While the Caltrain electrification project officially broke ground this past July, at which point the electrified service was expected to be up and running by the second to last day of 2021, including five months of budgeted leeway for project risk factors, the latest forecast for completing the project has now slipped into 2022. And that’s assuming a significant reduction in the time previously allocated to pre-revenue testing of the service.

Prior to the latest progress report for the electrification project which was presented to Caltrain’s Board of Directors last week, the pre-revenue testing of the electrified service was expected to begin in September of 2020, a start date which has now been pushed back to September 2021.

And while the previous schedule had budgeted at least a year for pre-revenue testing of the line, the pre-revenue testing period has been reduced to seven months in order to finish the project (the Revenue Service Date) by April of 2022, and that’s not accounting for a previously unaccounted for risk with respect to full funding (the FFGA line below):

Once again, 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.

65 thoughts on “Projected Timing for Electrification of Caltrain Pushed Back to 2022”
    1. Well the non-stop lawsuits certainly didn’t help, but that won’t stop conservatives and NIMBYs to pointing to those delays as a reason to cause more trouble.

          1. Anon – wrong. Minorities can often win land use battles, because it’s about intensity of preference, campaign contributions, and they can also use lawsuits.

          2. Thanks Frank C – I think you made my point – the holdup is only possible because we have put so many avenues in place by which a small minority can hold up projects/laws/proposition that is otherwise supported by a majority. And I don’t think it was the Republicans that put all this minority protection in place, but I could be wrong. It’s a goose/gander thing.

    2. The delayed Fed funding commitment which fairly can go under the Republican comments as it was the only transit project held up.
      However, seen a fair share of infrastructure large projects going forward without the fed funding not in place yet. Heck HSR is partially funded at best and will need something more to happen to at least get to San Jose. Nor does it help that extension into Transbay sits in limbo thanks to transbay cost overruns and state/local politics.

      1. More funds needed to get to SJ in part as HSR is over-budget. Surprise.

        Beyond SJ, getting to Transbay is unlikely. For the reasons you mention – cost overruns/budget and state/local politics. Residents of the Peninsula do not want HSR and will file lawsuits which in themselves could delay it for years. Budget wise it’s cheaper to go up the East Bay with an Oakland terminus.

        But hey, there will surely be a bus bridge from the Oakland terminus to Transbay – further solidifying it’s claim to fame as the most expensive bus station in the world.

        1. “Budget wise it’s cheaper to go up the East Bay with an Oakland terminus”
          1) they have already completed the EIR?
          2) Have grade separations in place?
          3) Have settled all the law suits?
          4) Have previously purchased righ of way?

        2. I know I sound like a broken record but so do you Dave. The voters of California mandated that the HSR go from LA to SF, not LA to Oakland. If there is any change, it would need to go before the voters again. If it does, HSR will be defeated.

          The Electrification of the Caltrain line is long over due. Better late than never is a good way to describe the delay. By the time it gets fully implemented , I predict the DTX will be under construction and HRS will arrive around 2027.

          1. The voters mandated all kinds of things that are being ignored. The current explanation from the HSRA is that those only apply to the original bond issue, and since that will only cover a small portion of the total costs, the overall project isn’t limited by them.

            Lewis Carol looks down and thinks “why didn’t I include that in my books?”

        3. While Transbay might be delayed, there’s plenty of platform space to extend HSR to 4th & King. It’s more likely we’ll see that than an Oakland terminus.

          Let’s observe that there’s no big station in Oakland that can handle additional platforms, and there’s not much room in Jack London Square nor Emeryville. Ideally we’d build a new underground station in downtown Oakland (maybe under BART stations for easy connections), but that’s more expensive than Transbay. And frankly, Caltrain will be able to pull in more funds towards DTX than Capital Corridor.

          Second, given that Caltrain will already be electrified to SF and owns the right of way to SF, how can it possibly be easier to A) obtain track from Union Pacific and B) pay for electrification.

          This might be a good time to point out that part of the electrification deal that Caltrain signed with Union Pacific stipulated that Caltrain will NEVER again try to electrify any UP track south of Tamien. With attitude like that, Oakland HSR just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

  1. To complicate matters further, the voters will decide the fate of Caltrain DTX when they vote on regional measure 3 / bridge toll increases next year, among other major bay area transportation upgrades.

  2. Meanwhile Japan continues progress on MAGLEV which is scheduled to open (Nagoya to Osaka) in 2020. ‘Murica.

    1. Russia has built a high speed train between Moscow and Leningrad that goes 150 mph. Sometimes we allow too much process.

      1. Totally Agree – it is the same EIR requirements and same type law suits that holds up this and HSR, that are used to hold up most developments in the Bay area for a decade or more. Law suits aren’t filed by the same groups but under the same framework.

      1. Yeah I know Tokyo to Nagoya is planned but the end goal is to reach Osaka. Regardless of terminus, the fact is we are held back by frivolous lawsuits and the like. Pushing us GENERATIONS behind other countries. I am fortunate enough to call SF and Tokyo home, just sucks for those who wish to see HSR in CA in their lifetime. #notgonnahappen

  3. They delay of 5 months seems to be about the exact duration that Trump administration delayed the funds. Is there more to the story or is it that whole project was re-baselined with new dates based on Trump delay?

