Save the Amtrak Cascades!

Mar 31st, 2015 | Posted by

One of the nation’s federally recognized high speed rail corridors is the Pacific Northwest corridor, running from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon. That route already has a successful passenger rail service, the Amtrak Cascades, and both Washington and Oregon have been investing in new tracks and trainsets to provide faster and more frequent service.

Ugly!

But that may all come crashing to a halt if Oregon decides to stop funding its portion of the route. Reports swirled over the weekend that Oregon might defund its part of the Amtrak Cascades, which includes the Portland to Eugene leg of the service. (Washington State funds trips from Vancouver BC to Portland via Seattle.) Here’s the details:

Amtrak’s Cascades route carries the most passengers of any of the railroad’s services outside of California and the Northeast Corridor. According to ODOT, it will cost just over $28 million to keep the line from shutting down later this year….

Passenger rail supporters said they are closely tracking the progress of House Bill 5040. In it, ODOT is asking the legislature for $10.4 million to complete the $28.1 million funding package. They already have two-thirds of that in place.

“The issue is, removing the possibility of continuing these trains breaks the links there,” Leap said. “It breaks the connectivity that ODOT has worked hard to install.”

But KOIN 6 News found out the current proposed budget, as it is written, includes just $5 million for all passenger rail.

If ODOT only gets $5 million for rail, that’s not enough to keep the Talgos operating south of Portland Union Station. No wonder activists are – rightly – up in arms.

Oregon legislators are trying to calm fears:

Democratic Representative David Gomberg, who co-chairs the budget committee that writes ODOT’s budget, said, “I don’t know anybody here that wants to shut down the program. But we’re looking at the total dollars involved.”

Democrats in Salem are apparently trying to find ways to increase the farebox recovery rate, wanting to spend fewer dollars per passenger. That’s fine, but the best way to do that is to actually spend more money – to provide faster, more frequent service along the route.

One of the challenges is that after recently changing the timetables, ridership on the Oregon segment of the Cascades dropped by 15%. Of course, gas prices dropped dramatically during that same time, so I would not be too quick to declare a crisis. But no matter the cause, there is no justification at all for the Oregon legislature to even threaten to cut back funding for rail.

Oregon rail advocates are taking the threat seriously and mobilizing to save the Cascades – and they’re right to do so. As AORTA, the brilliantly-named Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates points out, the Cascades is a tiny fraction of ODOT’s overall budget:

The 2011-13 budget for all of the Oregon Department of Transportation was about $5 billion — billion with a “b.” The $10.4 million to operate passenger rail service is a tiny portion, about two-tenths of 1 percent (0.21) of the ODOT total.

It doesn’t make any sense to haggle over this amount of money. Oregon would do better to start figuring out how to invest in improving service. Right now there are two trains a day connecting Portland to Eugene, making the 110-mile trip in about 2.5 hours. The trains depart PDX at 6AM and 6PM, which isn’t bad but doesn’t provide a whole lot of options for people who need more flexibility. Adding more trains and investing in new tracks to allow for faster speeds would help bring down the long-term operating cost – something Washington State has been able to accomplish.

If high speed rail is ever going to come to the Pacific Northwest, it will need to be built upon a successful Amtrak Cascades service (if not in exactly the same route alignment). Oregon would be dealing a big blow to hopes for Northwest HSR if they defunded the Amtrak Cascades. Let’s hope wiser heads prevail and they fully fund train operations – and start planning for improvements.

  1. joe
    Mar 31st, 2015 at 20:48
    #1

    Confederate bullying. Interstate travel is a federal responsibility and this state by state bulkshit makes it difficult to provide full-service for the system.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Sorry Joe, but this is more about States not wanting to pay Amtrak’s cost structure.

    Federal transportation policy provides funding to the States who then decide what to do with it…interstate highways…Amtrak services…etc…etc.

    Recently, Congress wanted the States to pay a greater share of the cost for Amtrak’s state supported services, so they raised their prices and helped out the federal budget at the expense of state ones. Indiana and California have already had their showdowns, and now Oregon might be the one to actually push back and demand more for their money…

    joe Reply:

    that’s a confederate governance. you don’t see the interstate highways managed this way or the waterways. Each state can chose to neglect their part of the interstate system.

    it will fail and all the Amtrak haters can rejoice that the system died.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    And it was a Democratic Congress that passed this legislation. Ugh.

    joe Reply:

    suckered into playing fizbin – a made up game where the gop make the rules as they go.

    The plus side is the cheapskate states have to stfu about Amtrak while taking services. they have to pay to play. The down side is interstate rail is screwed by the weakest link.

    In CA I have mixed feelings about shifting work to the counties. The ones that want to cede are the biggest money sinks. make them cost share to attract state funds.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    No Joe, this is a *federal* system of governance.

    The State (in this case Oregon) doesn’t own the right of way and with rail service doesn’t even own the trainsets necessarily. They hire Amtrak as a contractor to run their gee whiz service who uses what grandfathered access they have in Class I track to make things a reality.

    Each State by contrast owns every inch of Interstate Highway within its borders and gets a check from
    USDOT to spend as they see fit if they meeting air quality targets.

    Remember Robert’s post about Scotland not so long ago? Same story here. Why does Portland want to share its very localized prosperity with its client kingdoms up stream along the Williamette when Washington State is on the hook for the Seattle to Portland segment?

    Yes, it’s a feudal arrangement, but it’s happening all over the country as some areas recover from the recession and others stay buried…

    joe Reply:

    it cannot be federal and feudal model at the same time. pick one.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    -Sigh-

    The relationship, Joe, , between States and DC is *federal* and formal. The relationship between various regions within States is *feudal* and informal.

    joe Reply:

    relationship between states is governed by federal law.
    within a state is county and state law.

    regions are what you draw on a map. arbitrary.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Exactly. States as a whole have to abide by set rules when sparring with each other and Washington DC.

    Eugene, on the other hand is pretty much at Portland’s mercy if the Legislature decides to end the Cascades at Oregon City.

  2. Joey
    Mar 31st, 2015 at 22:29
    #2

    Who approved that awful design for the cab cars anyway?

    Eric M Reply:

    Talgo has had some pretty awful designs.

    Lewellan Reply:

    There were 2 built at the Wisconsin plant, both now running the Cascades. American engineering is more important than looks. The cabs cannot stand on their single 2-axle bogie; connection to trainset is necessary, seemingly an advanced design, made in the USA. The cabs thus stand on their ‘tiptoes’ without the connection; nicknamed “Tootsie” and “Toots”, a pair of remarkably well-built locomotive, possibly in a class of its own. The Portland-Eugene segment needs branding and a campaign.
    The little train that could. Thomas the Tank. Toots and Tootsie.

    You’d think Gov Walker conservatives would appreciate innovation, even as smart ass progressives line up to complain about style. Style sentimentality undermined the Columbia River Crossing bridge design; in 2011 the first CRC bridge design didn’t survive 1 month of ‘peer review’ before wide rejection as “structurally unsound” excessive ornamental weight. Wow! A year later, river clearance issues condemn ‘double-deck’ design; who knew? The Ports certainly, Bill Wyant who just watched Hanjin leave and giant propane tank farms move in. Anyway, conservative business brokers are vulnerable at the moment. Oregon rejected another coal barge terminal application downriver.
    Washington DOTs and agencies bend over for any bully profiting from dirty resource extraction.

    Alan Reply:

    It’s the butt-ugliest thing I’ve ever seen on rails. It’s like they were trying to replicate the Milwaukee Road’s “beaver tail” observations, but all they had to go on was a child’s crayon sketch…

    Lewellan Reply:

    When the Cascades Talgo reaches 125mph its top speed, these push/pull cabs
    could bookend with Talgo XXI locomotives running dual-mode.
    The Talgo cabs are aerodynamic enough to be beautiful.
    Their windshield probably offers good visability.
    What’s so beautiful about a pointy bullet train?

    Alan Reply:

    There’s nothing aerodynamic about a design that presents a nearly flat front to the air. Ask yourself why aircraft are not designed that way.

    The paint scheme highlights the design errors when it should be trying to blend in.

    The HSR trains look like they were designed by people who know something about aerodynamics and “curb appeal”.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Aerodynamics are important at higher speeds. By the time Washington and Oregon are contemplating something more than 110 MPH the locomotives will have been retired.

    EJ Reply:

    That’s still not an excuse for looking like a UPS truck on rails.

    Clem Reply:

    Reminds me of Mater, in the Cars movie. Needs gap teeth on the front.

    EJ Reply:

    Maybe that was the idea? “The kids will LOVE it!”

    Lewellan Reply:

    One of the other car characters rather than Mater would make a better comparison.
    Mater was a junkyard truck. Toots and Tootsie are marvels of engineering, though certainly not gold-plated Cadillacs, the most overrated GM junk.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    UPS trucks are really cheap to build and very very durable.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s as if someone told them to imagine every possible shade of animal scat as their color palette…

    swing hanger Reply:

    The design is a child of FRA regulations- see those two massive columns inside the cab? Those are collision posts- no way you can have something even remotely streamlined when you have those sticking up right where the driver would sit.

    Joey Reply:

    I buy that it played a role, but it can’t be the whole story. The (FRA) locomotive at the other end of the train doesn’t look half as ugly.

    Gag Halfrunt Reply:

    The tooling costs for the locomotives were spread over a production run larger than two. American rolling stock designers obviously also have more experience of working within FRA regulations.

    Zorro Reply:

    From what a friend told Me, the end pictured isn’t even powered, the other end is an F59PHI, you can see that and another pic Here and Here.
    Both pics are not mine, so I can not take credit for either pic.

    Emmanuel Reply:

    Agreed. It boggles the mind how any authority could approve these trains and actually pay for it. I think the appearance of a train definitely affects if people want to use it as well.

  3. les
    Mar 31st, 2015 at 22:55
    #3

    They don’t need feds for this. The question is do they invest in extending WES to Salem (29 miles) or invest in more Cascades train sets and improve the average 44 mph speed? Currently there are 6 Coach Buses running daily in addition to the 3 Cascade/Amtrak to Eugene from Portland.
    If they were concerned with Eugene to Seattle and beyond then definitely upgrade Cascade line but I wonder if that is the case.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/03/commuter_rail_to_salem_waldo_l.html

    Oregon city 37,000
    Springfield 60,000/Eugene 160,000
    Salem 160,000
    Albany 52,000

    les Reply:

    Current parallel stretches:

    WES 27 mins beaverton to wilsonville 3 intermediate stops 14.6 miles 1800 boardings
    Cascades 21 mins portland to oregon city 0 stops 13.3 miles < 100 boardings

    They need to use WES extension money for upgrading the Amtrak tracks south from Oregon City and run WES down these tracks to Salem (is this politically possible? I'm not sure who owns the two sets of tracks) and then add a couple additional Cascade train sets from Eugene to Portland.

    Anandakos Reply:

    It may be “politically possible”, but it’s not “geometrically possible”. WES runs on the old Oregon Electric line which approaches Salem from the west side of the freeway. Amtrak uses the SP/UP line to the east of the freeway.

    And ne’er the twain shall meet, at least not north of Keizer where they run alongside each other for about a mile.

    And to what “WES extension money” are you referring. The wide consensus is that WES was a mistake; nobody wants to extend it, especially to double its length for a few hundred riders a day from Salem.

  4. Jerry
    Mar 31st, 2015 at 23:10
    #4

    ” ODOT said the two daily round-trip trains between Portland and Eugene are operating at around 30 percent capacity. One morning train averages fewer than 30 riders per day. The agency said ridership totals in 2014 were also affected by increased bus competition and low gasoline prices.”

    So is the problem just between Portland and Eugene and the fewer than 30 riders a day?
    And would The Cascades continue to operate between Portland and north to Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia?
    And does the Coast Starlight have a significant number of passengers between Portland and Eugene?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    And does the Coast Starlight have a significant number of passengers

    No.

    Joe Reply:

    6 AM and 6 PM trains.

    Not enough to be competitive with driving and bus service.

    Joey Reply:

    The Coast Starlight is never going to be competitive with anything but oxcarts.

    Eric Reply:

    Indeed, the only reason I think anyone could possibly care about this is that 1) they’re a foamer, or 2) having any rail service on this route is necessary to keep the ROW available for rail service in the future which might actually be useful.

    I don’t know if 2) is accurate, but I’ve heard it suggested re transcontinental Amtrak routes.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Portland-Salem-Eugene is a good corridor for low-speed intercity rail, and if there’s HSR from Portland north, it’s a good corridor for electrified through-service. Eugene isn’t a big city, but it’s big enough to fill a two-hour train to Portland every hour. Portland’s the same size as Stockholm; Eugene is about half the size of Malmö, but it’s also way closer to Portland than Malmö is to Stockholm, well within easy day trip range.

    joe Reply:

    Eugene has http://uoregon.edu and the 5th largest airport in the PNW.

    Joey Reply:

    There aren’t very many large airports in the Pacific Northwest.

    joe Reply:

    oh really. Seattle Portland Spokane are three and Eugene is five.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Small ponds make the fish look big.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    As someone who lived the first 24 years of her life in Oregon, no one considers Mahlon Sweet to be a major airport.

    Joey Reply:

    Seattle and Portland are really the only big ones (hence “aren’t very many…”)

    Michael Reply:

    Using Google Earth Jet Bridge Analysis (just invented by me):

    Reno – 23
    Spokane – 14
    Fresyes! – 6
    Eugene – 5

    PDX and SEA have too many jet bridges to count. Must be big. Need to upgrade my lazy software to confirm.

    datacruncher Reply:

    Jet bridge counting does not necessarily correlate to aircraft gates or passenger traffic.

    For example:
    Burbank – 0

    Additionally, smaller airports see smaller aircraft which cannot always use a jet bridge. Why pay to install extra jet bridges that are not needed.

    Then there is the concept of “If you build it”. Not uncommon for an airport to be overbuilt in hopes of attracting more service and impressing passengers.

    Change your software to also recognize the painted markings for aircraft parking positions on the ramp. That will help account for non-jet bridge equipped gates at airports such as Eugene, Fresno, Burbank, etc.

    Best info though is simply passenger boarding information.
    http://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/passenger_allcargo_stats/passenger/media/preliminary-cy13-commercial-service-enplanements.pdf

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Better still is downloading the T-100 database directly into Excel and creating a Pivot Table.

    EJ Reply:

    That’s why Amtrak operates 5 daily buses between the University of Oregon and Portland.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The University of Oregon is about the same size as Lund University.

    Donk Reply:

    You got any more Oregon-Sweden analogies for us? Who is the Oregon analog of Dolph Lundgren?

    joe Reply:

    Lingdonberry or huckleberry

    flowmotion Reply:

    Scanning wikipedia, it appears to be Tonya Harding.

    Anandakos Reply:

    No, no, no. Tonya is a local talent here in Vantucky.

    EJ Reply:

    I’m pretty sure Alon and Adirondacker are wikipedia search-bots that achieved sentience.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please tell me more about Alon and Adirondacker are wikipedia search-bots that achieved sentience.

    EJ Reply:

    Just winding you up. But c’mon, how interesting or useful is it really to hear endlessly “X city in North America is like Y city in some other part of North America, or in Europe! Because I checked wikipedia and they have about the same population! Therefore they have similar transportation needs!”

    Unless you’re going to actually make a case that two cities or transportation corridors are analogous, beyond some bare-bones stats that anyone can get from wikipedia, what’s really the point?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m sliding in an unspoken assumption, which I’ve sort of defended before and will defend more explicitly again (I can put it in my queue of “things to write about on my blog,” actually): intercity transportation volumes depend on city size and on the distance between the cities, but not on the cities’ built form. It’s based on admittedly weak evidence, since I only have numbers for HSR ridership on individual city pairs in Japan, Spain, and France, so while I’m fairly certain that Madrid’s weaker transit usage than Tokyo’s doesn’t depress AVE ridership, I don’t actually have numbers down to the anemic transit usage of non-New York American cities.

    The broader point I’m making is that good intercity rail can succeed in much smaller cities than LA and SF. No, it’s not going to be HSR unless it’s on the way to a larger city, but it’s possible to run a good low-speed intercity rail network, with high electrification rates (especially in the Pacific Northwest, which has cheap hydro power), reasonable average speeds, hourly frequencies, etc.

    The Pacific Northwest’s actually a pretty good region for low-speed rail, because its population distribution is linear, which makes it easy to run service. The primary problem HSR has in that region, as you can see if you look at the Cascadia HSR website referenced downthread, is hilly in just the wrong locations, forcing HSR to use long tunnels; the plan on that website has a tunnel of about 40 km in the Seattle built-up area. Low-speed rail doesn’t have to deal with this.

    Sweden is generally a good model for US rail services for another reason, though: it has heavy freight rail traffic and low population density, with some mainlines passing through remote locations. As a result, there’s an ETCS version that’s specifically designed to deal with this situation. In Europe south of Scandinavia, the lines in the remote areas are low-traffic branches, so the standard ETCS 2 is only built for high throughput using installations that are only feasible in relatively dense areas. But in Sweden, as in the US, they have a lot of freight traffic, which requires signaling that can be installed at low per-km cost while maintaining reasonable frequency on single track; hence, there’s ERTMS Regional. A lot of the “we can’t do this here” helplessness displayed by American railroad managers about ETCS is actually already resolved because Sweden has largely the same signaling needs as the US. So it matters that Sweden has tilting 200 km/h trains on existing lines, even in Norrland.

    EJ Reply:

    Interesting analysis – while I think the points about Sweden are well-taken, I really have difficulty with the idea that you can simply extrapolate performance of inter-city rail down to, as you say the “anemic transit usage of non-New York American cities.”

    No doubt you could dramatically increase the usage of, say the LA-SD Pacific Surfliner if you increased its frequency and got its speed up to the 100-125 mph range typical of non-HSR European regional rail (for example, if you could get its average speed, including stops, to 80 mph, you could do SD-LAUS in 90 minutes, which is about what CHSRA is proposing with their circuitous route through the IE). It’d likely even be worth the billions it would take to fully double-track the line, tunnel under some of the worst bottlenecks, electrify it, etc. But unless transit availability and usage increases dramatically at both ends (as well as at intermediate stations), I have a hard time picturing it capturing anything like the market share that regional rail enjoys in more transit-connected parts of the world.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Enough to fill a bus every two hours if that.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2013/09/boltbus_expands_portland_servi.html

    There’s a lovely untolled Interstate between the the two and it’s easy to park in Portland.

    Jerry Reply:

    “Riders who take eight trips on BoltBus are eligible for a free one-way ticket trip.”

    Eric Reply:

    The difference is that Stockholm and Malmo are built for transit while Salem, Eugene, and yes Portland too are built for sprawl.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Stockholm is built for transit, although its CBD has a grand total of five high-rise-ish buildings. Malmö I think is mostly built for economic depression and hate crimes.

    Portland is built for sprawl, but it loves pretending it’s this ecological smart city. It even has the most important piece of transit every city should want: a mixed-traffic streetcar that comes every 18 minutes!

    Lewellan Reply:

    Downtown Portland, between NW Lovejoy and SW Market, operate 2 streetcar lines on a 10th/11th Aves Couplet. Daily operating frequency is every 15 minutes, but on this main corridor, the 2 lines reduce the frequency to 8-12 minutes. Shut up Alon.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    I’ve taken both the Cascades and the Coast Starlight between Eugene, Albany and Portland (late 90s/early 00s). From what I remember, it was agonizingly slow. Sure, there’s the University of Oregon and Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon, blah blah blah. But its just sooooo slow.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Back in 1955 (yes, 60 years ago) British Railways undertook a study to determine the competitive impact of the proposed Motorway (freeway) system in the UK. In a nutshell it was found that intercity passenger rail had to offer average speeds of 70mph between city centers to retain a reasonable share of the business.
    Here we are in 2015 after 45 years of Amtrak, and 35 years of enhanced San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner service, not to mention the other CA corridors and the Cascades, and the service offerings to compete with a freeway network, cheap parking, and cheap gasoline are trains that average 40-45mph. Load factors and farebox recovery are mostly poor, punctuality is indifferent with the railroad owners (whether commuter agencies or class one common carriers) favoring their own trains, and connectivity and through ticketing at either end of the journey has reached 1980s standards. It’s hard to present a case for saying that we want more of this, or even to preserve what is there. Not to mention the fact that this train in question looks as if it has already been in a collision. But seriously, we need to do better than this, or not bother.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Paul,

    The problem is that the expansion of a lot of rail service in California was more about Southern Pacific selling off white elephant assets to local governments than building high quality service.

    And even when you have a system that prioritize the ends over the means (i.e. BART), the activists slay you over aesthetics and operating costs.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted, with a small exception the Amtrak intercity corridors (the topic at hand) do not use purchased SP rights of way, the exception being Mission tower to Moorpark, and that intercity service was established before the RoW was purchased, primarily for Metrolink. The Capitol Corridor and the San Joaquins still run on common carrier lines.
    It still hurts to have the description “intercity” used for these services, which at best can be described as regional limited stop trains.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Notice I said rail, not Amtrak. The SP track is what got converted into light rail and Metrolink-only track. Amtrak routes had the benefit of the deal with Santa Fe and Burlington Northern.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    That’s off topic. Not that anyone cares around here.
    The best posting here is the first one, from joe, where he introduces the term “bulkshit”. Made me chuckle as I was in a LOSSAN TAC meeting at the time, and the idea of unit trains or Panamax loads of the stuff was very a propos. Finally joe makes a positive contribution.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Not really. Passenger rail used to be a private business that received subsidies. Now it’s essentially a publicly run business that is still controlled by the private railroads in a different way.

    The problem is, the public option isn’t always the best solution for business, but it’s much preferred to firms collapsing suddenly.

    Michael Reply:

    The difference in the Cascades north and south of Portland is stark. Could part of it be BNSF vs UP ownership? ; ) I’ve ridden from Eugene to Portland on the Cascades twice in the past 5-6 years and a number of times Portland to Seattle. It’s like night and day. Oregon’s doing a “high speed rail” study, so they might be reluctant to give money to UP (oh, I mean fund upgrades) to improve performance before their study is complete. I think a change of the train times could help ridership. Too often, US schedulers are stuck in 1950’s work scenarios (need to be in big city for 9am meeting, even if it means train needs to leave at dark:15am, forget any other market) and need to play around with new timings to see if existing ridership is really low.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Now you would *think* that even though Corvallis is not served directly like Eugene, that between Portland, Salem, and the college towns, ODOT could craft a service that gets lots of riders. It just seems like, much as I want to subscribe to the Union Pacific conspiracy theory, that the Cascades is more about getting people to Seattle, not Portalnd, Vancouver (WA or BC), Bellingham, or Coos Bay (that one’s a joke, of course).

    It’s BART strategy with an Amtrak crew…

    Michael Reply:

    Not UP conspiracy. If UP thinks Portland south is not worth upgrades, fine. We live in the US where the tracks are a private business. BNSF from Vancouver, WA, to Seattle is an example of a US railway that is cared about and utilized well by its owner. Both approaches to the infrastructure are obvious. One works better for the “public-private partnership” that most passenger rail in the US relies upon than the other.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    BNSF is currently the limiting factor to Amtrak Cascades speed: it limits the trains to 5″ cant deficiency, the same level achieved by non-tilting Regionals east of New Haven. The trains are capable of 6″ (FRA regulations forced the Talgos to use locos and cab cars as depicted above – otherwise 9″ would be possible), but BNSF doesn’t want them going too much faster than its own freight trains.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It may limit the top speed but there’s an awful lot of “going slow” that contributes far more to the overall journey time and the low average speed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not a top speed issue – to the contrary, the problem is that BNSF makes each curve an even slower zone than it has to be.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    South of Portland there aren’t a lot of curves.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I think much of the push for expanding passenge rail in the Obama Administration came from Buffett after he acquired BNSF. He’s happy to have reliable tenants to provide income in north-south routes but he’s less keen to do so on the more valuable transcontinental ones.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Such a lot of nonsense, no basis whatsoever for that invention. Matt Rose has made it abundantly clear that he will carry out his contractual responsibilities with existing trains but does not want any more. Just like UP, BNSF wants a new RR to accommodate any passenger growth.
    Amtrak for the most part is not a desirable tenant. Amtrak wants its trains to go faster than the rest of the traffic, which soaks up capacity Poorly maintained equipment leads to disruptive breakdowns, and they are the poster child for rent control. Who needs that kind of business?

    joe Reply:

    Whil eI do not agree with ted, you under state the benefits of public use of the RR track.
    The RR enjoy the billions in free track maintenance.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    joe, please explain “free track maintenance”. Do you mean rail polishing?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Paul,

    So you don’t think Buffett played a role in the Obama HSR plan? You can’t connect the dots and see that HSR track that can’t handle freight is exactly the solution that the Class I’s want to free up capacity on their trains?

    The problem is, they want Amtrak to the be operator because, Amtrak pays for the railroad pension system and an outsourced operator won’t do that. And most States object to Amtrak because now, through PRIIA, they are paying a big chunk of Amtrak’s costs.

    The failure of federalism here is in large part because the Class I’s keep wanting to have their cake and eat it too instead of just taking half a loaf already. It’s not a unique situation (try the AMA’s demands for Medicare) by any means… but it has the same impact in stifling innovative solutions.

    joe Reply:

    Paul, please explain how much money the US spends annually on track repair and upgrades.

    Or maybe you can explain the burden this project puts on the RR.
    http://www.idothsr.org
    http://www.idothsr.org/2010_const/

    On April 1, 2011, the second round of construction began to upgrade approximately 96 miles of existing track from Elkhart to Dwight. An additional 18 miles were also constructed between St Louis and Lenox. Construction was completed August 23rd.

    Construction work for 2012 began in April. Improvements in preparation for higher speed travel were concentrated between Wann and Godfrey and from Pontiac to Joliet. Work included building new sidings and second track, upgrades to bridges and culverts, drainage improvements, installation and upgrades to signal and wayside equipment and continued crossing and approach improvements. Work was completed in August.

    In 2014, work continued throughout the Chicago to St. Louis Corridor, including siding reconstructions, grade crossing improvements, fencing installation, utilities and signal improvements, and bridge construction/modifications.

    In the upcoming year, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will continue to work to have infrastructure improvements in place to support speeds of up to 110 mph on nearly 75% of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by the end of 2015.

    Free free free.
    Are the improved grade separations a hardship?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Ted, HSR may free some BNSF capacity when? 2030? Buffett would be better served getting a Repub Congress to shut Amtrak down.
    joe, the money spent in IL is derisory compared to the total spent on RoW by the class one railroads, and they have to accommodate more passenger trains in return. In the big picture it means nothing.

    joe Reply:

    Cheap trick Paul.

    within IL the expenditure on this single project exceeds a billion which is large and there are Other Projects to improve track in IL.

    Taking a single project budge and comparing it to a national budget produces a rigged result.

    What is spent nationally?

    joe Reply:

    BNSF set an initial goal of about $4.1 billion in capital spending last year, then boosted the total to about $4.3 billion. Union Pacific said its spending was $3.6 billion, down from $3.7 billion in 2012.

    3.7 billion on track trains and etc. The Single IL project is quite a significant fraction of UP’s expenditures system wide.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Corvallis and Eugene just make so much more sense to drive to Portland than to take the slow train to nowheresville.

    joe Reply:

    That what all the college kids do – in their Volvos.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The difference is mostly that WSDOT and the state legislature have taken the Cascades route seriously and spent money to upgrade the service. ODOT and the Oregon legislature haven’t been nearly as interested, and it shows.

  5. morris brown
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 08:19
    #5

    I received a text translated copy of the front page PA Daily Post article (3/31/2015) on the scandalous appointment of Jim Hartnett to head up CalTrain. I copy it below.

    Robert why don’t you write up a article on what is going on at CalTrain?

    CalTrain starting to be compared to the City of Belle with its corruption. Recall the whistle blower complaint against related agency SamTrans:

    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Whistleblower-Lawsuit-Alleges-SamTrans-Ignored-Questions-of-Fraud-256454681.html

    Hartnett will be heading up both agencies. He was asked about investigating the whistle blower complaint, and demurred.

    ————

    Front page PA Daily Post 3/31/2015

    Subject: Hartnett not qualified? No problem

    Published Tuesday, March 31, 2015, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

    Not qualified? No problem

    New chief of SamTrans, Caltrain doesn’t meet qualifications in recruitment ad

    By Jen Nowell
    Daily Post Staff Writer

    Jim Hartnett, the longtime Redwood City politician who has been appointed to run SamTrans and Caltrain, doesn’t meet the “minimum qualifications” listed in the recruitment ad for his job. The San Mateo County Transportation District’s board of directors voted March 11 to give the job of CEO and general manager to Hartnett, an attorney and former Redwood City councilman.

    The job pays $434,661 a year including benefits.

    The ad states that the “minimum qualifications” for the job include:

    • “A bachelor’s degree in business, engineering, planning or a related discipline.” Hartnett got his bachelor’s degree in Japanese politics from Sophia University in Tokyo and his law degree from Santa Clara University.

    • “A minimum of 12 years experience in leading and managing a large, complex and highly integrated organization.” Hartnett’s management experience is limited to overseeing a small law firm in Redwood City.

    Hartnett did fit one qualification in the ad, however. The ad sought somebody who had “a highly developed sense of the political landscape of the region and state … (and a) proven ability to build consensus with regulatory, municipal and public constituents.”

    For the past four years, Hartnett has served on the High-Speed Rail Authority’s Board of Directors, where he most recently was vice chair. He was also on the City Council in Redwood City for 15 years. He also has been a member of the SamTrans and Caltrain boards.

    However, he was not a manager of any of those agencies, just a policy maker.

    200 applicants

    When Mike Scanlon announced he was stepping down as CEO and general manager last year, more than 200 people applied for his job, according to Shirley Harris, SamTrans board chairwoman and member of the selection committee that appointed Hartnett.

    The selection committee interviewed six finalists and unanimously chose Hartnett, Harris said. Hartnett has the skills needed to run the transit agency, Harris said, given his experience on the SamTrans and Caltrain boards.

    His political skills are important, but it wasn’t the only thing SamTrans was looking for, Harris said. Hartnett has the leadership, integrity and knowledge for the job, she said.

    Mum’s the word

    The names of the other finalists in the nationwide search were not disclosed.

    The Post wanted to find out why the other members of the selection committee picked Hartnett even though he didn’t have the minimum requirements. But none of them called us back. They include Redwood City Mayor Jeff Gee, who serves on both the SamTrans and Caltrain boards; San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, who serves on both the SamTrans and Caltrain boards; South San Francisco City Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto, who serves on both the SamTrans and Transportation Authority boards; San Jose City councilman Ash Kalra, member of the Caltrain board representing Santa Clara County; and VTA General Manager Nuria Fernandez.

    Adrian Brandt, a transportation advocate who ran against Hartnett in 2005 for a seat on the City Council in Redwood City, said he was shocked when he found out Hartnett was named CEO after the nationwide search.

    Hartnett’s background is on the boards, which don’t generally do the hard work, since city or agency officials bring forward proposals for the board members to vote on, Brandt said.

    Observer calls it cronyism

    From an outsider looking in, it looks like “cronyism,” since Redwood City Mayor Jeff Gee who serves on both the SamTrans and Caltrain boards, and others who have worked with Hartnett are the ones who appointed him to CEO, Brandt said.

    “It remains to be seen if (Hartnett) will do a good job or not,” he said.

    While the nationwide search resulted in the hiring of a Redwood City resident, the San Mateo County Transit District paid the headhunting firm Boyden Recruitment Services $120,000 for its work, with an additional $8,200 for travel expenses, district spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said.

    Expensive search

    By comparison, BART spent $110,000 on a recruiter before the agency hired its current General Manager Grace Crunican in 2011, according to BART spokesman James Allison. And VTA spent just over $96,000 when the agency hired General Manager Nuria Fernandez in 2013, according to VTA officials.

    Cities also hire recruiters when looking for city managers, which comes with a much lower price tag. When Mountain View hired City Manager Dan Rich in 2011, the city spent about $25,000 on recruitment costs.

    Menlo Park spent about $23,500 in 2012, when the city hired City Manager Alex McIntyre. San Carlos spent about $21,000 in 2011, when the city hired City Manager Jeff Maltbie; San Mateo spent just under $32,500 before current City Manager Larry Patterson was hired in 2014; and Burlingame spent $23,690 to find City Manager Lisa Goldman in 2012.

    As the CEO, Hartnett will receive $434,661 a year, including benefits. Hartnett’s base salary is $263,000 plus $75,000 for managing Caltrain and $25,000 for managing the Transportation Authority. The rest is benefits.

    Crunican earns $404,613 a year, including benefits, Allison said. Fernandez’s salary wasn’t available yesterday from VTA officials.

    Eric M Reply:

    Why don’t you get you own blog and do it yourself.

    Lewellan Reply:

    The past 4 years, Hartnett has served on CAHSR Authority Board of Directors,
    most recently as vice chair. Bartlett therefore was appointed as an ‘insider’ to maintain the incumbent management agenda within a mostly ‘closed-door’ planning association. In 2000, Grace Crunican was “politely informed her services no longer needed” as an Oregon DOT director for mismanaging Portland’s Ross Island Bridge Rebuild and resulting severe violations of ADA federal mandate and State Code. Crunican was similarly ‘fired’ in 2009 for the AWV replacement project; a precedent-setting engineering travesty Bore Tunnel in Unstable soils that if not stopped predicts disaster.
    Why don’t you blog on that corruption?
    WaRshington State DOTs = rank incompetence.
    Oregon DOTs = consistently exceeds high standards.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That wasn’t what happened to Crunican. She wasn’t fired, at least not officially. She was the head of the Seattle Department of Transportation, not WSDOT. When a new mayor was elected in 2009 (disclaimer: I worked for that new mayor), Crunican chose to leave on her own. Crunican did support the AWV tunnel project, which has been a disaster. WSDOT has its share of very serious problems. But they do a good job operating rail service, I’ll give them that.

    As to Crunican’s work at BART, well, I’ll let others be the judge of that…

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s a sign of naïveté, I think, to not realize every administration change involves some turnover. No point in working for people that you don’t like or don’t like you…

    Lewellan Reply:

    Outraged Portlanders detested her for the Ross Island Bridge rebuild. To pour salt on the wound of leaving the existing sidewalk at 5′ 4″ (too narrow for wheelchairs and bicyclists) she installed the guard rail on the rebuilt ballustrade instead of between the sidewalk and the roadway traffic at 45mph less than 3′ from the sidewalk. She was not retained as ODOT director when Kulongowski became Governor. And similarly ‘let go’ when Mike Mcginn became mayor of Seattle.
    Wsdot current intends to dedicate its rail corridors to coal/oil/gas shipment, Cruickshank.
    Wsdot is a criminal organization of money grubbing traitors.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I am not disputing any of your points.

    Anandakos Reply:

    WSDOT owns no “rail corridors” except the Nisqually Cut-Off and some leased wheat lines in EWa . No one is advocating running coal and oil trains over those.

    It’s BNSF which is dedicating its rail corridors to coal and oil shipment. Gas is not an issue; it can only be transported economically in a liquid state and methane is too light to pressurize enough to liquefy without massive refrigeration. It would be way too costly to provide that level of refrigeration on a rail car limited to 89 feet.

    Roland Reply:

    A potential solution to the latest scandal can be found in Section 6.B of the 1996 agreement: “SamTrans hereby is appointed as Managing Agency for the duration of the term, provided, however, that the JPB may replace SamTrans as the Managing Agency upon one (1) year’s prior written notice given at the end of the fiscal year after SamTrans has been fully repaid monies advanced by it to cover the ROW purchase price”. http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Public/JPA_Agreement_and_Amendment_10-03-1996.pdf

  6. Reedman
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 09:17
    #6

    If you are interested in what the new Anaheim Intermodal Station looks like, there is a write-up and slide show in the March 2015 issue of Architectural Record.
    http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/Building_types_study/civic/2015/1503-anaheim-regional-transportation-intermodal-center-hok.asp

    Jerry Reply:

    Very informative site, with excellent short videos produced by the City of Anaheim.
    (Their slogan: Life’s a Journey, Enjoy the Ride.)

    My wish is that CAHSR would have similar short videos.

    Danny Reply:

    as long as it’s not made by the same people who did Acela’s ads back in 2000! oy …

    I think the turn of the century was a big time for vague and creepy ads–they even parodied Enron’s ads on 30 Rock

  7. les
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 09:20
    #7

    Cascadia HSR’s new website:

    http://www.cascadiahighspeedrail.com/

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Are you involved with that effort, or do you know the folks who are? I have (more than a) few questions…

    les Reply:

    funny thing, i just had a call with a member this morning. He called early and woke me up so I can’t recall his name. His number is 503-666-5990 and has a strong european accent and is a real nice guy. I’m not sure if I’ll get involved though, I haven’t been able to land a contract in the area.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    …did you really just post someone’s phone number on the public internet?

    Roland Reply:

    Not quite: http://www.cascadiahighspeedrail.org/contact.html

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Oh. Sorry.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    As if the transit advocates who read this blog are going to deluge this poor guy…

    Jerry Reply:

    Robert – Are you going to replace the old Cascadia High Speed Rail with the new one on your list of, “Other HSR Sites” ?
    The NEW one looks much better.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I will now that you mentioned it – thanks for the heads up!

    Jerry Reply:

    The Cascadia HSR site says that Eugene will be the northern end of the Amtrak Coast Starlight at which passengers will get on the CHSR and continue to Seattle.
    So why can’t the southern end of the Amtrak Coast Starlight be San Jose at which passenger will got on the CAHSR and continue to Los Angeles?

    Eric Reply:

    In order to serve Salinas and Santa Barbara. They’re no less important destinations than Klamath Falls

    Joey Reply:

    Passengers wishing to go to Los Angeles in a timely manner would transfer in Sacramento rather than San Jose.

    Joey Reply:

    On the other hand passenger wishing to get to Los Angeles in a timely manner probably wouldn’t be on the Coast Starlight to begin with…

    joe Reply:

    They would leave at 3am to avoid traffic.

    Joey Reply:

    There would have to be traffic nearly the entire way to make driving time anywhere close to how long the Starlight takes. Some of the freeways involved do get congested but generally not all day.

    joe Reply:

    Generally if you include freeways in Wyoming.

    Getting a very early or late start and driving odd hours is the norm for timely travel.

    Joey Reply:

    If you leave your house in the Bay Area at 3AM, you might hit the LA area just in time for the morning commute. Most of the freeways I’ve driven on only back up at peak hours.

    joe Reply:

    ho ho ho

    Only at peak hours in LA and Bay Area … hmmm… when would that be ?

    Joey Reply:

    The morning and evening commutes. I know that most Bay Area freeways do not back up at midday. LA I know less about, but my recollection is that at the very least not all freeways back up off peak.

    joe Reply:

    “most bay area freeways” – ” Peak hours.” 2pm is peak hour on HW101 Peninsula or the Bay Bridge.

    One simply does not walk into mordor or drive between these two regions without making adjustments and driving odd hours.

    Any honest person would simply say one needs to plan accordingly with inconvenience to travel timely between the two regions. Heading south, you hit traffic at the grapevine and it will worsen with the Tejon mall /area expansion. Then there is traffic at Santa Clarita and traffic into the LA Basin.

    What I do is avoid a stay over at night in LA PM and drive the distance in the evening 8-9pm and get home late. I avoid the worse of traffic (have a carpool sticker) and while it sucks – it works.

    In the AM it’s an early drive or a late drive and arrive late for a hotel room.

    And I’m the one driving and taking the risk.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, you need to plan around traffic and that usually means either leaving early or arriving late, depending on the exact trip details. It also depends on the exact trip details – for instance, the westbound Bay Bridge doesn’t back up in the afternoon or evening.

    joe Reply:

    Bay Bridge westbound is backed right now 4:33 on a Sat.

    Joey Reply:

    Point taken, though congestion appears to be patchy. Some LA freeways are backed up right now too but a lot of it appears to be due to crashes and construction. I suppose the only way to avoid traffic entirely is to leave at 10 PM and do the entire drive at night.

    joe Reply:

    Congestion is patchy. When going between regions there are many patches one has to cross. New one in south county at San Martin to Morgan Hill on 101. Either that route or 580 into the bay area. Ridge crossings, near airports, regular, predictable and difficult to avoid.

  8. Oliver Wendell Holmes
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 15:26
    #8

    As trips Portland to/from Seattle would be unaffected, I’m having trouble caring.

  9. Reality Check
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 15:35
    #9

    Dallas-Houston HSR only a good idea if “done right”

    Now where have we heard this sort of thing before? … hmmm.

  10. morris brown
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 20:20
    #10

    Here is another article showing that not all Democrats are in line with Gov. Brown’s un-faltering support of HSR.

    see:

    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/30/why-kamala-harris-avoids-browns-train-wreck/

    Why Kamala Harris avoids Brown’s train wreck…

    Final paragraph:

    So when Harris declines to endorse the project, maybe it’s not because she is ignorant of its details. Maybe it’s because the state’s top law-enforcement official understands that the taxpayer safeguards contained in Proposition 1A are real, not decorative. And she realizes that at some point, these safeguards will trump the glib spin of Gov. Jerry Brown and all the other bullet-train enthusiasts who choose to forget the binding promises that were made in 2008.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Harris has been evasive on quite a few major policy questions, even going back to her re-election bid. She has demurred even giving her position on medical marijuana, blowing smoke all over Gavin’s proposals.

    In the Senate, she’s not going to have to take many hard stands (look at Feinstein’s storied career) and can more or less fall in line.

    flowmotion Reply:

    I’m sure Harris will come out nominally in favor of HSR at some point. But as with Feinstein, that doesn’t necessary mean any $$$$.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s been a longstanding issue: Feinstein is much more interested in bringing home the bacon for aerospace than for other government programs. Compared to Boxer and DiFi, Pelosi has been far more effective I think at drawing down federal money.

    This might seem like an academic point but much of California’s economy has been tied to federal subsidies for water, transportation, and yes, aerospace. But since the 1990s when the GOP retooled many government programs at the same time that the defense industry contracted, California has been having an identity crisis. For the amount of senority that both our outgoing Senators had, we have definitely underachieved.

    les Reply:

    I’m curious to know what “environmental reviews” for initial 300 mile segment are not complete and has more than 3.2 billion been spent yet? And with 12 billion in hand, the additional C&T funds and the subsequent loans leveraged against the C&T funds, the availability of $31 billion seems reasonable. Given the nature of requirements to utilize the fed money it is ridiculous to think this can play out in an exact choreographed way.

    J. Wong Reply:

    Looks like 300 miles is the IOS from Burbank to Merced although I don’t know where they got the $31 billion cost for that segment. The article clearly has an anti-HSR bias so I wouldn’t consider it unbiased.

  11. Roland
    Apr 1st, 2015 at 20:51
    #11

    Caltrain (finally) discloses the manufacturers who responded to the EMU procurement RFI: Bombardier, CNR,
    CSR, Hyundai Rotem, Stadler and Sumitomo which would explain how we ended up with 50-inch platform heights: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Meetings/March+2015+LPMG+E-Update.pdf
    Question: what happened to Siemens, Alstom and Talgo?

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I thought the plan was always to go for high platforms, as that’s generally considered the best option these days (when historical compatibility isn’t an issue)… 1250mm or so seems to be the trend…

    Roland Reply:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_platform_height#/media/File:Map_Europe_railway_platform_height.svg

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The majority of HSR ridership in the world isn’t in Europe, but in countries where the boarding height is about 1,250 mm (China, Japan, and Taiwan). In Europe there are big historical compatibility issues, so they’re building trains for 550 and 760 mm platforms. But the international export HSR trainsets, even the European ones, have a floor height of about 1,200 mm.

    Roland Reply:

    Kindly help the rest of us understand which part of “blended” it is that you do not understand.

    Clem Reply:

    Alon, the majority of European HSR, with very few exceptions, has floor heights in the 1.1 – 1.25 meter range. They get away with this because their version of the ADA does not require level boarding, unlike here in the US, so there are always steps or lifts to board the train. This is something Roland has trouble understanding: these Euro trains are not ADA compliant.

    Roland Reply:

    1) One of the many problems with floor heights in the 1.1 to 1.25 meter range is that there is insufficient headroom in double-deckers (example: gallery cars).
    2) The European equivalent of ADA is PRM TSI (Persons with Reduced Mobility Technical Standard for Interoperability): http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014R1300&from=EN

    Joey Reply:

    Bilevel cars with high floors are handled by putting the entry doors on single level sections near the ends of the cars and having a split level between them. The floor height of the lower floor is lower than the entry height.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    High-floor bilevels use split levels, with entry to the middle floor, and stairs to the upper and lower floor. Examples include the bilevel Shinkansen, bilevel green car trains on some Japanese commuter lines, bilevel commuter rail coaches in the Northeastern US, and the RER A three-door bilevel cars.

    But it’s not really an issue for HSR. I don’t think even 10% of the world’s HSR ridership is on bilevels (tiny proportion of Shinkansen plus a large fraction but not all TGV ridership).

    The percentage of the world’s commuter rail ridership that’s bilevel is hard to compute, because it depends on what you define as “commuter rail.” The highest-intensity systems are largely single-level, like subways, and to the extent they use bilevels, they’re high-floor ones, like the aforementioned three-door bilevels on the RER A. In Germany, some legacy S-Bahns are high-floor, with 960 mm platforms, even though the rest of the national rail network is transitioning to 760 mm.

    Roland Reply:

    “The common standards within the EU member States is 550mm and 760mm. Many new vehicles, especially in local traffic, have got a vehicle floor height of about 550mm. This situation allows level boarding. Also double-deck trains offer level boarding for those platform heights. They can also be used for long distance InterCity-traffic.
    Platform heights of 760mm is typical for highspeed trains. Usually there are only two remaining steps.
    Some highspeed trains have got a lower vehicle floor, like the TGV or Spanish Talgo-trains, where
    passengers only do have to pass one step, or to are provided with a level boarding situation”
    http://publik.tuwien.ac.at/files/PubDat_202453.pdf

    Eric M Reply:

    This image from Clem’s blog should help you out.

    Or you can read Clems’ whole analysis for yourself here. It might help you understand the situation better.

    Eric M Reply:

    Ooops, this image.

    Joey Reply:

    There are a few high speed trains with floors near the entry height, but the selection is very limited at the moment. It might grow in the coming years.

    J. Wong Reply:

    I believe that Caltrain is looking at having doors at different heights to enable transition from low platforms to high. Plus they are discussing a common platform height.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Caltrain is indeed looking at a dual door height EMU to provide a migration path to shared high level boarding height with HSR:
    Caltrain, HSR, MTC negotiating about faster capacity boost

    Clem Reply:

    Dual height doors are the best available solution given the constraints of the problem.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Eh. They’re a kludge. Either raise the platforms one half at a time, with 3 cars’ worth of doors opening during the transition, or have trains skip stations during construction. These are kludges too, but they’re temporary, whereas dual-height doors mean half the train’s doors will be nonfunctional for 40 years.

    Another possible kludge: buy second-hand Northeastern trains with trapdoors, operate them for 10 years, and then junk them and get noncompliant split-level bilevels.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    buy second-hand Northeastern trains with trapdoors,

    That would make sense. There aren’t a whole lot of secondhand cars floating around. They use them for the increasing ridership. The ones that may be available are ready to fall apart. There’s always the option of buying Bombardier multilevels. They are moderately priced and there’s enough of them floating around that parts will be available for a long time.

    I dunno, or care how they prepped for the M1s/M2s. They converted a lot of stations to level boarding more or less all at once. The operators in the Northeast manage to do it without a lot of drama.

    http://mta.maryland.gov/governor-o%E2%80%99malley-opens-renovated-marc-halethorpe-station

    Reality Check Reply:

    So buy a temporary old crappy car fleet with trapdoors? And keep hauling them with diesels while the shiny new electrification OCS sits unused? (Caltrain is already set on EMUs, so they won’t be buying electric locomotives.)

    I don’t see that working well at all. Who’s even got a suitably large trapdoor car fleet lying around?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No one, the last batch of cars that hasn’t been beaten to a pulp was foisted off on Amtrak California.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak_California#.22Comet_car.22_single-level_trainsets

    ….1.5 million a piece for used cars….

    Clem Reply:

    They didn’t respond to the RFI, which says nothing about whether or not they will respond to the RFP.

  12. mark
    Apr 2nd, 2015 at 11:57
    #12

    Where’s the rant against austerity? Oh wait, it’s Democrats doing it this time. Nothing to see here.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Not so fast…austerity is code language for shrinking expenditures based on political goals, not budget shortfalls. Haven’t followed what is going on in Salem closely this year but as I recall their health exchange collapsed and I think they might be looking for money to avoid a bigger castastrophe. And while cutting train service isn’t good per se, it’s a lot easier to get votes for than chopping education or public safety.

    EJ Reply:

    No but Robert defines austerity as “the government isn’t spending money on stuff I think they should spend it on.”

    joe Reply:

    What he wrote does not jibe with your characterization.

    Democrats in Salem are apparently trying to find ways to increase the farebox recovery rate, wanting to spend fewer dollars per passenger. That’s fine, but the best way to do that is to actually spend more money – to provide faster, more frequent service along the route.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Your quote is what in state budgeting is known as a “fund shift”.

    You take a program that is supported by one form of revenue (often the General Fund), and then you shift it to another form of revenue, be it user fees or a dedicated tax. Either way, by doing this, the old revenue is freed up for other spending needs….

  13. datacruncher
    Apr 2nd, 2015 at 20:56
    #13

    A fun discovery uncovered by HSR construction in Fresno.

    Work for high-speed rail uncovers old trolley tracks in Chinatown
    The Fresno Bee – April 2, 2015

    Construction crews working on relocating underground utility pipelines in Fresno’s Chinatown district for California’s high-speed train project unearthed remnants of a decidedly slower transportation mode when they began digging on F Street this week.

    As a backhoe dug into the asphalt pavement between Tulare and Kern street, it ran into old railroad ties from a portion of Fresno’s old network of streetcar or trolley lines — a system that once criscrossed the city and carried tens of thousands of riders. Several different companies operated trolleys on Fresno’s streets for 50 years starting in 1889. In the early days, the streetcars were pulled by mules or horses. But by 1901, the first franchise was awarded for electric streetcars.

    At its peak, Fresno had almost 200 miles of tracks across the city before the last of the trolley lines was converted to bus service in 1939.

    Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2015/04/02/4459691/work-for-high-speed-rail-uncovers.html

    The article link includes pictures of the find as well as a few historical Fresno trolley pictures. The link also has a short video of workers clearing the ties which includes some additional historical Fresno trolley pictures.

    les Reply:

    This crud always makes me nervous; the less artifacts, burial grounds and fossils they find the less delays.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    http://www.crossrail.co.uk/news/articles/bedlam-dig-begins-at-liverpool-street

    les Reply:

    Amazing stuff. I wonder if brits have a 3.2 billion spend-baby-spend deadline to make. And TP thought navigating piecemeal development due to partial land acquisitions and law suits were going to be their major impediments. Wait until they unearth a tyrannosaurus rex.

  14. Reality Check
    Apr 3rd, 2015 at 11:37
    #14

    Video of Caltrain’s capacity-increasing 16 used Metrolink Bombardier’s en route to Bay Area.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Uh, dunno where that rouge apostrophe came from! I should’a just wrote “Bombardier cars”.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Good quota of flat wheels. I hope Caltrain gets a credit for those, if anyone is paying attention.

