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Federal funding halted for Caltrain electrification

Delay puts project to electrify rail at risk of being scrapped, rail official says

The $1.96 billion Caltrain electrification project came to screeching halt on Friday, Feb. 17, after it was announced that Federal Transit Administration officials were holding back grant funding needed within days for construction to begin.

The $647 million grant request from Caltrain could still win federal approval down the line, but Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials are reportedly telling local officials that the request must be added to President Donald Trump's 2018 budget.

At the very least, it amounts to a delay; at worst, it could mean the project is scrapped, said Seamus Murphy, spokesman for the Caltrain electrification project.

"Under normal circumstances this should have been easy, but now we don't know if federal funding will be there," he said. "If we don't have access to the federal funds, then we won't have a Caltrain electrification project."

FTA representatives could not be reached for immediate comment.

If the political climate were different, Caltrain officials say, the funding request would have been a shoo-in for approval. FTA officials gave the electrification project medium-high ratings in a July review, which normally would have guaranteed approval.

Of the dozens of grants awarded through the FTA capital investment program, Murphy said it is unprecedented for a project that met all the requirements to be deferred like this.

But even before the FTA announcement, the rail electrification upgrades seemed to be barreling toward political danger. Earlier this month, it was revealed that California's congressional Republican delegation sought to block the Caltrain electrification funding as a way to also stymie the state's $64-billion high-speed rail project. That coalition of 14 representatives sent a Jan. 24 letter to new Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, urging her not to sign off on the grant.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Rep. Anna Eshoo denounced the delay as a political maneuver and pledged to try to get funding approval before next month.

"I never imagined that the electrification of a train would be subjected to such brutal, partisan politics," she said in her statement. "The only requirement this didn't meet was a political one."

Caltrain officials say they have been scrambling since first learning Friday morning that the federal portion of the $1.96 billion project was being held back.

Losing out on that money throws into jeopardy the project's two main contracts with Stadler Rail AG and Balfour Beatty. In those contracts, Caltrain officials had committed themselves to a March 1 deadline to give the go-ahead for construction. It is still unclear what it would mean if Caltrain misses that deadline, Murphy said.

"We're evaluating our options and determining how long we can extend that deadline," Murphy said. He declined to elaborate on any options being considered.

Caltrain has already spent $150 million on design and preliminary construction to prepare for electrification to begin this year. As of now, the project is described as "shovel ready" and capable of providing thousands of jobs.

Originally pitched more than 15 years ago, the project to electrify the Peninsula rail corridor would be a dramatic upgrade to a transit system used by more than 47,000 daily riders on average.

The 51-mile Caltrain line stretching from San Jose to San Francisco is running at full capacity with diesel-powered engines that have been outpaced by newer technologies. A new electrified system could reportedly run about 20 percent more trains and eventually reduce emissions by up to 97 percent.

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Comments

68 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:33 am

If I recall correctly, Atherton mentioned that Caltrain was showing questionable judgement in signing purchase contracts for electric trains without first having all funding in place.

I recall that Atherton was a bit excoriated in comments in various blogs on this matter, including this one.

It seems to me that Atherton is fairly vindicated on this particular point.

Purchasing things without the money to do so is just dumb.


15 people like this
Posted by The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 18, 2017 at 1:24 pm

So Jerry Brown wants to make California a Sanctuary State? Actions have consequences.


33 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 18, 2017 at 2:07 pm

This denial may be a blessing in disguise.

Battery technology is going to vastly improve in the next few years. It will be possible to power a train without wires. There are already wireless electric trains being used internationally for short distance tracks. And Caltrain's main route between SF and SJ is not that long, just under 50 miles.

Tesla innovated the batteries such that it made electric cars mainstream. I have no doubt they will do the same for trains as they continue to improve battery technology.

If Caltrain uses a wireless system, they will cut the price tag to go electric by more than two thirds. There will be no catenary system to install. There will be no phased construction costs to keep Caltrain running while the catenary system is built. There will be no years of waiting for the entire system to be built and tested.

