Will Metrolink Begin Service to San Diego?

Oct 24th, 2012 | Posted by

Service changes on the LOSSAN corridor are apparently afoot. Dana Gabbard at Streetsblog LA has the scoop on the possibility that Metrolink is looking at service to San Diego – a corridor that is already served by the Pacific Surfliners.

San Clemente Metrolink 1453a

According to Gabbard:

The report presented at the Oct. 17th Planning and programming Committee contains a fascinating tidbit on page 2: “Staff is working closely with Metrolink on two new initiatives that would increase Metrolink service. The first is the introduction of additional service, using Metrolink equipment, which would go from Los Angeles Union Station beyond Oceanside to San Diego. The second is to increase peak hour service on the 91 line, which travels from Riverside to Los Angeles, via Fullerton.”…

The Power Point (not posted online) indicates that for weekdays, they are looking at a commuter schedule starting mornings in downtown San Diego while making all stops to Los Angeles; in addition, they’ll be doing the reverse for the afternoon commute along with southbound service from Fullerton to San Diego in the morning and returning in the evening.

Weekend service would start in San Bernardino on the IEOC line to San Diego making all stops (reverse service included) along with service starting in Los Angeles on the Orange County line to San Diego making all stops (reverse service included) .

Metrolink would operate service to/from Oceanside Transit Center. North County Transit District (NCTD) would operate the Metrolink train south of Oceanside. All conductors, crew and engineers would be under the control of NCTD south of Oceanside. Trains would be required to double spot for disabled passengers south of Oceanside until permanent ramps are built to accommodate Metrolink trains.

I think it’s an interesting concept and potentially a very good one. The LA-SD rail corridor is one of the busiest in the country and given that there’s really only one freeway that serves it, Interstate 5, a route that is often jammed with traffic, improved rail service from Southern California cities to San Diego County cities makes a ton of sense.

The devil’s in the details, obviously. How would this service interact with the Pacific Surfliners? According to Gabbard, that’s still unclear, as the Metrolink service expansion is still in the conceptual stages.

I could see a situation where the Surfliners act as more of an express service, connecting LA to SD with limited stops in between, and Metrolink providing local service to each station. During the day and on the weekends you’d still want a train that provides local service, and that might be Metrolink if the goal is to have the Surfliners be branded as an all-express service.

Those are just some of the options. As a new LOSSAN joint powers authority is set up, one that will potentially be operated by Metro, it will become more important than ever to coordinate Surfliner and Metrolink services so that they are complementary and not duplicative.

Passenger rail in Southern California is becoming not only popular, it’s becoming an indispensable part of transportation in the region. Expanding Metrolink service is a good idea, as long as it’s well integrated with other services on the LOSSAN corridor.

  1. James in PA
    Oct 24th, 2012 at 22:39

    Metrolink/Surfliner cross-platform transfer at a mid-line station?

  2. James in PA
    Oct 24th, 2012 at 22:43

    …Oceanside has more room than San Clemente for a center platform.

    Donk Reply:

    Agreed. Oceanside is the natural spot for this. The OTC is pretty crappy though and could use a complete makeover. It is a pain to run under the tracks to catch the train when it is on Track 2 and it is also the sketchiest station in San Diego County.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    I think Oceanside is too close to San Diego. I would think Fullerton might be a good cross-platform transfer if another track could be added, but I think you miss the 91 line traffic.

    I only think ML should assume the corridor if they can use AMT type equipment.
    1. There is no food service on ML at this time.
    2. Someone else pointed out there is no wi-fi.
    3. I don’t like trraveling through ML trains, going up then down at each car. AMT feels a bit safer with one level to move between carrs.


    J Baloun Reply:

    Agreed re: Fullerton.

    Fullerton is more the mid-line of the higher-population area north of Pendleton and would benefit more people. Interesting.

    J Baloun Reply:

    It appears that Fullerton would benefit by moving the pedestrian plaza below the tracks, providing easy and unimpeded access from both sides. People could approach a center platform in one or more locations along the 200m length. Kind of like Clem’s proposal for Mountain View. Get rid of the pedestrian bridge. The pedestrian entry plaza could be a continuous 200m or divided in multiple smaller passageways spread over the 200m length. Looks like there is lots of room for stairs and ramps between E. Walnut St. and the Fullerton Station.

    Is there enough room to separate the passenger and freight. I was there once and a freight roared by at 50 or 60 mph. With four tracks the freight could pass without being next to the people.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    If we could accelerate development of the Alameda Corridor East we should be able to divert some of the BNSF freights and free up capacity through Fullerton. What you are proposing is enormously expensive, and there are more pressing needs.

    J Baloun Reply:

    Sorry, I got a little carried away.
    Minimal cost option: Keep tracks at present grade. Make room for a center platform. Build three or four pedestrian underpass tunnels with opposing ramps up to the center platform. Minimal concrete and minimal movement of dirt. Locate ticket machines to be convenient to people arriving from either side. Just an idea, not a comprehensive trade study of LA transportation needs.

