News

Elected leaders celebrate start of Caltrain electrification project

First electric trains expected to begin running in late 2020 or early 2021

Elected leaders gathered at the Millbrae Caltrain station to commence work on the transit agency's electrification project on July 21, 2017. Photo by Scott Morris.

Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and a packed house of other elected leaders were at the Millbrae Caltrain station Friday to celebrate the beginning of a project to electrify a large portion of Caltrain service within the next four years, a project they promise will lead to faster, quieter and more frequent trains in addition to being more environmentally sound.

Much of Friday's celebration lauded federal elected leaders for securing an estimated $953 million in federal funds for the roughly $2 billion project. Whether a large portion of the necessary federal funding would come through this year was called into question when President Donald Trump took office.

Gov. Brown praised congressional representatives, saying they "through some magic pushed this through the Trump Administration."

In addition to Rep. Pelosi, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, and Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, were on hand for the ceremony.

Rep. Pelosi called Rep. Eshoo "our leader into the fight."

"We were gum stuck to everyone's shoe, we were not going away," Rep. Eshoo said. "We did it."

The project will switch Caltrain to run on electricity rather than diesel between San Francisco and the Tamien Station in San Jose. Caltrain service would continue past San Jose to Gilroy, but trains going beyond Tamien will still be diesel for the time being.

The first electric trains are expected to begin running either in late 2020 or early 2021.

As trains pulled in and out of the station, state Sen. Jerry Hill pointed to them and a cloud of exhaust emerging from the engine.

"The sound will be no more. The smoke coming from the diesel engines will be no more," Sen. Hill said. "They will be faster, quicker, cleaner, quieter."

Caltrain officials estimate that there will be substantial environmental and economic benefits from the project, for example, faster and more frequent trains capable of bringing more people on board, thereby reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

By 2040, Caltrain officials said that it would lead to a 21 percent increase in daily ridership and a reduction of 176,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere each year. Caltrain will save money on fuel costs as well.

Construction of the project will create more than 9,600 jobs nationwide, including up to 600 in Salt Lake City, where the new train cars will be built in a new facility, according to Caltrain.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also praised the project, advocating for the expansion of Caltrain service to the new Transbay Terminal currently under construction in the city's Yerba Buena neighborhood.

Caltrain has been looking to move away from diesel fuel for years. Pleased with the progress, elected leaders turned over ceremonial dirt with golden shovels while Caltrain officials cut a cake shaped like a train.

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Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 24, 2017 at 11:01 am

Be careful what you wish for. Increasing train frequency aids the 30,000 people who ride Cal Train while severely impacting the 300,000 people who use grade crossings. Get ready for true gridlock along a 21-mile stretch of El Camino. The political parasites who engineered this disasater will be long gone by the time the debacle arrives.


27 people like this
Posted by raise the tracks
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 24, 2017 at 11:53 am

"while severely impacting the 300,000 people who use grade crossings"

Doesn't impact those that were smart enough to see ahead and prepare by raising tracks: San Bruno, Millbrae, Belmont, San Carlos, etc..

Raise the tracks in Menlo!!!

Ignore the naysayers. If we had ignored them earlier, we would have done this years ago and now be enjoying smoother, quieter, smarter infrastructure.


2 people like this
Posted by riders
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Interesting @Thomas Paine IV... Over 60,000 riders per day use Caltrain, while approximately 55,000 cars per day cross the tracks at the four at-grade crossings combined in Menlo.


14 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 24, 2017 at 1:38 pm

"Over 60,000 riders per day use Caltrain, while approximately 55,000 cars per day cross the tracks at the four at-grade crossings combined in Menlo."

...and there are more than 4 at-grade crossings combined on the caltrain/HSR/UP right-of-way.

Thomas Paine's point is that more people are affected by the increase in gate downtimes than are affected by the non-increase-in-capacity for Caltrain.

And he's right.


"Doesn't impact those that were smart enough to see ahead and prepare by raising tracks: San Bruno, Millbrae, Belmont, San Carlos, etc."

Well...keep in mind that there is interest in adding a 3rd track in those same areas; given that, raising the tracks (which makes it impossible to add a 3rd track unless there's a huge restructuring of the berm) was a pretty terrible idea.


16 people like this
Posted by infrastructure Ivan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Raise them.


14 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 24, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Cal Train does not have 60,000 riders but rather 30,000 +/- riders who use it twice daily generating 60,000 boardings. On the other hand there are 42 at-grade crossings on the Cal Train system which have 588,000 vehicle crossings each day. If the average driver crosses the tracks 3X per day, the electrification process will cause havoc for 196,000 people. Of course you could argue that far more than 196,000 people will be impacted as traffic builds at the crossings and blocks North/South traffic on El Camino. I do not oppose electrification, per se, but rather the planned increase in train frequency with no provision for the real world impact on vehicle traffic.


4 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 24, 2017 at 3:08 pm

A group of democrats using federal money to fund our transportation needs of SMC. Pretty funny, they're not obstructionists now! What a joke!


18 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Thomas Paine's numbers are correct. Caltrain only has 30,000 riders per weekday, each typically taking two rides per weekday. On Sundays ridership drops to 500-600, because Caltrain doesn't go anywhere people want to go on their day off and is far too costly for family transportation. Caltrain's ridership is mostly tech-bros.

To put the 30,000 riders in perspective that is less than 1% of the Peninsula's population of 3,000,000+ people for whom the automobiles is the only practical mode of transportation.

So the 1% are slowing down the 99%, but hey, the 1% get chauffeured to to work and get to feel morally superior to everyone else even though the net effect of the 1% slowing down the 99% is more pollution not less.


14 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 24, 2017 at 7:16 pm

"So the 1% are slowing down the 99%, but hey, the 1% get chauffeured to to work and get to feel morally superior to everyone else even though the net effect of the 1% slowing down the 99% is more pollution not less. "

Congratulations! You just won "best post on the internet" today :)


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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