All Caltrain has to do is buy new electric train engines. And they are done.


12 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

If Atherton had not fought electrification every step of the way, funding would likely already be in hand.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that anybody has standing to sue them for the malicious delays.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With "flash charging" at each station stop electric trains would not need a 50 mile range.

Here is what is being done with buses:

Web Link

Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm

@chickens,
Blame, or better yet, replace, the California Republican US House of Representatives delegation. Not Jerry... They are the ones who asked for the halt.

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:12 pm

The Gov just wants his name on something. Maybe now he might concentrate on fixing the state's failing infrastructure (bridges,roads and oh yeah dams) and the once great state education system. The Dems in the legislature & congress & Obama & Brown only wanted the HSR to make the construction unions happy enough to give money and vote for them.


10 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:56 am

Thank goodness. Caltrain's electric fantasy would create gridlock along the Peninsula. Anna Eshoo doesn't understand because she lives in Washington DC.


10 people like this
Posted by megawatt
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 10:10 am

Peter Carpenter's web links certainly indicate that battery power is close by to power the commuter trains on the Peninsula. I think it is fortunate indeed the electification using old technology (overhead lines) has been put on hold (proably for three or four years) and will provide an opportunity to conssider new tecnology.
Here is another link with a different system.

Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by OldGuy
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Menlo Park moves so slowly that it is heading backwards. The NIMBYs in Atherton only make it worse. We have needed grade separations and electrification for the three decades I have lived in Menlo Park. If it gets done while I am still alive it will be a miracle.


23 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 19, 2017 at 5:07 pm

pogo is a registered user.

One day in the not so distant future, people will visit and tour the remnant and long abandoned bullet train tracks. Tour guides will tell visitors how this monstrosity failed to meet its objectives for speed, fare, cost to build or ridership and how it was abandoned after wasting billions of tax dollars.

Those abandoned tracks will become a monument to government inefficiency, waste and the corruption of California politicians.


6 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 19, 2017 at 11:07 pm

Pogo, you are remarkably optimistic that the bullet train will ever be abandoned. Far more likely is that it will be lumbering forward at enormous expense and with minimal productive value.


2 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 20, 2017 at 7:26 am

pogo is a registered user.

JED - and I will remain optimistic!


6 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2017 at 7:38 am

Right On to the Screeching Halt.


4 people like this
Posted by Electric Joe
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 20, 2017 at 9:16 am

Here is a local company (Burlingame) that is a leader in electric bus design and manufacture. They are getting over 200 miles without a charge.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 20, 2017 at 10:27 am

Interesting posts and links above on battery-driven electric buses and inductive charging stations along the route. Does anybody know how long Caltrain trains sit at 4th and King before they make the return trip. There always seems to be a bunch of trains waiting around in SF, providing some time to recharge batteries.


2 people like this
Posted by rail commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm

The trains need to be lighter so they can start and stop faster, allowing for more complete service. The diesel engines already owned by Caltrain work fine at supporting the limited service heavy trains can provide. The goal is it get even more commuters out of their cars, off the freeways, and onto Caltrain.


6 people like this
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Once upon a time, people lived close to where they work to avoid long commutes. The highly paid, ultra-cool folks who work in Silicon Valley but chose to live in ultra-cool SF would love for us to keep subsidizing their lifestyle. Fact is rents are cheaper in Mt. View than in SF so if you work in the Silicon Valley move there and stop wasting our dollars on trains. Surely those folks can find a bar that meets their needs somewhere on the Peninsula.


7 people like this
Posted by Boondoggle
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 20, 2017 at 9:30 pm

"Pogo",

"One day in the not so distant future, people will visit and tour the remnant and long abandoned bullet train tracks. Tour guides will tell visitors how this monstrosity failed to meet its objectives for speed, fare, cost to build or ridership and how it was abandoned after wasting billions of tax dollars".

"Those abandoned tracks will become a monument to government inefficiency, waste and the corruption of California politicians".

