Radio report on Caltrain electrification

August 30, 2008 at 6:17 am 2 comments

With booming ridership and financial pressure from higher fuel prices, Caltrain is getting more aggressive in promoting electrification. Even though many of the South Bay politicians don’t seem to care about Caltrain, riders in the South Bay will actually benefit the most from decreasing travel time and increasing service. For example, riders living close to Santa Clara Station would no longer have to drive to San Jose to take advantage of higher frequency and Baby Bullet service there.

Recently, Caltrain public information officer Christine Dunn talked to KLIV about the recent ridership growth on Caltrain and the benefits of electrification.

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Mixed operation Threats to Caltrain and electrification

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Martin Engel  |  August 30, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Caltrain wants to electrify.  If the HSR bond issue passes, the CHSRA will pay for electrification on the Caltrain corridor (along with all the other right-of-way modifications). However, Caltrain would have to acquire its own rolling stock and make the Caltrain-appropriate modifications for their own system.

    If the bond issue fails, Caltrain doesn’t have the funding to electrify for the foreseeable future. As they should know by now, everything is going to be far more expensive than presently assumed. Low-balling costs for purposes of public consumption is a typical rail industry ploy and people are becoming very skeptical of it.

    But, there’s another issue here. Caltrain wants to deploy EMUs to replace its present Diesel locomotives. EMUs are lighter, more flexible and agile. Train length does not rely on separate locomotives.

    The problem arises with the sharing of the tracks with Union Pacific. That’s a no-no according to the regulatory FRA. Caltrain will seek a waiver, but the FRA is conservative and self-protective. With one train disaster, there would be more than enough blame to go around. In other words, this is by no means a done deal. Not using EMUs makes electrification an otherwise poor cost/effective investment.

    The November elections are a critical decision point.

    Reply
  • 2. andychow  |  August 30, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Whether HSR bond passes or not, Caltrain will still have to come up with local funding. The Prop 1A will not be enough to fund the HSR construction. Having the San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara county coming up with its own matching funds as promised previously will actually help boost the chance of getting HSR matching funds.

    The FRA may be conservative, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Since Caltrain already owns the ROW, the least they could do is to push the freight trains into the wee hours when no other trains run. That practice is already permitted when freight trains run on light rail tracks.

    Reply

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