  4. It took 16 years to dig the Highway 1 tunnel through Devil’s Slide once voters approved it. If CalTrain electrification is only four or five years late, someone should get a medal.

    1. And how many years for HSR to tunnel under Pacheco Pass? I favor HSR but they don’t seem realistic about the time it takes to tunnel 13-20 miles. At least the Caltrain upgrades should be ready by the time HSR arrives.

          1. Yes there are some good examples – Gotthard Base Tunnel started test drilling in 1993, inaugurated in 2016 – length 35.4 miles cost 9.56 billion swiss franc ~ US $9.8 billion

            The Pacheco Pass is still in the EIR phase so it will probably be a couple of years before they start looking for somebody to actually start drilling a tunnel – better be somebody really good!

  5. None of our big Bay Area government transportation projects come in on time or near budget. So betting this will get delayed further. Given the delivery of the new BART cars are way behind – we will not see any transit relief til 2025….

    1. If we see any by 2025. Don’t hold your breath. This is why SF planning is so egregious. All these offices approved in the past 5 years, including voters being fooled into exempting HP/VP from office caps, and no required improvements to infrastructure to occur concurrently with office approvals. The deterioration in the quality of life in SF, which has accelerated during this time, is to a large extent, driven by inadequate transportation upgrades and the failure of housing production to keep up with job increases. The 7:1 jobs/housing balance in the Central SOMA plan is the perfect example of this.

      1. Exactly right. I have coworkers who want to take Bart from Embarcadero to the east bay. Getting on a train at Embarcadero is impossible so they have to backtrack to Powell or even Civic Center if they want a seat. Yet we keep building more office space and homes. Insane.

        1. I always get on, but not always on the first train I want. I refuse to backtrack. But I don’t need to have a seat.

        2. Well, the train cars are coming and with 3 doors per car instead of 2, loading should be faster and more trains can stop each hour. This won’t be a dramatic speed up, but as higher percentage of cars have more doors, things will slowly improve.

          1. Same number of people crammed in a train regardless of 2 or 3 doors. MUNI is equally as bad as many riders at Montgomery or Powell back track to Embarcadero to board a train since the platforms are often overcrowded and trains unpredictable…the L-Taraval will show up mobbed, but it can be another 20+ minutes before the next L arrives which will be packed as well. Easier to wait it out at Embarcadero.

          2. Agree with Mark. 2 doors or 3 doors, BART is at capacity at rush hour. The bigger reality is access to the CBD from the East Bay is at capacity – and, ironically, impacting locals wanting to take BART west towards Van Ness and beyond. More CBD jobs would bring things to a standstill. SF should be addressing that issue rather than extolling an additional door. That is like coordinating stop lights along 19th. Isn’t going to help with that avenue’s at capacity situation at certain times of the day.

          3. Mark, why do you say that new trains don’t add capacity? Part of the line capacity is dwell time at stations. If you can reduce dwell time by loading via 3 doors instead of 2 doors, then you can run more frequent trains. Am I missing something? That’s also not counting the more standing room inherent with more doors.

            Squeezing just 1 extra train per hour adds room 1500+ passengers.

          4. Here is what I don’t get. The BART transbay tunnel is at capacity NOW. So why aren’t we planning for a 2nd tunnel NOW, so that it can open in, say, 15-20 years? What needs to happen before this gets recognized as an essential need for the region?

          5. An extra 1,500 people an hour in train capacity is absolutely miniscule compared to the amount of new office workers in the area that will need to take the trains. And yet the office and residential construction never ends. I think the unstated goal of all this construction is to push SF to the unhappiness breaking point.

          6. Let’s not forget that BART train control system maxes out at about 24 trains per hour. London Tube does up to 36 trains per hour.

            That’s nearly 10 extra trains per hour, a 50% increase or another 20k passengers per hour.

            In order to get there, you need to minimize station dwell time and trains with 3 doors are part one to increase frequency.

            Step 2 is a new train control system. Ever notice how close Muni trains can pull up to each other? Ever notice that when a Muni train in front starts moving, the following one starts moving a few seconds later? Muni train control system is 30 years newer than BART’s, but it gives you an idea what’s possible these days when paired with newer trains that have more precise system.

            I don’t disagree that a second tube is needed, but it’s more accurate to say that existing car layout with 2 doors and train control system are bigger bottlenecks.

          7. A second tube is needed. The question is what the terminus will be. On the east side it makes sense to go from one of the Oakland stations through Alameda. On the west side a terminus near Oyster Point in SSF is probably the most desirable. The Brisbane Baylands office development will have 40K plus workers, HP/CP 20K. Already there are over 10K plus workers in that area. Bringing the total close to 100K. SSF wants to encourage more office development tagging off of Oyster Point so many more thousands of jobs could be added. Many of these workers will live in the East Bay for economic reasons – the ability to purchase a home. There is virtually no public transportation in the area now and the last thing one needs is another 60, 70, 80K workers spilling onto 101 to get to the East Bay via the BB or the San Mateo Bridge.