How can everyone know this and they continue with this boondoggle? I'm pulling out the last of my hair.

Boondoggle,,,1.
work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.

Thanks Jerry.....


9 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 20, 2017 at 9:44 pm

It was already behind schedule. Lack of funds, battles in court this was never going to happen anyway. Too many pitfalls to overcome and probably would not do what was intended


20 people like this
Posted by vman
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 20, 2017 at 11:18 pm

So sad, we can't even electrify one train line between the 2 wealthiest cities in this country. Is that really such an insane thing to ask? Every other modern city in the world (outside the US) has electrified regional rail. There are developing countries that even have better transport infrastructure than this for gods sake. It's amazing how Silicon Valley can be so innovative in some ways, and still be running a glorified milk train as it's main public transport option (not to mention while everyone still complains about traffic).

It's electrification people, it's been around for 100+ years, in the 1930s, the US had 3100 miles of electrified rail, and somehow it's "controversial" to electrify one train line for 50 miles between the 2 wealthiest cities in the country. Welcome to the 20th century people, it's really amazing!


7 people like this
Posted by Smelt
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:58 am

The federal government won't give the state money for train electrification. The other funding source, the state, doesn't have the money to electrify CalTrain. Should it re-prioritize its initiative to rebuild or improve infrastructure or rely on the federal government? Should the federal government be allowed to attach strings to the grants, such as requiring compliance with federal immigration law?

Things were good when the federal government's progressive philosophy aligned with those of the state's leadership. The populist movement which brought us two Republican chambers and President Trump was caused those disenfranchised by political cultural changes and economic inequity. High speed rail and spending billions to save fish are the poster children for the disenfranchised.

Put the plans in mothballs. It will take 4 to 8 years before the pendulum swings the other way.


16 people like this
Posted by Rail Professional
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 8:07 am

Comments about waiting for battery technology are not without merit, however they are extremely premature. Anyone connected with the process of bringing this kind of technology and infrastructure change to the market will understand battery powered commuter trains are many years away.
Look at the link posted by Megawatt in this forum. The first thing one will notice is the pictured commuter train is a graphical representation. Skip to the last paragraph and find that flash charging is only a concept. All of which is great . . . we should keep moving better technologies forward. But again, we are conservatively 10 years away from a real battery powered train running in daily commuter service. GE, the largest builder of freight locomotives in the world, has been investing in battery technology for over 10 years. All that has come out of that is a hybrid that uses what would have been wasted energy in dynamic braking to charge batteries. It's a good start that has taken many years to develop. We are not talking about cell phones or tech gadgets here. One needs to understand this is not just about the powered end of the train. The cars, the signaling systems, and back office are all affected to some degree.
Electrification now is a solid win to pull Caltrain's old and expensive to maintain diesels off the main line and improve the rail infrastructure which is invaluable to the southbay. The benefits of electrification can be experienced now and the infrastructure improved for the benefit of all.
All that said I believe CA would benefit from separating projects like Electrification from High Speed Rail. One has little to do with the other and HSR is a political hot-button. The only real connection is designing now to meet HSR speeds, and that can be done cost neutral. We should keep valuable improvement projects away from the HSR discussion.


7 people like this
Posted by tap the companies
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2017 at 8:38 am

How about tapping the companies that keep adding jobs on the peninsula? They need to get their employees to work. They should step up to the plate with big bucks to help add LOCAL housing, and to support greatly improved transit.

HSR should have been decoupled from CalTrain a long time ago. That decoupling is imperative now. Trump should want Silicon Valley to succeed, but it should be no surprise he wants to deny our governor his HSR fantasy.


18 people like this
Posted by We are the cause...
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 9:23 am

I find the hypocrisy here quite comical.

We expect government to run like a business and then scold them for taking risks with public money. We demand they be on the cutting edge and then blast them for moving too fast without the opportunity for public involvement and engagement. We harangue them for using old technology and then berate them for not doing enough environmental testing and review.