    J Baloun Reply:

    Correction, two or three underpass ramps. Cahill St. station has only one pedestrian underpass to serve the entire Silicon Valley.

    calwatch Reply:

    With the Triple Track project and BNSF’s Southern California Intermodal Gateway project, traffic on the BNSF Southern Transcon from LA to east of Fullerton will only go up, not less. The benefit is that the entire route will have three tracks and, eventually, will be grade separated from Fullerton to Downtown. This will increase flow and reduce delay substantially.

    Joey Reply:

    How many tracks would BNSF need if there weren’t any passenger trains to worry about? The current plan seems to be to have 2 tracks shared by HSR, Amtrak, and Metrolink OC line trains, and three shared by BNSF and 91 line trains. But that is all assuming that Metrolink’s (rather substandard) frequencies don’t change. Might it make sense to redesign the corridor for 4 dedicated passenger tracks and 2 dedicated freight tracks at some point in time?

    Nathanael Reply:

    Possibly. However, four tracks would only be needed from Fullerton to the point (south of Union Station) where the Alameda Corridor connects into the BNSF line. The rest is most likely going to be manageable with 3 tracks for a very long time.

    Joey Reply:

    Oceanside is close to SD, but Fullerton is also quite close to LA (only 3 stops in fact, but you could probably justify adding a few more). Honestly I think Irvine would probably provide the best trip flexibility. Or have intercity services connect with local services at both Oceanside and Irvine, providing a lot of trip flexibility without running mostly-empty commuter trains on long runs.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    There are two tracks through Irvine, and a passing siding just south of the station. THere is a third track just added at Laguna Niguel / Mission Viejo. I don’t know if the two 3-track sections are connected, but that can help with overtakes. Perhaps 4-tracking through the area from San Juan Capistrano to Tustin would be a great area for overtakes or cross platform connections. I like that, Joey.


    Joey Reply:

    Exactly. And this happens to be one of the places on the corridor where 3 or 4 tracks would fit easily.

  3. James in PA
    Oct 24th, 2012 at 23:14

    Is it too much to ask for the morning/evening Surliner to meet with the daily arrival and departure of the Coast Starlight two-day trip to Seattle?

    swing hanger Reply:

    If it’s scheduled to take passengers off the arriving Coast Starlight, it’s going to be waiting a long time often, I reckon.

    Ant6n Reply:

    That shouldn’t be a problem in one of the directions, though

    Nathanael Reply:

    The northbound Surfliner does connect with the northbound Coast Starlight, and the southbound Coast Starlight connects with the southbound Surfliner if the Coast Starlight is on time (or even an hour late).

    Winston Reply:

    I’d rather just see more frequent service because the Starlight isn’t called the Starlate for nothing.

  4. Donk
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 00:02

    I take the train between LA and Oceanside/Solana Beach maybe once/month. The Surfliner isn’t really an “express” train compared to Metrolink. Sure it is a bit faster, but you just catch the first train that leaves – it is isn’t like the Surfliner overtakes the Metrolink. Plus when you factor in the inevitable delays, the schedule is not really dependable anyway.

    The main benefit of Amtrak over Metrolink is that Amtrak has wireless. But it costs twice as much.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    AMT also has food service, but for a one to two hour trip, I usually try to take the Metrolink to save money.


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Agence Métropolitaine de Transport has food service?

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    I don’t know about them, but AMTrak does…


  5. Alon Levy
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 00:51

    If Metrolink starts providing this service, then the Surfliner should just be zapped, and its funding and equipment diverted to Metrolink. If there’s also room for express Metrolink service then it should be branded as Metrolink with identical tickets, just like with express commuter service from New York to Stamford (the nonstops are branded the same as the locals), New Brunswick (ditto), Hicksville, White Plains, etc.

    And before Adirondacker snarks about it, let me point out that I’m only suggesting this to begin with because they’re proposing for Metrolink to provide parallel service to the Surfliner. I’d say the same about the NEC if Metro-North went up to Boston or NJT down to Washington, but separate brands (as long as the ticket machines are compatible, FFS) are fine when the commuter trains only go as far as New Haven and Trenton.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’ve suggested it before myself and pointed out that Metrolink manages a better cost recovery.

    joe Reply:


    What are the implications?

    I’d like to see a plan and a hard commitment. What if MetroLink decides to not commit to service levels equal to Amtrak? We provide rail services for the public. It’s a public need that’s being met so I assume that public interest would continue to be the priority and not diffused by Metrolink’s greater responsibility.

    It’s a bonus that this shift can cherry pick away Amtrak routes help prove it’s not efficient. If Amteak’s role is to maintain services and successfully shift local routes to be integrated into larger public systems – then that’s a metric I’d like Amtrak to manage and get credit.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Metrolink is controlled by the same folks (minus NCTD) who now control the Surfliners (as of next October). If they won’t commit to equal service levels, the Amtrak service would have been reduced anyhow.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s a core vs. periphery thing. For Amtrak, the core is the NEC; anything else it doesn’t care much about. The LD trains provide some prestige and political support, but they’re not what Amtrak cares about either. In contrast, for a state or regional agency, LA-SD service would be core intercity rail, and so it would spend much more agency effort on making sure it works well.