            It becomes a political fight amongst Bay Area cities as to whether another tube gets funding which means less funding for various other local transportation projects. Many cities/counties will have issues with that. There will be a political fight between SF and San Mateo County as to which gets the new terminus.

            BTW – the tube going to SSF could then be extended through SSF to the existing SSF station or through SB to the Tanforan Station. .

          8. Martin’s suggestion sounds interesting, and in this day and age where we fantasize about driverless cars there should be systems that can put a lot more trains through the existing tunnel – and at a much lower cost than a new tunnel.

          9. Anon123, I don’t disagree with your comment about throughput (versus a new bay crossing), but one of the other advertised perks of a Second Transbay Tube is added redundancy and the possibility of doing 24 hour service to either side of the Bay. A single crossing is a bottleneck and crippling if there are any system failures or (in the case of 24 hour service) mandatory maintenance.

            Furthermore, most plans I’ve seen (the MTC Core Capacity Transit Study comes to mind) include conventional (probably electrified) rail coming along with a second crossing, e.g. to get HSR to Sacto, bring the Capitol Corridor or San Joaquin to the TTC, etc. All good foresight in my opinion.

          10. David S – I don’t disagree. I looked up the vision for a four-bore tunnel/tube to carry BART and Caltrain/Amtrak/HSR across the bay from Jack London Square, across Alameda Island to somewhere near the Transbay Terminal. I also so a price tag of $12 Billion. It may be a needed investment (in the future) and it could open up the abandoned base on Alameda for development, but I don’t think that we should wait that long for improvements to BART. Now would be the time to start planning though, since it will take decades to implement and build it.

          11. Anon123. The problem with a tube carrying Caltrain/Amtrak/HSR from Transbay is rather a practical one that Oakland doesn’t have a downtown train station.

            Also, if you run HSR through it, where exactly does it go? Do you follow the slow/roundabout/winding Capitol Corridor alignment where UP will keep you from putting up overhead wires? There’s really no good place to surface unless you go to Carqinez/Vallejo or Benicia. That’s a 25 mile tunnel and might be too big to do at once.

            I think a better plan would be to first underground the Capital Corridor segment between Emeryville and Coliseum with a new underground downtown station below and connecting with 12th St Oakland BART station. This station would replace Jack London Square station which only connects to ferries.

            The HSR/Caltrain tubes from Transbay would merge south of that station and make a stop in Oakland. At a later time, you could build a tunnel to Martinez. In other words:

            Phase 1: Tunnel between Emeryville & Coliseum + Downtown Oakland station
            Phase 2: Tunnel between Transbay and Downtown Oakland
            Phase 3: Tunnel between Downtown Oakland and Martinez to hook up with line to Sacramento.

  6. And the reason why Facebook, Apple, Salesforce, Google and Genentech can’t each shell out $150m out of petty cash to make this happen now is what again?

      1. It is not really my responsibility to fund a train system that I will never use, but here we are. Time to shift the burden for these projects to those which benefit from these capital systems in proportion to their ability to handle it.

        1. Same could be said for the Bay Bridge, the interstate highway other than the small piece running through my city, most of the national parks, PBS, workers comp (at least not so far)…

          1. Exactly, libertarians have lost that argument and should lose this one–the tech giants should fork over the cash and pay their fair share.

          2. “Tech giants” are funding virtually every program in this state. I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but the Bay Area economy is disgorging tax revenues at an incredible rate.

          3. Yet infrastructure lags and the costs of that are being shifted from a shared funding model to being funded by residents. We need to restore the balance and have these tech giants pay for transportation infrastructure for their employees.

    1. Or we could just quit making poor choices with the money we do have.

      The $5 billion cost overrun on the Bay Bridge could have paid for not only this project – but every other transit project in the Bay Area. No one at MTC / BATA was fired on any way held accountable.

      So why would successful companies want to give money to a regional government that just flushes that money down the toilet and asks for more?

      1. The fact is that almost every major public works project overruns it’s budget and schedule and this is not at all specific to the MTC in particular or Bay Area agencies in general. Try googling “Boston Central Artery/Tunnel Project”, which makes the Bay Bridge project look well-managed. Estimated completion was 1998, was actually completed 9 years after that and a cost overrun of about 190% as of 2006.

        The major projects that are on-time and on-budget are the exceptions in public works, not the rule. This is because construction estimating, IMNSHO, is a black art. Planning on anything more complicated than a highway overpass? Than you should plan on schedule and cost overruns.

        1. The original bridge took 3 years to construct back in 1936. The replacement span took 11 years in 2013. The earthquake was in 1989 – the new bridge didn’t open until 2013 – 24 years later.. So at some point its not really a schedule or a budget is it? It’s pure fiction. Nonsense, drivel, malarky, balderdash, double- talk rubbish. The people in charge have no idea of what they are doing. They shouldn’t be doing it – people who can deliver better results should be doing it.

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