We demand an engaging public process of review and decision making and then blast them them when it takes too long or the technology, which moves far faster than decision-making, moves on or costs have increased.

When is the public going to realize that government is the people and it is us that is causing its own failure. We are the cause of a slow moving and cautious government process. Stop the hypocrisy and let government move forward instead of standing in its way with Monday morning quarterbacking that slows the process, increases the cost and delays the implementation of newer tech.


10 people like this
Posted by Bob B.
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2017 at 9:50 am

Isn't it weird that 13 Republican Congressmen and one Republican Congresswoman, (none of whom live in San Jose, the Peninsula, or SF)can reach in and screw up a 15 year planning process, 50,000 commuters, and 9,600 jobs because they don't like an entirely different project - the high speed bullet train?
Apparently Trump's autocratic style is not the only unhinged element in the Republican Party.
Please remember their arrogance when someone requests your help in unseating Republicans in 2018.


10 people like this
Posted by Peninsula Commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Let's face reality:
1) We need expanded passenger capacity on Caltrain right NOW, not in 5+ years!
2) This DOT/FRA decision further delays any electric trains on the peninsula beyond the current 5+ years
3) New battery & charging technology is even further away from being robust enough for rail commercialization
4) Let's create "Plan B" and immediately deploy the clean, new technology now used by BART & Metrolink
- If we use BART's new "eBart" trains (running in Contra Costa this fall) we can start the extra peninsula service that we need as soon as they are delivered to Caltrain! (early 2018)
- BART, Metrolink, The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Northern & Southern CA EPA & Community organizations have all endorsed this new, proven environmentally clean Rail option
- We need relief from the commuter gridlock now - not in 5+ years
- An added benefit is that no track modifications are made & we can always electrify, or add new battery technology, when appropriate

Let's solve the commuter congestion problem NOW & argue about the politics later!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"3) New battery & charging technology is even further away from being robust enough for rail commercialization"

Please provide evidence to support this claim.

The examples cited by me and others above suggest that this is not a correct assessment.


1 person likes this
Posted by blatt
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 21, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Woo Hoo!!!!!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Battery powered train technology has been around for years, is well tested and battery technology has improved dramatically since these units were placed in service:

Web Link

These units could use the existing rails, require no overhead wires and go from San Jose to Francisco without being recharged.


13 people like this
Posted by Peninsula Commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Peter & Battery Train Team - I love the idea. All I'm saying is go out for bid & see who can deliver an operational system that is compatible will all of Caltrain infrastructure & meets all USA & CA Agency requirements.

eBART trains can do all of that in early 2018 & we can then have some immediate relief for traffic congestion. If battery trains can be installed earlier than that -Great! If not, let's get that bid & delivery date & decide what to do.

What I'm saying is - We should NOT accept any further delays in serving the commuting public!


Like this comment
Posted by megawatt
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Peter,
Brilliant! What is not to like about this solution? No construction costs and disruption. Just put them on the tracks and go.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 21, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Peter:

I didn't give your link a super thorough read but, what I did read was that power was supplied overhead or by third rail. Did I miss something?


4 people like this
Posted by Untangle this Mess
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 21, 2017 at 6:11 pm

@ Prof: All that said I believe CA would benefit from separating projects like Electrification from High Speed Rail. One has little to do with the other and HSR is a political hot-button. The only real connection is designing now to meet HSR speeds, and that can be done cost neutral. We should keep valuable improvement projects away from the HSR discussion.

What's lost in the discussions of lost funding for electrification is that the underpinnings of the electrification project have been all about HSR. Look no further than our own MP council exploring grade separations that included ** oh, by the way ** passing lanes for trains. Including passing lanes was a string attached to the "free" money to do the project.

HSR is a lousy idea. Prop 1A passed by selling the voters a bill of goods about low cost, low fares, no subsidies, quick development. The project needs to be killed.

Electrification is a smart idea, but one that needs to be constructed in a way that benefits the SF/SJ corridor and its constituents (and Union Pacific, which owns the right of way). The current plan is all about paving the way for HSR. Electrification needs to be strategized without being hijacked by HSR interests. Caltrain needs to lead this project, and not just rubber stamp HSR-crafted plans that offer free money. To do this, it probably needs new people.

Caltrain electrification needs to be reclaimed, re-planned, smartly financed, and completed.


9 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 21, 2017 at 6:33 pm

"If we use BART's new "eBart" trains (running in Contra Costa this fall) we can start the extra peninsula service that we need as soon as they are delivered to Caltrain! (early 2018)"

First, kudos to "Peninsula Commuter", one of the few commuter-centric posters who is actually aware of the ebart system, and isn't blindly pro-electric. My experience with other "commuter" posters is that they are not even aware of "modernization" alternatives to electric, so thank you for being an informed commenter.

While I'm not opposed to an electrified CalTrain per-se, I think electrification is one of the least effective ways to modernize and improve Caltrain. My HOPE is that halting federal funding results in the following:



1: Caltrain creates at-grade boarding, to shorten travel time.
While it is true that electric trains have less mass and therefore accelerate faster (thereby shortening travel time), WAIT TIME at stations is also a very large contributor to travel time. Compared to Bart, CalTrain has to wait longer at each station because people have to walk down-and-up the steps; that doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you add 30-60 seconds to each stop over the duration of a SJ->SF trip, it adds 10-15 minutes to a commute.

And at-grade boarding has the benefit of helping handicapped passengers.


2: Caltrain adds a 3rd track within their right-of-way that can support it.
There are sections of the Caltrain ROW that already have room for a 3rd track. Adding this will make it easier to support both the bullet (commuter) trains while running local service.


3: Purchase newer diesel/hybrid engines
As Peninsula Commuter suggested, buying the same trains as EBart would be an improvement over the existing (old) Caltrain engines. Also, keep in mind that there are diesel-electric engines; Caltrain could buy those and improve the system NOW, while waiting for funding for electrical (assuming that were to even happen).


If CalTrain went to the Feds with THIS list of improvements, they'd have a better chance at funding; I'm no fan of Trump, but he does seem interested in funding infrastructure projects.



PS, regarding the overhead wires: Keep in mind that doing overhead wires BEFORE adding tracks or grade separation is hugely wasteful: raising/lowering the tracks or adding tracks would require redoing the overhead wiring infrastructure.


8 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 21, 2017 at 6:37 pm

"and Union Pacific, which owns the right of way"

Partially wrong, the JPB (ie Caltrain) owns the right of way between SJ and SF. UP owns south of SJ.

However, UP does have a usage easement the entire way which effectively gives them a lot of power to derail (pun intended) if not outright stop HSR and/or electrification.


6 people like this
Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Although this became a battery discussion, I'd just like to point out a hole in the root issue: the Federal government really has no money, due to deficit spending, so thinking that things would be groovy-keen if "they" paid for it is just wrong.

If California, or Bay Area, wants electrification, then we need to shell out for it. It only benefits us.


9 people like this
Posted by Not battery
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:17 am

Some background information related to the discussions about battery power motive power... Caltrain uses conventional diesel electric locomotives wherein a 12 to 16 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine drives a variable frequency AC generator. The generator supplies electricity to AC motors which are mechanically connected to the drive wheels of the locomotive. The diesel engine is run at different speeds depending on the load with the highest load, and highest engine speed, and loudest noise, occurring as the train leaves the station. The primary downsides are noise, operating costs, maintenance cost, and pollution.

Electric trains connect to an electrical service either through overhead wires (MUNI & San Jose Light Rail) or through the rail structure (BART). This eliminates the need for the diesel engine and the AC generator in the locomotive. Electricity is supplied directly to the motors driving the wheels.

Electric trains have several advantages over diesel-electric prime movers. Electric locomotives are significantly lighter which requires less energy (electricity) to operate the train. They also make use of regenerative braking which significantly reduces the use of conventional braking and the associated break-squeak noise. These and other benefits are the reason that the vast majority of the world's heavy-passenger rail service uses electric trains, mostly of which use an overhead electricity supply. Overhead electrical service is in inexpensive, established, and a simple system to install and maintain. This is what CalTrain proposes to use.

The idea behind battery powered trains is to put the supply of electricity back into the locomotive or into a battery-tinder in the form of an energy storage device (batteries by themselves or in combination with flywheels, capacitors, compressed air, etc.). Here you gain some of the advantages of electrification (regenerative braking, low noise, no pollution) but with added weight and complexity of an energy storage system and the supportive network of charging stations. In exchange, the overhead or electric rail service is not required.

Because electric trains are widely used, there is a large network of OEM train suppliers, established operating protocols, parts, and institutional know-how. Battery powered trains must then have enough differentiating advantages over conventional electric-trains in order to be competitive. So far, this doesn't seem to be the case which is why battery powered trains are not being enthusiastically pursued by OEM train manufacturers.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Battery powered trains must then have enough differentiating advantages over conventional electric-trains in order to be competitive."

How about not needing miles and miles of ugly and expensive overhead wires?

How about being able to operate on the existing tracks without any modifications?


4 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:42 am

@Not Battery

"Overhead electrical service is in inexpensive, established, and a simple system to install and maintain."

Not when you are operating an active rail system at the same time as installing the overhead electrical (and forced to pay union wages, rather than seek lowest cost). I don't believe there's ever been a time anywhere in the world in which a diesel engine train system has been converted to electrical. The first one ever would be Caltrain. And the reason why is the conversion process is so expensive.

If Caltrain could stop all service for a couple years, then it could save a lot of money. But it can't, which makes electrification very expensive.

If converting to electric is always so cheap, why did Metrolink upgrade to Tier 4 diesel, rather than go electric? When BART wanted to extend service into east Contra Costa County, why did they build a completely new system based on diesel, rather than use electric? It's because those agencies were more realistic with the money available. They chose a solution that fit the budget that would be available.

Caltrain chose an upgrade solution that was going to be inordinately expensive. That's why we've been talking about this idea since the 1990s. In order to find the money, Caltrain tied itself to the political hot potato of HSR. When the political winds changed, it lost its funding. The inherent problem was never politics. It was choosing a solution that would be a stretch financially.

The benefit of a battery system is that you avoid a huge percentage of the construction costs. And you can do so without disrupting service.

We will be having this discussion 20 years later if Caltrain keeps trying to chase projects that are too expensive.


7 people like this
Posted by Not Battery
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm

@Peter,

"How about not needing miles and miles of ugly and expensive overhead wires?"

Yes, not seeing overhead wires is a benefit. Now the question is, what is the value of aesthetics? With regard to cost, the Dec 2016 cost estimate for electrification is ~$690M. That would be a one-time cost for a 30-year infrastructure project. Now counter the costs for a battery based system where you have costs for: a) developing a battery system for trains (b) developing a train based charging system for trains (c) pay for the delta costs for a fleet of battery powered trains vs. standard electric (d) pay for replacement batteries every xx years. As an engineer and developer working in the energy sector and managing the commercialization of industrial-scale energy storage equipment, I can say with confidence that the costs for a battery based system will FAR EXCEED the cost of electrification.

"How about being able to operate on the existing tracks without any modifications?"

Agreed, except for the addition of charging stations.


7 people like this
Posted by Not Battery
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

@Apple:

"I don't believe there's ever been a time anywhere in the world in which a diesel engine train system has been converted to electrical. The first one ever would be Caltrain. And the reason why is the conversion process is so expensive."

Except for all of Europe and the U.K. beginning at start of last century.

"When BART wanted to extend service into east Contra Costa County, why did they build a completely new system based on diesel, rather than use electric?"