    It has nothing to do with what you think I’m talking about. I strongly suspect something similar happens with privatized outfits in Japan. JR East’s cores are Tokyo regional trains and the Shinkansen, so it doesn’t care about commuter rail service in Niigata and Sendai; in contrast, JR Hokkaido’s core is Sapporo-area rail. And from what little I can glean there is much more JR ridership around Hokkaido than around Niigata and Sendai.

    jim Reply:

    I wouldn’t want to over-hypostatize Amtrak (corporations aren’t people, pace Nino), but yes, the NEC and the LD trains are Amtrak’s core business: they’re what Amtrak was set up for, they’re what Amtrak’s management most cares about. Commuter rail operations are probably the activity most on Amtrak’s fringe. At Mica’s hearing, Boardman said that Amtrak could well drop them.

    Amtrak’s role in the far western corridors (California and the Cascades) has been evolving towards being more like commuter rail operations over the past decade or so. The states now mostly own the rolling stock, and negotiate with the track owners (or even own much of the track). CCJPA and the Cascades maintain their rolling stock. Amtrak’s role is essentially contract operator, very similar to its role in commuter rail. And a contract operator can be replaced.

    jim Reply:

    The other difference with the NEC is that the Surfliners are subsidized. And by a slightly different group than subsidizes Metrolink. Having two differently subsidized carriers serve the same route is a recipe for political gamesmanship.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The Surfliner will be subsidized by the same folks as Metrolink and COASTER in the very near future.

    Jon Reply:

    I think this is precisely what’s going to happen. It always seemed odd to me that the CAHSR plan was to consolidate ACE, Capital Corridor and San Joaquin into a NorCal rail operator but leave the Surfliner as the sole intrastate Amtrak route. CAHSR want Amtrak California to disappear, and this is part of the plan.

    Someone in the LAist comments posted a link to the presentation: http://www.scribd.com/doc/111094285/Marketing-and-Sales-Update-September-2012-3

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The presentation tells me the following: Skip-stop service. Commuter schedules. Double-stop at platforms (for ADA, and because no level-platform boarding).

    Where do they find these people?

    Donk Reply:

    This has sort of happened before. I don’t know the details, but when Metrolink first started, they siphoned away lots of Amtrak’s business. I may be wrong but I think they also reduced the number of Amtrak trains.

    Tom McNamara Reply:


    Don’t forget that LA-SD is but one half of the route of the Surfliners. There’s still the question of what you do with the service that runs from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles. If Metro assumes control over that, well, you would be able to justify the same type of rolling stock or service that would LA-SD. So that would effectively mean keeping around some Amtrak equipment just to serve the northern leg of the Surfliner, or gutting it past Santa Barbara and running the dual level cars from Santa Barbara to Palmdale to Palm Springs to San Diego and all points in between.

    But there’s also an inherent jurisdictional problem. Even though the invisible hand of BART acts upon ACE, the Capitol Corridor, and San Joaquin service, BART is a multi-county entity that could expand to serve areas outside of Contra Costa, Alameda, and San Francisco Counties. Metro, as a special district limited to Los Angeles County itself, could never expand itself in present form to build support to changes in Surfliner or Metrolink service outside the county.

    But what you could have is an MTC-South be proposed to link all the Southern California counties together and to have Metro as an operator become trans-jurisdictional as well…..

    Joey Reply:

    Don’t forget that LA-SD is but one half of the route of the Surfliners.

    It happens to be the more densely populated half, and the half not owned by Union Pacific.

    blankslate Reply:

    It happens to be the more densely populated half, and the half not owned by Union Pacific.

    Beside the point. The point is that if you “zap” the Surfliner because Metrolink starts running from Ventura to San Diego, it opens the question of what becomes of rail service north of Ventura. The area doesn’t have to be equal in population density or ridership to make the question worth asking.

    Running Metrolink at least to Santa Barbara/Goleta could be viable and even lead to the long-awaited introduction of inbound commute service in the area. This has been a hot topic seemingly forever (it was the papers frequently when I lived there in the late 90s), since due to high housing costs there are quite a bit of in-commuters from Ventura/Oxnard and widening 101 is mired in endless controversy. I heard that the Surfliner was unable to take up the mantle because of funding rules that disallow them to run “commuter rail” service, which is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of, since thousands of people use Amtrak California services as “commuter rail” every day. If the route was given over to Metrolink that would solve that problem.

    SB-SLO is another question. Probably not territory that will ever see a Metrolink extension. Perhaps the Surfliner could be stripped down to the two trains per day per direction that go to SLO (a mini-Starlight, if you will). The Daylight would add additional service.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    At that point you might as well turn into into a multiple frequency Daylight.

  6. Joey
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 01:04

    Metrolink would be better off putting its resources into better service on the existing system. LA-SD is better served by an intercity (more or less uniform throughout day) schedule than a commute (peak heavy) schedule.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s not so much LA-SD that would be the purpose of the Metrolink service, but intermediates like Irvine-Solano Beach. And of course Metrolink does intend doing more off-peak service as funding, equipment, and slots are available.

    Joey Reply:

    Irvine-Solana Beach is still quite a long commute … is it unreasonable to think that the few people who actually want to do that wouldn’t be served adequately by a filled out (≥2tph) intercity schedule?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Irvine-Solano Beach, at least as of FY2005, was the #4 station pair for the Surfliner (behind LA-SD, LA-SOL, and LA-OSD). Make it easier and more affordable and I suspect you’d have an even larger number of riders.

