This is a continuation of the article about the August 17th release of Caltrain’s capacity study at the San Mateo County Rail Corridor Partnership Meeting. (The Partnership) The purpose of Caltrain’s modeling was to explore “the feasibility and potential limitations of blended high speed rail service and Caltrain corridor,” and limited primarily to two tracks. The Simitian/Eshoo/Gordon (SEG Way Plan) called for restricting construction substantially within the Caltrain Corridor, explicitly rejecting aerial viaducts and demanding a reduced scope for the project. The larger 4 track project the HSR Authority is advocating is unsubstantiated by credible ridership numbers.
The capacity study showed two tracks can accommodate 10 trains each commuting hour each way though some configurations will require a four track passing area that spans 7-8 miles. See Part 1 for more details. There are many other modeling scenarios to be considered and only the number of tracks and not horizontal design was considered.
Burlingame’s mayor Terry Nagel said her city was not ready to send a support letter for the capacity study without an Attorney General ruling on the legality of this proposal considering the requirements of Prop 1A and the CEQA laws. Her city was also interested in examining the Authority’s draft business plan coming out mid October. Burlingame is one of the Partnership members who could suffer residential and business impacts.
Christine Wozniak council member from Belmont, not a formal member of the Partnership Group, questions why the Caltrain train sets were modeled at 79 mph when it had always been her understanding that newly electrified Caltrain would go 110 mph and thereby would save time. Marian Lee explained because that the lighter trains would provide increased starting and stopping efficiency that would reduce travel time. She further promised that Caltrain would test simulations at 110 but added that cities already voiced preference for more frequent stations rather than higher speed trains.
One reason Caltrain can’t go faster today is they have a classification which doesn’t allow them to operate beyond 79 mph and without reclassification they would be unable to run at higher speeds. HSR also has a restriction by Assembly Bill 3034 requiring the high-speed rail train service to complete the trip between San Jose and San Francisco in 30 minutes.
Another question was asked by Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design’s (CARRD) co-founder Nadia Naik. She questioned why Caltrain’s capacity study slides showed only 13 or 14 Caltrain stops while currently there is service to 24 stations. That question was answered at the Friends of Caltrain Meeting held 2 days later on Friday August 19th, where Caltrain representative Marian Lee assured the audience that the trains would stop at different stations in a “skip-hop” manner, covering all the stations including additional service to Atherton and Burlingame but no sample timetable was presented at this time.
The sample from the Caltrain capacity study literally doubles the volume of trains which will surely complicate traffic especially during rush hour for 50 intersections within the communities. This hasn’t been studied yet. Caltrain promised in the near future it would examine the top 10 high trafficked areas for grade separations but since they aren’t hitting the golden number of 125 mph, they aren’t required legally to grade separate.
View Simitian warning to High Speed Rail: May 5, 2011: Senate Budget Meeting
Senator Simitian gave High Speed Rail CEO Van Ark a stern warning about the plan he and his colleagues presented. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts1ybBrYhDk
“I’m sure you know from your staff and authority members know, we had a bill “SB-22 that Senator LaMalfa offered to turn off the spigot for High Speed rail,” both Senator Lowenthal and I voted against that measure because “we both said that we continue support high speed rail done right and will continue to define what that might look like. But If the Authority persists in pursuing an approach which involves 60 ft. viaducts up and down the peninsula from SF to SJ, without the consent and desire of local communities; to push itself outside the boundaries of the existing Caltrain ROW and to pursue an EIR for a project which may never get built, and in my judgment probably shouldn’t be built; or which ridership studies are unpersuasive and that essentially leaves a sword over the heads of businesses and residents for the 50 mile corridor; then I’m going to be pretty hard pressed to support that effort going forward.”
The HSR Authority Board has come under considerable criticism from many state agencies and independent sources such as the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Bureau of State Audits, the California Office of the Inspector General, the Authority’s own Peer Review group and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
Considering the marriage of three rail programs (Caltrain/HSR/Freight) is premature since there is no Certified Program or Project EIR for High Speed Rail for the peninsula area. Also problematic is the need for a credible ridership model and a credible business plan. There is still a decision outstanding by the courts regarding the validity of the new Central Valley to San Francisco EIR. The Petitioners contend the High Speed Rail Authority completed the new environmental report in a manner not consistent with the law and challenged the formulas used to determine the ridership numbers. http://joltleft.com/transportation-policy-in-san-francisco/peninsula-cities-have-their-day-court-decision-pending
Another important missing link is the attorney general’s decision on the legality from AB 3034 standpoint or California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) prospective as well as the elephant in the room which is the missing permission slip from Union Pacific Railroad who retains the right to say who can operate intercity rail on their tracks.
Next capacity presentation will be with Peninsula Cities Consortium (PCC) on September 16th 8:30 am. at Atherton’s town hall.