I see this in 2 parts. The first I attribute to the culture in the U.S. which tends to not favor investment in public transportation system. This has led to a long standing problem where major infrastructure transportation projects where investment decisions are more or less forced to follow the least-cost option to achieve near-term objectives vs. making more prudent decisions which favor long-term outcomes. The 2nd part, is probably due to the fact that from day-1, BART decided to build their own "standard" vs. borrowing from other common standards in place at the time. The implication is that now, every new extension and new train set cost dramatically more than "standard" equivalents because they must be, in essence, custom built.



Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Given the continuing improvements in battery capacity and the decreasing costs per kWh this is the way to go:

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 22, 2017 at 4:21 pm

@Not Battery

BART could have built a "standard" gauge electric train system for the eBART extension. In fact, it could have chosen any technology. It chose diesel.

As for the conversion from diesel to electric, the early 1900s would have seen the conversion of steam to electric, not diesel to electric. Diesel trains were not in widespread use until the 1950s. Once diesel arose as a cost effective rail fuel, it never got displaced by electricity.

I disagree that the American people are not willing to invest in public transportation. They are willing. The problem is that the public transportation agencies always overpromise and underdeliver. And sometimes they just completely screw up. And no one ever gets hel accountable. If you want the American people to fund the more expensive solution, show them real accountability.

BART just asked voters for billions in new bonds. The voters approved the bonds. Now, three months later, BART is reneging on the promises it made.
Web Link
No one gets fired.

Look at Caltrain's CBOSS project. It's completely screwed up.
Web Link
No one gets fired.

I'm still waiting for someone to be fired over the problems in the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.....

If the local politicians want catenary electrification so badly, it can be done with much less cost. Demand use of least cost labor, not union labor. Waive CEQA. It's within the California legislature's power to do this. This would save taxpayers a ton of money. But they don't.....for political reasons, of course.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 22, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Apple:

not going to happen. "prevailing wage" i.e. union wages are set in stone and there isn't a single democrat legislator that will challenge it. The unions own the democrats. The whole reason HSR continues to exist democrats payback to labor unions. This won't change until the dems refuse to do whatever the unions want them to do. And when snow doesn't melt in hell that will happen. Maybe.


2 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 25, 2017 at 5:36 pm

CalTrain would have proposed a battery solution if it was cost-effective and realistic. The battery discussion is an unecessary distraction to improving CalTrain.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"CalTrain would have proposed a battery solution if it was cost-effective and realistic."

Really?

What evidence do you have that CalTrain even bothered to evaluate IEMUs (Independent Electric Multiple Unit)?


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project is based on a design completed in 2008!!

Battery technology has greatly improved in the last 9 years and battery costs have dramatically decreased.

The cost of electrification and EMU procurement replacing was estimated to be
$1.225 billion of which $785 million for infrastructure costs and the remaining $440 million for
the EMUs. In other words the overhead lines will cost more than the trains.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by morris brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm

If you want to see a real financial analysis of Caltrain's project go to:

Web Link

BTW: Caltrain just fired Parsons, the vendor for the Caltrain PTC (CBOSS) $231 million and rising and delayed project:

Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 25, 2017 at 6:19 pm

@Mike

To add to what Peter has replied, there is also a strong political component to Caltrain remaining with overhead electrification.

The governor has tied his political legacy to HSR. And HSR needs those overhead wires. If Caltrain goes another direction, it will cause a political problem for them.

Have you ever noticed that when a government agency makes mistakes that costs taxpayers millions to fix no one is fired? But if a bureaucrat pisses off political leaders, they are fired without hesitation. Smart bureaucrats know to do whatever political leaders tell them to do. They may waste taxpayers money, but they get to keep their jobs.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 25, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Smart bureaucrats know to do whatever political leaders tell them to do. They may waste taxpayers money, but they get to keep their jobs."

Bingo!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Given that HSR is dead why should CalTrain electrification be constrained by defunct HSR needs?


1 person likes this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2017 at 11:50 am

"Given that HSR is dead why should CalTrain electrification be constrained by defunct HSR needs?"

@Peter, that's sounds like an opinion. Please provide some evidence to back up your claim.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"California Republicans ask Trump administration to block bullet train funding"

Web Link


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