    Joey Reply:

    Saying that it has (relatively) high ridership (which I don’t doubt) says nothing about the types of trips people are taking between them. Are they actually commute trips or does it just happen to be a popular intercity station pair?

    And assuming that you’d want to improve service and integrate fares anyway, is there really any benefit to extending additional peak-hour trips farther south even if some people are commuting?

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    Yes, perhaps Metrolink can serve Palm Springs better than duplicating existing transit options. The Sunset 3 times a week in the dark is not really a valid transportation option. While we are at it, get the Surfliners closer to a clockface schedule.


    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s more or less impossible to get Surfliners on a clockface schedule given the current arrangements. By the time you have accommodated Coaster and Metrolink schedules, single track in south OC and San Diego county, not to mention the one morning express, it’s surprising the slots that are left are as uniform as they are. As for Palm Springs, for that distance should Metrolink be the operator they would need to fit a small fleet of cars with different seat pitch, offer business class, (a couple of converted upper levels) and perhaps some refreshments. Unfortunately trolley service as in Europe cannot be done with this car type but a mini cafe on the mezzanine level next to a Business compartment might work.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The plan is still to double track the whole thing.

    Joey Reply:

    Palm Springs really falls more into intercity distance as well, not that service shouldn’t be provided there. What I really think Metrolink needs to do is focus on improving service on its existing network, especially the core formed by Chatsworth, Santa Clarita, San Bernardino, and Irvine. Service is infrequent and irregular on many parts of the core network, and more people would benefit from improving that part of the system rather than expanding outward. Not that this is anything new for US transit agencies … BART, NJT, MBTA, and others really seem to favor low ridership outward extensions even when core service leaves a lot of room for improvement.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes those wild and crazy people at NJTransit restored service to Hackettstown from Netcong over existing track a whole nine miles! With diesel trains! A few times a day in each direction! They are busy doing the same to Andover for 57 million dollars….

    Joey Reply:

    And they continue to try and push outward into sparsely populated areas while the core system suffers from severe capacity issues. Admittedly there’s not a huge amount that can be done until another Hudson crossing is done, but they could make important reliability improvements anyhow, which would improve congestion at least a little. For instance pedestrian improvements, increasing platform access particularly at busy stations and reducing dwell times, perhaps lengthening platforms to allow 16 car trains, installing high platforms, grade-separating flat junctions – Hunter comes to mind, and maybe Hudson interlocking, allowing trains to originate at Hoboken without crossing the northbound NEC track to get to Newark. Flat junctions impose a lot of schedule constrains on busy lines and cause cascading delays when even one train is a little late. Upgrading some of their older rolling stock would probably help too, in terms of passenger capacity, dwell times, and reliability.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:



    Ya ain’t gonna need to move more trains through Hunter or on the Raritan Valley line until there’s more capacity into Manhattan. Or on any other line for that matter. If ARC had been built the new bridges across the Hackensack would have been needed. Part of that project would have moved all of the Morris and Essex trains and the Montclair-Boonton trains, in normal operation, off the NEC.

    Trains originating in Hoboken can get to Newark quite easily without going onto the NEC. They go to Broad Street instead of Penn Station but they go to Newark. Not that there are a whole lot of people who want to get from Newark to Hoboken or vice versa. Most people who go to Hoboken are going to Hoboken to get on PATH. PATH goes to Newark and it’s a lot faster to just get on PATH in Newark than it is to go to Hoboken to do that.

    Joey Reply:

    On a side note, why was it exactly that they wanted to go with 3 tracks on a fixed bridge and 2 on a moveable bridge for the original Portal Bridge project? Like, as opposed to 4 tracks on a fixed bridge (or on two fixed bridges)?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The second bridge was pointed at where the new tunnels were going to be.

    Joey Reply:

    That still doesn’t explain why they wanted one fixed bridge and one moveable bridge, and five tracks in total.

    Nathanael Reply:


    Joey Reply:

    You’re telling me that there is something that was preventing them from building the bridge higher?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And how many riders are there at the bustling edge city of Andover?

    The Lackawanna Cutoff may be a great intercity line, but it’s a sucky commuter line.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They gotta start somewhere. It makes more sense to connect Andover to Port Morris than it does to connect Andover to Blairstown. It sucks if you work in Manhattan. Not so much if you work in one of the office parks strung out along I-287.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does anyone who works at the I-287 office parks ever take NJT? I don’t think any of those edge cities is even at the level of White Plains and Stamford, where a nontrivial (but still very low) percentage of workers take transit because it’s theoretically possible to walk to the office buildings from the train station.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes. There are shuttles just like there are shuttles at Stamford and Metropark. There’s even public buses like there are at Metropark.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Complicated interstate politics there. The state of NJ owns the route until the PA border. NJ Transit is NOT merely a commuter operator. It is the operator of ALL public transportation services controlled entirely by the state of New Jersey. There isn’t a bistate agency (like the one running PATCO or the one running PATH) for the Scranton-NJ route, and the Federal government has been very uninterested in funding new intercity rail lines. PA can’t spend money on tracks outside its borders and neither can the counties which control the track from Scranton to the border. So, for an intercity rail line, NJ Transit has to build “its half”.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree. Need LAUS run through tracks and quad track Redondo to Fullerton. Of course they are still working on triple….Lack of foresight/money

  7. trentbridge
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 09:00

    I don’t think Amtrak has enough rolling stock in the next three years to expand Surfliner service. Apparently Metrolink thinks it does. As soon as the Santa Margarita bridge replacement project is finished and the Sorrento to Miramar Phase One double-track completed – it should allow for more trains to run on this route.

  8. Walter
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 09:39

    There has been talk for a while now about (eventually) upgrading the Surfliner to a top speed of 110 mph. It would be good for the corridor, especially as HSR will eventually reach San Diego through the IE. The Surfliner would be as fast as driving, and probably faster when there is traffic.

    If this happens, it would fit in with Robert’s vision (and Amtrak’s prices). The Surfliner could run SD-LA and only stop at Solana, Oceanside, Irvine, and Anaheim or something and let Metrolink run as a slower, cheaper local train.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It would take way too long to respond to all of this but briefly:
    Chief problem with this corridor is lack of track capacity to run the kind of services contemplated, i.e. all stations locals and limited stop intercity.
    Second problem is management, 4 track owners between LA and San Diego, 3 passenger operators, a whole bunch of egos and xenophobes. NCTD hates everyone and has consistently voted 9-0 against the new JPA. NCTD bi-levels are incompatible with Metrolink bi levels (hotel voltage).
    Requirements: Double track throughout. Single passenger operator, preferably with a single car type (Metrolink has bids for a business class car from Rotem and maybe a cafe car), which would then allow the Surfliner cars to be redeployed to the Coast Daylight, San Joaquins etc.
    Trains should continue north of LAUS, at least to Burbank Airport or Chatsworth or maybe Sylmar, the rest to Goleta and SLO as now. And yes, sufficient frequency to connect with the Starlight, whenever it chooses to make an appearance.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    Gut feeling—

    Metro’s priority is that “all roads lead to Rome”, i.e. There is no through service from some place that could potentially bypass Union Station (except I guess, the Gold Line light rail?).

    Hence, the Surfliner is eliminated, but the Coast Daylight could make a comeback.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Que? Who said bypass LAUS? Make it a through station, which is being worked on.

  9. Michael
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 14:29

    What happens to the Coaster in all this? That seems to be missing from the discussion, or am I missing something?

    calwatch Reply:

    The plan is to swap out one of the Coaster slots for a Metrolink train. The presentation states that each agency would operate within their own territory, i.e. there would be a pause as the NCTD engineer and conductor switched with a SCRRA engineer and conductor. However, this eliminates waiting outside.

    Donk Reply:

    Maybe they should just slap a BART logo on all of these trains. Ring California!!!

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    [channeling John Kerry]… Actually NCTD’s ROW’s would be ideal for BART-trunk style system: http://goo.gl/maps/8W02i that utilized the same power delivery system for HSR.

    However, don’t worry, your sarcasm was not lost on me and it is quite funny.

  10. JJJ
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 14:44

    Both services can and will run at the same time.

    Amtrak is a premium service. Better seats, food, restrooms etc. Fares are demand based, not set every 2 years. Amtrak also offers wifi and a business class.

    Metrolink is for people who want to save money.

    Same as Amtrak between Boston and Providence vs commuter rail, or between NYC and Stamford, or DC and Baltimore.

    Michael Reply:

    The Coaster is the San Diego county service. Also, Metrolink and Coaster trains both have bathrooms.

    Again, what happens with the Coaster?

  11. Reality Check
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 15:54

    £1.3bn for those living on high-speed rail route is ‘attempt to buy off critics’
    Opponents of high-speed link between London and Birmingham condemn new compensation deal

    Today, the DfT published plans to buy more than 820 homes within 60m (197ft) of the route. It proposed to pay the unblighted value of the properties, as well as additional compensation of 10 per cent up to £47,000 and “reasonable” moving costs.

    People who live in the countryside – not in built-up areas such as North London – that are between 60m and 120m away from the track will be entitled to the full worth of their homes. Residents who refuse to accept the offers would have their homes seized under compulsory purchase orders. The unblighted values will be assessed by independent surveyors appointed by the DfT, which envisages that it could pay out £1.3bn. Simon Burns, the Rail Minister, said yesterday: “No major infrastructure project on this scale can be built without some impact on local communities. But I am determined to do everything I can to minimise the effect of HS2 on those closest to the line. We have developed the right compensation package, providing absolutely the right support for those affected, while at the same time protecting the interests of taxpayers.”

    But Joe Rukin, of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “We see this as a cynical, uncosted attempt to buy the opposition, and it will not work.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Nye Bevan would be proud.

    Reality Check Reply:


    Derek Reply:

    I don’t know why developers don’t compensate the inconvenienced more often.

    joe Reply:

    Payoffs are Standard Operating Procedure in PAMPA cities.

    Sanford Hospital expansion cost 3.5 Million to Menlo Park for “traffic mitigation” .
    Facebook’s payoffs to Antherton and Menlo Park.

    Sometimes it’s traffic reducing like $10+ M for connecting the baylands to the hills “behind stanford” with bike trails.

    Or offering all employees free transit passes and charging pretty expensive parking to reduce car use. ~$9 per day with a day to day sticker.

  12. John Bacon
    Oct 25th, 2012 at 16:54

    Extending a commuter train’s run beyond its usual overnight storage site in Oceanside to San Diego and returning in time to meet the present morning northbound schedule from Oceanside will raise the total occupied seat miles per car per year; a dismally low number which is the bane of most commuter agencies trying to raise equipment utilization rates in order to lower financial deficits. Caltrain’s rolling stock utilization surely improved with a similar approach: the Gilroy Extension especially before the South San Jose 101 freeway widening project. Caltrain’s unusually high reverse commuter rate no doubt raises rolling stock utilization rates far above most commuter agencies except for subway systems where off peak service quality doesn’t collapse outside of the rush hour.
    Converting Caltrain to an EMU entirely grade separated no paid personnel required on every train and running a 9 train per hour minimum train service schedule, two expresses and a local every 20 minutes, would provide 10 minute headway express service to the 10 busiest stations and double the average speed for most passengers traveling at least 17 miles north of Palo Alto.
    BART’s mid-weekday ridership on 16 trains per hour connecting 10 stations southeast of downtown SF appears to be at least 2,000 per hour. Caltrain runs one or two mid-weekday trains per hour carrying usually not over 300 riders per hour. Could Caltrain raise their mid-weekday and weekend ridership to at least 5 to 10 times present levels? Due to saturation effects and good present service peak-hour service quality comparisons initial rush-hour patronage increases probably won’t even double although the proportion of reverse commuters probably would rise significantly. The TCRP report 95 Chapter 9 on Transit Scheduling and Frequency emphasizes that high income riders are especially responsive to transit speed and frequency improvements. Caltrain commuters surely fit that description.
    Could Caltrain have at least a shot at covering all operating expenses from fares? (Note that 10 single car single deck EMU’s should weigh less than one 5-car diesel Caltrain.) Most commuter rail agencies average a 50% fare-box recovery ratio. But the Vancouver, BC automatically driven Skytrain has covered 100% of operating costs since 2001. However nearby low operating cost water-driven electric generators and Linear induction Traction Motors are factors that cut their operating costs. Exclusively LIM traction motor systems do have higher total capital costs than conventional traction motor systems; their track-ways are expensive.
    Linear induction motors might be used to supplement CHSR standard HSR traction motors in order to climb a steep, for a railway, moderate cost Tejon Pass crossing. Tejon is the only pass on the entire projected 800 mile CHSR built out system that cannot be economically crossed with any existing or planned 200+ mph HSR train without expensive rolling stock modifications or extensive tunneling. Only 2% of the 800 mile system would need the expensive LIM track but if the on-board-rolling stock LIM sections are lighter and significantly lower-in-cost than modified standard traction motors this approach could result in significantly lower total system track and rolling stock capital costs.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But the Vancouver, BC automatically driven Skytrain has covered 100% of operating costs since 2001.

    No, it hasn’t.

    John Bacon Reply:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    “The cost of operating SkyTrain in 2008, with an estimated 73.5 million boardings, was $83 million.[citation “needed][29][30]
    With a $2.50 to $5.00 adult fares a $83 million operating cost for 73.5 million boardings with an estmated 5% fare evasion rate suggests SkyTrain operating costs are covered by fares.
    A further entry says the Agency TransLink runs an operating surplus maintaining other types of transit services such as buses plus roads and bridges with the help of taxes etc.
    “To cover this, TransLink draws mostly from transit fares, advertising ($360 million in 2008) and tax ($262 million from fuel taxes and $298 million from property taxes in 2008), funds which are also shared with bus services, roads and bridge maintenance, and other infrastructure and services..”
    “While TransLink has run surpluses for operating costs since 2001…”

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, so what you’re saying is that Skytrain covers 100% of its operating costs from fares on connecting buses. (In Vancouver, unlike in certain American backwaters, transfers are free, and monthly tickets are cheap and judging by how many people flash them on the buses most people use them.)

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Alon – with 70 million (paid) boardings a year and only $83 million in operating costs with the lowest single adult fare at $2.50 and the highest at $5, it seems likely that they do cover operating costs, even taking into account connecting buses. I know Jarrett is always harping on how accounting for individual lines is difficult – do you know anyone who’s tried to tease it all out for SkyTrain? (I remember asking Jarrett once, because I’ve heard that SkyTrain is operationally profitable, and all I got was his standard “you can’t calculate subsidies because of connecting buses” line.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Anecdotally, when I ride the bus most people have monthly tickets rather than single tickets, and very few pay in cash. The price of an unlimited 1-zone monthly is $81. Very few people use 3-zone tickets on SkyTrain, since only a handful of stations are in Zone 3.

    The other thing you’re missing is that even if you fully apportion fares between trains and buses, the train doesn’t get the full fare. It’s not just the network effects Jarrett is talking about, but also the free-transfer effect. If you transfer from a bus to SkyTrain, SkyTrain isn’t making $2.50 or $3.75 off of you unless you use US road network accounting in which all fares go to trains/gas taxes go to national and state roads.

    For what it’s worth, the UBC extension alternatives analysis claims $7 million a year in operating cost reductions, though that’s from an already lower-cost base on the 99-B. Make of that what you will.

    Donk Reply:

    But I like being the only one on the Metrolink train from Oceanside to OC.

    James M. in Irvine Reply:

    What amazes me is they use a 6-car trainset for that! Why not run a shorter train for all those empty seats?


    Paul Druce Reply:

    Train turns. It may be fairly empty on that particular run, but on the next run or the run thereafter it may be standing room only even with six cars. It’s more efficient to simply haul an extra car or two than to putz around with lengthening and shortening it for every run.

  13. John Bacon
    Oct 26th, 2012 at 14:38

    @Alon Levy
    The relevance of the Vancouver Skytrain’s unusual design to the subject of this blog, the shape of the most economically-effective form of California rail transit possible, is the SkyTrain’s low per train operation hour cost. The ability to design fast, frequent, and efficient rail transit service is particularly important for the viability of a regional service that provides fairly long distance rail commutes (24 mile average on the SF Peninsula) to an economically well off customer base. Especially if passing tracks are to be provided at most stations numerous trains skipping lightly used stations can provide freeway average running speeds for most passengers. For example an EMU capable of 110 mph, 25 kw/tonne, 3.0 mph/second, peak speed, power, and acceleration rates with a 2 second rate of change in acceleration delay plus a 25 second dwell time at each station and a 3.3% overall schedule pad will be able to travel between SJ Diridon and 22nd Street with 9 intermediate stops at an average speed of 72 mph. (Note: During 1972 BART operated a 28 mile MacArthur to Fremont 28 mile 10 intermediate stop schedule taking 34 minutes. An 80 mph, 3 mph/second train peak speed and acceleration limited train delayed 270 seconds due to stopping at 10 intermediate station with a 3.3% schedule pad will require a 17 kw/tonne peak power capability.)
    Surplus to current operations EMU’s not requiring an operator could be distributed on a fifth track for storage along the center of a FSSF active transit line ready to instantly fill-in any real-time service gaps that may emerge. This approach will sustain a high degree of service reliability in spite of few operating personnel along the line able to initiate fast recovery from less than perfect maintenance or passengers delaying door closings.

    J Baloun Reply:




    SkyTrain uses moving-block automatic train control which allows for very short headways and facilitates rapidly changing capacity according to demand. Intrusions onto the tracks are detected by an alarm system fitted throughout. Over the sections carrying both lines, peak frequency is every two minutes; the single line lowest frequency is every eight minutes.

    end quote

    Within physical limits, well future technology allow reduced headway on a variety of types of existing railways?

    jonathan Reply:

    Moving-block has been deployed in limited metropolitan railways with highly homogenous traffic (spees): Vancouver SkyTrain; London Docklands light rail; and the London Underground Jubilee Line.

    (in other words, it’s _much easier_ if you only have a single vehicle type, a single braking curve, a single acceleration curve, which covers all traffic on the line).

    Deployment of Moving-block for ETCS Level 3 (9where it must deal with a large range of: rain speeds acceleration, braking curves) s best regarded as a research effort-in-progress.

    Okay, this is a slight oversimplificatoin; but I’m willing to discuss it with anyone who can point out the things I’ve glossed over. ;)

    Don’t ask me, ask Joern Pachl. Or Clem, who also has Pachl’s reference book.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The RER A has moving-block signaling on its central segment, with fixed-block signaling on the branches. The rolling stock it uses is not uniform, because of the mixture of single-level and bilevel trains, though it’s possible that the acceleration and deceleration curves are similar enough that the trains can be mixed.

    Eric Reply:

    I don’t understand why train control has to be so hard. We are moving towards cars that can drive themselves on a two-dimensional road, but we have no way of controlling trains on a one-dimensional track?

    swing hanger Reply:

    One important factor- trains are much harder to stop than individual road vehicles, and require more braking space.

    joe Reply:

    Yes And

    It’s expensive to build safety critical systems.

    Self driving cars are prototypes and less expensive to build – not safe to sell. IMHO Google will have patents but not a self-driving car product.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Now that ETCS/ATC/WXYZ is in operation, train control isn’t difficult. Americans are difficult.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    First, the Canada Line, which is more compatible with conventional rail, has higher operating costs.

    Second, despite what some people will tell you, most of the cost of rail operations is not the driver. The driver adds a few percentage points to the average cost. The driver is a larger percentage of the marginal cost to run trains, but so what? Distances on the Peninsula are much longer than on the Expo Line, so there’s no need for Vancouver’s very high frequency, which means there’s no need to spend extra capital to reduce marginal operating costs so much.

    Third, 3.3% pad is phenomenally low. In Switzerland they use 7%.

    Fourth, you’re assuming away speed restrictions due to curves.

    John Bacon Reply:

    @ Alon Levy: A “ 3.3% pad is phenomenally low. In Switzerland they use 7%.”
    One of the most frustrating aspects of the transit design proposals advanced in this forum are numerous suggestions for shaping California Transit in a way similar to some well-run system in Europe or elsewhere in cases where California rail transit conditions are far different: Here are some examples:
    (1) Switzerland’s extensive curve-ridden legacy network recently upgraded with double track sections in series with single track sections combined with the desire to provide reliable hourly timed transfers with connecting trains throughout most of the country makes close schedule adherence particularly important. A late train on a line with numerous single track sections can potentially delay opposing traffic far more severely than a late train on a continuously double track system is likely to impede other trains coming from either direction. Also a train whose normal operating speed is largely constrained by the line’s maximum safe operating speed restrictions along curves is not able to make-up for delays by increasing speed. (The fact that side thrust is proportional to the square of the speed and the absurdly narrow 1.35 m track gauge in general use sharply limits safe maximum speeds.) A substantial schedule pad make sense in the Swiss Alps; not along California’s multiple track-ways unless you are on a single-track line crossing the Sierra Mountains.
    (2) A single locomotive engineer’s wage is certainly a small proportion of the cost of running a 490 ton Caltrain diesel 5-car train. But if that train weight, starting and stopping every 2.2 miles being a substantial and largely irreducible cost driver, were divided into 9 single car EMU trains with a motormen on every run then train driver wages become a significant proportion of total operating costs. The greater the number of trains the agency can afford to operate per hour the greater the proportion of train service offered should be express runs. This is a sensible approach given Caltrains uneven ridership among stations, the considerable total run distance and high peak speeds possible, and a customer base especially sensitive to service quality in a competitive travel market during non-rush-hour periods. If 2/3 of those trains skipped half the intermediate stops then the total train weight subject to complete intermediate station stops and starts would be cut by 1/3.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The 7% pad is used in Zurich, hardly a city of single-tracking.

    And the energy cost of regional rail is also negligible when the tracks are electrified. What’s not negligible is providing passing segments to allow the local and express tph count you’re positing.

    John Bacon Reply:

    There are other transit service cases where large schedule pads can be helpful in order to maintain constant short headways between transit units. Old-style streetcar and bus lines with 8 possible but rarely all called-on stops per mile by each run produces inherently unstable travel rates. A transit unit operator can bring a late run that is making far more than normal stops back to schedule if the line has a substantial schedule pad. I have done this while driving trolley buses on 3 minute headway streets between college semesters.
    Performance programmed computer operated trains power sourced from an electric grid on a limited access right-of-way, a common practice in major urban subways, will have the same run time for all trains between any station pair. Only 4.4 seconds running time per stop will be added for each stop for each 10% reduction in peak traction power available on a 20 kw/tonne 100 mph peak power and speed EMU. Any reduction in acceleration performance would be a rare occurrence because a performance programmed traction control system will automatically command the remaining functioning traction motors to work harder thereby maintaining scheduled train performance.
    Controlling dwell times: At capacity constraining stations, such as BART’s westbound Embarcadero Station platform at 5:10 pm flat panel displays indicating not only which train is arriving but which cars have the most room and will be allowed the most open gate time for boarding. (The pressure in each car’s air suspension system can sense the passenger load on each car.) A firm controlled access platform-edge barrier could promptly cut-off further passenger access to exceptionally crowded train sections at times when the next train to arrive is being blocked by a stationary train engaged in an extended loading period.
    A major source of subway train delays is from fast-moving-passengers blocking door closings while waiting for a slower companion to arrive. A firm platform edge barrier could prevent successful execution of this tactic thus precipitating a decline in the frequency of this practice.
    In summary schedule padding is useful tactic in some circumstances but can and should be minimized whenever possible. Extended padding should not be copied just because some very successful transit systems, and Zurich surely is effective, happen use this scheduling approach. Less competitive speeds and more equipment and crews for a given service frequency are the price for indiscriminant use of extensive schedule padding. “You can’t park your car here” say residents of Zurich. Since 50 to 70% of local trips are made their by local transit is that because of schedule padding?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    A firm platform edge barrier could prevent successful execution of this tactic thus precipitating a decline in the frequency of this practice.

    How many passenger’s appendages do you cut off before the concept gets through the passenger’s addled brains?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    In any case, why not just have more firm train doors…?

    I don’t know how much door power varies in various cities, but on the trains around here, getting caught in a door is a decidedly unpleasant experience—to a degree that I think is sufficient to put off most people from doing it intentionally—and unless you’re a body-builder, you can’t hold them open…

    swing hanger Reply:

    It also considered a minor crime, if done intentionally to stop a train- a public prosecutor was reprimanded and demoted recently for doing such on the Den’en Toshi Line with his briefcase.

  14. John Bacon
    Oct 29th, 2012 at 18:55

    A firm platform edge barrier in the locked position should consist of a broad soft concave surface in order to impede a solid portion of the human anatomy such as a person’s knees yet light enough to walk briskly through when a an un-crowded open train door beckons. The BART fare gate design is a good start. The idea is find a way to quickly close a loading train’s doors and move ahead when a following train is waiting between stations for his leader to move out of the station.
    There is considerable evidence that when passenger loading per car approaches the maximum tolerable loading density for a particular city dwell times grow swiftly enough to cancel out any growth in line capacity due to more passengers per train. Further rises in maximum passenger throughput per hour on a single track must come from moving more cars through the station by lengthening trains or shortening close-up and dwell times.

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