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Caltrain - electric train woes

Original post made by Carol, Palo Verde, on Jan 5, 2007

I heard today that Caltrain is proposing to add electric engines to replace the deisel ones used at present. For this reason, it seems imperative to me that something must be done to add safety to our tracks. It seems ridiculous to think of electric (almost silent) trains whizzing down a track that is so obviously easily accessible. To begin with we need barriers that close off the track completely when a train is approaching rather than the half way situation we have at present. Ideally, we need to raise the track or lower it so that we can have a system of tunnels and bridges instead. We need to put high impenetrable fences both sides of the track for the whole length of the track to prevent any type of non authorised access.

Speeding trains are efficient and desirable. A good public transit system is essential to this area. However, safety is paramount and what we have at present is far from that.

I want to know how Palo Alto and surrounding cities are going to deal with this problem. The time to deal with it is now, when Caltrain has just announced its intention, not when the work of upgrading is starting. This must be a hand in glove approach, one side must know exactly what the other is doing, and then the public must understand that speed and efficiency can mean safety also.

Comments (8)

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Posted by still noisy
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 5, 2007 at 10:59 am

Just because the engine is electric, the train is by no means silent. There isn't that much difference. And I'm sure they'll still be blaring their horns as the approach the crossings.
Sure, make the lines safer but this should be the case anyway regardless of whether the engines are electric.


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Posted by Forget it
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2007 at 11:33 am

Carol, you are making a mountain out of a molehill. Still Noisy is right--the trains will still make noises and their horns will blare.
Anyway, there was talk in the past about raising/lowering the Meadow and Charleston crossings, but their was ,as usual, vocal opposition using the famous excuse used to stop any progress in Palo Alto--traffic concerns.


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Posted by Jane Doe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2007 at 11:53 am

Compared to train systems in the rest of the world Caltrains diesel locomotives are obsolete. Europe has been electric for decades. As an immigrant I expected Silicon Valley would have state-of-the-art trains not a third world system.


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Posted by Forget it
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2007 at 12:10 pm

I would hardly call Caltrain a third world system. have you actually been on a train in the third world?


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 5, 2007 at 1:06 pm

To say electric trains are silent may be slightly misleading. The engines are definitely much quieter, but the actual difference is very apparent if you have spent any time close to an electric system. The trains make a different type of noise and the noise starts suddenly as the train is practically beside you. The engine is very quiet and will pass you with a whooshing sound. If the train itself is at full speed, the carriages make very little noise, just exaggerating the whoosh which you tend to feel rather than hear. If the train is actually picking up speed or decreasing speed, then the carriages do make more noise. Yes, the trains will have to use their whistles and that is because they run comparatively quietly to what we are used to. Without the whistles as a warning then they will be heard much too late to do anything if you are caught on the track offguard.

I know that in Europe where almost silent trains speed along at speeds in excess of 125 mph, there are much fewer accidents than we have here. Also, fewer suicides occur because it is nigh on impossible to get on the tracks without great difficulty. For those of us who have children who have to cross the tracks every day for school, whether by foot, bicycle or car, it is always a worry when we hear a train go by at school time. I have seen what occurs at a school when a student does get hit by a train and I never want our schools to go through that again.


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Posted by Concerned about deisel smoke
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 7, 2007 at 1:31 am

I'm sure deisel smoke/soot from trains,trucks and buses causes more deaths in the long run than electric trains ever would. A car parked outside for a few days becomes covered with a layer of black soot. Clouds of black smoke/soot are emmited from the VTA buses, especially as the accelerate from a stop. Under/overpasses will never occur. Talk of an Underpass at ElCamino/Page Mill has been proposed for over 30 years and no action has taken place. This is probably the biggest traffic gridlock/jam in the city. Actually Oregon-Page Mill needs to be made into a Freeway.. (this is getting off of the subject....)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned about deisel smoke
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 7, 2007 at 1:32 am

I'm sure deisel smoke/soot from trains,trucks and buses causes more deaths in the long run than electric trains ever would. A car parked outside for a few days becomes covered with a layer of black soot. Clouds of black smoke/soot are emmited from the VTA buses, especially as the accelerate from a stop. Under/overpasses will never occur. Talk of an Underpass at ElCamino/Page Mill has been proposed for over 30 years and no action has taken place. This is probably the biggest traffic gridlock/jam in the city. Actually Oregon-Page Mill needs to be made into a Freeway.. (this is getting off of the subject....)


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Ultimately we need to eliminate all grade crossings and all other access to the tracks. Overpasses make more sense that underpasses.
The ONLY reason BART is able to make schedules faster than Caltrain is their totally private right of way. You don't see elevators without doors on the shaft even though those doors cost a lot of money.


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