the amount of land to build more highways in the valley will exceed HSR needs.. HSR is a legitimate forth leg of transporting people and goods. Having a road, port, an airport and underwhelming Amtrak just won’t cut it in California’s future…

    1. Agree especially on your last point. HSR is expensive. So is building another highway or another airport.

      1. Yes. It boggles the mind when opponents claim that HSR is a boondoggle. But silence when a greater amount of money is spend upgrading freeways which never seem to be more than a band-aid.

      2. The point is cost v. benefits. “Oh, it’s cool to have high speed rail” is not a good argument. The ridership projections for HSR are absurd. I’ve seen them. Also, the idea that they will attract “private investors.” Lots of problems.

        1. The “cost vs benefit” is both a point and a problem. Infrastructure rarely pencils out, but it’s important to get over the initial investment and get that built, as incremental costs are easier to finance and bring incremental improvement.

          If we have SF to LA, adding San Diego and be done easily and independently. Adding Sacramento, same thing.

          Even consider a 2nd Transbay Tube to Transbay terminal. It’s got little value until caltrain is electrified (since can’t do diesel through such long tunnel). But once you have HSR + Caltrain, 2nd tube gives you a destination, a market, an opportunity to relieve congestion at Transbay with through-running, etc…

          Personally, I like options:
          * Sometimes, I prefer to drive to LA because I need a car at various destinations
          * Sometimes, I fly due to time constraints and lack of need for car
          * Sometimes, I’d take the train since I can leave work early and have a continuous 2.5-3 hours to read on the train that you don’t get on a short 50 minute flight and connections to and from airport.

          There’s a benefit to having options that’s not easily captured by money.

          Private only works for operational part of the business, since as England experienced, safety quickly gets sacrificed.

    2. Good observations. While it’s unlikely HSR will ever come up the Peninsula, building it to SJ is a good alternative – and allowing HSR to complete the leg to SF. It will cost less to go from SJ to Oakland (if they choose to extend beyond SJ) and with the population center of the Bay Area moving south and east, an Oakland terminus makes total sense. Especially as SF is running out of room for more high-rise/mega office construction while Oakland is ripe for a huge increase in office space in the coming decade.

      1. Just don’t seeing True HSR getting to Oakland either. The two most expensive items are getting over and through the mountains to LA and getting dedicated right of way in dense urban area. A big reason why true HSR from SJ to SF or even SJ to Oakland doesn’t add up.

        However, For Oakland you could see where electrification and another track is doable for the existing capital corridor between SJ and Oakland/Jack London station area. This gets you more capacity with Northbound Oakland HSR trainsets & SF Transbay trainsets into the schedule. Central Valley to SJ at 220 mph and final SF or Oakland leg/run of 110 mph.

        1. Given that Santa Clara County/SJ are the jobs and population centers of the Bay Area which is not going to change a SJ terminus makes sense with electrification of CalTrain to SF from the Capitol Corridor enhancement you mentioned as “feeder” lines to the SJ terminus.

        2. For Oakland to be a better destination, they need a better station than Emeryville or Jack London Square that’s in downtown and connects to BART.

          Ideally, they’d tunnel south from Emeryville to an underground station under BART’s Oakland 11th Street station, and then surface back up near Colosseum. This would create a destination that’s worthy of a HSR line branching from SJ.

          1. Exactly. An immediate transfer point to BART at a combined HSR/BART terminus. Far better than SF where there will be no direct link to BART. This should have been the plan all along and still might happen. HSR to SF won’t IMO.

      2. SF voters voted overwhelmingly for a new Transbay terminal and HSR. The electrification project will get it to 4th and King first and the the TT eventually.

    3. I’m sure millions will be dying to travel to Fresno from San Jose. They may need to run a train every 5 minutes!

      1. By this logic, because few people take BART between Civic Center and Powell Street, BART is a mistake.

      2. Fresno will be about an hour from San Jose by HSR. That makes it extremely likely that Fresnans, Maderans and others in the Central Valley will be able to commute to jobs in San Jose. I saw this happen in Japan. Do you have any idea how many people trek to Tokyo on the Joestsu Shinkansen line everyday to their jobs in Tokyo? I traveled with Japanese businessmen from Tokyo on the Tokkaido line for meetings in Osaka (a little over 2 hours) and then back in the evening. HSR makes it possible to live (cheaper) far from work.

  10. UPDATE: While a scheduling error resulted in our groundbreaking story being published yesterday, it was intended to be released today (as that is when the ceremonial groundbreaking was actually held). Regardless, the electrification project is officially underway and our apologies for any confusion.

  11. Instead of spending money on silly metal cladding for a bus station, Los Angeles is building a multi-modal transportation hub right now, and upon completion will be 50 years ahead of Transbay because their hub will have trains, subways, and bus lines all connecting in one space from day one. Note that the project includes constructed accommodations for future HSR and additional subway platforms.

    1. Pretty amazing how LA is rapidly moving forward as a world class city. The public transportation renaissance there is one element of that.

      Their multi-modal system will truly be a single hub. As it is, the TTC will not be a hub. BART is two blocks away and HSR is unlikely to ever get there. LA has the advantage of regional foresight. Had the same been present in the Bay Area we’d have built the region’s modal transportation hub in Oakland – HSR, BART, buses, Capitol Corridor trains and AMTRACK in one world class transportation center. That might have rivaled what LA is doing. To boot, the money saved by coming up the East Bay side instead of the Peninsula could have been a down payment on another BART Bay crossing. Coming out of the Oakland transportation hub and crossing through Alameda to the SSF/HP/CP area.

      Transportation-wise Oakland is the hub of the Bay Area – a central connecting point. SF politicians and hubris prevented the logical solution from happening. Ironically, it looks like the TTC will all be for naught – other than a glorified bus station. But the developers got their excuse to built higher and look how that has turned out.

      1. Sorry, again voters were promised a high speed rail option between SF and LA. I hardly believe people in the southland will be excited to get off of their high speed journey in a station in Oakland instead of downtown SF.

  12. Dave, I disagree with may of your statements. There’s nothing inherently “ahead” about LA US, since it’s simply collecting all the light rail, but and train stations stops that were there before.

    Regarding LA US, while yes, it has a nice fly through, it has many downsides:

    * It comes with tons of unnecessary walking. From pedestrian’s perspective, you really want an underground passageway to enter a platform since you only have to go down about 10 feet to provide a tunnel for humans rather than 20+feet to go over the train and electrified catenary. In the video it seems you need to go roughly 40 feet high (4 stories) just to get up the concourse level and then 20 feet down to the platform. An underground connection would have looked uglier in the video, but might save you 5 mins of walking around with luggage.

    * The video focuses on people walking around a big circle, but if you look at the platform, it looks bare with a small awning that will be miserable on a rainy and windy day.

    * Overall, the video shows long hallways and stairs, and not something that’s designed to minimize amount of walking needed. Just because you have space to build a round-about walkway, doesn’t mean you should.

    It’s also unclear why TTC is not considered a “hub” in your mind given significantly more efficient passenger circulation. Yes, BART and Muni is two blocks away, but given the amount of walking you’ll need to do, it’s pretty much a wash.

    Lastly, I don’t understand the source of your implication that that HSR is unlikely to get to TTC? Are you saying that about HSR in general not getting completed or specifically DTX portion to TTC?

    1. Just watched the video, after reading your comments … while I’m generally impressed with all that L.A. is doing with transit (and embarrassed for S.F. in that regard) … holy heck that new concourse is a monstrosity! It’s very L.A., but also very infeasible and inefficient. What a waste!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *