Saturday, March 24, 2012

Caltrain's Strategic Plan Depends Upon High-Speed Rail

What you are about to read in the article from RailwayAge about Caltrain electrification, below, requires an active crap detector. Please turn yours on.

I'm sorry to have to spend this much time on Caltrain, since in the context of the California 800 mile High-Speed Rail project, electrification of a fifty mile commuter rail line on the Peninsula in the Bay Area would appear to be trivial.

I wish it where so.  

1. Without the CHSRA and its HSR project, there would be no electrification for Caltrain.

2. The reason electrification has suddenly surfaced as high-priority has to do with funding availability and limits. Fearing no further funding for HSR, there's now a regional grab for some of what's already in hand.

3. Caltrain executives argue that electrification will solve all their problems. They are quite wrong.

4. Caltrain's problems are inherent in their structural operating deficits and their mismanagement.

5. Rail bureaucracies are notorious for seeking capital development funds for hardware and infrastructure upgrades because those are the symbols of power and have high visibility.

6. Capital development fund expenditures require larger operating budgets and increasing headcount. With or without electrification, Caltrain's operating costs will continue to rise, as will their revenue requirements; that is, fares and subsidies.

7. The consequences of Caltrain electrification will be just the opposite of the promised operating savings now claimed.

8. Electrification will not, by itself, improve services and attract larger numbers of riders.

9. This is not about improving Caltrain's service. It's all about bringing HSR on the Caltrain corridor.

10. With HSR on the corridor, other infrastructure development and expansion become possible, such as grade separations, widened right-of-way and four tracks, all part of the Caltrain strategic agenda. This can be verified by a reading of the Caltrain Strategic Plan 2025.

High-Speed Rail promises to be the fire hose that will spray money all over California. That's what it's for.

Empire Building at its finest!  

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Caltrain cites deal with CHSRA
Written by  Douglas John Bowen
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Caltrain said Thursday a regional agreement between the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) and more than a half-dozen Bay Area public agencies, including Caltrain, " will fully fund the electrification and modernization of the Caltrain system— a long-planned, critically-needed improvement that will dramatically improve the service and help ensure the long-term viability of the commuter rail system."
The agreement would tap local, regional, and federal funding to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in HSR matching funds for investment in electrification and modernization of Caltrain, using an incremental approach favored by many rail advocates, including some within the rail supply industry. "The result is a modernized, electrified Caltrain far sooner than previous estimates," Caltrain claims.

Once the system is electrified, Caltrain will be able to operate lighter-weight electric [multiple-unit, or EMU] vehicles with significant performance advantages compared to the existing diesel rail technology," the agency said. "Electrification will mean faster, cleaner, quieter, more efficient rail system, more frequent service to more stations, significantly increased ridership, and will prepare the system to accommodate future job and population growth in the region."

Modernizing Caltrain is a significant step in stabilizing the rail agency's long-struggling finances; the agency notes Caltrain is one of the few transit agencies in the country that does not have its own, dedicated tax base or source of revenue.

"Electrification is an essential improvement that is critical to the future of the system," said Executive Director Mike Scanlon. "This is an enormous step forward that prioritizes these improvements and delivers early benefits to the Caltrain system, its riders and surrounding communities."

Caltrain has been working to electrify its system for more than a decade, but until now adequate funding had not been identified. If approved, Caltrain could be electrified as soon as 2020, over a decade before it is assumed in the most recent version of the High Speed Rail Business Plan.

The agency notes it has "expressed opposition to a four-track system" originally envisioned as part of a shared rights-of-way design with CHSRA. Caltrain says the " agreement specifies that future improvements would be limited to support blended high-speed and commuter rail operations on a system that is primarily two tracks."

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