Town Square

Post a New Topic

Electrification of Caltrain approved by board

Original post made on May 3, 2012

Caltrain has received a unanimous thumbs-up by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to electrify the Peninsula commuter-rail system.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 3, 2012, 4:32 PM

Comments (23)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Living-In-LA-LA-Land!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

This is insane. Caltrain is projecting an operational deficit in 2013:

Web Link

However, Caltrain is projecting a major budget deficit the following year in July of 2013. That means the services its adding this year could be cut the next.
---

These people have no idea how to live within the business unit's means--expecting people to agree to a tax to pay outlandish salaries and to convert to an electric source--which has been projected to cost at least a billion dollars in the past. If this money is obtained via bonds--then the payback will be much more than the conversion costs.

The ridership is tiny, compared to our highway system--which could dearly use more money than it is getting now, for yearly maintenance.

This is just crazy, crazy, CRAZY!




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Boxer
a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Electricity good. Diesel bad. What more do we need to know?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 2019
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

This improvement is needed right now. 2019 is a long time to wait for it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paloaltotreewatch
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Congratulations!!!!!
Time to pop some champagne! (organic of course..jk)
This is progress.

Now if we only could get Stanford back into the train business and
use some of its tax exempt capability to not only lower costs for the USA but also fund an elegant green method to bring the folks to their Stanford jobs with zero net increase in cars. Come on Stanford Trustees get on board the train to the future.

Who knows perhaps there can also be smooth transition from BART to electric Caltrain at Millbrae and in the future at BART San Jose


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

CalTrain should be looking at hydrogen-cell locomotives and save millions on electrification. The power for an electric CalTrain will have to come from somewhere; has anyone figured out where?

The peninsula commute service has lost money for decades. That's why Southern Pacific unloaded it on CalTrans circa 1980.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Caltrain is in the public transportation business, not the railroad business.

We should all be paying for public transportation upgrades in our gas taxes as they benefit every one of us. Expecting Caltrain to do this on its own, or the peninsula to fund it on our own, is not the way to go. It should be done as part of a Bay Area regional transportation overhaul.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Electrification could come quicker, at NO cost to us, if we let PG&E do it, with repayment on a HP/HR basis.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Remember that there are a whole lot of associated items that go into the electrification plan that are more than stringing wires. The plan includes more grade separations and items like that. I don't think that it makes sense for PG&E to pay for those.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Billy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I don't think that any grade separations are a part of the electrification plan. The HSR Authority never intended to add grade separations on the Peninsula, except for a few 'key' sites, which were never detailed in any of their reports. It is therefore most likely that none of the crossings in Palo Alto will be separated. IF the Electrification proceeds, there will be more train traffic on the rails, that is an explicit goal of electrification. More trains means more time the gates at crossings are down clogging auto traffic, more crossing bell noise, more train horn noise, and many more opportunities for train-car-pedestrian collisions.

Electrification is in general a good thing, however, the devil is in the details, and in this deal, there are no details spelled out, which means that noise and traffic congestion could very likely increase because no one wanted to include costly grade separations into the plan.

Why do so many people think just because it's electric that it's a green panacea of miracles? Dreckmeyer and Kishimoto were completely sucked in by that BS advertising by the HSR Authority years ago, babbled endlessly about how 'green' high speed rail was going to be because it was electric, and completely ignored everything else about how HSR might impact their own community. Have we learned nothing since?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Where are the facts and figures comparing the "green-ness" of electric vs. current technology?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Professorville
on May 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm

This is the only HSR initiative I support.

HSR transferring $700 million to Caltrain so they can modernize and electrify train service where density is...from San Jose to San Francisco...makes sense to me.

Soon after approving this, legislators and the feds should logically refuse to fund the $6 billion 'tracks to nowhere' portion of this boondoggle, thus turning HSR lights out permanently.

This is but one mandatory step to save California from financial ruin.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 5, 2012 at 8:24 am

The project being supported is really a modernization plan, not just electrification. The MTC memo says this includes Positive Train Control, extension to the Transbay Transit Center, improvements to stations at San Jose and Millbrae, a better connection to SFO, and other upgrades to stations, tunnels, bridges, passing tracks and other track modifications such as selected grade separatations. This is expected to lead to cost savings, faster service, operational efficiencies, quieter trains and fewer emissions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Living-In-LA-LA-Land!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2012 at 9:21 am

> Caltrain is in the public transportation business, not the
> railroad business.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ..

> We should all be paying for public transportation upgrades in
> our gas taxes

Why? Particularly if this is not an effective mode of transportation.

The total cost/trip cost for Caltrain (which is a railroad that is not a railroad) is vastly greater than the road system. Moreover, the capacity for Caltain (which is a railroad that is not a railroad) is incredibly small, as a transportation channel. It can not be expanded in any meaningful way. It is nothing more than a money pit for the taxpayers, and a gift of public funds to its passengers and its employees.