  15. Reality Check
    Apr 3rd, 2015 at 11:45
    #15

    SJ mayor & SVLG/Guardino continue relentlessly panhandling for downtown SJ BART:
    San Jose: Mayor goes to D.C., looks to fund BART expansion

    San Jose’s mayor made a trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss at the national level expansion of BART and other regional economic issues included in his budget message.

    Sam Liccardo joined by Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino and 50 other members, traveled to the nation’s capital to speak with house members and senators about Silicon Valley’s economy and job growth.

    Liccardo included funding to bring BART through downtown San Jose as a top priority for his administration in his first budget message that was brought to council March 24.

    “We know BART is under construction, under budget and ahead of schedule but we’ve got to keep the train moving all the way through downtown,” Liccardo said, adding that the rapid transit system will be “vital to our local economy.”

    Part of the trip to Capitol Hill was focused on seeking federal funding for four BART stations in San Jose: Berryessa, Alum Rock, Downtown and Diridon.

    joe Reply:

    panhandling.

    interesting word. I would say lobby or represent their constituents. these are the elected officials and business interests.

    SJ BART needs to restore the second downtown station and VTA cut a deal for sanata clara stations like SF MUNI where residents ride BART between Balboa and Embarcadero unlimited for a flat fee.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    How does seeking federal funding for four BART stations in San Jose: Berryessa, Alum Rock, Downtown and Diridon “continue to be relentlessly panhandling”

    Reality Check Reply:

    Because the SJ mayor’s office and Guardino/SVLG (nee SVMG) have been begging any and everyone (MTC, local taxpayers, state & federal gov’t) for SJ BART extension cash going back to at least the early part of the Ron Gonzales administration. Sheesh. Isn’t this common knowledge around here?

    Joe Reply:

    Begging !
    Where do you come up with this stuff?

    K St., Washington, DC is full of beggars?

    Jerry Reply:

    and Corporate Welfare Queens.

    Reality Check Reply:

    SJ Mayor asks Congress to renew $105B transport bill to help fund BART extension

    Jerry Reply:

    Today is:
    Stand Up For Transportation Day.

    synonymouse Reply:

    IBG to Chowchilla! Pacheco belongs to Bechtel-PB-MTC BARTTech supported duorail!

    synonymouse Reply:

    Think Cylindrical!

  16. Reality Check
    Apr 3rd, 2015 at 12:19
    #16

    Have ballast-fearing eastside Menlo residents out-NIMBYed westsiders?

    After holding a meeting with an estimated 45 Belle Haven residents concerned about the dusty piles of ballast rock stored near the Chilco Street railroad tracks, Caltrain said it would provide an update and possible solutions by Friday, April 3, according to the city of Menlo Park.

    joe Reply:

    Residents reasonably ask caltrain to maintain the site with frequent watering to stop dust and not over water and breed mosquitos.

    eastside menlo park will outnumber westsider meno park. eastside is where the city “dumps” the bulk (if not all) the required housing units.

  17. Reality Check
    Apr 3rd, 2015 at 13:42
    #17

    Palo Alto proposes cameras for Caltrain tracks

    Cameras with the capability to autonomously alert authorities when a person is on the tracks could be installed in the coming months. Ken Dueker, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Services, said similar systems are already used in airports and other areas where public safety is a concern.

    […]

    Tasha Bartholomew, a spokeswoman for Caltrain, said the transit agency is “open to all suggestions” to improve safety on the tracks. But she noted that the technology is experimental.

    “While we support this type of technology in concept, we still need more information and are open to exploring everything we can to make our tracks safer,” Bartholomew wrote in an email to The Daily News.

    […]

    It’d be nice if this works, but I’m not holding my breath. I predict the devil will be in the technical operational details, and will not be as easy as some think.

    In other news, in addition to the half million a year Palo Alto is now spending on security guards to act as suicide deterrents at grade crossings, the school board is moving to spend about a quarter million on hiring two anti-suicide staff counselor/psychologists.

    Jerry Reply:

    Will these security? cameras operate as well as the ones around the White House?
    Or as well as the ones at the San Jose airport?

  18. morris brown
    Apr 3rd, 2015 at 14:15
    #18

    The Daily Post reports today Caltrain is adding capacity by adding 16 used rail cars.

    Daily Post 4/03/2015
    Caltrain moving to expand capacity

    Some 16 railcars that Caltrain bought from the Southern California commuter railroad Metrolink were expected to arrive in San Jose this morning.

    At 12:30 a.m. today, the 16 cars were spotted in the Santa Barbara County city of Carpinteria. A Union Pacific train was pulling them northward.

    A video posted by Metrolink Direc¬tor of Operations andLaw Enforcement R.T. McCarthy on Saturday shows the cars being towed through Rancho Cucamonga toward Union Station in Los Angeles. From there, Union Pacific is moving the cars north, McCarthy wrote. He followed up Saturday’s YouTube post with a comment? on Wednesday that said the cars are scheduled to move to San Jose either by yesterday or today.

    Caltrain’s response

    When Caltrain spokesman .Mark Simon was asked on Tuesday when the cars would arrive in the Bay Area, he told the Post that he didn’t know. Simon also said he didn’t know where they were currently. Simon was asked additional questions about refurbishing the cars, to which he responded that the information was available online.

    “We don’t need to do your work for you,” he told the Post.

    Caltrain spent $5.6 million to buy the cars and an additional $9.4 to refurbish them and lengthen train station platforms. The moves are designed to handle increased ridership. It will take a year to refurbish some of them since they were built in 1995, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn previously told the Post.

    With the new rail cars, Caltrain will be able to add a sixth car to some trains. Each car has about 130 seats. Caltrain is devoting part of the $15 million cost toward modifying some stations to accommodate one more car on each train.

    Increasing capacity

    The longer trains will allow Caltrain to increase its carrying capacity by 20%. This increase is expected to help with increased ridership, which has grown 9% each year for the last two years, according to Caltrain.

    Caltrain says that it has a daily ridership of 55,000, a number that counts a commuter twice — when they board in the morning and board again in the afternoon.

    Jerry Reply:

    The cars will take a year to re-do.
    Will the stations also be ready at that time?
    By the way, how many stations need to be re-done? (Don’t ask Simon that. Cause Simon sezs, look it up yourself .)

    Reality Check Reply:

    Caltrain earlier said the cars will be sent off for refurbishment in batches, so they can begin using the best of the cars ASAP with little or no refurbishment. When the refurb’ed cars return, they can be phased into use right away … so the year to refurb refers to how long Caltrain thinks it will take finish all 16.

    It’s not like Caltrain can’t and doesn’t occasionally already run trains of 6 cars or longer (e.g. as specials or for other reasons). So a handful of stations that might need some minor work to more comfortably and regularly handle 6-car trains shouldn’t be a major impediment to running some right away.

    Simon is probably being bitchy toward the Daily News because they’ve run major pieces blasting Caltrain CEO pay, and more recently sharply critical of Hartnett’s recent appointment by a committee dominated by longtime friends and council colleagues after they spent ~$120K on a nation-wide executive search looking at 200 candidates, of which — surprise! — their good old politician and board member friend emerged as their top choice.

    Jerry Reply:

    MetroLink posted a video of the old cars on the way.
    Will CalTrain post a video of their new/old cars arriving?
    Or will Simon say, Do it yourself. ?

    Clem Reply:

    Simon should know better than to make petty and small statements like these. “Don’t wrestle with a pigthe Post. The pigPost will love it and you’ll just get dirty.”

    Clem Reply:

    “pig” was supposed to be strikethrough, oh well

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