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Caltrain's hopes ride on new rail agreement

Original post made on Mar 23, 2012

Caltrain long-deferred dream of electrified tracks could finally become reality under a new proposal between the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and several Bay Area transportation groups.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 22, 2012, 5:04 PM

Comments (4)

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Here's their argument. Every year, Caltrain has projected a "fiscal emergency." They say that they are running out of funds and can't cover their operating expenses. Indeed, in some years, like last year, they declare that they are approaching bankruptcy.

Nonetheless, year after year, they somehow manage to bail themselves out.

Now we hear (actually we've been hearing about it for over a decade) that the solution to all their financial problems are an electrified rail-line. Although the trains won't go any faster, they will start and stop faster. Fasten your seatbelts, Caltrain customers!!

And that will increase the run-time from SF to SJ by ten minutes. And that, in turn will bring all those potential transit riders, now using their cars, to ride the train.

They tell us that the costs for electrification will be around $1.5 billion. Rest assured that this will not be the final cost. It will at least double. And what have we, the taxpayers, bought for all this money besides that whizzy electric train for Christmas? Not much.

And, none of this is the real issue, which is that electrification is the Trojan Horse for bringing HSR to the Caltrain corridor. Blended system? Sure, for the time being.

This is all too sneaky for words. Can you for a minute believe that HSR will be satisfied with sharing the current two tracks, with no grade separations, and without four tracks to make passing possible? HSR is not stopping at every Caltrain station; without four tracks, HSR is not possible; it will be simply a second Caltrain commuter train.

Once electrified, the demand for full grade separations will be relentless. The four track solution will be -- wait for it -- elevated viaducts, which solve the grade crossing problem.
Isn't that what all the cities have opposed?

We are being scammed and most of us don't even know it yet.


Posted by Martin, a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2012 at 8:04 am

Mr Engel, have you not breathed enough train soot and suffered enough hearing loss to welcome electrification? What will it take for you to get on board with progress?


Posted by Thrush, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Electrification is a much better investment than the billions we roll into expanding 101. That's the real scam.


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Martin, you ask a good set of questions. The train soot will indeed be relocated elsewhere; to the site of the oil and coal fired power plants generating the necessary electricity. And, I attribute my hearing loss more to old age than to the trains. Being a city boy, I've always lived with the white noise of traffic outside.

It's not that I oppose electrification per se. I'm arguing that it's really costly and not necessary. There is enormous progress in power sources development for rail service, including highly fuel-efficient diesel-electric, self-powered commuter vehicles, used elsewhere in the world.

And, I firmly believe that electrification, which will be labelled as essential for high-speed rail to be funding eligible, is indeed, as I have said, the Trojan Horse for bringing high-speed rail on the Caltrain corridor. Electrification will endorse HSR on the Caltrain corridor and in California.

If Caltrain agreed to sever its ties with high-speed rail and assure us that high-speed rail will not appear on the corridor, in exchange I would support electrification, even though I believe that it will provide none of the benefits promised by Caltrain.

Having been a high-speed rail opponent for nearly a decade, I find Caltrain discussions a distraction, but unfortunately necessary in the light of their highly ambiguous relationship.


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