When the per-trip costs of a given transportation modality is much, much, much, greater than its alternatives, it should not be funded by the taxpayer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2012 at 9:39 am

This is great news. We need to do whatever we can to improve public transit in order to get more cars off the roads.

My hopes are:
That we can get rid of our remaining grade crossings when this upgrade is implemented.
That there is some way of installing the electric lines that is aesthetically appealing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

<< some way of installing the electric lines that is aesthetically appealing >>

Paint them green?

I can hear Palo Altans now, bellyaching about the "ugly catenary that divides our city".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alek
a resident of Green Acres
on May 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Electrification brings benefits to CalTrain, for sure. However, since very few, if any grade separations are a part of the 'electrification' process, we should expect more train horn and bell noise, more gate crossing bells, and more time the gates are down, stalling car traffic up and down the Peninsula. If grade separations everywhere along the Peninsula were a pert of this plan, I would be very supportive. As it is, individual communities will probably be left to finance grade separations on their own. For Palo Alto, that tab would be several hundred million dollars.

I think the electrical power wires will be about 25 feet up in the air to accommodate the vertical clearance I believe Southern Pacific will insist having. Whether they will be aesthetically appealing seems doubtful, but better than the elevated high speed rail tracks for sure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2012 at 8:28 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

just close all grade crossings by executive fiat, then let the people decide where new crossings are desired. Grade crossings are an anachronism.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

"I can hear Palo Altans now, bellyaching about the "ugly catenary that divides our city"."

Isn't the current Caltrain already electric? Diesel-electic engines produce their own electrcity, and the driving wheels are powered by electric motors. Why do we need a catenary? A diesel-electic system is the ultimate of locally produced electrcity, with no line losses. What am I missing?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paloaltotreewatch
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I agree with Walter E Wallis - get PG&E to do the electrification.
They are already there along the route with frontage roads on either side.

Plus- get Stanford Trustees to see that it is in their own interest to get a state of the art train to Palo Alto to deliver and return the Stanford workers with no increase in # car trips. They have the means with extra $s they enjoy from their the tax-exempt (mostly) status.

Since they have the means, the Stanford Trustees should help out in some capacity, it is not enough to say - we provide jobs. Now it is time to provide eco-jobs.

Invent a more efficient electric locomotive to get your people to/from your site. Perhaps a way for remote driving cars to use the track as well.

Something which can reduce the current congestion which already exists at Stanford and the surrounding areas. And we know that that number is going to go up with the Medical center expansion. SO now is a time to spend 5% of the upgrade costs on transportation. Who knows you might even be able to get away with less parking garages.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on May 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

CARL WROTE: Isn't the current Caltrain already electric? Diesel-electic engines produce their own electrcity, and the driving wheels are powered by electric motors. Why do we need a catenary? A diesel-electic system is the ultimate of locally produced electrcity, with no line losses. What am I missing?

Carl - you are missing air pollution! Electric trains, like electric cars, don't have tailpipes, smokestacks. 'Nough said.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Diesel-electric engines are much heavier and have more moving parts and higher maintenance costs than all-electric trains.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Humpty Dumpty
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm

YIMBY left out the part where electricity to power an electric version of Caltrain (and electric cars, and the lights in your house, etc) will some from a smurf village where unicorns and fairies, who are paid a fair wage, crank the zero emission electrical generators and sing happy songs.

The reality of electricity in California is hardly the no pollution scenario YIMBY alludes to. California needs to import about 30% of the electricity it consumes every year. About 50% of the electricity generated in California is from fossil fuels (about 42% natural gas, about 8% coal). About 14% of CA electricity is from the states 2 nuclear power plants, that were recently both shut down indefinitely. About 14% of CA electricity is described as renewable, and 12% is described as 'unspecified sources of power', by the state, what ever that means, but I'm pretty sure it's not unicorns.

So, while electrification of Caltrain will no doubt reduce emissions locally, and this is a good goal for sure, emissions will happen somewhere, but so long as it's not here, I guess that's OK?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm

"Carl - you are missing air pollution! Electric trains, like electric cars, don't have tailpipes, smokestacks. 'Nough said."

Actually not, 'nough said. Where does the electricity come from? What are the line losses? What is the net CO2 equation?

I don't get it.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Mixx, Scott's Seafood replacement, opens in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 3,306 views

To Cambodia With Love
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 2,381 views

Ten Steps to Get Started with Financial Aid
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 2,351 views

All Parking Permits Should Have a Fee
By Steve Levy | 23 comments | 1,765 views

Early Campaign Notes: City Council
By Douglas Moran | 8 comments | 772 views